Check out my bestselling book on habits, Superhuman by Habit. .
As long as I've remembered, I've wanted to buy a private island. Having a random patch of land somewhere holds almost no appeal, but an island is totally different. An island is like your own little country, with complete control of everything within its borders.
I'd looked at getting an island before. As it turns out, they're not much more expensive than buying normal property. There's a site called Private Islands Online that has a ton of listings, which I'd pored through on many occasions. A problem always arose: the cheap islands are in far away inconvenient spots, and the close islands are all crazy expensive. Buying an island remained a fantasy.
Then, six weeks ago, a good friend of mine sent me a listing to an island in Canada. Wouldn't it be cool to buy an island, he asked? I clicked and was shocked-- Canadian islands are cheap AND close. They may not fit the archetype of the tropical private island, but the climate wasn't why I wanted the island. I wanted to share a miniature country with some friends and see what we could build.
"I am literally 100% on board," I replied back.
I'm currently on a cruise ship somewhere in the Mediterranean sea, en route from Barcelona to Casablanca. Most people here are either retirees enjoying the easy life or younger folks celebrating birthdays, weddings, or anniversaries. My friend Brian and I are neither-- we're using the ship as a mobile work retreat.
As a nomad and an entrepreneur, I find myself working in a large variety of places throughout the year. I have a nice setup in my RV, but I'll also work from friend's offices, airplanes, airports, friend or family's houses, trains, Regus offices or any other number of places. However, my absolute favorite place to work is from a cruise ship, in particular long transatlantic cruises like the one I'm currently on.
The number one enemy of productivity is distraction, either in the form of entertainment or things like chores and phone calls which feel productive but break up the day. Cruise ships are a remarkable way to eliminate all of those things. Efficiency can be so high on a cruise ship that I schedule things like entire rewrites of major sections of Sett or the writing of a brand new book for the two-week cruise.
On a cruise ship, everything is taken care of for you. No time at all has to be allocated to cooking, choosing your meal, or to cleaning. You show up at the restaurant, in which all of the food is free, order whatever you want from the rotating menu, eat, and then immediately get up and get back to work.
For the past year or so I've made an effort not to socialize. Sounds weird, but I figured that the only way I could really see just how much I could focus on SETT would be to cut out everything, even things that seemed somewhat important.
If really good friends invited me to something that seemed like it would constitute quality time, as opposed to just not-being-bored-time, I would go as an exception. Through those infrequent occasions, I'd meet new people once in a while. And sometimes these new people were just so amazing that I couldn't help but become friends with them, too.
For the first few years in San Francisco, I felt like I had tons of acquaintances, but only a few really good friends, and even those friends were people I knew before moving here. Even some of the people I hung out with a lot were just acquaintances-- our friendships never deepened, and when they moved away it didn't really feel like a loss.
Now I feel like I have no acquaintances and a lot of really good friends. There are a few people I hang out with who aren't really good friends yet, but it feels like things are moving in that direction.
Somewhere off the coast of Central America is an island. Right now it's uninhabited, besides some monkeys. Long beaches reach from the palm trees to the ocean.
The island is many acres in size, so big that if you were in the middle of the jungle you'd forget that you're even on an island. If you looked out from the hills in the middle you'd remember it instantly.
One day that island will be Tynan Island.
When you travel with someone for a year or two, you pick up their habits. One of Todd's habits that I most admire, and am thankful to have picked, up is the practice of treating strangers like friends. When he goes to a restaurant and the waiter asks him how he is, he tells him what's going on in his life and returns the question in such a way that it obligates a genuine response. When we leave a restaurant, everyone we know gets a hug.
I get nostalgic, mostly for times I wasn't alive for. Like the middle ages. And, more relevantly, like the days before computers and cell phones, when neighbors actually recognized each other, and maybe even talked to each other. Shopkeepers were called shopkeepers, and they knew their customers by name. Their conversations extended beyond a scripted sales pitch for a rip-off extended warranty. I miss these times because I've seen them in movies and read about them in books, not because I've really experienced them.
Simple habits can be profound. One such habit that is more important than ever is to treat strangers like friends. Facebook, cell phones, and other "social" technologies have done to friendship what laminate flooring did for hardwood floors. It made things easier and more accessible, but did so at the cost of substance. In fact, this is happening in pretty much every area of life, something I've realized more fully now that I'm trying to find meat with substance; it's almost impossible. So I try to treat everyone as though they're a real person, just in case they actually are. Unfortunately I can't answer all my email anymore, but when I do I try to write to the person as if they're my friend, rather than use stock replies (which I could do, since a lot of the things people write about are similar). Once in a while I even fill someone in on secret future plans or send them a draft of something. When interacting with random people in everyday life, I make an effort to actually listen to them and to talk about things that they may not have talked about with every person they've interacted with that day.
My favorite way to travel is to land in a new country with no plans whatsoever, improvising as we go. That's what we did in Iceland.
I've always wanted to go to Iceland, probably because it's remote and I perceived it to be a weird place. With clever routing you can go there for free any time you book a flight between Europe and the East Coast.
Knowing what happens when we don't plan, we rented a small station wagon, thinking that the three of us-- Todd, Christophe, and myself-- could sleep in it if necessary. Without so much as heading to Reykjavik to connect to the internet and get our bearings, we headed off to the countryside.
I've been saying that college is obsolete for a very long time. I dropped out in 2000, because even back then I could see that it was a really poor value proposition. I didn't predict this because I'm some crazy genius, but because I'm willing to discard emotional attachment and stare plainly at the facts.
School is outrageously expensive, leaving graduates with a debt (or net expenditure) of tens of thousands of dollars-- sometimes even one or two hundred thousand. There are some things that are worth that amount of money, but for many people school isn't one of them. In fact, apart from very specific cases, I think that school is a bad thing, not worth doing even if it was free.
That's not to say that school has no benefits whatsoever. It does, and although I left with zero additional skills after my three semesters there, I had a good time and benefited from the social aspect. The problem is that you can't just compare college to doing nothing at all. You have to compare it to what you COULD have done.
Let's say that when you turn eighteen, it's a good idea to take four years to develop yourself. College is one way to do that. If we were to construct an alternative way to do that, what could it look like? One of the biggest weaknesses of school is how inflexible it is, so one of the greatest benefits of designing your own curriculum is that you could come up with one that uniquely suits you. That said, here's a plan that I think would benefit many people MORE than school would. Let's call it the Hustler's MBA.
My friend Elisia asked me to help her move. Moving is one of my least favorite activities (which partially explains why I live in an RV), but I gladly agreed to help. Why? Because she followed the golden rules of asking favors. If you want people to do you favors, or, more importantly, feel good about doing you favors, make sure you follow these rules. They're written from the point of view of someone asking me for a favor, but I would also follow them when asking favors of others.
1. Your Benefit Must Greatly Outweigh My Inconvenience
If you're asking me for a favor it should be something that I am particularly good at or well suited for. If a friend of mine asks me to help him set up a blog, I'm happy to do it because it's something I have experience with and am good at. What could take my friend five hours to set up, I might be able to do in thirty minutes.
If I ask you how you spend your money, that's a very different question than if I ask how you invest your money. Your goals for spending and investing are different, and as a result your actions for each are different. So isn't it strange that we talk about how we spend time, but we never talk about how we invest time?
The interesting thing about investing time is that the distribution is much more uniform versus monetary wealth. Most people probably sleep for around 6-8 hours and work for around 8 hours, giving them another 8-10 hours to either invest or spend. Finances range much more wildly. Some people have negative net worths, so they can't even begin to think about investing, whereas others have billions of dollars. That spread means that ideal financial investment strategies will range wildly. Because we have such similar amounts of time, though, maybe there are some general principles that will be almost universally applicable.
Before we get into those strategies, though, let's talk about what investing time means. I'd define it as devoting time to an activity whose primary benefit won't immediately be realized. School is one example-- you can have a lot of fun in school and benefit immediately from it, but you're really going because you believe that it will pay off when you graduate. I'd say that school is sort of like investing in real estate. You can always use it for something, it's historically been a good investment, but it's a lot of leverae in one big investment, and recently hasn't performed as well.
Spending time with people and building relationships is an investment, not because that process isn't fun, but because the benefits of having strong long term friends are even greater than the immediate pleasure of hanging out with them. This could be analogized to investing in art-- you get to admire it every day, but the value of it increases over time as well.
So I'm trying to be a good little blogger and update this puppy every day. I've got two hours left before it's tomorrow and I don't have the picture I need to do the update I want, so we're going into the vault.
A couple years ago I put the biggest above ground pool I could find in my living room. The pictures were posted to a bunch of those link collecting sites and almost 7000 people saw the pictures the first day. Every year or so they are rediscovered and they get a ton of hits. However, I've never publicly told the story of the pool and why I did it. Avast!
One day my friend Crystal sends me an IM. Here's a dramatic rendition of the event :