Goals That Will Make You Happier

I would like to be happier, but my goals have only vaguely reflected this desire, mainly instead revolving around stuff that I think would be cool, rather than would actually make me happier.

So recently I read a bunch of different books about the science of happiness. Contrary to popular belief, happiness isn’t like a butterfly, where if you chase it, it just runs away. Happiness is instead like literally everything else in life, when you pursue you it, you increase your likelihood of getting it IF you actually know how it works, and most people (literally almost everyone) doesn’t understand it, because it’s not intuitive, at all. Think of all the things you think would make you happier. You’d be wrong about at least half of them. Don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s everyone.

You can set intelligent goals that will make you happier, but not if you rely on intuition over scientific research. We simply suck as guessing how different things will impact our level of happiness, mainly because our instincts have to do with survival, not happiness. Humans (and all life-forms) evolved to survive, not be happy, and once our needs are already met, our biology doesn’t tell us to slow down.

So rather than continue my haphazard attempts at crafting a lifestyle and habits that I think might make me happier but I wasn’t really sure about, I decided I should actually dig into the science.

So I read “Lost Connections”, “The Happiness Trap”, “Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile”, “Hardwiring Happiness” and “Authentic Happiness”, which were all jam-packed with useful, actionable, scientifically proven methods of improving your average mood.

Some key paradigm shifts I had whilst reading all this were:

You can’t control your thoughts.

Don’t believe me? Try to not think about vanilla ice-cream. Try to not think about how it tastes. Try not to think about how it smells. Try not to think about eating it right now? Did you succeed? No. This is the same for everything, so trying to “control” your thoughts to make them pleasant rather than unpleasant doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. What about all those books that preach this as a way of making you happier? They are toilet paper. All of them. But you can turn down the power that your thoughts have over you by observing them more often in a detached way. “The Happiness Trap” has great exercises for how to do this.

Community is key.

Do you know what happened to your ancestors who were not accepted members of their community? They died. Studies in these books about other primates as well as studies on humans reveals a powerful connection between those who were outcasts or lacked social ties and those who were miserable, stressed and had a lower life expectancy. Having internet friends doesn’t do dick for your feeling of being accepted in your community. Not knowing who your neighbours are and not feeling like you’re a part of something, in evolutionary terms, is a precarious situation to be in. This was a big reminder for me to actually engage in community service, community activities and join a community organisation.

Ugly, anti-social cities suck.

Greener areas, which encourage social ties between neighbours and are safe and not noisy are significantly better to your happiness to the alternative. And the alternative has been the places I’ve been living, for years and years.

The new goals I created for myself, after reading this book:

Reconnect With Meaningful Values

Become Excellent At Mindfulness Meditation
Become Excellent At Love & Kindness Meditation
Become relatively unmaterialistic

Financial Security

Live in a safe, green area with a home that is quiet
Have work I have control over and derive meaning from
Be financially secure

Connect With Other People

Build Rich Social Connections based on shared purpose
Be Someone Who Does Community Service & Activities Often

Happy Personality

Become more extraverted
Become less neurotic

Regularly reflect on thoughts

Be Good At Gratitude Journalling Regularly
Be excellent at doing CBT on self
Be excellent at doing ACT on self
Be excellent at doing BA on self

Fill my day with Hobbies

Be someone who exercises regularly in nature

Develop a complex self-image

Some of these goals I’ve already largely achieved and are just reminders to keep on track, others are totally new for me.
I have developed an extensive plan on how I’m going to pursue each of these goals, which will take a very long time, and I can’t wait to get started.

The best book of the bunch was “The How Of Happiness”, if you’re interested in actually living a happy life, I strongly recommend you check it out here

The best app for monitoring your progress with happiness is called, astonishingly: “Track Your Happiness”, you can get it here

Here’s to a happier you 🙂

 

Book Review: Hardwiring Happiness

I just got done reading a book that you’d really like.

“Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science Of Contentment, Calm And Confidence” by Rick Hanson Ph. D

He’s this Neuroscientist who also is really into meditation and stuff, and wrote a very practical book about how to do, what is essentially a very advanced version of “Gratitude Meditation”, but something that you can just slot into everyday life.

Each time you speak with a good friend, you enjoy it, but you probably don’t really let the enjoyment of it sink into you, as you get distracted by other things.

Each time you have a nice meal, you enjoy it, but again, probably not for long before you’re distracted by the next thing.

Part of the book deals with actually making the most of the good things in life, something I’m not sure I’ve ever really read about. Yeah you’re supposed to “make the most” of everything, but… how? This book is how.

Another part of the book explains the science behind why it’s difficult for us to really bask in the good things that happen, and instead why it’s so easy for us to be negative it all.

Our brains are basically wired to keep us alive, rather than particularly happy, and if you’ve been in a state of panic for a long time, like being bullied or growing up in a shit neighbourhood or something, your brain would rewire itself to adjust to this reality, protecting you from every conceivable threat, even after these threats are long absent. This is why depression can spiral. But if you can wire your brain one way, you can wire it the other, and this process of “Gratitude Meditation” is how you do that. Take your brain from a red state to a green state, and then keep it that way most of the time.

Another part of the book goes over what to do with negative thoughts, experiences and memories, and even explores who therapists help patients recover from traumatic memories by having them reinterpret them, which is something you can do for yourself.

But the bulk of the book is just HOW to do all this. The book is extremely actionable, with every chapter having steps for you to take to implement what it is he’s teaching.

My only criticism is that the science can get a bit overwhelming in spaces, but you’re a smart cookie, so you’ll get past it.
If you want to improve your average mood level, this book is a no-brainer (there’s a pun in there, somewhere)

Check out the dude’s website here: http://www.rickhanson.net/books/hardwiring-happiness/
And the book on amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Hardwiring-Happiness-Science-Contentment-Confidence/dp/0385347316/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

Book Review – “Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions” by Johann Hari

I recently read this great book Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions” by Johann Hari

It has a bunch of stuff in it that would really help you better understand the causes of depression so you can sidestep them to never have to experience depression ever again, as well as get very actionable advice on how to live a life that is much happier, fulfilled and meaningful.

The first key takeaway of this book:

Depression isn’t caused by a randomly occurring chemical imbalance in your brain, it’s caused by having a depressing life, and just because you have a lot of money, doesn’t mean your life isn’t depressing.

To say that this theory of depression being caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain has been discredited implies it was ever actually credited to begin with.

“The United Nations—in its official statement for World Health Day in 2017—explained that “the dominant biomedical narrative of depression” is based on “biased and selective use of research outcomes” that “cause more harm than good, undermine the right to health, and must be abandoned.” There is a “growing evidence base,” they state, that there are deeper causes of depression, so while there is some role for medications, we need to stop using them “to address issues which are closely related to social problems.” We need to move from “focusing on ‘chemical imbalances’ to focusing on ‘power imbalances.’ ”

The book really digs into how people were sold the lie of depression being caused by just some spontaneous chemical brain imbalance and thus solvable only through anti-depressants which inexplicably don’t work very well or at all for most people most of the time (spoiler alert: billions of dollars being at stake)

The book also covers in detail the real causes of depression, with the scientific studies to back them up and interesting anecdotes about the studies to stop the book from being boring. These causes are (and nod your head for the ones that resonate with you)

1. Having a depressing job (do you have control over it? Does it feel meaningful to you?)
2. Being disconnected from other people (how many people would loan you $100 if you needed it?)
3. Being materialistic (the more materialistic you are, lines up with the more unhappy you are)
4. Having had a traumatic childhood (whether you realise your childhood was traumatic or not, but you can address this in therapy)
5. Living away from nature (very interesting studies showing the benefits of living even near a park)
6. Having financial insecurity (i.e.: being in debt, living paycheque to paycheque)

And then the author goes on to explain how to make your life better. I’ve summarised some of the easiest methods he’s researched, which you could apply to yourself, right now:

1. Join a bunch of community groups to check them out (then continuing to participate in whichever ones you enjoyed the most)
2. Sign up to do a bunch of different community service things (continuing to do whichever community service you enjoyed the most)
3. Install ad blocker in your computer (easy as fuck) to decrease the problem recognition that is the purpose of all these internet ads
4. Google “online therapists” and discuss your childhood with them, it’s cheap, easy and incredibly effective, even if you’re pretty sure your childhood was fine
5. Take acid, with a guide, whilst lying down and blindfolded, visualising whatever and exploring those visualisations (your subconscious) to essentially lucid dream whilst awake and learn how to have a more healthy relationship with your ego

There are tonnes of other things he recommends for improvement, but those are just the top ones I thought of which you can do quite quickly and easily

My biggest criticism of the book is the author’s clear political bias, but that only really comes in to really affect two or three chapters (basically that the government should pay for everyone’s shit and capitalism is evil), but outside of those few chapters he stays quite scientific and useful.

I learned loads from this book and hope to apply all those suggestions soon, and I hope you do too.

You can check out a sample of the book on Amazon, to see what you think of it.

Then after that, if you don’t need convincing about why depression being caused by more than just chemical imbalances, I’d recommend you just skip ahead to chapter 16, which starts to dig into the really actionable advice on how you can make yourself less depressed, and more happy and fulfilled in your life.

Let me know what you think of the book and how you go with implementing it!

How to improve your conversion rates for SaaS users in 3 minutes flat

3 minutes, seriously.

Here’s an example (https://blog.evernote.com/blog/2017/02/10/5-simple-ways-productive-evernote-phone/) of how Evernote uses a value education blog post to increase the conversion rates of:
– non-users to free users
– free users to premium users
– premium users thinking of cancelling to premium users who aren’t

Evernote has stacks of blogs like this, which they can send out as emails too. Evernote understands that their users don’t necessarily understand the full value of their software, even though it’s quite simple to use (just like your software too Ill bet)

So, in 3 minutes, here’s how you can implement this too:

Option A:

Send a link to this blog post you’re reading straight to an employee and tell them to make a blog post/email for you guys similar to how Evernote did and send it out to a list of your subscribers, easy peezy (if you still desperately want to micromanage your business, tell them to send you a copy before they publish it, but it’s probably not necessary). You can spend the remaining 2 minutes and 50 seconds admiring yourself in the mirror if you wish.

Option B:

1. Spend 60 seconds thinking of 4 ways users could get more out of your software, perhaps features that are under-utilised, or things to do with the software that are under-utilised (feel free to also just delegate this to a staff member)
2. Spend 110 seconds writing the bare bones of the post
3. Spend 10 seconds copying and pasting what you’ve written, plus the following message, and email it to a staff member/indentured servant:
“Dear valued employee,
Please edit this for any spelling or grammar mistakes, fix up the formatting, change the font to one you think is cool, find some cool image to add to it, flesh out whatever you think needs fleshing out and then go ahead and publish it,
Lots of Love,
Your Boss”

You might think that your Software is so easy a blog like that would be redundant, but if Evernote does it, maybe it’s worth doing too. I’ll give another example of why stuff like this is important.

I had a friend who had played this video game called Oblivion for about 100 hours. This game was famous at the time for having one of the largest maps in Video Game history. It was only after these 100 hours did he have a conversation with a friend where he realised that the “fast-travel” feature existed, where you could just teleport from one side of the map to the other, without riding your horse there.  And my friend is not a pleb when it comes to video games, so if he didn’t know that, imagine everything your users don’t know about your software!

So, anything your users seem confused about or perhaps aren’t fully taking advantage of yet that you could allocate 3 minutes of precious time to?

After you do the first one, you’ll be way more likely to make another and another until your users are getting so much value out of your services they form protest rallies when you threaten to close down. Enjoy!

How to quickly find an apartment in District 1 of Saigon

Finding anything in Saigon is a pain in the ass, but with this method you’ll be able to find a decent studio apartment within a couple of afternoons.

You’re unlikely to get a particularly flashy place or a particularly cheap place ($250-$350 USD/month is about the price range), but for apartments in District 1 it goes fairly well and the nightmare scenarios you hear about, where a landlord totally fucks over a tenant, is less of a common story here.

First thing is just to show up to 18a Nguyen Thi Minh Khai in District 1 (here: https://goo.gl/maps/YFsrmZZTFE22)

Then walk up and down the alley and knock on the doors which have the “room for rent” sign on them.

Half of the places will say they are actually full and they merely have the sign there because… reasons.

For the ones that do have a room for rent, whoever is there will probably show you around the room even if they don’t speak english.

You will want to check that:

– the water is hot
– the air conditioner works
– the bed is decent
– the wifi is fast (get the wifi password and load a youtube video on your phone to see how quickly it loads)

Then when they call the landlord’s son on the phone to speak with you, ask them:

– if you can park your scooter here or not
– how often the maid cleans the room and does laundry
– if you can use the kitchen downstairs
– how much the rent is
– how much the rent actually is when you include all the extras
– what the security deposit is (hopefully nothing)
– what the “rules” are
– if you’re allowed to have a “friend” stay overnight (many won’t allow it, especially if the friend is Vietnamese and thus will ruin any hope of a sex life you foolishly envisioned)

Then once you’ve found like 3 places that are good, meet with the landlords one at a time to ask the same questions you asked the son, discuss anything further with them and look at the housing contract, then say you need to talk to your Dad or whatever and don’t agree to anything.

Then whichever Landlord feels the least likely to be a pain in your ass is your best bet.

But expect to have your first experience be awful, because anything they tell you is unlikely to actually be true. So if you can avoid paying a security deposit that would be great, then you can just move out and move in somewhere else, which is what I did.

I’ve been living in the same building for over a year now and it’s been pretty good so far.

How to avoid getting sweaty and sticky in Saigon

I used to hate how hot and sweaty and sticky and disgusting I’d get every day in Saigon merely by walking outside for more than 5 minutes. Now I don’t experience this very often at all, despite the weather perhaps being even worse now.

These are my secrets for avoiding feeling sweaty and sticky in Saigon

Secret #1: Baby Powder

You want to put baby powder everywhere, and by everywhere I mean EVERYWHERE, and by EVERYWHERE I mean your balls, buttcrack, lower back, armpits and anywhere else that collects sweat.

You can buy baby powder at any convenience store and you can easily test it’s effectiveness by putting baby powder on only one armpit one day and seeing what the difference in sweat is by the end of it.

I don’t go outside for more than 5 minutes without putting baby powder on.

Secret #2: Proper clothing

Black denim is about the dumbest possible thing you can wear in Saigon, and I would know, since that’s what I used to wear all the time.

Denim is one of the thickest fabrics, you want cotton instead which is far cooler and lets the air come through. Chinos are generally made from cotton. If you don’t own any non-denim pants then get your life together. Go down to a tailor and get them to make you the best fitting pair of pants you own for less than you’d pay for the cheapest trousers at Target.

Same goes with shirts, cotton is your best bet.

In terms of colours, what do you think?

Yep, black is the worst, you’ll want lighter colours instead. White is the best, but how on earth anyone keeps white clothes white is beyond me, so if you’re a rookie like me, just go any lighter colour.

For shoes, the more surface area it covers, the worse. With a motorcycling boot being about the worst you could do, and something like loafers or boat shoes or volleys being the best.

If you want to wear the Vietnamese rice farmer’s hat too to provide yourself some shade, go ahead, set a trend.

Secret #3: Shower 3+ times a day

Because why the hell not.

Secret #4: Be a snob about where you go

If it’s not in District 1, do you really need to go there? Really? It seems highly suspect that anything important is outside the District in which I live.

And if the restaurant or bar a friend invites you to doesn’t have air conditioning, simply refuse to go. That friend clearly doesn’t like you much and it was about time you ditched the toxic relationship anyway.

Your next actions:

– Go to your nearest Circle K or Family Mart and buy baby powder and apply it under one armpit just to see how big of a difference it makes (huge)
– Start showering 3+ times a day
– Put all your black clothes, denim clothes and other thick-fabric-terribly-hot clothing in a bag, if after a month you don’t use any of it, burn it.
– Message your friends asking which tailor they’d recommend and go down to get yourself some stylish cotton clothes then take photos to add to your tinder profile
– Block all your friends on Facebook who have ever recommended you go somewhere that didn’t have air conditioning

Becoming Super-focused with Modafinil in Ho Chi Minh City

 

 

MY EXPERIENCE WITH MODAFINIL

One morning I woke up and decided if I was serious about increasing my productivity then I should at least experiment with one of the smart drugs I’d heard entrepreneurs talk about.

Figuring that I wouldn’t be able to import any of the popular smart drugs into Vietnam, where I was living, I messaged my Vietnamese friends asking what drugs the students here use to stay focused.

One of the responses was “meth”

Another of the responses was “Modafinil”

I first heard about the wonder-drug “Modafinil” (also called Modalert) from this blog: “How I Became Mighty With Modafinil”

In the blog he likens Modafinil to the NZT drug in the movie: “Limitless”, increasing focus, motivation, energy and productivity to achieve your goals. Having watched Limitless at least twelve times, I was very keen to try it out.

The only experience with nootropics or “smart drugs” I’d had prior to this was by experimenting with Piracetam, a drug that did literally nothing for me. Like, even taking four times the recommended dosage had no noticeable effect at all.

My Vietnamese friend, who I met through doing standup comedy together, said not only did he know where I could buy Modafinil, but he actually had some that he could sell me and would even offer me two pills for free just to try it out.

Most standup comedians take drugs, but not to increase their productivity.

And so at our next comedy show, whilst the other comedians were smoking weed and swapping notes on where to get real ecstasy and the benefits of Valium vs Xanax, I got Modafinil from my friend and discussed the finer points of increasing your productivity through it’s usage.

At 11am the next day, on an empty stomach, I took 100mg of Modafinil (half a pill)

My expectations were… that it wouldn’t work. That it’d be like Piracetam and every other “Amazing” life hack you hear of: total bullshit.

But about half an hour later I figured it had probably kicked in as I gradually felt more alert and more motivated to get stuff done today.

Five hours later I still felt alert and still felt motivated to get stuff done.

It was that feeling you get on some mornings where you just really want to dig in and you’re itching to work on some project… but instead the feeling lasts for hours.

I raced through project plans for creating a blog, set it all up, filmed and edited some great videos and went through my to-do list ticking off stuff I’d been putting off for ages.

It was probably the most productive day I’ve ever had in my entire life. And this was in spite of having slept terribly the night before, as I was up until 2am, which would ordinarily have totally destroyed any chance of being productive. And shit, even if I had slept well, the likelihood of me getting anything important done after lunch is incredibly low. I’ve perpetually been confused by people who say they work for 8 hours a day, I don’t think I’ve ever actually worked for that long before, even when I worked 9 to 5, as at least half that time is spent reading emails you don’t really have to read, having meetings you don’t really need to have, editing documents that don’t really need editing and just chatting to colleagues.

After Modafinil wore off… nothing, there was no come-down, I just felt like I’d have felt ordinarily at that time of day.

I decided that I would take Modafinil every time I woke up feeling like shit, which was once or twice a week at the point, and would otherwise probably get nothing done anyway.

I soon amended this to just taking Modafinil basically every day.

I don’t know how I lived before this.

The long-term side effects of taking Modafinil regularly… aren’t known. I don’t think there have been any scientific studies on the long-term effects of using Modafinil because it’s still so new and from internet land the only people reporting particularly bad side-effects are from those who took 200mg or 400mg or mixed it with other drugs. Everyone taking 50mg or 100mg like I had been just reported minor stuff like headaches when they first took it and being disinterested in sex for the next several hours but it otherwise largely just working as advertised. So far I haven’t had any bad experiences, and as of writing this blog I’ve been taking 100mg daily for about two weeks.

The canary in the coal mine is everyone else taking Modafinil regularly for years who still aren’t reporting negative effects despite a blog post on the subject being likely to go viral amongst the smart drug user community.

I intend to continue using Modafinil daily and I’m in love with the results so far.

WHERE TO GET MODAFINIL IN HO CHI MINH CITY

I get Modafinil from my friend, who gets it from… somewhere, presumably. I recommend you also ask your friends if they know anyone who can set you up and maybe even give you a free sample. I can’t vouch for any of these other places personally, so I suggest you do your own research.

Modafinil Viet Nam: When I posted on their Facebook page they said their prices were:

– 50,000 VND per pill for forty 200mg pills, 2,000,000 VND total
– 100,000 VND per pill for ten 200mg pills, 1,000,000 VND total

After I posted on their page a random guy offered to halves with me on the 40 pill order so we could get a cheaper price, so that could be a way. But I just opted to get them from my friend instead.

https://www.afinilexpress.com is another website a friend told me about, but I haven’t looked into it, you can check it out.

GUIDE TO TAKING MODAFINIL

First time you do it, just take 50mg (quarter of a pill) and if you don’t feel anything an hour later, take another 50mg, but for the love of God don’t take the whole pill.

Take it first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach to feel the full effects

Take regular breaks to eat and drink water, as otherwise you’ll literally forget to. (Happened to me)

Also take regular breaks to look away from your screen, as otherwise you’ll find yourself with really sore eyes four hours in as you realise you’ve been staring intently at your macbook this entire time. (Happened to me)

Don’t take it less than 12 hours before you plan to sleep, as otherwise you won’t be able to.

Don’t take it less than 12 hours before you think you might end up having sex with someone, as some people have reported it decreases their sex drive whilst they’re on it.

If, like me, your body often doesn’t respond well to coffee, don’t drink coffee on it as you’ll experience that antsy, agitated feeling for hours. But if your body does respond well to coffee, I’ve heard that it amplifies the Modafinil even further, so you can experiment with that.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Do your own research, get a sample, and conduct your own little experiment with 50mg of it to see how you respond. It might just seriously improve your life.