I know it's been awhile, but I'M BACK!
Where have I been?! Rumor has it that tens of people around the world took to the streets crying out "WHERE'S ANTHONY!? I HAVEN'T GOTTEN ANY UPDATE FROM HIM?" Innocent civilians were dragged into smokey poorly lit basements to "answer a few questions." The last email I sent to many of you was in JUNE 2017. At the time I was living in Laos programming a web application. Now I live in Vietnam teaching English, writing blog posts, and creating YouTube videos.
What can you expect from this new and improved weekly letter as we frolic into the future together...
EVERY MONDAY AT 8AM EST I WILL EMAIL YOU MY WEEKLY: VIDEO + SCRIPT + PERSONAL UPDATE
My sore index finger slides the arrow to “Shut Down”.
I click “Shut Down”.
I lean back in my chair to take a deep breath, but then there’s a pop up, “Do you want to save the changes you made to “Naughty or Nice List #3.xlsb”?
I lean forward to click “Save”, ruminating on whether I made the right decision.
The computer resumes shutdown. The screen goes black. I close my laptop and put it in my bag.
I feel triumphant!
I drive home and at 10pm I’m walking through the door. I throw my bag onto my chair and unconsciously do as I always do… reach into my bag to pull out my computer. My sore index finger reaches forth to turn it on…
I snap out of it and stop myself! “Phew, that was a close one.”
“Wow Anthony, so interesting!”
I then listen to a podcast as I do my laundry and organize my room. I shower, brew tea, stretch, meditate, journal, shut the lights off, and read my Kindle in bed until I feel sufficiently tired to fall asleep.
When I woke up this morning, I felt well-rested.
“So crazy Anthony. You should really consider making this into a thriller novel!”
Granted, this story isn’t particularly interesting, but I think the lesson here is profound.
Can you guess what it is?
“Oh, so now this is a detective story?”
The reason I shutdown my computer before I came home was because I’m not good at moderation, especially in the evening. I got in the habit of coming home and going on social media and surfing YouTube. I get sucked into these things. I don’t think these things are inherently bad, after all I have a YouTube channel I promote all over social media: LIKE, SUBSCRIBE, AND SHARE!
It’s just that I recognized one of my limitations as a human being; It takes too much effort for me to pull myself away from the screen. What would end up happening is that I’d tell myself that I should start getting ready for bed at 12am, but then I’d get engrossed in an article, and 12am would quickly become 12:15am, and then 12:45am would become 1am.
I’d end up skipping much of my evening routine in the interest of sleep, and then the next day I wouldn’t start off with as much clarity.
I find that tomorrow begins tonight.
I tried many ways to force myself into moderation such as by installing the Chrome Browser Extension StayFocusd, which caps the time I can spend on certain websites. I also scheduled my Mac to automatically start shutting down at 12am.
These tactics worked initially, but then I would end up opening up the incognito browser more and more justifying to myself that it was for “research purposes”.
I’d then cancel the shutdown popup notification just so I could finish the thing I was doing first, until of course that thing would lead into another thing and then another…
“The computer is like electronic cocaine.” — Peter Whybrow, Director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience
I also have a smart phone, but I rarely use it at the chagrin of my Grandmother who asks, “Why don’t you call Grandma more?” I also don’t allow myself to download games because I know I’d get addicted to them and end up ruling all of Farmville with an iron fist!
So in comparison to a lot of my peers I actually live like a monk, but I choose to live this way because I’m cognizant of my addictive traits, and it’s in recognizing them that I can keep myself in check.
So when it came to using my computer in the evening I realized I had to give myself a hard NO.
Specifically I said, “I will not use my computer after I come home in the evening until I hit 1K YouTube Subscribers.” I then signed and dated it to feel more official.
I gave myself a goal “until I hit 1K subscribers” because it serves as an added bonus to inspire me to work harder toward my goal, but more importantly, it makes upholding the vow more believable because if I had simply said, “I will not use it in the evening” then it would have just been a matter of time before I rationalized my way out of it.
“Every ping could be social, sexual, or professional opportunity, and we get a mini-reward, a squirt of dopamine, for answering the bell. These rewards serve as jolts of energy that recharge the compulsion engine, much like the frisson a gambler receives as a new card hits the table. Cumulatively, the effect is potent and hard to resist.” — Judith Donath, MIT media scholar
I keep my vow in front of my desk so I’ll see it whenever I get the inclination to break it.
Putting down the digital needle… at least just for the evening… has freed up my time to pick up a book and a pen, which in the end, makes for a happy ending to my day.
On my way home from teaching Thursday, my motorbike broke down. I just bought it 2 weeks ago! And of course it started to rain. I kept kickstarting the bike only for it to die 20 seconds later. As I was kickstarting it my rain poncho would keep getting caught underneath my foot. As I was walking my bike along the side of the road, a van pulled up next to me and 2 young Vietnamese guys popped out. They didn't speak English, but they told me to get in the back of the van with my motorbike. Now usually when 2 men tell me to get in the back of their van on the side of the road I'd say no. But they had friendly faces and the one guy had rose tattoos on his arm. On the way to my house, they played some hip cool Vietnamese music I bounced to voluntarily and involuntarily as my body was thrusted from left to right as we ran over numerous potholes. When I got out of the van we exchanged Facebook and took a selfie...
Have a nice week! And let me know if you enjoyed this letter and if you have any additional questions, suggestions, or thoughts. I hope this is the start of a long journey together (hopefully with less breakdowns).