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To break with my normal style of post, I thought this week I'd share some of my favorite software that helps me get work done on a daily basis. Because I use Linux it won't all be applicable to you, but maybe some of the ideas will be, and a lot of the software is cross-platform.
Ubuntu + Gnome
I love the Ubuntu operating system. In particular I like how everything just works super easily (including typically tricky things like printers), and that it's infinitely customizable. I spend a lot of time on my computer, so small customizations have a big effect on long term productivity.
Gnome is a "window manager" for linux. I switched on a whim and I LOVE it compared to Ubuntu's default window manager. I think it's way better than OSX, Windows, and Unity (Ubuntu's default).
For the past few years I've been in a state of near-constant motion. I was in Budapest for five weeks straight last month, and that was by far the longest I'd been in one place in years. This lifestyle now feels totally normal to me, so I thought it might be interesting to share what it feels like to live such a life, both good and bad.
Maybe the best part of moving around constantly is that I have a "presence" in different cities around the world. I have friend groups in Vegas, San Francisco, New York, Tokyo, and Budapest. In any of these places I can land and immediately feel at home, navigating by memory, calling up friends, going to favorite restaurants, etc.
Because I go to all of these places with relative frequency, I'm generally never gone for too long. So although I don't get to see all of my friends every week like I'd like to, I generally see them every 1-3 months (longer for Tokyo).
If you call these five places my homes, you could say that I have a five "half homes" rather than one full home. In other words, it feels like the sum of these partial residences is greater than one residence, in terms of connection with friends, getting to know a city, etc.
I'm going to start writing a little wrap-up about the island every year, partly because I want to chronicle it for my own reading later, but also because there's been a lot of general interest in the island.
If you're late to the party, nine friends and I bought an inexpensive island off the coast of Halifax in 2013. It was untouched forest when we bought it, but we have now built trails as well as structures, the only significant one being a 30' diameter yurt.
This year we got two trips in. The first was a massive trip with twelve different people coming and going, averaging eight to ten at any given time. Five of the owners came on that trip as well as seven guests.
Having so many people here at once was a feat in and of itself. I think the maximum we'd had before was four. But this is the first year that the yurt was up, as we finished it at the tail end of the preceding summer, so we had plenty of space for everyone.
Two days ago I closed on a property in Budapest (right where districts V, VI, and VII meet, if you know the area). It's not just my property, though. I share it with eight of my best friends. It's the latest piece of the puzzle in my recent quest to have home bases around the world in my favorite places.
We bought an island off the coast of Halifax, now a flat in downtown Budapest (best European city in my opinion), and are buying up a neighborhood in Las Vegas, with each of us owning our own apartments.
Tonight I'll sleep in our Budapest place. Tomorrow I'll fly to Halifax and stay on the island for a week. Then I'll fly back to Vegas. It is a really cool feeling to fly around the globe and always be home.
Now that I've done this a few times I'm going to share specifics on how it works and how we organize everything so that you can do the same. And before you dismiss the idea thinking it's too expensive or complicated, think about this: my share of the island, share of the Budapest place, and entire place in Vegas cost me around a fourth of the median sales price for a house in the USA. So while this sounds extravagant (and feels like it), it's actually very inexpensive compared to how most people you know live.
I've been working a lot on marketing recently, as you've hopefully noticed if you subscribe to CruiseSheet's (awesome) newsletter. A basic part of marketing is thinking about the funnel. At the top of the funnel you have people who go to the web site, and at the tiny end of the funnel you have people who actually book a cruise.
Ideally you'd want that funnel to be tube shaped so that every person who visited would also book a cruise, but that's not possible. So while you try to stretch the opening at the bottom of the funnel by increasing conversions, you also try to get more people into the top of the funnel, since some of them will make it all the way down to the bottom.
Over the years I have had some really amazing ideas for blog posts. Hopefully you've read a few of those posts, but the majority of them never got written. That's because I have the exact same thought process every time:
As you probably already know, one good way to keep your dog fenced in is the invisible fence. It's a loop of wire you run around your yard that triggers their special collar if they cross the wire, giving them an electric shock.
After a while you don't need the collar or the wire anymore. The dog has been conditioned not to cross the edge of the yard. Cool system.
When we are children we have a similar construct. Parents establish where the line is, and if you cross it you get in trouble. Go to bed later than midnight and you'll hear about it. Get lower than a B and you get lectured. Say words that cross a certain line of civility and get reprimanded.
Just as the dog doesn't need to know every point on the fence to identify the line he can't cross, we as children get a sense for where the line is. As toddlers we need to be told everything, but as we get older we know the boundaries.
A few months ago I had a troubling thought: maybe I've forgotten how to be productive.
I am not a naturally productive person. I skated by in school, putting homework off until the last minute, if I did it at all. After I left school I was reasonably productive with my gambling thing, but it was never days full of long hours of work, more like and hour or two most days.
After gambling I started a bunch of other projects. It was always hard to get myself to work on them, and other than the first day or two when I was filled with that "new project energy", I'd procrastinate a lot.
Then, a few years ago, I decided to get serious about work and I slowly ramped up until I was working 12-14 hours per day on Sett. That might sound horrible, but I actually loved it. I learned to love work and it was a huge relief to discover that I was capable of working hard for a prolonged period of time. There was at least a year or two where I consistently worked at a rate I was happy with.
I'm always thinking about minimalism. A lot of why I think about it is because I have both very minimalistic tendencies as well as some on the opposite side of the spectrum. That sits well with me, because I consider it cause for alarm when one subscribes entirely to the dogma of any group. It's a sign of not thinking for oneself.
So I think a lot about that balance. Am I becoming too minimalist? Am I swinging too far in the other direction? What's right for me?
A common thread for me is to think about what will make my life the simplest. That doesn't mean that I'll have the fewest possessions or fewest relationships or fewest responsibilities, it just means that I'll remove barriers from my life. I try to think a lot about what I want my life to look like, what will enable me to do the most, and how to minimize friction on that path.
For example, I only wear one outfit. This simplifies my life drastically as I never have to choose what to wear, laundry is always quick and easy and can be done in a sink if necessary, etc. With the exception of trying out new gear (which is both my hobby and business), I must think about clothing less than almost anyone.
It's been an interesting month so far. Two relevant things happened: first, I got some critical feedback that I needed to hear but sort of stung, and second, CruiseSheet has been doing extremely well.
For the longest time I've run my businesses as I thought they should be run. I'd hear people out and take advice on small things, but even when lots of smart people I love and respect said that I should do something big differently, I wouldn't. I'd listen and feel like I was considering it, but really I knew I wouldn't take the advice.
And then later I'd think to myself about how I had my own way and how great it was and how some day people will see that my way was right!
But that day never really came.
I think a lot about what an outsider would assume about me if they were to get a deep view of me. What would they think my priorities are? Would they think that I will succeed? Would they think I'm a good friend? When the answers to these hypothetical questions is out of line with what I want, I adjust. It's a little hack to get perspective.
Today I found myself asking when that hypothetical observer would assume I was optimizing my life for. Hmmmm...
I think that almost everyone optimizes for the very short term. One day. One week. A month. Maybe a year. Who is really doing things for five years from now? Any of us? The lady across the aisle from me on this plane is drinking a Pepsi Max, eating chocolate, and playing a game on her iPad. When is she optimizing for?
We were all alive in 2011, and back then it wasn't all that easy to imagine 2016. Abstractly we could, but who among us could really feel what it would be like to be alive now?