Dreams: What Makes the World Run

Ivan here. 

Nobody asked us to, but seeing as how this is our blog, I’d like to reintroduce what the simple life means and what The Origami Life is about. 

In the most general sense, a simple life means: 

  • Understanding that life is short (Not as a cliche. Feel this in your gut).
  • Learning to separate what you’ve been told to believe vs. what you actually believe.
  • Discarding the useless, keeping the essentials, and building a life on your own terms.

Jennie and I like to keep things specific and concrete because generalities don’t usually pay our debts, put a roof over our heads, or food on the table. 

So at the risk of oversimplifying, I’d like to share a simple formula: 

Dreams: What Makes the World Run

1. Passion to Dreams

This is the hard part. You’ll probably have to figure this one out for yourself. 

Our hypothesis: the process of turning passion to dreams is part magic, part putting yourself in a position to experience new and stimulating things. 

I spent my formative years in Taipei and was educated at a private English-speaking high school. The school was 99% Asian. Young, impressionable kids filled with practical ambitions of becoming future engineers, doctors, scientists and senior vice presidents. Not that there was anything wrong with these professions. I just didn’t want to be another product of my environment. 

One day when I was thirteen, while wandering through the library, I stumbled upon a book. It was Oscar Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Gray, which contains the most amazing preface to a novel ever written. Mr. Wilde dropped the mic before his novel even began with the following: 


We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is useless.
— Oscar Wilde

“To make useless things,” I repeated to myself. “and try to get people to admire it.”

That’s how my dream of becoming a writer was born. 

2. Dreams to Goals

A dream is like a fairytale. Something to shield you from the cold, hard realities we have to face every single day. To make something real, you need to tear your dreams down and break them into short, medium and long term goals. This process can be unpleasant. The “reality” of being someone usually falls short of our romantic ideas about it. It’s no wonder that most people prefer to dream without ever getting their hands dirty. It’s more comfortable that way. 

In my case, it would look something like this: 

Short term Goals: 

  • Read 52 books a year
  • Write daily: at least one hour for myself before I write for pay

Medium Term Goals: 

  • Earn $2,500 a month to cover all day-to-day living expenses
  • Reduce spending needs to $2,500 a month
  • Develop a specialized, niche skill just in case (i.e. investment/securities analysis, get my Chartered Financial Analyst designation)

Long Term Goals: 

  • Publish a useless novel, tell the truth, write about mundane things magically 
  • Build a small following. I’d be content with a readership of 10,000  
  • Come and go as I goddamn please

3. Goals to Routines

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
— Annie Dillard

This is an iterative process where you try to structure your days to match your short, medium, and long term goals. It requires focus, patience, and a lot of trial and error. A consistent and self-improving routine will give you an edge over the millions of people who want the exact same thing. 

I’m at this stage right now and I’m failing miserably at it. Juggling competing priorities while trying to maintain focus through life’s up and downs - and being discouraged when progress doesn’t happen as quickly as I expect it to. Jennie tells me I tend to overestimate what I can do in a day and underestimate what can be done in a month. My wife is a smart woman. 

4. Routines to Progress

In Japan, all sushi chefs start out as apprentices. In a place like Sukiyabashi Jiro, made famous by the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the only job of a new apprentice is to wash rice - for the first three years. 

Why is this process necessary? In my opinion, it's to help weed out the non-believers. The ones who were never prepared to work on the right things for an excruciating amount of time, with practically no guarantee of riches or recognition.  

The only thing that will keep you going is remembering the feeling the work gave you when you first started. In my case, whether I’m paid $100 or $10,000 a piece, I’m going to get my kicks either way. So what do I care? Outside of the things I have to do to keep myself alive, I’ve literally got nothing better to do.

 

Our Conclusion

The beauty is in the attempt. In that long walk to the stage.
— Dave Chappelle

Dreams: they really are what makes the world run. 

Jennie and I both believe in the joy of progress and the people you make progress with. There is no final state of ‘success’ ‘happiness’ or ‘wealth.’ There’s no end game; the game is all there is.  And so long as we’re spending quarters, we may as well be playing the game we enjoy. 

The beauty of these principles is that it applies to almost everything: planning to travel for a year. Saving for retirement. Developing better money habits. Working on a better relationship.  

It’s all origami to me.