I think and hope that regular readers of my blog will appreciate the variety of posts I throw up-random stories, travel tips, big life ideas, etc. I live a happy and fulfilling life, and the idea is that if I make my ideas and thought processes public, over the long term, people can take bits and pieces to improve their lives (just as I've done from other people). This has proven to be successful on some scale.
But two thirds of the visits my site gets are from first time visitors. They searched on Google, followed a link on twitter, or were emailed an article by a friend. They don't get repeated exposure, but rather a single shot. And, if I'm honest about it, a post like Yuka probably isn't going to improve their lives, other than to offer a few moments of entertainment.
This set of circumstances leaves me thinking about what major themes run through my philosophy that can make an impact in a single post. Last night, as I slept in a chilly tent with no electricity, no light, and no internet, I kept coming back to the idea of always getting better.
I think the phrase in of itself is cliche and meaningless, but maybe what I mean by it, and the resulting actions, aren't.
Most people don't get better all the time. They get adequate and then stop. They subconsciously decide at how many things they must develop a level of proficiency, and then they get proficient. So you end up with the guy who's good at accounting, can cook fish okay, but sucks at having a conversation with his waiter. Or the guy who can schmooze at a party, but can't balance his checkbook or swing a hammer.
It's subsistence level skill acquisition.
For whatever reason, I've been wired the opposite way. I want to find all of my flaws and conquer them. I want to learn everything. When I encounter people who don't feel the same way, as I often do, I secretly wonder how they can stand it. How does the guy with the ridiculous temper not fix that? Does he not realize he has a temper? Does he not care? Does he not know how to change? Or what about my friend who has completely given up on ever having a girlfriend again? He obviously knows that it's a fixable problem, but he hasn't taken the first step towards actually fixing it.
Maybe it comes down to ego. I've seen people who are glaringly terrible at pickup, but delude themselves into thinking they're great, just to avoid admitting fault. The first step of self improvement - identifying the problem - might be so painful to the ego that people would rather not rise to the challenge at all.
My friends and I are the opposite. We're all happy all the time, but to an outsider our conversations probably seem antagonistic. I can't tell you how many times I been on the sending AND receiving end of sentences like, "Dude... you're being a complete idiot. You need to do _________ and tighten up your life." The funny part is that we all relish that sort of feedback. In fact, as likely as I am to share my successes with my friends, I'm probably more likely to tell them when I screwed up. They'll offer me a suggestion to do better next time, or at least motivate me by agreeing that doing ________ was dumb.
That's a long way of saying this: you have to be willing to know you suck at something before you're able to improve. The more willing you are to face your weaknesses, the less likely they are to remain weaknesses.
The goal is to get better all the time, not to be perfect at everything. There's a difference. The former describes the process, which is always under your control, while the latter describes the outcome that you have only a hand in. The fact that you're somewhere on the road to being a champion is important, not which mile marker you're walking past.
People tend to do self improvement for a specific purpose. They want to lose weight for their wedding, learn pickup so that they can have a girlfriend, or meditate to reduce stress. That's fine, but it's better to embrace it as a way of life, to enjoy getting better because you know that the process is worthwhile. The unexpected benefits of each improvement are unpredictable and generally outweigh the reason you decided to improve to begin with.
Sure you'll look great in your wedding photos if you lose weight, but maybe you'll also live longer, be able to enjoy more physical hobbies, and will set a good example for your future children. Learning pickup might snag you a girlfriend, but, speaking from personal experience, it can also make you more confident, outgoing, and appreciative of other people. Meditation can lower your stress, and aside from that, can make you more focused and serene.
It's the lifestyle of getting better all the time that provides the real rewards.
If you can believe all this and embrace it, your life can start to look different. Last week I sat in front of my computer and realized that I had fallen off the productivity train. I was getting the bare minimum done on my projects. So rather than wallow in pity, be mad at myself for failing, try to justify my sloth, or any of the many other things I could have done, I smiled.
I saw it as an opportunity to get better at something. I value these opportunities more than anything. I closed down the waste-of-time sites I was browsing and I opened up my code editor. I spent the next few hours building out some features on my project that needed to get done. And then I did the same thing next day.
I don't think that my current level of productivity is going to become a new baseline. I don't think I'm instantly the most productive person in the world. I know I'll fall off the train again and, just as I've done a dozen times before, hop back on. I'm just happy to have found an opportunity to improve myself, to have seized it, and to have left a little better than I was before. It's all part of the journey.
Photo is from a bridge in Shibuya... it's extremely hard to find relevant photos I've taken for posts like this!
In the process of testing new gear. Don't ask me about it before it's tested... that's the whole point of testing it...
By the way the Tynan.com Forums are back up! Sorry about the ridiculous downtime - I thought the problem was going to be really difficult to unravel, but it wasn't.
I've been doing the something ever since I got out of high school and I'm beyond tired and etc of it all. It has taken alot out of me that I could of used to do something better for me and only me. My future don't include working for others money but my own money. My own business my own life is my goals in 2011. It's basically being a slave in this modern age we all live in. If you don't work for yourself your a slave and. I choose to break away from being a slave that's why I'm in the process of going to college so I can get my degree and. End the slave mindset that society tried to put in my brain.
I agree that the Yuka-like posts are beautiful little gems and philosophical in their own way. I say, keep sprinkling them in!
A little late to the show on this one, but what the hell. A good little story.
Starting to work as a leader running teams at Bungie was very much like when I tried to ride Todd's electric skateboard in Tokyo: I knew I was in for some acceleration but I couldn't quite plan for how much, and so it nearly bowled me over.
Compared to every other company I've ever worked for, one of the key ways Bungie is better than all of them is that every leader I interact with, including our president himself, are constantly focused on improvement.
This takes some finesse, because it's easy to go too far and your team members start getting dejected because you never tell them what an awesome job they're doing and only fixate on what could be better.
But when you start to get the feel of it - as I imagine, but don't know firsthand, it goes with the skateboard - it's exhilarating.
So there's a teamwork analogy to your points about self-improvement and giving your friends blunt assessments of themselves out of compassion: at Bungie I've developed the habit of doing the same to everyone for whom I'm responsible.
The awesome part is once that becomes normal, everyone who works for me just knows that in every conversation with me I'll probably offer criticism and point out imperatives for improvement. It stops being a big deal - people stop taking it personally. But they don't just acclimate and grow numb to it. Instead, it builds momentum, and I find myself in a culture where everyone is dedicated to constant improvement not out of deep feelings of inadequacy or fear, but just because that's how we do things - and that's what keeps us successful.
I'll eat my words if our next project totally tanks, of course. ;)
I know where you are coming from with regard to being encouraged and challenged by your friends. My friends will tell me when i messed up, when I need to improve a part of my life and do so without making it sound all that nice.
My Girlfriend doesn't understand this type of criticism and usually comes away thinking we are judging being mean to her and each other.
Not many girls I have met are the self-improvement in all areas type.
Thanks for the kick in the pants.
My philosophy seems to fall in between subsistence skill acquisition and "getting better all the time."
An example: fixing my car. Knowing how change my oil is important, but I don't really find it to be playful, so I don't invest more time in my learning to fix my engine.
Alternatively fitness is a passion of mine. It's play to me so I'm constantly learning, and improving.
Perhaps the secret is to learn to enjoy whatever you're doing.
Do you have compartmentalized interests like mine, or do you "get better all the time" at everything?
Also this reminds me of a great book I read called Mastery by George Leonard.
Talk is cheap my man, lets see it..... I'm stepping up my bodybuilding game, I plan to have the top ten best abs in the country this summer. No excuses. Most rich people work long, long hours and don't travel like you do. Its going to be hard to have it both ways, good luck...
I appreciate all you stuff Tynan. I think Yuka-like stories are little gems of inspiration too. I am amazed on how she was positive throughout the encounter. I feel it's importtant to give and receive such good vibe from people so you hcan help them up, and they can help you up.
I have maybe two people that understand my journey of constant improvement in life and help me from being too negative with myself. I work 70hrs/week right now(right where I need to be for now). It really makes me appreciate people and living in the moment outside of work. Ironically, I'm a more social person int hat I make an average 2 new friends a week. They come and go. But when I run into the again they are mostly smiles and I see the positive impact I left on them. I try to make sure that when it's time to go, I can cash in my chips knowing I helped make this world better for people relationship-wise.
I can't wait for more! I feel happy for you imagining your lifestyle. You are a very smart and interesting person Tynan
man, i appreciate your blog. but i wonder if it's because i have the same approach with mine. i like seemingly random bits of info, thoughts, ideas, etc.
but to me, it all makes sense. i guess i enjoy seeing the same of others. keep sharing!
Great post! Posts like these are what keep me coming back for more. So many times you have put into words things I have believed for a long time but never noticed or verbalized.
One question (or a post idea?): What are your physical goals? Most people I meet our age get to a level of physical proficiency (not falling down when walking) and then quit. What new skills are you learning? I'm always trying to improve, and so have been learning how to tumble and do gymnastic high bar skills (I have a long way to go on that second one.)
My motivation to improve physically is probably my strongest drive, although I've realized my social skills (which I thought were awesome) will require a similar amount of commitment to improve and maintain.
Thanks for a great post!
As I've been immersing myself in poker, I've been overwhelmed by the parallels with pickup, in theory, practice, and in my experience as a student.
I'm not sure if this is pure coincidence, my mind trying to find a pattern where there's not one, or a genuine underlying pattern that probably extends to other areas of learning.
Pickup is the only other thing I can think of that I learned rapidly and by immersion. I made it my world for a year or two. As a result, I remember the learning process, whereas something like web development I can't really remember because I've been learning gradually.
Mike Radivis just asked asked some good questions on "Chase Meaning, Not Happiness" -
How do you measure meaning if not in terms of happiness? Aren't things that create more happiness for a longer time for a larger number of individuals better than those things who lack those qualities but are proclaimed to be personal achievements anyway? Does the scope of happiness make happiness meaningful to you or not? What are achievements good for if they aren't good at facilitating happiness? Imagine you wouldn't experience any pleasant or unpleasant emotions and would have to decide rationally what to pursue (assuming that is possible at all). Then what you want to do with your life? (Another way to formulate this question maybe would be to ask what's your grand strategy in that situation.)
I'm quite interested in your answers. I like that your blog posts are so outspoken. It's just that the message of this post is hard for me to grasp, as I'm pretty much utilitarian in my thinking.
Good questions. I'll go through it line by line.
How do you measure meaning if not in terms of happiness?