Thinking About Money and Wealth

There are no get rich quick schemes. Only sound financial habits compounded over decades

I’m writing this for reference for myself in the future. Will update as I go along.

This is not intended to be a catchall. Just a basic primer, and rules to think about wealth. A reminder to make sure I’m not making any huge mistakes. Seems to be on track at the moment…

I’ll make a list of resources at the end for reference future Abhishek.

Basics Rules

1. Keep a budget. 

You should know how much you are spending and where.

2. Spend less than you earn

Simple, but many don’t follow this because of rule number 1. You want to live below your means. I used to be a big fan of Diogenes who famously lived in a barrel. But I think maybe aiming for a slightly higher standard would be ok…

3. Insure against disaster

You have to mitigate against Black Swan events. Life Insurance, Critical Illness Insurance, Income Insurance, Home Insurance.

4. Clear Debt

Not relevant at the moment for me. I intend to keep it this way.

5. Have financial goals

e.g. ‘Buy a flat in London’ or ‘Semi-retire at age 50 with a £3000 per month lifestyle’. The goals vary for individuals, families and at different stages of your life.

6. Invest Wisely

See below

Investing vs Saving Definitions

Savings : Keeping Money in ‘cash products’ in a liquid form. ’Less volatile’ . Savings is for short term financial goals. Likely to be used in the next 3 years

Investing : Putting Money into a place that accrues interest. ‘More volatile’ e.g. Stocks, Property, Gold, Vintage Wine, Pokemon Cards. Lots of things.
Investing is for long term financial goals. 5-10-20-30+ years.

Why Invest

Money depreciates over time in the bank due to inflation.
Inflation is where things you buy get more expensive over time.
Therefore money loses its ‘purchasing power’
In 2018, the average inflation rate in UK was 2.5%
If you left money in the bank, you technically lost 2.5% of its value.

This is why you should invest.
You should also have money in savings accounts for short term goals. Do both.

Time in the market is a better predictor for returns

Start investing early with the intention to hold for the long term.

Thanks to compound interest (8th wonder of the world), wealth accrues.

Become Wealthy through Owning Assets

You want to earn with your mind, rather than with your time (@naval)

It’s hard to get wealthy working a job. Because ultimately you are trading time for money. Being paid by the hour is not a recipe for wealth.

To get wealthy you need to own assets.

Assets allow you to earn while you are sleeping. The lever connecting input and output are disconnected. It’s not a 1:1 ratio either

Examples of Assets

  • Owning/Renting out a house
  • Owning/Investing in a business
  • Owning Gold, Vintage Cars, etc
  • Investing in Stocks and Shares

So any money you earn whilst working a job, try to put that into assets., rather than status boosting endeavours (e.g. super fancy clothes).

Not that status games are intrinsically bad. They are just zero sum and kind of boring. Wealth is a better game to play.

Diversify Assets

There are loads of asset classes you can invest in. I don’t intend to go into detail in this blog post.

But as a rule, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify your assets

Don’t go all in. You want to aim to ‘not lose’ money.

Identify your risk tolerance

Depends on your financial goals and age. It’s individual. Make sure you are aware.

Conclusion : It’s a Grind

Be a long term thinker. Be aware of behaviour biases (loss aversion, confirmation bias, hindsight bias, too many…)

Passive rather than active approach. Aim not to lose money.

Money won’t buy contentment or peace. That’s a different skillset. It will buy a degree of freedom though.

Remember money is a tool. Not an end in itself. You leverage the tool for experiences , for specific knowledge (hiring a plumber, gardener) and ultimately to trade for time, so you can gain a level of financial freedom.

Resources

Convergence

You are one of the first subjects that volunteered. Your motivations were largely selfish. Your marriage falling apart, both of you wanting to understand each other but simply weren’t. It was a last desperate shot at a failing collaboration. But as most people do, you both simply talked past one another, neither one ever truly listening, and over time the image of the person you once married didn’t match reality, and the illusion was broken. You could have divorced if you were younger, but age had caught up with both of you. You didn’t have children, and now all you had separating you from loneliness, was each other. A tenuous bond that both of you clutched onto, mostly for the fear of avoiding pain. A last ditch hope.

You don’t remember when you first saw the advertisement looking for volunteers for the study. But the idea slowly incubated until one day you suggested it, and to your surprise, she agreed.

The initial cohort were a small group of about ten subjects. All either eccentric or pushed by dire circumstances. It did take a certain kind of person to subject yourself to millions of micro cathodes being inserted into the soft spongy centre of your consciousness, with several thousand holes being drilled into your skull. Some were there for science, others for financial incentives, others for a shot at fame. The animal trials had shown promise, but this was completely novel. Never done before in the history of humanity.

On the day, the procedure itself was actually underwhelming. You were awake for it. It involved injection of local anaesthetic, and the fitting of a silicone cap that fixed itself to a large machine. They had topographically mapped the contours of the brain using MRI and modelled that into the computer which was used to target the probes. The insertion of the probes was done within a span of a few minutes, as several micro-drills tunnelled through the rigid bony exterior that had once hidden the ‘seat of the self’. Now it was being exposed, its once hidden secrets laid bare.

You didn’t feel any different really. Once the probes were inserted, the electrochemical signals were wirelessly transmitted to a portable computer and the raw data was processed by algorithms into a comprehensible form and relayed to the researchers. The brilliant ability was that the probes were both ‘read’ and ‘write’. They could fire current into various parts of the brain and induce changes, of which they could then build a database mapping neural locations to changes in thought and behaviour.

Initially not much had changed. The probes had to gather data, you had to input it into the computer, and the researchers had to parse through it to make sense.

But over time, as more data was gathered, the functions increased.

Probes inserted into the language centres of the brain : Wernicke and Brocas, could allow researchers to translate the electrochemical pulses into actual words And sentences. Your internal monologue, once safe behind closed doors, was being decrypted.

It was then just a matter of time before they then just transmitted these impulses between individuals.

The first time you experienced this was strange. You had the thought that “the ceiling light in the corner of the room just keeps on flickering, how annoying’ , when a response came through. ‘That is pretty annoying’. Did you think this?

“No, its me”

“Who?”

“Me”

Both streams of conscious experience seemed to appear in one place. You project a thought, and almost instantly you receive a response. “Your wife”.


Data transfer had initially been done via sound vibrations being converted into electrochemical energy. Human speech. No one can pin point exactly when this happened, but it was a factor that distinguished us apart from our fellow animals. Eventually one realised that we could transfer information down generations symbolically. Initially through pictograms, and then though ink. It was a revolution when humanity began transferring memetic information down generations via written word. Suddenly, a civilisational intellect could be built by generations sequentially accumulating knowledge about a topic. Several centuries later, we used 0’s and 1’s to transmit information and built vast networks of information available to the majority of humanity. But now there was another leap forward cognitively. Data transfer was being done via the medium of neurones. The electrochemical signals between individuals were beginning to coalesce.

You realise that the experiment was not without complication. Another pair were testing the transfer of thought. Initially it looked promising. They could exchange information, speech, mental imagery and intentions via thought. Yet for some reason or another, they started to lose the sense of their own identity, neither one remembering who they were. The thinker and the thought were separated. Who thought the thought in the first place was lost. They couldn’t separate themselves and couldn’t function in the world. In the end they were diagnosed with depersonalisation by the psychiatrists, and ended up in a mental hospital. You don’t remember whether they ever truly recovered.

The benefits of this were also however immediately apparent. By sharing thought, the transfer of information was much faster. You started to understand the intentions and actions of your spouse, because now you could directly experience them. The concept of ‘empathy’ and stepping into another persons experience was suddenly becoming physically possible.

Once they linked the visual centres and sensory input coming from the other senses, touch, taste, smell, proprioception. They could also transfer those between individuals too. You could experience conscious reality through the eyes of another. Literally. One could step into the shoes of another individual.

“Remember the first time we got married?” Your wife asks.

You dimly recall the events, but the ceaseless march of time had eroded the images and sounds that composed the memory. It was like a muted song, or a fading painting. The vitality and energy of the moment diminishing with each passing breath. You had been diagnosed with early stage dementia, and the signs were clearly showing.

“Let me show you”

A panoply of colour and sound floods your consciousness, as you see an image of the face that was being lost to time. Both so young. Naive but in a good way. You share the memory of your wedding day, surrounded by friends and family. The nights of passion. The honeymoon to Tokyo. It is said that we often look at the past through rose tinted glasses, through an optimism bias. But isn’t this a beautiful human experience?


The project continued for many years, with more and more volunteers. The safety and efficacy being tweaked and established. As with most technological leaps, it began to be used in the military. The instant connection allowed squads of soldiers to coordinate to a level never before seen. They moved less like individuals, and more like a colony of ants or a hive of bees. A pattern provided by boundless connection. We couldn’t ‘program’ in skills like in the Matrix since we need an environment and interaction to learn, however the aptitude to learn certain skills could be manipulated. A new generation of super learners was developed.

The technology soon penetrated the political sphere. This was where real change started. The problem with politics was that real empathy was not present. Figureheads would simply talk past each other, about the same issues. Both wanted solutions, but neither refused to compromise. The missing key was understanding. The leading politicans were mandated to meld, and suddenly the problems and solutions became as clear as day. Action was prioritised over words, and the problems of climate change, technological disruption and nuclear war were prioritised. True global cooperation was established for the first time in history.

Understanding was painful. You had always wanted children. The first visit to the doctor, they found that it was your biology that hindered the process. You recall the events dimly, the wounds and tragedy of the moment. Much like the happy memories, the sting of these had also faded with time. But at some deep level, there were words left unsaid about guilt and regret. Both of you laconic to the point of causing unseen harm. You never expressed how you felt, she never expressed how she felt. Two strangers living a life side by side.

You see this. It is projected into your conscious experience. The raw honesty almost tears you apart. The emotions, the beliefs and the memory seen without any filter. The manipulative nature of language was bypassed as you both established a direct experiential connection. As the poet Rumi remarked, the barriers preventing love were being broken down through radical transparency. You began to understand each other.

Soon more and more people joined the ‘connectome’ as it became called. It was a vast repository of connections between minds that spanned globally. Technologists are the time were likening it to the ‘internet’ of previous generations. Memetic transfer of information became instant and education took on a different meaning entirely. There were teething troubles of course. Hacking of minds was common in the early stages. This was used to perform barbarous acts. But with most technology, the way out was through better technology. This time, man powered. A network of ‘protectors’ was established who would devote a small percentage of their brain power to the ‘firewall’. The firewall acted to block any attempts at accessing of altering the mind of another without permission. A stream of thought generated by a billion minds drowned out any attempts to wrestle access into a mind. Moreover at an individual level, attentional training methods became common, through the timeless techniques of meditation. These allowed some individual protection and autonomy of thought. Human benevolence and wisdom triumphed in the end and the contributors to the firewall far outweighed those who would exploit the system. One mind trying to hack another was simply blocked by the firewall of billions of humans protecting freedom.

Many had tried to bypass death with this technology. Discussions aobut uploading a consciousness were had, but in the end it was simply unfeasable. ‘Who’ is being uploaded. Who are you? Do the collection of memories compose you? Is it the ‘story of your life’ that you tell yourself? What about when you change the stories composing the self?

We came to realise that the self as we thought of it as permanent, was simply an illusion. Reality instead seemed to be more a river of impermanent sensory data simply arising and passing away, moment by moment. There really was no stable ‘self’ to save and upload. We couldn’t be ‘conscious’ without contents being projected, and those contents were largely determined by previous experience imprinted in the brain. That data simply could not be uploaded. The complexity of the brain could not be replicated as we were more than simply our brain. We were a brain and sensory system interacting with an environment interacting with other countless brains, all linked by an almost infinite number of invisible interdependent threads. As hard to see as air.

Some say at the end, we began to resemble something inhuman. But what did being ‘human’ really mean? That we would be kind, empathetic but also be prone to bouts of unspeakable violence and cruelty. Was it inhuman to move the needle of conscious experience more towards flourishing than suffering? Life is lived alone, in a black box, and the need to connect has been there from the beginning. Should we not seek deeper connection?

Humanity had struggled for generations with problems of war, famine, mental health, physical health, disease. Our paleolithic instincts mismatched to the modern day problems, our pyschological biases preventing us from efficiently tackling long term dilemnas. In your life, you see war eradicated. Famine eradicated. The formation of a world government. Mental health crises solved. Meaninglessness solved. Jobs began to be automated as advances in science and technology allowed true automation to be feasible. A nature of caring and empathy blossomed. We lived in true communities of understanding.

You are grateful on your deathbed. Your wife had passed before you, but as you shared life, you also shared death. Experientially, you felt the strange mix of gratitude, regret, sadness, joy, remorse and regret that is expected in the ending of a life. But rather than going through it alone, you were both present to witness. You still recall the ending of her conscious experience. It simply ceased. The projection of thoughts, emotions and internal images vanished. A part of you was gone and there was an initial emptiness. But this was how all of humanity before connecting was. All your thoughts, emotions and experiences were really alone. Only the thin inefficient medium of words could be used to connect with another. Now it is your turn to cease. But this time you have humanity with you. You are grateful for this. Words cannot express it.

Thinking about Work

Autotelic : (of an activity or a creative work) having an end or purpose in itself.

Definition of Work:

Work is the set of things you have to do that you don’t want to do(@naval)

When you want to do something: that is not defined as work

Examples of work at the moment: Things that I don’t enjoy : paperwork, bureaucracy, being a glorified secretary

Things that don’t constitute work: learning about medicine, talking to patients, clerking, practical procedures

Play is the opposite of work

When I do things that don’t constitute work, it feels like play.

Examples of play : music, exercise, reading for curiosity, learning about medicine.

There is also an element of improving, getting better every day. This is rewarding.

The way to maximise satisfaction is to pursue mastery.

To pursue it for its own sake. Because you enjoy the process rather than any outcome. An autotelic process.

Keep in this mind when thinking about career. The correct response to life is to treat it like play.

to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play

Alan Watts

Minimise work

Minimise the set of things you don’t want to do.

But accept a level of jumping through hoops especially in a hierarchical field, and also when you are early in a career.

But as you get older, time becomes more valuable. You want to do work you enjoy. Work that is skill based, that you can improve on, that is congruent with your values and that you are good at.

Choosing work : heuristics

  1. Congruent with your values
  2. You are good at it
  3. It is skill-based, allowing for improvement
  4. Not far away – ideally you can walk in the sun to, or short drive
  5. You like the people
  6. Long term compounding

Thinking about Social Media and Tech

But twitter is my favourite…

There has been a recent tech-backlash by people in the industry. Issues to do with attention manipulation, the advertising model and ‘the race to the bottom of the brainstem’ led by prominent technologists such as Tristan Harris

A summary of the literature :

  • Social media is designed to deliberately maximise time on site and be addictive. You have top level psychologists working at these companies to ensure this. Examples : Youtube ‘watch next’, Facebook’s colour scheme, Pull to refresh, Snapchats’ stories features. This is discussed in several books.
  • Several studies are being released correlating excessive social media use with mental health issues.
  • The explosion of fake news. The word of 2018 was ‘fake news’
  • Algorithmic selection of data resulting in echo chambers and promotion of confirmation bias
  • Algorithmic selection of posts to promote outrage rather than nuanced discussion
  • Outbreaks of violence driven by false information
  • Advertising model misaligning incentives

You basically have an algorithmic supercomputer pointed at your brain trying to get you to maximise time on site

Social media is getting a beating. But I think it is here to stay.

I want to explore if there is a way to use social media effectively. The internet and technology has democratised the tools of distribution. You can literally write code, write thought, create content without going through an intermediary. I think this is a net positive. But as with any new technology, there are growing pains.

These are just a set of rules and thoughts about using social media sensibly.


1. Understand that Nuance is Lost :

Use social media to link to longer form content, videos and discussions

The click bait, 280 character, medium can only convey so much information. It is prone to misintereptation. People posting opinions without any real discussion. Just broadcasting a particular viewpoint.

This just leads to shouting without any real discussion. The solution is instead to use it to maximise serendipity by linking to external content.

Content like blogs, videos, essays etc.

On the internet, there are some incredibly smart people making content. Some of the best educational resources are on YouTube. The library of Alexandria is at your finger tips, it’s just lost in a sea of noise. It’s like we are living in Borge’s infinite library on the internet. We just need to separate the signal from the noise.


2.Careful of Who You Follow

You are the average of the 5 people you associate with most.

Most of your views actually come from people to follow and admire. Either consciously or unconsciously you select pieces of information and choose to believe it rather than reasoning from first principles.

This is adaptive. If you were to reason everything from first principles you simply would not have enough time. For example, with the Big Bang, I take that as a given theory because I respect the work physicists do. But I couldn’t explain it from first principles. A lot of my beliefs I just take at face value.

So knowing this, who you choose to listen to is of paramount importance. You tend to simply adopt the values and habits of those around you. If you surround yourself with hard working people, it just ends up rubbing off on you.

I can’t tell you who to listen to. But always be skeptical, and where-ever you can, try reason from first principles.


3.Switch it off

Use tools like Screen-time to limit time on site. Deliberately make time to check it rather than impulse checking

Apple is my favourite. To call me a fanboy is an understatement. Apple don’t make their money off time spent on their devices. They simply make money from selling devices. They have no incentive in the race for attention.

They’ve shown that they are thinking about these topics, with the release of tools like Screen time. You can limit the amount of time you spend on the sites, and you can schedule ‘downtime’ where you can’t access the app.

They have also made privacy a priority. For all these reasons, I’ve literally never owned an android phone. I went straight from flip phone to iPhone.

Regulate how much you spend on these sites. So many times, I’ve been lost in YouTube. I wake up and realise I’ve spent 3 hours watching funny cat videos. The algorithm plays me like a fiddle. Get some autonomy back, switch it off when you don’t want to be distracted.


4.Create rather than Consume

Use social media as a way to create and share rather than consume

It’s really easy to consume content. Much harder to create it.

I think you learn a lot more from creating and doing rather than just reading or watching. If you want to learn how to code, go build something. If you want to learn how to take good photographs, start taking photos. If you want to learn how to make videos, go make a video. If you want to write, write something. Don’t just passively consume media.

One project of mine is to become a better writer, so I started this. I found I was just reading other people’s blogs or books. This is useful, but I learn infinitely more reasoning through topics myself, rather than just watching someone reason it through themselves.

Obviously you start off bad. But you learn through doing. For example :

Instead of using instagram to follow ‘influencers’ (only recently learnt that such a thing exists), you can post your own photos. I really admire Instagram and how they’ve democratised the art of photography. Anyone can take photos now, and post them. You can learn by doing.


5.Don’t trade the mind for the moment

Switch off or don’t look at your phone when talking in real life. You want to 100% be present

I love computers. I pretty much spent my childhood on computers. But the computer didn’t follow me around in my pocket all day, providing limitless entertainment back then. It wasn’t a competition between engaging with reality and engaging with a computer.

When talking with someone, don’t look at your phone unless showing something etc. This is basic etiquette.


6.Use tech to educate, not distract

I can either pull out my phone and habitually look at Instagram or Facebook and mindlessly scroll.

Or I can habitually look at ‘Medium’ or the Kindle app, or Instapaper or certain subreddits, or insightful Twitter accounts, or listen to audiobooks or podcasts and watch educational YouTube videos

You can literally read the majority of written word, the stored collective wisdom of civilisations and generations on a black rectangle in your pocket. This is magic.

You can choose how to use Tech. It is simply a tool.

Conclusion : Techno-optimistism

I think social media can be used more judiciously, as a way to follow people you really admire, and to keep in touch with friends and family.

The danger lies in not thinking about how you use a tool.

Hopefully I’ll rethink and revise some of my views on the topic in the future and update!

Digital NHS : A Manifesto

I’ve been working as a junior doctor for almost 2 months now. One aspect I clearly enjoy is running after lost drug charts, trying to decipher bad handwriting and dealing with slow buggy systems. Best part of the job.
It’s almost 2020 and we still have an archaic record keeping system, in an age where you have digital banks, uber, the social media titans, one day prime delivery, facial recognition software, cryptocurrency, google. All of this at your finger tips. And here I am sitting here writing a TTO when ’Notis’ crashes for the umpteenth time.

So far the push for a digital NHS has largely been a false promise. Just words rather than action. Instead of developing a real architecture, what we’ve done so far amounts to just scanning in notes. How can we have such talented engineers at Facebook, Google, Twitter, and then deal with this.

I want to think about what it will take to develop a robust system, what the goals should be and how we might achieve this.


What would a real digital system look like.

1. It would be nation wide:

Currently, there is no monopoly. Each trust uses their own system, contracted by small software companies. There is no hegemony. No ‘winner take all’. There is no ‘Amazon’, no ‘Google’, no ‘Facebook’ of the medical record keeping world. We are living in the 1990’s-2000’s where you had a long tail of small technology companies which of course were eaten up by the tech giants.

The problem with lots of small companies is that you end up with lots of half-decent systems with no compatibility between them, rather than one efficient system that all hospitals and GP’s can use.

We need a system that : hospitals can access. GP’s can access. We need a tech titan to take over medical record keeping.

2. It would be incorporate all uses

Currently at Nottingham, we have three systems. Yes 3 systems.Notis, Nervecentre, and then Medway. All of them do different things. For example, you can only book certain scans/procedures on Notis vs Medway. You can only see observations of Nervecentre. You can only write TTO’s on Notis.

A ‘real’ digital NHS system should incorporate all uses. You should be able to book all scans, see all the results, see all the notes, prescribe, contact doctors, see observations, record observations, Do discharge summaries. An all in one integrated system.

3. It would not scan in old notes

I’m sorry. I know we need to look at old notes, but the problem is you have to kill an old system to bring in a new one. Scanning in all old notes first of all is a gargantuan task. We should instead focus efforts on creating a way to digitally type notes. This would solve so many problems:
Automatic date and time. No loss of data/notes. Easily viewable, accessible, readable. Often faster to type than to write.
Of course it would then mean, we would be starting from zero. But you could still archive old notes and access them that way.
The reality is we need to completely adopt digital note taking. Abandon paper notes.

4. Digital Prescribing

I’m an advocate for digital prescribing. I think it would avoid a lot of errors. With digital prescribing you can put in measures to spot obvious errors in prescribing. You aren’t dealing with bad handwriting. The pharmacists can check the drug charts remotely. You can clearly see what meds are stopped and started. You can ensure that a clinical reason is given for starting or stopping a medication. You can easily trace back. You could generate automatic TTO’s. Overall its a better system.

5. It would be built by the best engineers

We have so much talent in this world. The smartest people in the world currently however are working at the big tech giants : working to manipulate human attention. If only we could grab a handful of talented engineers, lock them in a room, give them money, give them time – and develop a system. We would all be better off. The problem is there is no financial incentive. The NHS doesn’t have the money. So where do we look?

Possible Avenues to Make this a reality

The only avenue I can see is startup culture. The NHS is too big, too bureaucratic , too ancient, slow. Dominated by politics. Limited by a set budget.

A solution has to come from the startup ‘Silicon Valley’ culture, where you have money, talent and determination. Action over words. You have so many examples of disruption in all sorts of fields, even heavily regulated ones. Take the fintech bank ‘Monzo’ which has leapt through the regulation and red-tape surrounding banking. We need a Monzo of digital record keeping.

For example : imagine crowdfunding this.If the wealthy 1% of the UK invest money into this, we could transform healthcare in an unprecedented way. It would be historical.
The problem again, is there is no market force. No financial incentive. It’s hard to make money in medical record keeping, when the NHS is the one buying it. Therefore it doesn’t happen. Innovation is driven by market forces.

One part of the problem is we accept the current system. As I said, we have to tear down the old, to bring in the new. I sound like a revolutionary. But that’s the only radical solution I can see. We need to create financial incentives for engineers and leaders to work on this problem. The only place I can see this problem being solved is in the startup space.

Conclusion

In the end, it all comes down to incentives. The talent is there. However the incentives for the talent to work on this problem is not there.
It can be done. It should be done. It’s a hard problem, but one that can revolutionise medicine. It’s like we are in the preantibiotic or ‘pre-germ theory of disease’ history of medicine.
Hopefully the future generations will look at at how inefficient and slow the current digital system of the NHS is.
I think that this conversation should be brought into the public discourse. The junior doctors of today, future leaders of tomorrow should be thinking about this problem. Not accepting the current system. It’s a problem that the doctors of my generation need to seriously tackle.

Thinking About Relationships

This is such an obvious statement, but I find the need to remind myself :

Relationships are critical.

A TED talk done by Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, explored a 75 year old study on adult development, looking at factors that correlate with happiness and satisfaction in life.

The #1 factor was : Quality of Relationships

I want to explore how and why it is important to foster these and my current thinking on relationships.


My Experience

Friendships and relationships wax and wane. This is the nature of relationships. Circumstances change, close friends drift away, new friends take their place. At a certain age however, you meet people who will be there for the long term.

I think in your teenagers and 20’s, most relationships are based on proximity and based around activities.

As you grow older, these shift towards relationships based on support. As one settles down, harsh realities of life become more obvious. Death, Old-age, Sickness, Loneliness. The list goes on. The perennial truth : “Life is suffering”.

This is misinterpreted as a negative. But it is in fact just a reality. As some traditions have extolled, it is your reaction to these that determine your level of peace and contentment. It is possible to find joy. One way is through cultivation of close ties.

Why is it that relationships are so important?

Apart from offering support and help in times of inevitable crisis I think that relationships take you out of yourself.

The way I think about the arc of a life is that we are born selfish. As children and teenagers, we just take. As we grow older, we start to give back. To society, to parents, to loved ones. As you age, you keep giving away. To children, to your spouse. On your deathbed, you have literally given away everything. We go from selfish to selfless.

A lot of human misery, is based on self-rumination and thought. When one ceases to think about themselves, there is silence. There is a degree of peace. In unconditional love, one simply acts without any notion of self. This is a beautiful human experience.

How do you get to this place? How do we build close relationships?


Intimacy * Time

Quality = Intimacy * Time

I think this has taken me a while to realise, but the main factor in the strength of relationships is intimacy. The ability to be vulnerable and deeply honest about how one is feeling.

Like a maths nerd, I think about it via an equation. The quality of relationships = intimacy compounded by time.

I find it hard to do this. Probably many people do. It is easy to build barriers, to distract oneself. It is much harder to look at how one is feeling and the most important relationship is ultimately with yourself.

I think the poet Rumi succinctly talks about how we can cultivate intimacy. It starts with examining yourself. To be deeply honest about the barriers one has constructed.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

Rumi

Regrets

Palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, recounts the regrets of the dying in her book.

At the end of a life, no-one ever regrets the amount of work they did.

What people regret is that they did not spend more time with people they love and admire. That words were left unsaid.

I realised this when I was a teenager. (I think I went through an existential crisis at 18). I made sure to spend time with family whenever because I knew that they wouldn’t be around forever.

Around the same time, A blog post by Tim Urban (Wait but Why) called the Tail End also made me realise the limited nature of time. By the time you are 18, you have technically spent 93% of your lifetime hours with your parents. You only have 7% left. You are in the tail end.

When you go through life, making decisions about how you want to spend your time. Prioritise relationships. Live near family and friends.

Part of the epidemic of loneliness and depression in first world countries I think relates to a degree of individualism and isolation. In the West, it is expected that one goes alone, makes a life, becomes wealthy, famous etc. You can live anywhere. Parents often want children gone, children want to leave parents. People constantly shift location for work. No roots are placed.

In the East, in places like India and Japan, the family unit is emphasised more (at least traditionally). There is a degree of ‘collectivism’. Everyone lives nearby, you have some level of roots established. The extended family is there. Even marriage is seen as the merger of two families rather than just two individuals. As a result you much lower rates of loneliness, atleast for now. Western culture seems to be displacing much of the traditional values in the East.


Romantic Relationships

It wouldn’t be a proper exploration, if I didn’t talk about this. Annoyingly, it’s come to a time where I am being ‘pressured’ to ‘find someone’.

I want to explore how to think about finding a companion. Mostly to clarify my thinking on the topic.

I read Aziz Ansari’s hilarious book : Modern Romance

It talks about the difficulties of dating and relationships in the modern day of Tinder and short term relationships. One view I’ve come to is that most relationships initially are based on attachment. There is the passionate love that comes through physical attraction. But research shows that mostly fades after a year or so. The relationship inevitably fizzles out as It doesn’t meet the Hollywood expectations of ‘everlasting love’.

Passionate ‘love’ (attachment) vs Companionate love

However over the course of a life, you have the development of a deeper more fulfilling bond : that researchers call Companionate love.

I think a lot of modern day ‘romance’ is just attachment. There is a transactional nature to it. I do this, therefore you must do this for me. Hollywood and popular media often glamorise ‘passionate love’. ‘Love’ has become an overused trite expression, a commodity to be bought through diamond rings and grand gestures. And when the reality doesn’t align with expectations, the relationship breaks up.

Companionate love on the other hand involves different skillsets. To unconditionally love. To support with no ‘tit for tat’ or transactional nature. You simply give without any expectation of return. It’s what the Greeks called ‘agape’ or the Buddhists call ‘metta’.


How do you go about finding a partner?

Core Values have to align

@Naval : core values of the people should align, then all the small trivial stuff doesn’t matter. (I read this on twitter and mostly have co-opted the view, thanks social media)

Examples of core values : if they want a family, similar shared activities (not all of them!), opinion on education and learning, rational communication, non-dogmatism, curiosity, what the purpose of life is. There are many that are baked into your personality. Important to analyse them and look for people where the core values line up.

It’s hard to enumerate them. Almost hard to talk about them because it ends up just being signalling. Often people who talk about a certain value too much, tend be be overemphasising or covering something up (thou doth protest too much!).

But breaking that rule, a core value of mine is radical honesty. I was convinced a few years ago after reading Sam Harris’s book ‘Lying‘- a philosophical treatise on the harms of lying in any situation. It argues that lying in all forms, even white lies, ultimately is destructive. If you think the dress makes you look fat… you say it. In the long run, the honesty pays off.

At a deep level, I think you’ll know when you find someone with similar core values. You just click.

I think there is an amount of luck to the whole process too. But you can increase chances by meeting more people. Go on more first dates. It’s an asymmetric risk-reward strategy. (re-reading this: wow that’s such a logical way to think about this, you robot).


Metric : Can you spend time alone

You want someone to want you, not need you

A myth portrayed by the media is that ‘you need someone to complete yourself’. Your other half.

This leads to huge problems to do with expectation.

A more healthy way is to work on yourself. Be comfortable being in solitude, alone with yourself. This is different from loneliness.

Once you can do this, then you can bring in another person with the intention to share a life rather than complete it. It should be two individuals rather than each a half of a whole.

Don’t Rush

I think who you choose to spend a life with is the most important decision you’ll make. For your future happiness, peace and direction. Only at 24, I’ve noticed a pressure from others already! Mostly to satisfy their own desires, rather than mine. But the incentive for yourself is different than others. There are already too many unhappily married couples.

So don’t go into it quickly. Currently, I don’t intend to get married before 30 (to the dismay of my grandmother).

The good thing about dating is that you get to spend time with the person, and then make a decision.

Conclusion

I’m sure I have more to say on this, but I can’t think of anything at the moment.

In terms of decision making for myself, a few salient points

  • Spend more time cultivating relationships
  • Make sure you live near family and friends
  • Try meet lots of new people, go on many first dates, look for core values aligning