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Made You Think

Feb 4, 2022

"To feel that it is bliss to be alive, health alone is needed.  And by health I mean not the absence of physical ailment or disease, but a high condition of vitality. This the country gave me; this the town denied me.  The only question was then, at what rate did I value the boon?"

In this episode of Made You Think, Nat and Neil are joined by Andrew Lynch to discuss their key takeaways from The Quest of the Simple Life by William Dawson. The setting takes place in London in the early 1900s, and Dawson takes us through his reflections and insights as he moves from the city to the countryside to fulfill his desire of living a more simple life.

We cover a wide range of topics including:

• Finding value in the work you do

• How organic social interactions differ from planned social events and meetups

• Cost of living in a small village vs. big city

• The idea of having a 3rd place where people spend time in outside their home and workspace

• Why money shouldn't be the main metric you base the success of your life on

And much more. Please enjoy, and make sure to follow Nat, Neil, and Andrew on Twitter and share your thoughts on the episode.

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0:10 Our guest today is Andrew Lynch, long-time Made You Think listener from the UK who works as a finance director and writes about health, wealth, and wisdom on his website.

1:25 The book we're discussing today is the Quest of the Simple Life. This memoir by William Dawson is timeless, in that many of the thoughts and ideas expressed by Dawson in the early 1900s still ring true for many people in today's age. 

5:12 It's difficult to find the perfect spot to settle in when you want to have everything: a nice piece of land, river views, proximity to what's important yet space away from everything. The homes that check all of your boxes are hard to come across, and often times not available.

9:01 Andrew shares some insights on the countryside areas that the author is moving to in the UK. 

10:15 One problem with moving to the countryside that wasn’t mentioned in the book is the social aspect. Moving to the country often means less social interaction and more distance between yourself and your circle of people. 

13:41 "There is none of that pleasant 'dropping-in' for an evening which is possible in country towns of not immoderate radius. Time-tables have to be consulted, engagement-books scanned, serious preparations made, with the poor result, perhaps, of two hours' hurried intercourse."

The author makes the case that it’s actually easier to socialize in a smaller village than a big town because there’s less distance to travel, it's more condensed, and you're more likely to run into friends out and about in a smaller town.

16:56 A "third place" is somewhere (bar, coffee shop, social area) where you can run into friends without having to schedule anything. Unplanned social interactions. Nat talks about creating small town energy in a big town.

20:21 The social schedules that occur in college. It's ideal to have all of your friends living within the same few mile radius as you, and you're sure to have many natural encounters simply by visiting the popular places on campus.

Andrew talks about social clubs and activities, such as Crossfit. Having connections within those places encourages you to go there more often knowing you will see people you're familiar with week-to-week.

22:43 Can you create a "third place" organically, and does it defeat the purpose if its not organic? 

26:27 Nat, Neil, and Andrew discuss the tie between money and social life, as well as money and family size. When you have more money, having more children is no issue. You can afford more help and childcare, and you can keep up with your lifestyle even when your family size grows. Family size can also be bigger in lower income families because they tend to not frequently go out to eat, travel, and make big purchases. They don't have the luxurious life to keep affording. Where does this leave people in the middle?

30:11 Some people choose to stay closer to family and friends their whole life. Their location now has that built in social network. There's also those who move often, and are tasked with finding new friendships and connections wherever they move to.

32:13 "The thing that is least perceived about wealth is that all pleasure in money ends at the point where economy becomes unnecessary. The man who can buy anything he covets, without any consultation with his banker, values nothing that he buys."

It’s easy to try and measure the success of your life on the money you have, and while it unlocks different opportunities, it’s not the be-all and end-all of our existence.

Andrew makes a connection to a quote from Tim O'Reilly:

"Money is like gasoline during a road trip. You don't want to run out of gas on your trip, but you're not doing a tour of gas stations."

Money gives you more options and opens more doors, but the point of a road trip isn’t to accumulate as much gas as you can.

34:45 Commuting, work styles, and how things have shift post-Covid. Since this shift, it's tough for many businesses to justify employees having to come in at 8 hours per day. Blending of the office and the 3rd place, and how you can turn an office into a social, yet productive environment

38:58 What is the underlying dissatisfaction that gets solved by moving to the country? Nat points out that there aren’t better food options, there won’t be more people to meet, so what is it solving? Is it the outdoor life and nature of being in the country?

"Those rare excursions which I took into the genuine country left me aching for days afterwards with an exquisite pain."

Its arguably instinctive to want to be outdoors in nature.

41:17 "If I could choose for myself I would even now choose the life of pleasant alternation between town and country, because I am persuaded that the true piquancy and zest of all pleasures lies in contrast."

The setup of having both, a little bit in the city and a little bit in the country. When someone finds they can’t have both at once, they take middle ground which is the suburbs.

46:00 “Men may chafe for years at the conditions of their lot without in any way attempting to amend them."

The lesson here is to either make the most of your current situation, or take action on what you want to change. It may feel good to complain because you’re letting your frustration out, but in the end, no progress was made. It’s easy to whine but harder to do something about it.

51:17 We have to be honest with ourselves on the things we say we’ll do. Some things sound great on paper, and we hope to accomplish them, but it doesn’t make us any better or worse of a person whether we accomplish it or not.

55:02 It’s important to remember that everyone has their own preferences. People share different preferences on whether they like to complete projects with others or work alone. We can’t compare ourselves to someone who has a totally different style than us. 

56:58 Cost of living in the city vs. countryside. Money seems to "fall off" of you in the city as things are more pricy. Little purchases add up because in a city, there’s so many more little places that you can spend your money throughout the day.

59:16 Neil and Andrew share some outdated sayings and beliefs in the book.

1:02:52 Physical labor around the house is just as good as exercising, and you also get something else out of it. When you renovate your house and take on some of the physical projects yourself, you get to see the outcome of the work you put in. It’s tangible. 

1:08:12 Working with big companies vs. small companies. In most instances, it’s easier to see the difference you’re making in a small company.

The company culture also differs based on company size. It's all about finding something to do that your heart is also in to.

1:12:21 Andrew and Neil share their biggest takeaways from the book. A few lessons they learned:

  • So much of what we choose is not for ourselves, but of what others will think about it. Make decisions based on what's best for you.
  • Using money as a metric isn’t the best way to think.
  • Don't force yourself to do work that you don’t like.
  • Spend more time outdoors.
  • Be more deliberate.

1:19:00 Thanks for listening! Make sure to grab a copy of The Quest of the Simple Life as well as The Dictator's Handbook if you’d like to read up before our next episode.

If you enjoyed this episode, let us know by leaving a review on iTunes and tell a friend. As always, let us know if you have any book recommendations! You can say hi to us on Twitter @TheRealNeilS and @nateliason and share your thoughts on this episode.

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Thanks for listening. See you next time!