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I think that the way most people spend money is absolutely nuts. I see people buying things they can't really afford, or things that will have no lasting impact on their lives whatsoever, and I cringe. Be frugal, I want to yell.
On the other hand, there are people who go way out of their way to save a dollar, even When spending that dollar would really make their life better, or create some lasting memory that would impact them long after the dollar was gone. Don't be cheap, be frugal, I want to yell.
Maybe a better phrase for frugal, at least the way I think of it, is financially-efficient. And just like most mistakes I see people make, this one stems from not actually thinking about decisions and just going with the flow.
Money should only be spent if you have it, first of all. Just because everyone else has a car doesn't mean that you are somehow entitled to one, too. If you don't have money for a car, don't buy one. Never finance anything, with the possible exception of a house. Even then, I think it's usually a bad idea.
I'm always interested in finding blind spots or misconceptions in common knowledge. Most people don't seem to really get what they want out of life, and while this is partly fueled by society pushing wants on people, it's also due to blind spots. Sometimes big problems go unsolved not because we're incapable of solving them, but because we have no idea they exist.
One I've been thinking about recently is that of preparation vs. execution. Every day I have to write a blog post, something I've been doing for half a year now. This sometimes feels like an enormous task, but never takes more than half an hour. Usually it's more like twenty minutes.
The reason it feels so difficult, I realized, is because the preparation is the hard part. Writing is easy and doesn't take all that long. The hard part is coming up with a topic every single day. That I've mashed my fingers on a keyboard every day doesn't seem so difficult, but coming up with 180 different things to write about in a row? That's another story entirely.
The difficulty in a lot of other endeavors is also in the prep. Cooking is mostly tedious because you have to prepare. Even programming is the same way. Once you know what problem you're going to solve, and roughly how to solve it, the actual coding is quite easy.
It's been nearly a year since we bought an island near Halifax. We went in being completely clueless, our only salvation knowing that we were completely clueless and would have to learn a lot. And boy, have we. I've spent more time on the island than in my RV over the past couple months, and it's begun to feel like a second home. The rhythms of the island and the environment around it have become familiar.
When we bought the island, it was nearly completely wild. The previous owner had cleared a small area where he'd intended to build a small cabin, but otherwise the island was so dense that it was nearly impenetrable. Our first night there we were excited to venture into the woods, and gave up immediately upon seeing how close together the trees were.
We now have a trail system so extensive that it's hard for me to keep it all straight. In fact, yesterday we ended up widening the wrong trail, and were surprised to end up at the tide pools rather than a 15 foot tall rock we call Eagle Rock. On our first trip we carved a trail from the clearing to the center of the island, going north. Since then we've expanded the trail system to branch from the center point to the east, and to the west. There's a half-finished trail that goes north to the ocean, a half finished trail that goes south on the west side, and a finished trail that connects the clearing and the fire pit area.
It's day five of the fifth trip to our island. We don't yet have any sort of permanent structure, so even with cots, sleep isn't perfect. And there's the irregular meal schedule, the hard work, and the lack of good hygiene. All of these factors wear you down a little bit as the days go on.
Today we were all exhausted. We woke up early, but no one made a move to get done the things which needed doing. We punted around through the forest looking for good branches for torches, our latest obsession, but mostly we waited until it was time to leave the island.
We had scheduled a tour at 2:30 at Oak Island, which is just a couple hours away. The tour group was surprisingly large, maybe fifty people or so. We hiked all throughout the island, learning about it and seeing firsthand some of the strange clues pointing towards possible treasure.
As we hiked in the heat on the island, I noticed that I was really lagging. Mentally, I wasn't all there. Physically, I was tired. By the end, the three of us were sitting down while the guide talked. We were the only ones not to stand.
Las Vegas is a city that has its own set of rules and norms. When you check into a hotel in any other city, you get the room that you paid for. But Vegas is built on comps and kickbacks, and the room you end up in doesn't necessarily have much to do with the one that you paid for. One method to getting a better room is to discreetly slip a twenty dollar bill to the clerk. Based on voluntary reporting by people who've tried it, it works 85% of the time.
I'm sitting in a suite at Bally's right now. I booked the basic room, which cost around $30 per night, and included a $20/day food and beverage comp. I was upgraded, but I didn't use the twenty dollar trick. These days I get upgraded about half the time. The upgrade I got on the room before this was very minor, I didn't get one the time before that, but prior to that one I got a crazy suite with a jacuzzi in the bedroom and a separate living room.
My secret is to treat the checkin clerks like real people. It sounds simple, and your first thought might be that most people would do that, but that hasn't been my observation.
We don't have to interact with others so much, if we don't want to. I used today's twenty dollar food credit to order food from the Thai restaurant at Bally's. Rather than simply walk downstairs or call them, I used the app TalkTo to type what I want and have them order it for me. Interactions between friends and family are also slowly becoming more and more abstracted, first from in-person to voice, and now from voice to text.
My life is so good that I really have no call to complain or worry about anything. That doesn't always stop me, though. Last night I got some bad news and discovered that the yurt we're planning on raising definitely won't get there in time. It's not going to be crated up for a few days, and even if I flew there and rented an extraordinarily expensive U-Haul truck, the schedule doesn't work out.
This made me feel generally bad. I was frustrated and tired of dealing with the construction of this yurt at the island, because the whole multi-month process has been an exercise in wheel-spinning.
I was crewing a hot air balloon at a festival, so I had to wake up early the next morning. Sleep wouldn't come easily, as every time I began to drift off, I'd try to think of some other way to get the yurt going, or just think about things I could have done earlier to make it happen.
I stopped meditating daily, but I made myself do it again as I lay in bed. Deep breath. Focus on exhaling. Maybe I could leave here now and fly and get a truck... no, just breathe.
I'm exhausted. I took a red-eye from Las Vegas to DC, which is a bad idea to begin with because the flight is only four hours long. Even if you sleep the whole time, you're still exhausted. I didn't sleep, though, partly because it's hard to sleep on planes, and partly because the largest airplane neighbor I've ever had was pressed up against me and threatening to engulf my thigh in hers.
So I didn't sleep at all, and I'm exhausted.
I can't really afford to be exhausted, though. If I go to sleep at noon, which I desperately wanted to do, my schedule would be shot for days. And I have to do a touch Sett, do a language tape, and write a blog post.
It's so easy to push that burden to your future self and suffer later. I'll just write two blog posts tomorrow. I can skip a day on my language tape and leave it up to my future self to pick up the slack. Sett stuff can wait. And, hey, why not sleep now and fix that sleep schedule later?
My sister, who I'm immensely proud of, is launching a career as an interior designer. She studied it in school and rose quickly to the top at the firm that hired her right out of college. When it became clear that there was no room for growth there, she decided to find a job in New York..
She's gotten a bunch of interviews, but hasn't landed a job at a company yet. She did, however, manage to get a high end client of her own, whose home she'll be starting work on in a couple weeks. In her spare time, besides job hunting, she paints and scans watercolors to turn into fabric patterns. She's industrious, optimistic, and hard-working. I have no idea whether her own company will take off or if she'll get a great job somewhere, but I know that she's going to do well.
Today we arrived at our grandparents' house in Boston to visit for a week. This is a tradition that we've had for at least twenty years, maybe forever. She couldn't wait to tell our grandparents about getting her own client, or the other independent work she was doing.
My grandparents, like most grandparents, have been around a while. They grew up poor but worked hard, started a business, and become successful. Many of their descendants are entrepreneurs, and we can all certainly trace some of that back to them.
Workwise, I had a bad Saturday. It was my first day back in the RV, away from family, and I had psyched myself up. The plan was to work the entire day and knock out a big Sett task, plus the little cruft that had been building up on my schedule. Very little of that happened.
It's been a long battle with procrastination, but I do well with it these days. I see it coming, bob and weave, and usually come out ahead. That's not to say I'm perfect, only that I waste a very small amount of time compared to the amount of time I used to waste. But Saturday was tough, and I got almost nothing done.
Every day I have a few little daily things. I write a blog post and I listen to a language tape. Combined those two things take less than an hour. Recently, though, I've been pushing them to the end of the day and doing them while tired. I'd rather spend my best hours on Sett, so they get the dregs at the end of the day.
On Sunday, the day after my high-procrastination day, I did those things first. For some reason I had a hankering for an extremely difficult Russian tape, so I worked through it. Then I realized that if I wrote my blog post, I wouldn't have either little task looming.
I'm aware that everyone, including myself, is probably a little bit of a hypocrite. What irks me the most is when I do something, say wear a chain with my name on it, think it's cool, and then see someone else do it and think it's lame.
So when I hang around self improvement fanatics and find their quest for self improvement to be a little bit annoying and selfish, I'm horrified. Maybe I'm just as self indulgent as they are.
A good chunk of my friends are on perpetual quests for self improvement (Leo Babauta and Sebastian Marshall to name a couple), and I don't find it annoying at all. It's the opposite, actually; it's inspiring.
What's the difference, and how can I make sure I'm on the right side of it? The answer I've come to is that self improvement demands an outlet.