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I was encouraged to watch the TV series True Crime, which I was told was excellent. I watched the first couple episodes and found all sorts of things I didn't like about it, which made it easy for me to stop watching the show and write it off.
This happens to me for most TV shows, but it's not an accident. I've cultivated a strong inclination to dislike TV. Usually an optimist, I encourage myself to be very negative when it comes to "low-value" media. I love walking out of movies so much that I'm always looking for a reason to bolt within the first half-hour.
A few days ago I reached a place of disgust with myself. I thought-- "What are you doing? Is this all the effort you're willing to pour into your goals? Are you trying to be mediocre? It's time for a big change!"
That may sound like negative self-talk, but I've developed on purpose an inclination to have those sorts of moments. I see them as fire breaks. If I'm not performing at my best, or near my best, I want to have some level of exasperation towards myself.
The last plane flight before my breaking point had me doing a tiny bit of work and watching some documentaries on the in-flight system. On this one I've written three blog posts, done some planning, and worked on CruiseSheet.
In other words, these inclinations really serve me well. I've learned that it's hard to force people, including yourself, to make positive changes if you don't feel an emotion pushing change. So I brainwash myself a little bit create inclinations to make those emotions come more frequently.
Self-talk is so powerful because it's always happening. It's not trivially easy to control, but putting in the effort to do so seems to be well worth the time. It's sort of like programming your brain-- it can be a hassle at first, but once it gets running, it's all benefits.
This goes both ways-- both in creating new inclinations and in removing ones that don't serve you. Are you inclined to lose your temper? Get rid of that. Do you let yourself slide? Create an inclination to get fed up and take action. What are your inclinations? Which new ones would make your life better?
Photo is the throne at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. This is my second time in Russia and my first in St. Petersburg. Seems like a really cool city, and the historical grandeur stuff is insane.
Ask anyone what their top priority is, and I bet you get at least three. And if you were to observe their actions, maybe you'd notice that the top priority they're acting on has nothing to do with any of the three they listed.
We all want a lot, and that's because it's easy to want a lot. I want happiness, fulfillment, lots of money, great friends, a great relationship, and just about everything else out there.
It's easy to want a lot. What does it take for me to add something to my wish list? Nothing. I just added a jetpack, and it took me two seconds and felt great. A jetpack! How cool would that be?
But in the same way that great design is defined by negative space, our true wants, those that we will work towards, are defined by those things that we give up.
I say this not to complain or even to suggest that it should be otherwise, but it occurs to me regularly that I live in a world that was not only not designed for me, but may have been designed for the opposite of me.
I'm in Queenstown, New Zealand right now with a couple friends. We went downtown to eat dinner and then searched around for something else to do. Queenstown has a cute compact downtown area full of pedestrian streets lit by shop signs. We passed by store after store and couldn't find one we wanted to go into.
Finally we settled on Starbucks where we drank drinks we didn't really want. There we searched online for something to do, came up empty, and went home.
This happens to me all the time. It doesn't bother me, because I expect it and because I understand that I'm the one who is off. I've made strange decisions that have left me incompatible with the world by default.
Being funny is an interesting phenomenon. Why are people funny? Why does it matter? Sure it makes you feel good when someone is joking around with you, but so do back rubs and compliments. Why do we like it when people are funny?
One theory is that humor is an indicator of intelligence, and we like intelligent people because we can learn from them and rely on them. And unlike other examples of intelligence, humor is really hard to fake.
For example, I could memorize a lot of facts about marsupial animals. If I were to rattle those facts off at you, you might think that I'm pretty smart. But at the same time you'd know that maybe I just memorized them. Memorization is easy, so we don't necessarily think people who know some facts are intelligent.
But humor requires taking unrelated concepts, relating them, and putting them into a familiar context. That's really hard to do, especially in real time. If someone recited a bunch of copied jokes you wouldn't think he's intelligent, but if he made some funny off-the-cuff comments you would.
Two years or so into working on Sett, an experienced entrepreneur friend of mine brought up the topic of taking investment. He thought that we should raise money and was interested in being the first person to invest.
So we talked seriously about it. One of the questions he asked was whether I wanted to build a lifestyle business or a "real" business. I felt a tinge of offense to the question and answered that I definitely didn't want a lifestyle business.
And yet... I never did anything that someone building a "real" business would do.
A year and a half ago I declared that it was time for WifeQuest, where I'd get serious about dating and find someone to spend the rest of my life with. That's something I want and everything else in my life was going well, so it seemed like the right time for it.
Want to totally change your life in just one day with one little tip? Too bad, because that's not how it works.
Once in a while a small thing does totally change our lives. Someone happens to say something to us at just the right time and it impacts us forever. Other times we gradually make a change but we point to one moment as the moment it "happened".
It's great that these things do happen sometimes and there's nothing wrong with trying to spark them, but at the same time it's important to recognize that most lasting powerful change comes from slow and persistent work on hard things.
I'm naturally not a very hard worker. So I tried different quick fixes to become a harder worker, but I'd always regress back to procrastinating and not working very hard.
I remember reading about the famous marshmallow study, the one where they see if kids can delay gratification or not. Reading about it really haunted me, because a psychologist came to my school in third grade and did a similar experiment on us students. We could have an unspecified "big prize" later, or a small prize immediately. I walked away with silly putty.
As you probably know, the people who delay gratification are more successful, happier, etc. When I found this out, I became determined to be a gratification delayer.
I love thinking about these dichotomies-- you're either X or Y, and if you're Y... maybe you'd better start becoming an X.
A related one that I think is really practical is the split between builders and allocators. I'm not sure those are the exact best words, but I've always been bad at coming up with catchy terms for these things.
My sister told me about a date she went on recently. When she very politely said that she didn't think they were a good match, the guy went nuts and said all sorts of rude and outlandish things.
Poor guy. He almost certainly knew that he was digging an even deeper hole by saying the things he said, but his mental state was so bad that he couldn't help it. What would it be like to live in that brain?
He's an extreme example, but I don't think it's all that common for people to really have nice clear minds. The more I talk to people the more it seems like everyone has insecurity, doubt, anger, jealousy, fear, or other negative emotions lurking about a lot of the time.
It's one thing to feel these things occasionally. If a bear suddenly charges at you and you don't feel fear, that would be very strange. But you should not be living daily life with these emotions in your brain.
If you've been reading my blog for a while, it's probably very obvious to you that I am terrible at marketing. My preferred method of marketing is to not do it at all and hope that good things happen.
This generally works to some extent thanks to you, my readers. Over almost ten years I've built up enough trust and a track record of producing good quality work that when I say that something's good, I get the benefit of the doubt.
As I've done more and more projects, though, it's become obvious that I need to get better at marketing. Every project I do seems to grow to about the same size and then plateau. I'm really determined to make CruiseSheet a big success, though, so I'm trying to push through.
Luckily I'm friends with some incredible marketers, guys who are effective but not sleazy, people like Noah Kagan, Sebastian Marshall, Ramit Sethi, and Nick Gray.
I don't think I've written about it before, but I've been into home automation for a really long time. I can't remember exactly when I started automating things, but it was definitely no later than 1999, seventeen years ago.
Back then I used something called X-10. It was flaky, and if you wanted more than just remote switches for your lights you needed to have a windows computer running some fairly janky software.
I very optimistically bought a couple dozen motion detectors and programmed my place such that I would never have to hit a light switch. As I walked around lights would dim up and down based on where I was. I even had a sensor under the bed so that if I got up at night the bathroom lights would dim up a little bit.
Unfortunately there was also a bug I never solved that would occasionally turn all of my lights up to full brightness in the middle of the night. To cope with this I began to sleep on my stomach with my eyes in the crook of my arm. This went on for so long that it conditioned me to continue sleeping that way, even today.