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Imagine that everyone has a bucket, and they fill it with tasks. At the bottom of the bucket is a hose that is constantly draining it at some rate, which represents completing tasks. The tasks are your obligations in life, your work, and your responsibilities.
We all know people with overflowing buckets. It almost doesn't matter what the size and rate of the outflows are through the hose, because things are sloshing around and falling over the edges of the buckets. Anything that falls over the edge is a missed deadline, a broken promise, or a lost opportunity. People with brimming buckets don't get to choose what falls over. They walk around with this big sloshing bucket, trying to keep everything inside, but things fall over the edge.
We also know people with empty buckets. They don't have too much to do and they aren't overwhelmed, but the hose at the bottom is just barely dripping.
In the middle are people with buckets that are about 1/2 or 2/3 full. They have things to do and obligations, but they also have spare capacity. No one can perfectly predict what will come in the future, so we all need a little bit of spare capacity. If you're at 100%, you can't capitalize on an unexpected opportunity, you can't take a day off, and you can't explore. You have to keep draining the bucket just to keep it from overflowing.
Another year gone! For the first time, as I read through old monthly updates and scrolled through my yearly calendar, I was shocked at how quickly time had passed. Things that happened last February felt as though they were just a few months ago.
In some ways this year was very dense. For the first time ever I felt like nearly every day of the year was accounted for in one way or another, almost always very high quality time with friends or family, big pushes in work, or some other activity. On the rare occasion I'd have two consecutive days with nothing scheduled I felt like I was in a different world.
Usually when I look back over a year I am shocked at how much I accomplished. I'm not totally sure I feel that way this year, or at the very least I feel like the things I did were more focused on either long term growth or relationships. That could be a very good thing, but it's enough of a departure from previous years that I plan on thinking about it a little bit to see if I need to alter my habits a bit. On the other hand, I casually mentioned a few goals for the year in last year's post, and they were pretty much all reached.
Here are some breakdowns of the highlights of the year for me
Merry Christmas! As seems to be my pattern lately I keep pushing the gear post later and later. Sorry about that! It happens because I get excited about gear and always end up testing a bunch of things right near the end.
One thing I'm very excited about this year is that I was able to merge several items and have fewer overall. My shorts and bathing suit are now one and the same, and several items got merged into one.
Without further ado:
Wool and Prince Button Down
It's very easy to idealize and cherry pick from the past, but it feels like quality used to be a metric that people cared about, and now it feels more like a buzzword that is used for marketers to use for products that generally aren't of very high quality. That strategy seems to have worked, because it feels to me like many people don't understand what quailty is or care about it. Often those who claim to care are found buying things that aren't actually of high quality
The first question, then, is whether quality even matters. Is there any point in getting a high quality chair versus a low quality chair? Do high quality clothes matter, or should we just get low quality clothes and replace them when they wear out?
I think that these are fair questions and that there is no universally right answer. The glue gun I have in front of me on my desk is a low quality glue gun, but that's perfect for me. I need to use it once or twice per year, don't really care about the experience of using it, and may not have bought it if it were higher quality and thus more expensive. I think, at the very least, there is a place in our society for low quality goods.
It's hard to define quality, but I think it's easiest when we think about a spectrum.
You would think that the people who are most into advanced productivity ideas and systems would be the most productive people who, having mastered the basics, are looking for ways to eke out even more performance. In my experience, though, the people looking for "five weird productivity hacks" are usually the ones who think they're too good for the basics.
The most productive people I know are people who absolutely master the basics. They know how to fill the time in the day with the most important tasks they have, and they know how to string those days together in such a way that they're making meaningful progress.
The most important basic skill to master, without a doubt, is consistency. I've seen this in my own life, in my friends' lives, and in all of my coaching clients paths. Those who are able to be consistent end up with huge success, very often much greater success than they expected or even hoped for.
People in finance say that people aren't able to comprehend the benefits of compounding interest over time. Consistency in productivity creates compound benefits which people are similarly not able to comprehend. Your starting point doesn't matter, because you can quickly scale up to your capacity once you have a history and habit of consistency.
I've been writing out my yearly blog posts and as I've gotten near the end I've realized that I haven't written anything about tea this year. It seems almost inconceivable that a year could pass by without my shilling for the tea industry at large. In thinking about that, I started to think about why I like tea so much, which led me to the idea for this blog post.
I've been drinking tea regularly for around ten years. I can't remember when I first started drinking it nearly daily, but I'd estimate that it's been at least five years. I love tea and feel like it, along with its surrounding culture, is a very special thing that is often overlooked.
One thing that is unique about tea is that it is the only social consumption based activity I can think of that is actually good for you.
Coffee isn't all that social, as it's quick. People go get coffee together, but that tends to be a more superficial meeting. Meals are often indulgent, though sometimes healthy. Drinking and smoking are obviously bad for you.
Every year I struggle to write my gratitude post a little bit, not because I can't think of anything I'm grateful for, but because there are so many things that it's hard to focus. This year, just for fun, I'm going to try to highlight some smaller things in my life that I'm grateful for.
But first, I can't write this post without acknowledging and thanking all of the people in my life. I have the most incredible friends and family and they all contribute a tremendous amount to my life. Everyone has the ability to make great friends, but not everyone has the chance to meet as many great people as I've met and befriended, and I think it's pretty rare to have a meaningful and positive relationship with every single member of one's family as I do. I may not be a 1%er financially, but I think I must be in terms of people in my life, I must be.
So first, to my friends and family who read this: thank you so much for being in my life.
Each day I think many times about how grateful I am for various things, both big and small. I do this because I have a lot to be grateful for, but also because I know that the active process of being grateful will make me more happy and satisfied with my life. Being grateful is a skill that you can build, and building it enables you to get all of the benefit of everything in your life, which makes it a very high-leverage skill.
When I asked for blog topics before writing this annual batch, I got a lot of great suggestions with almost no overlap at all. The one exception? Everyone wanted to know what I think about marriage.
I think that this comes from my history as a pickup artist, and a perceived incompatibility with the two. This is sort of funny to me because I think that getting into a great marriage with a great person is a very obvious end goal to pickup. Or maybe the confusion just comes from the fact that I live a pretty weird life. In which case: fair enough.
I'm still very happily married. On our anniversary I realized that I was even happier to be married than I was on our wedding day. Maybe that's because you don't really understand if or how your life will be changed once you get married, but once you settle in and proactively make it a good marriage, you get to feel the benefits.
Marriage, or even relationships, seem to be a much bigger chore and more difficult to most people than they feel to me. We've had exactly one argument ever that I can remember (though it did resurface again a few months later before being totally resolved). Once in a while one of us raises some concern or issue and we have a "difficult conversation", but I can't think of any where both of us didn't leave feeling better and glad we had the conversation.
Almost twenty years ago I was a professional gambler and I ended up getting a little bit sloppy with my procedures, which resulted in casinos catching me and confiscating all of my money. I only paid taxes when I removed money from casinos, so I kept most of it in them, which meant that my net worth dropped by over 90% in one day.
Should I regret my actions which caused that?
I remember the day. I remember waking up, where I was sitting when I looked at my computer and realized what had happened, and even where I went for dinner, who was there, and what I ate. I also remember not being upset by it, and in some ways feeling relieved. I had had enough gambling and was ready to move on anyway.
I'd certainly take the money back if someone offered it to me, but maybe my life would be different now in a way that I wouldn't want. I'm 100% happy with my life now, so I can't really say that I regret it, because maybe that small change would have a ripple effect and make my life worse today.
I saw an interesting debate on Twitter recently between two guys who were debating whather it was better to focus on one's strengths and leverage them for results, or whether it was better to shore up weaknesses and become more well rounded.
The conversation caught my attention because it really is a common situation people find themselves in, and most people tend to focus exclusively on one side or the other. But just like the idiom "Work smart, not hard", you might ask yourself why not just do both?
The way I see it, your primary output should come from your strengths. I coach people because I have a lot of experience with understanding people and giving advice, and I'm now very good at it. I would never have done it 10-15 years ago when it wasn't an absolute strength.
At the same time, it's important to realize that your greatest strengths are actually the combination of several strengths, just as a dish you eat is good because of the combination of ingredients more than any one ingredient individually. So the way that you create a valuable and defensible strength is by building up weaknesses until you have a combination of strengths.