zenhabits : breathe

Tynan’s Rules for Living

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Tynan of Tynan.com.

When the godfather of blogging tells you to write a post, you write that post.

Two days ago Leo and I were talking about habits and procrastination and things like that. I told him about a few of the rules I have for myself, and he said that I ought to write a blog post about it.

This morning I woke up to an email where he, again, told me that I should write a blog post about it. I’m not one to risk getting a horse’s head in my bed, so I’m writing the post. Actually, Leo’s vegan, so it would probably be a giant chunk of Tempeh. Still.

I find gray areas very difficult to work with. I think most people do. If I simply told myself to “eat healthier”, I would probably barely change my diet at all. However, when I give myself black and white rules, I follow them pretty well. The difference is that with black and white rules, you don’t have a thought process to go through– you just act. With gray areas you require yourself to think over every decision, opening the window to excuses.

Following is a sample of the rules I follow. It’s not a complete list, but you should get the idea.

1. When you say you’re going to do something, do it. I believe that without his word, a man is nothing. This rule applies to things I tell others I will do as well as things I tell myself I’ll do.

2. Don’t lie, don’t exaggerate, don’t withhold information, don’t mislead. This rule exists mainly because it affects my performance in every day life. If I know that whatever I do will be related with perfect fidelity to others, I do it better. It also allows me to show proper respect to the people in my life. The one exception is authority figures who have the power to enforce rules but make them. For example, I might lie to a police officer to try to get out of a speeding ticket.

3. Show up on time, always. This rule is pretty recent, maybe a year or so. I’ve decided that when I commit to being somewhere at a particular time, I will always be there at exactly that time. The trick is to just get there five minutes early every single time and wait. It’s a very very minor inconvenience in return for being much more reliable.

4. No sugar, refined grains. I do cheat days every week or two, either when traveling or when it’s the polite thing to do around other people. I used to skip Christmas dinner and make my own food, but now I’ll use that as a cheat day and eat with my family.

5. Walk out of movies, stop reading books, leave parties. If I’m participating in some sort of entertainment and I realize that it’s not going to be worth the additional time spent, I leave. The fact that I paid $10 and watched half of the movie is irrelevant. The real decision at hand is: how do I want to spend the next hour of my life.

6. Computer is off at midnight. The only real exception to this would be if by not doing so I would break rule #1 to other people. If I told myself I was going to do something but wouldn’t be able to by shutting off the computer, I consider that to be good punishment for not getting it done earlier.

7. Listen to people. I used to be bad at this and I hate it when people don’t pay attention in conversation. So when I have a conversation with someone, I make sure I’m really listening and not just waiting for my turn to speak. Sounds basic, but I’d say 50% of people don’t do it.

8. Do the right thing, even if it comes at personal cost. I have a very strong set of morals, which aren’t necessarily totally congruent with everyone else’s, but I defend them and keep them strong by living by them as closely as I can. For example, the story I wrote a couple weeks ago about the Vegas poker chip.

9. Only wear wool. Wool is a better fabric than cotton in just about every way. It’s warmer when it’s cold, breathes well when it’s warm, dries faster and feels drier when wet, absorbs far less odor, etc. Anything that touches my skin directly (shirt, pants, underwear, socks, hat, etc) is wool.

10. Only wear thin soled shoes. It’s better for your feet and joints. I wear invisible shoe sandals and vibram five fingers.

11. When buying things, buy the best or something temporary and disposable. If the purchase is replacing something (and given how minimalist I am, it pretty much always is), it should be smaller and lighter than whatever it replaced. I like high quality items that retain their value well, and I like making my traveling easier. I might sometimes buy something that’s a tiny bit heavier, but overall my backpack has gotten smaller and lighter every year. If it doesn’t make financial sense to buy the best, I invest the smallest amount of money possible in a temporary fix. In other words, I would buy a $9 Casio or a $1000+ Rolex, but never a $100 Seiko. Also see: Rolexes – Why They’re Awesome and How to Get Them Dirty Cheap.

12. Do things other people aren’t doing. This one is more of a heuristic than a rule, but I include it because it defines so many of my decisions. When making a choice, I will greatly favor the unknown over the known. I feel like this is how you contribute to society, even if it’s in a very small way.

13. Always be learning something. I always have at least one learning project going on at all times. Right now it’s Violin. Soon I’ll be as good as I want to be (able to play one full Mozart song poorly), and I will move on to either Chinese or Japanese.

14. Never have debt. I would suffer way before having debt. That doesn’t mean I won’t borrow $20 from a friend if I forget my wallet, but I would never finance anything other than a house, and only then because I can get a higher return on my money than a mortgage would charge me.

15. Always have a one year buffer of money. Through the years I’ve managed to save up enough to support myself fully for a year (in my RV, cooking my own food). I invest my money buffer to grow it, but I wouldn’t spend it on anything other than living expenses if needed. I do this not because I’m cautious, but because it gives me the freedom to choose how I spend my time, and thus take risks.

Find more from Tynan about living an independent, minimalist lifestyle (and more) at Tynan.com.



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