My Pandemic Transformation

My Pandemic Transformation
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi / Unsplash

As I step into 2022 I want to reflect on how much I've grown since the pandemic began in early 2020. It's a bit overwhelming if we haven't had much contact since then (or ever), and that is going to be most of you since I've retreated into a serene private existence with my wife and two children. This will no likely sound arrogant, entitled, and privileged to some. Know that this evolution is a result of seeking out Truth and Happiness, which come hand in hand. I've done my best to introduce each topic with care; each of these can (and likely will) be their own expanded posts in the future.

Before After
Weightlifting Calisthenics and Yoga
Daily News Diet No News
Happiness is Joy Happiness is Peace
Can Only Be Happy if Successful Happiness is a choice
Long Game: 1) Asset Collection and 2) Being as Religious as possible Long Game: 1) Fit Body, Calm Mind, House of Love and 2) Antifragility
Public School Unschool at home
Learn by Listening Learn by Doing
Strong Collective Sovereign Individual
Politically Active Post-Political
Golden Rule Silver Rule
Long Term Plans Optionality is King
Multitasking Single-Threading
High Anxiety Be like an Antelope
No journaling/reading Journal and Reading daily
Scared of having my views public Fear of dying without sharing
Fear of Failure Fear of not living a life true to myself
Chase every dollar Leaving $100K on the table
Overcommitted Addition by Subtraction
Debt is good Debt is bad
Capitalism is bad Capitalism is great
Model-based decision making Heuristics-based decision making
Pro-Stability Pro-Volatility
Pro Gun-Control Anti Gun-Control
Crypto-neutral Pro-Crypto

Before: Weightlifting

After: Calisthenics and Yoga

This first change was the result of the gym closures at the pandemic's outset. I was in the best shape of my life after training Brazilian jiu-jitsu for six months, weightlifting, running, and playing basketball regularly. In a flash, the BJJ, basketball, and weightlifting options were cut off from me. Thankfully, I found some Animal Flow calisthenics and Power Yoga workouts courtesy of the Nike Training App. To my surprise, I was in even better shape after a few months of consistent training at home! As of today, I've been back in BJJ for seven months (after a 14-month layoff) and I do Animal Flow, Yoga, and HIIT running regularly each week. Each week I find myself in better shape and with more energy than the last (with the exception of Xmas and New Years).

Before: Daily News Diet

After: No News

I finally came to the realization that the goal of the media is to engage you in order to sell your attention and maximize their profit. As such, there is no incentive to report that things are going well because that would lead the masses to get back to their work, hobbies, and family; resulting in a loss of eyeballs to sell to advertisers. Every day, the media tells us of things we should be worried or frightened about, choosing their terms with extreme care and setting the boundaries for discourse. It works, as we assume that we are being told what to think by experts who put our interests and well-being first. After careful reflection, all the things I was being told to worry about did not affect my day-to-day life. As an experiment, I tuned out in August 2020 and found that my life didn't suffer; in fact, my emotional well being improved since I was focused more on the things in front of me instead of worrying about events taking place thousands of miles away affecting people I've never met. The news cycle is unproductive at best, toxic at its worst. If I want to know about something, I'll look it up on my time from multiple angles to form my own opinion. It is that simple and I invite everyone to try it for a month.

Before: Can Only Be Happy if Successful

After: Happiness is a Choice

I was always worried about what other people thought of me, especially my parents, my community, my religious leaders, my superiors at work, and greater society. I defined success as a series of boxes to be checked: career, marriage, house, vacations, things. I achieved success on paper yet I still wasn't happy; it all seemed so fragile as I shifted to constant worry and anxiety about losing it all. Then I came across the Almanack of Naval Ravikant and read about how Happiness is a choice we make, a constant state of mind. I realized that I had been aiming at the wrong target. I could choose to be consistently happy, but it was going to take some work and redefining of terms.

Before: Happiness is Joy

After: Happiness is Peace

Happiness has been redefined from instagrammable moments of joy to the satisfaction that I'm on a journey towards pursuits I deem worthwhile. I'm not resentful about the past that got me here, for if I would get rid of my past, I'd also have to discard the wisdom obtained from my experience. I don't worry about the future, for I'm confident I can handle whatever it throws at me. That allows me to be present and focus on what's in front of me. This has afforded me an uninterrupted calm and patience; a peaceful presence.

Before: Pursuing Asset Collection and Religious Points

After: Pursuing a Fit Body, Calm Mind, House full of Love, and Antifragility

My previous gambit was to get a large portfolio of assets to ensure this life was lived with as much comfort, luxury, and joy as possible. The religious points were to ensure that this continued into the afterlife (or next incarnation). Organized religion hadn't been working for me for a long time; nothing I did was ever enough. Organized religion failed the test of the COVID-19 pandemic. I decided to take some of the actionable teachings of religion and leave the mythology behind. Along the way, I became fascinated with the concept of Antifragility (credit: Nassim Taleb), where things get stronger amidst chaos instead of shattering. My pursuits now focus on that which can't be bought, but must instead be earned, and to position myself and my family to thrive in times of volatility, instead of relying on eternal stability.

Before: Public School

After: Unschooling at Home

I was raised in one of the best districts in the country, and I assumed that it was one of the main reasons for my success. After I witnessed the fiasco of remote learning for two months, we put our eldest back into in-person learning. He would come home after six hours having completed only one worksheet each day. Half of his time was spent freely on his Chromebook. The straw that broke the camel's back was that his teacher didn't even meet with us during Spring Conference Week. When we followed up as to why not, we were told that he was satisfactory in all areas and that there was no reason to meet. That's when I finally realized the true ramifications of public schooling... there's no incentive to cater to children who will be just fine, and every incentive to focus on the children who are behind. I recalled my experience in school. I was consistently cornered off with my other gifted peers and given an independent assignment while the teacher focused on the others. Well, if school was going to be a de-facto daycare, nay, white-collar prison, for my child, we decided to cut out the middleman and begin a journey of homeschooling/unschooling at home. It's been one of the most rewarding decisions of our lives and we don't have plans to return to public school life anytime soon.

Before: Learn by Listening

After: Learn by Doing

I have to credit Nassim Taleb for his simple explanation, but no matter how much time one spends in the classroom, we learn the main lessons of life through experience. When teaching my sons to ride their bikes, I don't have to start with advanced physics and theories on a whiteboard; they simply learn to balance through experience. The same applies to other areas in life, such as running a business. You can be versed in all the mental models that help one process information, but it takes experience and clear judgment to know which circumstances to apply a specific model to.

Before: Strong Collective

After: Sovereign Individual

Society, Community, Family, Religion. What is beneficial for these collectives does not necessarily benefit the individual. I've been against large institutions ever since I digested what "Too Big to Fail" actually meant in terms of bailing out Wall Street in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Collectives are against change, which means they are anti-progress. Collectives overweigh seniority and underweigh merit. My goal in being a Sovereign Individual is to cultivate abilities to achieve full freedom, it's not mandating 100% self-sufficiency. Just as I want to have the ability to walk a few miles to my local library, I'll take my car instead for convenience, but I don't want to be overdependent on it and let myself atrophy. Trade and exchange outside of familial relations are what sets us homo-sapiens apart from other species and it's what has allowed us to progress to the top of the chain as the alpha species. However, I don't want to be over-dependent on others and I don't want to depend on eternal stability. That which you rely on will at some point let you down. Thus, I want to be free from relying on Society, Community, Family, and Religion and be able to depend on myself instead.

Before: Politically Active

After: Post-Political

I phone banked and knocked on doors for Beto O'Rourke as part of his 2018 Senate campaign (he lost narrowly to Ted Cruz). The Sovereign Individual was the book that connected the dots for me and gave me the logic and reason to become post-political; it will be the subject of a future post because there are too many gems to share and it wouldn't be productive without the proper context. Both the DNC and RNC are corrupt. There will be no significant progress with the two-party system because Democrats want social progress but smother free-market commerce while Republicans embrace free-market commerce but stifle social progress. Neither party (nor their supporters) understand that free-market commerce and social progress come together hand-in-hand. Once people utilize trade and commerce to escape poverty, they want better social conditions for their descendants. Also, should my emotional well-being really rest on who holds political office? This isn't the Ming Dynasty. Where is the meritocracy I was promised? If I work effectively, I should be able to prosper no matter which corrupt bureaucrats and cronies are holding public office and looting public funds. Becoming post-political allowed me to redirect attention and energy towards my family and my pursuit of becoming a Sovereign Individual.

Before: Golden Rule

After: Silver Rule

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" doesn't work in negative situations, when one experiences downside. I found the Silver Rule via Nassim Taleb: "Do not treat others the way you would not like them to treat you." It's essentially an inverse of the Golden Rule; it's far more effective because it's easier to prevent a loss than to know what is going to turn out well. It also feeds into the concept of addition by subtraction and makes "doing nothing" a far more attractive choice; and to be clear, "doing nothing" should always be given fair consideration before action is taken.

The Rest...

I'll be summarizing the rest of my shifts in a future post. I hope you found this useful.