Read My Book about Habits!
Check out my bestselling book on habits, Superhuman by Habit. .
I'm fascinated by the attitudes of high-level professional fighters. It's such a strange job. Two people spend months preparing for a fifteen minute event, and one of them must lose. This weekend I'll be watching Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano fight, both of whom are undefeated. One of them, probably Cat, will lose that designation.
Usually when you're doing your work, it's just a matter of being good enough to succeed. Half the office doesn't fail; most do good work and continue. But fighters have to have this very strange mentality where they accept that they may lose, but have to simultaneously delude themselves into believing it's impossible.
In interviews, you hear them talk about how everything they've been doing has been leading up to this single fight. You hear them talk about their training and their gameplans. For a lot of them, you get the impression that they believe that they are special. Maybe not in a cosmic sense, but that they are destined to win due to their preparation, their training, and the arc of their life story.
I'm not sure that you can be a successful professional fighter without some level of this attitude. I think you have to see your path paved with capital W's, and disregard the fact that each one of them produces a big L on someone else's record. And I wonder if this attitude is one that us non-fighters should adopt as well.
When I look back on my stint in pickup, I really thought that I could be one of the best. There was absolutely zero evidence to support this, but I thought that I was special. And I became special, but only in retrospect.
Doing hard things is hard because there are obstacles in between us and success. With pickup I had to overcome mountains of insecurity, learn a ton about women, study psychology, conquer fear, and completely change my lifestyle. If I didn't believe that I was special, I would have also had to battle through self-doubt. I've seen the toll that's taken on people, and I'm not sure I could have made it through.
Believing that you're special artificially erases that massive obstacle. My friend Roxanne was a 2:1 underdog for her last two fights. She didn't know the odds the first time, and only knew the odds for the second fight right before it began. Would she have won both if she knew during her training that she was a statistical underdog? Would I have gotten good at pickup if I knew how few really succeeded and how similar I was to all of them?
There's a lot of narcissism at the top, and I don't think it's coincidence, or entirely unuseful. Like in so many things, the trick is to separate the bad from the good. You convince yourself that you're special and that you can do anything, but you don't think it makes you better than others. And you take responsibility, acknowledging that even though you may have some unique claim to the goal you're chasing, it's still going to take a ton of work and humility to get there.
Photo is surf in Maui. Really enjoyed visiting with friends.
The other day I thought about getting a job in the most abstract sense. I thought: what would it be like if I just turned one hundred eighty degrees and got a job. The idea is literally repulsive to me, but I make myself think these things once in a while, just to check in; once in a rare while the answer surprises me.
No surprise this time, though. I definitely don't want a job. I thought of a few positives, but the negatives stack up so quickly for me. The biggest negative, the one that really keeps me from doing it, is the idea of having to be accountable to someone else for many of my waking hours. It's really a foreign and ugly idea.
Right now I'm in Maui. It's sunny, and the temperature is in the low eighties. I know this because I checked on my phone, not because I'm outside. My friends are hiking a lava field and going to a beach, but I'm on my laptop working. I made the decision to stay in because I thought about a hike in paradise and I thought about debugging Cruise Sheet, and I was more excited about Cruise Sheet.
I'm not averse to work or offices or coworkers or responsibility. I'm averse to obligating my time.
I got into a tuktuk in Chiang Mai to meet my friends for dinner. A tuktuk is a motorcycle with a built in passenger cart behind the driver, which serves as a taxi, but doesn't have a meter. You negotiate the price up front to avoid getting hit with a big surprise when you arrive.
In broken Thai, I asked the driver how much the ride would cost. He thought for a long time and said 150 baht. I countered at 120 baht and he accepted.
How much is the twenty minute ride worth? I'd probably pay eight or ten bucks. I'm only here a limited amount of time, the restaurant sounded really cool, and I'd been cooped up on my computer all day.
His opening offer was $4.50, and I countered at $3.60. A local would have paid something like $3, and I could have gotten it there if I'd been willing to argue for a couple minutes.
Stepping back from Sett has left a lot of room for me to reflect. What went wrong? Of those things that went wrong, which were avoidable, or will at least be avoidable in the future? Two big things always surface, the first of which I'll talk about today.
When Sett started out, I spent most of my time innovating, imagining, making decisions, and building. The building was a very specific sort of building-- the kind where you're going a hundred miles and hour, shooting for 80% perfect. Something out of nothing, not perfection out of something.
By the end of Sett, I was spending my day programming and dealing with customer support. We were servicing our technical debt, meaning I was filling in that last 20% of polish that we had left the first time around. On top of those things, I was trying to figure out how to get us making money.
The biggest difference in these duties is something that maybe only I, or close friends, could spot. I'm really good at the first group, and pretty bad at the second group.
The boat we keep at the island is named the SS Hassle. The process for buying it involved punching a hole in the side of it, patching that hole, buying a new motor because the first one stopped working, sleeping in the car for two nights because the new motor didn't work either, and manually moving the boat a few hundred feet by sliding it over wood. Until that moment of pure euphoria, when we finally got it running, we lived in a world of frustration.
Since then, it's run perfectly. We've used it to cross the harbor a few dozen times and, thanks to our neighbor fixing it up for us, it starts on the first pull every time. It's deep and wide, so we can carry plenty of people or almost a thousand pounds of concrete (three times, in case you're wondering).
I remember how frustrating it was trying to get the thing working, but only in a foggy third-person sort of way. My only real emotion associated with it is amusement, thinking about the comedy of errors that was our lives for three days.
When I think about the boat now, that whole episode is just a footnote. Mostly I think about how much I like our boat and how glad I am to have it.
My cousin is deciding which college to go to. There's pressure, because this is going to be one of the biggest decisions of her life. I was thinking about that tonight as she and her mother talked about schools all over the US with all sorts of pros and cons.
The course of her life will be determined by the school she chooses. Mine was, and I dropped out after a year and a half. I made a friend who I learned gambling with, which funded my life for seven years. I met one of my best friends while I was there.
She'll go for four years, so I imagine it will have an even larger impact on her. It's daunting, just to think about, really.
At the same time, I don't think it matters much where she goes. Huge decision, huge impact, low importance.
Whenever I see a headline that begins with "New Study Proves...", I skip over it and move on to the next one. I love science, and I even like studies, but I have a big problem with the way studies are framed today, especially in the media. There are two major things wrong with these so-called scientific studies, which, combined, give us misleading and often outright incorrect headlines which many of us use to inform our decisions.
The first principle that is crucial to understand is that correlation is not the same thing as causation. For example, people who send their children to private schools are more likely to be convicted of stock market fraud than those who don't.
New Study Shows That Sending Children to Private School Could Lead to Criminal Behavior in Parents!
Well, no. People who have the money to send their kids to private school are more likely to be in a position to conduct stock frauds. There is a link between the two things, but it is not a causal link. In other words, sending your children to private school is not going to turn you into a criminal.
For a while I just accepted that I wouldn't have good tea when I traveled. I drank good tea in my RV, or at Samovar, but would drink nothing but water when I was on the road.
I slowly began to experiment with ways to have tea on the go, and now I really have a whole system down for efficiently carrying and brewing tea on the go.
The easiest thing to do is cold-brewed matcha. Breakaway Matcha offers extremely high quality matcha in single-serve packets. All you do is drop one in a nearly-full water bottle, shake it for fifteen seconds, and enjoy. This is always my go-to for my anti-jetlag strategy. As soon as I wake up, I shake up a bottle of matcha.
I've been wanting to write this post for a long time, because it's the kind of post that will allow me to write more posts, linking this one as background. Because it's so important, I've been waiting for the right time to write it. Sometime like now, when I'm fed, tea-caffeinated, motivated, and have a few hours with no anticipated distractions.
Expected Value, or EV, is the fundamental building block of decision-making. If you don't understand it, whether by name or not, you are not making optimal decisions. If you do understand it, at least you stand a chance.
EV is a term that describes the mathematically predicted outcome of an action. The EV of you finding a dollar on the ground is one dollar. Whenever you find a dollar on the ground, you gain one dollar, so that's the value of that event.
Let's say that you and I are going to flip a coin. If it's heads, nothing happens. If it's tails, you give me a dollar. The expected value for you is negative fifty cents because half the time nothing will happen, and half the time you'll lose a dollar.
I travel a lot. Not as much as a lot of business travelers, but maybe in the top 1% for independent travelers. That means that I spend a lot of time on planes, in airports, and experiencing just about every air-travel scenario possible.
People get to airports ridiculously early in fear of missing their flights. I almost never get to the airport more than forty-five minutes before my flight departs, and have only missed three flights in that time. One was because I had bad information on how long it took to get to the airport, another was because the guy driving the canoe to the airport stayed up all night doing cocaine and then slept in, and the most recent was because I forgot I had switched my flight to an earlier one. I've never missed a flight when I got there forty-five minutes early.
Now, this only applies if you don't check bags. If I can travel for months on end with a half-empty nineteen liter backpack, I'm sure that you can travel for any duration with the largest-allowed carry-on.
Check in for flights generally closes an hour before the flight takes off. Sometimes this is a soft deadline and you can actually check in later. It's best, however, to check in online twenty-four hours before your flight. Almost every airline in the world allows this, and you can choose a good seat.