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My friend Jimmy was working on his business, Minaal. Every once in a while, when you're really working hard, you need to come up for air and take a break. You want to do something that uses the opposite side of your brain to give the analytical side a break. Not sure if that's how the biology works, but it feels like it.
Anyway, his break was to practice the Dr. Dre art of "Forgot about Dre", a gangsta rap classic from 2001. He and I both like karaoke, and that's our traditional duet.
In between rapping and getting back to work, he fired off an email to me suggestion a blog post: the importance of having varied interests.
Tonight I was hanging out with a few of my favorite people in Tokyo. We were talking about people we met while traveling, and one person in particular that we had met at the same time.
You know, I said, he was actually a really good guy. He was very smart and really nice... but at the same time, I didn't necessarily feel like I wanted to hang out with him again.
I didn't mean it as an insult, just as an observation. Perfectly good guy, but I didn't feel compelled to spend more time with him. Why?
There are a finite number of activities and interests available. It's a big number, but there are a lot of people out there. Everyone knows someone who's into computers. Everyone knows someone who's into dogs. Most of us probably know someone who's into juggling, sushi, biking, hiking, dancing, or any other subject.
Sometimes people are only into that one thing, though. Or at least that's the side they present. And those people, in contexts where you're not trying to dive deep into that one subject, tend to be pretty boring.
An analogy might be musical notes. Any note can sound wonderful, but that doesn't mean you want to hear it in isolation all the time. Combined with other notes, though...
What makes people interesting, what gives them depth and character, are the intersections between interests. One of my friends loves cooking, programming, and colors. While I may have thought about each of those things, I never really thought much about the intersections between them. She has, and that gives her an interesting perspective.
Another friend of mine is into acupuncture, Japanese, and social skills. His perspective is also unique and interesting.
It's not just in other people, of course. That's just the visible example. Varied interests also provide a rich internal atmosphere. At various points in time I've been into ballet, programming, traveling, languages, small engine repair, pickup, and poker. I'm constantly amazed at the parallels I see between those fields.
And it's amazing how skills from one translate into another. Pickup made me a better poker player. Programming made me better at fixing engines. The confidence in uncomfortable situations built through travel helped me do really well in ballet.
These parallels and intersections are always a surprise. You don't do one because it will help the other. You do one because you allow yourself to follow a thread of interest down the rabbit-hole, and you're pleasantly surprised when it makes you better at something else. You do many things because you know that your unique insights will come between two subjects, not on one alone.
And through developing these varied interests, you become a better person. Not better than anyone else, just better than you used to be. By becoming better at one thing, you become better at anything. Each new pursuit gives you a different dimension through which you can see the world. And the unique and unlikely combination of interests you develop gives you something valuable to share with the world.
Focus is a good thing. If there's one activity or subject you love, then dedicating years, or your entire life to it is a good thing. Often, though, the best way to get to those depths in one subject is to have interests in others as well. That's how you make the breakthroughs others can't.
Photo is from a market in Budapest.
Currently in Vegas! Just built a raised tatami tea room in my place and bought a cheap car!
I really agonized over the purchase of my latest jacket. For about fifty dollars more, I could get a jacket that was .8 ounces lighter than the other one. It sounds crazy just writing that. In the end I found a deal to get that jacket for the same price, so I was spared the agony of having to make decision.
Managing every ounce in a backpack sounds ridiculous. I get it. It seems like obsession gone awry, excess for its own sake.
But a couple weeks ago, walking through Budapest, I decided to take my backpack with me for the day. I wasn't sure if I'd find some time to sit and do some work, and we were thinking of going to baths, where I'd prefer to have my own soaps. But, as it was our first day in a new city, there would be a lot of walking.
We barely took public transport, instead walking miles up and down streets, across bridges, and up a huge hill for the view. And, for maybe the first time, I realized that I didn't notice the weight of my bag at all. At nine pounds or so, it was so light that it didn't encumber me in any way.
I'm not sure how many countries I've visited in the past year, but the fact that I have no idea gives you an idea. Four in the past week, if you don't count the US. A lot of good flight deals popped up, and I booked them more quickly than I could ask myself if traveling constantly was really the best use of my time. But here I am, in the air between Budapest and Amsterdam, on the last round the world I have booked.
On these trips I've been to a bunch of new places. There wasn't a single one that left me unable to find something to love of the city, but certainly some were better than others. Budapest, totally unexpectedly, is one of the best new places I've been in a long time.
That's not to say that it's objectively better than anywhere else, only that it fits my peculiar tastes remarkably well. I flew into Budapest without being able to list with certainty a single country Hungary borders. That's a good indicator of how little I knew about the city. I figured, like other European cities, I'd go to museums, walk around the city, admire the architecture, and eat delicious unhealthy food. I did those things, but also found a lot more.
Budapest is beautiful. It straddles the Danube river with three different bridges, and along those banks are beautiful old European buildings. But go a bit further in and you also see really well done modern architecture, sometimes integrated with old buildings.
I think that there are two main things worth building in life, not as ultimate life goals, but as valuable waypoints to whatever goals you may have. Those two things are an amazing group of friends and enough money to survive for a long time.
To some people, mostly those who have already done it, that sounds easy and obvious. Others will have done one, but not the other, and only one seems difficult. And to those who haven't achieved either yet, maybe both sound difficult.
But regardless of how easy or difficult these things seem, maybe we can all agree that they're possible and helpful. After all, plenty of other people have done these things already, and don't they seem to be benefiting from them?
Why these two things? Because they're universally beneficial and within reach of anyone. It's not often you can prescribe something universally. On the other hand, there's no simple answer as to how to get them. Each one relies heavily on our individuality.
Some cities I love because they're full of things I like to do. Tokyo, Shanghai, and Budapest, for example. Others I love because of how they feel, but I don't always know what to do with myself there. Amsterdam is one of those cities. I love walking along the canals, I love seeing people biking, and I love the great art, but those things don't necessarily fill my days.
This morning my friends were going to the museums. Great choice, but I'd been to the Rijks and Van Gogh museums recently and wasn't particularly excited see the modern art museum. Most western European countries don't have much for tea, but I figured I'd take a shot in the dark and see if there was anywhere I could go sit and have some nice tea while writing or pondering my future.
One place stood out: Formocha. It wasn't clear whether it was actually a tea house or somewhere that just sold tea, but it would be a nice one-mile walk along the canals regardless.
The sun was out, which I noticed only because I hadn't seen it the whole time we were in Budapest. I walked along the sunny side of the canals, enjoying seeing the drawbridges and houseboats. But when I arrived at Formocha, it was closed.
When I hit them up for blog post ideas, my friends say that I should write posts about how I decide what to do next. I'm not sure if it's because they think I make good decisions when faced with the question, or because my choices are so bizarre that they require explanation.
I don't feel like my decision-making process is so unusual that it necessitates a post, but sometimes it's the things most obvious to us that are most interesting to others. My friend Leo is a dad every day of his life, but I find each parenting decision he has to make fascinating.
What to do next is a question that has to be answered constantly, both in the short term and the long term. What big project should I tackle next? What should I work on this week? What should I make for breakfast?
To further complicate things, each question has nearly unlimited possible choices. Should I do another startup? Become an artist? Join the circus? These tend to be my favorite decisions to make, though-- those that combine imperfect information with possibility trees that can't fully be analyzed.
My natural instinct to procrastinate is about as strong as natural inclinations get. Back in school, major papers were often done on a tiny laptop the period before they were due. I'd then tell the teacher my printer didn't work, and take my floppy disk to the library and print it out.
It's tempting to say that, just like early birds and night owls, there are two equally effective types of people. Some, like me, just work well under pressure and get their best work done that way. Others feel better when they get things done early.
Tempting, but I don't think it's true. Procrastination is worse, and people who procrastinate have a fundamental flaw that ought to be overcome.
For most things, I don't procrastinate anymore. I just don't have the time. My todo list is longer than the day, so things have to be done constantly. I guess in the right environment, many problems are solved automatically.
As I mentioned in other posts, I've bought a place in Vegas and have officially moved there (although I still spend a lot of my time traveling). Living in Vegas is a weird sort of loophole that most people probably aren't even aware of, so I figured I'd talk about why I decided to do it, and the unique advantages that Vegas presents.
If you work independently or remotely, Vegas is very likely to be a place you should consider moving. If doing so would require you to find a job, Vegas is probably not for you. The job market here is terrible, which is part of why this opportunity exists. That barrier is suppressing demand for housing.
The biggest reason to consider Vegas is the very low cost of living. There's no state income tax, and housing is cheap. Ridiculously cheap. My place would have cost approximately twenty-two times as much if I had bought it in San Francisco. Thats crazy! I bought a 1000 square foot place for under $45,000.
The thing that makes this amazing is the location. My place is six minutes from the airport, eight minutes to the center of the strip, twelve minutes from downtown, and five from Chipotle.
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.
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.