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There is one fundamental tool I use all the time, because it's so adaptable. I use it for myself and for a large number of my clients. I don't know if there's some official name for it, but I think of it as brain training.
We will all naturally gravitate towards activities that we find enjoyable and move away from those we don't. It's human nature and it's hard to combat. We can force ourselves to do things that are "good" for us for a short period of time, but if they are too onerous, resistance will build and we will probably quit.
This led me to wonder whether I could just change what I like and what I don't like. Could I prefer healthy foods to unhealthy ones? Could I prefer work to idleness? Discomfort to comfort?
The answer turns out to be yes, you can change virtually anything.
This post was suggested by a drinker, which I thought was pretty funny. He goes back and forth on it, though, so maybe he's on the fence and I can help push him to one side (hopefully my side).
I don't drink. I've had five sips total in my life, three of them accidental. I'll admit that this does give me a certain lack of perspective. I have no idea what it's like to drink, but I'm happy to concede the point that it's probably a whole lot of fun.
Most people drink because... most other people drink. It's a rite of passage in our society, is universally seen as cool (probably because it's in the best interest of beer company execs for it to be seen as cool), so most people don't think all that much about it.
Due to my stubbornness and general disinterest in doing anything the way society wants me to do it, I never wanted to drink. I was never tempted and it never seemed cool to me. Most of my friends didn't drink in high school (and many didn't in college). Even now only a minority of my friends drink, and I can't think of any who drink regularly.
When I asked readers and friends for blog post ideas, one of the most common I got was what they'd suggest for someone just starting out. One guy said a 15 year old homeless orphan (I guess to remove any possibility of a leg up), and another asked about his teenage son, but the gist is the same. I obviously don't believe the traditional path is so great, so I would do something very different.
Despite other people trying to get the idea through to me, I didn't really understand just how great of an advantage youth is. Good things you do when you are young can have massive effects throughout the rest of your life, and mistakes can sort of be forgotten and redone.
Also, there's essentially no expectation that you do anything useful at that age. Parents just want you to be on a path that doesn't involve living in a box on the side of the road. Anything above that is a bonus.
One of the few things you can do young that could hamper you for the rest of your life is debt. Do. Not. Go. Into. Debt. It's not worth it.
I get asked a lot to write about relationships, probably because I used to be involved in pickup and it seems strange to some that I'm now married (though from my perspective getting married is an obvious outcome of getting good at pickup/dating).
I'm always a bit hesitant to write about it, because relationships are so complex and individual. While there's a lot of blanket advice that be given on how to walk up to someone and start a conversation, there's a lot less that's universally applicable in a relationship. But I'll give it a shot anyway.
And all of this comes with a major caveat that I'm going to be generalizing for the sake of making this applicable to the widest number of people, which is to say for a traditional male and female relationship with stereotypical gender roles. Some of it may apply to people in other kinds of relationships, and other parts may not.
One big piece of advice which I assume applies to every type of relationship, is that an absolute necessity for any good relationship is an environment of open non-judgemental communication. Relationships are complex enough without having severed communication lines.
You never know how your year is going to go. I often try to predict mine, and my predictions are usually nowhere close to what actually happens. Nearly inevitably, though, I make a bunch of progress in one way or another. If that wasn't the case, major alarm bells would be ringing. Major major alarm bells.
Setbacks happen to everyone. It is totally possible that something so major happened to you that you were unable to make progress. I know people who have gotten cancer or have lost a close family member or something like that. Yes, those and others are reasons that you could have justifiably not made progress in a year.
If nothing like that has happened to you, and you haven't made progress on things that are important, it's time to ring the bell.
So the alarm bell is rung. What can you do about it? First is the hard part—admitting that you are doing something wrong. None of us want to believe that. We all want to think that we're doing everything right and that eventually it will all work out... but sometimes we're not. If you haven't made progress in a year, the odds that you're doing something fundamentally wrong are huge.
I'm currently on a cruise, which is really where I'd be for most of the year if I had my way. While I do love all cruises to some extent, there is a certain secret type of cruise that is by far the best type: The Westbound Transatlantic or it's more rare cousin, The Westbound Transpacific.
When you are on a trans-oceanic cruise, you feel like you are in a club with everyone else on the boat. It is the first transatlantic for many of them, but they are in the club, too, even if they don't know it. For others, it's more obvious. Is this your first transatlantic? Oh no, we do one every year. Those are my people.
Cruise lines generally want most of their ships to be in the Meditteranean during the summer and the Caribbean during the winter. These two seas are far apart, though, so they must make a big two-week trek between the two twice per year.
These cruises don't appeal to most people on the surface. They have few port stops, burn those precious vacation days, and require at least one flight, if not two. So they're cheap, often around $50 per day.
I get tons of questions about what it's like sharing property with friends, which makes me happy because I assume that it means that other people are thinking about doing the same thing. I stumbled upon it by accident, but shared property with friends is one of the major awesomeness-multipliers in my life.
My first time sharing property with my friends was when we were in college and all bought a huge school bus together. We had no idea what we were doing, but we had a blast working on it and driving it around. It sounds like a situation that would be rife with conflict, but the only one that ever came up was the great debate over whether to make a mobile-enabled urinal. I lost the vote and we never made one.
Since then I've bought an island with my friends, a place in Budapest, part of a neighborhood in Vegas, a condo in Hawaii, am waiting on the perfect spot in Japan. Each one has been amazing. You get all of the benefits of having your own place, plus the benefits of having your friends visit all the time, all at a fraction of the cost of owning yourself.
The key, of course, is finding people who are easygoing and who can lead but don't mind not leading (i.e. competent people who won't contribute to "too many cooks in the kitchen").
One of the best travel deals out there happens to be in the country that most people (mistakenly) believe to be one of the most expensive. Japan has the JR Rail Pass, which, for under $300 gives you unlimited access to nearly every train in Japan for a week. Using this pass you can easily take thousands of dollars of trips within a week, putting everything in the country within your reach.
I've done this a few times and, as a result, have visited cool places all over the country. Here are a few of my favorites in no particular order:
1. Deshima / Nagasaki. In Nagasaki is a really cool island called Deshima (which is actually connected to the mainland), where the Dutch used to live. For a period of time the Dutch were the only outsiders permitted to trade with Japan, and they were quarantined to this small area of Japan. It's now preserved and restored so that you can see what it was like. I really loved seeing the mix of asian culture (the buildings) and western culture (everything in them). Nagasaki is also an unexpectedly cool city.
2. Takaragawa hot springs. I love hot springs, and Takaragawa is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Japan. I think it earns that title easily. It's a series of pool surrounding an outdoor stream in a really beautiful valley. Getting there is a little tricky, but well worth it.
My friends and I have individual condos in Vegas, an island in eastern Canada, and a flat in Budapest. It's not the same group for each property, but there's a lot of overlap. I realized that none of our places are ideal for winter, though Budapest does have its charm, so I started thinking about tropical places that would be good for quick escapes from winter (it even gets cold in Vegas).
When buying these shared places, cost is a major factor. The property has to be cheap enough that everyone can afford it without needing to go there constantly to make it worth it, and also so that no one ever needs to sell to free up cash. Every property we've ever bought has been under $100,000. Those factors eliminated a lot of popular winter spots.
My first choice was San Juan, Puerto Rico. I had been once and thought that it was a really cool city with a mix of good beaches, good healthy food, and a nice downtown area. I sent out an email to my usual group of friends, got a group together, and booked a cruise that ended in San Juan so that I could go check it out.
In the meantime the hurricane hit, but I was undeterred. I figured that I could see which buildings could survive a hurricane and if I still liked the city at its worst, it would only get better from there. Plus, maybe some people would want to move to a non-hurricane-prone city and prices would be good.
A while back, around the time I switched to Linux, I had the realization that any amount of effort I spent customizing my computer would probably pay off. I use the thing just about every day and gains are cumulative so I may as well think about how to make my computer better for me. This, incidentally, makes it nearly impossible for a normal person to use.
It's certain that not all of my customizations will be good for you, but maybe some will be, and if you use a computer a lot, the general idea of customizing it to your specifications is probably a good one.
To start, I use Linux. If you are reasonably technical, you should probably be using Linux of some sort. If you are a programmer, I can't imagine how you use something else. The two biggest factors are 1) Linux has many different flavors, so you can always use whichever one is best for you and 2) Linux is by far the most customizable operating system.
I think a lot of people are afraid of Linux because they think it is hard to set up and use, but that's really not true. I did a fresh install of both Ubuntu Linux and Windows 10 on my Lenovo (designed for Windows) laptop, and Ubuntu worked way better. Windows was a nightmare of drivers, but Linux just worked.