“Health lies in action, and so it graces youth. To be busy is the secret of grace, and half the secret of content. Let us ask the gods not for possessions, but for things to do; happiness is in making things rather than in consuming them.”
Will Durant, Fallen Leaves
Autumn feels much more like a new beginning than the New Year. A residue from the school days, perhaps. Something about this crisp evening air brings ambition back to me. Finally, I managed to slip from the scorched grip of summer that squeezed all the energy and ambition from me and left me only with lethargy.
When I look at my past, I see patterns. For example, I started my last two side projects in the autumn, when I felt the most ambitious. It feels like everything in life is seasonal, from the cycle of night and day and the corresponding circadian rhythm to life’s constant ups and downs. Isn’t life like a long ride full of ups and downs that often feels like riding a roller coaster until the final abyss that awaits us all?
What I strive for is minimizing regret. I don’t want to look back at my life when I’m in the autumn of my life and think about all the things I didn’t do. I sneered at Casey Neistat’s “DO MORE” tattoo when I saw him displaying it in one of his vlogs, but I currently think it is a great way to have fewer regrets. And the surest way to have a lot of them is just not doing much.
Not doing much is one of the paths toward misery. Charlie Munger: “All I want to know is where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there.” Or in my case, I know I will die if I don’t do much, so I want to avoid that as much as possible. That’s why (as I’m sure you have noticed) I’ve started publishing regularly. Every week, to be precise. “Irregular reveries” are dead; long live “regular reveries”!
Minimizing regret is also why I enjoy writing essays like this one the most. I’ve written more technical pieces in the past, but that kind of writing feels like labor, much more than essays like this one. Writing some essays feels like labor, and writing others feels like food for the soul, and I want to feed my soul as much as possible. I don’t want to spend time on meaningless work that will leave me questioning if doing it was the right decision. I know I will not lay on my deathbed and wishfully think about all these technical articles I could’ve written.
"We have two lives. The second begins when we realize we only have one."
How many times have you heard this quote? I have mentioned it in my journals many times, but I still didn’t know it because knowing it means living it. Textbook exposure effect — confusing familiarity with knowledge. I still don’t know the quote, but I’m getting closer to knowing it every time I publish an essay like this.
Stoics advise meditating on death; some even have skulls as decorations on their desks, so they are constantly reminded of how short and precious life is. Marcus Aurelius: “Imagine you were now dead or had not lived before this moment. Now view the rest of your life as a bonus, and live it as nature directs.” I envy people who can live like this without going through something that proves to them how fragile life is, and how it can all be lost in a blink of an eye.
I’m writing this essay because if I don’t write it, I will forget it, and maybe I’ll never get another chance to remember it. It’s in human nature to take everything we are familiar with for granted, so we don’t realize how precious every day is and how much beauty there is in the mundane, in the everyday routine. Norm Macdonald: “Smart man says nothing is a miracle. I say everything is.” We all act like we will live forever, when in reality no one knows how much time one has left.
So this is me, and this is how I minimize regret.
Thank you for reading this essay. Subscribe to receive new essays and support my work.