⏦ 002 — Seeking discomfort & thoughtful recommendations
sophomore slump, seeking discomfort in your commute, word of mouth
|Arj Selvam||Aug 10, 2019|| 1|
→ Sophomore slump
Hello. The second dispatch of The Considered is here, and astute readers will notice I’m slightly late in getting this out — apologies. Ok, the follow up to last week’s (first) dispatch was tougher than I anticipated. In the professional sports world there’s a name for this kind of thing — sort of. The ‘sophomore slump’ is a weird observation in rookies (first-year athletes) who find quick success upon entering a competition or league, then struggle to live up to their new-found expectations in the subsequent season. Of course writing an email newsletter hardly compares to the rigours of being a professional athlete but you can extrapolate and consider writing takes time, and good writing takes even longer. And with that said, here’s a bunch of sophomore words to follow up last week.
→ Seeking discomfort in your commute
Probably the most shameful thing I’ve entitled myself to over the years is the manner in how I commute. When it comes to traveling from city to city or from one neighbourhood to the next, my preferred mode of transit has become the quickest, most comfortable, or both. My educated guess as to why this is the case is probably explained by my reduced elasticity to prices (especially as I’ve gotten older) for products and services that I consider of value to me. However, part of the preference comes from being a smartphone-obsessed millennial whose travel habits have been shaped by the progress of technology and it’s dissemination into the world.
As millennials we‘re used to paying for convenience and operating on perception, compared to our elders who likely navigated the path of social status through conventions like academia or hard work. Technology, specifically bits and atoms, have led to the dependence of pressing a button to service our needs because it’s simply that easy. Sure, it’s nice to have the convenience at our fingertips but aside from paying a little more, we’re paying for this luxury in other ways — potentially in the form of stress or anxiety. If we’re rushing between appointments or thinking ahead to what’s next, we’re involuntarily sacrificing our personal time or “me time” for something quite short-lived and in the future.
I’m not particularly proud to admit I’ve probably spent thousands in incremental dollars to pay for convenience. Take the instances where I’ve preferred to ride an Uber during rush-hour or the online reservation habit I’ve picked up in solely booking non-stop flights over more economical — albeit slightly longer — options. All of these particulars have somehow become deeply ingrained in how I commute from A to B, and I think many others are probably unconscious of their travel habits too.
Not too long ago a friend and old colleague, Jordan, shared a story about a camping trip he went on and how he didn’t get the chance to shower for days. Part of the reason was due to a lack of practical showering options, but mostly because it was to be expected of an outdoors camping trip. The message in his story that made me pause was his perspective that every now and again seeking some form of discomfort — intentionally — is important. At first I passed it off as one as those cliché sayings but as I thought more about it, there was more credence to it. Society leads us to believe that as we get older, become fiscally more responsible, and potentially earn greater incomes, that our discretionary spending habits should follow in the same trajectory. That line of thinking isn’t wrong and is how companies and nations finance their growing shopping lists. It’s also a reason for why said companies and nations fall into deficit and lose-it-all when the market or world turns against them. So if it can happen to a company or nation then it most definitely can happen to frivolous millennial trying to keep up with the Joneses.
As I’ve dedicated more time this year to looking a little more inward this was something I wanted to revisit and see how I could find my version of a camping trip and it’s lack of creature-comforts to curb any frivolous habits. When I began listing all the expense-items that could be reviewed I kept coming back to my commute or travel spend — and this became my version of a camping trip that needed a dose of discomfort.
So far in the past week I’ve taken more than ten rides on public transport, walked more than forty kilometers, and taken just two Uber/Taxi trips. There aren’t any insights to glean from these numbers, nor is it something I’m looking to quantify and compare regularly; the goal is to accustom myself to lengthier and thus more economical commutes through journeys I normally wouldn’t take.
What am I going to do with all this additional travel time? I’m not sure, but so far I’ve been meditating (using the Headspace app) and trying to pay more attention to my surroundings.
Join me in catching the bus, the train, or another form of transportation distinctively different to your preferred mode, and please let me know if you’ve returned to any simpler (and slower) experiences in other areas of your life so I can try them too.
→ Word of mouth
In 1968 Stewart Brand started a print publication called the ‘Whole Earth Catalog’ (Instagram below via Jesse Kamm) that was a compendium of product reviews with the occasional essay or two wedged in between. He was probably the first person to publish formal product reviews in an interesting and thoughtful manner that went on to have a broad influence culturally, inspiring many people and brands along the way — like Steve Jobs and Apple.
Over the next few weeks I’m launching a section within this newsletter called ‘Word of Mouth’, inspired by Brand, and the goal is to share my own product (and service) reviews on interesting and useful things I recommend because I’m an owner (user) of the product (service).
Thanks for reading along and let me know if any part of this dispatch speaks to you (or not), otherwise enjoy your week and let me know if I can help in any way.
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