If there were a global ranking of Stoic Masters, I reckon the Japanese would rank among the top. The 2011 tsunami alerted the world to the potent devastation of formidable waves; it also let the world witness the unparalleled resilience of Japanese people. No looting. No plundering. Only footage of them queueing orderly for rations and going about their business with dignity. Control to a T. They couldn’t control what had happened to them, but they chose to respond to this calamity with dignity and grace and resoluteness.
Resoluteness summed up how Victor Frankl survived his time at the concentration camps. In his classic book titled “Man’s Search for Meaning”, he explained that those who survived the concentration camps might not have been the physically strongest, but they seemed to hold on stoically because of their staunch sense of purpose. He himself found meaning in helping his fellow prisoners manage the repercussions that living in a concentration camp entailed.
No matter what obstacles life throws us, we can count our blessings that it is unlikely that we will need to summon our resources to rebuild our lives after a tsunami or prevail through a concentration camp. Nonetheless, knowing that others have been through worse doesn’t really help us bolster our resilience. We need to process this head knowledge before it gets assimilated into our psyche and added to our tool box.
Understanding that building our well of resilience is a journey we ought to embark on before shit hits the fan urges us to stay centered and up our resoluteness. How do we do so? Two words: <travel light>
It isn’t just about embracing minimalism and rejecting the highs induced by owning branded stuff. It’s about trimming the excesses and staying nimble. To this effect, I try to clear my emails promptly. Nothing screams unfinished business than thousands of unread emails. Yes, we can ignore our unread mails and buckle down to producing great work, but they are like the soaking wet pajamas your swimming coach gets you to wear to teach you water safety. Just cognitively heavy like a hippo’s feet.
It means that I stay on top of my digital data, following a system in which I file my photos online and delete them on my phone. Many a time, I keep a photo due to sentimental reasons or a nagging feeling that I will use it for work some day. However, I fail to take into account the opportunity costs. That my mind is cluttered with so many pictures that I ironically don’t get to savour the moments because they are lost in the labyrinth of memories. These days, I retrieve a photo from my phone fairly easily because I actually have a grasp of the moments I keep close to my heart on my phone.
It is about not packing my days to the brim with things to clear so that I leave ample time for sleep. Very often, I choose to forgo sleep in the name of productivity, but if I aim to travel light, I should go about accomplishing things with a relaxed attitude rather than be at the beck and call of Father Time.
Hedonistic adaptation - the process by which positive or negative effects on happiness fade over time - be leveraged to great effect in travelling light. As a teacher, I was so dismayed that my son routinely fell sick during my precious school holidays that I counted the number of holidays he “sabotaged” my well-laid plans. THREE holidays gone to waste! Guess what? He is running a fever now after yesterday’s trip to the aquarium. But since I am so used to the idea of him falling sick on my holidays, I’m not gonna burden my brain by adding up the number of holidays he felt sick anymore. I’m gonna exercise grace and postpone my lunch date with my friend tomorrow because really, what’s the point? If I’m serious about the lunch date, I will make it happen another time, by hook or by crook. No need to clog my heart with bitterness.
Many manuals on writing recommend that we state our most important ideas at the front. Which makes sense, I guess because we can’t assume that our writing is compelling enough for readers to plow through to the end. Still, I wanna do something different from the norm, so I’m gonna state my unorthodox, uniquely Sensei’s habit that may cause you to raise your eyebrows in my conclusion. So, this is how I travel light for reading. Each time I finish a chapter of a book, I will tear the pages off and place them in a bag earmarked for recycling. If you are a book lover, you will gasp at how I’m literally destroying books. But strangely enough, this works really well for me. Incorporating a kinesthetic routine helps stave off boredom from reading, and seeing how my book gets gradually lighter fuels up my motivation to finish it. Observing how my bookshelf acquires more breathing space unclutters my heart a bit more. You just gotta believe me when I say that I really recycle every piece of preloved paper I own!


  1. This is my first entry here. I just learnt about the Hawthorne effect, which states how switching things up prevents them from growing stale. So, I’m applying what I learnt to keep my posting habit fresh. I also took a stab at writing something from different angles. Think I kinda succeeded, except that my free flow writing led me to focus on expounding on travel light rather than include several more perspectives succinctly. 🤣
this territory is moderated
It's a great great article! The book you mentioned is a must read for everyone. Also counting upon the blessings of life is a must to live Happily
Each time I finish a chapter of a book, I will tear the pages off and place them in a bag earmarked for recycling. If you are a book lover, you will gasp at how I’m literally destroying books. But strangely enough, this works really well for me.
I understand that this works well for you but you can better charit them to a local library or someone who is a book lover or may be place them as memory. Tearing down pages, I've never listened anyone do that!!!!
Except for the above, it's a great piece of writing. Bookmarked it .
I’m quirky that way.
Well, all proceeds from my recycling efforts go straight towards my son’s college funds. N I have a financial target wrt his college funds to attain every year, so recycling books it is!
Glad to be bookmarked
knowing that others have been through worse doesn’t really help us bolster our resilience.
It's funny you say that, because oftentimes if I start feeling overwhelmed I tell myself "Relax. Other people have figured this out, so you'll figure it out."
Cool. We have a Chinese saying that goes “One kind of rice can nurture a hundred kinds of people.” Different responses to the same stimuli.
Before my mind pivots to feeling the gravity of a situation, I typically subscribe to the victim mentality: why and how did I land myself in this shithole?! So, knowing that others have been through worse is well n fine, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that I’m in a shithole haha
One kind of rice can nurture a hundred kinds of people
Yes! I say it this way, though: 一种米养百种人
I have always wanted to ask: to what extent does the typical Korean understand Chinese/Kanji characters? I see them sprinkled all over the place during my travels in Korea, but don’t know if the Koreans actually use them in daily life
I'd say the cutoff is around 30 years old? The older generation still had to learn them at school. People don't use them though, other than the occasional 小 中 大 to describe portion sizes at the restaurant. Maybe still a few fancy newspapers sprinkle a few around.
I lived in China for a while hence my intermediate conversational skills.
You could tell yourself "I have a couple of weeks to figure this out before I starve to death." That's a pretty big buffer.
I like the saying that other people have lived before us and have lived worse. I think the unique thing about nowadays is the sheer amount of dopamine at every turn. I don't know how Gen Z or even the zoomer generation is going to manage - because it is all they knew. In the end, we need to adapt, but I think we may one day look back and realize maybe these people generations before me did it right.
I think mindfulness exercises may help these youths look inward n block out the noise n focus on their breathing. A lot of schools have implemented mindfulness programs into their timetable these days.
Great article!! You're right about Japanese people. They are ahead in Many ways from rest of the world.
Their attention to detail n striving for perfection are great qualities! Though I think it’s tiring to aim for perfection sometimes. Not to mention impractical
One of the principles of stoicism is the dichotomy of control. The most that I apply to my daily life, the better I feel. The most difficult issue is to elucidate what is under your control and what it is not.
Over your last point, do you tear off all your books? What if you wanted to read it again?
This reminds me of the serenity prayer: May God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can, courage to accept the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.
I underline/highlight the paragraphs that speak to me and then type them in Obsidian so that if I want to be inspired again, I know how to.
I also have a philosophical view towards this: if the Universe wants me to read this book again, it will drop it on my lap again. I read so consistently that my friends have been giving me books haha
“I also have a philosophical view towards this: if the Universe wants me to read this book again, it will drop it on my lap again. I read so consistently that my friends have been giving me books haha”
Definitely a good way to look at it.
Great reading sensei, it's true, the Japanese people are warriors who always get up from disasters, I didn't know that book you mentioned, I wrote it down on the list of pending books.
Nice post. Love to read it
knowledge should be free or very affordable, abundant, and readily available. we can act as the filter and summary agent of garbage information. do not rely on a.i. too much. use and train ur brain.
summarizing a great book or presentation in my own words without loosing meaning is a good idea for later review. pass the book to someone else if it is a good book. keep a copy in a digital format somewhere. i particularly like video presentations and audiobooks, because there is something in the tone of the presenter that really crystalizes the message, and the video/audio can be reviewed at 2x speed without sacrificing much of the "metadata."
otherwise, traveling light is an excellent idea! when i shop, if it doesn't fit in my hands, it is too much. when i travel, if it does not fit in the small car, it gets discarded. i get really good at packing and discarding.