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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).
When I wake up in the morning I have tea nearly every day. We bought two adjoining condos, so my kitchen became the tea kitchen. I have two shelves of identical tea tins with magnetic labels so that I can choose the one I want. I have a scale, tea scoop, and tea plate so that I can measure out my tea. The labeling system was one of those friction reducers that felt like it was maybe not worth it at the time, but now it feels well worth it.
If I'm having tea with my friends or wife I bring it over to the tea room, which was a bar area to the previous owner. I have one tea kettle there and another in the kitchen for making matcha. For a long time I only had one, but found that it was too much friction to make matcha, so I bought an extra kettle. I found the additional benefit of now being able to bring both kettles into the tea room so I don't have to get up to get more water when I'm making tea there. If I have tea by myself I make it in my office.
In my office is a huge 98" desk that I made out of an IKEA countertop. I have a 43" monitor and the exact same keyboard/trackpoint combo that I use on my laptop. My desktop and laptop sync so that I can work equally well on either, and I use the same keyboard/trackpoint combo so that there's no friction in moving between them. My computer is a whole other level of friction-reduction, doing a lot of stuff for me, and having key combinations for just about everything else.
We turned one of the spare bedrooms into a gym which has everything I need to do my full workout. In a commercial gym it used to take me about 40-45 minutes to do the complete workout, but our gym is so optimized that it takes me only about 30-35. Everything is set up correctly and there's no waiting. Plus there's obviously a huge savings and hassle cost in actually leaving and going to the gym.
I only eat one meal a day so that I don't have to think about the other two, and I default to eating at Chipotle at 6pm every day. If we have guests or if my wife wants to go somewhere else I'm happy to do that as well, but by having a default I never have to agonize over where to eat.
Our entire house is fully automated, so that when I put my phone on its charger next to the bed at night the doors lock and the lights turn off. Curtains close at sunset and open at sunrise, thermostats get turned down when we leave. Our plants are all in self watering pots. I even bought a valve and piping to make our humidifier fill itself. The bed makes itself at 11am every day.
Some of this stuff sounds excessive, and a lot of is certainly in the luxury category, but the combined effect is that when I'm home it is far easier for me to do the things I ought to be doing than those things that I shouldn't. For me that makes it all worth it.
Think about what creates friction in your life and chip away at it, one piece at a time. At first the benefits may not seem obvious, but eventually you get to a point where your life has almost no friction at all and you can spend your time doing things that are important to you.
Photo is my desk in Vegas
I still have a couple spots left for Superhuman 3 in Las Vegas in October. Email me if you're interested or read more details here.
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.
I'm about as anti-school as anyone can get. I dropped out of college and can't begin to convey the joy and relief I felt when I knew that I'd never go to school again. The costs of school have risen to such absurd heights that it now represents a poor value for more people than ever.
I think that it's important, though, to not look at things as either black or white. School isn't bad, it's just not always worth the time and/or money invested in it. Just like everything, it has its pros and its cons, the weights of which could be valued differently for anyone.
So in the spirit of seeing the other side of the coin and evaluating things on their entirety, I thought I'd share some of the things about school that I think are very positive and how I would use them if I were going to school.
The best thing about school, to me at least, is the social group. It's the easiest possible time to make friends because most people don't have fully formed social groups, you're around a bunch of people with some commonalities, and you're in an environment that lends itself to being social. If I were in school I would dedicate a huge amount of time and effort to making the best possible social group. I'm not good friends with too many people I met in my three semesters of college, but I did meet one of my best friends, Todd, there.
If you were the guy sitting in 29F yesterday, I really hope you're reading this.
I'm generally unflappable and not easily annoyed by people, but that goes out the window when I'm traveling by airplane. I imagine the frustration to be the same as Gordon Ramsay might feel if I was his sous chef. I travel many many days per year and am very good at it, which is obviously not normal.
You may not travel as much, so let me share some suggestions from someone who's way at the end of that bell curve to help make the experience better for you and everyone else in the plane.
1. Know in advance how to go through security and prepare for it before getting in the line. Do you need to take off your jacket or shoes? Do you need to take things out of your bag? Do you still have liquids in there that you will insist you don't have until the TSA agent shows them to you? The x-ray machine is for minimal staging. Be ready in advance. If there is an empty space ahead of you on the conveyer belt, you messed up. The checkers are slower than anyone unloading should be. If I see an empty space I cut the line, drop my single bag, and go through security.
Two friends and I went out scuba diving against the recommendation of the local divemaster. This was a very stupid idea and I knew it going in, but was frustrated that the conditions weren't good and really wanted my friends to get to scuba before they left. So we went out.
The main issue was the waves crashing against the lava rocks on the shore. We noticed, though, that they came in sets and figured we could get in safely if we just waited for a lull. Once we got out there it would be fine. No one really thought much about getting back in.
I went first, as I had been to this site several times. I timed the waves well and got in quite easily. I swam out a few dozen feet away from the rocks and waited for my friends. They dropped in with no problems as well and we went under. The turbulence of the 6-10 foot high waves had churned the bottom up so much that visibility was next to nothing. We were only a few feet away from each other at the surface, but couldn't find each other underwater at first. I found one friend and had him wait so that I could find the other friend. Once reunited we swam around a little bit, but the dive was pointless. Other than a turtle or two you couldn't see anything.
We decided to scrap the dive and went back to the surface. We bobbed up and down in the waves and realized two things very quickly. The first was that we weren't exactly sure where we were supposed to swim towards to get out. We knew the general area, but couldn't see the narrow passageway that led to the small cove where it was easy to climb in and out. At any given time there was a tall wave obscuring our view. The second thing we realized is that there was a rip tide pushing us away from the area to which we needed to swim. At maximum kicking speed we barely made progress against the ocean floor.