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My main goal as a writer is to write pieces that will spark a permanent positive change for someone. I assume that most posts won't do that for anyone, but if I write enough and have enough people read my posts, it will happen from time to time. I read a lot of blog posts and it rarely happens to me, but when it does, the effect is powerful and makes it worth reading all the posts that have no effect.
Around five years ago I read an excellent piece by Sebastian Marshall about Consolidation (http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/on-brilliance-and-consolidation) that had such an effect on me. Before reading it, any consolidation I did was random. Sometimes it happened, other times it didn't.
Consolidation, at least as I think about it, is taking time after progress to both cement the process and reset so that you're ready for the next piece of work. Some examples:
1. I built CruiseSheet to be a great cruise search engine, but it required a lot of my own intervention to keep it running. Things would break and I'd have to go fix them. So I spent a bunch of time automating maintenance, building failsafes, and building alerts to to let me know when stuff stopped working. This didn't increase revenue and certainly wasn't exciting, but it allowed me to keep the gains I'd made and free up my time and focus for the next project.
Out of the corner of my eye, just past the cars lined up in the turning lane, I could see that something was coming towards me quickly. Way too quickly. I tried to swerve, but knew that the inevitable was coming.
I heard crunching metal, the screeching of tires sliding sideways against the pavement, and smashed glass. A driver ran a red light at full speed and t-boned me.
Once the car stopped, I hesitated for a fraction of a second before looking over at my fiancée. The car had driven straight into her door, which she was leaning on. She was okay. Good.
I got out of the car, now facing traffic in the oncoming traffic lane and walked towards the other guy's car. His airbags had deployed and the front of his car totally smashed. He looked at me with a blank stare. I opened my palms towards him as if to say, "what was that all about?"
To see if anyone had any tips for smuggling huge amounts of Chipotle into a hotel (which I only discovered at the last minute wasn't allowed), I searched Google for "Chipotle wedding".
I wasn't the only person who had the idea to have Chipotle catering for my wedding, but that part didn't surprise me. What surprised me was that most of the questions about the idea online were, "My fiancée and I both love Chipotle, but we're nervous people will judge us if we serve it at our wedding. Should we do it?"
The answer was a resounding no. Chipotle is totally inappropriate for a wedding, said the internet.
And, for a moment, even I felt the social pressure. What would people think, eating their DIY Chipotle out of cardboard bowls with plastic spoons? And then the moment passed and I realized first that it was my friends and family so they'd probably like it, and second that since this was the one party per lifetime I was going to plan, I/we could be a little selfish and have the food and drink (water) that we like.
I'm not sure how to even begin talking about 2017, except to say that it was a really exceptional year for me.
As I've said in previous years, every year of my life has so far been better than the previous. The primary driver is that I work for permanent, not fleeting, progress.
The net improvement year over year varies. Sometimes it's a small incremental improvement, and other times it's a huge one. I feel confident saying that 2017 delivered the biggest improvement ever.
The strange part of it all is that two areas that had been constant areas that demanded a lot of focus and time, dating and finances, both went to a 10/10 this year. I realized that part of my identity had become based around working on those things, so it's been weird to have both totally taken care of.
I'm going to do something a little bit different with the gear post this year. Usually I go over every single item in a small amount of detail. This year has only a few changes but they are really exciting changes, so I'm going to highlight only the differences.
Once you finish reading this post, you can go back to the 2017 Gear Post to see the things that didn't change. Next year I'll do a full writeup again, as it would be annoying to have to keep going through back posts.
Wool Wool Wool
I have to start the gear post off by talking about wool, even though I'm sort of sick of writing an ode to wool every year. The bottom line is that it is essentially impossible to travel light without wool clothing. Everything I wear is wool, and that's the secret to being able to wear the same clothes every day, and thus not have a huge backpack full of stuff.
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.