Tynan talks about living life at extremes and explains very well why he does so and how he (or anyone that lives life in a similar way) benefits from it in this article http://tynan.com/going-extreme
Even after reading the article though, the benefits are not always obvious when it's your life, and even when they are, what one gives up in the form of comfort with what's familiar to them, or with what's expected of them by their peers makes it a heck of a lot harder than Ty makes it seem.
BUT, If you're all in on this mindset and want to wrap your head around it as a complete lifestyle, I want to help with an aspect of with this post.
So if we're talking about an entire life attitude, this pulls us back to the meta-question 'what is your life made of?'. Well, your life is just the passage of time and is defined by the priorities you have during that time. The best explanation I've heard of defining your priorities in life (what they actually are, not what you say they are) is by looking at your checkbook (or mint.com account) and your calendar. Basically, how you spend your time and your money.
Since Tynan has already covered the money part in his post on 'polarizing purchases' http://tynan.com/polarizing I wanted to touch on the time part. Ty has also written about how he spends his time in 'how to get a month's worth of work done in a week' http://tynan.com/monthinaweek but I want to split this time question into two categories before I actually get to the title of this post.
You spend your time either 1. alone or 2. 'with' someone. Ty's articles are about being productive in work, which, as a maker in his case, generally falls in the 'alone' category. In our current age, though, I want to define "with" someone as any point in which you are responding to or initiating an interaction, not just when you're in the physical presence of others (e.g. you could be at Starbucks full of people while you're coding a website and I would consider you 'alone' in this case) . So, going on a walk with a girlfriend counts, initiating a words with friends game, and replying to an email all count as being "with" someone. And when you are 'with' someone - you are communicating at least 80% of the time so with that, I want to talk about going to the extremes in communication in order to see what's actually most effective.
I like to put all communication into 2 buckets.
Transactional communication - the point is to accomplish a goal, a task, answer a question. This is done most effectively through email.
Connection communication - the point is to just experience the person, to establish trust, build the relationship, have fun etc. This is done most effectively face to face.
Another way to say this is that 'transactional communication' is very clearly outcome oriented and 'connection communication' is for...well...everything else.
If I could have my way (and I'm working on it) I would draw a sharp distinction between these two types of communication and force all interactions to go through the most appropriate channel.
The case for email as the most effective and sole communication medium for transactional communication:
If the point is just to ask me a question, get some feedback, get me to do something for you, etc. then why call me? You're
not as likely to remember the answer, feedback, etc. and I'm not as
likely to remember that I said I'd do you that favor or show up at that
thing etc. It's not written down anywhere. Also,
if I do forget I'd have to call you back or wait until I see you in
person...OR I could send you an email like I should have in the first
If you would have sent me an email
originally then I would have been able to respond to you and if I would
have forgotten what was discussed I could have just searched my inbox
for it. You get to the point when you're typing. There is no obligatory "how have you been" conversation. If
I'm willing to answer your phone call I'm willing to seriously consider
your request...but you're wasting my time and interrupting me by calling
because, again, I'm going to have to write down the pertinent parts of
this conversation eventually anyway - so why don't you write them down
for me and not interrupt me in the first place...I'll be much more likely
to say yes at that point.
If you want to schedule something with me or want really anything from me - I only have access to it when I'm in front of my computer (i.e. my calendar is there, my notes are there, my contacts are there, my bookmark history is there, any and every document someone might request is there, etc.) and even if I don't have access to something that's physically where my computer is, I have access to people (via email) that I can get to take care of it for me (e.g. hey can I borrow your snowboard man? I wanna go snowboarding next month. - reply 'sure man. I don't have it on me but my parents are coming down in a week and I'll see if they can bring it' - email mom "Hey mom, are you still planning on coming down next week? If so can you bring my snowboard with you please? Let me know either way. Thanks! - .DONE A phone call interrupts my day, takes more of my time, and if I call my mom, it does the same for her).
Connection communication - Don't call me on the phone pretty much ever unless you just want to chat. I
won't answer it unless I have nothing else better to do and I want to
just chat with you - in which case I'd be glad to catch up. I don't want to chat with you if I don't have to. I'd rather have lunch with you. But don't call me to set that up - that's transactional. If
I'm hanging out just because we're friends or are considering being
business partners or are finding out if we should be buddies then
that's best done face to face - so let's schedule something in and do
that. If we have no outcome other than to get to know each other then let's do that in the most via the most rich and enjoyable communication medium possible - connection communication.
I step back from this argument and read what I've written I of course
sound like a jerk that doesn't want to talk to people or some
uber-militant dude that makes your most uptight type A friend look like
he's on vacation. I'm not that way (well...maybe...) - I actually love people and enjoy hanging out probably more than you do... but I'll get to that in a second. The
other thing that I see as I look at this post though is "Why doesn't
everyone realize this and therefore communicate this way?" It just seems so much more efficient, effective, and ultimately enjoyable...these are the reasons I can think of:
Ultimately, though, I want to be crystal clear about why I'm all about this in the first place.
It's because I love people and want to interact with them in the most life-enhancing way possible. My priorities, very broadly and vaguely speaking, are to accomplish a lot of meaningful stuff, and to spend lots of quality time doing fun stuff with people I love and care about.
If I spend 10 minutes on the phone with 6 people instead of getting the point of those 6 phone calls in the form of a bullet-point bullet-point email that I can respond to in 5 minutes then I just wasted 55 minutes on the phone that I could have been meeting with all 6 of you over dinner just laughing about old times or talking about what we are looking forward to in our lives...while STILL getting your question answered or that favor taken care of for you.
It all comes back to being 100% present in your communications.
I can't be 100% into helping you get something done if we're throwing in small talk about the game or whatever nicety you feel obligated to ask of me because you called me out of the blue to ask a favor - so just send me an email and I can focus 100% on trying to get it taken care of for you. In the same way, if we're going to go play Frisbee golf then let's turn off our phones (or just leave them in the car) and focus on talking smack about how badly we are going to whoop each other.
Just make sure you send me an email to set it up...
Continuing with the theme of weird things about me that could possibly point to some psychological conditions - I hate birthdays. Rest assured that it's not my birthday. I wanted to write this on my birthday, but instead I waited some amount of time so that no one would know when it is.
Yeah, that's right. I don't tell people when my birthday is. My family knows, since they were intimately involved in the event we're supposed to celebrate, but very few of my friends know. Kristen bribed me by making me a really cool clay rock for my fish tank, so I told her. The only two friends who called were Nicole and Nick, both of which I would have thought would never call. I've seen Nicole once in the past two years, and Nick has been in Pennsylvania for quite some time.
I don't know exactly what it is about birthdays. I just don't like people making a big deal out of it. I hate getting birthday presents (along with Christmas presents), and I hate it when people wish me a happy birthday. All these family members and Nick and Nicole called, and I ignored all of their calls. I didn't call them back either.
A few days ago, I wrote an open letter to a good friend of mine - "I Think Greatness is Something You Are, Not Something You Do" - I said to him, I'm not a great man, just a normal man working on great things. Greatness is something you do, not something you are.
To give you some background, my friend Brendon is just one of the most amazingly good people in the world. He takes care of everyone around him, his mind, body, and spirit are sharp. He's a black belt, an excellent programmer, a philosopher, a Shodan in Go (actually, even stronger than that - he's a Shodan under the Asian rankings, so probably even higher in America), a hard worker, extremely loyal, a clear and free thinker, widely read and knowledgeable, and again - an amazingly good guy. I've learned a lot from him (notably, he taught me how to play Go, sysadmin Linux, understand basketball at a very high level, improve at martial arts, improve my fitness, and other good stuff - we'd usually go drink green tea and play Go at Samurai Restaurant in Boston, go fight in the park, talk philosophy out at nightclubs, do stuff like that).
He wrote back to me about greatness and humility. I think this is a really beautiful piece, so I asked him if I could gently edit it and put it up. He graciously agreed. It's long, but go ahead and just start it and give it whatever time you have - there's a lot of amazing insight in here.
A Quick Favor Request - if you learn from this or it helps you, please send Brendon a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org - he was actually a little gun-shy about having such a personal piece put up with such raw power in it. He only agreed when I told him how many people it could help - so please, drop him a short line to say thanks if this teaches you as much as it did me.
Without further ado...