Imagine a story. Maybe it's a novel or a movie or a long running TV show, whichever you prefer. The beginning of the story is your life so far. It's been compressed a lot, so it's not too long, but it has all of the highs and lows, and some of the key moments that put you on a trajectory between those extremes. Maybe it's no Shawshank Redemption, but it's a good story.
The story isn't finished, though. It's only a third of the way through, or maybe half if you're a bit older. Lots of blank pages or film, waiting to be imprinted with events of your future.
And now imagine the final scene. You're about to die, unfortunately. You're the hero of this story, so it's one of those bittersweet death scenes, where it's sad that you're going, but you did so much that no one can blame you for dying. He (or she) had a full life; squeezed just about as much juice out of it as possible, they say.
When you think of that last scene, think of what made that life so full. The goals that you achieved by then, the people who made up the cast of your life, and the amazing things you saw and did.
One of the most frequent criticisms I get is that I'm too focused on serious things like productivity, self improvement, and learning. I value those things highly and often focus on them at the expense of fun. Here are a few paraphrased quotes:
"Life isn't just about work."
"As long as what you're doing makes you happy, it's okay."
"Life is about balance between work and play."
It might surprise most readers to know that I actually had a pretty great time in school. I learned a lot, made great friends, and had some very good teachers. There are a lot of positive aspects of school that should be preserved even in alternatives.
What I don't like about school, though, is the incentive structure it presents to students. School teaches all sorts of bad things like doing work to please others, submitting to arbitrary authority, and my least favorite of all: doing the bare minimum.
The first two I dodged somehow, but doing the bare minimum is ingrained somewhere in my brain. It doesn't rear it's head all that often, but when it does, it's ugly.
And, to be clear, I don't blame school for it. It's my own responsibility to condition my mind and to not fall prey to bad habits, and I failed to do that in school. So maybe I was out in the cold, but it was my own fault I didn't bring a jacket.
Last night I played poker for the first time in four months. I play a reasonably big game, where you typically buy in for $500, and always have another $500 in reserve. When you play a couple times a week, like I was doing last year, your winnings and losses don't mean much to you individually. You win a thousand bucks one day, and you tell yourself that you'll lose some of it next time. You lose a thousand and you know you'll win it all back eventually.
Yesterday, though, without the context of regular play, the amount of money I was playing for struck me. Winning or losing a thousand dollars isn't really going to change my life in any way, but it's certainly a meaningful amount to me. And something about that train of thought made me realize how precarious my life is in many ways.
I'm a pretty frugal guy. A thousand dollars is a significant part of my monthly budget. In one night, just a few hours, I could have a swing that would represent a big part of my budget. That's pretty precarious.
I thought about my dating situation, which is nonexistent. What I'm most excited about in the future is having children, but there's really no clear path to that happening right now. I'm putting all of my faith in my ability to conjour something up for WifeQuest 9000 next year. I think it will work out amazingly, but maybe it won't. Maybe the critics of my approach are right and I've really shot myself in the foot. I don't think so, but who knows?
Two months ago I wrote a blog post about how I was going to learn every language. At the time I had just finished the Pimsleur tapes for Romanian I and German I, and was moving on to German II. I've now finished a complete Pimsleur course, German I - III, and figured I should write about it while it's still fresh in my mind.
The short version is that I love Pimsleur, but it's not perfect and it's not for everyone. The best method of language learning is full immersion with studying. If your primary focus is to learn a language, I would recommend that over Pimsleur by a landslide. For all the information you could ever want on that, check out my buddy Benny Lewis' book about it.
Pimsleur, on the other hand, is perfect for people who want to learn large usable chunks of languages without impacting their schedule. Right now, that's me.
The Pimsleur method is based on spaced repetition, having to recall words at specific intervals needed by the brain to commit them to memory. Every day you listen to a 25-30 minute tape, which requires you to respond to prompts. I'd say it's roughly 50/50 in terms of listening and repeating.
I really enjoy talking about risk, but it's always better to talk about concrete examples rather than theories. My recent post about the disasters encountered on our island trip got a lot of people riled up about the risks I was taking, so I figured I'd use that as an opportunity to talk about risk, why I take the risks I take, and how risky they actually are.
Before I get into that, it's worth saying that I'm human and I make mistakes. I expect that I will always be human, and thus prone to mistakes, so the best I can do is learn from them. Having someone fall asleep at the wheel and allowing our boat to be untied in a current without the motor starting were both mistakes that should have been avoided.
That said, I have a much different risk profile than most people. I'll explain this in detail in a second, but something to consider is that while the principles that go into my assessment of risk may be universal, the resulting profile is not. In other words, just because I think a risk is worth taking doesn't mean that it's worth it for you, too. We all have different values and priorities.
One of the fundamental pillars of my relationship with risk is that I'm completely willing to take bad outcomes. Really bad outcomes, in some cases. By widening the range of bad things I'm willing to accept, I give myself more upside. Obviously these choices must be considered individually, not just accepted with an attitude of "take every risk!"
I woke up to a familiar sight. Outside the vehicle I had slept in was Brian, on the phone, trying to get us help with our latest predicament. And, just as last time with being stuck in mud, our unfailingly benevolent neighbors came to our rescue.
"I don't let anyone besides my dad work on my motor. He could have you going in forty five minutes."
I didn't believe him for two reasons. First, it seemed absolutely impossible that we could be in possession of a functioning boat. Him fixing our motor would violate this apparent law of the universe. Second, I have an inappropriate hubris that prohibits me from fathoming that experts could possibly fix something that I was unable to fix.
Our motor wasn't working in forty five minutes, it was working in about fifteen. Perfectly. And the gear oil was checked, the shaft was lubricated, and a new choke lever was fashioned out of a screw.
As I write this, I am hunched over my laptop, which is held at an awkward angle because of the steering wheel in front of me. Carpal tunnel syndrome is imminent. Out of the window to my left, if it wasn't so foggy and dark, I'd be able to see our island. This island trip has not gone according to plan.
I had the not-so-genius-in-retrospect idea of driving through the night to Nova Scotia. I argued that we could each drive three hours or so, sleep six, and we'd arrive in the morning ready to tackle the day. That's not how things turned out, though.
From Boston, I drove us to the Canadian border. Exhausted, I turned the reins over to Ben. Ben continued my proud tradition of maintaining around 100mph (great roads, no cops), which came to an abrupt end a couple hours into his shift when he hit the biggest pothole I've ever seen. At 100mph. The tire popped and was completely shredded by the time we came to a stop in the shoulder.
Our rental vehicle, a faux-luxury Buick Verona, which we had been upgraded to, does have a spare, but it's a tiny one that can only go 50mph. That sounds like a bad thing, and is indeed bad in many cases, but there turned out to be a silver lining. Brian took over the driving, set the cruise control to 50mph, and eventually fell asleep at the wheel. I woke up as our car was cruise-control guided into the median ditch.
I'm sitting in the Kansas City terminal, waiting for my next flight. The barbecue restaurant there serves shockingly large portions, which, combined with waking up early today, has me feeling sleepy.
I should work, I think. My eyes are half closed, though, and I can't imagine thinking through tough problems like the one waiting for me on Sett. I think about writing a blog post, but my past few days have been weak, so I want to be awake and do a good one. I think about doing some basic todo list stuff, but I'm already losing concentration after the first google search.
Okay, but if I'm not going to work, what am I going to do? The answer turns out to be downloading an episode of Restaurant Stakeout. I'm not proud to write that sentence.
I think I've seen about two episodes of that show. The first I saw at my aunt and uncle's house. Not knowing anything about the restaurant business, I found it really fascinating. Then I was on some red-eye flight and I saw an episode on the in-filght entertainment system.
I'm on a late flight back from Vegas, I didn't get enough sleep, and I'm exhausted. I hadn't done my German tape for the day yet, so I put my headphones in, propped my head against the window, closed my eyes, and did it. I'm sure my neighbor, if she could hear my stilted German mumbles, thought I was crazy.
I finished the tape and the captain announced that we were forty minutes from our destination. Factoring in the time it takes to do the final descent, where I won't be allowed to use my computer, that gives me about fifteen minutes of time to make use of.
My first inclination, tired as I am, is to waste the time. Close my eyes and take a lttle nap, read a book on my phone, listen to some music, or just flip through screens on my phone aimlessly. Fifteen minutes seems way too short for me to write a blog post.
But then I think about how tired I'm going to be if I get home and still have to write the post. Begrudgingly, I whip out the laptop. May as well outline the post or get the intro down or something. Now I've got more of a post written than I thought I'd get done in fifteen minutes.