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One of the most common errors I see amongst well-meaning people are errors of awareness. They're people with the ability to influence and they only want to help, but they lack a fundamental awareness of how others will react. This is particularly unfortunate because their efforts go misguided and can harm rather than help.
The biggest sign that you may be a person who makes this mistake is if your results don't match your expectations. You do something nice for someone and it seems to go unappreciated. You spend time with someone, but they don't make an effort to see you again. Or maybe someone complains about something to you that seems like it has come totally out of left field.
All of us will have these sorts of things happen on rare occasions, but if they are happening on a regular basis, you are probably making a fundamental awareness error.
Usually this is the result of not thinking about second-order effects of your action. For example, maybe you introduce two of your friends, thinking that they might want to date, but you didn't consider the fact that one of your other friends had a crush on one of them. Your intentions were good, but you didn't anticipate the side effects.
Or maybe you share some exciting news of a friend, but you didn't consider that maybe that was supposed to be more private news, and now you've made it public.
A more subtle example is when you fail to match the tone of a conversation. Perhaps the group is talking about a tough experience of one of the members of the group, but when you try to lighten the mood, it isn't appreciated.
The solution to this problem is to essentially run a simulator inside your head. Before you say anything of any consequence, force yourself to simulate how the other parties will react. At first this will be a very cumbersome process and it will slow you down, but over time it will become effortless and automatic.
Pay attention both to the times when you are right and the times when you are wrong. Write them down after the conversations.
Let's say you were going to introduce two friends to try to set them up. You should think about how both of them will feel as well as who in your friend group knows them and how they will react. You might predict that both friends would be happy to meet each other and that the few friends that know one or the other of them will not be indifferent. If the result ends up being different, write it down and try to figure out why.
It's very likely that you have blinders on which are preventing you from having full awareness, or you are projecting your own personality onto others rather than anticipating their reaction.
Over time you will notice two things, hopefully. First, you will notice that it's much easier to simulate people. You'll skip through thinking about every single person and every single reaction, and jump to likely reactions from affected people. You'll also notice trends in what you miss. Most people aren't totally unaware, they just have a few blind spots.
Building the ability to simulate others' reactions is incredibly valuable in many ways— with friends, loved ones, negotiating partners, and even strangers. It isn't an easy skill to learn, but the payoff will be worth it.
Photo is a bell at the top of a pagoda in Taiwan, naturally.
I don't usually give dating advice to women, but recently two of my female friends have been asking me a lot about dating, so I figured I'd consolidate some of the stuff we've been talking about here. Some of this stuff will apply to men, too, but for once I wanted to focus on the female perspective.
There are two primary issues for women to deal with in dating: the first is sifting through the masses of men who will present themselves, and the second is keeping the man once they begin dating. The other parts, the parts that are hard for men, are easy. Most women have no problem getting attention from men or getting dates.
For the first part, my advice is to just get out there and go on as many dates as possible. Women are often attracted more by personality than appearance, so the initial screening process is more difficult. However, personality can be sized up reasonably accurately quickly.
Rather than leave it to chance, spend time in places where guys you like might be. You can also go approach guys, and guys tend to think this is amazing, but just showing up in places where guys you might be interested in are should be enough. When a guy approaches you, encourage him. It can be terrifying.
Well, that's another amazing year in the books!
2017 was an exceptionally great year for me, so much so that I thought that 2018 wouldn't be able to stack up. But this year was even better than 2017 by a decent margin.
As is now tradition, I'll talk about some of the highlights of the year for me.
For about three years I worked really hard on a startup called Sett. It's a blogging platform that did a lot of things very different, and, in fact, is still the blogging platform that my blog runs on because I'm totally unwilling to give up the features that I've gotten used to.
At the same time, it was a commercial failure, barely making more money than it cost to run the servers, and certainly not enough to compensate Todd and I for the work we put in.
I also run a site called CruiseSheet. It's not wildly profitable, but it does consistently turn a profit, and I even have an employee to do all the daily tasks. These two startups are very different, and I've learned a lot through doing them.
The first thing I learned is that traditional "startups" are overglorfied, at least from my perspective. They seem to have morphed to become quite formulaic, and VC money has essentially turned them into "create your own job" instead of "create your own business". Obviously this is speaking in broad strokes, but it's how the definition seems to have shifted in San Francisco.
It's always tempting to look for complicated or clever solutions to our problems. We love hacks and secret unknown solutions, rather than straightforward answers to our problems. There's a time and place to get creative, but usually it's best to exhaust the basics first.
Whenever I'm not feeling my best, whether it's a lack of motivation, a lack of energy, not being able to focus, on anything else, I go through a standard set of diagnostics. Usually they fix the problem and I don't need to go overboard.
1. Sleep. I talk about sleep all the time because so many people are chronically underslept and it has massive effects on health, focus, productivity, and well-being. I think it's very likely that as a society we will look back and think it's crazy that we didn't prioritize sleep.
If I'm not well slept, I don't trust anything I feel because I know that I'm not at my best. Do I really not want to do this project, or am I just too tired? Is this task really too hard, or am I just exhausted? No way to know.
I was telling a friend recently about how I was considering becoming a rapper. The gist of the idea is that I believe that I could make an excellent rap album if I dediated an entire year to it. To me the logic was inescapable: I have a lot of time, some base rap skills, and the ability to come up with plans and focus. It seems literally impossible to me that I could not make a good rap album in one year.
He kept trying to push me away from it, which I found surprising. He's an extremely supportive friend who thinks outside the box and does many much more "out there" things than that. Finally I asked why he was pushing against it.
He said that because I look like a normal nerdy white guy, I may not get the best reception. Maybe I'd be booed off stage if I tried to perform.
I waited for the rest of the objection, but that was it. Getting booed? Who cares?
People didn't like my iterative way of doing the gear post last year, so I'm listening and going back to the old format of writing about every single item, even if it's been on the list forever. There are a considerable number of new items this year, so there is a lot to write about. At least a few of the items are things I can just about guarantee you've never heard of.
I seem to go in ebb and flow cycles of trying to get a little more utility from my gear and paring down the weight and bulk, and this year was primarily the latter. Both are satisfying in their own ways, but I just love shedding weight. These days my bag is so empty that on my last trip I had room to bring back for friends two masks and snorkels as well as two extra jackets!
Things That Didn't Make It
I got rid of my chromecast. I liked having it, but didn't feel like it really got used enough to justify bringing it, especially when I also have an HDMI cable. TVs in hotels and cruise ships also increasingly have smart features that allow me to cast my screen to them without something external.
I have written this blog since 2005, and haven't missed posting at least weekly since 2012 or so. Writing this blog has had a massively positive impact on my life, both directly and indirectly, and I can't imagine what would stop me from continuing to write it indefinitely.
I enjoy the actual writing of blog posts. Writing is fun, my blog provides me with an outlet to connect with and provide some value to people, and doing so helps me clarify my own thoughts. The only thing I don't like is the looming deadline.
Between travel and other projects, my weekly blog post has become something that gets slotted in after everything else. I usually start thinking about it on Wednesday, but will accept just about any excuse not to post it then. On Thursday I feel a little bit of urgency, but I know it's easy to just do it on Friday. On Friday I really try to get it done, but if I have a busy day, I will allow myself to do it on Saturday. Once in a very rare while I don't get to it until Sunday.
I don't like the lack of consistency, and I like the looming ambiguous deadline even less. For half of my days, I have my weekly blog post on my mind.
I'm always grateful for everything in my life, but when I think about what I'm most grateful for this year, family and friends are my immediate focus. I'm incredibly grateful for the people in my life now, the people who have played a role in my life, and for all of the high quality time I'm able to spend with them.
My wife and I have been married for about a year now, and I'm more grateful for her each day. People say that marriage is tough, and I suppose it could be some day, but this first year has really been a breeze. I think she deserves a lot of the credit for that, because I'm stubborn about some things, travel all the time, and am generally a pretty unconventional person. She's handled all of that gracefully and has worked alongside me to constantly make our relationship better.
On our second date I distinctly remember thinking that she would make an excellent partner, and she really has. I'm very grateful to have met her, to have married her, and for all that she does for me and our relationship.
This year family members came and visited in Budapest, Hawaii, and the island. When buying all of these places, one of my fantasies was to have family spend time with me at them, and I'm so grateful that it's become a reality. Each is a little weird in its own way, like having to use an outhouse on the island, and I really appreciate how my family has embraced these places. Highlights have been having six family members stay on the island, having my father and step-mother come to Budapest, and having my brothers come to Hawaii.
I absolutely love living in Las Vegas. Even if cost was not a factor, I would choose living there over any other city in the world (ok, I'd have to think hard about Tokyo). This generally surprises people who don't live in Las Vegas (and even some who do), and would have surprised me at least a little bit if you had told me a few years ago that I'd feel this way.
Unlike some other cities, though, it's not obvious why living in Las Vegas is so great. The strip is indeed so flashy and glittery that it tends to leave everything else in its shadow. But lots of what makes Vegas great is outside of the strip.
Even though I love it regardless of cost, I have to mention cost to put everything in context. Vegas is an extremely inexpensive place to live. Housing is dirt cheap, there are no state income taxes, and just about everything else you'll pay for is cheaper than other cities, too. The tourism industry effectively subsidizes the entire city, so you get a great value.
Money aside, here's how to love living in Las Vegas: