HUBRIS 11 April 2021: Check Out My Podcast!

This is Hubris: 11 April 2021 Edition, the newsletter where I think I’ve written something worth reading. Today I want to talk about the new podcast, and give you some updates on other projects!

unqualified with berin kinsman

UNQUALIFIED is a podcast about minimalism, defiance, and inner peace. The first two episodes are out now! In the first episode I explain what I’m trying to express by doing this podcast. The second episode explores why minimalists have so much to say about such a seemingly simple concept.

For the moment the show is exclusively on Patreon, but you can listen to the first to episodes for FREE without having to become a patron. There are 4 additional episodes already recorded and scheduled, with more on the way.

Project Mushroom Update

The search for new studio space is in a holding pattern right now. I expect to get some news in the coming week, so that we can move forward. Things like the podcast will be a lot easier to produce, and sound better, when we have a dedicated space to do it. I moved ahead with launching it this week because the timeline on this can’t be nailed down. If I put everything into a holding pattern until certain things are resolved, I could be sitting idle for months.

For the moment, I’m focusing on decluttering and organizing. We’re going to be moving at some point. Things need to be sold off, given away, recycled, or thrown out prior to the move, so I might as well do it now. I’m trying to use the waiting time to get as prepared as possible. It also isn’t a bad idea to pare things down anyway. Most people would think I own next to nothing, but I think I own way too much crap.

Project Acorn Update

A strategic partner just threw another curveball at me this week, in the form of updated specifications. Fortunately I hadn’t gotten to the thing that needs to be done differently yet. It’s not a matter of having to do things over, it’s just having to alter the plans a little bit.

While there are some portions of this project that can’t be completed until we’re in the new studio space, there’s a lot that can be done. I’m trying to get as much, if not all, of that done ahead of time. Then once we’re in the new space, I can immediately begin to leverage it.

In Case You Missed It

HUBRIS 11 April 2021

HUBRIS 4 April 2021: Minimalism and Big Ideas

This is Hubris: 4 April 2021 Edition, the newsletter where I think I’ve written something worth reading. Today I want to talk about minimalism and big ideas. I also want provide some project updates!

Minimalism and Big Ideas

This week I made one big change to my life. I stopped working in after dinner. Now I have made the commitment to spend my evenings reading. No screens, no music, just a quiet room and a book in my hand. I’ve started a new category here on the site, Ideas, where I will be periodically posting quotes from whatever book I’m currently reading, along with my thoughts about it.

The books I’m reading have been sorted into two stacks. One I’m calling Minimalism, even if the authors and publishers don’t consider the books to be such. These books have ideas and concepts that are in alignment with simple living. It includes titles like Greg McKeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs, and Mel Robbins’ The 5 Second Rule.

The other I’m simply calling Humanity, because it spans everything from behavioral science to analyses of popular culture. They’re all books about where we are as a society, how we got here, and where we’re likely headed. This stack includes things like Chris Hedges’ Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, Charlie LeDuff’s Sh*tshow: The Country’s Collapsing… and the Ratings Are Great, and The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny by William Strauss and Neil Howe.

Projects Projects Projects

Other than that, everything has been centered on the three big projects I have going on right now. All of them are actually buckets of related projects, rather than one distinct things. The distinctions center on the end goal of each project, so there are three large objectives that I’m trying to achieve. That’s the easiest way for me to explain it. Boiling it down to three projects, rather than a lot of little projects with dozens of moving parts, is the only way for me to keep things straight in my head. It’s a lot less overwhelming.

Project Mushroom Update

Partial Reveal: Project Mushroom has to do with Katie and I finding new studio space. We both need a better arrangement in order to grow our respective businesses. It’s far more complicated than that, and there are a lot of moving parts, but that’s the basic gist of things. As for why we need the space, that still needs to remain under wraps for a while. We don’t want to set expectations when fulfilling them is contingent upon getting the studio.

Project Acorn Update

Partial Reveal: Project Acorn is a major initiative for my lo-fi publishing company, Dancing Lights Press. By the end of this year, I want to take the business to the next level. What that means, exactly, is something I want to wait to reveal until all of my ducks are in a row. Too many things are tenuous at the moment, and I want certain aspects to be finalized before blurting out what’s going on.

This, of course, has contingencies related to new studio space. That will not only impact what our capabilities are, but the timeline for settling into that space will affect the timeline of this project as well. That’s why I can’t commit to any exact dates; we don’t know when we’re going to move, or how long it will take us to get set up again in the new space.

Project Beauty Update

Partial Reveal: Project Beauty has to do with this site. There are a few interrelated projects in the works, all of which spin off from here. All of them are related to minimalism. I wanted to do a soft rollout this week, with the limited capabilities of my current workspace, but I needed to focus on Project Mushroom.

Again, a lot of this hinges on the new studio space. It impacts how I’ll be able to implement aspects of this project, and getting set up in the new studio space will affect the timeline for rollout.

In Case You Missed It

Dealing with Real and Imagined Obstacles

This is Hubris: 28 March 2021 edition. In this issue I want to talk about dealing with real and imagined obstacles. 

Welcome to Part 4 in this series on conducting a values assessment. Part 1 was about foundational values, the things that are in theory universal to all of us. Part 2  discussed personal values, and using them as daily touchstones. In part Part 3 I covered what Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus call minor values, the little things that make life better. Today we’re at the end and looking at the concept of imaginary values, which act as obstacles in your life.

This was the category that took me the longest time to get my head around. These are obstacles that masquerade as values. They influence your thoughts and actions, in ways that often seem reasonable and justified. All they really do is make it harder for you to live your other values. That’s why I spent the most time contemplating these. Figuring out all of the other stuff is pointless if you have these hurdles in the way.

After brainstorming and comparing my list to The Minimalists’ example, these are my personal imaginary values. I’ll explain my rational for each, in the hope of making this concept clearer.

Imaginary Values

  • Anger: Without going into my life story I carry a lot of anger around. The world is largely a cruel and unjust place, and that’s wrong. Bad people get away with unspeakable things, and good people are exploited and made to needlessly suffer. While anger can be a motivating force, as long as it’s channeled into constructive activities, I too often rationalize it. That means that I don’t examine it too closely, look for root causes, or try to diffuse it.
  • Contempt for Ignorance: People who deny facts and perform intellectual gymnastics to avoid reality infuriate me. We live in a world where all manner of information is literally at our fingertips, yet some people choose to embrace conspiracy theories, superstitions, and harmful ideologies. Like anger, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Where it becomes problematic as a value is that it keeps me from connecting with people, learning how they got to these weird dark places, and figuring out how to maybe guide them back into the light.
  • Contempt for Selfishness: It’s just a lack of compassion and empathy, an utter disregard for how one’s actions might negatively impact other people. As with ignorance, though, I tend to tune out the people that are being selfish, dismissing them as one-dimensional cartoon villains with simple motives. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes, though, there are complex issues and I end up missing the bigger picture. Which means I could end up fighting the wrong fight, and addressing symptoms rather than root causes.
  • Violence: There was a time when I was a news junkie and a fan of violent television and movie dramas. I accepted violent images as part of the status quo, and necessary to tell the story. It added to the realism. I’m not saying that media desensitizes people, or makes them more prone to commit acts of violence themselves. I’m saying that as I’ve gotten older, violence gets on my nerves and sets off my anxiety. Cheap thrills keep me from appreciating more subtle and nuanced things.

Dealing with Real and Imagined Obstacles

All of these come down to my world view, to one degree or another. They’re the filters through which I process information. So I need to be able to assess things without anger, contempt, or acceptance of some aggressive status quo. To be the change, I need to set these imaginary values aside, or at least be aware that I have these biases and tendencies. Then I an access my actual values, not the ones that I’ve been conditioned to fall back on as a result of negative experiences with the world.

Acknowledging the Small Things That Make Life Better

This is Hubris: 21 March 2021 edition. In this issue I want to talk about acknowledging the small things that make life better.

This is part three in this series on conducting a values assessment. Part 1 was about foundational values, the things that are in theory universal to all of us. Part 2  was about personal values, and using them as daily touchstones. That brings us to to what Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus call minor values, the little things that make life better.

I am once again guiding myself off of their examples. I’m not sure that I’d really qualify these as values in the traditional sense. They’re more like things that I value, rather than core beliefs of guiding principles. Maybe when you dig down this deep, and start looking at details, it starts to become about essential items and specific actions. At least those things are on the third tier down, and not at the very top.

Minor Values

As stated above, small things that make life better are categorized as minor values. You’re not going to base major decisions on these things, and your life won’t fall apart without them. Somehow, though, they make things a little easier and bring a little bit of joy into your life. After brainstorming and comparing my list to The Minimalists’ example, this is what I landed on for myself:

  • Cleanliness: Even if my things are a little raggedy, as long as everything is clean I feel respectable. I think this comes down to valuing utility over appearance, and being frugal to a point that’s almost extreme.
  • Coffee: This is my drug of choice, literally and figuratively. It helps me to manage my cognitive function disorder, and keeps my going when I’m having sleep issues. Coffee is more than that, though. It’s a comforting ritual. It’s an excuse to take a break, so I can process and gather my thoughts. I would classify it a meditation-adjacent.
  • Comfort: I would rather have clothes that fit well than a closet full of fashion. Good bedding and fluffy towels are probably my favorite possessions. I dislike clutter because I am a lumbering beast that needs room to move, so I feel more at ease in open spaces.
  • Food: If I put any stock into “love languages”, this would be mine. Being able to feed myself, rather than relying on others to prepare my food, makes me feel in control of my life. Having a well-stocked pantry makes me feel secure. Cooking for other people is how I show them I care about them. I would rather have quality than quantity, and that’s not only a more delicious experience, it tends to be healthier.
  • Reading: There are things that happen to your brain when you read regularly. I fear we’re losing them as society shifts to primarily audio/visual content. Unfortunately people love to argue with me about this, but this list isn’t about them. It’s about what brings joy into my life. This connects to the foundational value of Growth, and the structural value of Wisdom.
  • Tidiness: When I need something, I want to be able to find it and get to it easily. Moving around, I don’t want to trip over things or knock things over. This connects not only to cleanliness, but comfort. Clutter is also visual noise, which triggers my cognitive function issues. Al of these things connect to why I’m a minimalist.

Acknowledging the Small Things That Make Life Better

At the start of this values assessment, I was looking for meaning. I didn’t feel that what I do for a living makes any great contribution to the world. When I get into my personal values, I had an epiphany as to how I could use my work to express those values. It’s about how I approach work, and the way I strive to embody those values.

What I take away from this week is that it’s okay to simply abide. There doesn’t always have to be a grand crusade to promote one’s core beliefs and share one’s guiding principles. I extract a great deal of contentedness, if not joy, from simply cleaning the apartment and then sitting down with a cup of coffee. Know who you are, and don’t overthink it.

Using Your Personal Values as Daily Touchstones

This is Hubris: 14 March 2021 edition. In this issue I want to talk about using your personal values as daily touchstones.

Last week I talked about doing a values assessment. I discussed 5 foundational values, and how I defined them in the context of my life. Today I want to go a bit deeper and look at what Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus refer to as Structural Values. These are your personal values. They might be what you embody, but more likely they’re the things that you strive toward.

Below is the list I came up with for my own structural values. I’ve been using them as daily touchstones, to contextualize my daily tasks. The way I prioritize things and approach doing them has been heavily influenced by this context.

Structural Values

  • Arts: Literature, fine art, and the performing arts have the power to elevate and inspire us. In a world driven by consumerism, the arts become more important.
  • Autonomy: It’s important to me to have as much control over my life as possible. I want my choices to be dictated by my values, not society’s.
  • Learning: My skills can always be improved, and there are always new things to learn. This connects to the foundational value of Growth.
  • Productivity: Using my time effectively is important to me. It becomes moreso as I age. This connects to the foundational value of Contribution.
  • Resources: I define this is as having the money, time, and focus to accomplish the things that I want to do. This is the main reason I’m a minimalist. I don’t like waste.
  • Safety: This is knowing that my needs are going to be met, now and in the future. It’s more than food, clothing, shelter, and health care. It’s over financial security.
  • Solitude: I enjoy being alone with my own thoughts. I am an introvert and curmudgeon, so I need to curate the time I spend with people for both their sake and my own. My life is easier for me when I don’t have noise and distractions.
  • Trust: Without going into my life story, I have trust issues. This is why I have a small, close circle of friends. To be able to rely on people is important.
  • Vision: I value the ability to make a plan and see it through. Without this, we stumble along with no purpose. This connects to the foundational value of Contribution.
  • Wisdom: There is a severe lack of reason and critical thinking skills in the world. This connects to the way I defined the foundational value of Creativity.

Using Your Personal Values as Daily Touchstones

I wrote these values on the inside back cover of my bullet journal. At some point I’ll likely make a small poster listing them, and post it in plain sight near my desk. As I’m taking on projects or working on daily task lists, I compare the things I’m putting on myself to these values.

Sometimes it’s easy to find where things fit. Does a project fit with my vision for the company? Will changing a process increase my productivity? If the answer is yes, move on. Other times it’s more complex. Is working with this person giving them an opportunity to betray my trust, and at the cost of my autonomy? Am I going to have to move outside of my comfort zone, and if so, is it worth the loss of solitude? Will this task somehow support the arts, or promote critical thinking?

The value to be gained from a task might not be the obvious one. It might be worth doing something because it touches on one of the “deep cut” values that are important to me. That’s begun to shift my perspective on why I do things, and to help me begin finding purpose in what I’m doing.