the last one


dear faithful readers,

52 newsletters, 47 books later, i have reached the end of my 2016 book project.

these are some of the things i learnt.

(more accurately, i am learning because a) i am slow b) some things you’d never stop learning and c) “teacher there are things I don’t want to learn”*.)

“It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes problems.”
(The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer)

our minds are constantly judging events, others people and ourselves. these judgments can be counter-productive and harmful.

i hate it when people stand side by side on escalators and block others who are in a hurry from going past them. i used to think horrible thoughts about these people. to stop the commotion in my mind, i silently say a mantra in these circumstances:

“i am not their saviour” (meaning i am not put here on earth to redeem them from their bad manners and self-centredness – it’s meant to be funny and ridiculous so that i can lighten up and not be an ass).

Also related:

“I remember explaining to myself that the whole world consisted of people just like me who were making much ado about nothing and suffering from it tremendously.”
(Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves From Old Habits and Fears by Pema Chödrön)

“Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
(Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown)

i have memorised this quote. i often say it to myself and write it repeatedly on paper. i find it relaxing.

to live every moment deeply. it can transform your experience of the most mundane activities: walking, sitting still, taking public transport, brushing teeth. you no longer need candy crush to entertain you.

“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” – Lin Yutang
(Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown)

we eliminate the non-essentials so that we can focus on the things that truly matters.

obama: “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

“Weniger aber besser” (Less but better) – Dieter Rams
(Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown)

so happy to have found this quote. this is so much better than less is more because more is still a problem.

people want to add, when they should subtract.

“We spend much of our day on autopilot—not giving much thought to what we’re doing with our time. This is a problem.”
(Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport)

it seems like i’m reaching out for my phone whenever i have a spare second. so now, by default, my mobile data is turned off. i turn it on when i need to do something.

i also resist looking at the phone when i’m eating, at the traffic light, in the lift, when i’m alone…

the result – i am using my phone much less.

in 2017, i will significantly reduce my use of Facebook, which has been a great waste of time and relates to the next point…

“and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.”
(Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert)

these are small things: social media, grudges, lousy blockbusters, manchester united, selfish people, candy crush.

“I’d finally been able to give it because I’d let go of all the grandiose ideas I’d once had about myself and my writing—so talented! so young! I’d stopped being grandiose. I’d lowered myself to the notion that the absolute only thing that mattered was getting that extra beating heart out of my chest. Which meant I had to write my book. My very possibly mediocre book. My very possibly never-going-to-be-published book. My absolutely nowhere-in-league-with-the-writers-I’d-admired-so-much-that-I-practically-memorized-their-sentences book. It was only then, when I humbly surrendered, that I was able to do the work I needed to do.”
(tiny beautiful things: advice on love and life from dear sugar by cheryl strayed)

…instead of having stupid grandiose ideas about myself and my work.

“These are not pretty things, but they are true things.”
(tiny beautiful things: advice on love and life from dear sugar by cheryl strayed)

life is unfair. people are ungrateful. people are unkind. you can’t always get what you want.* i have many flaws. i am inconsistent. i am very proud. i am scared. i am not as good as i think i am. i am my worst enemy.

these are not pretty things, but they are true things.


i’m only 16 books in and will stop here.

this is enough, for you and for me.

enough is another important lesson.

i started with some incredible books and if there’s one i recommend above all else, it’s tiny beautiful things.

it is intellectually honest, experientially wise and heartachingly beautiful.

it made me cry a lot and have a bit more hope in this fragile, fucked up world.


this is my last regular newsletter.

i will be writing only infrequently so that i can focus on my 2017 project.

thank you for reading.

special thanks to stuart, hiromi, may, michelle, angie and rachel for writing to me sometimes.

*Thank you George Michael for your life and your music – I’d say love was a magical thing.

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