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Summer is just beginning, which means that in my family as well as many others, people are graduating college and preparing to enter the workforce. I just heard that one of my cousins got a job. My first reaction was to be excited for her, and then the second was to be a little bit nervous: the habits she builds in her first few months of receiving a paycheck are very likely to affect her entire life an an enormous way.
While the amount of money you earn is important, what you do with that money is far more important. There is no shortage of people who make hundreds of thousands or millions who end up bankrupt or severely in debt. It happens all the time. But at the same time there are plenty of people who earn very little money but spend it wisely and never have a financial worry in their lives.
Money trouble is a leading cause of divorce. It's can be a huge source of stress. Not having enough money restricts your freedom, making it impossible to change jobs or to move to a different city.
Most Americans don't have enough money to handle an unexpected $1000 expense. This is MOST Americans, not just those who don't make a lot of money. And almost everyone will eventually have a $1000 expense they aren't expecting. A car breaks, they miss a flight, they get injured, their water heater floods, they get into a car accident, or they lose their job.
I'm not sure how I've made it my entire life without knowing that my grandmother was an only child. I'm sitting in a pizza place in Vermont with my grandmother, surrounded by my father and aunts, my cousins, and my cousins' children. We have so many people that we don't know how many to tell the hostess, and we can't even count. We just keep flowing in and taking all of the tables.
I had just told her how much I appreciated what she did for us kids. Every summer all of us kids would go up and stay with our grandparents for a week or two. It didn't seem like a huge deal back in the day, but now I understand that it was essentially a full time job. Laundry, food, and corralling us.
"I'm on only child," she says, "but I had lots of cousins I grew up with, so I wanted to make sure that you all had the same thing."
I look around at the visible evidence of her success. We're all really close. Some of us haven't seen each other for years, but it feels like we were just hanging out yesterday. Such a lovely group of people.
A entrepreneur friend of mine, who happens to be female, and I were talking. Another female entrepreneur had said that she couldn't get funding for her company because she was female, and that she would have easily gotten it if she was male.
Now, I have no idea if this is true or not. As a straight white male, basically no one has any biases against me. And I have enough female friends to know that women are, in some ways, treated worse than men. That's an unfortunate fact of modern life that seems to be changing in a positive direction. Venture capitalists seems like a smart enough bunch that they would see an opportunity if female entrepreneurs weren't getting the same amount of funding as their male peers, but again I have no firsthand experience so I don't really know.
My friend and I were talking about this and she said something that I thought was really smart. She said, "There are disadvantages to being female, but their are advantages to it, too. And either way, I'm going to do the best I can with what I've got."
What a perfect attitude. It's so obviously true, and it's both a diagnosis of the situation and a solution to it as well. She will be discriminated against in some cases because she's female. But she will also get some opportunities as a result. And either way, she's going to play the cards she's dealt to the best of her ability.
Making decisions is fascinating to me. Once you build a base level of competence, where you can trust that you will follow through with whatever you decide to do, you could say that your life is largely an exercise in decision making.
There's a concept we've all probably heard of, called paralysis of choice, where when given too many options, it becomes difficult to choose one specific one. There's a gelato place in Las Vegas called Gelatology that has twenty or so new flavors every day. It's nearly impossible to choose just one or two.
On the other end of the spectrum, I think when our choices are artificially narrowed, we have a tendency to forget that other choices exist.
I get asked a lot if I'm ever going to settle down. Right now I visit maybe twenty or thirty countries per year, plus another five or ten cities within the US. It's a pace that I find pretty comfortable, but there are downsides to it.
One of two things is true: either you will experience chaos in life, or you are setting your sights drastically too low. With even medium-sized goals, you're going to occasionally run into a time where you've underestimated a project, or someone has slacked and pushed work onto your plate, or a great opportunity arose and you had to scramble to try to take advantage. If this happens to you constantly you're probably doing something wrong, but the same is true if it never happens.
What you'd really want in these cases is to be able to bank time. You save up money partially so that if your car breaks down you don't have to pay for it all out of your next paycheck. If only you could do the same with time, storing up spare minutes here and there for when things really get chaotic.
You actually can do that, though, it just doesn't happen at Wells Fargo. In fact, I'm doing it now.
I'm on a flight from Tokyo to Melbourne right now. Nine hours, and most people are using the time watching movies or playing games on their phone. And most of them are probably on vacation from work anyway, so it makes sense.
I did the math again. Fifteen minutes to get to the car rental place, five minutes to check out, five minutes to wait for the shuttle, fifteen minutes to get to the airport, five minutes to get through security, two minutes to run to my gate. That was forty-seven minutes to get to a plane that was leaving in forty-five. I'd already given up on the idea of filling up the gas at a reasonable price; I was about to miss my flight to Japan.
It was the first time I saw my friend Neil in five years or so, so I pushed the timeline a little bit. And then I wanted to test out his Tesla, so I pushed it even further. What I hadn't counted on was that there was much more traffic on the way back than the way there.
I'm the last person in the world to admit defeat and become helpless. I'm tenacious (or stubborn, depending on who you ask), so I am always hustling and trying to make something work up until the buzzer. When there's anything left to do before giving up, I'll do it.
But sometimes you just get stuck. There was nothing I could do to get to the airport faster. If the shuttle took ten minutes instead of five, I couldn't change that. I could talk my way to the front of the line in security, but if I get flagged by the TSA, it's out of my control.
I woke up yesterday morning prepared to grind away at Cruise Sheet all day. This is actually a great type of day for me-- I love non-workout days when I have the whole day to block off and make huge amounts of progress. I always start the same way, though: tea and email.
In my email I had an offer for two free tickets to Nicki Minaj in Las Vegas at the new T-Mobile arena. I was in San Francisco. I immediately reserved them and emailed friends to see if anyone wanted to come. My friend Lenore, whose go-to Karaoke song is Super Bass, snagged a cheap flight and agreed to go.
I still got a ton of work done on the plane, but my day ended much differently than I had expected when I woke up.
The night before I was having dinner with a bunch of my friends. We talked about music, and people got on my case because I said that I wasn't a huge fan of any female artists. I'm not a big Nicki Minaj fan, although I do like a bunch of her songs and collaborations. The point being that I didn't go to Vegas because I was a huge Nicki Minaj fan, I went because it was a spontaneous adventure.
The past dozen or so years of my life have been dedicated mostly to learning and growth. Not totally singlemindedly, of course; I've traveled around and done fun things and have also put out a respectable body of work, but most of my focus has been on improvement.
And I needed it. I learned social skills, productivity, programming, writing, and some parts of ten languages. I built strong social circles in several cities composed of people I love and respect, built home bases in Las Vegas and San Francisco, and immersed myself in many different cultures around the world.
Time well spent.
Last night I had the idle thought that I should learn Korean. I miss learning languages, and Korean is a pretty good one. Then I thought about how I plan on spending more time in Budapest and how I should learn Hungarian, even though it is, by all accounts, impossible.
I never published it, but I wrote a post a while back about how watching TV was my canary in the coalmine. If I wanted to watch TV, that was a surefire sign that I wasn't fully engaged in my work, and that I needed to take a look at what was causing that.
I've gone way overboard with my remodel of my bathroom in Las Vegas. The floor tiles were these horrible vinyl tiles that were peeling up and weren't even in a grid. If I have to redo the floor, I may as well get black marble tiles. And if I'm going to put tiles down, I may as well put in in-floor heating.
I haven't taken a shower in my own home in many months. The corner shower had a broken door and I wanted a tub, so I ripped it out and put in a tub. But then I had to redo the walls to make them waterproof. And wouldn't it be cool if one wall was teak wood instead of just tile?
And that's where my Tuesday went. I grouted the two tile walls, sawed boards, and began to attach them to the wall.
During a six hour layover in Honolulu, my friend Brian and I went to the Honolulu Museum of Art. The museum is really cool and worth a visit for just about anyone passing through the city. They have the standard sort of stuff, but I was most impressed with their Asian collection. In particular, the Japanese woodblock prints stood out.
Usually I skim over the woodblocks, but their collection was stunning. I went around the room looking at all of them several times before leaving. I took pictures so that I could figure out later who the artist was.
Later, just out of curiousity, I started researching what it would take to buy a Japanese woodblock by a good artist. It was strictly aspirational, not something I intended on buying in the near future.
But I was surprised. Legitimate Japanese woodblocks from the 1800s, when the Shogun was in charge, go for one or two hundred. The ones that captivated me in the museum were by a guy named Ogata Gekko and were printed in the early 1900s, and were even cheaper.