302: Forgetto Mori

This is the Monday Medley, a newsletter that goes out, you guessed it, every Monday. I republish it here for sharing and referencing, but if you'd like to sign up you can do so right here:

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​Happy Monday!

I've launched a crypto-focused newsletter, which I'm committing to doing at least one long-form post on per week for the foreseeable future. You can sign up for it here, check out the most recent post on Dopex, and check out the first paid post on a brand new protocol I'm following.

I also published my book notes on The Dictator's Handbook (would recommend), and released a Made You Think podcast on Escape From Freedom.

Alright, on to the essay.

Forgetto Mori

One philosophy I try to remember is that you can always make more money, but you can't make more time.

It's a way to break yourself out of the tendency to sacrifice your day in pursuit of cost savings. It doesn't matter if the gas station across town is cheaper. If it takes you 20 extra minutes to fill your gas there, you've lost 20 minutes to save a few dollars. If you have the freedom to spend your Monday afternoons reading my ramblings, then that's probably a bad deal for you.

One challenge with adopting this philosophy stems from how you earn money. If you're on a salary, you're more likely to see money as scarce. You only get 60,000 monies per year, so if you use up a few of them on the more expensive gas, that's money you can't use elsewhere.

Scarcity in this context does not necessarily mean earning a small amount of money. There are people earning millions of dollars a year who see money as scarce. Scarcity only means that you see money as something that needs to be preserved instead of something you can always get more of.

The opposite of the scarcity mindset is the abundance mindset, and the entrepreneurial mode makes it easier to see money as abundant. Once you get through your 1,000 days you know how to use those 20 minutes to make more money than you lost.

It never works quite like that, of course. It's unlikely you are turning your saved 20 minutes directly into 20 minutes of work, but if you know what your time is worth from a business sense, these decisions should work out profitably over time.

But now you've created a new problem. Instead of sweating over the balance in your bank account, you're sweating over the balance on your calendar. You've gone from money scarcity to time scarcity, and time scarcity has a bad habit of ruining our day.

When we feel something is scarce we can't help but obsess over it. No one cares who takes what piece of pizza until it's the last one in the box. So when you start to see your time as scarce, as something that needs to be carefully allocated, you become painfully aware of the edges.

Seeing time as scarce necessitates optimization, and optimization necessitates measurements. If you don't have discrete units of time to allocate, then you can't ensure you are Not Wasting Time. So we end up with packed calendars, carefully organized carpools, 55-minute zoom meetings, and hour-long lunches.

It's hard to enjoy a dinner or vacation if you're constantly worried about the price, and it's hard to enjoy an activity when you're constantly worried about the time. Optimization breeds discontent. We spend so much time focused on Not Wasting Time that we end up wasting our time optimizing our time. We transcend one unhappiness to replace it with another.

We know we're going to die. Time is finite, and can never be won back. We must allocate our time intentionally to maximize the number of utils we can squeeze out of each day. But by trying to pack our time into highly efficient chunks, we obsess over its finitude and lose the ability to get "lost" in what we're doing. And it's hard to say you were really enjoying yourself if you didn't lose track of time.

So we're stuck. It's impossible to truly enjoy our time when we're thinking about time. But without thinking about time, we'll waste our time. So how do we find the balance between applying the necessary compression and scheduling to our work and fun to be a productive, social member of society, without constantly worrying about where the hands on the clock are?

I can't resist the urge to try to fix everything so I have some ideas. Removing time boundaries whenever possible seems like a good start. There's a meaningful difference in enjoyment between scheduling a coffee for 9 to 10 AM, and telling someone to just come by your house whenever in the morning. Sports or exercise are more enjoyable when they're spontaneous or "pick up," vs. scheduled and organized into a fixed timeframe. Even a dinner where you progressively finish making and eating different courses, with no attempt to line everything up perfectly, has a certain special flow to it.

__ "man misses the only satisfaction that can give him real happiness-the experience of the activity of the present moment-and chases after a phantom that leaves him disappointed as soon as he believes he has caught it..."__ Fromm is talking about "success," but it applies to our discussion of time as well. The chasing, the optimizing, the trying to save time is what wastes our time. It's only when we stop watching the clock that we enjoy the clock.

Memento Mori is dumb. Forgetto Mori is much better.

Have a great week,


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