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A while back someone e-mailed me and asked me how I had so many interesting experiences in my life. I meant to write him back, but couldn't find the e-mail.
First of all, what constitutes an interesting life? Do we care if OTHER people think it's interesting? Do we care if WE think it's interesting? Does it just have to be different?
For me it boils down to having a life that is exciting to live. I get a kick out of knowing that other people are interested in my life, but at the end of the day I'd take personal satisfaction over people thinking I have personal satisfaction.
Every day when I wake up I'm excited about my new day. I know, from experience, that I can't possibly predict what will happen that day. By the end of the day I may be in another city, I may have met a new best friend, I may have found a new hobby, or I may have completely altered the course of my life.
This feeling of uncertainty isn't the definition of an interesting life, but it's a strong indicator of one. Interesting things happen to me with enough frequently that I am not surprised when one comes around.
Another reason my life seems interesting is because most people DON'T have interesting lives. It's the contrast.
Let's look at some stats.
The average person works 8 hours a day.
They watch 4.5 hours of TV a day.
They sleep for 7 hours.
Taking a shower and getting dressed is 30 minutes.
An hour for dinner and breakfast combined.
Another hour commuting.
That's twenty two hours.
This is the AVERAGE American. He doesn't have TIME for an interesting life.
I work for two hours a day.
I watch 30 minutes of TV/movies per day on average
I eat for two hours.
It takes me half an hour to dress and shower.
I sleep for eight hours.
That's 13 hours. I have 11 hours each day to fill with interesting things.
Even if the average American HAD 11 hours to fill, most still wouldn't be interesting. Why? We are conditioned from BIRTH to be boring.
Parents have one mission - to ensure the survival of their children. Not to ensure the outlandish success and happiness of their children, but mere survival.
I had a near perfect childhood. My parents were married, loving, supportive, had enough money to put nutritious food on the table, had reasonable but strict rules, and made their children their top priority. By any metric, I had a fantastic childhood.
However, if I had followed all of my parents' advice I would lead a boring life. Interesting doesn't ensure survival - caution does. Unfortunately, caution also prevents an interesting life from unfolding.
Most people reading this don't follow their parents' advice anymore. You probably don't get much advice anymore. However, your parents have drilled into your subconscious that you need to be cautious and careful.
There are three main kinds of risks you need to take. Here they are, in order of importance.
Social risks. Social risks have ZERO cost to them. Go talk to someone new. Say what's on your mind. A good example is the time that I went and collected on a random bad check. It was awkward and a huge social faux pas, but it was a blast. Even if the end goal is personal satisfaction, think about what will make a good story.
Financial risks. It's pretty well established that the only way to make money is to risk your own money. Getting a job doesn't count - it's not real money. If you're a smart person (and if you read my blog, you probably are), you will NEVER be broke for a long period of time. There just aren't any homeless people who are really smart.
Put your money where your mouth is. If you have a great idea, DO IT. I've never written about this, but in college I started a hedge fund for my friends and I. We all put all of our money in it, and within a year we lost it all. $26,000. Oh well. I learned a lot, all of my friends are still my friends, and we moved on. I put all my money into the gambling thing (as well as the remainder of my college money), and that turned out to be a hit. If I didn't take risks I'd still have my $5k from the hedge fund, but I wouldn't have had the hundreds of thousands from gambling.
The last type of risk you should take are physical risk. I've jumped a freight train, climbed a radio tower and several cranes, bought a competition paraglider and tried to fly it with no instruction, gone skydiving (not actually dangerous), gone scuba diving, skiied with sneakers on ice behind a car, and made a swing to go off the roof of my condo building. I broke a little toe once which healed on its own.
Thanks to our parents we GREATLY overestimate our chances of getting hurt. Occasional pain is worth having an interesting life.
Anyway, I'd like to write more but it's been forever since I posted, so I'm going to slap this puppy up on the blog. If all else fails, think : "What Would Tynan Do?"
If you don't know... go to the forums and ask me.
Thoguht I'd add too, I've been an avid surfer for the last 15 years, also have been playing guitar for 15 years, and I work in the medical field (working 5 hours/day making 175k/year) doing what I love as a job because it's a not a pencil pushing-behind a desk job that adds no value to peoples lives other than being a medium for helping money switch hands :)
wow i came upon this site on a random search (writing a screenplay, wanted to check if a line i wrote was around anywhere else) and while I actually do agree with the main points of this article, I have to say whoever wrote it is so far up their ass that it is amusing. and the praise they get. oh man. redefines self-importance. at least somebody pointed out the homeless issue. also, "interesting" can mean very different things for different people. and, not everyone has the options to "live an interesting" life. especially when you are responsible for other people, like kids, sometimes it limits your options. and I say this as someone who is not held down by such things. so yeah, stupid article written by somebody who obviously knows very little about real suffering or the real complexities of the world. but then that's most of bloggers isn't it ;)
oh and it can be harmful to people if you bad mouth them not because they will read it, but because anybody can read it and dumb people will take whatever they read as gospel.
Awesome post. I like the reaffirmation of my current beliefs since it's so hard to find these days. It doesn't help that I quit my job to live with my parents. Been happier than ever though.
doing what you want to do + certainty + uncertainty = interesting
"I watch 30 minutes of TV/movies per day on average"
Says the man who turns on Arrested Development after an average of 30 minutes socializing ALMOST EVERY TIME.
You remind of that guy who wrote "4 Hour Work Week." You spend most of your time just living the way you want to live and let the money thing work itself out. Very inspirational post.
Please elaborate/justify your comment. Are you serious, or are you just being hilarious?
I suspect Tynan has jumped off cliffs and survived to tell a good story about the experience. Maybe you should try it, too :)
You, sir, are an effing A-HOLE. No offense, by the way. Just go jump off a cliff or something. See how that works out for ya.
A couple people recently have asked about the risks I take. On one hand, as they point out, I play it extremely safe by eating healthy foods and abstaining from alcohol and drugs. On the other hand, I climb construction cranes and go skydiving. Isn't this a contradiction?
It isn't - at least in my "eccentric" way of thinking. The difference is that one type of risk is an incidental risk, and the other is a sustained risk. I'm not really concerned with how dangerous a particular activity is. I know that jumping onto a moving freight train is more dangerous than eating a cookie. I'm worried on the "expected value" of the event. In other words, the average harm per hour times the amount of hours I'll be doing the activity.
If I climb a radio tower, there's a very small chance that I'll kill myself doing so. I don't mind taking that risk, though, because I'm only going to spend a total of ten hours or so doing it in my entire life. The odds probably won't catch up with me.
About three years ago, I read the excellent book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. At that time, I made a list of the top 5-10 people in my life that I was to and had similar goals with. I sent out emails to them every once a month with what I was working on.
Eventually, I fell off from this habit. Not sure why - I'd had gotten good advice, stayed in touch with people I like, and it was a positive experience. I started re-thinking building my counsel a little over a year ago.
The challenge is, I've got a diverse set of goals and ideas. I write, I do business, I travel, I create art, I adventure, I'm looking to establish a strong family, and so on. I have friends who are writers or artists that aren't interested in business. I've got friends in business that pretty much always stick to their one city. I know guys who are pretty simple, work a normal job, don't make any art or do any entrepreneurship, but have very strong and good families. I know very successful businessmen who travel and adventure, but aren't interested in having kids.
So I was thinking - how do I balance this all on my counsel?
And eventually, the idea hits me. I need multiple, relevant counsels.