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One very common thing I work on with coaching clients is social skills. Through that work I've seen a lot of common patterns and have come to use a three layer model to think about and discuss how people are interacting with the people around them. If all three layers are in good shape, you will have a great social life. If even one is missing or lacking, so will be your social life.
The first layer is who you are at your core. This is important for many reasons, but in this context it's important because any relationship with any depth will eventually expose your true self, so it better be something good or you will be doomed to surface level friendships and will find yourself spending most time with acquaintances.
I saw this problem a lot in the pickup community. Many people would fix the outer layers so they would get dates and have girls around them, but they were totally unable to have relationships because they hadn't worked on themselves enough.
The traits you should have at your core could be up for debate, but I think most people would agree that integrity, compassion, and a good moral compass would be included here. If you don't have these traits, you'd be well served to figure out how to cultivate them, though the path to that goal may be a long one.
The next layer is the experience you bring. How do people feel when they're around you? Do they feel inspired? Can they be themselves? Do they feel light and happy? Or do you bring the mood down by complaining? Do you make people feel uncomfortable? Do you overwhelm them or do you force them to carry the weight of the interaction?
It's not simply enough to be a good person at your core, you must also bring a positive experience to other people. This doesn't mean that you always have to be upbeat or happy and never rely on your friends for emotional support. It means that when you are around people you are aware of the group dynamics and are trying to improve them. You engage people who need to be engaged, you let people speak who want to speak, and you help act as glue between different people.
The last layer is proactive connection with other people. When someone new is part of your group, you should proactively reach out and make them feel included. You should engage them by asking about themselves or sharing relevant experiences with them. You can't sit there and expect for them to do all of this. You may even have to get out of your house and go to places that have people in them and strike up conversations.
Each of these three layers takes effort to develop. Social skills and a social life aren't easy things to build. To really have a good social life, you must have all three because they work in harmony. Not having all three is like having a car with no transmission and wondering why it doesn't drive even though it has nearly every single part. The effort is worth it, though, as our social lives are a huge factor in the happiness and satisfaction we have in life.
Photo is sunset on Lake Mead in Las Vegas. Did you know there is a huge awesome lake in Las Vegas?
I've turned off comments because I got too much spam and I'm not all that good at replying to comments anyway. If you tweet at me (@tynan), I'll probably answer, though.
As I've written before http://tynan.com/trendy, I'm generally early on a lot of different things from nomadic travel to online gambling. Being early to things is valuable, but it is also equally valuable to realize when something is over and to leave early. This skill is actually easier than finding new things because it involves just evaluating existing phenomena rather than searching for them.
One good example is college. I dropped out almost twenty years ago and believed then that it was going to be worth it for fewer and fewer people. These days the number of people for whom school represents a terrible value is larger than ever. Without major changes, that number will continue to increase (keep in mind that it is obviously still a great value for some people, so I'm not trying to say it's wrong for everyone).
Another example is San Francisco. I used to love that city to death and wonder why everyone wasn't scrambling to figure out how to live there. Four years ago I felt like it was past its prime and cut my ties (except for with my amazing friends there). I saw a survey recently that showed that most people in San Francisco don't want to live there anymore.
I think a lot about the interplay between perception, reality, and trajectory. Las Vegas has a very bad perception (all partying and glitz), and excellent reality (highest quality of life per dollar in any US city), and a promising trajectory. San Francisco has an excellent perception, a pretty rough reality, and a frightening trajectory.
I'll never forget asking my grandmother what her favorite decade was. She was in her eighties at the time and had had a really good life overall, but would occasionally make comments about how she hopes the world is moving in the right direction because it sure seems...
Her answer came quickly and without reservation. Now was the best, she said. I figured that she would surely say the seventies or eighties, as her family struggled before that but had a comfortable life by then. I asked what made now so good.
She said that she had more wisdom than ever, more life experiences, and the biggest family. She didn't seem all that concerned with aging and health problems and also didn't seem to mind that most of her life was behind her.
I was never particularly preoccupied with aging before then, but hearing her response erased any lingering concerns I had. My life had certainly gotten better with each of the three decades I'd lived, and someone I trust and respect told me that the same would continue to happen.
The more I work on various aspects of my and other peoples' lives, the more obvious it is that friction is one of one's biggest enemies. The best way I can define friction is to contrast it with regular challenges that we might encounter. A challenge is something that comes up in your path that, once you push through it, teaches you something or makes you better. Friction is something something that gets in your way but leaves you no better off once you move past it. Challenges may tire you out, but they leave you motivated. Friction slowly wears at you and saps your enthusiasm.
I talk a lot about automating things, and the reason that I do so is because automation is one of the biggest ways to reduce friction. When I first started setting up automated processes I questioned whether or not they'd actually be worth the up-front time investment. Now that I've done dozens of them I've come to realize that they've always been worth it for me as well as for my coaching clients who have automated away their friction.
One of the things I like about reducing friction is that it forces you to focus on important tasks. The path between you and your work is clear and unimpeded. When there's a lot of friction in your life it's easy to focus on that friction, even if you aren't doing anything to resolve it.
A good example of reduced friction is my daily routine in Las Vegas (which, by the way, is the lowest friction city in which I've spent any real amount of time).
This post isn't suggesting that you should solo scuba dive. Scuba diving has risks and I don't know anything about you.
Part of why I always buy properties with my friends is so that we can take advantage of the things that are easy to do in each location but hard to do in other places I might be. Scuba diving is one of those things in Hawaii.
Before my very first scuba dive in recent years (I had been certified there 20 years prior), I bought my own equipment. It costs around $35 to rent, but I bought a full setup for $600, meaning that the investment would pay off after 18 dives, a number I've already exceeded after having the place for just over half a year.
For the first few dives I went with friends, and then I went to the main dive site on a tour with the local divemaster. After that I asked if he thought I could handle the dive solo, and he said yes. Since then at least half of my dives have been solo.
One of my worries in blogging is that people will get the impression that I am always at 100%, ready to be my absolute best and live up to the principles I write about. I think I'm there a lot of the time, but I have my slow and unmotivated days just like everyone else.
Sometimes I wake up and read reddit for an hour before I even look at anything productive. Sometimes I take a look at my todo list and just can't muster the energy to do any of it. Sometimes I gut through it even though I really don't feel like it.
One big thing I've learned through this process is that you can't always start with your most important task of the day. On a good day it's easy and the optimal way to run, but on a bad day the mere presence of a big important task can be enough to make one want to take the day off.
A much better strategy I've found is to just work my way up the ladder.
When I was first learning about marketing (I never got very far with it), one of the things I remember reading was how important studies are. If you can share a study that supports your point, it becomes immediately more compelling. The same is true of writing books. When I wrote my habit book, several people told me that I should dig through studies, find some that supported my points, and then include them.
I don't find studies compelling at all, and generally disregard them when it comes to making decisions. There are three main reasons why I do this.
First, it is a lot easier to prove correlation than causation. For example, a study could probably show that people who buy Rolls Royces live longer than those that don't. The argument could be put forth that riding in such a fine automobile is so good for the soul that the owner gets to live longer, but it is probably just the case that if you have the money for a Rolls Royce, you also have the money for good health care. The "one glass of wine a day" argument could also fall into the category. Could it be that regular wine drinkers who don't overindulge are just people with reasonable restraint and better financial means than average? Probably.
People who write studies are actually usually pretty careful to note correlation vs. causation, but media outlets show no such restraint. That's why you see all sorts of magazine articles that say things like, "Could eating broccoli once a week make you live for an extra year?".
I often start habits or routines with a lot of fanfare, but then never follow up on them. Sometimes when people meet me they ask about them, so I figured I'd just think of all of them that I can come up with and catch you up.
Being married has been really great! People always ask me about it as if it's some enormous deal, but it still doesn't feel like a huge deal to me. I attribute that mostly to having a great wife who is very easy to talk to and work with, and with whom I share many values. By far the biggest change between dating and being married is that we think about things across a longer time horizon. We both really like doing that independently, so it's a good upgrade.
Many years ago I gave up breakfast because I was told by my trainer friend that I should be intermittent fasting. At first it felt like a big imposition, but after a few days I didn't feel hungry at breakfast time any more.
Even better, it allowed me to get to work earlier and to do so while drinking tea. I'm not sure I noticed any benefits from intermittent fasting, but I really appreciated the convenience.
Last year a friend of mine who had discovered a new enthusiasm for health and getting in shape began to talk about how much he liked fasting. He would do it for 24 hours once each week. I decided to give it a try and found that it was another level-up in convenience from skipping only breakfast.
After a bunch of research I determined that doing it regularly wouldn't just not kill me, but it could actually be good for health and longevity. I started doing it every day I was in Vegas. At first it seemed like my body fat went down a little bit, but it plateaued quickly and I don't feel that it has significantly changed how I look.
I'm not sure any of us know exactly what has made us who we are, but it's an interesting topic to think about, and one I consider often as I want to share those things which have brought me success with my readers. Often the narratives are a little bit too convenient to believe that they represent the whole truth, so I'll share my own with the caveat that it's impossible for me to remove my subjective opinion.
I generally assume that the overwhelming majority of my success has nothing to do with things that I have done. I was born into a great country with a lot of opportunity and no war or famine. That's about as out of my control as it gets, but may be the greatest factor in any success I've had. How well would I have done if I was born into poverty in the middle of a war somewhere?
My parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles have had a huge impact on my life. This one is a little bit harder to quantify, but having food or shelter was never something I had to think about, nor was having clothes or the ability to do activities with my friends. My family gives me a tremendous amount of love and encouragement, and every parenting book I've ever read has underlined how important that is.
I think that my success (and maybe your own), could be attributed 80-100% to factors completely out of my control. So while I think that it's important to be proud of one's achievments and success, it's disingenuous to not spread that credit around pretty widely.