If there's something I'm known for amongst friends and acquaintances, it's that I tend to do things to extremes. I can't just do speed dating, I have to work my way to the top of the pickup food chain. Instead of moving in to a smaller house, or even a big RV, I buy the tiniest RV I can. I can't take a week long vacation to Thailand, I have to get rid of everything and go full nomad for years. Cutting out fast food isn't enough, I cut out everything that's remotely bad for me.
What I write about less are the counter extremes. I was an introvert who was terrified of girls. I lived in my own house with a whole room dedicated to warehousing my stuff. For years I didn't leave the US. Before I began eating healthy, I went to McDonalds so much, and brought my friends so often, that they actually stopped charging me for food AND giving me winning Monopoly pieces to get free food elsewhere.
I do this with just about anything. The other day while writing a post, I wrote, "I don't do everything in a weird way. For example, I..."
And I couldn't finish the sentence with any example concrete enough to make the sentence meaningful.
So why do I go to these extremes? What's the point?
I can't nail down the reason I started. It happened without me really knowing, and is probably due to an impossible confluence of childhood circumstances. But I do know why I stick with it and look for opportunities to be extreme.
I have a real obsession for efficiency. Besides wanting to do, learn, experience, and see everything, I want to do it as well as possible. If I'm going to eat something, I want it to be as healthy as possible, be prepared as quickly as possible, and use as few pots and pans as possible. One of my exes was constantly suspicious of everything I did.
"Wait... are you just doing this because you think it's more efficient?"
Usually I was.
The thing is, the tricks that facilitate efficiency are found in the extremes. Living in an RV has taught me how to live with nothing. It's also taught me that having nothing really does make me happier. Without going to this extreme, I wouldn't have any idea.
Becoming good at pickup helped me dispense with the games and blunderings that I thought were essential. At the same time, I can attract higher quality women.
Pioneering the Maxdiet gave me an intimate understanding of man's relationship with food. It also made me enjoy food more.
Being a nomad means that I can travel anywhere in the world and get the most out of each city. I can do it on almost no money and with no prior knowledge of the country.
Going to the extremes also enables you to figure out where on the scale you want to lie. You can guess without going extreme, but you'll probably guess wrong. When I first started eating healthy, I figured that I'd always want to eat a hamburger. It turned out I was wrong. But I did back off the extreme a little bit. For the first year or so I wouldn't eat a grain of sugar. Now once a month I'll eat the amazing wonders my friend Jonah cooks, or maybe a bit of fish. I eat dark chocolate bars that are only 90% cocoa and have a few grams of sugar in them.
In pick up, on the other hand, I backed off considerably. I don't go out and pick up. I don't do seminars. I use what I learned when it's called for, and of course have been changed as a person.
Besides finding out where on the continuum you want to lie, going to extremes gives you the confidence to stay there happily. I could move into a real apartment and have stuff, and it wouldn't really bother me. I know I can go back. To most people the idea of having nothing would be scary. I've been there, though, so I know that I can happily do it.
In Morocco I ate quite a bit of meat and sugar in a week. There just wasn't anything else. But because I have gone months or maybe years without any of that, I can trust myself to indulge when there's no other practical choice, and readjust instantly when circumstances change.
In other words, hitting the extremes gives you mastery of the whole scale. I can make intelligent conversation as well as decisions on any topic where I've been to the extremes. Contrast that with the person who tells you that foreign countries are dangerous, but hasn't actually been to them; or the person who tells you pick up is manipulative, but hasn't ever seen or learned it; or the person who says they could never live without a TV, but has always had one; or the person who says they absolutely need meat to function, but hasn't ever gone without.
They might be right, but any confidence behind the assertion is misplaced.
Part of being able to visit extremes is having the willingness to be change who you are on a regular basis. If you need a constant in your identity, have it be that you're someone who tries new things with an open mind. If you make an aspect of your lifestyle part of your core identity, you'll never be willing to explore the extremes. Maybe more important, you won't be able to back off the extremes to change back to the best place for you on the scale.
I'm proud to be a vegan, because I have confidence that I'm doing what's best for me. But if tomorrow we find out that fish sticks are the healthiest things in the world, I'll be downing them by the dozen. Maybe some day I'll have a family and won't travel much anymore.
Hanging on to these positions is a major disservice to yourself. Habits should be formed by experience along the continuum, not by adherence to labels, defaults, or pressure from others.
Why go to extremes? Because that's how you get the most out of life. That's the short answer.
P.S. The exception is when going to the extreme is obviously dangerous. You don't need to become a crackhead to know that you don't want to smoke crack. The risks of going extreme in most cases, though, aren't a big deal.
This is my favorite post.
Nice. It is sad to be "bounded" by social norms and what not.
To have freedom is having choices, which lets you choose the life you ultimately want.
I just wanna let you know that I think it's great what you're doing. I'm learning pickup as of now, converting to a vegan lifestyle (at least when I get steady income going) and never say never. I'm trying to take things on with an open mind. Just knowing that there's someone out there in a similar situation as me, along with a similar mindset, is pretty sweet :)
Very true. But I think you're being a bit hypocritical when it comes to not doing drugs or smoking the occasional J. Whatever reason you have, it will ultimately sound like the guy telling you other countries are dangerous enven though he's never been there.
I think one of the big reasons things work out for you so well is that you really seem to have a good logical process for determining what you want to do with your life, and most people do not have that. Thus, if most people tried to go extreme, it would end up badly for them. It's similar to how a lot of rookie stock traders get burned because they ignore logic in favor of emotion with stocks.
Even when you go against the advice of known experts in the field (such as your decision to use the betting system you did for online blackjack), it's generally undertaken soundly.
Awesome post man, and very timely for me...
I just spent the last 5 to 12 months trying to understand why I'm always doing things this way (very extreme and not following through, plus very passionate and loving adventure) and Im starting to understand it a lot better...especially since I read a book: The DaVinci Method, by Garret Loporto...
He has a theory about our personality type, which could be a genetic predisposition, and he gives great insight into how to live with it and even USE it to reach BIG goals. wether or not its true is totally irrelevant in my opinion because he truly gets it! When I read it I was in awe as I had the impression he was describing my life.
If you're not put off by his religious perspective, you'll get a TON out of this book (like about your tendancy to not follow through)...and maybe you can talk about it on this blog, that would be phenomenal!
Anyway, you seem to have 100% accepted your personality (wasn't the case for me until I read this book)...Continue to be your Awesome Self and dont try to fight against who you are deep inside :)
P.S: sorry for my english (not my primary language)
This makes a lot of sense to me. When I want to do/learn something, I completely immerse myself until it becomes intuitive, then back off a bit and let it be a tool in my toolbox. I relate to this quite a bit.
I'm also an extremist sometimes ( atm I walk barefoot everywhere, I tried Vegan for 2 months). I think what also plays in is that we're powergamers. Why be a little happy when you can be totally happy? If something is bad for you, why only reduce it so you won't die imediately? Why not cut it out completely? When I was vegan, a friend asked me why I didn't just "eat a varied and healthy" diet. But why would I eat a little healthy?
I can't understand people's desire to be average in everything. Even their hobbies are average ("I only do it for fun"). Is that fear or do they really WANT to be average?
I guess I could have added that you have to prioritize where you go extreme. It tends to take a lot of focus and research, which means it's not possible to do it in every area at once. Great avatar, by the way.
Do you understand how plane tickets work? I would have gone if I had a return ticket, but it was just one way.
As I wrote in What Lasts, classical music performances are an excellent place for me to think and tune out distractions. In addition to the suggestion that ideas are the durable commodity of our time, during that cello concert, I had another thought that was interesting to me.
Matthew is a twenty year old, and he's an excellent cello player. I have no idea if he's excellent amongst the field of professional cello players, but I mean that he's excellent in that he can play complex cello pieces well enough that they sound perfect to an amateur like me.
It's an interesting thing, learning to play cello. People have been learning to play cello for hundreds of years. It's an old trade. Some might even call it an antiquated trade.
Another antiquated trade is small-farm tea growing. I spent a couple days on a tea farm in Fujieda, Japan last year. The family that ran the farm ranged in age from mid twenties to mid eighties. Everyone worked. I asked about this arrangement, and they told me, with audible sadness in their voices, that they were the exception to the rule. Most younger members of the family were going to the city, leaving the tea growing to the older generation. When they died, they said, the tea farms usually closed or got sold to the conglomerates making crappy tea-in-a-bottle.
Sometimes, I like to think about what my life will be like in a few years. There are two extremes that I seem to dwell on more often than not.
In one extreme, I will be a hermit living in a very remote and secluded location, far away from the spoils of man. Every day, I work in my little vegetable garden, and in the afternoons, I sit at my piano for hours on end playing my songs. I take long quiet walks into the countryside and spend time drawing plants, animals, and flowers. Books are devoured more than they are just read. It is a calm existence.
In another extreme, I am travelling constantly performing shows or in whatever occupation/capacity I will inhabit by then. Every new city is more vibrant than the last, and every person I meet has a name that I have to try to remember among hundreds already. I try to eat some local dish in each geographic location without becoming a sizable bovine beast. I stare out of airplane windows, car windows, and hotel windows endlessly, not really looking for anything but just absorbing the views. I take note of local habits and sensibilities, all of which serve a stark contrast to my own nomadic livelihood.