Aidan's Infinite Play 16 Reflecting on 2022

Aidan's Infinite Play 16 Reflecting on 2022
Photo by Jack Millard / Unsplash

Hello players!

On new years day, I did a yearly review. I don't like to overemphasize yearly reviews in my review toolkit that much because goals set yearly are too abstract and not enough system focused. I guarantee you when I go to the gym today there will be a swarm of new people with resolutions to work out. Three weeks from now, it will be back to normal.

This is why I treat my yearly reviews as a time of reflection. I seclude myself in my room like a little hermit for upwards of four hours and ask myself journaling questions. Surprisingly, I found it incredibly helpful. There were three major things I learned:

  1. I feel restless and shameful, a lot...
  2. Values and virtues can change drastically over a year
  3. The experiences I remembered and valued most surprised me

I Feel Restless and Shameful, a lot...

This last year was the best year of my life. I was the most productive and creative I have ever been. I uploaded 52 YouTube videos, 40 newsletters, 25 blog posts, eight podcasts, and made 2500 Obsidian notes. I'm super proud of how much I created and the awesome things I did outside of content creation like travel to London, The Netherlands, and Sweden, participate in the 90 miler Adirondack Canoe Race, set up a book club at Cornell, join the Speech and Debate Club, and so so much more.

And yet, I still felt restless and shameful throughout lots of my days.

I think this is for three main reasons:

  1. I find it hard to differentiate between work and leisure
  2. I have unrealistic expectations of myself
  3. My past self's identity is fighting me

Firstly, it is hard to differentiate between work and leisure. As a content creator, I create content relating to Personal Knowledge Management, Gamification, and book summaries. Lots and lots of the information I consume for leisurely reading, and my daily conversations make it into my content.

So what is work, and what is leisure? I don't know! I find it hard to see whether I should start creating something or if I can relax at the moment. When I'm talking with family, reading a book for fun, or just sitting in front of the fire doing nothing, my mind is constantly asking: "is this something I can create content out of?" This leaves me feeling restless during some periods of the day.

Secondly, I have unrealistic expectations of myself.

In Stoicism, The Stoic Sage is known as the being exercises the stoic virtues perfectly. Nobody can be the Stoic Sage. The major goal of Stoicism is to strive to be more like them every day. My theory is that my monkey brain has deluded itself into thinking I can be the Stoic Sage. It notices that I am very very productive one day, I exercise all of my values, practice my virtues, build my relationships, and then I eat one cookie the next day, and boom...

You are a silly baka.

I know. The absolute worst of insults. But seriously, my brain thinks just because I can be the Stoic Sage one day, it means I can be it every day. Thoughts like these make me feel shameful when I do something that an outsider wouldn't even see as wrong.

Third and finally, my past selves identity is fighting me.

Some of you may know that during COVID-19, I went through a terrible dieting journey. I followed the "anabolic diet," a diet where you eat as high protein, high volume food as possible so that you artificially create a feeling of fullness and don't overeat. This diet led me to losing 30 pounds (probably lots of muscle)! Yay me. No not yay. Yay is only for when it's peanut butter time.

In reality, during the diet, I was not in a good place. I focused too much on my outward appearance, food was all I could think about, and I had almost no energy throughout the day. Thankfully, I got over it and have a much better relationship with food now. But my past self's relationship with food still haunts me to this day. Even though I eat healthily, almost never in excess, and feel better than ever before, I still think about food all the time.

You ate too much, you're gaining weight, and why are you thinking about food and not content creation?

It's like a younger older brother, but one that's inside your head, and you can't stomp on like Mario. It's for these three reasons that my theme for this next year is--sound the cliche alarm--inner peace.

Before I explain, I think lot's of people over emphasize self-care and work life balance in contemporary society. I think you need to have periods of hard work especially if you want to be successful as a content creator. But despite being more creative and productive and stepping out of my comfort zone more than ever, I still felt restless and ashamed during some of my days.

That shouldn't be the case.

So I'm going to make a conscious effort this upcoming year to be more at peace with myself and the activities I come towards. I want to work hard while feeling good about myself. And I learned the secret for how to do so in the next realization.

Values and Virtues Can Change Drastically Over A Short Time Period

It's incredible to me how much your values and virtues can change in such a short period. I began the year with values of hard work, solitude, routine, stability, and friendship. I was in a period where I thought routine and habits to get stuff done were king. And they are still very powerful.

But after travelling in Europe over the summer and having my stability destroyed by seeing tons of family with different routines and habits to mine, I realized that I don't value stability nearly as much as I thought.

Some of my favorite memories of the year and spiritual transformations happened on that trip. Celebrating Midsummer with my Swedish family, visiting the London Museums and reigniting my childhood curiosity, and seeing my Dutch Family again. None of it would have happened if I wasn't willing to break from routine and do something novel.

But I also discovered two new values that are changing the way I live my life. Playfulness and humor. I think it's a combination of my brother getting into standup, me being a part of the SKITS Comedy group, and the Speech and Debate club that is giving me such a newfound appreciation for humor and playfulness. And these two values are what are helping me most with the restlessness and shame from earlier.

I don't take myself so seriously anymore.

I'm a hunk of organic matter floating on a rock in space. And I can talk to other hunks of organic matter by typing on my keyboard and sending an email. Pretty nifty.

Now whenever I feel shame for eating too much, I look at myself in the mirror and laugh, silly lizard brain! It's like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I don't need to show up as the Stoic Sage everywhere I go. I feel more relaxed. I still follow my values and practice virtues, but I don't hold myself to the standard of the Stoic Sage.

And lastly, even though I don't play video games anymore, I have decorated my room to bring me back to those blissful ignorant childhood years where all I did was play video games all day. Look at this setup.


Tell me that doesn't make you jump with joy.

The Experiences I Remembered And Valued Most Surprised Me

The last thing I realized was the experiences I remembered and valued most surprised me. This was for three main reasons:

  1. They were almost always with other people
  2. They were usually events where I stepped out of my comfort zone
  3. They were often painful to experience but positive to look back upon

Firstly they were almost always with other people. Some of my favorite experiences from this last year were celebrating Midsummer with Swedish Family, playing Sentinels of the Multiverse with my Cornell Friends, doing the 90 miler Adirondack canoe race with my dad, visiting a alpaca farm with my girlfriend, and learning to cook with my friend Abe.

All of these are with other people. This was surprising to me because, as extroverted as people think I am, I spend a lot of the day in solitude, reading, writing, and working on other projects. Even with this realization, I don't think I will spend drastically more time with others this next year. The time I spend in solitude helps ready me for great experiences with others. But I will be more intentional about creating experiences with others where we can explore different aspects of ourselves together.

Secondly, the experiences I remembered most were usually novel. All the things I mentioned earlier were me stepping out of my comfort zone. Cooking with my friend Abe is a great example. This man is a cooking god. He's like Gordan Ramsay but doesn't scream at you for missing the lamb sauce.

The entire time I was visiting him I felt like I was out of my comfort zone cooking wise. He was cooking cheese souffles, magical bread, pork ribs, and more. I was like a fish out of water. But I learned so much that I took when I went back home. I like to think my cooking doesn't make my family want to shrivel and die anymore. It just makes them mildly nauseous. Victory!

Finally, I realized that the experiences I remembered most were often painful at the moment but positive to look back upon. Doing the 90 miler with my dad is a great example. During the race my back felt like it was getting pulverized by a meat grinder. For eight hours...

But looking back on the experience, it's one I'm most grateful for doing. I strengthened my relationship with my dad incredibly, I did something novel, and I learned how to eat peanut butter and honey sandwiches while rowing simultaneously. That last one is still my most valuable life skill.

Summing up, I think doing a yearly review is useful for reflection. Going into this next year, I'm going to try and foster a sense of inner peace, show more humor and playfulness throughout my days, and try and create more experiences I know I will reflect upon fondly.

Please respond to this email with what you are looking forward to in the next year and anything you reflected upon over 2022.

Here's what I would like to share this week.

📸News From The Channel!

Notemake With Me In Obsidian| 2 Hours (No Talking): Notemake with me in Obsidian for 2 hours. Grab some tea, get up your notetaking app of choice, and create some knowledge!
Mike Schmitz: Forging Your Best Life With Journaling and Personal Retreats: Mike Schmitz is a creative blogger, course creator, YouTuber, and writer who discusses the intersection of productivity, faith, and technology. He cohosts The Focused Podcast with David Sparks, all about mindful productivity and focus as well as the Bookworm podcast with Joe where they discuss their journey summarizing and applying insights from books. Mike also has a course on personal retreats where he discusses the value of taking time to reflect on your work and life and iterate for the future. We talked about how a combination of journaling and personal retreats can help you learn what actions you should take based on your values and goals and how to find changes in these over time. We discuss the importance of creating a vision for your life and not sticking blindly to the norm. Finally, we discuss how this can be implemented in business, family life, and school.

💡My Best Insights:

📖Book - Skin In The Game: After reading Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Taleb last week, I knew I needed to pick up his last book in the Incerto series. This book is about tearing off your skin and putting it into the game. No. That would be weird. It explores the concept of having something to lose for a venture, called skin in the game. Taleb argues that skin in the game is an ancient concept that keeps people responsible and accountable for their actions. Nowadays, there is a distinct lack of skin in the game in a tremendous amount of areas of life like Academia, investing, and engineering. This has led to many people acting without any responsibility for their actions.
✍️Blog Post - The Pursuit of ‘Flow’ Is Overrated:
Flow isn't possible in every activity, and that's okay. Some activities you do will be boring, anxiety-producing, and unenjoyable no matter what you do. Like filling out your taxes or making small talk with your in laws. Nevertheless you do them because you know you should. This also holds true for tasks that are meant to be incredibly difficult and cognitively straining, like writing an academic persuasive book. Because of the nature of these activities, you find it hard to lose consciousness of the self, a [[Elements to entering flow|element of flow]] as so much of your consciousness is filled with negative thoughts.
🎙️Podcast - Achievements, Goals, and Motivation in Games: Achievements tug a fine line between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. They are beneficial for making people do things they don't want to do intrinsically, like studying for a test two weeks beforehand. But they can also hurt motivation for people who already do things for intrinsic reasons, as seen with the [[The over justification effect]]. And humans don't like getting rewards they don't feel they worked for. We aren't motivated by achievements that we don't feel we deserve. In this case, we can feel shame. For example, you wouldn't feel very motivated by achievement for booting up a video game. You would feel like an imposter.
📺YouTube Video - Heal Yourself: 1 Life Formula from 620 Hours of Psychotherapy: The template used in this video is what I went through to reflect on my emotions and experiences during my yearly review. I recommend you go through it even though it's a bit after the new year. It gave me a lot of the insights I took earlier.