April was the second month of the pandemic and lockdowns here in Estonia. We were already staying at home since the end of February, so not much has changed. It took a way longer than I hoped for to adapt to the new work-life balance. As a result, I moved to a somewhat flexible working hours, several smaller chunks with longer breaks instead of a one long 9-5 day. When you have two working adults and a toddler, it’s next to impossible to do deep work unless you wake up very early in the morning (which I don’t). But here might lie another shifting habit for me: these days it’s really hard to wake up early and become productive right away. I don’t have morning rituals like coffee and paper, yoga, or cold shower, but I might try something different: to have a short walk in the forest instead, or maybe a jog. All my big changes started in the middle of the week, month, year. I never started something from next Monday. So this might be the same.
Good habits are hard to develop because they take more mental energy and persistence from you. And now I need to get to a healthy and balanced diet I had pre-corona. While staying at home I started baking a lot. It takes away the stress, both the process of preparing food and the act of consuming sweet stuff. Unfortunately as a result of that hobby my and my family’s stomachs got hurt. But there’s some good news too. For about 2 years I’ve been failing at sourdough bread making. My started was always dead after a few days. I kept trying, failying, trying something different, failing again. And finally, I found a working formula. Turned out it was mostly the temperature and the place. I keep it in the oven now, it’s dark and 1-2C degrees warmer than in the room. We now have fresh bread once or twice a week.
We live next to the forest. This winter didn’t have much snow, if any, and instead there were a lot of storms. Some really strong which cut the electricity to many households. Our forest saw lots of older trees fall, and every time I was walking past one, I thought about making something useful out of it. Eventually I settled on building a small stool for my child to sit and play. Having only a hand saw (and zero woodworking experience )it was a tough task to undertake, yet an interesting one. It took me two mornings to cut down a fallen tree and get a good enough slab. Another two weeks to cut the four legs. I now need to remove the tree bark from these legs and even them so that it stays flat on the floor. It will likely take me the whole May to finish it, so it will get an update in the next summary.
Last year I set myself a challenge to read at least 20 books. I didn’t have a specific area to cover, just wanted to get into the habit of reading. Charlie Munger famously said “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time – none, zero”. That challenge culminated in 22 books, some really interesting and thought-provoking like Nassim Taleb’s “Antifragile”, some are less interesting and I left them unfished, like Darwin’s “On the origin of species”. However the contents of those books almost completely vanished from my mind. If I were to discuss any of these, I wouldn’t be able to recall a nice quote, or use author’s arguments to my advantage in some discussion. I was reading these books as if I were reading science fiction, without much thinking, without stopping to cross-reference the term, or going back to the paragraph I didn’t understand before. This is called passive reading.
While services like Goodreads is a nice way to keep track of what you’ve read, find your next book, or discuss the author you liked with other bibliophiles, they also set the trap that I got myself in: reading challenge. Read X amount of books next year to get some reward in the form of a badge. As a result we are in a rush to consume more, to finish the book so that we could just mark it as such and start reading a new one. We’re getting addicted to the social proof, basically bragging about the number of books read just like people on YouTube or Instragram brag about their cars or travels.
I haven’t read a single book in the past 4 months. I got tired. I don’t want to participate in that race anymore, and instead I want to thoughfully select every book and actively read it making notes in the process, taking breaks to explore the concepts I get stuck, and returning back to previous chapters to better understand them.
I love reading Paul Graham’s essays. Or Naval Ravikant’s. Yet I could never understand how to get the inspiration to write such a long monologue on a specific topic like them. Until it hit me. Both of these people (and many more I admire) “actively” read books. And then the express their opinion on the specific topic that caught their interest. It’s like a school essay that you write upon finishing researching some author, a historian, or any other topic. And in order to write better and deeper, I need to read the same way.