Check out my bestselling book on habits, Superhuman by Habit. .
Eleven years ago I switched to a Dvorak keyboard. I was worried that I would get carpal tunnel syndrome if I stuck to Qwerty, so I made the switch. The first few days were pure agony, but then after a week or two it felt as natural as anything else. And, of course, it's still the keyboard I use and I don't have carpal tunnel syndrome. Not yet, anyway.
When I visited my friend Derek in New Zealand last year we geeked out and he showed me his linux setup. He used a window manager called ratpoison, which is a tiling window manager. The basic non-nerdy explanation is that instead of windows all piling up on top of each other, they are automatically tiled to be next to each other.
I tried it, hated it, and deleted it.
This summer, because I saw a desktop that used it and looked cool, I decided to try a tiling window manager again (i3-gaps). Again, I hated it. But this time it reminded me of when I switched to Dvorak. I had felt the same way, but that unease went away quickly. So I decided that I would stick with it for a least two weeks. I wanted to quit again on day three, when I had a lot of work to do, but I didn't allow myself to.
I wanted to write a post about making the Biggest Decisions. Before doing so, I thought I'd jot down some of mine and look for commonalities. What surprised me most was how few decisions of this magnitude there were. Depending on where I set the bar, I've probably only made 10 huge decisions in my entire life. I made the first about 20 years ago, so I make one every two years.
Here are some of what I consider to be the biggest decisions:
1. Dropping out of school2. Deciding to travel around the world for an extended period of time3. Moving to Las Vegas (as well as other moves)4. Living in an RV5. Focusing entirely on pickup for 1-2 years6. Getting married
It was interesting to realize how few there were, especially while keeping in mind the enormous changes they've made in my life. In other words, they are even higher leverage than I had subconsciously considered them to be.
Have you ever noticed that amongst people who seem to be doing "the right thing", results vary wildly? Throughout my life I've met a ton of hard workers with great habits. You'd expect that they would all do similarly well, but they don't. Some are very happy, fulfilled, and successful, while others seem to always be struggling.
Some of this, of course, is luck. One one hand it would be sort of neat if your results always matched your input exactly, but at the same time that would probably make life less exciting. No one would play a slot machine that just took three cents every single time they pulled the handle.
It's not all luck, though. And while we will all be subject to luck, those who count on it tend to not do well.
One thing I've noticed is that people who have everything aligned in their lives tend to do better. I know that personally when I've had stuff aligned, my results have been a lot better.
I've mentioned a few times wanting to do a live event, but what keeps me from setting a date and doing it is how many different ideas I have on formats and sizes. So, I'm going to just pick a date, see who signs up, and tailor the event to the number of people and type of person that sign up.
The date is March 3rd, 2018 and it will take place in Las Vegas. The event will be 1pm - 9pm that Saturday, and there will be an optional free follow-up the next day, probably from 11am - 2pm or something like that.
The overarching goal of the event, regardless of other factors, is to help you figure out where you want your life to go over the next few years, to work backwards to find leverage points in your life, to figure out the best habits/practices to get that leverage, and then to figure out a specific actionable plan with which to implement those changes.
Every single person who comes in ready to work will leave with concrete action steps.
I like writing my annual gratitude post, mostly because it's an easy one. I have a ton of things to be grateful for, and I like talking about those things.
Fairly frequently, often at night before I go to sleep, I make a mental account of the things for which I'm grateful. I never make it to the end, though, because there are so many things that I inevitably become distracted or fall asleep.
At the top of my list, always, are my friends and my family. Of all of the things in my life, my family is the one I feel most lucky about, since I had no hand in the selection process at all. I almost feel guilty, sometimes, knowing that I have such a great force in my life that I did nothing to earn. To make up for that I try to put a lot of effort into my family and make sure I strengthen those relationships.
And even with my friendships and my relationship, though I've obviously put in a lot of work to foster those connections, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for having met those people in the first place and having had the chance to become friends with them.
I think a lot about work life balance on cruises because all of the noise is stripped away from life when you're on the ship. There are no errands, few interruptions, and no chores. You're left with the resources to do whatever you want, from work to sitting at the pool all day.
When work life balance is typically talked about, it's talked about as if there is only one correct answer, which is somewhere right in the middle. Enough work to do a good job, and enough of everything else to fill the rest of the time.
I'm pretty deliberate with my work life balance and I've adjusted it everywhere from working almost none to doing nothing but work. I don't really think any particular point on that scale is right for everyone, and I further don't think that any particular point on the scale is right for any one person all of the time.
Before thinking about your own balance, think about what you need more of in your life. We all want more money, but money is obviously not always the most important goal for every single person. And we all want fulfillment, often achieved through good work, but it comes from other places as well.
What's the most important thing on which you could spend your time right now? Really think about it, don't just keep skimming. Maybe it's a work thing, maybe it's an errand, maybe it's spending time with someone important, maybe it's finally starting a new important habit. Or maybe you don't know?
It's not always obvious what you should be doing, especially when you consider multiple areas of life at once. How do you compare investing in a relationship to building your business?
Before you can know what your most important thing is, you must know what's important to you. That's not as easy as it sounds, because we've all been influenced so much by society that it's hard to know what we care about and what we're just expected to care about.
If you don't know what you actually want and why, it will not be motivating enough for you to get it, so there's no point in trying. For a long time I wanted to build a big company. Why? No idea, really. It's what you're supposed to do when you're in tech, but I had no personal connection with the goal, so it never happened.
As I help more people work through their sticking points through coaching, I've noticed that a surprisingly large factor in many peoples' lives is how others perceive them. This is largely a foreign experience to me, and I think that it's been a great advantage to me to not really care what other people think.
I would like to believe that it's some inner well of strength that allows me to overwhelmingly disregard what strangers think of me, but if I'm honest about it, I believe that it originates from not being very popular as a kid.
At some point I realized that I was just not going to be a traditionally "cool" person. I'm sure it stung a little bit to realize that, but it was also freeing in a way. If I wasn't going to win that game anyway, why try to play it?
At the same time, I grew confidence in what I was doing. I knew that I was weird and that my friends were geeky like I was, but I also thought that they were excellent people. I thought some of the popular people were good too, but I didn't think that partying and going to football games was all that great, so I didn't have much jealousy.
I think that there are few absolute black and white rules which should be followed by everyone. After all, we're all different with different priorities and resources. What's right for me may not be right for you, and, in fact, what was right for me ten years ago may not be right for me now.
But I find it useful to have a set of indicators to alert me when an area of my life could probably use some attention to make sure I'm still on the right track. And I think that those indicators are relatively universal. Certain things should raise some alarm bells in all of us, even if our responses to them may be different.
I think of these things as a background monitoring process. I generally assume that I'm on a good path and don't worry about much, but when one of these indicators comes up, I pause and use it as an opportunity to either recalibrate, or to confirm that I'm still on the right path.
What I'm primarily trying to avoid is a negative spiral. Those often start slowly and then accelerate so quickly that it takes a lot more effort to get back to where I was than it would have taken to just stay in a good place. An analog would be debt — the more money you're spending paying interest, the less you have for things that matter.
When standing on the precipice of making a big decision, it's natural to wonder whether or not you're making a mistake. It's easy to imagine that each imaginary path through our future leads to an entirely different place, and that by following one the other disappears completely.
But that's not really how it works. Big decisions do obviously matter, but the following hundreds of decisions matter a lot more, and will ultimately dictate whether that original decision was the "correct" one or not.
Let's say you're moving to a new city. That's a scary thing that you might really deliberate on. Is it the right move?
Well, if you go to the city and sit around waiting for your good decision to pay off, it may or it may not. But if you go out and take the opportunity to make a great new group of friends and take advantage of the strengths of that city, it will probably be an excellent decision, whether it's Toledo or Las Vegas.