A situation I run into frequently, including right now, is being around people who would prefer that I not work all the time. They understand what I'm doing and are supportive of it, but they will make short term decisions to avoid me working. In other words, I'm visiting my family and if I were to ask, "Should I go get some work done or have fun with you?" the answer would always be fun.
This happens around friends when traveling sometimes, too. Maybe they came for vacation, but I travel so much that work has to be a regular part of my schedule, even when traveling. Whether with family or friends, it's a tricky balance. I'm not great at maintaining that balance, but I've been doing it for a few weeks, which has surfaced some thoughts on it.
One skill I've found to be really useful is to really be able to discriminate between things that must get done immediately and things that need to be done eventually, but not now. Right now we're moving Sett to a new server. I'm coordinating with Todd, and this is a high priority, so it has to be done now. Other things, like working on my habit book, can be delayed.
On the other end of things, I've been trying to evaluate family activities by a similar measure. Is this really quality time, or are we just sitting in the same room watching a movie? Is my participation central to this activity, or am I just another body in a room?
In poker there's an ideal called "tight and aggressive". The idea is to play a very small selection of hands, but to then play those hands very aggressively.
You play a small selection because many hands are statistical underdogs no matter how well you play them. You'll get lucky here and there, but in the long run you'll lose money on those hands because they're too weak compared to what others are likely to have.
You play aggressively because you need to extract as much value as possible out of the few hands you play. Besides giving your opponent more opportunities to give up, playing aggressively lets you milk the most out of each hand. You're betting and raising, not checking and calling.
It occurred to me today that, like many things in poker, tight and aggressive is a good parallel to real life. You feel like a champion when you play tight and aggressive in poker, and you also feel that way in real life.
As you might expect, I'm a huge Android fan. I think that what you can do with an Android phone is spectacular, especially a rooted one. There are still some big apps that make it to iOS first, but there are also a huge number of apps that only make it to Android because iOS is too locked down for them.
After finding a really cool app unexpectedly, I thought it might be cool to share some of my favorite Android apps that you probably don't already have.
It was midnight, I was visiting family in Boston, and I decided to upgrade to the latest version of Ubuntu. My laptop has a few strange quirks with linux, and one of them is that when you install a new version of linux, you must boot with a bootable USB disk to do something.
I'm in New York right now visiting my family. I love spending time here. Today I taught my cousin some programming, she actually did some real work for Cruise Sheet, and we only took a break to do our language tapes. As we drank tea together, she did my Chinese flashcards with me.
I tend to be a combination of excited and stubborn about things I want to do, so I end up advocating for them. Who wants to learn programming? Let's have tea! What language do you want to do the tapes for?
What would they be deing, I wonder, if hurricane Tynan didn't sweep through?
We make a lot of conscious choices that have a meaningful impact on our lives, but how much happens just because it's what's available? When I'm here, my activities become more available than others, so that's what my cousins do. And vice versa-- when they're around, they influence my activities, too.
It's midnight and I'm on my cot in a tent on the island. It's quiet now, just small waves slapping the rocks and jokes between me, my cousins, and my friend Nick, When we wake up, it will be very windy and possibly rainy. There's a hurricane en-route, which is expected to weaken to some less impressive category of storm.
Installed on my phone now is a tide app, which always strikes me as bizarre when I'm walking around the city at home. But here it's part of life. When it's high tide it's easier to boat back, and possible to carry heavy loads in the boat. At low tide boating requires a lot more precision to find the deep water channel, but we can circumnavigate the island easier on foot.
I like having to think about the weather a little bit. It's a connection to the real world from which we've largely insulated ourselves. Most of the time that's a good thing, but tradeoffs hide behind convenience.
Our island has no luxury, other than that of time and space. One of the luxuries lost is the luxury of being fussy. One of my cousins runs inside when mosquitos come out, and another is inexplicably scared of butterflies. But the island trails were flooded with tiny white moths and the constant whine of mosquitos is the soundtrack of the deep woods.
In each of our minds is a gradient of activities, ranging from things we definitely won't do (finance a Ferrari), things we'll definitely do (drink water today), and everything else in between. There's something special about those things at the extremes, the things we will and won't definitely do. It's nearly impossible that theey won't be as predicted. Can we use that to our advantage?
It's not that we won't lease Ferraris because we don't want to. It would be a lot of fun to get a Ferrari, at least until I ran out of money and it got repossessed. We don't do it because we've drawn a hard line somewhere shy of that sort of expense. I'll buy an apple without thinking about it, a new camera after a bunch of thought and research, but a Ferrari is so contrary to my goals that it never gets thought about.
When we consider something to be impossible, by our own standards at least, not doing it becomes easy. When we consider something impossible not to do, doing it becomes easy. We get to bypass the whole thought loop of should-I-or-shouldn't-I, which invites temptation to the bargaining table.
The trick is to take things that don't have an impossible component to them and build that in. There are two ways to do that.
I was talking with a really accomplished photographer the other day. The guy is an immense talent, has been hired by all sorts of celebrities and productions, and has a very impressive body of work. And he was thinking about quitting photography.
He was also incredibly humble and open to advice, which I have to admit that I didn't expect from a high-profile LA photographer. He talked about his background, his goals, and his current situation. His problems were the good kind, specifically the too-many-good-options variety.
Ahh, I understand, I said. You're in the hustler's trap.
A hustler is someone who can create something from nothing, usually in a pretty short amount of time. If he finds an opportunity, he'll jump in head first. This photographer found a toy that was selling well before Christmas, so he started ordering containers of them from China and selling them on the internet. That was one of many of his hustler exploits.
When I was really young, I would occasionally take over my friend's paper route when he was busy. Not being much of an early riser, I never got to eat breakfast on mornings where I delivered the paper. That, of course, was a problem that could easily be solved, if I just had a toaster on my bike.
So I made one. I had no idea what I was doing, so it worked by shorting a 9 volt battery, which created heat. The bread would get a little bit warm, and then my automatic butter melter would melt some butter on the bread. It wasn't a Dualit, and it consumed a 9 volt battery every time, but it made my substitute paper-running a little more fun.
For as long as I can remember, I knew that if something you wanted didn't exist, you built it. One of my earliest memories with my very first friend, Brian, was scheming to build a spiderman-style web slinger.
And now, of course, I still do it. My ideal blogging platform didn't exist, so I'm building it with my friend Todd. Neither did my ideal RV, so I built that, too. Then there's Cruise Sheet, the island, and any number of other things.
Variance is a natural part of life, and it's not a battle that can ever be won. Some days you'll perform amazingly, and others you'll be a lot worse. We'd all like to have as many amazing days as possible, but focusing on those days too much can end up doing more harm than good.
In a sense, though, the good days will take care of themselves. On my worst days it seems like I need everything to be just right, but on good days almost everything can be wrong and I'll still produce good work. Good days are going to be good days, no matter what.
A common pattern you see people in is to have a few good days followed by abysmal days. Tons of work followed by almost nothing for days or weeks. This is particularly frustrating because they know they're capable of good work-- they're just not able to extract it from themselves.
On the other hand, some people are able to set a lower bound on how bad days can get. They have just as many bad days, but those days still move them forward a couple squares. That adds up to a lot over long spans of times.
Work is almost synonymous with stress in our culture. If you're working hard, you're exhausted, stressed, and stretched thin. So you only work a fixed amount of hours per day if you can manage, you get weekends off, and then once in a while when you need to restore what work has taken from you, you take a vacation.
Whenever I want something, I ask myself if there's a problem lurking behind that desire. Do I want that doughnut because what I really need in my life is a doughnut? Or do I want it because I crave stimulation, because I rely on novelty to keep my life interesting, or because I've eaten too little today and need calories.
Do I want to see this girl because I really like her? Or is it because I'm lonely or bored or need validation? Am I working on this project because I want for it to exist? Or is it because I need money or want recognition?
Behind every action is a reason, and some of those reasons point to larger underlying problems. What's the underlying problem behind these escape valves from work? Why do we need time off, vacation, and weekends?