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I love opera and ballet, but I didn't always. I remember very excitedly going to my first ballet in San Francisco and leaving with no idea what I just saw and having thought that maybe there was a better way I could have spent my time and money.
Opera wasn't much better. A lot of the music I listen to is classical, but whenever I was listening to a big playlist of Mozart music, I'd skip through the opera songs.
Now opera and ballet are my two of my favorite types of performances to go to. I prefer them to rap concerts, movies, and just about anything else. My favorite place to see these types of performances is Budapest, and I'll often adjust my travel schedule around them.
While ballet and opera are obviously fairly different, the key to enjoying both of them is the same.
I learned this during that same first ballet that I wasn't so into. It was the Little Mermaid and I went with a ballerina friend of mine. She loved it and laughed when I said that I had no idea what was happening.
"You're supposed to read the story in advance so that you know what's going on."
Oh. I was so focused on trying to figure out the plot that I got frustrated and didn't appreciate the ballet. I didn't really want to go to another ballet, but I did anyway, having read the synopsis first, and I really enjoyed it.
The same is true of operas. You have to read the synopsis first. Unlike other forms of entertainment, where the plot is the primary draw, it's mostly a formality for operas and ballets. You go to see the emotion conveyed through dance or singing, to enjoy the music of the full orchestra, and to see people do incredibly difficult things.
I got so into ballet that I ended up taking classes myself. I got to the fourth level of classes, which sounds impressive until you realize that the fourth level is still called beginner ballet. Ballet is an incredibly difficult pursuit, and one of the few that require absolute grace. So you end up doing very difficult physical tasks, getting all of them at least a little bit wrong, and have to pass it off like it's easy and fluid.
Taking those classes helped me appreciate ballet even more. They make it look so easy that you don't realize how difficult even the most basic things that they do are.
Find a good ballet or opera performance to go check out. Read the synopsis before so that you know what's going on. Sometimes I'll read them a few times just to really ingrain the story. As there's no spoken words, it's sometimes hard to know who is who unless you've read the synopsis on Wikipedia.
When you go, just focus on enjoying the music, the costumes, the set, and the difficult tasks that the performers are making look easy. Even if you don't love the art of ballet or opera in the beginning, there's a lot there to take in and consider.
I now go to a dozen or so operas and ballets combined each year, and my enjoyment of them varies by a lot. I've also found that it's impossible to predict which ones I'll really like and which ones will just be okay. I walked out of the ballet of Spartacus, which I thought would be really cool, but I loved The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, which I thought would be mediocre.
My favorite ballets are The Fountain of Bakhchisarai and The Nutcracker, and my absolute favorite opera was Rigoletto. If you see any of those coming around, check them out. It's fun to enjoy a less-common form of entertainment, and you get the added bonus of being able to get your friends into it.
Photo is from the Sylvia ballet in Budapest. Solid but not my favorite ever.
I often get asked how I make friends with so many great people. This is sort of a funny question because I think most people actually don't know just how great my friend group is, since they only know a few people who are well known. So in a way, it's an even better question than they realize. On the other hand, maybe I should be offended that they think those people wouldn't want to be friends with me naturally!
Joking aside, I believe very strongly that having a good friend circle is one of the most important things you can do, and that it's very smart to proactively think about how to be the best friend possible and build the best friend group possible.
If you're interested in going deep on this topic, you should read my book Superhuman Social Skills, which covers it extensively.
A fundamental idea which I don't believe is really talked or thought about is that most people don't understand what it's like to be someone who is sought after. The priorities and values of a person like that are very different from a person who is actively trying to increase their number of friends.
When I recently asked for blog topics, someone asked for a granular breakdown of how I spend time on cruises. This is actually something I get asked about once in a while, so I figured I'd answer even though it's fairly niche.
Plus the general idea translates to land-based travel, too.
The question is probably asked because the activities on the ship tend to be pretty lame. Today there was, for example, a lecture on which British celebrities had good American accents, plenty of bingo, and an art auction specializing in truly terrible art.
But, like life in general, you have to use a cruise as a blank plot of land and build upon it what you want.
In the last post I talked about how I save money and earn money. This week I will talk about how I spend my money. I think that I spend my money very strangely compared to normal people, but to me it makes a lot more sense.
Most people think about investing long term, but I think about spending long term. Of the money flowing out of my accounts, I want as much as possible to go towards things that will still be benefiting me 10+ years in the future.
For example, I'll spend anything on the best computer possible because if it makes my work 5% better, that effect will ripple through my future. I spent $1000 on the best pots and pans more than fifteen years ago, and will probably never buy other ones. I'll spend money on trips with friends, because doing so strengthens bonds with the people who will be around me for my whole life. I'll pay good money for healthy food and tea because my health is important.
I will never finance anything. My personal rule is that if I can't afford to buy something cash, I can't afford it. I would like for as much of my money as possible to go to utility, and servicing debt takes money out of that pool. Monthly payments are a direct affront to freedom. If you pay cash for everything, you have the ability to throttle your monthly spending down to almost nothing. If you have monthly payments, you don't have that option. Debt makes you responsible and vulnerable to others through mechanisms beyond your control. Look at the people who were wiped out by the housing crash.
I have a somewhat unusual method of thinking about and managing money, which has worked out very well for me. Because money, saving, and spending is such an emotional issue, I believe that there is not a universal correct method for everyone. For example, a strategy that increases someone's earnings by 5% but also increases their stress by 50% probably isn't a good one.
So I present my ideas on finance not as empirical examples of perfect management, but rather something that works great for me and may work for people of similar mindsets.
The goals of my system are to minimize variance outside my control (e.g. stock market performance), maximize long term utility on assets, and minimize the chance I will ever have to do anything I don't want to do. The end goal is not to have the most money possible or to earn the most possible, though both of those things can support my goals.
I don't want outside variance because it inhibits my ability to plan. Accepting variance often increases long term rewards, so I am happy to accept some of it, but I never invest in the stock market because I believe that earning an average 7% per year is not worth putting my whole nest egg at stake.
I am early on a lot of trends. Before they were popular, I was into RV living, being a digital nomad, online gambling, wool, pickup, cryptocurrency, home automation, minimalism, and a whole lot of other things. There are also several things I'm into now that I believe will be more popular in the future (like living in Vegas, shared property, cryonics, etc).
Being early on blogging meant that I could build up a readership just by writing good posts. I didn't have to additionally do the promotion and clickbaity stuff that is all but required today.
In pickup it was very easy for me to get access to the best people out there and learn from them because they weren't as popular and guarded. With financial things like poker there's an an obvious benefit to being early.
The biggest benefit, though, is the freedom of creating your own path. It's fun to explore things by yourself, to make your own rules, and to sometimes be able to influence a field. This process becomes self-reinforcing, because as you discover things for yourself, you realize it's not so hard and you're more willing to do it in the future.
As I mentioned before, Superhuman #1 went extremely well. Everyone left not only with actionable steps to reach their goals, but also with connections to some other really great people. I was a little bit exhausted by the end, but it was really a great experience to get to do deep work with some of my most serious readers, and to get to know them on a personal level.
I collected feedback from most of the attendees. No one rated the event less than 8/10, and 95% of the critical feedback was on logistics and timing, which I admittedly did not do a great job of. Using their feedback plus our mutual experience, I am ready to put on a second event which should be even better!
The biggest change is that this event will be 2.5 days long instead of 1.5 days long. On the first event I was worried that I wouldn't be able to fill so much time with useful content, but now I realize that more time would have been much better. People also universally wished that we had more social time (with all but one person suggesting 70% work and 30% social vis the 90/10 split we had this time). So this time around we will have much more social time.
The goals of this event will be for each attendee to have actionable next steps on their most important goals, to be paired with a like-minded peer to hold them accountable, and to get to know me and their fellow attendees.
It's rare that I see advertisements. I have ad blocking on everything I own, if I go to a movie I try to go late to avoid previews and ads, and if I watch TV it is downloaded with the ads stripped or through Netflix. I still see some ads, of course, but not all that often.
When I do see them, they often jump out at me, especially TV ads.
"Ford, America's best-selling car," I heard the TV say.
What? The line shocked me so much that I wrote it down to write about later. That's a selling point? I kept thinking about it. The fact that a car is a best-selling car is actually a downside to me.
It's here! Once again I've forgotten to whet everyone's appetite by constantly mentioning my book until the release day, but I've always been more into getting books out than marketing them. Starting today, you can buy my latest book, Forever Nomad.
The idea behind the book is that when I wrote Life Nomadic, my first travel book, I hadn't quite figured out how to balance life and work. I was excited about the possibilities of travel and how accessible it is, but it took me many years to figure out how to integrate it with real life.
A lot of that work was to figure out a ton tips and tricks to make every aspect of the travel experience both effortless and affordable.
So this book is full of every single travel trick and hack I know, as well as ideas on how to integrate travel into a normal life, including lots of details on how I buy properties with my friends.
Once in a while people who meet me give me the feedback that they're surprised that I'm actually a real person who doesn't just work 24/7. A challenge of being a public writer is balancing giving useful information versus giving an accurate picture.
I think a lot of the confusion comes from a post I wrote six years ago called Love Work. I just re-read the post and it brings me right back to that time in my life. I really was working about twelve hours a day and loving it. In some ways I miss those days. I remember being in my RV almost all day, eating the same food every day, and making huge progress on Sett.
That period of time was very important for me because before then I didn't know if I could work hard or not. I thought that I could, but I had no proof, and I felt that in some key ways I was lagging behind my peers whom I admired. I also had a tremendous amount of work that needed to be done, so it felt great to cut right through it.
By the time we wound down Sett, I was burnt out. Not from hard work, but from working on something that I didn't feel would succeed. I forced myself to do it for a while because I knew that it was important to cultivate the ability to work hard, and if I quit early I wouldn't be able to know whether I quit because I couldn't work hard or because I had made the right decision to stop working on something that was unlikely to succeed.