Happy September Discardia! Invest yourself in what you love.

This Discardian season, which begins today and runs all the way through to October 15th, is all about Quality over Quantity. One aspect of that which has been much on my mind this past week while attending XOXO Festival and musing afterwards about what made it so great, is the nitty-gritty of  how we gauge our success.

Quantity is definitely easier to measure. More. Bigger. Faster. These are all straightforward to identify. But they do not equate to better; and particularly not to 'better for you, right now, and for who you wish to become'. For that you need to grasp a more slippery fish: quality.

Many speakers at the conference echoed a theme that I have heard from inspiring books and people throughout my life: You've got to be really excited about what you do if it is to sustain you over the long-haul. Designers Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost of Studio Neat put it very clearly: "Work on something you're passionate about, because if you're successful you'll have to do it every day." You've heard me express the flipside of that same thought: Make sure your every day life reflects and reinforces what you love.

From the men and women onstage and off at the conference, I continually heard about how doing what they love—what they deeply love—has created their happiness. More than a few people in the room have had the good fortune to try out making a lot of money as a potential happiness generator and found that it was not the magic ingredient which pop culture often makes it out to be.

Matt Haughey, who has been running the community site MetaFilter for the last decade, said, "Money is the least interesting problem". Dan Harmon, creator of the show Community, took it farther: "Money will be the death of everything good in your life. Except maybe the first $40k. You need that to buy potatoes and stuff."

Turn your focus from reaching some arbitrary measure of 'big success', to getting to spend more of your time getting to do what you love. As speakers like musician Julia Nunes made clear, that doesn't come in one big break, but in the addition of many moments of moving in the right direction. And that's true whether it's about your career or how you spend your weekends. It's not how much or many you get, it's about what you do and how you connect.

One of the very best things about doing what you love is that you are making yourself available for connections with other people who love the same things. Artist Emily Winfield Martin emphasized the relationships you make along the way and how they give you the energy to move closer to your dreams: "The alchemy that makes your imaginary thing real is the audience." Not having the biggest group cheering you on, but the one that gets your vision most clearly and is most inspired by it themselves.


What do you love?

How are you going to make more time and space for it this Discardian season?

Who shares that love that you can invite to cheer you on?


Letting go of our back pages

Books are very difficult for many people to keep pared down to only what they currently love or use. We cling to the physical shells of these formative experiences as though they were pieces of our identity itself. We even do this with media which we we do not intend to re-experience anytime soon, if ever.

Send books on to a new life elsewhere when they stop having a positive interaction in yours. Check for inscriptions or papers tucked into the items you’re parting with. Remember that you can keep a digital photo of a meaningful inscription, a page on which you are quoted, or even the cover to help you remember the title, and not keep the book itself. You can get rid of the physical, space-taking, dust-gathering objects and just keep the memory.

Here are some suggestions for books which could leave your shelves to make room for things you really love:
    •    Out-of-date reference, technical and travel guidebooks (if no computer in your house is running that version of that software, you do not need a book about it);
    •    Books you haven't opened in five years and that you don't feel like reading within the next month;
    •    Books you bought and intended to read, but still haven't read several years later and don't want to start this month;
    •    Books you didn't like;
    •    Books someone gave you that you don't want to read;
    •    Books for a hobby you no longer have; and
    •    Cookbooks for foods you don't eat anymore.

Slow the flow of incoming books by being more selective when you choose to buy a book rather than borrow it from the library and note that not all good reasons for buying are also good reasons for keeping a book after you read it. In a world with libraries, used bookstores, Amazon, OpenLibrary, Google Book Search, and trading websites like Swap.com, it should be easy to see that putting the books in the donation bag does not remove them from the universe. If you later decide that you want to read one of them, odds are very good that the local library or used bookstore will have a copy—maybe even this copy—or you’ll be able to get it online. A lot of books, especially nonfiction, are like oranges. Juice ’em to extract the goodness and discard the remains.

So, if you can get pretty much any book you want again later, what guidelines will you use for why you should keep a book in your house? Here are mine:
    •    I'm going to read or reread it within two years.
    •    I periodically reread or consult it, and it contains annotations that remain useful to me.
    •    It is an object of beauty or sentiment, which brings me frequent joy.
    •    I wrote it.
Decide your guidelines and then look to see what you have that doesn't meet any of them. Donate those replaceable (or never again needed) books to the library or charity. Give the things you love more room and give yourself less unnecessary weight of stuff in your life.

Finding what we want

"To find satisfaction, composure, and results – we don't need anything extra, fancy, or special. We don't need to do or add more; we need to do less. We just need to let go of some of our assumptions, particularly our thinking that our freedom and happiness lie someplace else, or during some other time, or with some other mind."

– Marc Lesser in his book, Less

September Discardia: Quality over Quantity

Make room in your life for awesomeness

In September, let Discardia be your reminder to aim for what’s ideal, in just the right amount. You’ve got a solid foundation. You know how to make decisions about your priorities and act on them. Now you can reap the benefits.

    Carve away the clutter and polish the valuables that start to shine through. You’re all warmed up, so it’s time to be a hardass about making life more excellent. Any junk that has survived this far into the year needs to justify its place in your life.

    When you want the whole to be better, inquire of the details “Is this necessary?”

Maintaining your book collection

Books are more available now than they have ever been at any time in history. Thanks to the internet, we now have access to the inventories of more new and used bookstores than any one person could browse in a lifetime and to the collections of individuals that they are willing to share or trade. Beyond that we have more books, both new and old, available in electronic form. Plus we can easily search the collections of libraries around the world, many of which will allow us through our own local libraries to borrow material using inter-library loan.

You can get pretty much any book you want.

Given that, what guidelines do you have for why you should keep a book in your house?

Here are mine:

  • I'm going to read or re-read it within four years.
  • I consult it at least once a year.
  • I periodically re-read or consult it and it has annotations in it which remain useful to me.
  • It is an object of beauty and/or sentiment which brings me frequent joy.
  • I wrote it. (Don't have any of these yet besides the bound copy of my senior thesis, but I'm workin' on it!)

Decide your guidelines and then look to see what you have that doesn't meet any of them. Donate those replaceable (or never needed again) books to the library or charity. Give the stuff you love more room and give yourself less unnessary weight of stuff in your life.