The Life Optimization Doctrine
Last year, I did a very thorough and enlightening interview with notorious investor and former hedge fund manager Mike Syding.
You can find it here.
In that interview, we discussed many things. We talked about investing, we talked about his early years in the hedge fund, and we also talked about habits and weightlifting.
Every single thing we delved into, I found very interesting, but there was something that struck me the most.
At some point, he mentioned that there is only one way to describe himself. In his words:
“I think because I am kind of open to new challenges and possibilities, the best way to describe myself would be as a life optimizer.”
That sentence deeply resonated with me.
I remember that from the moment I left my parents’ house, life optimization became an essential element of my personal paradigm.
It wasn’t really a voluntary choice. It was a choice born of necessity; a choice that would help me to successfully adapt to a complete new way of life.
I knew that it was time for me to strategize my life in a way that would allow me to experience it in the most efficient way possible.
I knew that if I wouldn’t do that, I would struggle immensely and that I would waste invaluable time and resources in prosaic tasks, activities and relationships.
Needless to say that my initial attempt to optimize my life failed dramatically.
Life optimization is a very lucrative endeavor, but the innately chaotic nature of our lives inevitably impedes our ambitious attempts to pursue it.
Especially when you are young, the amount of resources and knowledge at your disposal are quite limited and thus your effort to effectively optimize your life becomes extremely arduous.
Life optimization requires a very distinct set of principles and philosophies in place that will allow you to automatically put them into effect whenever you deal with events that try to sabotage your strategy.
It is a gradually evolving process that is based on years of experimentation and research and that eventually leads you to the acquisition of specific optimization-centered pattern recognition skills.
And that’s exactly what happened to me.
With time, I managed to discover patterns and set in place some processes that helped me create a unified framework around life optimization.
I reached a point where optimization became a doctrine and I was so obsessed with it that anything that opposed it got blacklisted.
The life optimization doctrine becomes the most crucial element of your everyday life and its importance is so big that it actually serves as the main motivator behind almost every life choice you make.
Now, I don’t want to keep bombarding you with fluff, because it kind of opposes the life optimization doctrine, so let’s jump into the main idea behind it.
Life optimization is all about making sure that you experience considerably less friction in your life experiences and that you reduce unenjoyable events to a minimum.
The life optimization doctrine is like a mechanism that will allow you to deeply enjoy every aspect of your life, because it will work as a tool to help you effectively tackle every relevant or irrelevant conundrum that comes your way.
Every time you face a difficult decision, problem, argument, or person you can ask yourself: How does this relate to the life optimization doctrine?
By doing that, you discard everything irrelevant to the specific area you deal with and cut to the core of it immediately.
This idea could actually be covered in a whole book, but for the sake of brevity and practicality, I will try to dump it down and explore the five main areas where the life optimization doctrine can prove its importance.
Those areas are:
- Romantic Relationships
Life optimization and Family
That’s the most critical one and my experience has shown that there is no way around it. In regards to people you consider your family or potential family, in order to experience a relatively harmonious relationship with them, there needs to be a huge degree of consensus when it comes to decision making and viewpoints.
Your family is your blood and when it comes to blood, it is the most powerful bond there is. Whether you like them or not, they are the people closest to you and you are able to consciously and subconsciously experience that connection.
The ideal scenario is to be blessed with being born in an open-minded, nuclear family. The key term here is open-minded. When it comes to families, most points of friction originate from a generation gap and the fact that both sides are not able to show the right degree of empathy.
Baby Boomers and Generation X experienced a completely different set of life circumstances compared to the millennials. That shaped their realities in a dissimilar way and because of confirmation bias and many more biases most of them find it hard to resonate with the reality of millennials.
Despite the contrasting realities, which will unavoidably lead to different viewpoints, which in turn will create friction, there is enough room for optimization to flourish.
The main element required from both sides in order for optimization to be experienced on an ongoing basis is one and only – support.
Support cam manifest itself in an emotional or financial form. Both forms are significant but they also complement each other.
I know kids that didn’t get any financial support and because their parents were constantly present emotionally, that helped them become extremely successful. I also know kids that got a lot of financial support, but even without so much emotional support in place, they managed to get the most out of life.
The point here is that as a person who espouses the life optimization doctrine, you need to be able to actively seek a balanced combination of the two.
When your parents are open-minded, they are in a position to carefully evaluate whether their support is being appreciated and they react accordingly.
I remember that when I was younger, especially in my early 20s, I was a very spoiled kid. I was constantly asking for financial support, while considering it a given, and without being able to compensate for it. That inevitably led to friction.
As I grew older, I became financially independent and at the same time, my involvement into psychology and philosophy helped me build a more mature and open-minded character. Eventually, points of friction got reduced and in my family, we enjoy a balanced relationship that can help all parties feel secure and satisfy their need to belong.
That said, not all families have the potential to experience such a result.
If you have a lot of garbage that you still carry from your childhood and you think that as an adult you have the right to blame your family, you will never experience optimization in your family relationships.
There needs to be a trade-off between what you get and what you give. If you receive financial support and you keep behaving like an immature and spoiled kid, that will trigger a reaction to your parent’s behavior and you won’t be able to coexist harmonically.
On a different note, if you think you are behaving in an optimization-oriented way and your family is not open-minded and keeps trying to impose their personal agenda on you without considering the generation gap and your individual preferences, you have two choices:
- You learn to ignore them and be more stoic about it.
- You continue your life without them.
Life optimization and Romantic Relationships
In my opinion, that’s an easier one because there is no blood involved.
There is no need to make thoughtless compromises and the fact that you understand that there are plenty of fish out there will help you always consider the possibility of exiting the relationship if you see that it constantly opposes the life optimization doctrine.
As a rule of thumb, you should bear in mind that no relationship can be perfectly optimized due to biological and sociological factors, so a good 80% optimization will do the work.
The main idea in relationships is that they exist in order to potentially form a family bond between the two parties. So, the main element that can foster optimization within the relationship is also support.
Since your relationship is not your blood, this covert rule is usually ignored and that’s why friction starts to occur.
People enter relationships in a disturbingly ignorant fashion. They just want to fulfill some primal needs and think that’s all it takes to form a great connection between two people. That’s why they eventually fight and cheat.
If you don’t convince yourself and your partner that a relationship is a place where the foundations of your family are laid, you will never have a great relationship.
Therefore, the optimized relationship is the one that can experience a high degree of agreement in viewpoints and decisions. Some compromises can be made, but only in very small matters. In critical matters, if you see that the stakes are high and the opinions vary profoundly, there is a great chance that this relationship will experience tremendous problems in the future.
Differences in opinions are very difficult to bridge and require extreme amounts of effort, time, and resources to be bridged only slightly.
A great way to evaluate your relationship is to check the masculinity and femininity degrees of the two parties and aim for a good 80/20 rule with regards to the degrees of the two traits in each party (80% masculine and 20% feminine for the man and 80% feminine and 20% masculine for the woman).
Life optimization and Friends
That’s also quite a straightforward one.
When it comes to friendships the most common reason people experience points of friction is emotionality.
Most of us possess this delusional mindset that friends are there to support you emotionally and help you in difficult times.
This romanticized version of friendship comes from our childhood, where our friends were the only escape from the problems we experienced within our family. You had your best friends, you were together most of the time, you had no worries, life was good.
When you enter adulthood, however, you experience a whole new scope in the way you apprehend friendships, until you enter your late 20s where you realize that you lost most of your friends and your ability to meet new people decreases radically.
Friendships are a way for an individual to establish social acceptance and form mutual bonds that can help parties benefit from them.
Unfortunately, emotionality has no place there.
When you use your friends as an emotional crutch, you inevitably flirt with friction for things that you expect to happen but don’t happen.
A great friendship ensues when you can properly realize what your friend can offer to you and what you can offer in return.
Lack in viewpoints aren’t necessary a bad thing and shouldn’t be used as an excuse for a bad friendship. Too much emotionality, however, is.
The best way to tackle this is to set the right boundaries and recognize the things that you will never compromise for.
- The fact that your friend has more conservative views is not an excuse. The fact that he supports Nazis, is.
- The fact that your friend is hitting on many girls and you are more selective isn’t an excuse. The fact that he hit on your girlfriend, is.
- The fact that your friend is neutral in your views and doesn’t agree with you all the time is not an excuse. The fact that he disrespects you in front of other people, is.
Be a good evaluator of people, combine that with radical acceptance of human nature and you will do fine.
Life optimization and Work – Business Environment
I will try to tackle this from an entrepreneurial perspective because that’s the only way I can view work and business regardless of whether I am on the employee or the employer side.
There are usually four elements that should be taken into serious consideration when it comes to optimizing your work and business environment:
1. Relationships with management
Whether you are a business owner or an employee, the relationships with the management team need to be frictionless and empowering. If you are an entrepreneur and your co-founders lack the necessary entrepreneurial awareness, you will constantly experience difficulties in crucial decision-making processes and this will inevitably hinder your success potential.
The life optimization doctrine suggests that when it comes to choosing co-founders, you should do your due diligence first and evaluate the following:
- Prior business experience – working with wannapreneuers is difficult because they tend to overestimate their powers and knowledge.
- Ability to get things done – how easy it is for them to get things done and how prompt their response to your requests is.
- Honesty – How easy it is for them to get things out in the open and not withhold information.
- Common sense in decision-making – In business, having common sense is paramount. Usually, common sense is affected by biases and the people who manage to overcome personal biases are the most successful.
- Openness to criticism – The less affected they are to criticism, the better your relationship will be. Notorious investor Marc Andreessen loves working with hedge fund managers because they are usually open to different viewpoints.
- Could you easily go for a drink with them? – Making sure that they are able to be social and feel comfortable in social settings makes them good people to work with.
If you are on the employee side and you need to evaluate your managers, the life optimization doctrine suggests the following:
- Should not take anything for granted – When you are new in a company and the manager assumes that you can perform extremely well from day one, they manager is either lazy or delusional, thus incompetent.
- Should invest in your training and future aspirations – A manager that is not showing interest in your personal development will unavoidably lose your respect.
- Should give you more responsibility – More responsibility helps the individual grow and learn faster and should be pursued at all costs.
- Should allow you to work from anywhere you want and whenever you want as soon as you get the work done – If you like the nature of your work and are able to manage your tasks effectively, there is no need to be limited in the place you do that work.
2. Nature of work
Vinay Gupta who is a technologist, inventor, futurist, systems theorist, and global resilience guru, has famously said:
“I made a rule for myself that I wouldn’t do anything for money that I wasn’t willing to do for free, and that kept me focused really entirely on the hardcore world-changing stuff. And when I could get paid for it, I got paid for it; and when I couldn’t get paid for it, I didn’t.”
Your work should be something that doesn’t feel like work. You live in an era of endless possibilities. Knowledge is more attainable than ever and you can work in many different disciplines all around the globe. Choose something you find interesting, practice it and become competent in it.
With regards to that point, the life optimization doctrine suggests that in order to enjoy a discipline, you should make sure to minimize logistical style work as much as possible and instil at least 2-3 hours of deep work in your schedule every day.
3. Aesthetics of the working environment
A beautifully designed working environment trumps the classical cubicle environment every single time. The reason is quite self-evident – space. Humans require space for two major reasons:
- To enjoy their personal space more.
- To feel that they are not limited.
Add to that the fact that we are visual creatures and we enjoy aesthetically pleasing environments and you have the perfectly optimized working environment.
If you practice your skill set in a developed country, you should aim for a high pay. The market is quite competitive, but there is enough money to be made especially if you are part of a business that knows how to effectively distribute the right tasks to the right people.
Apart from that, you should also make sure to diversify your sources of income as much as possible.
If your job allows you to enjoy free time, you should invest it in a second skill and get paid on the side too (blogging is a great idea).
Additionally, educate yourself on different investment opportunities like stocks, bonds, gold, digital currency and real estate and invest 10-20% of your pay there.
Life optimization and House – City
This dichotomy is the final tenet of the life optimization doctrine, albeit an equally important one.
The conditions of the place you decide to call your home, incrementally affect your overall life conditions and satisfaction levels.
The word “home” here is used to describe not only the building you choose as your residence but also the overall location.
House, city and country all blend together and create a unified whole within which you can experience a fully optimized reality.
I seriously can’t stress out how important it is to hit the right balance between the three.
I have lived in three big cities around Europe and despite their similarities, hitting the right balance isn’t always so easy.
Therefore, I will focus on asserting the criteria that will lead you to the most optimal choice.
I will start with the house because this is the element you can have more control over.
When it comes to reducing home friction and increasing optimization within your personal space there are usually 5 crucial factors to take into consideration:
- Noise – That’s so crucial and most people tend to ignore it, therefore I mention it first. Noise can originate from various sources. It can be the noise from the street, or the noise your flatmate is doing when he is playing the guitar, or the noise from the couple upstairs who are constantly fighting. Evaluate the location of your home, its potential for improvement and try to reduce the amount of noise as much as possible. You already have enough distractions intruding your emotional space. You seriously don’t need more.
- Clutter – The thing with clutter is that it subconsciously affects the way you bring structure to your thoughts. Clutter disorients you and it acts as a distraction agent. A clutter-free environment brings serenity and order to your mental world.
- Safety – That is definitely related to the area of your residence, but even the safest areas in the world aren’t 100% safe. Reduce the risk of external intruders by safeguarding your house with safety doors and windows. Cameras are also recommended if you can afford the investment.
- Design – Humans, because of their propensity towards the seeking of visual satisfaction, operate better in aesthetically pleasing environments. Listen to your senses and design your house based on your personal taste. Don’t overcomplicate things. Minimalism mingled with some unique elements from different design schools is a good way to approach the issue.
- Technology – With the rise and rise of smart homes, technological improvements will become more available and affordable. Tools like central control units, learning thermostats, and smart bulbs, can help you bring more automation to your house.
Picking the right city will always be challenging because the evaluation factors vary from person to person and are contingent upon the different life scenario of the individual.
There are, however, some crucial factors that should be taken into consideration when evaluating the optimization potential of a city.
In my opinion, the most credible indicators for quality of life benchmarking are the different evaluations conducted by relevant companies. The two most prominent to look at are the “Mercer Quality of Living Survey” and the “Numbeo Quality of Life index.” They are both very reliable and take into account factors like:
- Internal stability
- Crime figures
- Public services and transportation
- Air pollution
- Economic environment
- Socio-cultural environment
and more. These are all factors that affect the degree of optimization you experience throughout your day within your city and should be taken very seriously.
Living in a city that is chaotic, dirty, noisy, and dangerous can only impede your endeavors on a daily basis. If we take a look at the top 50 cities suggested by the “Mercer Quality of Living Survey” for 2016, you will notice that almost all of them belong to the so-called developed western countries.
Vienna has been my choice for the last three years and I can attest that Mercer’s evaluation is spot on. The great thing about this city is also that Austrians are very conscious with regards to their environmental and nutrition quality choices and this forces the market to produce high-quality goods at more affordable prices. This is actually an emerging theme among the top-20 cities in the survey.
The choice eventually boils down to your personal preferences and some more specialized factors could also be taken into consideration like nightlife, language, or job seeking ease. At the end of the day, most of those cities will actually provide all that to a great degree.
On a side note, if you are at a tipping point with regards to your career or life and you don’t consider those choices affordable, you could look into not so developed cities that have potential for improvement. Medellin, in Colombia for instance. is such a city, which according to the World Economic Forum is seen as “a laboratory of progressive architectural and urban interventions.”
This article was a bit denser than usual and if you made it till the end I salute you.
In my defense, it couldn’t be otherwise. There are so many areas that affect optimization as a concept and I only managed to scratch the surface with this piece.
That, however, leaves room for more conversation and future work, so I am happy.
Feel free to share your comments in the comment section below and let me know if you agree or disagree with my suggestions.
And finally, since we discuss optimization, there is no better way to fully optimize your life than to get started with the 30 Challenges – 30 Days -Zero Excuses project as soon as possible.
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