I think a lot about what an outsider would assume about me if they were to get a deep view of me. What would they think my priorities are? Would they think that I will succeed? Would they think I'm a good friend? When the answers to these hypothetical questions is out of line with what I want, I adjust. It's a little hack to get perspective.
Today I found myself asking when that hypothetical observer would assume I was optimizing my life for. Hmmmm...
I think that almost everyone optimizes for the very short term. One day. One week. A month. Maybe a year. Who is really doing things for five years from now? Any of us? The lady across the aisle from me on this plane is drinking a Pepsi Max, eating chocolate, and playing a game on her iPad. When is she optimizing for?
We were all alive in 2011, and back then it wasn't all that easy to imagine 2016. Abstractly we could, but who among us could really feel what it would be like to be alive now?
How many of our actions in 2011 are helping us now? I moved to San Francisco and made some lifelong friends then, so that was good. I learned some skills I still use. So in some ways I optimized. But I also spent a lot of time entertaining myself and engaging in frivolity.
When I think about my needs and wants and goals, this year seems very important. I have revenue goals, personal goals, fitness goals. When I think about 2021, my general thought is, "Yeah, everything will probably work out..."
What would happen if we all just decided that we were going to reallocate time and focus to making our lives in 2021 excellent, at the cost of the next five years? I'm not saying to do it-- just to think about it and evaluate it for yourself.
I've been thinking about it and making some changes.
I've doubled back down on fitness because it occurred to me that now is when it will be easiest for me to get into peak shape. The tradeoff is a little bit of comfort (working out) and some culinary pleasure (which I'm averse to anyway). That shift had me doing multiple workouts in a day while on a recent cruise, something I've never done before.
I'm taking work much more seriously and trying to grow my business. I'm not looking for a quick boost, I'm looking to invest in systems and technology to build it up so that it's a big success in five years.
I'm continuing to be very intentional about who I spend time with, going way out of my way to deepen relationships that are important to me, and paring down time spent with people who are great people but may not be important relationships in five years (side note to friends: that probably isn't you. I've also just not had enough time for my favorite people recently, which is part of why I'm making this change).
I'm putting time and money into assets that will open up options for me indefinitely, like the Island or building homebases around the world.
The ironic bit is that a lot of this is actually very pleasant in the short term. It's just not as easy as the alternative. I felt great working out on the ship and biking around Budapest this week and it made me want to be even more active. I love working on my business and planning long term. The time spent with my favorite people is some of my favorite time. And even if it's hard work, I love building up the island and navigating foreign real estate markets.
I try not to rally troops to action because my whole blog is about people making their own decisions. Every week I just want to write the same one sentence post: "Think critically about everything and make your own decisions according to your own values!". But how cool would it be if some of us took this five year idea to heart and all of a sudden my readers had disproportionately awesome lives five years from now?
Photo is a cool little pool near Deak Ferenc Ter in Budapest where people sit and cool off their legs. I'm really in love with Budapest these days.
If you're in Budapest and want to meet, let's do it next week. I'm free the 7th-16th or so. If you've already emailed me, I'll be getting back to you soon. I've just been figuring out my schedule.
Great post. This is exactly how I've been thinking about my life. Do I want to be doing this activity 5 years from now? It helps me over look the short term pain of somethings and the short term benefits of others.
I've been traveling consistently now for over eight years. In that time I've visited around seventy countries, many of them several times. But how I travel has changed considerably over those years.
While I might think that there are some "wrong" ways to travel, I don't think that there is one correct way to do it. Goals and circumstances change, and different travel styles accommodate those changes.
Maybe more than anything, I'm using talking about travel to illustrate something that I like to harp on: the idea that you should constantly reevaluate your habits and patterns to make sure that they suit you. Sometimes we build identities around things we do rather than things we are, and that's unhealthy.
My first serious international trip was nine months long. Todd and I sold everything, packed small bags, and circled the world. Some of our stops were short, but several lasted for a month or two.
Back then my goal was to just see and understand the world. I had a vague idea that my outlook on life was limited by my surroundings, and I wanted to see what life was like in different places. Staying for long times and removing myself from the United States accomplished that.
I can't say now that I've seen and understand the whole world, but that's no longer a weak point. I understand a lot more and have seen a lot. So while I still move closer to those goals when I travel, they're no longer the primary reasons I do it.
Now I travel in much shorter bursts. I'm in San Francisco for three days, was just in Las Vegas for four, Austin for two, and San Francisco for a few before that. I don't think I've been in any one place for more than three weeks consecutively in the past three years.
At the same time, I return to the same places over and over again. It's impossible for me to count how many times I've been to Tokyo, Vegas, San Francisco, the island, or New York in the past few years. Budapest is new on my radar, but I've been four times in the past year or so.
A big principle in my life is flexibility. I try to build myself into a flexible person. I don't need to be a master of too many skills, but I strive to be proficient at a basic level across as many disciplines as possible. At some level I can program, dance ballet, speak ten languages, rap, lead groups, entertain people, write, do construction, appreciate art, cook, and do many other things. I'm a beginner in many of those areas, but having any proficiency gives me a lot of flexibility in what I can achieve and where I can be useful.
This principle also extends to travel. My goal is to be able to be anywhere at any time if the situation calls for it. If there was a good reason to be in Shanghai tomorrow, it wouldn't be a big deal to get there. I've got frequent flyer miles banked, can counteract jetlag, can work on the plane as well as at my destination, and can get by in Chinese. In the same way that someone's day might be altered but not totally disrupted by a change in weather, my life is altered but not disrupted by changing my location.
While before I used to go to places for the sake of the place itself, now I move around more because of the people. I always come back to San Francisco because it has the highest concentration of good friends. My friend Nick and his family invited me to go on a cruise with them in the Baltic Sea this summer, and my friend Jimmy was planning on being in Europe afterwards, so I'll spend the late summer and fall in Europe.
The hassle of switching locations used to be a big deal, so I would try to minimize it by staying in one place for long periods of time. As I've grown accustomed to it, moving around a lot impacts my productivity and schedule far less than it used to, so I do it more.
I've also found that certain types of travel aren't as valuable to me as they used to be. I used to find solo travel exciting, but now I'm most likely to hole up in my airbnb and work if I'm by myself. So if I'm going to be by myself, I just go back to Vegas where cost of living is low and productivity is high. Traveling to new countries just for the sake of seeing a new place is also less exciting to me. I still enjoy it, but it's less revelatory, so I only do it if there's some other reason to go.
This is how I travel now, but I expect it will change in the upcoming years. If I was traveling this same way ten years from now I'd be concerned that I had stopped evolving as a person. After all, our habits and routines should reflect who we are.
Maybe I'll even stop traveling. It's hard to imagine that now, but you never know. Part of being flexible is having the flexibility to stay in one place if there's some reason to.
Travel is a big part of my life, so it's worthwhile to examine it and make sure that it still reflects my priorities and goals, and isn't just a vestige of an old identity. It may not be travel for you, but it's worth examining those things that take up a lot of your time to make sure that your time is being spent in a way that aligns with your goals.
Photo is a bamboo forest in Noumea, New Caledonia. Probably the most "off the beaten path" place I've visited recently.
My new book sales have been really bad! I still enjoyed writing the book, but you readers have spoken... I will only write self-help books in the future. I'll probably write the next one I have planned in the fall.
Edit: I gave up on financial goals in late 2011 after some huge financial and artistic wins... money shouldn't be taken too seriously. For the record, they were all basically on track, some were being massively exceeded, others were a bit behind schedule, but were all happening.
I set my next 10 years of financial goals on June 28th. That was exactly a month ago.
1 year - Critical Thinking [my first book] out. Blog income trickling. Some info products. Some freelancing. Something else, some X-Factor thing bringing in cash. Net monthly income positive. Health insurance. $50,000 in the bank. Expenses = income per month minimum.
3 years - 3 to 5 books out, many products out, blog income robust, some working on big exciting deals. $10,000 per month total, $5000 passive at least. First property owned. $300,000 in the bank.
5 years - 7-10 books out, many many products out, many passive income internet properties, working on big exciting things, $50,000 per month total, $40,000 passive at least. $1,000,000 in the bank.