Finding flexibility

Plan Your Next: Letter No. 10

Good morning, you beautiful people. It feels good that this weekend still has some legs.

My weekend so far: I walked all around Echo Park for awhile, then treated myself to a donut from Blue Star. (You know the fancy ones you might find in Portland? They just opened their glass doors 2 blocks down from us. Trouble.) We saw the new Muppets movie, checked out a new restaurant, read, wrote, ordered Dominos’s, and tonight we’re planning for our upcoming Japan trip.

What are you up to?

Since we’re in the middle of a long weekend, I love having the additional flexibility, which unsurprisingly has been on my mind this past week.

Losing flexibility

Back when I purchased my condo in 2009, I thought it was the most responsible thing that I could do at that point in time. The thought that I was doing adult things with my very own adult money was a pretty compelling concept at 30 years old.

The home buying process is a lengthy one for first-time shoppers, because it’s all so new. There’s those early moments where you’re wondering if you can even afford to buy something. Then you’re starting to scour different neighborhoods, imagining yourself living a new and better life in each of them. You start to think about how and what your commute might look like from each of those locations. Then you think about what kind of home you want, how you’ll make it your own, and how much better your life will be. Oh, and the money you’ll save by not throwing it away on rent!

Then one day, after you have essentially made up your mind about buying, you’ll utter those first words publicly, maybe to just a close friend…

“I’m thinking about buying a house.”

In that moment, without knowing the full weight of those words, you added a small amount of pressure to yourself, relinquishing the freedom and flexibility you had seconds before.

These small decisions have now created a force that’s hard to stop. It’s one of the most important financial decisions of our lives, and the pressure and momentum will carry us through until we’re handed the keys.

Buying a home is a wonderful thing for most people. And a smart decision to make if you plan on living in the same spot for a long time.

But, my values then included independence, travel, and financial freedom. Owning increased my excitement to have control, but only tightened the grip on the freedom of those values.

Not everything needs a place

There’s an image of a young Steve Jobs that I often think of:

This empty room just begs to be filled with furniture. It’s a natural feeling for a lot of us. In an interview years later with Steve’s wife, Laurene, she said, “We spoke about furniture in theory for eight years. We spent a lot of time asking ourselves, ‘What is the purpose of a sofa?’”

Resisting the urge to add furniture to his life for so long reflected Steve’s regard for simplicity, for better or for worse.

A life full of unnecessary chairs

I knew that continuing to own my condo was preventing me from opportunities to make a change, but it was hard to recognize at first.

Clearing out space in my physical world allowed me to look inward and freed up mind space. My confidence in my own work rose, my professional risk-taking went up (I had less to lose), I educated myself about investing, and learned to bet on myself.

It’s difficult to let the mind wander and seriously consider the possibilities that might take us down new paths, if we have filled every space in our mind with a new chair.

We’re naturally drawn to beautiful images of empty offices or minimalist homes, but when it’s our own, it rarely looks like that because we’re constantly adding to it.

It’s true with design as well. If you have ever looked at a logo or design and said to yourself, “Anyone could have done that,” you’re not acknowledging the effort it took to convince others to remove the excess embellishments that were there to begin with.

Instead, admire how difficult the process was to land at that seemingly simple idea.

Finding flexibility takes a lot of work to remove the chairs we have set up in our lives.

What could you do to free up space in your life?

Reading & Resources

I thought I’d share a few things that I use on a daily basis, as well as a new tools that I’ve come across recently.

  • Notion - I’ve been slowly using Evernote less and less, and I recently discovered Notion, which is one of the more well designed apps I’ve used recently. It also combines the the utility of apps like Basecamp, Trello, Evernote, Asana, Jira, into an extremely easy to use interface. I’ve also been bringing in the Bullet Journal process into here for my daily planning. Now all I have to do is to convert Alie.

  • Ulysses - This is my main writing app which I really enjoy. Even though you could use it for much more, anything that I’m writing starts here first.

  • My favorite Sketchpad (Mnemosyne) and Muji 0.5 pens. They’re both Japanese, incredibly designed, and I’ve owned dozens of each.

  • If you need pencils, get the Palomino Blackwing’s. (also in white). And if you want an eraser, you need this. Need a sharpener?

  • How the rental market is increasing inequality :(

I hope you have a great week. See you next Sunday.

xx Nate


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