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minimalism in a nerdy world

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Are you afraid of missing out, or afraid of not being missed?

Well the phone don’t ring ’cause my friends ain’t home.

-Bryan Adams “When You’re Gone”

The most addictive part of social media, smart phones, email, and our interconnection is what is called the fear of missing out. FOMO for short.

The world seems to be spinning faster and faster, and we race to stay up to the minute, connected, onside, informed.

But the hard truth is that when we forget to charge our phone, or get stuck in a meeting, or take a quick nap, the world spins on without us.

That “news” you missed is really 85 tweets all linking to the same article.

That phone call that went to voicemail was a recorded sales call.

And those folks you thought were your friends did not think of you once while you were catching some z’s.

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minimalism v. The Endowment Effect

I am the most offensively possessive man on earth. I do something to things. Let me pick up an ashtray from a dime-store counter, pay for it and put it in my pocket—and it becomes a special kind of ashtray, unlike any on earth, because it’s mine.

-Ayn Rand “The Fountainhead”

It is always interesting to me when diverse schools of thought converge in slow living. Listening to one of my favorite podcasts, NPR’s Planet Money, I stumbled upon the work of Richard Thaler, recent winner of the Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

Thaler, the founder of the field  of behavioral economics, primarily studies why everybody makes economic decisions that are not in their best interests, and do so consistently.

The theory that sparked my mind is what Thaler calls ‘the Endowment Effect.’ Thaler and his colleagues have repeated experiment after experiment showing that the simple fact of ownership of a Thing increases the financial value we ascribe to the Thing.

This pattern—the fact that people often demand much more to give up an object than they would be willing to pay to acquire it—is called the endowment effect

-Richard Thaler

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Minimalist Collector video: minimalism and economic theory

Learning is just collecting for information

Thank the heaven above I’m an educated man and know nothing whatever upon any subject at all.

-Agatha Christie “The Seven Dials Mystery”

For the past week, I have been hooked on the newly released JFK files. I was a conspiracy buff in my 20s (long since not) and these files were one of those mythic items at the time. Promised in Oliver Stone’s JFK to be the answers to all questions.

I have been digging through them, and my eagerness to download them all and jump in reminded me of a personality trait that has been my greatest strength and also led me to accumulate so much over the years.

I have a compulsive, completionist personality.

That’s why I am drawn to collecting but also to learning.

Collecting is, at its core, the desire to have all, some, most, or the most perfect assemblage of something. As defined by you or by others. Every issue of a comic series, every movie by a certain director, a spoon from every city you’ve visited.

My youth was one of checklists, want lists, and things I “needed” to keep the collections complete.

I am compelled to see how things fit together. I learned how to make databases as a teen in the 90s so I could keep track of comic characters. My fascination with religion that led me to two degrees in the subject was born of a desire to understand how the pieces of it impact our lives and culture.

My passion for learning is, at times, overwhelming. When I find a new subject of interest, I feel compelled to dive in. To research it to exhaustion. When I began reading about the rise of fascism in 1930s Germany, I devoured book after book on the subject until repetition finally ended the thread.

When I discovered minimalism, I did notjust watch one documentary, I read a dozen books. Again only taking a break when I couldn’t glean anything new out of the next pile of source material.

This desire to reach the end of the body of knowledge is perhaps the biggest challenge I currently have with social media. I can’t get the ‘complete’ anything there. There is no ‘bottom’ to the Twitter or Facebook timeline. Instead, Twitter eventually stops loading page scrolls but promises it is only a problem “at this time.”

I can only get up to the minute. And part of my brain is hooked on the next thing not from a fear of missing out, but instead an innate desire to have all of the information.

I have been told in the past that I fixate on topics, sometimes to the irritation of those around me. That is not something that will change, because that fixation, the intellectual curiosity, is what drives me to learn and be better at what I do. It is what drives my thinking in minimalism.

Years ago I kept a journal and the first thing I wrote in it was a promise to myself – “For every thing I learn, I will learn one more.”



Minimalist Collector video – minimalism is a walk in the park

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