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I get asked a lot to write about relationships, probably because I used to be involved in pickup and it seems strange to some that I'm now married (though from my perspective getting married is an obvious outcome of getting good at pickup/dating).
I'm always a bit hesitant to write about it, because relationships are so complex and individual. While there's a lot of blanket advice that be given on how to walk up to someone and start a conversation, there's a lot less that's universally applicable in a relationship. But I'll give it a shot anyway.
And all of this comes with a major caveat that I'm going to be generalizing for the sake of making this applicable to the widest number of people, which is to say for a traditional male and female relationship with stereotypical gender roles. Some of it may apply to people in other kinds of relationships, and other parts may not.
One big piece of advice which I assume applies to every type of relationship, is that an absolute necessity for any good relationship is an environment of open non-judgemental communication. Relationships are complex enough without having severed communication lines.
From the very beginning of the relationship, you should be communicating what you like, don't like, and expect. To do anything else is disrespectful. I travel for most of the year, so any time I would date someone, I would make it really clear that that was my lifestyle. If I say, "No, I'm thinking about not traveling as much", I'm setting the relationship up for failure.
It is always much better to get these things out early. Be honest and be open to rejection. This also includes things that come up within the relationship. If you don't like how your girlfriend acts when she's around her friends, then you should bring it up. It doesn't mean that she has to change or that you need to accept it, but there's a discussion that needs to be had. People very often are afraid to offend their partner, so they let things fester instead. Trust that your partner is mature enough to hear your perspective without freaking out.
This, of course, goes two ways. If your partner brings up a concern, you must address it calmly every single time. Never engage in confrontation. You can be upset, but you must communicate with compassion. If you don't, you won't have the opportunity to solve the next problem.
You must also understand your partner's perspective as clearly as possible, even if you don't relate to it. It's one thing to disagree and understand, and another to disagree and think they're an idiot. Ask questions without assigning blame by saying things like, "Interesting... I would never think about it that way. What makes you see it that way?"
If your partner is not open to these sorts of conversations, they're probably not ready for a real relationship.
At the same time, don't bring every tiny thing to your partner. If all of your conversations are based around misunderstandings and resolving tiny things, you don't have a very robust social life. It's sort of like medicine— you don't want to be popping pills constantly, but if you're really sick you want to be able to take medicine.
Make sure to keep an active life outside of your relationship. You can't be your partner's entire world and you don't want them to be yours. If you are both having fresh experiences, that's fresh oxygen being drawn into the relationship. You will (or at least should) appreciate your partner even more when you're around other people.
Never take your partner for granted. When you do, you forget what's so great about them and begin to hallucinate that you could easily replace them with someone exactly the same except with one fewer problem. For the same reason, never let them take you for granted. Make them feel secure, but challenge them. That's a fine line that requires you to let them know you are there for them no matter what, but also encourages them to grow and be even better.
I love the book "Five Love Languages". It teaches you to give your partner what they want, not what you want. I did that all wrong for years. In the same way that you want to make sure your effort in your work life will move your business forward, you want to make sure that what you put into the relationship is moving it forward. Don't do elaborate acts of service if all she wants is quality time. Don't focus on quality time but starve her from affirmations if those are what's important to her.
I'm lucky to be in a great marriage with someone who puts in just as much work as I do, and is also an excellent communicator and does all of the things on this list. I wish the same good fortune for you, and you can maximize your chances of receiving it if you embody these principles.
Photo is another awesome view from E'mei mountain. I have a bunch of travel coming up so hopefully I can amass some more blog photos to replace the ones I lost.
You never know how your year is going to go. I often try to predict mine, and my predictions are usually nowhere close to what actually happens. Nearly inevitably, though, I make a bunch of progress in one way or another. If that wasn't the case, major alarm bells would be ringing. Major major alarm bells.
Setbacks happen to everyone. It is totally possible that something so major happened to you that you were unable to make progress. I know people who have gotten cancer or have lost a close family member or something like that. Yes, those and others are reasons that you could have justifiably not made progress in a year.
If nothing like that has happened to you, and you haven't made progress on things that are important, it's time to ring the bell.
So the alarm bell is rung. What can you do about it? First is the hard part—admitting that you are doing something wrong. None of us want to believe that. We all want to think that we're doing everything right and that eventually it will all work out... but sometimes we're not. If you haven't made progress in a year, the odds that you're doing something fundamentally wrong are huge.
I'm currently on a cruise, which is really where I'd be for most of the year if I had my way. While I do love all cruises to some extent, there is a certain secret type of cruise that is by far the best type: The Westbound Transatlantic or it's more rare cousin, The Westbound Transpacific.
When you are on a trans-oceanic cruise, you feel like you are in a club with everyone else on the boat. It is the first transatlantic for many of them, but they are in the club, too, even if they don't know it. For others, it's more obvious. Is this your first transatlantic? Oh no, we do one every year. Those are my people.
Cruise lines generally want most of their ships to be in the Meditteranean during the summer and the Caribbean during the winter. These two seas are far apart, though, so they must make a big two-week trek between the two twice per year.
These cruises don't appeal to most people on the surface. They have few port stops, burn those precious vacation days, and require at least one flight, if not two. So they're cheap, often around $50 per day.
I get tons of questions about what it's like sharing property with friends, which makes me happy because I assume that it means that other people are thinking about doing the same thing. I stumbled upon it by accident, but shared property with friends is one of the major awesomeness-multipliers in my life.
My first time sharing property with my friends was when we were in college and all bought a huge school bus together. We had no idea what we were doing, but we had a blast working on it and driving it around. It sounds like a situation that would be rife with conflict, but the only one that ever came up was the great debate over whether to make a mobile-enabled urinal. I lost the vote and we never made one.
Since then I've bought an island with my friends, a place in Budapest, part of a neighborhood in Vegas, a condo in Hawaii, am waiting on the perfect spot in Japan. Each one has been amazing. You get all of the benefits of having your own place, plus the benefits of having your friends visit all the time, all at a fraction of the cost of owning yourself.
The key, of course, is finding people who are easygoing and who can lead but don't mind not leading (i.e. competent people who won't contribute to "too many cooks in the kitchen").
One of the best travel deals out there happens to be in the country that most people (mistakenly) believe to be one of the most expensive. Japan has the JR Rail Pass, which, for under $300 gives you unlimited access to nearly every train in Japan for a week. Using this pass you can easily take thousands of dollars of trips within a week, putting everything in the country within your reach.
I've done this a few times and, as a result, have visited cool places all over the country. Here are a few of my favorites in no particular order:
1. Deshima / Nagasaki. In Nagasaki is a really cool island called Deshima (which is actually connected to the mainland), where the Dutch used to live. For a period of time the Dutch were the only outsiders permitted to trade with Japan, and they were quarantined to this small area of Japan. It's now preserved and restored so that you can see what it was like. I really loved seeing the mix of asian culture (the buildings) and western culture (everything in them). Nagasaki is also an unexpectedly cool city.
2. Takaragawa hot springs. I love hot springs, and Takaragawa is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Japan. I think it earns that title easily. It's a series of pool surrounding an outdoor stream in a really beautiful valley. Getting there is a little tricky, but well worth it.
My friends and I have individual condos in Vegas, an island in eastern Canada, and a flat in Budapest. It's not the same group for each property, but there's a lot of overlap. I realized that none of our places are ideal for winter, though Budapest does have its charm, so I started thinking about tropical places that would be good for quick escapes from winter (it even gets cold in Vegas).
When buying these shared places, cost is a major factor. The property has to be cheap enough that everyone can afford it without needing to go there constantly to make it worth it, and also so that no one ever needs to sell to free up cash. Every property we've ever bought has been under $100,000. Those factors eliminated a lot of popular winter spots.
My first choice was San Juan, Puerto Rico. I had been once and thought that it was a really cool city with a mix of good beaches, good healthy food, and a nice downtown area. I sent out an email to my usual group of friends, got a group together, and booked a cruise that ended in San Juan so that I could go check it out.
In the meantime the hurricane hit, but I was undeterred. I figured that I could see which buildings could survive a hurricane and if I still liked the city at its worst, it would only get better from there. Plus, maybe some people would want to move to a non-hurricane-prone city and prices would be good.
A while back, around the time I switched to Linux, I had the realization that any amount of effort I spent customizing my computer would probably pay off. I use the thing just about every day and gains are cumulative so I may as well think about how to make my computer better for me. This, incidentally, makes it nearly impossible for a normal person to use.
It's certain that not all of my customizations will be good for you, but maybe some will be, and if you use a computer a lot, the general idea of customizing it to your specifications is probably a good one.
To start, I use Linux. If you are reasonably technical, you should probably be using Linux of some sort. If you are a programmer, I can't imagine how you use something else. The two biggest factors are 1) Linux has many different flavors, so you can always use whichever one is best for you and 2) Linux is by far the most customizable operating system.
I think a lot of people are afraid of Linux because they think it is hard to set up and use, but that's really not true. I did a fresh install of both Ubuntu Linux and Windows 10 on my Lenovo (designed for Windows) laptop, and Ubuntu worked way better. Windows was a nightmare of drivers, but Linux just worked.
This is such a niche thing, but you'd be shocked at how many requests I get for information on how I did it. A couple years back I gave a talk about automation, ranging from home to habits to business, and almost all of the follow-up emails I got were about the curtains.
I first automated my curtains because I thought it would be a neat novelty. My apartment in Las Vegas is a very inexpensive one which you'd never expect would have anything fancy inside, so I thought it would be fun to have automated curtains. After using them for a few years, though, they've proven to have far more utility than novelty.
There are three primary advantages to having automated curtains.
The first advantage is that you can have sunlight when you wake up in the morning. I like sleeping in and don't naturally jump up out of bed in the morning. But when I can hit one button and sunlight starts streaming into my bedroom, I find it really easy to spring out of bed. I also use Tasker on Android to automate this so that if an alarm goes off, my curtains open. I almost never use an alarm, but when I do it tends to be for an early flight, so it helps to get out of bed quickly.
I get asked often how I choose what to work on. From the outside, I can see why people ask. The projects I work on are fairly wide-ranging, from coding CruiseSheet to writing blog posts to random adventures and building things.
Things make a little more sense when you understand that making money is only a secondary priority for me. I do like to make money, but I will never do something I don't want to do for money. Google could offer me $1M for a year of work, which is a life-changing amount of money to me, and I would not take it.
Now, that's a massive luxury. Through mostly sheer luck, I happen to be in a position where I can do whatever I want and survive. I have few expenses and some skills that ended up becoming valuable even though it wasn't at all clear they would be when I began learning them.
If I had a family and I needed to put food on the table and didn't have the skills I have, I would gladly mop toilets to provide. I don't believe that I'm above any sort of work. The point is that along the spectrum of trading freedom for money, I'm way over on the freedom side.
I've talked before about how important it is to live frugally. A lot of people probably brush it off because it sounds like too great of a sacrifice or not relevant to them, but I think that's a mistake. It is possible to live frugally and to love it at the same time.
In general, that's a key to how I live my life. I try to figure out what the empirically "correct" thing for me to do is, and then I convince myself to love it.
How much money you should be saving is hard to determine. It depends on your age, your earning ability, and your goals. I will say this, though... there is some way for you to save more than 50% of your income.
That number is probably shocking, as most millenials have a negative savings rate. I'm not saying that you will do it, or even that you should, only that you can. It's worth considering poor immigrants, many of whom work minimum wage jobs and still manage to send significant amounts of money back home. Some people are doing it.