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SDC Weekly; What is a Majlis; Being ruthless with your time; CIA Sabotage Manual #3
Yes, I know it's early... Enjoy a story from the UAE!
Hello again! It is surprisingly energising to create these weekly compilations … I think I spend the most time wondering what is worth including - If you missed the previous editions, you can find them here.
Final podcast plug: In case you missed it, I recently appeared on the Dialed In podcast with Tim bender at Fog City Vintage to reflect on some of the f*ckery plaguing the watch industry and explored the need for a self-policing community for enthusiasts.
I have just returned from a scorching trip to Dubai… a business trip, but I managed to fit in some watch-inspired activities too. What was undoubtedly the highlight of the trip, was joining an Emirati watchfam friend at his majlis. I will dedicate a section to this below.
Anyway… shall we get into it?
In this edition:
Being ruthless with your time
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The honour of attending a majlis
I didn’t intend to name my good friend @watchthetime, but after I asked for his blessing to share this post, he was okay with me sharing his Instagram handle. That said, I did not take any photos and will not repeat any conversations which took place. Still, this was enough of an event to make me want to write something about it, because it only happened as a result of a shared love for watches.
A while back, @watchthetime reached out to me for the first time on Instagram - he had been following my posts for a while, and we had spoken at length about the usual topics I tend to discuss in my longer posts… psychology, motivation, and decision-making, to name a few. The guy always had an interesting perspective, and we ended up having many long chats over the months since I started posting.
Eventually, after the pandemic, he found himself in London and we arranged to meet - I had a particularly busy schedule at the time and he still made the effort to meet up, just before heading to the airport departing for the UAE. We had the most interesting conversation, following which we stayed in close contact online.
When I eventually found myself planning a trip to the UAE, I obviously reached out - we had dinner, and then he extended an invite to his own majlis. The link provided is a more general description - but loosely speaking, this is a group of friends/family who have their own meeting spot, and tend to gather weekly when possible to spend some quality time together.
During this time, there are no rules about the proceedings… a handful might be playing cards, while a few smaller groups break out to discuss other topics. There may be someone seeking advice or counsel from the rest… anything goes, really. Everyone will likely share a meal together, and there is no set end-time.
The key point here: this is a close-knit circle of mutually trusted people - and one will never find themselves being invited to such an event accidentally, or on a whim. This was indeed an honour and a privilege, and something which signified the level of friendship we had managed to forge, well beyond the catalyst (watches) which initially caused our paths to cross.
On the evening of the majlis, he picked us up (I was with my own brother) at our hotel, and we drove for about 45 minutes to the destination. We drove into the suburbs, quite close to where the desert began, and parked up in front of a single door. It was the strangest thing… a huge wall, and just a single door. My friend walked up to the door, and after scanning his fingerprint, invited us in - we entered this door and there was literally nothing more than a spiral staircase going down! It was all quite clandestine to be honest!
We headed down this staircase into another tiny landing area, which led to another doorway - through this doorway, we exited into a massive underground area, best described as a ‘lair’. I later found out the meeting location was actually beneath the homes of two brothers, who had built their houses next to one another and created one massive basement connecting the two!
There was all sorts of stuff - the things I can remember are: a fully equipped gym, a dining area, kitchen, a snooker table, a felt-topped table for card games, bathrooms, lounge area with television… and a table full of snacks, and refreshments for all.
We were one of the first to arrive, and were warmly welcomed by one of the brothers who owned the place - along with another businessman who was specifically asked not to miss this one because his business interests were aligned with ours, and my friend had suggested to him ahead of time, that a conversation was worth having.
As the remaining friends joined, every single one of them was extremely warm and welcoming… we shared an absolutely epic meal together, and after the meal we all went off to do different things. Some lads were playing cards, others were sitting around getting to know us, others were having private conversations for a while. We eventually had a heated debate about a particular business topic, which was extremely entertaining… and the whole time, whoever was around us, was mindful of our limited Arabic knowledge and always ensured they translated things - this level of conscientiousness was truly remarkable, and wholeheartedly appreciated.
I could speak about this experience in more detail - so i will save that for anyone who I meet in person someday! The above context is, however, sufficient for the purposes of this post - which is to say, the benefit of watch collecting goes far beyond the watches themselves. If you have the right mindset, your shared appreciation for horology can extend into many other shared interests… and often, that is exactly how great friendships are formed. Incidentally, this not the only great friendship I got to reinforce during this trip, but I hope you enjoyed the story nonetheless!
Another point worth mentioning, is this experience is almost like ‘another world’ to any random visitor in the gulf regions. Many people go to places like Dubai, and other than the malls and racing down the street, they wonder where all the locals are?! The thing is, there is probably a western view that “most Arabs are utter c*nts” and they feel like there’s an air of arrogance surrounding them… or that they’re mostly all oil barons who see everyone else as peasants! This isn’t really the case, and having worked in UAE, Iraq and Egypt myself, I can personally say that this is not the case at all - when given the opportunity, Arabs are among the most welcoming and hospitable people around - you’ve just got to get to know them better.
Being ruthless with your time
A surprising number of people have asked me about the time I spend on social media over the years, and how I manage to fit in all the other stuff like writing this blog, keeping a day job, and being a present father for my two kids… I thought this was an interesting topic to expand on - perhaps you will have some advice for me in return.
Aside from my own habits which have been formed over several years… taking note of what I have learned from others, and my own preferences, here are a few things that seem to hold true for others who appear to get a lot done and still live well:
Sleep. The data is unambiguous: Most people need 7+ hours of sleep to be at their best. That said, there are exceptions, and whilst everyone will feel they are an exception, it might just be that they are stuck in a bad habit, and do not remember what it felt like to actually be at their best, on a full night’s sleep. Practically, this will require discipline; leaving dinners early, or limiting oneself to a handful of late nights per year. I try and stick to a maximum of 2 nights every month, to go out with friends and potentially sleep very late. I still wake up at the same time (between 4-5am), and I rarely, if ever, ‘lie in’ - this is to ensure I still make it to the gym…
Working out. This is one area it is okay to be selfish. I have significantly worse days when I don’t start my day with a workout; this includes my thinking speed being slower, and my energy levels dropping off a cliff by 1-2pm. Many people say they “do not have time” - and this is a matter of prioritisation. I only started waking up and working out really early after my first kid was born - this was because there was no other time of the day which was practical - after a day at work, it was time to hang out with my new child! Even if you aren’t ‘a morning person’ - getting into a habit will ensure something else doesn’t come up during the day, which causes you to skip your workout. This is a non-negotiable for me, and this attitude has served me well in preserving its protecting this activity from being deprioritised in my life.
Meetings. Most meetings could be shorter, and many could be cancelled altogether. I regularly review my diary to ensure I reduce the number and duration of meetings - and when people set up recurring ones, I almost always decline them when I know for sure I will not contribute every time - I ask them to invite me to each one which is relevant to me. When there’s a scheduled meeting which I know is simply about my input, I send it in an email and cancel the call. I also cut people off when they are making small talk to fill the space in a meeting - this sounds rude and hardcore - but whilst I do this politely, I think this is the only way you can protect your time. Nobody will do it for you.
“Me” time. I lucked out when I began working out - this serves a dual-purpose of providing health benefits, and also being my version of “me time.” I turn on my music, and think about nothing else unless I’m warming up or cooling down on a treadmill or bike. Just me, and the weights. A chance to clear the mind and reboot. It’s better than therapy. If that doesn’t resonate, then find your own version of carving out some time for yourself… maybe its 30 minutes at the end of your work day, to unwind and decompress before you head home. Whatever it is, know that this isn’t the same as socialising with your mates. Very few people actually take time out to simply THINK. I actually wrote a post about this some time ago, entitled “How to think” - you’re welcome lol!
Good people. Few things infuse your life with energy and joy than time with smart, optimistic, good people. Here’s the key takeaway: The opposite is true too. Few things drain your life of energy and joy than nagging pessimists or utter cvnts. I saw a great saying on Instagram once: “You are not the f*ckface whisperer” - don’t ever forget that! Take regular stock of the time you spend with life-enhancing vs. life-draining people.
Just say no. Many people are just too polite to say no, even if they aren’t feeling generous with their time. I realise that advocating in favour of selfishness seems like negative advice, but in this case a little selfishness goes a long way. You can’t be the best version of yourself, if you’re leaking parts of yourself to things or people who aren’t mindful of your time being a precious resource. This is where ruthlessness can help - consider whether you are able to make a difference with this person or problem, or whether this request/need is something that seems to recur regularly but never resolve? Is it filling your life with too much negative energy or emotion? It's okay to say “NO!” You’ll be worse at helping others if you're constantly drained or deflated by not saying “no” when you should.
I’d love to know: What else would you add to this list?
Omega dropped 11 new watches today to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Seamaster. Fratello has a whole post about it, so I won’t bore you with that… RJ Broer also wrote a separate piece which covers the ‘serious’ dive watches, and that’s where I stole this pic from:
The watch is a behemoth, reserved exclusively for the girthy boys out there… but there’s no denying this is a cool easter egg!
I own a NTTD Seamaster, and while I love the watch, I still think the helium escape valve is a crock of sh*t. Sure, it disappears under a cuff, and frankly speaking, you kinda forget about it after a while… but it’s a stupid feature. I bet you can name a handful of similar ‘stupid features’ on other Omega watches. That’s the problem, isn’t it?
Browsing the comments on this new release of 11 watches, I see mostly tepid excitement, which will likely dissipate by the end of the week. Seems like Omega can’t stop being their own worst enemy! Objectively, they probably make better quality watches than Rolex, but they fail to address their scattergun style, ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ approach to product strategy, and they definitely haven’t figured out how to look after the value of their products after a customer purchases a new watch - I suppose they tried, with the recent auction fraud… but that failed spectacularly too! 😬
Links of interest
😇 A quote from this WSJ article: “So many of us have a secret, internal timeline we're always measuring ourselves against: the ideal age we'd like to get that degree, get married, reach a certain title at work” made me think of this Stanford study - the thing is, people are living longer now than they did 100 years ago - and people’s goals are changing too. Point is: there is no “right time” to do something, nor is there a “correct order” in which to do various things .
🤩 Female Master Watchmakers are a rare breed… And this one is the first, and only, watchmaker in British history to hold a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) in horology. I am sharing this interview with Dr. Rebecca Struthers because people like this deserve to be celebrated :)
✈️ Jetlag geekery: University of Massachusetts, Amherst research on animals suggests that shifting the time of day that we’re exposed to light and darkness can interfere with the formation of neurons in the brain’s hippocampus.
💰 Jeff Bezos wanted to be a theoretical physicist. One night, while studying quantum mechanics, he realised his brain wasn’t wired to process highly abstract concepts, so he switched to computer science. He tells the story in this short and hilarious YouTube video.
💀 In 1944, the CIA released a guide on how to sabotage an organisation, and I wouldn’t blame you for thinking these are voluntarily being implemented in our workplaces today. This is basically what happens in a corporate meeting: (1) insist on doing everything through channels, (2) haggle over how things are worded, and (3) advocate “caution.”
🧪 Generative AI is poised to unleash the next wave of productivity. McKinsey takes a look at where business value could accrue and the potential impacts on the workforce.
😵💫 Go “Beyond the wristwatch” with this exploration of wall clocks, table clocks, automata and objects that are impossible to categorise beyond calling them time machines. Uber cool!
I know I said last week that I’ve landed on making this a weekly update every Wednesday - but I have further travel plans coming up, and given it is Eid in the UK tomorrow, I had to deviate from the schedule again!
This is pretty much a copy/paste from before… but here goes anyway: I appreciate all feedback - even if you never comment, please make an exception. Is this newsletter worth your time? Anything missing that you’d like to see? Anything here which you thought was not worth including? Let me know, and thanks in advance!
Please share this. Getting subscribers is my own form of dopamine, so help a brother out lol!
Until next time! Eid Mubarak 🌙
Bonus link: Paris Syndrome
Paris syndrome is a sense of extreme disappointment exhibited by a small number of individuals when visiting Paris; these folks feel the city was not what they had expected. The condition is commonly viewed as a severe form of culture shock.
The syndrome is characterised by a number of psychiatric symptoms such as acute delusional states, hallucinations, feelings of persecution (perceptions of being a victim of prejudice, aggression, hostility from others), anxiety, as well as psychosomatic manifestations such as dizziness, tachycardia, sweating most notably, but also others, such as vomiting!!