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When I was first learning about marketing (I never got very far with it), one of the things I remember reading was how important studies are. If you can share a study that supports your point, it becomes immediately more compelling. The same is true of writing books. When I wrote my habit book, several people told me that I should dig through studies, find some that supported my points, and then include them.
I don't find studies compelling at all, and generally disregard them when it comes to making decisions. There are three main reasons why I do this.
First, it is a lot easier to prove correlation than causation. For example, a study could probably show that people who buy Rolls Royces live longer than those that don't. The argument could be put forth that riding in such a fine automobile is so good for the soul that the owner gets to live longer, but it is probably just the case that if you have the money for a Rolls Royce, you also have the money for good health care. The "one glass of wine a day" argument could also fall into the category. Could it be that regular wine drinkers who don't overindulge are just people with reasonable restraint and better financial means than average? Probably.
People who write studies are actually usually pretty careful to note correlation vs. causation, but media outlets show no such restraint. That's why you see all sorts of magazine articles that say things like, "Could eating broccoli once a week make you live for an extra year?".
I often start habits or routines with a lot of fanfare, but then never follow up on them. Sometimes when people meet me they ask about them, so I figured I'd just think of all of them that I can come up with and catch you up.
Being married has been really great! People always ask me about it as if it's some enormous deal, but it still doesn't feel like a huge deal to me. I attribute that mostly to having a great wife who is very easy to talk to and work with, and with whom I share many values. By far the biggest change between dating and being married is that we think about things across a longer time horizon. We both really like doing that independently, so it's a good upgrade.
Many years ago I gave up breakfast because I was told by my trainer friend that I should be intermittent fasting. At first it felt like a big imposition, but after a few days I didn't feel hungry at breakfast time any more.
Even better, it allowed me to get to work earlier and to do so while drinking tea. I'm not sure I noticed any benefits from intermittent fasting, but I really appreciated the convenience.
Last year a friend of mine who had discovered a new enthusiasm for health and getting in shape began to talk about how much he liked fasting. He would do it for 24 hours once each week. I decided to give it a try and found that it was another level-up in convenience from skipping only breakfast.
After a bunch of research I determined that doing it regularly wouldn't just not kill me, but it could actually be good for health and longevity. I started doing it every day I was in Vegas. At first it seemed like my body fat went down a little bit, but it plateaued quickly and I don't feel that it has significantly changed how I look.
I'm not sure any of us know exactly what has made us who we are, but it's an interesting topic to think about, and one I consider often as I want to share those things which have brought me success with my readers. Often the narratives are a little bit too convenient to believe that they represent the whole truth, so I'll share my own with the caveat that it's impossible for me to remove my subjective opinion.
I generally assume that the overwhelming majority of my success has nothing to do with things that I have done. I was born into a great country with a lot of opportunity and no war or famine. That's about as out of my control as it gets, but may be the greatest factor in any success I've had. How well would I have done if I was born into poverty in the middle of a war somewhere?
My parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles have had a huge impact on my life. This one is a little bit harder to quantify, but having food or shelter was never something I had to think about, nor was having clothes or the ability to do activities with my friends. My family gives me a tremendous amount of love and encouragement, and every parenting book I've ever read has underlined how important that is.
I think that my success (and maybe your own), could be attributed 80-100% to factors completely out of my control. So while I think that it's important to be proud of one's achievments and success, it's disingenuous to not spread that credit around pretty widely.
I'm about as anti-school as anyone can get. I dropped out of college and can't begin to convey the joy and relief I felt when I knew that I'd never go to school again. The costs of school have risen to such absurd heights that it now represents a poor value for more people than ever.
I think that it's important, though, to not look at things as either black or white. School isn't bad, it's just not always worth the time and/or money invested in it. Just like everything, it has its pros and its cons, the weights of which could be valued differently for anyone.
So in the spirit of seeing the other side of the coin and evaluating things on their entirety, I thought I'd share some of the things about school that I think are very positive and how I would use them if I were going to school.
The best thing about school, to me at least, is the social group. It's the easiest possible time to make friends because most people don't have fully formed social groups, you're around a bunch of people with some commonalities, and you're in an environment that lends itself to being social. If I were in school I would dedicate a huge amount of time and effort to making the best possible social group. I'm not good friends with too many people I met in my three semesters of college, but I did meet one of my best friends, Todd, there.
If you were the guy sitting in 29F yesterday, I really hope you're reading this.
I'm generally unflappable and not easily annoyed by people, but that goes out the window when I'm traveling by airplane. I imagine the frustration to be the same as Gordon Ramsay might feel if I was his sous chef. I travel many many days per year and am very good at it, which is obviously not normal.
You may not travel as much, so let me share some suggestions from someone who's way at the end of that bell curve to help make the experience better for you and everyone else in the plane.
1. Know in advance how to go through security and prepare for it before getting in the line. Do you need to take off your jacket or shoes? Do you need to take things out of your bag? Do you still have liquids in there that you will insist you don't have until the TSA agent shows them to you? The x-ray machine is for minimal staging. Be ready in advance. If there is an empty space ahead of you on the conveyer belt, you messed up. The checkers are slower than anyone unloading should be. If I see an empty space I cut the line, drop my single bag, and go through security.
Two friends and I went out scuba diving against the recommendation of the local divemaster. This was a very stupid idea and I knew it going in, but was frustrated that the conditions weren't good and really wanted my friends to get to scuba before they left. So we went out.
The main issue was the waves crashing against the lava rocks on the shore. We noticed, though, that they came in sets and figured we could get in safely if we just waited for a lull. Once we got out there it would be fine. No one really thought much about getting back in.
I went first, as I had been to this site several times. I timed the waves well and got in quite easily. I swam out a few dozen feet away from the rocks and waited for my friends. They dropped in with no problems as well and we went under. The turbulence of the 6-10 foot high waves had churned the bottom up so much that visibility was next to nothing. We were only a few feet away from each other at the surface, but couldn't find each other underwater at first. I found one friend and had him wait so that I could find the other friend. Once reunited we swam around a little bit, but the dive was pointless. Other than a turtle or two you couldn't see anything.
We decided to scrap the dive and went back to the surface. We bobbed up and down in the waves and realized two things very quickly. The first was that we weren't exactly sure where we were supposed to swim towards to get out. We knew the general area, but couldn't see the narrow passageway that led to the small cove where it was easy to climb in and out. At any given time there was a tall wave obscuring our view. The second thing we realized is that there was a rip tide pushing us away from the area to which we needed to swim. At maximum kicking speed we barely made progress against the ocean floor.
Superhuman 3 is coming in October to Las Vegas!
I sent an email out to the Superhuman Vegas mailing list last week, but still have some spots available, so I'm announcing the event over the blog. For those of you who aren't familiar with Superhuman events in Vegas, the general idea is that we all meet for a weekend and you leave with connections and friendships with other amazing people as well as direct actionable advice from me. Here are a few testimonials from the last group:
Over a year ago I was driving my Bentley in Las Vegas and a car ran a red light and drove straight into the side of it, sending it first into a sideways slide, and later to the body shop. The body shop repairing the car is extraordinarily slow. At first this bothered me and I was constantly checking in with them to see when it would be done. Then I bought a minivan and no longer cared. I still don't have the car back, after almost a year and a half.
I'd say that my family had a minivan since I was little, but really my dad had a minivan. He loved that thing. And then after ten years or so it died and he bought another, and another still when that one reached the end of its life. He was a carpenter, and his minivan could hold a 4x8 sheet of plywood in the back with the seats removed. I've followed in his footsteps in that I also do projects all the time, and being able to carry a 4x8 sheet is pure magic.
All minivans are pretty good, but the Dodge Grand Caravan, also known as the Chrysler Town and Country, or now the Chrysler Pacifica (not to be confused with the crossover they stopped making which was also called a Pacifica), is the best one to buy. The primary reason for this is a patented feature they have called Stow-n-Go seating.
Stow-n-Go seating means that every seat other than the front two can be folded flat into the floor in a matter of seconds. Lift up the cover to the storage area, pull a tab on the back, and the seat is flat. You can go from seven passengers to two with more cargo space than a truck in under a minute.
I like and spend time in several cities which are very different from each other. Las Vegas, Hilo (Hawaii), Budapest, rural Halifax (our island), and Tokyo. On paper it would be hard to draw many links between those cities, which of course led me to think about why I liked all of them so much.
What I realized is that each of those cities has extremely low friction.
San Francisco is a very high friction city. Everything is expensive there, so unless you are wealthy, eating out for meals feels a little bit stressful. Is it really worth $25 for a non-Chipotle dinner? Getting places is stressful because you have to take ubers to most places and they are expensive and exposed to traffic. The homeless problem has grown so out of control that you are almost certain to be confronted with feces and heroin needles during your visit.
New York is also very high friction. The subway is swelteringly hot during the summer and has none of the efficiency or thoughtfulness of systems in other cities like Tokyo. Real estate is expensive, so your living situation is likely to have a bit of friction. Like San Francisco, everything is expensive. Getting to the airport can take a couple hours or $80, depending on whether you take the train or uber.