What happens to us when we meditate?

Out of all the definitions I’ve read about meditation and its benefits, there is one story from Thich Nhat Hanh that I keep remembering and quoting whenever I’m in discussion with people about the topic.

Today three children, two girls and a little boy, came from the village to play with Thanh Thuy (pronounced ‘Tahn Tui’). The four of them ran off to play on the hillside behind our house and were gone for about an hour when they returned to ask for something to drink. I took the last bottle of homemade apple juice and gave them each a full glass, serving Thuy last. Since her juice was from the bottom of the bottle, it had some pulp in it. When she noticed the particles, she pouted and refused to drink it. So the four children went back to their games on the hillside, and Thuy had not drunk anything.

Half an hour later, while I was meditating in my room, I heard her calling. Thuy wanted to get herself a glass of cold water, but even on tiptoes she couldn’t reach the faucet. I reminded her of the glass of juice on the table and asked her to drink that first. Turning to look at it, she saw that the pulp had settled and the juice looked clear and delicious. She went to the table and took the glass with both hands. After drinking half of it, she put it down and asked, “Is this a different glass, Uncle Monk?” (a common term for Vietnamese children to use when addressing an older monk.)

“No,” I answered. “It’s the same one as before. It sat quietly for a bit, and now it’s clear and delicious.” Thuy looked at the glass again. “It really is good. Was it meditating like you, Uncle Monk?” I laughed and patted her head. “Let us say that I imitate the apple juice when I sit; that is closer to the truth.” (pp.3-4 The Sun My Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh, Berkley, California, Parallax Press, 1988.)

There is a Youtube video from Thich, that I unfortunately couldn’t find anymore, where he describes the same story as above, slightly differently. In the video, Thich said something along the lines of “Thuy had come up with a better explanation of what meditation was than I ever had.” 2 Things that were so fascinating about this story, was the wisdom a young child had to offer to one of the world’s most renowned Zen masters – and his willingness to learn that wisdom.

I’d love to chat with you about this on Twitter:

Ego

The other day,  I was at the gym with my co-founder Joel and we started a short discussion about other products as part of Buffer’s product offering we might enjoy building one day. We went through various problems we’d enjoy solving, like online payments, social media monitoring and so forth. At one point, we got into some light brainstorming of one of the areas and the name of a related, prominent startup in the space came up. I said “I know the founder”. That line had nothing to do with the discussion and it didn’t add any value. It was rather pure display of ego, coming to light as what we commonly know as “namedropping”.

I paused for a second and added “I think that was just my ego, that didn’t really add anything.”

Since I can remember, the idea of ego was always only the display of the most blatant egoistic behaviour from us. Like, for example, strong arrogance and bragging, extreme defensiveness of our opinion in an argument. Since I started reading more texts about buddhism, mindfulness and most recently Eckhart Tolle’s “New Earth“, I learnt about some fascinating new perspectives regarding “ego”.

I learnt that ego in most people, myself included, is the dominant driver of all thoughts, actions and ways of going about life.

The monk with the sweaty palms

There’s a great story in Eckhart Tolle’s “New Earth” that explains how subtle and yet still prevalent ego often is, even in people that have worked decades to remove their ego:

“Kasan, a Zen teacher and monk, was to officiate at a funeral of a famous nobleman. As he stood there waiting for the governor of the province and other lords and ladies to arrive, he noticed that the palms of his hands were sweaty.

The next day he called his disciples together and confessed he was not yet ready to be a true teacher. He explained to them that he still lacked the sameness of bearing before all human beings, whether beggar or king.

He was still unable to look through social roles and conceptual identities and see the sameness of being in every human. He then left and become the pupil of another master. The returned to his former disciples eight years later, enlightened.”

What’s so mind blowing about this story for me is that I’d have never associated Kasan’s behaviour with ego. Instead I would have attributed it to humility or some other, very positive trait. That’s particularly interesting as it showed me that ego is much more versatile in that sense, that I’d originally thought.

Egoless work

What I quickly discovered is that when we do things we enjoy, we can easily be free from Ego. When we do the stuff, when we are focused on doing great work, ego is largely not present. This is really great, since it means that nearly all of us, have moments, even daily, where we operate without ego.

If you think about the last time you’ve written a blogpost, code, an email, designed something or anything else that most of us online workers do, there’s a chance that right at that moment, when you were fully involved in the task and you were just “doing”, you were completely free from ego. It’s what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called “Flow“.

On the other hand, very often we sabotage our own work with ego. Eckhart Tolle puts it like this:

I have also met many others who may be technically good at what they do but whose ego constantly sabotages their work. Only part of their attention is on the work they perform; the other part is on themselves. Their ego demands personal recognition and wastes energy in resentment if it doesn’t get enough— and it’s never enough. “Is someone else getting more recognition than me?” Or their main focus of attention is profit or power, and their work is no more than a means to that end. When work is no more than a means to an end, it cannot be of high quality.

That last line hit home like few things why it is so helpful to think about less ego at work: “When work is no more than a means to an end, it cannot be of high quality.”

Working on less ego

At the core of our lives purpose I believe is the pursuit of living without ego. “Living without ego” is probably just a different definition of either

  • happiness
  • true love
  • spiritual fulfillment

Different world views, religions and upbringing would probably word it differently, and yet, essentially I think that every human is the same in that aspect. We all strive for that level of “being”.

Although I feel my own ego is still very strong, there’re a few hints that I’ve picked up on, that made me feel like being on the right track. (That sentence, likely presumptuous, is probably ego right there!)

  • Choosing an ego-free environment: We all know intuitively whether we are at a place with high or low amount of ego. At Buffer, even as part of our values, we partially focus on designing an organization that encourages the recognizing of ego and helps the ego dissolve. Picking such an environment can be one of the most helpful things to do. Seneca put this even better:

“Even Socrates, Cato, and Laelius might have been shaken in their moral strength by a crowd that was unlike them;”

  • Meditation and mindfulness: At it’s core, ego is a distortion of reality. What meditation and mindfulness helps us do, is to see things as they truly are, without judgement or attachment. I’ve found that practicing quiet moments of introspection is one of the best ways to see things clearly and to avoid the urges of giving in to the ego.
  • Compassion and gratitude: Putting yourself in other people’s shoes, seeing things from their perspective and practicing gratitude have been outlined by many famous minds as another method to dissolve ego. Practicing this can be as easy as taking 5 minutes in the evening to list 3 things that you are grateful for today. Surprisingly, I’ve also found that the best gift we can give others is to do and work on things that that we truly love. I had previously confused this with ego, when self-love and doing what we love, is the exact opposite – living without ego. A great quote on this from the Dalai Lama:

“Once you develop confidence in your own ability, you’ll be able to make a real contribution to creating a better world. Self-confidence is very important. Not in the sense of blind pride, but as a realistic awareness of what you can do.”

What I came to enjoy about thinking about ego and the removal of it, is that it can’t be a forceful process. Instead, it’s something that happens very gradual, over a long period of time. It’s something we can practice in almost every moment of our lives and every step towards recognizing and dissolving ego makes living life a bit more enjoyable.

I’d love to chat with you about this on Twitter:

Living with one bag

About 2-3 years ago, I decided I wanted to start to declutter my life gradually. I went from one backpack and a carry-on bag to just one backpack. I count the following things as my belongings at this point:

  • 6 t-shirts
  • 2 sweaters, 2 hoodies
  • 1 coat
  • 2 pairs of dress-pant sweat-pants
  • 6 pairs of socks and boxershorts
  • 1 backpack
  • An iPhone, a Kindle, 1 Notepad and a MacBook Air (+ keyboard and mouse)
  • Gym shoes and gym shorts
  • Various toiletries like toothbrush, contact lenses, etc.

When I say “things that I count”, it does actually mean that I’m somewhat cheating. I did only live with the above things until I moved into an apartment earlier in 2014. Since then I bought some kitchen utensils as well as a mattress, bed, a couch, some lamps and a desk. I do plan on getting rid of these things in early may again, so I’m putting them on a “temporary” list in the meantime, separately.

Declutter your life, declutter your mind

If you have ever cleared your desk one morning before working, you’ll know the feeling of tranquility and peace this can give you. I found that that is exactly what happens when I got rid of most things I owned, apart from the crucial essentials.

Here is a list of the amazing benefits I observed from getting rid of stuff:

  • No decision making about what to wear in the morning, more decision making about stuff that actually matters
  • I can pack for trips in 5 minutes
  • I go clothes shopping about 1 a year (more on that below) and don’t waste any more time on it
  • There are less things to think about and there is more simplicity in my life
  • I don’t spend a lot of money on stuff
  • I indulge the “Is this all you have?” questions at borders after a long-haul flight

In order to see things clearly in life, and observe reality as it truly happens, owning less stuff is a super valuable step towards that direction. Of course, I’d never claim to be at a place where I can truly do that – see things as they are, without attachment or judgement – but I have an intuition that owning less things sets me on the right track towards that.

Replacement shopping

There are of course moments when you have to go shopping and buy new things. I managed to do this, while keeping to a minimalist lifestyle with one simple rule:

Anytime I buy something new, I need to throw out the equivalent of what I’m already owning. 

So if I buy new shoes, I throw out my old pair of shoes. If I buy a new coat, sweater or t-shirt, the old sweater, coat or t-shirt are thrown out or given away. Between my co-founder Joel and myself this lead us to call it “replacement shopping” or “clothes replacement day”.

Over the last few years, I also went up in quality gradually every time a new clothes replacement day came around. Recently, I invested in a MissionWorkshop backpack ($380), Ordered a pair of custom tailored jeans from Gebrueder Stitch ($535) and bought a coat from Burberry ($2200).

The prices for these things may sound expensive at first, but I plan on owning and using them for several years to come, which makes this well worth the cost broken down over that period of time. I’ve also made an effort to prioritize function over form, although at a very high level of quality, luckily often both are included. Dustin Curtis had some great thoughts on this with his post “The Best“.

Getting started with one bag living

The thought for many to get started with one bag living is a scary one. Luckily Greg McKeown wrote a terrific book titled “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less“, where he outlines a very handy technique:

Set aside some time where you go through your stuff and decide what you want to keep and what you want to throw away. You’ll end up with a few things that you can throw right out. Then you’ll end up with a few things that you’ll want to keep. Then you’ll end up with a few things you’re unsure of.

Put anything that you want to keep, but haven’t used in a while and anything you are unsure of in a box. Now, see, if after 3 or 6 months, you’ve actually taken out any of the things from that box and used them. If you haven’t, you can calmly through them out without having to worry whether you’ll need them in the future.

Jessica Dang also wrote a great getting started guide on one bag living that you can check out.

One bag living has simplified my life in a way that very few other things have and I can highly recommend giving it a try. I’d love to chat with you about this on Twitter:

Personal Transparency

My co-founder Joel and I recently received $1m in cash each, through Buffer’s latest funding round. It triggered a fascinating discussion between us about why and if we should share this with the world and be transparent about it. $1m is pocket change in Silicon Valley terms, but for me, this is more money than I’ve ever seen in my life, much less to think about having it in my bank account. So the first thought was to keep this quiet and between ourselves. We made up a number of reasons why this is right, all which were more or less empty assumption about what other people may or may not think about us.

Then Joel sent me a HipChat message after having discussed this, which I thought was much more eloquent than I could have ever put it in terms of why being transparent about this is important:

“I just wanted to say that I reflected more on being transparent about our $. I feel like we should definitely do it and set an example and surprise people there, it’s almost our duty to! I also think it will help us be more responsible with our money, and we might even get some great advice from people!”

Transparency makes you a better person

Sometimes, there is a fantasy that I have about strapping a camera to my head and live-streaming every second of my life to a public Youtube page. Imagine what might happen if you know that everything you do could possibly be seen by someone else. Sticking to doing the right thing seems so much easier to do.

In fact, those are exactly some of the things that happened when we started to make everything about Buffer as a company transparent. With people knowing your revenues, the salaries you pay and so much more, doing what is right becomes almost effortless. You don’t even have to try to do it.

The difference of making your very personal things public compared to your company’s data, certainly took this one step further. I’m not Buffer, so it’s easier to have a certain distance to it. So sticking to the same transparency is both scarier, but possibly even more rewarding since it’s even closer to myself.

It seems obvious now, but it’s much easier to conclude this now: Personal transparency makes you a better person in the same way that company transparency makes you a better company.

Personal Transparency vs Personal Privacy

What’s interesting to observe with this in the wake of recent NSA revelations is that it goes almost completely against what most people’s response was to these events: More privacy. What if we were to flip things on it’s head and respond instead with more personal transparency.

Of course, our intuitive and understandable reaction as humans when we feel like being attacked, in this case from someone we wanted to value highly – our own government – is to be defensive about it and close ourselves off. And yet, possibly the best way to solve this problem is not to attack back and lock ourselves in with more privacy, but to transcend it with complete openness. It would wipe out the discussion completely and it wouldn’t even be on the agenda anymore.

I found it a fascinating experience to push through my own personal transparency barriers recently and it’s already been so much more freeing to do so. And I’m excited to experiment with it further and see how far I can go.

I’d love to chat with you about this on Twitter:

Growth

For the last 2 to 3 years, about every day, I would wake up, open my laptop and type the letter “g” into the Google Chrome bar and hit enter. Chrome would auto-complete it to “growth.bufferapp.com”. It was like a daily ritual to check on Buffer’s growth numbers from a number of different angles. Revenue, new users, daily actives, monthly actives.

Growing, increasing our monthly revenue, our traffic, our user base, that was the number one priority in my mind. It only hit me very recently, about 4 months ago now, to pose a very simple question “Why grow?”.

Learning about Growth in Silicon Valley, aka “Traction”

When my co-founder Joel and I first arrived in San Francisco, in the summer of 2011, we were absolutely clueless about how startups work in Silicon Valley. It was a fascinating time filled with a huge amount of learning. One of the most intriguing concepts that I picked up very early on, was the idea of “traction”.

It meant that you couldn’t say a number to an investor, a partner, or anyone you were talking with about your early stage startup, without mentioning a second number: it’s growth rate. We have 100 users, and it’s growing 50% every month. Our revenue is $1m per year, growing 20% every month. Not mentioning the growth rate almost makes the first number meaningless.

When we entered the incubator AngelPad with Buffer, we internalized the concept of traction even further. We were prepping for talks with investors and the single thing they’d care most about was whether we had a graph, that was steeply growing up and to the right. If we didn’t have that graph, then we should create one. If we had too few users, we should try and find another metric, maybe time on site or something to show our traction. Traction was the one measure that would show investors that what we were building was working and not just an empty idea.

Growth with and without limits

My understanding of growth has moved from an obsession in the last few months, to seeing it more as one part of the many things that we observe and create.

When we look around ourselves, we see that almost all living things grow and enlarge over time. Trees, for some reason, are one of the best examples I can think of. They start as a tiny seedling and can grow into something like these gigantic redwoods.

One thing that’s so fascinating with everything that grows is this: It has a limit. Organically, nothing grows forever. A tree eventually stops growing, our body does. There is one natural exception that occurs, where things keep growing without limits in nature: cancer. From my limited understanding of this works in detail, it’s when cells keep splitting and multiplying, somehow “forgetting” to stop growing.

An amazing quote on the topic, that started to make a lot more sense to me, now that I read it again, comes form Seneca:

Natural desires are limited; but those which spring from false opinion can have no stopping-point. The false has no limits. When you are travelling on a road, there must be an end; but when astray, your wanderings are limitless. Recall your steps, therefore, from idle things, and when you would know whether that which you seek is based upon a natural or upon a misleading desire, consider whether it can stop at any definite point. If you find, after having travelled far, that there is a more distant goal always in view, you may be sure that this condition is contrary to nature. Farewell.

Especially the line “If you find, after having travelled far, that there is a more distant goal always in view, you may be sure that this condition is contrary to nature.” is what I found so incredibly telling. With your startup or any type of company, it seems that no matter how big you’ve grown, you’ll always want to grow bigger. It seems completely unthinkable today, to say that for example Apple or Google would announce “we’ve grown enough, we’ll stop here”.

Inducing growth

What’s fascinating on top of all of this is that in most cases, we try to manufacture growth. Governments want to “kickstart GDP growth again”, startups want to “move the needle on monthly growth”, I personally wanted to do everything possible to have Buffer grow faster each month.

What’s become clear to me now is that whenever I’m trying to create growth, I’m not focusing on the “stuff”. I’m not doing the things that actually matter. Everything becomes a means to an end. A new feature, a new product, another A/B test, more marketing, more hiring. Everything is destined to help the one and only purpose that is “more growth”. Building a feature to induce growth is one of the most subtle forms of self-sabotage in today’s startup world. Only when we talk about products having become “monsters”, (which is surprisingly similar to the idea of “tumor” or “cancer”), is when we realize this.

Slowly turning away from the endless road of ever continuing growth has been a fascinating challenge. I feel like I’m slowly releasing a grip on something, that was never something I wanted to hold onto in the first place.

I still believe that growth is important and that it will always occur naturally. Making it the central focus and for it to not be able to “stop at any definite point”, is where I’ve gone wrong largely in the past.

PS: There are two incredible resources that have helped me shape my changed thinking on growth. One being the book “Reinventing Organizations“, the other being a documentary called “The Economics of Happiness“.

The more I meditate, the more I enjoy my life

The more I meditate, the more I enjoy eating my lunch.

The more I meditate, the more I enjoy my hours of work.

The more I meditate, the more I enjoy brushing my teeth.

The more I meditate, the more I enjoy a conversation with a friend.

The more I meditate, the more I enjoy a walk.

The more I mediate, the more I enjoy a phone call.

The more I mediate, the more I enjoy drinking a cup of tea.

I recently realized what an all-encompassing power meditation has for me. Meditation creates this energy of mindfulness for me, that lets me pay attention longer to anything I do.  Of course, I still drift off, but it feels that over the last year or so, my attention span has gradually become longer and longer.

It is fascinating for me how any aspect of life is improved with this greater sense of being in the now. It just makes all the difference. For the first time in a long time I mediated twice a day, while I’m traveling in Nepal right now.

As a closing note: I realize that being in an environment where mediation is “easy”, i.e. with a lot of other people doing it and general welcoming of it, makes a huge difference also.

How I forgot to scale my sleep

Recently, something fascinating happen to me. Here it goes:

Forgetting to scale my sleep when working out

Gradually, over the last year or so, I started to work out a lot more. I hit the gym roughly 5 times a week. It’s been a great way to strike a balance between the crazy startup life with its ups and downs.

A few things became very clear to me. To get stronger and more fit, I had to work out more. That’s probably the most obvious. Secondly, I realized, I’ll have to eat more. Also, still fairly obvious.

But then, I got it completely wrong. As I got more and more fit, I got more and more tired. That didn’t make sense to me. Shouldn’t I, as I am now more fit, be less tired? That’s at least what I had assumed and it took me some digging and research to find out, this might not quite be how it works.

The more I trained, the more I ate, the more I would need sleep. These days I’m getting around 9-9.5 hours of sleep in a 24 hour cycle (~8 hours/night and 1-2 25 minute naps in the afternoon). It’s as if I somehow thought everything could get more, and sleep could get less. Changing both my behavior (sleeping more) and attitude (not feeling bad for sleeping more), made a big difference to my happiness.

On top of that, it wasn’t surprising for me to find out that professional athletes sleep 10-11 hours every night.

 

Why did I  forget about this?

Generally, I don’t think that this is something to worry about. I don’t think that’s what we should be focused on at the beginning.

When you go to the gym, your goal isn’t to finally hit that 10 hours of sleep/night mark.

Whilst sleep is incredibly important, it’s just more an effect than a cause. It’s something that pops out, as you poke in.

The key, I believe is to keep an open mind and stay reflective. I found that if we do that, all these things, that come in as effects are being noticed and you’ll take care of them.

 

We grow in circles

We have this idea, that we want our business, our revenues, our whatever to grow up and to the right. It’s a 2D graph that moves.

When I thought about the above, I realized, that that might not be how we grow things actually. It’s more like a circle, that gets bigger as a whole. If you just look at what grows up and to the right (strength), you forget that something might grow up and to the left too (sleep).

It reminds me of the fact, that machines often operate in the up and to the right way. We humans, are much more cyclical, so a circle, that grows as a whole, actually might make more sense.

 

A mistake I often make: Confusing passion with drive

Recently I finished a book that inspired me and I believe has directly influenced some of my opinion on a few projects going forward with Buffer.

The book is titled “The Monk and the Riddle”.  It’s a brilliant book that I felt bridges the gap between 2 very different worlds I’ve recently ventured into: Startups and Buddhism (with a particular focus on mindfulness).

One quote that stood out particularly to me was the following:

Passion and drive are not the same at all. Passion pulls you toward something you cannot resist. Drive pushes you toward something you feel compelled or obligated to do.

Why is it so easy to confuse the two?

I believe that the reason it’s so easy for me to get caught up in confusion between to the two, comes from how I approach working. What tends to come easy to me is to churn through a number of tasks and be fulfilled by having them done.

It means, it doesn’t matter what kind of task is at hand. As long as it’s on the list and I can push through it, to eventually tick it off, I feel good.  What counts is that my to do list is empty and all the stuff got done. What “stuff” it was, might not be so much in the center of my attention.

What I’ve learnt to better separate passion from drive

The key for me over the past few months to help me to better separate passion from drive is reflection. Reflection in itself is something that I’ve struggled with for as long as I could remember.

In more detail, the way I managed to achieve a tiny bit of a better sense of reflection so far is through meditation. After I meditate for just a few minutes, my brain has slowed down. So naturally, it’s in a more reflective state to think things through on a higher level.

So it is this slowness, that lets me see through things much better. I can much easier filter the: “oh, I want to get on with this, because I love doing it and it’s important” – tasks out from the “it’s on the list, so let’s get it done” – tasks.

The fact that this happens amazes me, especially as Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my favorite Buddhist authors often says that “meditation means looking deeply”, which is the very definition of reflection I believe.

Granted, I think I’m at the very beginning of improving my reflective mindset, and sure enough I’m still not very good at it. And yet I’m very excited by how fast you can change your outlook this way.

Travelling with the tools of the future: What a weekend trip to L.A. can look like

venice

This weekend, my co-founder Joel and I took a 2 day weekend trip to L.A. There was no particular reason for it really. Ever since we arrived in the US, we hadn’t spent much time exploring other parts of the country, other than SF, so we felt it was time to widen the horizon a bit and get a picture of what other places are like.

Whilst we aren’t particularly proficient travelers, one thing struck us both as exceptional: the tools we used to organize our whole trip. On our way back to the airport we reflected a bit on all the amazing new tools that we are able to make use of to make this trip as smooth as we could possibly think of

It definitely felt that by living in California, we are privileged to be amongst the first to experience new tools, and it feels a lot like we are living in the future.

So, without further ado, here is a list of all the tools that helped us throughout the weekend:

The Hipmunk experience

The first step was to book our flights to L.A. and naturally I always used to associate booking flights with a stressful experience. Not with Hipmunk. The way they display date and time of flights is so unique, that booking the flights becomes incredibly smooth. They compare prices, times and booking overall took us no longer than 15 minutes. This is was a true life-saver to get us off to a good start.

The Uber experience

On the evening before our trip, we checked on our flights, only to realize that they would leave SF earlier than the BART would be in service. Not to worry, with a quick check, we could grab an UberX (cheaper than a cab!) the next morning, which would get us to the airport in exactly 15 minutes.

What amazed me the most about UberX is that it looks like a 100% regular car – the only thing it needs to charge you, find the route, communicate with you as a customer and everything else is an iPhone. That’s it, an iPhone is all you need to turn a car into a cab these days.

The Zipcar experience

After arriving in L.A. we went to grab the Zipcar we had booked a few days before within the app. No queuing for a rental car, no extra fees, no filling in of forms or anything like that. We walked up to our car, placed our ZipCar on top of it, the car opened and we were off on our way.

I belive the ZipCar experience was maybe the most mind-blowing one as we couldn’t believe to just be sitting in our own rental car so quickly just minutes after arriving from the airport.

The AirBnB experience

We spent the whole day exploring L.A. (mainly hanging out at the beach) and went to our AirBnB apartment in the evening. This again was incredibly amazing,  I had texted with the host throughout the day to arrange everything. He had left the apartment open for us. All we had to do was park our car, walk in and we were staying at an amazing, affordable place, where didn’t need any further interaction than hitting a “book it” button on AirBnB.

We left the apartment again the next morning, leaving an apartment without ever having met the host (which of course would have been awesome though!), completely open and were on the road again. Smooth as something really smooth can be.

The Foursquare experience

On Sunday, we spent the whole day in Newport Beach and actually I hadn’t used Foursquare in a while. When we had to find a coffeeshop close by, our first option was Yelp, that didn’t work out all that well, especially as we were in a very touristy place.

Using Foursquare on the other hand was gold, as the friend recommendations for coffeeshops were spot on. We found one a bit hidden away, that I’m sure we’d have never found otherwise. The “2 of your friends were here” was something that absolutely changed everything for the better compared to googling or yelp.

The Google Maps experience

Out of all the experiences that probably stands out the most is Google Maps. Having never been to LA, but finding our way around like we’ve lived there for years absolutely blew my mind.

Of course, GPS devices have been around for a while, but I simply couldn’t get my head around the fact that I’d know about how much traffic there is and what the best routes are at our fingertip. The idea of “being lost” has practically not happened to me for the past few years.

To end this, I’m just amazed by how far we’ve come in terms of traveling the world so effortlessly. I’m incredibly grateful to the advances in tech and can’t wait to see what’s next.

Would love to know about your best travel tips and apps so I can get even more hassle-free next time! 

 

 

So few are part of the tale

Recently, my slight obsession with Lord of the Rings got a tiny bit worse and I dove into reading all the books from start to finish.

Right now, I’ve made my way through The Hobbit and half way through the first part of The Lord of the Rings “The Fellowship of the Ring”. Out of all tales that I have ever seen as a movie or read about in books, the Lord of the Rings seems to have one of the most majestic ones.

Especially the book (as opposed to the movie) is filled with hints and hints to dozens of other tales, stories and riddles, that flesh out the vastness of the plot even more. Those are the stories I like the most. They leave so many questions unanswered and pose even more ones you want to know and wonder about all the time.

The one thing that I noticed though was how few are really part of the tale: It is a handful of people that at the end of the day save the world. In the fellowship there are 9, then there are a few more people involved along the way, who shape events greatly, and that’s it.

After I realized this, I thought about any other story or event that had great meaning to lots of people. And really, I couldn’t find any where there were more than a handful of people involved that shaped everything. I pondered tales of all kinds from Star Wars, to the Bible, to the history of Google or the recent Mars Landing.

Of course, there are always tons and tons of side rolls and supporting characters. And even more people cheering on or greatly opposing of what’s happening. And even more people who simply happen to have lived at the time of the story happening. They are important too. It’s just, they aren’t really part of the tale.