Clear your mind – and concentrate on the important!

I’ve always admired people who managed achieve in very different fields. Just like
Boris Vian, an engineer, inventor, writer, poet, translator, critic, actor musician, singer –  who died before 40 or
Albert Schweitzer who was a theologian, organist, philosopher, and physician.
But Vian or Schweitzer didn’t have more than 24 hours a day. They just spent it differently than we do. Partly by eliminating non-important stuff. When you are in a classroom and you listen you do not have the chance to care about your loved ones. When you focus on your work it’s the same. When you turn your brain off by looking at TV channels it’s still the same.
While Vian never had a child, Schweitzer left his wife and 5 year old daughter behind to found a school in Gabon, Africa to serve humanity.
Probably you want to spend your days differently than Vian or Schweitzer did. But I’m sure there is plenty that’s important for you. Let’s think about that.
You don’t need to be a thinker to know what’s important for you. Just think of your actions for the last week. If it’s a regular week, you’ve done what your actions show, is important for you. (“What’s important?” is a question you answer every day rather than once or twice in your life.)
Give it a moment. What have you done the last seven days.
brief pause
do think about it for a moment
don’t just scroll down, give it a thought
end of brief pause
Forget about Vian and Schweitzer. Now you are in the focus.
Are you happy with what you’ve done?
– If things go very well, you shouldn’t change anything.
– If things go well but they could be better you should change a bit.
– If things go bad, you should change some bigger things.
– If things go terrible, you need a radical change.
So here you are, a human being with uncertainties, doubts, thoughts, actions and reactions. How to get a grip on what’s important for you?
You are a lot. Trillions of molecules. And thoughts and chemical reactions. And what-not.
But you are, for the outer world, a:
– student
– best friend
– partner
– daughter
– sister
– person in the audience when a Tarantino movie comes out
– radio listener on Tuesdays
– public transportation user from Monday to Friday
– online news portal follower daily
– part-time caretaker of your grandpa
– part time caretaker of your dog
– reader of Cosmopolitan
– etc.
These activities fill up 24 hours of your days. Some are more and some are less important.
If your survival is covered and you had to choose one and only one of them which one would it be?
It certainly is a difficult choice.
We can get rid of many options instantly, some easier and a thought choice at the end.
Still, choose one.
What is the most important action of your life?
brief pause
make the choice
if you don’t make the choice this article is senseless for you
brief pause ended
You’ve chosen honestly and now you have a number one priority.
Give it a timeframe: “I need ~40 hours weekly to be as good of a sister/carpenter/student/partner as I’d like.”
Don’t forget: “Doing something 95% well might take you 3 month of applied learning while doing it 98% well might take you 10 years.” (via Tim Ferriss)
Cut activities with no or little meaning. And you’ll get closer to what’s important for you.
Will you become like Vian or Schweitzer and will you have your own Wikipedia site and a lot of Twitter followers? Probably not. But the goal is nothing more than be a better version of yourself!

Is empiricism the solution?

Empiricism: the only way to get to know it – is if you try it.
“Empiricism is a theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience.”

Empiricism seems pretty stupid in certain cases (do you really die if you jump in front of blue truck coming by 100 km/h?) while often it’s just plain impossible (how is it be born of a different colour, sexual orientation, nation, being grown by completely different parents, etc.). But all the important experiences in your life (let it be your first fight or work or sex or the feeling of the spring breeze) will be based on empiricism.

Empiricism is the most basic and most powerful way to get to the end of human nature.

Try to convince a 13 year old girl that kissing is nothing life-changing!

I can see some of you smiling. “Of course kissing is nothing life-changing.”
What if I told you that you are exactly like the 13 year old girl when it comes to many of the current goals and achievements in your life?

Would it be really life changing if you earned 20% more?

If your book was published? If twice this many people read your blog as now? If you finished your PhD half a year earlier than planned?

My point with this article isn’t that your life is senseless. My point with this is that you are like the 13 year old girl. Waiting to experience something in your life you have never experienced. You can read a book about a salary raise, about how does it feel to have your book published as the real 13 year reads about how a kiss is. But you need to feel it for yourself. Because it feels important.

Which is the more life-changing? Reading 5 books and watching 10 documentaries about death or have one close-to death experience?
Books and documentaries about India or spending 2 weeks there?
Chatting with a girl on Facebook for 2 hours or meeting for 15 minutes?

We base most of our concepts of the world on information we gather from theoretical sources. We all have an idea how is life in Syria right now, how is it to be a soldier (doctor, medical scientist, writer, hostel receptionist, etc.), how does it feel like to be pregnant and most of the things surrounding us. It takes 15-30 minutes to watch “all the important news” that happened on Earth in 24 hours. But it’s probably going to change your life less than drinking a glass of beer.

Empiricism is the strong answer. If you are really interested in something (how is to live in Nigeria; how is to operate the human brain; how is to be a mother; etc.) empiricism will be your only answer. If you are interested just a little – don’t bother with it.
Empiricism is the strong answer – that works. But we can only use it in a very limited way: using yourself as the experimental mouse…

Would you want to know your death date?

Thinking and talking of death is an essential part of thinking about human life and planning the future. When it comes to social sciences you’ll find all kind of data about life expectancy and common causes of death. When it comes to healthy eating you’ll find how you can live longer in average. When you grow older and retire death becomes something to think about as your friends, brothers and former colleagues pass away.
But as long as death is distant, one doesn’t give too much thought to the whole thing. And I guess it does make sense.
Do I think about retirement at age 28? Nope.
Do I think about getting weaker, physically and mentally as time will pass by at age 28? No way.
Do I think about dying and death? Yep.

Unlike many I’d consciously like to have some sort of effect on the outer world. I strongly believe that our (and my) actions matter and even though I have doubts whether the human race and human action is generally a good thing, I actively want to and try to change the outside world.

Now, reaching a long-lasting effect has a lot to do with habits. But how to form habits when you don’t know how long you have the chance to participate?

The thing is: this date exists (will exist). You will die. Knowing the date (let it be next week, 3 years from now, 54 and a half years from now, etc.) gives you a timeframe, or even better put: a deadline for accomplishments.

Imagine you’d have a final exam in high school but you can take whenever you want to. Chances are that you’d never sit down to take them. You wouldn’t even finish high school!

Not knowing the date might make you relaxed. It even gives you the feeling of infinity: as the date of your death will never come. But relaxing might not let you appreciate the time you have – to do something you’d really love to.

Would you want to know the date?

I certainly would…


More opinions on the topic:

How unfair is the world to you?

It’s quite easy to realize the injustice of the world when we are the suffering part. You watch La La Land and say:
“These 2 people can act, sing and dance and look great. Why not me?”
Or on your 4 week long vacation in Thailand you meet the guy who is there for 12 weeks and his hourly salary is double than yours. The world suddenly looks unjust.
When you feel all this, you are right. The world is unjust.
And by having some free time, internet access and the skill to read you are probably in the top few percent of the world. You are privileged. Probably. But I don’t want to preach about what you have: ’cause I don’t know.
But I’d like to give a hand to appreciate more what you have – whatever it might be. Life’s happier when the glass is half full. When life’s happier, you have more chances to fill up your glass.
I began to change my daily habits about a year ago now and the newest conquest of non-conscious time-spending is… …trying to rewire my brain to be more grateful.
A few-minute exercise of consciously being grateful for 3 weeks changes the patterns of the brain into appreciating more.
First thing in the morning (or second after your morning exercise) take one minute of your time to write 3 new things down you’re grateful for just 3 weeks…
It will take you all in all 20 minutes of your life…

The 3 most over- and underrated things in your life

Most overrated

1, one-time occasions
– running a Marathon once in your life and stopping to run regularly after it will make a great story but it will be less effective than running 1 km every day
– drinking a liter of vodka is quite harmful for once but way better for your health than getting drunk every Friday
– you buy an expensive present to your loved one / get a parking or speeding ticket / your wallet is stolen ONCE will change less than buying the more expensive apple juice every week
2, salary
– Earning 20% more than you do now is certainly a good thing. But does it make a real difference?
As not being unsuccessful is more important than being successful; spending less than your paycheck is more important than having a big paycheck.
3, other people’s opinion
– We’re genetically wired to care about our social survival Mammoth. But society’s opinion doesn’t decide life and death any more. It’s way easier to be different (be ourselves) than it used to before.
Doing what you like and being generally honest works way better on a long run.
+1, personal achievements
Achieving things you can brag about including how many partners you slept with or how many countries you visited or how much you earn doesn’t mean a thing for others until it changes their lives.

Most underrated:

1, habits
Rather than one-time occasions it’s habits that move our lives in certain directions. Imagine: just by learning one word in a foreign language every day (and not forgetting it) you’d get to a 1000 word knowledge (basic level) every 3 years, speaking 15-20 languages “basically” after a couple of decades.
Alternatively, watching TV an hour a day takes away 365 hours of possibly productive time a year (more than 45 regular 8 hour work day a year, more than 16% of the actual work one does a year).
2, time
Many believe time is very important but focusing on important issues (let it be spending time with friends, family or dedicate time to important issues) often gets less time and attention than following news portals or sites that catch your attention easily.
3, spending
A penny saved is a penny earned!
Buying a 50 USD cheaper pair of shoes (of the same quality) equals to earning 50 USD.
I have a friend who earns ~600 USD a month and bought an apartment for himself before turning 30 while I have friends who earn more than the same 600 USD in less than 2 days but they haven’t managed to get their own place.
3+1, personal relations
You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with…

Do you follow the news? Why!?


I had a girlfriend many years ago (am I getting old!?) who got very surprised when first came to my room.
– It should be clean here.
– Why should it be clean here?
She giggled and looked at me as if I had said a joke. Soon she cleaned the room.
My point with this uninteresting story is NOT that you shouldn’t clean your room or your girlfriend should.
But I want to show that there are so many things in our lives that we do without questioning it. All the way from believing in God through working​ 40 hours a week from Monday to Friday to having a monogamous relationship. We do it because it feels right, we were told to do so not because we really know why it should be like this.
There’s no way any of us can be a “chef“, a genuine inventor and thinker in all fields of life. But there are so many aspects of life we could do more consciously or more in a “handmade for you / individual” way.
One if these things is following the news. Many seem to believe that news are an essential and important part of their life.
I have a couple words to say about this.
A, you should begin / continue to follow the news if:
1, it makes you feel good. Any time you enjoy wasting is not wasted
2, you are a “NEW-SEFO” – when news have a serious effect on your actions.
For example: you’re a politician, journalist, anchorman, activist, think-tank member, you​ get in touch with people appearing on the news, etc. [“seriously”, means here: using the same amount of time, e.g. 1 hour a day to learn a foreign language or work out or be with your family or whatever’s important for you – is better used for watching the news]
B, you should not begin / discontinue following the news if:
1, you feel you don’t have enough time for important things in your life
2, you set your individual opinion about the world based on news (let it be on terrorism, politics, globalization or similar): in this case rather rely on an expert. A friend you trust who spends 3 hours on the news daily, a university professor in politics or similar. Ask them what to think. They are much better sources than news.
3, you don’t want to miss out: all you need news for is to be part of tomorrow’s conversation with your friends or colleagues. In this case have a day (or rather a week) off from following the news and then just react in the conversation as “I missed these news lately. Could you cue me in?” – this will ignite a way more social and interesting talk
cnn (Are you really interested about old cars, McHorseface, photos of ancient tribes and US Open?)
All in all? Most people watch news because they expect
1, entertainment (blood, murder, scandals, conspiracy theories and the rest)
2, anything interesting (“I don’t know what I want to know so I’ll take in whatever’s offered tonight” [more true for TV than online where you choose which articles to read]
3, good information on daily happenings – the thing is: it’s not every day that something important happens either on Planet Earth or in your hometown if something really happens, you’ll hear it more than you’d like to hear about. And even if something important happens new portals might not be the best sources…
4, it’s comfortable and it makes time pass
5, just because – 
People don’t act but react. And following the news is an easy reaction to many friends following the news and talking about them.
Have you ever heard the Serenity Prayer?
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
Apart from God it all sounds great for me. Why should I care about things I can not change, really? It takes away time and energy from those that I can…
Think about all this for a minute before you turn on the news next time!
More in the topic:

4 hour workweek: Can you do it too?

First of all: thank you, Tim Ferris!

Your book gave me a lot of food for thought and evoked enough emotions for me to write a review. It’s rare. I rarely write reviews.

Still, if I had to sum up your book, I’d say:
I’m Tim. I’m really rich and I’m really cool too. I can teach you how to be like me.
1, Create a product that sells well even though people don’t need it.
2, Get rich from it
3, Throw away things you don’t need (including this book)
4, Lead the life I’ve always wanted
5, Save couple hundred bucks on accommodation and airfare even though you already have a thousand bucks automated income daily and all the time of the world (to avoid flying)
6, Being rich and successful is difficult because people think you are a jerk. But I teach you how to handle this too… Don’t give a shit about others and the consequences of your actions…

But did I regret reading it?
Not at all.
Quotes in the book are great.
Advices from the book? I found about 30% of them interesting. I will find about 5-15% of them useful.
I have plenty of new ideas in how to better myself & make my actions more efficient.
Do I recommend it?
I do. At least to those who:
– want practical advice on business
– interested in getting to know non-conventional lifestyles
– can stand the terrible style of New York Times bestsellers
– is able to skip pages while reading
– can ignore the incredible narcissism and self-absorbedness of the author

One of the main reasons of Pablo Escobar’s downfall (at least according to the very well made series Narcos) is that he wanted to be something else than what he was – a bandito.

Towards the second half of the book Tim Ferris seems to make the same mistake.
First Tim, who is probably a good businessman (studied MBA at Princeton, claims to have 1000 USD/day income with 4 hours work / week) and through his failures and successes he developed an interesting, new type of business model he shares. Fair enough.
Then he tries to teach you how to eliminate unimportant things in your life, how to be more proactive, how to get rid of your useless things and so on and so forth.
It’s a bit too much for me. Some are good advice but many are essentially self-absorbed and narcissistic even for my standards: “I’m fucking great. Just follow me! I’m living the dream!”
Then he teaches you how to travel and live in different continents. In about 5 pages. (I happen to know a bit about this topic and it’s hilariously wrong a couple times. Sometimes it made me laugh hard.)
And in the last chapters (since he already taught you how to make extreme automated income & live anywhere on Planet Earth) he teaches how to give meaning to your life.
Well, what can I say?
Would you want to take advice from a guy whose most important goal is to live the life he wants and ignore the rest?
Who believes that if the worst that can happen to you after you business goes wrong is you can take kindergarteners lunch money / then you should go for it?
I have a much more individual/criminal mind than most I know but the whole idea is too much for me.
Is it really a good thing to make money on something you don’t believe in? And having a lot of rest and self-development to… …have a lot of rest and self-development?
Do you remember Tyler Durdan’s infamous little ideas?
One if them is “Self development is masturbation”.
After reading the book I clearly felt this.
One thing that had little to do with content: I’m used to good writers & literature. This book has 0 literary value and copies catchy quotes and stories. But then – it’s not written to be a Nobel prize winner book. It’s written to be a Bestseller: and ou-la-la: it became a Bestseller!
So, once more: I’m happy to have read this one (even though it was literally painful at times) and I think it has some very good practical ideas. Have a great read but don’t use it as a Bible: it’s one man’s dream and one man’s way to it…

What is the best way of not reaching your life goals?

After reading an article from James Clear about inverse thinking I made a note to myself: I shall do the exercise of pointing out what I would need to do in order not to reach my goals.

I would need to:
– fail changing my everyday habits so I will not be able to do more I do now
– get stuck in a job that I don’t believe is moving the world in the right direction
– spend of a lot time being distracted (Facebook, unimportant news, people who bring little to my life – and I bring little to theirs)
– focus a lot on theory, thinking – and little on action and practice
– overestimate comfort, security and money
– put myself in front of other, “bigger than me” ideas
– forget about the simple joys of life
– never relax and always try to push it forward
– focus on myself and have an unrealistic picture of myself
– stop writing my 2 articles weekly
– stop learning French every day
– stop doing my morning exercises
– keep writing “excercise” before autocorrect warns me for the extra “c”
– fail in bringing in new habits and transform a large part of my day to something that makes me more efficient
– get scared – or at least not become more brave when it comes to pointing out unpopular truths


Why complicated is good and simple is not?

Yep, you read it well. I’m about to propagate further complication in an already global and complicated enough world.

Couple years ago, just like most people, I quietly blamed the issues of our world on imperfect institutions, politicians, decision-makers, lack of communication and similar.
Not too long ago, trying to take a better look at myself and the issues of the world I came to the conclusion that the we should blame humanity’s issues on… …human nature!
Rather than attempting to describe all of it I’ll mention one single part of it: Cain & Abel.
Jealousy (or whatever the reason is) makes you hate and eventually kill the other people.
Basic human emotions always remind me of a story I heard from a good friend:
“So I’m staying at this nice guy in Pakistan. He shows me his AK 47 and a little tower in his garden. He tells that he warned his neighbor not to go to his field. But the neighbor went anyways so he shot at him. He was sad he missed.
Basic human nature isan extremely animalistic and SIMPLE reaction to whatever comes your way. But being human means leaving basic human nature behind. And being human means that we are NOT natural and we try to alter our nature with:
– traditions, customs, religions, laws, science, institutions, abstract goals, medicine, etc: all human achievements that water down natural selection.
And we use many of our achievements to consummate human nature by dominating others:
– military, laws, ideology, organisations and similar
Basic human nature is destructive. It makes you copulate to create new humans and do everything in your power to keep yourself and your people (family, tribe, nation, etc.) safe including killing, stealing, eating other creatures and what-not.
This is all simple.
human nature
Now the way we live – reading blogs, learning languages, traveling, working regularly, having big dreams, solving our argues peacefully, etc:
is human nature, watered down.
Many have a smaller or a bigger “call” from human nature to go back to enjoy the nature and to kill and fuck. Others fit in more into humanity’s general direction of getting farther from basic nature and getting more into a “watered down”, comfortable life.
Comfort and security don’t seem like extremely noble causes or a great vocation but as these ideas are the ones that have kept us safe and alive through the last couple hundred thousand years they are genetically coded in us and are the keys to our survival.
As Karl Pilkington says: This is what I need for happiness: a little bit of comfort…
About life & humanity?
I think it’s getting more complicated and better. Much better. 8 hours 5 days a week in the office is much better than 12 hours 7 days a week in the factory. And my neighbor doesn’t shoot at me…
People will always be suspicious of the more complicated. From learning to read through travel for leisure to self-development new features happen slowly and many aren’t happy about the changes.
And my advice at the end?
When a solution seems very simple and great, look and think again. Simple solutions lead to simple situations: the most simple being: kill or be killed!
Thanks for reading!
Have an opinion? Share it here in a comment or on the Facebook page!

The new challenge: new posts every Monday and Thursday


I got inspired from James Clear, top self-development writer whom I was about to completely ignore because he sends too many (news)letters but because I procrastinated long enough he was endorsed by Tim Urban (Wait But Why writer’s).
So what James Clear tells is that he writes an article every Monday and Thursday. (As well as that even though it was never his goal, he managed to write a book this way by committing to a process not to a goal…)
A little while ago I I would have regarded such regularity an attack on my personal freedom. But now I put less focus on how cool & free I am and more on how much I’m affecting / inspiring the outer world. So it’s time to get down to something more serious & regular.
Which (again) puts me in the uncomfortable but rewarding position of facing reality:
– being cool, free and happy is great. But it has little effect on the other 7.347 billion people.
– I have less effect on the outer world than I would like to have. I wish to do more because I feel like having unused potential & I have plenty of inner drive to self-develop and to better the outside world.
So with this post I’m saying good bye (hoping to say goodbye!) to outbursts (like a 37 day bike trip alone or a novel written in 100 days) and try to follow the road of long-term, indefinite-ending goals: like doing exercise every morning for more than half a year or learning French every day for more than two months).
And I plan to follow the exact same routine that James Clear did: 2 blog posts a week: one on Mondays, one on Thursdays. Until when? Indefinite. I want this to become part of my life rather than a short term project.
I don’t want to limit the length of the posts, the language of the posts (English or Hungarian), the day of writing the posts or the topic of them.
All I want is 2 posts a week. Some will not fit into the original profile of Minimalist Happiness’ but I’ll mention all of them anyway on the FB site. EVERY MONDAY AND THURSDAY…
You’ll be my witness to it / the grumpy teacher checking that I’m doing my homework 🙂