collage

The past 4 years have been a blur operating, expanding and managing The Hostel Crowd. I can speak for the entire team when I say that 24 hours in a day was never enough. We just bounced from one crisis to another. Somewhere along the way, a method to deal with the madness began to emerge. The method was not holistic and as ironic as it may sound – I never had the time to write about time management. Now on my mini-retirement, I’ve got sufficient time to analyze and walk you through a few techniques that I’ve come across in the past years.

So what is success? I believe that it is nothing more than getting what you want—and that it is up to you to decide what that is for you. I don’t care whether it’s being a master of the universe, a couch potato, or anything else—I really don’t. What is essential is that you are clear about what you want and that you figure out how to get it – Ray Dalio

The Evolution of Time-Management

The First Generation of time-management consists of simple to-do lists which all of us are more than familiar with. But to-do lists have a tendency to grow monstrously large. As an entrepreneur, I constantly had at least 10 to-do lists (on Google Keep) with over 20 items on each list. And the chaos that ensued pretty much amounted to no time-management at all. The problem with using to-do lists for time-management is that they do not capture any information about time (??).

The Second Generation of time-management solved this problem with the Calendar through scheduling. I remember working in my job where nothing could be achieved without ensuring that the calendar gave us the green light. Outlook was a whiz at this. The issue however was that maintaining to-do lists and calendars didn’t do anything for productivity. Sure it helped the right people meet at the right place at the right time but with the number of meetings spiraling out of control, nothing got done.

And that’s when the Third Generation of time-management brought prioritization to the table. This is where most of us currently operate – to-dos, scheduling and prioritization. The biggest problem with Generation 3 is that the amount of information available to us is too large and is constantly growing and changing too frequently for us to effectively manage all 3 tools. Mistakes are inevitable and we invariably unconsciously end up working on pointless unimportant stuff.

The point of this article is to look at busier and smarter people than myself for answers to the fundamental problem of the information age – How to Effectively Get Shit Done? With some new ideas in place we can slowly move down the path of personal development.

Unconscious incompetence → Conscious incompetence → Conscious competence → Unconscious competence

The New Time-Management Paradigm

“We can have virtually anything we want, but we cannot have everything that we want”. The first step is to decide what is our ultimate goal – the final destination and then to work backwards to decide what tasks are necessary to achieve this goal. The Fourth Generation of time-management says that time-management is dead. Instead of managing our time to get everything done, we should be instead be closely managing our tasks to get the important stuff done. Falling back to the words of Ray Dalio again – “Tasks have no purpose other than to achieve your goals. Said differently, goals are the sole purpose of tasks. So you mustn’t forget how they’re related. Frequently I see people feel great about doing their tasks while forgetting the goals they were designed to achieve, resulting in the failure to achieve their goals.”

Quadrant 2 – Steven Covey

Time Management Matrix

Steven Covey says that most of us spend 90% of our time in Q1 and 10% of our time recovering and hiding in Q4. We operate out of Q3 whenever we’re forced to do something that is urgent for someone else. We have to teach ourselves to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant 2. To begin with, we can steal away time from Q3 and Q4 and redirect the time into Q2. Working on stuff that is important to us helps us navigate to a future without constant urgent/important Q1 crises. To summarize, we have to learn to view our tasks through the lens of importance rather than urgency.

The ONE Thing – Gary Keller

Gary Keller says that regardless of what we choose to tell ourselves, humans are unable to multi-task. Any attempt to do so is asking for trouble. The Pareto or 80/20 Principle, says that a minority (20%) of the causes, inputs or effort usually led to a majority (80%) of the results, outputs or rewards. Keller advocates the Extreme Pareto Principle, which means you apply the Pareto principle to the 20% and keep applying the principle until you find the (you guessed it) ONE thing, which when completed will yield the most substantial result. In other words, doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.

Our approach towards achieving our goals should begin with us asking ourselves one simple question every single step of the way (and day)

What’s the ONE THING I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

The ONE Thing

Traditional time management techniques have been applied only to the workplace and Keller claims that we need to take a more holistic view of our lives and apply the same approach to all aspects of our life such as our job, key relationships, business, community projects, personal finances, physical health, mental development, etc. When this technique is applied in combination with Steven Coveys theory, you should be able to find your Quadrant 2.

Maker time / Manager time – Paul Graham

Paul Graham has defined ‘Maker time’ as the time where you are completely inaccessible and appointment free in order to get ambitious stuff done. He also says that if the Maker Time is not large enough we might avoid attempting to do something we consider difficult. In other words, you need a large chunk of uninterrupted time to operate in Quadrant 2 and do your ONE thing. Although it might be essential, getting Maker Time is by no means easy. You have to establish rigid time blocks everyday and vigorously defend these time blocks from interruptions. Once you’ve successfully time-blocked your Maker Time, the rest of the day can be used as Manager Time to carry out boring but necessary Quadrant 3 activities such as paperwork, meetings, emails, phone calls, etc.

The Tools

No

The most effective tool in the arsenal. Learn how to use this word constantly and ruthlessly. If any task is not within your quadrant 2, you probably should be saying NO.

Delegation

All tasks are completed through delegation – either to ourselves or to someone else. If we delegate to ourselves, we are the operators but if we delegate to others, we step into the role of a manager. At 100% efficiency an operator can produce 1 unit per hour. A manager on the other hand, after devoting some time to training, can produce 10, 50 or 100 units per hour. So if you have the resources (time and manpower), please remember – teach a man to fish.

Don’t be reactive

The biggest challenge of our times is the flood of new information and the temptation to respond to this information. One way of doing this is to control when and how you process this new information – checking emails twice a day only for instance (and not refreshing your email client every 30 second). Another way is to avoid meetings unless it’s a meeting without chairs. Some people avoid receiving phone calls altogether instead asking people to send an email to prevent them from getting into situations where they need to be reactive. Depending on your circumstances, you will have to figure out a way to make it work so that your train of thought is not hijacked by an email, phone call or meeting.

Environment

Analyze your environment and design a way to ensure that you can get the most out of it. If meetings are unavoidable, get your Maker Time by waking up earlier than everyone else (Barack Obama, Tim Cook, Dwayne Johnson and many more endorse this). If your workplace or home is too distracting for your Maker Time, try changing your location to find a place that works for you – meeting room, co-working space, local coffee shop, library, etc.

Join Me

It’s a Monday today and we’ve all got a long week ahead of us. Whether its producing a song in the studio or calculating complex derivatives for the boss-man, we’re all similar in that we all want to achieve our goals. I’ll be trying out a simple 4-step exercise to see if I can have a more productive week than usual. Give it a shot and let me know in the comments if it worked for you!

Step 1

Create a list of roles that are important to you (remember to include your personal stuff as well)

Step 2

List 1-2 goals for each role that you intend to achieve by next Sunday. Take care to ensure that your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound)

Case Study: Jon Snow

RolesSMART goals
Commander of the Nights WatchQuit by next Sunday and recruit CNW replacement
Prepare for and conduct 2 hour transition training with CNW replacement
Direwolf masterPut flowers on the grave on Wednesday to mark one-month anniversary
Write a 500-word blog post about overcoming loss
FriendFacetime catch up with Sam and the Mrs
BrotherAccompany Sansa to her Thursday meeting with Lady Mormont
Personal developmentWork-out in the gym twice with minimum 20 mins cardio
Do online research and buy new organic conditioner to make my hair shinier
Step 3

These roles and goals are your Quadrant 2. Schedule time-blocks to achieve your goals through the week and violently defend your time-blocks to ensure that you get enough Maker time to achieve these important goals. Do not get inadvertently sucked into Quadrant 3 and 4.

Step 4

Evaluate your progress next Sunday and determine whether your goals have been met. More importantly, remember to set goals for the following week. Goal setting for the entire week allows for hiccups that may occur in-between. It also gives you the freedom to be spontaneous and flexible.

 

Thanks to Laura for patiently hearing me out and reading through drafts of this along with making the beautiful collage at the top of this page. I promise to not compete with this blog.

Aerial view of the Venezuelan Gran Sabana

I first read the Four Hour Workweek (4HWW) by Tim Ferriss on a 6-seater plane from Ciudad Bolivar en route to Angel Falls in Venezuela while on what I then referred to as a holiday with an indefinite end date. The 4HWW framed this concept as a mini-retirement, which to me at the time was ingenious*. 5 years later and here I am again, well-insulated from regular life, hiding in the mountains of Germany on my second mini-retirement. Seeing some familiar patterns repeat themselves, I’d like to talk about how this brilliant concept works.

*With a little more experience, I have come to realize that the 4HWW was a brilliant book to gain a new perspective but not necessarily the ultimate life to aspire to. Given that Tim Ferriss works more than 12 hours per day leave alone 4 hours per week, I guess he probably agrees. Maybe I’ll elaborate a little more on this in another post.

The retirement (mis)concept

The concept of retiring from a job with a steady pension and a healthy bank account at the ripe old age of 65 is a ghost from the industrial age. Once you’ve retired, you’ve got a good 20 active years of your life doing what? Golf? Charity? Looking at our careers from afar, the first issue we have to address is why should we wait until 65 to have an abundance of free time? Why should we not experience that today? The second factor is why should we as a society, allow people to go from the peak of their productivity to zero productivity. Isn’t humanity losing out? Does the concept of mandating that people above the age of 65 retire from the workplace make sense? We have to re-think this black and white concept of retirement. It’s horrible for us individually and not efficient for us as a society. So in my mind, since the magical 65 is no longer relevant (I will work for the rest of my life), it now makes sense to consider peppering our long and ever increasing lives with one or more mini-retirements.

Why bother with a mini-retirement?

1. Work on the bucket list

So you’ve always dreamed of moving to the beach and learning how to surf. One morning you wake up with 2 kids waiting for breakfast and that’s another dream shattered. Someone else dreams of climbing Kilimanjaro but never had enough money or time to do that. Next thing they know they’re 65, retired, with plenty of money and time but with no stamina to make the climb. The bucket list of dreams keeps getting longer and you have to allow yourself the time to strike a few items off the list while putting your future on hold. Take everything you consider a time-based luxury that your job and current lifestyle would never permit and give yourself and opportunity to say – I no longer have ‘time’ as an excuses to not do what I thought I wanted to do. You can effectively reduce quite a number of short-term wants and that’s when you can begin to ask yourself – what do I want to do with my life (long term)?

2. Recalibration

To quickly summarize another related concept from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – our psyche consists of 3 people – the operator, the manager and the executive. So if we enter a jungle hacking away at the trees trying to make our way through to the other side, it’s the operator within us who actually sharpens the machete and hacks through the vines while keeping a wary eye out for snakes. The manager taps impatiently on his watch and says that at this speed we’ll run out of food before we get through the jungle implying that the operator has to move faster and take fewer smoke breaks. Meanwhile, the executive climbs up a tree and yells “Wrong jungle!”

Most of us are consciously or unconsciously well-practiced operators. Some of us are even skilled managers – efficiently climbing up the rungs of the corporate ladder and making steady progress towards the top. The problem is that by the time we get to the top we’re in our 40s-50s only to realize that the ladder has been leaning against the wrong wall all along. All those sacrifices made by the operator and manager over the years, helped us achieve something we never really wanted. The executive within us was fast asleep. A mini-retirement is supposed to wake up the slumbering executive and find out where our internal compass is pointing.

To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual – Oscar Wilde

3. Live in the moment

Many young people spend their lives envisioning a future that makes current hardships tolerable. Many older people tend to spend their lives living in the past. Both methods distract us from accepting the reality of the situation. On a mini-retirement, at every single point in time you can be doing whatever you want to do, which is a great way to shift your perspective to living and existing in the present while giving yourself the time to develop a deeper understanding of the relationship of the future and the past with the present.

How to approach a mini-retirement

Lets say you’ve decided to throw caution to the winds and head off on a mini-retirement. Here’s what you should be considering

1. Goals and Constraints

You wake up every morning with the freedom to decide how to spend your day. You can pursue anything that interests you or you can simply do nothing. While its very important to give yourself a chance to not worry about competition, success and achievement, you don’t want to look back at a 6 month break and realize that all you’ve done is bleed Netflix dry. Time should no longer be a constraint but that doesn’t mean there are no constraints. The goal of my current mini-retirement is to learn how to live a more balanced life (which I have struggled with in the past). Keeping my goal in mind, I have set myself a few constraints – exercising 6 days a week (hence no hangovers allowed), no sugar, waking up at a fixed time, limiting myself to 3 movies a week, etc etc. An overarching goal can help you set the constraints which are important checks and balances to ensure you get the most out of your time off.

2. Time & Money

Once you understand the goal of your mini-retirement, you can start to plan accordingly. Firstly, figure out how much time you need to take for yourself. Anything less than 1 month won’t work; remember, this isn’t a holiday and the shorter the duration you allocate for this exercise, the more disciplined you will have to be with ensuring your actions are in line with your goals. Many companies offer their employees an option to take unpaid leave and this could be ideal to get a few months off with the peace of mind of having something to fall back on. If you have a family, you could get them involved in understanding and helping you with your goals. Contrary to what we are led to believe, living a simple life isn’t very expensive. All you need to account for is rent, food, flight tickets (if you can’t do this from your current location) and maybe a monthly budget for indulgences. We have a tendency to use time and money as an excuse for our inactivity. If you feel that a mini-retirement could improve your life, stop making excuses and find a way to make it happen!

The Berchtesgaden Alps in South Germany

So here I am on my second mini-retirement recalibrating the compass and asking myself again – is the ladder leaning against the right wall? Am I in the correct jungle? There is finally enough time to live in the moment and watch the rain without worrying about the next email or the next message. Enough time to exercise regularly and learn new skills. Instead of learning how to squeeze more minutes out of the day, maybe I need to learn how to squeeze more days out of my life by finding my balance and living in the present. For now, I’m on a mini-retirement and I’ve got all the time in the world to do nothing and to figure out everything.

Work is addictive. As an employee, I was a workaholic until the point where I couldn’t take it anymore and quit my job. I then started my own business with a brand new mindset only to find that I’d gone from category 1 to category 4. Many people end up burning the candle from both ends before burning out. In my books, they usually fall into one of the following categories based on their work ethic

Category 1: Carrot
If I do this, I’ll get a promotion or a bonus

Category 2: Stick
If I don’t do it, I’ll get fired or worse, my boss will bitch me out

Category 3: I’m better / luckier than everyone else
I get paid more than my peers or more than I deserve to be paid so let’s rake in the moolah while the sun shines

Category 4: Life is shitty but it will be amazing soon
My growth is exponential and so if I can sustain this rate for another 3-4 years I’ll be in a comfortable place for the rest of my life.

Category 5: I don’t read books
I don’t give a shit about my work and take mini-naps under my desk when no one’s watching. I also hate my customers and piss on the toilet seat whenever I can

Category Jedi Knight
I know exactly what I’m doing, why I’m doing it and how to do it

Ignoring the McDonalds crew, it eventually gets to a point where saying no to your work is as difficult as saying no to another pint of beer on a Friday night. Money is the currency of effort and if society needs what you offer, your effort will be rewarded. More money, more recognition, more responsibility, more impact but what it all effectively means is that you’ll be doing a lot more work.

You can make a few calls on the train, slip in a few hours of computer work after dinner, send emails while walking to lunch, etc. Rationalizing your workaholic behavior is getting increasingly common as technology advances and allows you to work 24/7 from anywhere. Including while you’re in Thailand on your honeymoon.

As an entrepreneur, it’s even easier to get sucked into this work trap and forget why you became an entrepreneur in the first place – to become the master of your own destiny. I justified my crazy work habits by telling myself that it was necessary to succeed and that it would only last for the first few months while the hostel stabilized. We now have 4 stable hostels and it’s been 3 years.

“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls…are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” – James Patterson

Whether you agree with categorizing life so bluntly or not, the point is your life is going to be a train wreck if you neglect everything else for work.

Some lucky people say – I love my job and work all the time because I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do. The first step towards lifestyle design isn’t “what do you want to DO with your life?” It probably is “what do you want to GET out of your life?” Based on what you want to GET, you can DO accordingly. And if you want to get a few things out of life, odds are you’ll have to do more than just your job.

Setting goals is the #1 priority. Lifestyle goals, family goals, work goals and whatever-else-that-is-important-to-you goals. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you’ve got a wider scope to decide what you need to do to achieve those goals.

And so I’ve come to realize that my goal in life isn’t to only be a business owner (independence, value creation, money, etc.). I’ve decided to take my future into my own hands and set some new goals. More running, more reading, more blogging, more healthy food, more travel, more quality time with the people I love and more effective work. Which sometimes means shutting down the laptop, switching off the phone and walking out the door…

cycle

7 billion people running loose on the planet shouldn’t have lasted very long. Surprisingly enough, we defy the odds every single day and here we are, living in relative peaceful harmony. The reason being man is a rational animal. We’ve worked out that it doesn’t make sense to decapitate each other over a tube of toothpaste or stab a cop over a parking ticket. Everyone from a Wall Street banker to an African farmer has some sort of system and lives within the confines of well-defined rules. It’s in our best interest to follow most of the rules of this system. But our brains are so good at automating logic that instead of evaluating each situation on face value, we adhere blindly to all rules whether they make sense or not. We assume all rules are correctly defined and should be followed. That’s not necessarily true because we haven’t developed these rules ourselves. Someone else has created these rules for us. Bosses demanding that employees wear neck-ties to meetings is a prime example of how we all follow useless rules for no apparent reason. Ugandans hanging homosexuals is another. Although our obedience applies to all rules (don’t walk on the grass), I’d like to focus on the unwritten set of rules that defines how your life must be lived. The seeds of these rules were planted the moment you, as an impressionable 4-year old, strapped on a school bag for the first time.

Education taught you that you needed to get more education, get a job, work for 30 years and then retire and enjoy life. While you’re busy with the previous tasks, you would have to love someone, get married, have kids, buy a house and wait for the grand-kids to arrive. Simultaneously you have to contribute to the community, take holidays, buy a second house and make enough money to afford a fancy watch that matches your car. And if you succeed in checking each and every item off on this list, that’s exactly what you would be – successful. So even though some of us might be chasing money and some power, in effect what we’re looking for is social acceptance defined as success. However, this success still hangs in the balance and a divorce, retrenchment, bankruptcy could result in this hard earned title being unceremoniously revoked. Somewhere along the way we stopped chasing our dreams and started chasing success.

If our education could be summed up into 4 words, it would be – think logically, act rationally. Thinking logically and acting rationally is good. But when everyone follows the same rules, they resemble a herd of cows heading to the same place. And with that many cows, there’s bound to be a lot of competition (and bullshit). On the flip side, there’s definitely a need for more than one cowboy.

Take 1

What if you asked yourself what exactly you were looking for? Is it the possibility to surf at the beach every day or do you secretly want to be a singer? If this is the case, then why are you studying to be a tax accountant? (Hint: iPhone, BMW, Maldives). Putting your finger on what you want is the hardest thing to do and so evading the question is logical.

Once you’ve decided what you want, what if you allowed yourself, just once, to make an irrational decision? Irrational because it would be a bad decision by society’s rules and everyone will laugh at you for it. But this bad decision would make you special because now you wouldn’t be following the same rules that the rest of the clowns are following. You would be chartering a new path and you would be an outlier. Not all outliers become somebody but all cows don’t become somebody for sure.

It’s time to wake the revolutionary within and begin to question a few constants. From the smallest idea to the largest scam – why must you accept status quo? This is your life. You have the power to do anything with it. And you don’t have to live with other people’s rules. Quit your job. Orchestrate a revolution. Break free from the bullshit. Stop subscribing to society’s norms. Be strong. Be different. And be a cowboy!

You could classify cooking as a ‘nice to have’ skill and you would be horribly wrong. Cooking is an art. It’s right up there with painting and sculpture (excluding the modern variations, of course). Just as music soothes your soul, a well prepared meal satisfies your hunger, repairs your body and plays with your senses.

I did not always subscribe to this line of thought.

It all started a short while ago as one of those stupid things people do, once a year, typically while under the influence – a new year’s resolution. Mine involved eating healthier. Simple to visualize but not so easy to implement. It completely upset the apple cart. No matter where you live, eating healthier just means half the restaurants that aren’t out of bounds for the diet are out of bounds for the wallet. For some reason, the moment you serve anything healthy, organic or vegan, it automatically justifies doubling the prices. With most of the restaurants in the vicinity off the menu, the eating healthier resolution basically warped into an “I will cook my own food” regime which isn’t what was originally intended. But a real man would lose all his machismo if anyone found out that he dropped his new year’s resolution on day 3.

Breakfast is simple enough to get by without showing up your massive cooking handicap to the world. It’s called a fruit salad. Even the food-critics who make master-chef contestants cry (though that’s probably the contestant eligibility criteria) won’t sling any mud at anyone who cooks a fruit salad for breakfast. Maybe not. Anyway, 3-4 fruits, chop-chop-chop. Done.

Lunch and dinner is a different battle field with different rules.

Initially, I approached the task by throwing caution to the winds. Some bachelors lurking in the shadows of their neighborhood McDonalds might’ve laughed at my naivety. But, how hard could it be right? Take beer battered prawns for example. Beer is the nectar of the Gods. And prawns merely exist to provide palatable pleasure. Both are freely available on the shelves of your regular supermarket. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that merging two things that taste amazing would only produce a super-food. So the only cooking involved would be to whip up a beer batter; which won’t take more than 10 minutes. Dip the prawns in the batter, fry until golden brown and serve while hot. Too easy. I’ve hidden behind my vegetarian inclinations, and given this one a miss. But you get my point.

Fast forward a month and a recent series of setbacks have served to realign my outlook on the matter. Some funny guy said – “a toaster has 2 settings, too soon or too late” and so the cooking has carried on relentlessly. Given my new found experience, I feel qualified and obliged to share some invaluable lessons with you in order to get you on your way.

  • A common mistake is to rationalize that rotis (Indian bread) are more economical (time and money) when purchased at the restaurant down the road. And once you’ve walked all the way for the rotis..
  • When cooking lentils and beans, in order to reduce cooking time by a few hours, soak overnight first.
  • Even though the benefits of mass production might seem appealing at the time, never cook the entire bag of chick peas at one shot unless you’re feeding 10 people. Or else your dreams will smell of hummus.
  • Adding corn to your vegetarian tomato based pasta will do wonders. Raw corn not so much.
  • Less salt infinitely better than more salt.
  • Eggs are fragile and easily damaged. They are not to be stored in confined areas (such as trouser pockets) while transporting to destination or else eating an omelet for breakfast will be the best case scenario. Additionally transport by bicycle is only to be considered in developed economies.
  • Blenders are best run with their lids on.
  • In case you do not have a blender, pour yourself a beer. Then wrap stuff-to-be-blended in a clean towel and pound the towel with the empty beer bottle until the perfect consistency is achieved.
  • When 2 grown men can’t open a jam bottle, the bottle must be defective. Don’t be ashamed to destroy it with your Swiss army knife. If you have no Swiss Army Knife, heat the lid over a flame. Voila!
  • Cooking a salad is so easy, it shouldn’t even be counted as cooking. Be warned that an extra spoonful of vinegar could cause the salad to self-destruct.
  • If you drop anything on the floor, remember that the 5 second rule applies. If you’re running out of time, kick the food and your 5 second count-down restarts.
  • If you can’t get rid of the grime in used vessels, boil coca cola in it and witness some kitchen magic.
  • And if you can take anything away from this, under no circumstances no matter how delusional, must a beginner attempt to bake bread.

On the whole, cooking is an economical, satisfying, creative, easy to learn, experimental art. Don’t be afraid to mix powdered dark chocolate, melted goat’s cheese, and blanched tomatoes with rice just to see what happens. Get your hands dirty and let loose your inner chef. Though I’ve got my money on you botching up the beer-battered-prawns.

And if everything fails, you always know that we live in an age where pizza gets to your house before the police.

Lunch is Served

As funny as this viral quote may be, we’ve come a long way from hunting and fishing. The world we live in has changed so drastically in the past 100 years that ignorance or culture is no longer an excuse to sit back and wait for someone else to fix the problem. Which brings us to the question – is there a problem? I believe there is.

We need to consider vegetarianism or at a bare minimum reduce our consumption of meat for a couple of reasons

Hunger

A child dies from hunger every 6 seconds. 6 million children die of starvation every year. One acre of land can be used to grow 20,000 pounds of potatoes but can only produce 165 pounds of edible beef. Should we be growing potatoes or producing beef? You do the math.

Environment

Animal farming is an industry comprising of 22 billion farm animals and accounts for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases. With global warming coming to the forefront of everything environment, it’s easy to shrug off as a problem that only Governments have to deal with. To put things in perspective, producing a single pound of meat emits the same amount of greenhouse gasses as driving 60km  in an SUV.

20% of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed in the last 40 years. A large majority of this destruction of our planets richest bio-diverse ecosystem has been fueled by the need to farm cattle or to grow soya which is then shipped to Europe to feed chickens and cows caged in animal farms.

While the Amazon was being pillaged, trawler fishing was doing the same with our underwater world, obliterating entire marine ecosystems before we even knew they existed.

Health

Contrary to popular opinion, our bodies don’t require meat. All nutrients from meat can be gotten from a vegetarian diet as well. Sure, we’ve evolved to be omnivorous but primitive man sure as hell wasn’t eating a big-mac for lunch and a steak for dinner every day.

Vegetarians coincidentally tend to have a lower BMI, lower blood pressure, cholesterol and a lower chance of heart disease. Add to this a reduced risk of diabetes, hypertension and a hoard of other diseases and there’s no real debate as to which diet is healthier for you.

Benefits of a vegetarian diet apart, sometimes you must wonder where your steak actually came from. Illusions of black and white cows grazing on green pastures are naïve. The beef you’re eating most probably came from a cow stuck in a tiny cage and fed growth hormones all day long. And you’re unconsciously indirectly consuming these hormones and antibiotics (forgot to mention that 20% of all cows have bovine leukemia aka cancer and up to 50% of all chickens in the US have salmonella). If that has failed to scare you, bovine immunodeficiency virus (equivalent of AIDS in cows) can infect human cells and wreak havoc in form of a slow virus.

Humanity

As the smartest animal on the planet, we should realize that we’re capable of doing things that no other living creature can do. We are capable of designing crazily complex systems, understanding the origins of life and we’re capable of showing compassion towards each other and towards other animals. We keep dogs and cats as pets but some double standard allows us to eat pigs and cows that someone else kills for us (we’d never have the courage to do it ourselves). All we see on our plate is a product. We have become numb to the fact that animals are being killed for meat.


The issue you need to address is that every time you sit down and eat a steak, are you eating this out of habit or do you realize the cost that the world and your body is paying for this luxury?

And once you understand this cost, you need to ask yourself – is it worth it?

So you’ve decided to climb a mountain. Or maybe you’ve gone one step further and signed up for this insane challenge.

Great. What next?

I’ll stay away from the ‘mountain climbing builds character’ bullshit and get straight to the point. Having climbed a fair share of mountains in my youth, I’ve realized in retrospect that making the decision is the easiest part. How you prepare for the mountain will decide whether you get to the top or not. There are 2 equally important components of this challenge that need to be addressed way before you even set foot on the mountain – the man and the machine.

Part I – The Man

“You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself.” – James Whittaker

The Man

Strength Training

Big muscles are not ideal for big mountains. The reason being that muscles consume a lot of oxygen during aerobic activity and oxygen is a scarce commodity, as you get higher. So bulking up shouldn’t be the goal of your training programme. Being able to carry your backpack for 8 hours under the scorching sun should be. If you’re not confident of dealing with this weight, another trick you could pull is packing as light as possible. The weight rule applies to you too. A few extra kilos in the form a brilliant beer belly or terrific thunder thighs only means you’ll have to lug that up the mountain with you.

Building Stamina

No particular training directly translates to stamina on the mountain. Cross training is the key to getting yourself in shape.  The regular trio of running, swimming and cycling should get you fit enough to tackle the mountain. The level of intensity of these activities depends on where you are right now and what your goal is. Mixing up a few other sports like football, squash, etc. would definitely be useful. The key is to get off the couch and do whatever interests you.

Mental Tenacity

Contrary to popular opinion, strength and stamina although vital for attacking big mountains are not the biggest factors of a successful summit. Mental strength is. While on the mountain you’ll have to deal with cold, altitude sickness, loss of appetite, fatigue, headaches and various other obstacles. If you’re mentally not equipped to deal with this, you’ll struggle to make it. The only foolproof way to prepare yourself for a mountain is climbing another mountain. Try and start off with something small – between 3000m to 4000m, like Mount Fuji or Mount Kinabalu. These mountains are high enough for you to get a glimpse of the nasty beast called altitude sickness that you’ll be up against when dealing with taller mountains.

Mountain skills?

Many tall mountains like Kilimanjaro, Kenya and even Everest to a great extent require no hardcore technical climbing and the route to the top involves only uphill trekking (although that’s easier said than done). If you get yourself into reasonable shape, moonwalking up this mountain should be a breeze.

Part II – The Machine

Mountain climbing is a rich man’s sport as most mountain gear costs an arm and a leg. However, your gear could save your life and (less dramatically) save you from a lot of discomfort.

The MachineBoots

The number one item on this list would be your shoes. Ensure that you buy sturdy waterproof mountain boots that will protect you from the cold. Sneakers aren’t an option. Wear your boots regularly over a 3-4 month period before heading to the mountains so that they take the shape of your feet and get comfortable.

Sleeping Bag

After your boots, while on the mountain, you’ll spend most of your time in your sleeping bag. Most mountains are bone-chilling cold at night and it goes without saying that a warm snug sleeping bag enhances the experience.

All That Jazz

Other than these, you’ll have to consider protection against the cold and the sun, energy while on the move and numerous other items. Get a hold of all items on my mountain gear checklist and you’re good to go.

And finally, as the East Africans say, pole pole!! (slowly slowly – conquer the mountain one step at a time).

theOrangeMangotheOrangeMango began when I caught myself drinking orange-mango juice (tangy but sweet) at breakfast in Georgetown right before my first day of work as a volunteer in Guyana. And I realized that I actually enjoyed this new life that allowed me the liberty of being a stranger in a strange land, drinking an exotic drink in an old wooden house for breakfast. It was far from the ordinary, but it was fun.

Rewind a month and I was a regular guy who introduced himself with the usual – I’m ________(name) working as a _______(job-title) at ________(company-name) in _______(city). Yawn…

So what went wrong?

I always harbored dreams of being paid to do my job while replacing my office with a beach in the Bahamas or with my favorite coffee shop. However, I never gave this a second thought and resigned myself to my reality where a fixed location was a factor of life beyond my control.

Why Travel?

So, I attempted to travel as much as possible while on vacation. But with 15 vacation days every year (welcome to Singapore!!), there’s only that much you can do. What fascinated me the most about travelling was that it allowed me to venture out of my comfort zone. Meeting people with different opinions and cultures helped me question some of the assumptions I had formed (religion, non-vegetarianism, etc.). Life while travelling was exciting, much more exciting than going through the motions day after day in a big city. I decided to take things into my own hands and dealt with this wanderlust by working on projects all over the world – Kenya, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore.

No Money, No Honey

Although this cured my wanderlust, I was still treating the symptoms and not the disease. I was still working crazy hours on inconsequential projects. Like most people, I attempted to fool myself into believing that I liked my job. The easiest way to resolve this is to ask yourself if you would do your job for free. If yes, then you’re one of the few lucky people around. If not, then you’re probably working for money or to further your prospects of earning money. The thought of doing my job for free was out of the question and quite hilarious.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with working for money. However, a common misconception that exists in today’s society is that an embarrassingly large bank account implies wealth and happiness. The cold truth is that money is just an enabler for your dreams and goals. I found myself asking a few questions. Other than basic necessities (food, clothing, shelter, etc), what did I need the money for? What were my goals in life? And so…

Life Goals

  1. Climb Mount Everest
  2. Do a motorcycle road trip across India
  3. Survive a solo flight on a hand-glider
  4. Speak a new language
  5. Travel to all 7 continents
  6. Play the drums in a Samba band at the Rio Carnival
  7. Slap mud on the Great Mosque of Djenne, Mali
  8. Run a sub 3-hour marathon
  9. Spent a month meditating at a Buddhist monastery
  10. See the Northern lights

There’s a clear theme visible from my goals – a more exciting life. Once these goals were achieved, they will be replaced by something just as ridiculous. The thought of working 12 hours a day just to earn enough money to help me achieve these goals seemed daunting, monotonous and pointless because I’d be trading 5 out of 7 days (71% of my time) on tasks completely unrelated to my life’s goals.

Time vs. Value

The biggest problem in this scenario is that I was being paid for my time and not for the value I created. This is because my employer would refuse to pay me if I didn’t show up at the office!! Compare that with a passive source of income where you get paid even when you’re asleep – for example if you’ve written a book, you put in a one time effort and you get paid for the value it delivers that doesn’t depend on whether you took 1 month or 1 year to write this hypothetical book. How about Elvis Presley. He’s still one of the highest selling artists in the World and the guy’s been dead for decades. The point is that time is a limited commodity and getting paid for the value you create is more logical.

Once I understood this concept, it soon became obvious that this 9am to 9pm lifestyle was a waste of my life. So I quit…

My Current Quest

Quitting was just the tip of the iceberg. The next challenge that awaits me is being able to develop a passive source of income that rewards me for the value that I create. This is easier said than done. How long this will take and whether I’ll be able to achieve this, only time will tell.

In the meanwhile, I intend to publish two posts a week on Sundays and Thursdays. If you’d like to receive one email with an email excerpt and absolutely no spam, please enter your email in the “Subscribe” box on the right.

Thank you for reading and try and not do anything stupid….like quitting your job

Rat Race

In the past, I’ve avoided posting (boring) personal stuff here. I’ve decided to change that and give you updates on out-of-the-ordinary events that creep up from time to time.

I’ve just about finished my role as a volunteer with a local charity in Guyana. It’s been an interesting experience and I can safely say that I’ve learnt a lot over the last few months. Although the original plan was to go back to corporate life with Accenture in London, I’ve had a recent change of heart and decided to turn down the offer (mainly due to my irrational hatred of neck-ties).

I will be winding up in Guyana over the next 2 weeks and then saying hello to Surinam and Brazil before heading to GOA with pitstops in Bangalore and Singapore. The plan also involves backpacking around Goa for a month or more, running an ultramarathon in Bangalore in November, reconnecting with my roots (beer and beaches) and then taking it as it comes. While the next 2 months are going to be fun filled and hectic with tons of travelling, the future is scary and exciting at the same time.

For now, thank you for following my journey and stay tuned for stories, pictures and videos of my travels.