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I've always been obsessed with automation. When I had a house I had automatic robot lawnmowers to mow my lawns and a matrix of motion detectors to control my lights. These days I have a simpler life that doesn't necessitate such extreme solutions, but I still benefit from automation.
There's a saying among programmers: if you have to do it three times, automate it. That may be a bit extreme for non-programming tasks, but maybe the equivalent is: if you have to do it every week or more, automate it. Here are a few interesting automations that I have set up.
I invest mechanically according to filters I've set up. Before automating it, I had to log in every day, see if I had money available, see if there were investments available, and then invest. This only took a few minutes a day, but even three minutes a day is an hour and a half per month.
I think that some might be surprised to hear how much I sleep and how important it is to me. I average right around eight hours per day (tracked for a few months), and prioritize sleep very strongly, even over most work.
Once ten pm comes around, I have four options for things I'm allowed to do: I can play violin, read a book, work, or sleep. Computer is off at midnight every day, at which point I usually read for an hour or two, and then go to sleep.
The other night I was tired at ten, but I was really excited about my work so I tried to push through and keep at it. I was stuck trying to fix something, but I managed to try five or ten solutions out before getting in bed. At the time, it felt like a good choice.
I woke up the next morning, took one look at the code, and spotted the solution instantly. Within five minutes it was fixed. Once is a fluke, but I've noticed this pattern over and over again with work when I'm tired-- it feels like I'm working, but often I'm just spinning my wheels.
The coefficient of friction is a number that describes the friction between two objects. A combination like rubber on concrete would have a really high coefficient of friction, whereas a greased baby on a slip-n-slide would have a really low coefficient of friction.
There's more to it, though-- every pair of objects has two coefficients of friction, one for static friction, whch applies when the objects are at rest, and one for kinetic friction which applies when objects are in motion. The kinetic coefficient is always lower, which is why something can be stuck on an incline, but as soon as you give it a tiny push, it slides easily. We have mental coefficients of friction, too, and they react the same way.
Preparing for my trip to China last fall, I knew that my laptop battery wouldn't last for the entire length of the flight. Rather than being a champion and just read, I decded to download the first season of Breaking Bad to watch on my phone. Being the paragon of discipline that I am, I figured I'd watch the first half of the season on the flight over (after exhausting my computer battery with work, of course), and then watch the second half on the way back.
So I got on my flight to China and worked until my battery was dead. That was easy, because working on my laptop is what I do. I read for an hour or so on my Kindle and then decided to check out Breaking Bad. As everyone said-- it was great. I watched it for the rest of the flight.
When I bought a house ten years ago, I also bought place settings for six and silverware for twelve. Then I developed a minor fascination with bone China and bought settings for eight. I probably had four dozen glasses. About once a month or so, all of these dishes would be piled up in and around my sink, begging to be cleaned. I didn't have a lot of dinner parties-- I just hated doing dishes so much that I'd procrastinate until washing became a full day event. Those days were some of my least favorite.
A few days ago, I was doing the dishes for the six of us that ate dinner. There were pots, pans, plates, serving utensils, and glasses. The works. For the first time ever, I found myself enjoying doing the dishes. I could appreciate the warm water on my hands and the shine in the pot when it was clean. When I washed everything that wasn't dishwasher safe, I started handwashing the things that could have just gone in the dishwasher. It wasn't fun exactly, but it was so enjoyable that I actually found myself looking forward to washing the dishes the next day.
Work has become the same way. I don't love all aspects of it equally, but when I wake up and know I have a tough day ahead of me, I feel great. Pant of it is that I know the day will end with a nice chunk of progress made, but most of it is the actual act of working. I love it. I can't wait to face off with a bug that's been bothering me for weeks, trace it through all of our code, and fix it. It's relaxing, like an internal Swedish massage.
My friend Constance wrote me an email today. She was talking about me with her sister and some friends, describing my hyperfocus on work, learning, and other productive things. An excerpt from her email:
A lot of people, hopefully not you, are living lives of glamorized, self inflicted, slavery. I've debated writing about this for a while, because of the connotation, but it's something I think about constantly. Sometimes I see someone working and I realize that they don't have the freedom to spend their days according to their own discretion. I try to empathize and imagine what it might be like, and as a result I feel a twinge of panic. It's unfathomable.
Time is all we have. If you're in a job that you don't enjoy, and you're not consistently saving up money, you are wasting your time. I don't care if you have a Porsche or a Schwinn, a penthouse or a room in a subleased apartment on the fringes of town. You can say that life is short, or you can say that it's long, but either way, it's finite. Today's the last day just like today that you have.
There's no conspiracy in play, trying to turn people into slaves. It's simpler than that: people take the path of least responsibility, and thus put the control of their lives into other people's hands. Why do so many people give up the best hours of the best days of their lives? Because it takes no thought. Everyone else gets a full time job, so why not?
One of the questions I tend to get is what I think the meaning of life is. I never have a good answer because I've never tried to answer the question. And I've never tried to answer the question because I don't think that it matters.
As children we're conditioned to do what we're supposed to do. That makes sense, because five-year-olds probably aren't well equipped to decide when to go to school or the dentist. The problem, though, is that we stay in this "supposed to" mode way too long. It becomes a habit and a way of life.
To me, figuring out the meaning of life is just an extension of figuring out what you're "supposed to do". Except, of course, that it can't be figured out. Humans have been trying forever and no one's gotten it yet. Odds are that you won't either.
I've mentioned before that I have become a vegan. It's now had such an impact on my life that I'm going to write a whole post explaining why on earth I'd become a vegan, and why I'll be a vegan for life.
First, I should say that the term "vegan" isn't great. It's usually associated with freakshows who are so against killing animals that they won't wear leather. While I'm not going to frequent cockfights or go hunting, I have no problem with animals being killed. I like leather stuff, and animals dying is part of life with or without humans.
Another problem with the term "vegan" is that many vegans eat an unhealthy diet. They cut out meat, but don't add vegetables in their place, so they tend to eat a lot of refined grains. Doing that is more unhealthy than just eating meat.
A while back, around the time I switched to Linux, I had the realization that any amount of effort I spent customizing my computer would probably pay off. I use the thing just about every day and gains are cumulative so I may as well think about how to make my computer better for me. This, incidentally, makes it nearly impossible for a normal person to use.
It's certain that not all of my customizations will be good for you, but maybe some will be, and if you use a computer a lot, the general idea of customizing it to your specifications is probably a good one.
To start, I use Linux. If you are reasonably technical, you should probably be using Linux of some sort. If you are a programmer, I can't imagine how you use something else. The two biggest factors are 1) Linux has many different flavors, so you can always use whichever one is best for you and 2) Linux is by far the most customizable operating system.
I think a lot of people are afraid of Linux because they think it is hard to set up and use, but that's really not true. I did a fresh install of both Ubuntu Linux and Windows 10 on my Lenovo (designed for Windows) laptop, and Ubuntu worked way better. Windows was a nightmare of drivers, but Linux just worked.
I had a discussion about book pricing recently with one of my favorite bloggers, Sebastian Marshall. His new book, Ikigai, is being sold for $7.77. He doesn't really care how much money he makes off it (his portion goes to charity, anyway), but he didn't want to lower the price because he thinks that it would signal that the book isn't high quality. I said that I'd accept that possibility for a chance of reaching a larger audience.
And due to lowering the price of Life Nomadic to 2.99, I've been able to reach an incredibly wide audience. In the past month I've sold far more copies of Life Nomadic than all other months combined. Reviews have been coming in, and lives have been changed. Despite much thinner margins, I'm even making more money from it. I couldn't be more happy about all this.
Make Her Chase You and Life Nomadic
Becoming disappointed in yourself is a unique region in the realm of disappointment, because no amount of time and understanding makes it go away. The only remedy for it is to change yourself-- in fact, this is one of the best sources of motivation for self-improvement. I've recently become disappointed in my self, illustrated by these two strikes.
A common excuse from guys who fail to approach girls is that none of the girls are their type, or that none of them are attractive enough. Sometimes this is actually a legitimate reason for not approaching, but far more often it's an ego-preserving shield against actually facing the fear of approach.