Happy new year! I hope you will have a great year which you won't need any resolutions for 2024. I have had no resolutions for the last two years, and I love it. For me, New Year's Eve is a regular day, so it doesn't mark anything that I think of celebration. But it's not in a bad way. I just don't put too much value into any day. My goal is to try to live every day as valuable as possible and keep doing what I want to do. I know not everyone is like me. Many people have resolutions, and the date in calendars marks new beginnings. If you're one of them, I hope your resolutions will bring happiness and health to you.
As we're talking about happiness, I started reading a page or two from a book called Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, who is a former Roman Emperor (you might remember him from the movie Gladiator). The book is a collection of his personal notes; he didn't publish them as a book; he wrote notes to himself. There, he says, he learned from his mother about simplicity in his way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.
If an emperor wants to live away from the habits of the rich, it might be wise to think about the habits of the rich in our lives, too, especially now while discussing new year's resolutions and creating habits.
Right before graduating from the university, I had a goal to buy myself a MacBook Pro with my salary. I thought I deserved that and would be happy to have it and bought it. In fact, I didn't need a MacBook Pro; I only needed a computer. That was a habit of the rich: assuming happiness comes from materials. After graduation, I also moved to Istanbul and had a different life than I expected. I started eating and going out all the time. While they all felt good, I had an increasing credit card debt and no savings. Later, I moved to Hamburg, closed all my debts, and canceled my credit cards. In Istanbul, I was trying to have the habits of the rich while not being rich. That was a recipe for disaster.
This kind of lifestyle is not uncommon. I see many people trying to have the habits of the rich without even thinking if they want these habits or not. Mainstream media and advertisements always encourage us to buy more things we think we need but don't.
Why do I tell you this? Because I want you to join me in thinking about what we seek in life and your new year's resolutions (if you have them). What are the habits of the rich in our lives—we think we need them, but in reality, we don't? I was planning to buy an AirPods Pro, but do I really need it? Do you need the newest iPhone just because everybody has it? Do you really need that tenth pair of shoes?
“It is not the man who has little, but he who desires more, that is poor.” —Seneca
Science says money and materials don't bring happiness directly, but at the same time, they enable us to create situations that can bring happiness. For example, we can hire cleaning help to open ourselves some time to do another activity that makes us happy. It can be as simple as walking in the woods with friends and family, going to the gym, or even reading our favorite book. To me, hiring cleaning help is not a habit of the rich; it's about creating wealth.
“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” —Epictetus
And that's what I want to seek. While focusing on wealth, I also don't want to advocate for the other edge; extreme minimalism—only living with a handful of items. I want to live in lagom.
Lagom is a notion in Swedish culture; the word means not too much, not too little—just enough. A balanced lifestyle is the main idea behind it. The famous Swedish interior design is a lagom. We can see that IKEA items are functional and uncluttered; they are simple yet last for years. Although we can still clutter our apartments with IKEA products, IKEA itself wants to reduce waste in every way it can.
Marcus Aurelius lived thousands of years ago, and Swedes have lagom for hundreds of years. When any idea survives the test of time, I try to listen to its wisdom. That's why I have been thinking about my lifestyle, habits of the rich, lagom, and simplicity. Instead of buying a ton of things I think I need, I want to be mindful and work on building a lifestyle around things that bring joy and happiness instead of materials. I invite you to join me in thinking about your life and what brings you joy. Feel free to send them over to me by replying to this email.
In the next Mektup, I will write you about building habits, my approach, and how I have been writing every day (the ritual that brings me joy every day) for the last two years without breaking it.
Until next time,
What I Published Over The Last Two Weeks
If we're terrible at decision-making even though algorithms help us to make better ones, what can we do? While we can improve our decision-making skills by learning methodologies and mental models and practicing mindfulness, one shortcut helps the most.
I was reading Julian Shapiro's latest monthly newsletter issue—one of the few newsletters I follow. There, Julian talks about doing things consistently to become great at them by sharing what Ed Sheeran and Neil Gaiman do.