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Approaching Minimalism

February 13, 2019 | Life Updates, Ramblings | No Comments

Source: Unsplash, Louis Brassard

An introduction to why I’ve written “Sort through X” on my daily to do lists as of recent!

If you were to ask anyone who knew me well, they’d claim that I have not exhibited values or mindsets which dance around the same way that a minimalists does. I am so far from such a genre (according to some), that I made the joke of calling myself the ‘failed minimalist’ to which, a chorus agreed. Yet, I don’t think it’s impossible for anyone to swing that direction if their interests focus that way. I’ve been conducting research through both YouTube and also forums on how individuals gradually converted over to minimalism -taking on lifestyles inspired by minimalism, and the common thread is that the once the mindset changes, the rest will follow. There are plenty of YouTubers explaining the concept, some of which I’ve included below (starting to see how big a fan I am of Matt D’Avella?) for anyone interested in learning more.

Less is More

It’s funny how easy it is to misunderstand minimalism, I did for years before truly becoming acquainted with what many consider to be the sensible, modern minimalism concept. It’s not about living in a box with only one attire to get you through everyday (could you imagine?), but instead living with only what you need. This means not consuming and housing excess possessions which do not provide value to your person in the average everyday. It’s about not owning more than one good suit unless you wear them more frequently than the average yearly wedding, funeral, and celebration. That is what many explain in the video, so I figured I’d throw in my own thoughts as well.

Closet, Attire and Shoes

I cannot say that I’m one to subscribe to the daily-attire being the exact same wardrobe (duplicates, not re-worn!), but I can see where limiting the wardrobe options to fewer entries being beneficial. Being honest with myself, I probably have two-times the amount of dress shirts than needed for any standard work week or laundry cycle; observations like these being the first creeping of minimalism thoughts perhaps? In the past few weeks, I’ve slowly made tasks for myself (often completed with eagerness) to sort through various pieces of attire and evaluate if it truly brings value to me now, or in the upcoming year. If not, donate or discard! There is still a lot of work to do, but the progress is very similar to that of spring cleaning; a refreshing walkthrough and clearing, similar to pruning a garden of weeds and crud

For shoes, I find myself somehow becoming a collector in the past few years, having owned multiple sets of Vans, Pumas, and Aldos even. This one will be a tougher process since each set of shoes have a specific purpose, some better for long days out walking and being active compared to the typical office dress shoes. On top of that, I’ve also started walking the lines of understanding what it is to be a closet-sneaker-head, which of course conflicts with this article’s topic. This in truth, similar to photography may also simply be a phase, a trend which latched on for a specific time. A follow up update may be appropriate if I’ve dove deeper into these mindsets in the coming months.

Source: Unsplash, Henrik Dønnestad

Digital Life

I’ve suffered from what I like to call “organized digital clutter” since working with my first Dell desktop over a decade ago; files, organized as best as possible into folders, and then stored into parent folders to provide context and hierarchy. Dozens of useless applications installed which are only open once a year, yet  causing system slowdown and friction with the everyday tasks. I’m still figuring out how to approach some of the file clutter, but for now removing redundant applications is a step in the right direction towards digital clarity. I wonder if that’s even possible for a software developer.

Likewise, looking at my current daily driver the Google Pixel 2 XL, similar to all I have the standard applications, popular applications, and the obscure and often (or so I hope) unique ones installed. How many do I use daily? Much fewer than the amount available. So much so, that Google’s Files app has even recommended applications which I have never or rarely open to be uninstalled. So I do. I’ve found that if the application is not useful within a week, and does not serve a purpose which I’m directly interested in outside of that week span (such as buying concert tickets, viewing movie listings etc), delete. The fewer options feels relieving, as if hurdles of pointless notifications and digital jank was simply wiped away.

Purchases

I find that in the past few months (excluding the holidays in which all of our minds switch to spend-spend-spend sadly), my Amazon (primary retailer) purchases have reduced greatly. I find myself contemplating quite a bit now when interested in items, quantifying their value, worth and if they will add clutter to an already clutter filled room. I find this train of thought to be a major ally to how I spend my income, pushing them to savings instead, and instead creating wish lists on various sites to revisit if the interests returns to re-quantify. Even without the concept of minimalism, this is a train of thought that I wish I knew so far back as high school.

Moving Forward

So, where do we go from here?

For some, playing the minimalist’s game (linked below) will help transition you further into the concept and lifestyle of a minimalist (take that phrase with a grain of salt), for others such as myself: I simply want to keep working towards decluttering and removing “noise” or “valueless” objects and scenarios from my everyday life at a pace which accommodates the world around. In a year, will I wear one exact wardrobe style? Perhaps, but only if the interests dwell there. We shall see!

I’m curious, if you made it this far and checkout the resources below, do share your thoughts and experiences!

Resources

My Minimalist Wardrobe

The Benefits of a Minimalist Wardrobe

What’s In a Minimalimist’s Travelbag

The Art of Letting Go

What I Wish I Knew Before starting Minimalism

I tried Minimalism For a Week

We Try CEO Morning Routines

The Minimalists Game

Lessons

This past year has been full of lessons, just as every year before; an expected constant which I think is important to reflect upon just around the end to identify growth, ambitions and also sway between where life is taking you, and which steps you want to take. Instead of mentioning the negative lessons, inner turmoil and emotional demons, I wanted to touch upon some career and personal growth discoveries that I learned this past year – some even being common sense! Without further ado, here is three lessons from 2018 and three goals for 2019:

Protect Your Hearing at Concerts (Ear Plugs)

In December, I went to a back-to-back dual-set (try saying that three times fast) show put on by my emo years hero’s: Silverstein (touring with Hawthorne Heights, As Cities Burn, Capstan). It was absolutely fantastic, and also long (4+ hours it felt like of loud music, blasted straight at your eager-to-headbang self)! For the first time in all my concert going events, I decided to wear hearing protection (which I always carried, but forevermore decided to ignore) since I knew I’d be close to the stage and also exposed to incredibly loud and sharp sounds for hours on end. Fast forward to end the end of the night, and I noticed the following thoughts or side affects:

  • My ears weren’t ringing nearly as much, or as loudly as one would expect.
  • The removal of the high ‘shrills’ due to the hearing protection actually made the live sound more enjoyable.
  • I was able to talk perfectly normal the next hour, and the next day.
  • I hopefully will not go deaf from this concert at least.

I’m definitely continuing this for the majority of my upcoming concerts this year.

Step Away from Technology Periodically

Simply put, learn to step away from all of the screens; the digital distractions and notifications, the networks, the allure. I’ve been a huge Matt D’Avella fan, and his video Breaking Your Phone Addiction’ really struck a chord with me as I immediately became aware of the digital ‘twitch’ that he described in the video and discussed similar findings with another like friend who was researching similar (thanks for the chat Andrew!). There was one more item that I noticed when I set all technology aside for the vast majority of December (sans work of course), it gave me room to clear my head and also evaluate interests, focus, and other non-digital topics.

For the past four years, I’ve enveloped myself in all things digital and binary-centric (aside from writing notes here and there and attempting to journal off and on), so this was really taking myself out of my expected comfort zone. Once you realize this, allow yourself to breathe and take in the world around  you; it’ll allow your never-stopping head to finally slow down and relax. I’ve learned from peers that some do this easier than others, sometimes naturally.

Take Yourself out of Your Comfort Zone

My career titles  since starting Seneca College have been rather humorous. As I’ll explain below in further detail, I got into software development because I was interested in Android, iOS and Desktop Application development. Yet, my first two coops (the later of which stemmed over a year) both revolved around web developer job titles (Web Developer, Front-end Developer, Full Stack Developer), and my current full time title revolves around the DevOps and Cloud Engineering concepts. It’s nowhere near what I originally went for.

Yet, I am content as hell to have experienced and learned those positions, since they took me out of my comfort zone and emersed me in such a different scope each time that I could add a different stack specialization from each title. In English, it forced me to become a better developer; a more well-versed and depth-aware programmer who could make awesome (I hope) websites for his own work, orchestrate and manage the CI/CD pipelines for his applications and also manage their cloud infrastructure – all in the span of three years. If you take yourself out of what’s familiar, you may benefit similar to as I have, and perhaps learn tricks that will boost the capabilities of your true passions.

Goals

Below, I’ve listed some goals that I’m aiming to complete (there are more, but I think it’s better to start small and see where we can go from there) for this year. Some of these goals revolve around daily involvement, so there has to be some realism and flexibility during the more hectic days where travel, meetings, and events consume precious hours of the day. Still, the worst that can happen is I turn away now or midway, so why not focus on being consistent where possible, and picking up as soon as possible from a falter (such wisdom [sarcasm])?

Read 20 books

In the average week, I probably watch a few hours max of Netflix (perhaps more than I like to admit since I have now given in to enough peer pressure that I am catching up on the classic ‘Friends’), and binge  both foreground and background focus with YouTube. I like to consume as much as I can through the platform, both in documentaries, tutorials, technological journalism, music, etc.Yet, I found myself also enjoying and truly growing as an individual not by the countless videos , but by the books I was invested in. Reading during my travels is by far one of the most common commuting habits I have, and in the past year I’ve managed to read fifteen rather lengthy books (all can be found on my GoodReads). My goal for 2019, read twenty books -and then keep going from there!

Complete Google’s Android + Kotlin Online Course

I got into programming with the intent of learning how to develop Android and iOS applications. Having completed the introductory courses offered by Seneca for both courses, I longed for more. Along the way of working towards my career, I took a few directional steps that some would consider wasted efforts or missteps -I don’t agree, but I certainly didn’t jump to mobile application job offerings at all; aiming instead for modern web development, DevOps and Open Source-y goodness. This past Google I/O, a new course created in tandem by Udacity and Google was released which targeted intermediate Android application development with Kotlin. I figured, it’s the perfect course to pursue my original motivations, and hopefully also position myself closer to where I think (at least as of writing this article) my specialization should be. The great reward from taking a course like this is that for one, I get to develop and enrich myself in the technology stack closer to my original intents as a hobby and personal growth task, and also implement ideas, portfolio items, and hopefully useful items available to many based around what I’d learn from the course. They would be hopefully architected and developed in a way to be somewhat future proof (one can hope)!

Journal Daily

I wrote about the benefits of having an analog notekeeping workflow perhaps a year or more ago; and since then I’ve had an on-off relationship with the same workflow due to a world that moved faster than I could keep up with on paper. Realistically, it’s no excuse; I got sidetracked or dropped the idea of paper notes and journalling and organizing for “it’s somewhere in my head, don’t worry!” promises. Since December, I decided to revisit and truly dedicate time to the subject; following a reduced variant of the Bullet Journal system created by Ryder Carroll. I found that after journalling consistently for two weeks, I found myself more at peace mentally with my thoughts of the day. Instead of having tasks and useless notes swimming around an already burnt-out head, I could instead put them somewhere a little more permanent to rest and congregate.

Now, I can reference them in one location, and declutter one more segment of my mental capacity with each new entry. It’s not all smooth sailing mind you, there is time and effort put into this system which may appear as a waste to anyone else not using the same exact system, but I find there is a beauty in it too: because each pen stroke is permanent unless otherwise trashed or overwritten, you truly do have to ponder and make think before the first word is put down. Notes truly mean something to you (since the purpose is also to avoid being verbose) and serve as a way to organize so much with just a paper book. At the same time, as I find more ‘modules’ (as I’ve come to call them), I write down the needs and how I think it would work best so that with the next bullet journal, I can place it properly into the system instead of being found on a random page as a rough draft. Needless to say, I’m enjoying the investment so far.

For those interested in also the course:   

https://www.udacity.com/course/developing-android-apps-with-kotlin–ud9012

For Those interested in the Bullet Journal system:

https://bulletjournal.com/

For those interested in my previous writings on Analog Journaling:

For those interested in Breaking Your Phone Addiction (Highly recommend):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cV5GWt26qDo

City Bokeh
“City Blur”

So, this blog post has been long overdue. There is both so many experiences and thoughts I want to share, and yet so few which I personally feel would be of any use to you. Regardless, without any order, here are some of the activities that I’ve enjoyed and also learned from this summer. For the technical, programming centric, let me follow that up with a smaller post since I didn’t commit anything major this summer outside of my work at ManuLife (which has its own lessons including Docker, Kubernetes, Concourse, Chef, … let’s write an article on that soon, okay?).

PS. TLDR can be found at the bottom.

Photography

It’s no surprise to many who’ve followed my social media channels outside of Twitter that I’ve started adopting many vlogger / cinematography based habits including in-the-moment streaming, hourly updates, and capturing images in any way I can while trying to express a dramatic composition. Through social media, I also complained about small annoyances (such as not being able to change the focal length or aperture on my Pixel 2 XL. First world problems?) which probably should have been simple annoyances, but instead led me to purchasing a second-hand Sony Alpha A6000. Out of all the impulse purchases made, I think this is arguably one of the most spontaneous, and also best purchases I’ve made without hesitation. The camera enables both a new level of expressive outlets, and also a new money-swallowing hobby for me to jump headfirst into.

Svitlana likes to use the camera as well
Svitlana likes to use the camera as well

Yet, I didn’t once hesitate or draw regret over the purchase or the hobby. Instead, I began planning more and more events, trips, areas to visit with frequent friends such as Svitlana, Jessica, and Nick. I began spending countless hours learning about framing, editing RAW images, and also how to manage a basic following -all through the magic of YouTube, Udemy or Pluralsight (Thanks ML for hooking me up with PS for free!). The visits to the hometown became much more meaningful, and allowed me to stretch the concepts I was learning where possible. I spent two hours waiting for a chipmunk (named Fred fyi) to come and go, getting closer and closer to the camera until finally I captured shots such as this.

Fred the Chipmunk
Fred the Chipmunk

My interests in Photography also helped both my father’s media and branding, and my friends who’s social media accounts were itching for new profile pictures, content, and edits. I suppose the creative side broke through quite a bit over the summer thanks to photography. Here are some shots which are either my favorite, my friend’s favorites, or ones being withheld from Instagram for now as I figure out the direction and tone I’d like to push towards -assuming there is energy, passion and time in the day to account such. Leaving it as a hobby is equally a likely scenario, which I’m content with as well, because it enables a new way to capture memories such as upcoming trips and events.

Me!
“Staged”, Taken by Nick

Nick
Nick Guyadeen

SvitlanaSvitlana Galianova

Videography

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Tech YouTuber / Content Creator niche, and have felt a genuine connection to them similar to how one may with Twitch Streamers or Bookhauls (two other content-based digital niches). Likewise, I always had a small voice in my head who enjoyed cinematography of different genres, different moods; good or bad. I sometimes found myself coming up with frames, transition ideas which at the time, I thought were a sign that I was thinking of UX improvements on whichever project I happened to be working on.

Toronto Island Sunset
Toronto Island Sunset

Todd Folks - Thunder in the Hills
Todd Folks – Thunder in the Hills

As YouTuber’s became more prevalent in my life, I began to shift some of my ‘idol space’ over from musicians to these new faces. Marques Brownlee, Jonathan Morrison, Michael Fisher, Karl Conrad, Kai Wong, Peter McKinnon; the list could go on. Regardless, with my foray into photography I figured this is the perfect stepping stone into videography as well. Who’s parent doesn’t want their child to be a vlogger? (sarcasm). In all seriousness though, I remember during my first software development COOP in Haliburtion the opportunity to edit some videos for a client who required audio work, reframing etc to be done. I volunenteered since I was the must comfortable with linear timeline editing and audio production, and to this day I still have the Google Keep note that I made which simply said ‘I really love video editing’. It was a thought which at the time seemed so perverse, I had to jot it down and see what I thought down the road. Guess all things come back in time if they are meant to?

Fireworks #1
Fireworks #1

Fireworks #2
Fireworks #2

Building a PC

Major shoutout to my roommate Jack, who helped choosing the parts which enabled the following comforts as I threw my wallet directly into a morgue with a DNR taped to the front:

  • 4 year minimum future proof
  • 4K Video Editing capable
  • 10+ VSTi3’ / VST3’s per channel in a +32 channel project (320 VSTs) <- Looking at you Ableton Live Set
  • Upgradable DDR4 Memory to 64GB
  • Power two 1440p screens or so down the line

Specifications:

PCPartPicker part list

CPU: Intel – Core i7-8700K 3.7GHz 6-Core Processor

CPU Cooler: Cooler Master – Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler

Motherboard: MSI – Z370 GAMING PLUS ATX LGA1151 Motherboard

Memory: G.Skill – Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 Memory

Storage: Samsung – 850 EVO 500GB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive

Storage: Western Digital – Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive

Video Card: Gigabyte – GeForce GTX 1070 8GB G1 Gaming Video Card

Case: Phanteks – Enthoo Pro M Tempered Glass (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case

Power Supply: EVGA – SuperNOVA G2 750W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply

Sound Card: Asus – Xonar DGX 24-bit 96 KHz Sound Card

Wireless Network Adapter: Gigabyte – GC-WB867D-I PCI-Express x1 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi Adapter

Songwriting / Recording

This one should come to no surprise to any of my peers, since I’ve had this off and on again relationship with music production, songwriting, and the idea of expressing one’s self through noise.  With the building of a production-grade computer (workstation I’ll continue to use term wise, since I do hope to employ many technologies / containers for orchestration), I’ve also rediscovered a drive to make music. This drive I felt died years ago, where even my SoundCloud (subtle plug of older material!) displayed a stagnated cut off between such passion, and eventually what my idea of being an ‘adult’ was. In other words, priorities changed, music was thrown out to make space for studies and relationships. I did manage to record a small cover that I talked about earlier in the year with some friends while living in Mississauga, but even that experience felt like a forced effort at times. That can be found in a separate account which will become my primary I imagine:.

2007 Fender Stratocaster
2007 Fender Stratocaster

Music is limitless genre wise, and there are many items that I’ve dabbled in the past and also on my Guitar / Piano recently. I’ve grown in interests and also listening preferences, often jumping even further into the spectrum of previous interests:

  • The usage of ambience for both foreground and background textures.
  • The removal of instruments to provide more power to the few playing.
  • Layering different parts instead of layers of repeated motifs.
  • Not striving for the ‘Analog’ sound where it doesn’t need to be.
  • Allowing songs to be simple tangible four chords structures, instead of 17 chord theory-based monstrosities which I dubbed Progressive House appropriate.
  • Allowing a song to be described as ‘lush’, ‘dark’, ‘moody’. This helps to drive the tonality instead of strip away from fear of being too ‘emotional’ lyric / sound wise.

I could probably go on, and I’m sure I’m also forfeiting many better, outstanding notes I’ve made in the past. You get the idea! I’m excited once I find a good balance post-summer, to create and share through here and more conventional mediums and networks. I already have a few instrumentals and lyric-driven songs waiting to be worked on that encapsulate some of this interesting year.

Manulife Tower
Manulife Tower

Summing the Above: Content Creator

While discussing offline with some friends, they’ve managed to piece together quite a bit of what my final focus of the above will look like; which is the interests above can and will be joined at times into a single project: a music video, short film, or for vlogging / content-creation related mediums!

Fire Up North
Fire Up North

Nick's Mixtape
Nick’s mixtape cover

Bonus!

I decided during this long weekend to give the above idea a try, creating a rough song template / mood, followed by (all B-Roll) footage which could paint a small mood. Utilizing the time that I wouldn’t be annoying my roommate Jack with loud music or constant swearing when shots ended up out of focus, here is what I came up with as an one-day-release experiment! All was captured, created and released in a single day (including the music!).

Waiting – Demo Concept

TLDR: Disregarded common hobbies / passions in exchange for social experiments, creative outlets, allowed hobby programming to take backseat.

PSS: I feel rusty having no written a blog post in a while, so as things hopefully improve and soar to better heights, I hope you don’t contract a sickness while reading this one. It’s another off-the-rails style, with very little preplanning / scripting and instead following one’s train of thought.