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For years I've thought about doing a live event for my readers. It's always been on the backburner as I've thought about formats and group sizes, but my friend Leo Babauta challenged me to set a date and just do one, so I did.
Last weekend ten people came into town for a 1.5 day event. They were pretty brave, because I gave almost no information on what the event would be like, since I didn't really know when I posted it.
As the weeks passed and I thought about the event, I decided to keep it simple. We'd hang out together in a big hotel suite and I'd coach them one on one, pairing them up with someone else to act as an accountability buddy. I had done something similar via video chat for a charity a few years before and got good feedback on it.
Not having ever done an event like this, I didn't really know what to expect. Would people get along? Would we have way too much time or not enough? How many breaks should we take? What kind of person would actually show up?
A day and a half later, and I had the answers to those and many other questions.
The guys who attended were amazing. They were different in all sorts of ways, but from the get-go were extremely supportive of each other and acted like they'd been friends forever. I was really impressed with how open, vulnerable, and helpful everyone was. Halfway through I thought, "Maybe I should make this an annual event and invite just the same people every year". I really couldn't have asked for a better group of people, especially for my first event.
Some people had big challenges, others were trying to make smaller optimizations. I thought that the range of problems and questions people brought were really good and had a lot of crossover appeal.
Not everyone has given feedback yet, but so far feedback has been very positive and people have rated the event an average of 9 out of 10.
I learned a tremendous amount, all of which I will bring to future events. Maybe the biggest thing I learned is that I will definitely be doing future events. I'm going to think about it a little bit and announce the next one as soon as I can.
Here's what I learned:
1. I'm weird, so my readers are a little bit weird, too. The weirder you are, the harder it is to meet other people like you. The value of having so many like-minded people in one place is something I greatly underestimated. One of the attendees organized a dinner for everyone the night before, and I wish I had done more stuff like that. Even in the few breaks I took, there were a lot of really great conversations between attendees. I should have left more time for that. I'd say that this event was 90% work and 10% social, but I would probably have future ones be 60-70% work and 30-40% social. No one who took my post-event survey wanted more than 70% work.
2. I will definitely make the next one longer. I think I was a little insecure about being able to fill up multiple days with useful content, so I kept this one to 14 hours. I ended up going overtime and when everyone left I found myself wishing we could have gone on another day or two.
3. Ten hours of being "on" is extremely draining. I find in my coaching practice that the maximum number of sessions I can do in a day is 4-5. This was the equivalent of ten or so. I think I performed well overall, but I was definitely fresher in the morning than in the evening. I would space out the work portions over a few days and give myself an hour or two off per day.
4. I should have left more breaks. I really wanted to deliver a lot of value to people, so I didn't want to have a lot of breaks. I thought that maybe if people were standing around hanging out instead of listening to me, they might feel like I was padding the event. In retrospect I think it was a little too intense, and would have been a better experience if we just stretched the event out over a few days and had some down time.
5. People are good at getting what they want out of an event. People asked questions, asked for clarification, and pushed back against suggestions they already knew they weren't going to do. I suspect that this is more true for my readers than the average person, but I really liked that everyone who showed up was proactive about getting what they wanted out of the experience. I'd like to encourage that for future events.
6. Ten people is the maximum I can do with this format and time allowance. Two more people were supposed to come, but had last minute travel issues, and I ended up being glad in a way. If I want to have bigger events, I will need to modify the format.
While I felt like this event went even better than my highest expectations, I think that I can make future ones even better. I may do the next one in Las Vegas again to make logistics easy, and then start doing them in other cities. I'll probably do 2-4 per year.
I'd ideally like to come up with a way to get much larger groups together at a lower price point, mostly to facilitate connections between readers. I'm not sure what the best format for that is, as I think it's too boring and generic to have an event where I stand up there and lecture for hours straight.
I may incorporate travel. I'm thinking about doing one that's mostly social and would be me bringing people around Budapest, leaving a lot of big blocks of time to have good conversations, help people, answer questions, etc.
I may keep doing these small events and then have one annual event that can host a larger group, so that everyone can meet each other.
If you have any thoughts on what you'd like to see in an event run by me, please let me know. I will probably do the next one late summer or fall in Vegas and will give people plenty of advance notice.
Photo is our group picture from the event!
The first thing I did where I was aware that people thought I was crazy was to buy a school bus with my friends. In retrospect it probably wasn't the first time people thought I was crazy, just the first time it was so obvious that I couldn't ignore it. I was somewhat oblivious back then, so a lot got by me.
People really thought I was nuts when I started gambling. I suppose I sort of encouraged it as a prank, but there was a very real consensus at school that I had become a problem gambler.
Not everyone thought I was crazy when I dropped out of school, but many people did.
Again, almost everyone thought I was crazy when moved to LA with a few weeks notice to learn pickup. Same when I sold everything to travel the world with a tiny backpack, when I bought the island, when moved to Vegas, when I go on cruises, and who knows what else.
While a lot of the actions I take on a daily basis strike people as normal and reasonable, I'd wager that the majority of people would classify most of my major life decisions as crazy.
One of my friends likes to remind me that everyone is worrying all the time, because he senses that I almost never worry. He's right, and when I do worry it tends to be a more active process where there's something happening and I'm trying to figure out what to do about it. I'm not really even sure that can be defined as worry.
Of course, a large part of being able to rarely worry is that I have a very good life. If I was in an abusive relationship and under constant threat of violence, I have to assume that I would worry all the time.
While there are circumstances from which it is very difficult to extricate oneself, I've found that a lot of not worrying is just putting yourself in a position where you have few things which concern you.
A perfect example is living below your means. I have always been perfectly willing to live below my means, even when there wasn't all that much room below the bar. For a while I lived in my RV and cooked the same lentil, quinoa, and vegetable stew every night for dinner. Though I really enjoyed that lifestyle, it was certainly less convenient and comfortable than living in a nice apartment and eating out every night.
In one of my (many) posts about optimizing, someone made a comment to the effect of, "What's the point of optimizing everything? Eventually you'll optimize your entire life away and have nothing left to do." That reminded me of what people say when they hear that I'm being cryogenically frozen when I die. Very often they say that they wouldn't want to live forever.
It is very peculiar to me that people would ever want to die, but that's another topic. Even stranger to me is that people somehow believe that the exact right time to die is when they are going to die anyway. Good genes and healthy living, dying at age 95? Perfect. Cancer at 65? Also perfect.
If you would not end your life earlier, and would likely get medical treatment to extend it to a "normal" life expectancy, why would you not also live forever, or at least until you voluntarily died at age 500?
(I should say here that I believe there is only a 5% chance I will actually be preserved and resurrected in the future, so you can save the comments about why it won't work)
It cost me about $100 to go to my friend's Christmas party. I had to buy a cheap flight from Vegas to San Francisco, and then a couple uber rides to and from the party.
On the surface, that doesn't make all that much sense to do. But I made a deal with myself—any time one of my good friends in SF invites me to something in SF, I will go, even if it's not quite worth it on paper.
My friends in SF are some of my closest friends. I love living in Las Vegas and have saved a ton of money in doing so, but if moving meant that I'd never spend time with my SF friends, the move wouldn't be worth it for me.
Sometimes the only way to unlock something valuable is to overpay for something else. The only way I can live in Vegas and still maintain important friendships is by overpaying most of the times I hang out with them. So overall it's a net benefit.
I remember hearing about the Teforia a long time ago. The story around it was that it was this comically overpriced tea brewer, often compared with the Juicero, that symbolized what was wrong with Silicon Valley.
So, of course, I took very little interest in it. I like brewing tea and, having brewed it at least a few thousand times, I'm pretty good at it. What's the point of a machine that's not going to do it as well as I can?
I can't remember why, but a few weeks ago, the Teforia came back on my radar. I searched and found that they had gone out of business and that the machines which were once $1000-15000 were now being sold as cheaply as $200 on eBay.
At the same time, I had been noticing something troubling about my productivity. I realized that because I made tea at my desk every day, and because it required a fair amount of manual intervention, I would avoid any tasks which required serious concentration for the first couple hours.
My main goal as a writer is to write pieces that will spark a permanent positive change for someone. I assume that most posts won't do that for anyone, but if I write enough and have enough people read my posts, it will happen from time to time. I read a lot of blog posts and it rarely happens to me, but when it does, the effect is powerful and makes it worth reading all the posts that have no effect.
Around five years ago I read an excellent piece by Sebastian Marshall about Consolidation (http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/on-brilliance-and-consolidation) that had such an effect on me. Before reading it, any consolidation I did was random. Sometimes it happened, other times it didn't.
Consolidation, at least as I think about it, is taking time after progress to both cement the process and reset so that you're ready for the next piece of work. Some examples:
1. I built CruiseSheet to be a great cruise search engine, but it required a lot of my own intervention to keep it running. Things would break and I'd have to go fix them. So I spent a bunch of time automating maintenance, building failsafes, and building alerts to to let me know when stuff stopped working. This didn't increase revenue and certainly wasn't exciting, but it allowed me to keep the gains I'd made and free up my time and focus for the next project.
Out of the corner of my eye, just past the cars lined up in the turning lane, I could see that something was coming towards me quickly. Way too quickly. I tried to swerve, but knew that the inevitable was coming.
I heard crunching metal, the screeching of tires sliding sideways against the pavement, and smashed glass. A driver ran a red light at full speed and t-boned me.
Once the car stopped, I hesitated for a fraction of a second before looking over at my fiancée. The car had driven straight into her door, which she was leaning on. She was okay. Good.
I got out of the car, now facing traffic in the oncoming traffic lane and walked towards the other guy's car. His airbags had deployed and the front of his car totally smashed. He looked at me with a blank stare. I opened my palms towards him as if to say, "what was that all about?"
To see if anyone had any tips for smuggling huge amounts of Chipotle into a hotel (which I only discovered at the last minute wasn't allowed), I searched Google for "Chipotle wedding".
I wasn't the only person who had the idea to have Chipotle catering for my wedding, but that part didn't surprise me. What surprised me was that most of the questions about the idea online were, "My fiancée and I both love Chipotle, but we're nervous people will judge us if we serve it at our wedding. Should we do it?"
The answer was a resounding no. Chipotle is totally inappropriate for a wedding, said the internet.
And, for a moment, even I felt the social pressure. What would people think, eating their DIY Chipotle out of cardboard bowls with plastic spoons? And then the moment passed and I realized first that it was my friends and family so they'd probably like it, and second that since this was the one party per lifetime I was going to plan, I/we could be a little selfish and have the food and drink (water) that we like.
I'm not sure how to even begin talking about 2017, except to say that it was a really exceptional year for me.
As I've said in previous years, every year of my life has so far been better than the previous. The primary driver is that I work for permanent, not fleeting, progress.
The net improvement year over year varies. Sometimes it's a small incremental improvement, and other times it's a huge one. I feel confident saying that 2017 delivered the biggest improvement ever.
The strange part of it all is that two areas that had been constant areas that demanded a lot of focus and time, dating and finances, both went to a 10/10 this year. I realized that part of my identity had become based around working on those things, so it's been weird to have both totally taken care of.