This is a 30-day challenge for myself. But I invite you to join in and share your experiences if you’d like. For the month of April I will be giving up reading and watching all sports and anything about politics. This doesn’t mean I will actively avoid watching sports or politics (i.e., if I walk into a bar and a basketball game is on, I’m not going to leave), but I’m not going to spend my time seeking out either.
I’d like to introduce 30-day challenges into being a regular part of the site and have readers participate with me. In the future, the challenges will be more significant and require more effort. I’m starting simple to ease myself into them and also because I’m traveling a lot this month (five cities and four countries) and would prefer not to make any major lifestyle changes while I’m on the road. Since I’ll be spending the majority of the year in Medellin starting in May, I’ll have more opportunity to implement more intense and focused life habits while I’m there.
Why Politics and Sports?
Simple: I feel that the return I get on my time spent following them is too low. My time is better spent doing other things (reading, studying a language, discovering a new city, meeting people, girls, etc.). Both are sources of stimulation, but I find neither fulfilling or particularly relevant to my day-to-day existence anymore. Ideally, the one to three hours I currently spend each day on following them will be used for activities which are both more productive and more enriching for me.
A quick rundown on why I decided to give up each.
Giving Up Politics: Truth be told, I feel like American politics’ battered housewife. It keeps beating me and throwing me down the stairs, yet I always come back hoping it’ll one day change. Well, it’s not going to change. If you haven’t noticed, the US political system is going down the shitter. I’m going to keep this site apolitical, but liberal or conservative, I think we can all agree that the American system is corrupt and not functioning very well anymore.
The difference is that I spend 10-11 months outside of the US now, and I’m quite happy not going back to the US. I think it’s unlikely that I’ll ever live in the United States permanently again, at least not for more than a few months at a time. I can get into the reasons why in another post some time, but the point is, US political life hardly affects me anymore, so why stress it?
Since traveling and living in so many places, I’ve come to see countries and political systems in a pragmatic way. They’re structures and systems which ostensibly represent their people (although they usually don’t) and which you must deal with wherever you go. You may as well adapt and find the best ones to make your own personal living situation as advantageous as possible. I feel almost no patriotism for any country anymore. And honestly, the idea of patriotism seems a little strange to me now. Everywhere I’ve been, by and large, the population has been poorly represented by its government. I think that’s a fact of life. Power structures exist primarily to sustain themselves — this seems to be universal worldwide — populations and voters are tolerated and pandered to, rarely served.
What I think I will miss most about politics is the mental stimulation. Political discussions force you to consider tough problems and do research on interesting topics. My mind is always running 1,000 miles a minute, so politics has been a good pacifier for it at times. I’m an idea junkie and politics often quelled my craving. Luckily, I’ve got a reading list about 30 books long, so I’ll be reading those instead of political blogs and news sites — and no, none of the books are political.
Giving Up Sports: This one was harder to decide on, but ultimately, I couldn’t find a solid argument for the little value following sports added to my life. I hardly get to see any games anymore since I’m always on the road. I suppose I wouldn’t mind catching a game now and then, but the time I spend every day reading articles and listening to podcasts feels unjustified now.
What makes this easier, and clinched the decision, is that I don’t feel an overwhelming loyalty to any single sports team. Yeah, I’m a Boston guy, and I root for Boston teams, but unlike some fans, I don’t adopt it as a part of my identity.
When I examined my interest in sports, I realized that there were two main reasons I enjoyed following them: the physical displays of athleticism, and living vicariously through the competition and drama. The first one I can find any time — a few Michael Jordan highlights on YouTube are never far away. It’s the second one that bothers me. I don’t like the idea of experiencing the thrills of life vicariously. I think it’s subtle, even if harmless, form of escapism. I’d rather focus more on living my life to its utmost potential.
Most people, as they age through their 20’s as I have, do it by adding more and more to their lives. More responsibilities, more possessions, more interests, more work, etc. I’ve gone the opposite direction. For the past five years, every year I’ve had fewer possessions, worked less, fewer interests, and fewer responsibilities. And every year I get happier and happier. Every time I gave up something else, it felt really hard and I thought I was going to miss it. But within a couple months I couldn’t remember why it was so hard to give up. I don’t miss anything I’ve given up — save time with family and friends — and don’t see why I’ll miss sports or politics either. We’ll see, I guess.
My lifestyle has become minimalist. I own a suitcase of clothes, a few cell phones and a laptop. That’s it. My lifestyle is built around experiences, not possessions or status. A life based on possessions or status, the scarcest resource is usually money. But in a life based on experience, my scarcest resource is time. As someone who is self-employed and not constrained by owning a house or raising a family, I’ve learned to become very deliberate and conscious of my time and how I use it. Following sports and politics eats up a lot of my time each week. And right now, they’re adding little to no value or experience to my life. So it’s time for them to go.
I will come back at the end of the month with an update on how the challenge went, how easy/hard it was, and how I feel about the results.