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Most people don't live a life that's in alignment with what they want to do. That's not a criticism of any of those people; for our entire history as a species we have had to spend most of our time doing things we don't want to do in order to survive.
All of us are going to have to do things which we don't want to do. Next week I have to file my taxes. Two days ago I had to wake up at four in the morning. The problem isn't that we sometimes have to do things we don't want to do, it's that we choose life paths that lead towards goals we don't actually want.
This creates a doubly bad situation, because progress towards any goal is filled with things you don't want to do. There's some strategy around minimizing that and finding enjoyment in mundane tasks, but let's not pretend that having people do things which they don't want to do is something to strive for. Then once you reach a goal you didn't actually want, you don't feel as satisfied as you expected you would, the lack of satisfaction creates disappointment, and you have to start on something new again.
I'm fortunate to have a life where I basically love everything I do. I love programming, I love working through problems with people in coaching, I love doing real estate deals with my friends, and I love writing. In my leisure time I do things which really satisfy me, like drink tea with friends, do escape rooms, go to operas and ballets and symphonies, work on little side projects, build things, etc.
Today I woke up to the alarm I set on my phone. My bedroom curtains opened automatically, triggered by the alarm. I walked into the bathroom to brush my teeth. On my mirror, which has a 40" LCD hidden behind it, I saw my agenda and noticed that one of my coaching clients had booked a session for Monday.
I made myself some tea, packed my bag, and headed out to the airport. As I left, my door and security door locked themselves, my water heater turned off (valve and power), the thermostat adjusted its setpoints, and the lights turned off. I hit one button and my vacuum left its dock and started vacuuming.
In that half hour, a lot of things happened automatically.
I haven't tracked it, but I'm guessing that having my curtains open automatically makes me get out of bed faster. It's much easier to pop out of bed when the sun is streaming in than when room darkening curtains are drawn. Let's say that saves me five minutes.
When I first bought my place in Vegas, I did it only because it was an incredible deal. As a frequent visitor to Vegas I assumed that I'd stay there once in a while, and AirBnb it out to recoup my costs. Or if it turned out that I really came to dislike Vegas after spending more time there, I could sell the condo with a small percentage loss that would amount to very little.
Fast forward two years and now I live here, as much as I live anywhere. I haven't analyzed my time, but I'd guess that I spend about half my year here, usually in one or two week chunks.
What strikes me most about Vegas is that it's certainly a place that more people should live. It's not for everyone, of course, but cultural assumptions about it are certainly keeping people out who should be in.
Here are some of the things I love about Vegas:
It's easy to analyze when things go poorly, but that it doesn't come as naturally when things are going well. When things are good it's very easy to just brush it away by assuming that the success was somehow due to you. I know I've thought that many times, especially when I was younger.
As I've thought about some recent successes, I've thought about the value of putting myself out there, making myself vulnerable to failure, with the aim of increasing my exposure to good things happening.
There are a lot of things that you can do to increase the chance of good things happening to you.
If you're dating, you're going to have the best chance at meeting someone good if you're on every dating site, always messaging people, and strike up conversations in real life with strangers you find attractive. You're going to face a lot of rejection that way, but that's the (relatively low) cost you pay to drastically increase your chances at meeting someone good.
I'm not sure exactly what causes it. Maybe it's the exponential rise in options that all of us have in nearly every aspect of life. Maybe it's the simplification of entertainment and the desire for a fairy-tale ending. Or maybe it's something else I can't think of.
We are way too focused on perfection. We want to do things at the perfect time, find the perfect job, and meet the perfect person.
Is the result that everything becomes perfect in our life? No, it's that we fail to pull the trigger, often keeping ourselves further from perfection than we'd otherwise be.
A while ago I was talking with one of my aunts and she made an offhand comment that these days it seems like everyone is trying to date someone perfect. When she was dating, she said, people were trying to find a good person and build a good relationship with them.
To simplify, we could say that there are three phases in which one's life can be. Sometimes everything is going wrong, or at least everything is statically in a bad place, and the goal is to find one area to fix to create a foundation on which to build.
Maybe most common is a scenario where one's life is going well but there are one or two big things on which to work. Life is good but you need to make more money, or just find a boyfriend or girlfriend. That's a pretty obvious one to work on.
But what do you do when everything is going right? A few things.
Appreciate and Accept it. Sounds trite, but so many people don't do it. Whether through skill, luck, persistence, or all three, you've reached a high point. Enjoy it and be grateful for it. If you aren't able to fully appreciate the things you achieve, there's not all that much point in striving for them.
Sometimes it feels like I take my blog a little too seriously, probably because so many people read it and some of the topics I cover are serious. When it started I literally wrote strange rambles about every nap I took, and now I feel like every post has to have some practical use.
As I try to come up with something to write about (I half-finished a post about the Bachelor), I found that I had a lot of little things I wanted to write about. So here are a few life updates on what I'm doing.
I'm now up nine coaching clients and am slowly making my way through the waitlist. I originally said I wanted to take on two people because I didn't think I'd get more than five or so, and that number would be awkward because it's enough to impact my schedule but not enough to justify building systems around. I'm not sure if that makes sense.
I try to avoid talking about politics for the most part, because virtually nobody is open to changing their minds about anything. In times like these, though, these conversations seem unavoidable. Of those conversations, I've found approximately two people who I feel are reasonable when they talk about politics. I agree mostly with one of them and with the other I agree on some things but disagree on many big ones (we favored different candidates in 2016).
I think that our country is doing great (and has been for a long time), but that doesn't mean that it's without its problems. One of the problems that concerns me most is that politics have become a team sport, with fervent allegiance to one's party being more important than the policies it enacts. Worse, neither side will concede anything to the other. The other side is evil and does everything wrong, we do everything right.
If we could talk more reasonably with each other, perhaps we could find compromises, respect people who hold different beliefs, and understand that most people are trying to do what is best for themselves, their families, their friends, and the country.
The first thing that needs to change is that both sides need to admit that their solutions have downsides, and that the other view is generally based on logic and good intentions.
I love when readers suggest posts, because it takes away the part of my job where I try to guess what would be most interesting or useful. A couple weeks ago a reader named Wolfgang said: "I'd love the read a post about reconciling adventure and productivity sometime."
One of my good friends nudged me about the suggestion saying that he'd like to read that post as well, so here we go.
I should start by saying that one of my very favorite things about life is that we can all have our own goals and make our own decisions and simultaneously coexist. So this post reflects my own goals, which may be very different from yours. If anything in the post is universally applicable, it's the process by which I come to my decisions, not the decisions themselves.
When I think about my life so far, the parts that stick out are the quality time I've spent with friends and family and the work I've done that I feel is useful or important. That's really about it. Of course I remember movies I've seen, food I've eaten, and things I've bought, but those are hills compared to the two mountains of quality time and good work.
As I've written before, I think that one of the most important skills one can have is basic competence. It doesn't sound as appealing as programming, writing, or engineering, but it's a rarer skill, and thus more valuable.
Most skills are clearly defined and can be easily taught, which makes them easy to commoditize. Competence, like social skills, is something that's less easy to define and teach. It's more of a personal exploration.
I define competence at the ability to get an undefined task done in an efficient manner. The skills that go into that are primarily time management and ability to learn. Someone who is very competent can take a random task in a field in which he's not an expert, figure out how to get it done, and then complete it. He won't be able to do it as well or as quickly as an expert, but that's not the point. The point is to not be totally helpless when working outside of your comfort zone.
So what does it take to be competent?