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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?
Now that I spend so much time in Budapest I get a lot of requests for things to do there. I'm not always the best at replying quickly, so I figured I'd write a blog post with an exhaustive list of all of my favorite places.
If you're not going to Budapest, you might think this list doesn't apply to you. But Budapest is the Best Place in Europe, so you should read it to understand why, and book a trip there!
Around half of these recommendations came from my friend Mark Webster, a friend-of-a-friend I was introduced to when I came to Budapest this summer. He gave me a big list of places to go and 90% of them became my favorites.
If you've been reading my blog for a long time, you may have noticed that I have some common traits with adrenalin junkies. I've climbed cranes and towers, jumped freight trains, bungie jumped, ridden a motorcycle etc.
I think that these activities, some more than others, are valuable. I remember climbing "the most dangerous trail in the world" in China and thinking hard about how I was literally one step away from death I was standing, without any safety equipment, on an eight inch wide board nailed into the side of a mountain. One step and that would be it.
In facing death so closely you gain an appreciation for life. You think about how fragile it is and how lucky you are to have it. There's a difference, though, between appreciating those sorts of experiences and needing them.
There are enough holes in my claim to being a minimalist that I think the label is up for debate, but a lot of the philosophy appeals to me and has been integrated into my own life. One of my favorite parts of it is the quest to require as little as possible. I have a lot of things I like in my life, but I could also be good without any of them.
The thing about investing money is that it's pretty hard for an individual to do much better than 5-15% per year consistently, depending on your risk tolerance and connections (my best investments have been putting money to work with friends' businesses). Five to fifteen percent is pretty good, but it's inside-the-box thinking to stop there. What else can we do with our money?
As a disclaimer, I have a good portion of my money in investments that make a return like that. It's good to grow your cash and I'm not saying you shouldn't. But what if you diversify your portfolio beyond earning a financial return?
After all, the point of money is utility, so why aren't we thinking one step further and thinking about how we can earn the most utility on money?
I love to find situations where my capital is preserved, grows a little, or is consumed very slowly, but which yields me a lot of utility as a result. For example, I bought my RV for $18k, plus probably $15k over its life in repairs, and maybe another $6k in improvements. I sold it last week for $30k, so I lost $9k over the eight years I owned it.