Great mail day! Got my @planet_bike Super Commuter swag! A frame pump and a Super Fred Brass Bell for the Disc Trucker, a Lunch Box stem/frame bag, 2 pairs of socks, some grippy bar tape and Jereme at Planet Bike threw in one of their brand new Rojo 100 blinky lights too as a bonus! Thanks again to @ge_willi for the nod and to Jereme and the Planet Bike crew!
Went down a rabbit hole and came across this old piece from 2013 on David Cain’s Raptitude site. The whole thing is a must read for hilarity – even with the sting of the fact that it rings far too true – 6 years later.
David Cain: You have employees everywhere, but the United States is probably your most profitable venture so far. What’s been your secret to success in the US?
The Man: I love America. As much as I dislike the phrase “Perfect Storm”, it’s like all the right factors came together in one place. The big one is the hyper-normal level of consumerism and its relationship to self-esteem. I know you did a piece on that. [Here – Ed.] People in the US, more than anywhere else, respond to personal inadequacy by buying stuff or trying to get in a better position to buy stuff later. This is great, because buying stuff eventually creates disappointment, which creates more buying.
I also love its strange breed of future-focused happiness. Almost every young American thinks he’ll be rich at some point. Later is when life will be great. No matter what their salary, very few people think they make quite enough money now. So they’re willing to put up with “just ok” or even “not quite ok” for many years.
There is also, in the working world, this wonderful shaming of any hint of Bohemianism. Can you imagine an American taking a two-hour lunch, with wine, like they do in Europe? Nobody does it, nobody. Work is a virtue, no matter what the work is or what they produce. They are grateful for two weeks of vacation a year. Two weeks out of fifty-two! The culture does most of the work for me. Some people don’t even take those two weeks, because they’re afraid their colleagues will think they aren’t serious about working at all. Stopping to smell flowers is suspicious behavior there, unless you’re retired.
Despite that, there is a permeating sense of entitlement here, as if things should not only be good all the time, it should be easy to keep them good. Do you think the citizens of the world’s richest nation actually want fairness across the board? They think they’re getting the short end of the stick, can you believe that? If they only knew.
Mind if I smoke in here?
Sunday night. Decide to ride to work the next day. Check the weather. -8ºC. Steel your resolve. Sit on the couch staring into space for half an hour trying to decide which bike to ride. The regular commuter? The trail is snow-covered and that means longer in the dark on country roads with commuters who are only half-awake. The fatbike on the trail? Trail is snow-covered but not enough for snowmobiles means not packed yet and you’ll have to break trail. A longer, harder ride. Finally settle on the regular commuter/road option since the unknown trail condition is too much of a variable. Stage kit, lights and other necessary items for the morning. Steel your resolve.
Alarm goes at 4:30. Lay in bed for 10 minutes listing all the reasons not to ride the bike. Crawl out of bed. Check the temperature. It’s actually -12ºC. STEEL YOUR RESOLVE. Do the things. The yoga. The meditation. The coffee. Put on the layers. Take some layers off and exchange them for other layers. Steel your resolve. Get out into the garage to pack the bike. Cold as a tomb. Not to late to back out. Steel your resolve.
Push out the door, it’s cold, but you think you’ve managed to get the layers right. Dark. 2 mins. from home. Shift gears. Drop the chain. Try to upshift and pedal to get it back on like you’ve done 1,000 times before. No dice. Cranks lock. Get off the bike and instinctively lean over to assess the situation. Realize it’s pitch dark and you can’t see a thing. Try to fix it ‘by feel’ with lobster mittens on. Realize you’re an idiot. Take the light off the bars and try to work with one hand – with a lobster mitten. Realize things are far more fouled up than you initially thought. STEEL YOUR – screw it, pull the pin.
Thank you Monday. 5 minute walk home. Realize that taking the other bike is not an option due to time. Unpack the bike. Take off all the layers. Start the car to warm it up. Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’ is on CBC Morning and you turn it up to 11 so you can hear it outside as you scrape the ice from your windshield and accept that perhaps this is right where the Universe wanted you all along.
So if you’ve been paying attention to my posts at all, you’ll know that I was planning on running an experiment based around using a Light Phone 2 provided by a buddy of mine with the intention of seeing what it was like to be ‘smartphoneless’ for some given period of time. Well, that idea has crashed and burned or perhaps more accurately, fizzled.
First off, it was taking awhile for the Light Phone folks to ship their product – a not-unexpected occurrence – given that this was an Indiegogo thing and these things take time. Not an un-ironic comment on how our everything-immediately-on-demand world has influenced our expectations and perceptions of time. Still, the length of time it was taking started to sap interest in the desire to play around with the device. Steve – the guy who was going to loan me his version of the phone – and I remarked on this a few times in our correspondence. Still, I remained committed to giving it a shot and he still felt I was a good candidate to put it through its paces.
When the phone finally shipped to Steve, once he received it, decided he wanted to give it a temporary spin so set about trying to get it up and running with his cellular service provider. He hit some snags though, and then decided to try using the Light Phone’s own SIM plan and ordered up a card – only to have issues with getting the SIM to be recognized once it arrived. Last we spoke, he still didn’t have the thing up and running.
In the meantime, I had my own circumstances change in that I agreed at the last minute to coach my kids’ hockey team this winter. Based on my previous experiences coaching, the prospect of trying to run the team as well as coordinate with parents and league staff all without a ‘smart’ phone (one with a calendar and access to a web browser and email) seemed like an exercise in futility and one that would only make life miserable. Due to the time it was taking to get the Light Phone into my hands, my interest in the experiment as it was initially formulated had waned. Being faced with this new organizational challenge – I told Steve I wasn’t really interested in it any longer – at least not at this point.
I will say this though, that the whole idea wasn’t without it’s upsides. Through the process of thinking about the phone and preparing to use it, I went through several phases of evaluating and thinking about what apps I have on my current phone and how I use them. That process has led to a major cull in both apps on the phone as well as phone usage/screen time in a way that has been overwhelmingly positive. Probably the largest single change has been the elimination of email from my phone. While I did, initially re-install it after agreeing to coach, I uninstalled it after only a short while realizing that the several months prior of having no access to it on the phone had taught me I don’t need it and I was able to pretty much manage things by sticking to the routine I’d established of basically checking email once a day, intentionally, at a regular time.
In closing, I’m still glad that I went through the whole process, even though things fell apart at the end. The result is I’m still using a phone that’s about as ‘light’ as I can get, and the apps that are on it I’ve given a lot of thought about whether I want to give my time and attention to and if they’re of real value in my day-to-day. This idea of considering how we use the technology we have very intentionally is something Cal Newport talks about at length in his book Digital Minimalism: Choosing A Focused Life in a Noisy World . Although I’ve actually only just started reading this, I had inadvertently already begun what Mr. Newport calls the ‘Digital Declutter’ without even knowing it. When I wanted to reevaluate my relationship with the technology in my day-to-day life, it just seemed to be the sensible way to do it. That said, the book is great so far and I highly recommend it if it sounds like something you’re interested in or are considering.
For those interested/playing along – I’ve stuck to my initial plan of keeping my phone to ‘one-screen’ of apps. Each one has had to ‘earn’ its real-estate there (exception being the un-installable apps, some of which I wish I could nuke). I also didn’t cheat by putting apps I can’t remove in a folder to give me more space on the ‘one-screen’, so I really had to think hard about it. Interesting note – I’m up for an upgrade of my iPhone SE and I notice that even the smallest of the newer iPhones is larger than this one. While I’m not excited about that – I like a small phone – I think it does mean more screen real-estate for apps, I guess I’ll have to see how that goes.
It started with tattoo research, really. I was thinking about getting a tattoo of the Chinese characters (because those aren’t cliché at all, right?) for the Buddhist* Precept of either ‘Right Action’ or ‘Right Effort’ – so I was reading up on the difference between the two. The word action just sounded better than effort to me, even though it was a bit weird and specific. There’s tons of variations and translations out there of the Precepts but here is the one I found that seemed to encompass the general idea of most of them:
“RIGHT ACTION: Right action aims at promoting moral, honorable, and peaceful conduct. It admonishes us that we should abstain from destroying life, from stealing, from dishonest dealings, from illegitimate sexual intercourse, and that we should also help others to lead a peaceful and honorable life in the right way.”
So uh, yeah – that’s all good – if not a bit strange. As it relates to the CABC I guess you could apply that to say we shouldn’t steal bikes or in any way have illegitimate sex on them, but really, if you can pull off sex on a bike, my hat’s off to you. What I took the most to heart was the last part that said “we should help others to lead a peaceful and honorable life in the right way.” That was some action I thought we could apply here.
You could think of riding a bike as selfish or solitary endeavor, but let’s break down for a minute what happens on a lot of bike rides. You have your rhythmic spinning of the pedals and wheels. A floating sensation when coasting. Drifting to and fro as the terrain permits. It can be very meditative. Or maybe you’re out hammering – the singular focus of maintaining your target effort in the face of difficulty or suffering has the ability to focus your mind singularly.
Either way, you’re changing your mind.
You’ll come out of the ride with a different – arguably improved – attitude. In improving your state of mind and attitude you are changing how you perceive and interact with others. That has the ripple effect. In simple terms, change yourself to change the world – we hear this all the time in various ways. Maybe the change today starts with a bike ride. And maybe, if you can improve your outlook, it will help your interaction with others, and in-turn inspire, inform or improve theirs. You can go for a bike ride for yourself and “help others to lead a peaceful and honorable life in the right way.” Ride Action is Right Action.
Bruce Lee talked about this idea of self-improvement through action. In his book Striking Thoughts he comments, “Action is a highroad to self-confidence and esteem. Where it is open, all energies flow toward it. It comes readily to most people, and its rewards are tangible.” The rewards of a bike ride are tangible – for you as well as others.
I never decided on a tattoo. I couldn’t decide between Right Action and Right Effort. The visual geek in me got bogged down in how the characters looked and I started to loose the meaning behind them. Truth be told, from what I can understand, Right Effort is more internal – it’s about the efforts and energies you allow to arise within you. No doubt these are important as well, but when I’m riding bikes, that’s ACTION, baby. I’m DOING THE THING.
So get out there change yourself and change the World. It’s as easy as riding a bike.
*The CABC is entirely non-denominational. You do your thing and let the next person do their thing. Better yet, go on a bike ride with a bunch of people into different things than you and talk about things. I’ll bet you a CABC water bottle (which don’t exist yet) you learn something new.