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Being funny is an interesting phenomenon. Why are people funny? Why does it matter? Sure it makes you feel good when someone is joking around with you, but so do back rubs and compliments. Why do we like it when people are funny?
One theory is that humor is an indicator of intelligence, and we like intelligent people because we can learn from them and rely on them. And unlike other examples of intelligence, humor is really hard to fake.
For example, I could memorize a lot of facts about marsupial animals. If I were to rattle those facts off at you, you might think that I'm pretty smart. But at the same time you'd know that maybe I just memorized them. Memorization is easy, so we don't necessarily think people who know some facts are intelligent.
But humor requires taking unrelated concepts, relating them, and putting them into a familiar context. That's really hard to do, especially in real time. If someone recited a bunch of copied jokes you wouldn't think he's intelligent, but if he made some funny off-the-cuff comments you would.
Two years or so into working on Sett, an experienced entrepreneur friend of mine brought up the topic of taking investment. He thought that we should raise money and was interested in being the first person to invest.
So we talked seriously about it. One of the questions he asked was whether I wanted to build a lifestyle business or a "real" business. I felt a tinge of offense to the question and answered that I definitely didn't want a lifestyle business.
And yet... I never did anything that someone building a "real" business would do.
A year and a half ago I declared that it was time for WifeQuest, where I'd get serious about dating and find someone to spend the rest of my life with. That's something I want and everything else in my life was going well, so it seemed like the right time for it.
Want to totally change your life in just one day with one little tip? Too bad, because that's not how it works.
Once in a while a small thing does totally change our lives. Someone happens to say something to us at just the right time and it impacts us forever. Other times we gradually make a change but we point to one moment as the moment it "happened".
It's great that these things do happen sometimes and there's nothing wrong with trying to spark them, but at the same time it's important to recognize that most lasting powerful change comes from slow and persistent work on hard things.
I'm naturally not a very hard worker. So I tried different quick fixes to become a harder worker, but I'd always regress back to procrastinating and not working very hard.
I remember reading about the famous marshmallow study, the one where they see if kids can delay gratification or not. Reading about it really haunted me, because a psychologist came to my school in third grade and did a similar experiment on us students. We could have an unspecified "big prize" later, or a small prize immediately. I walked away with silly putty.
As you probably know, the people who delay gratification are more successful, happier, etc. When I found this out, I became determined to be a gratification delayer.
I love thinking about these dichotomies-- you're either X or Y, and if you're Y... maybe you'd better start becoming an X.
A related one that I think is really practical is the split between builders and allocators. I'm not sure those are the exact best words, but I've always been bad at coming up with catchy terms for these things.
My sister told me about a date she went on recently. When she very politely said that she didn't think they were a good match, the guy went nuts and said all sorts of rude and outlandish things.
Poor guy. He almost certainly knew that he was digging an even deeper hole by saying the things he said, but his mental state was so bad that he couldn't help it. What would it be like to live in that brain?
He's an extreme example, but I don't think it's all that common for people to really have nice clear minds. The more I talk to people the more it seems like everyone has insecurity, doubt, anger, jealousy, fear, or other negative emotions lurking about a lot of the time.
It's one thing to feel these things occasionally. If a bear suddenly charges at you and you don't feel fear, that would be very strange. But you should not be living daily life with these emotions in your brain.
If you've been reading my blog for a while, it's probably very obvious to you that I am terrible at marketing. My preferred method of marketing is to not do it at all and hope that good things happen.
This generally works to some extent thanks to you, my readers. Over almost ten years I've built up enough trust and a track record of producing good quality work that when I say that something's good, I get the benefit of the doubt.
As I've done more and more projects, though, it's become obvious that I need to get better at marketing. Every project I do seems to grow to about the same size and then plateau. I'm really determined to make CruiseSheet a big success, though, so I'm trying to push through.
Luckily I'm friends with some incredible marketers, guys who are effective but not sleazy, people like Noah Kagan, Sebastian Marshall, Ramit Sethi, and Nick Gray.
I don't think I've written about it before, but I've been into home automation for a really long time. I can't remember exactly when I started automating things, but it was definitely no later than 1999, seventeen years ago.
Back then I used something called X-10. It was flaky, and if you wanted more than just remote switches for your lights you needed to have a windows computer running some fairly janky software.
I very optimistically bought a couple dozen motion detectors and programmed my place such that I would never have to hit a light switch. As I walked around lights would dim up and down based on where I was. I even had a sensor under the bed so that if I got up at night the bathroom lights would dim up a little bit.
Unfortunately there was also a bug I never solved that would occasionally turn all of my lights up to full brightness in the middle of the night. To cope with this I began to sleep on my stomach with my eyes in the crook of my arm. This went on for so long that it conditioned me to continue sleeping that way, even today.
I know objectively that I did not have a great Tuesday. I woke up well rested, had my tea, got some unexpected work done, and had lunch. I felt prepared. I was entered into a tournament at the World Series of Poker, one where I got 12th last year, and I was hoping to do even better. I hadn't previously aspired to win, but had come within statistical variance of doing so the prior year, so my sights were higher this year.
I played my first hand poorly and lost two more big bets than I should have. A pittance in the grand scheme of things, but I could only win if I was playing my best. I reviewed my error, resolved to double down on focus, and played my next hand perfectly.
For a while I was up, but then I lost a series of unlucky hands in a row. I felt as though I played them perfectly, but sometimes the cards are against you. Four hours after I started, I went all in with pocket queens and lost to someone with pocket aces. It's the same hand that I lost with on my first try at the tournament.
So much for winning, or for continuing my streak of improving every year.
I've been traveling consistently now for over eight years. In that time I've visited around seventy countries, many of them several times. But how I travel has changed considerably over those years.
While I might think that there are some "wrong" ways to travel, I don't think that there is one correct way to do it. Goals and circumstances change, and different travel styles accommodate those changes.
Maybe more than anything, I'm using talking about travel to illustrate something that I like to harp on: the idea that you should constantly reevaluate your habits and patterns to make sure that they suit you. Sometimes we build identities around things we do rather than things we are, and that's unhealthy.
My first serious international trip was nine months long. Todd and I sold everything, packed small bags, and circled the world. Some of our stops were short, but several lasted for a month or two.
Back then my goal was to just see and understand the world. I had a vague idea that my outlook on life was limited by my surroundings, and I wanted to see what life was like in different places. Staying for long times and removing myself from the United States accomplished that.
I can't say now that I've seen and understand the whole world, but that's no longer a weak point. I understand a lot more and have seen a lot. So while I still move closer to those goals when I travel, they're no longer the primary reasons I do it.
Now I travel in much shorter bursts. I'm in San Francisco for three days, was just in Las Vegas for four, Austin for two, and San Francisco for a few before that. I don't think I've been in any one place for more than three weeks consecutively in the past three years.
At the same time, I return to the same places over and over again. It's impossible for me to count how many times I've been to Tokyo, Vegas, San Francisco, the island, or New York in the past few years. Budapest is new on my radar, but I've been four times in the past year or so.
A big principle in my life is flexibility. I try to build myself into a flexible person. I don't need to be a master of too many skills, but I strive to be proficient at a basic level across as many disciplines as possible. At some level I can program, dance ballet, speak ten languages, rap, lead groups, entertain people, write, do construction, appreciate art, cook, and do many other things. I'm a beginner in many of those areas, but having any proficiency gives me a lot of flexibility in what I can achieve and where I can be useful.
This principle also extends to travel. My goal is to be able to be anywhere at any time if the situation calls for it. If there was a good reason to be in Shanghai tomorrow, it wouldn't be a big deal to get there. I've got frequent flyer miles banked, can counteract jetlag, can work on the plane as well as at my destination, and can get by in Chinese. In the same way that someone's day might be altered but not totally disrupted by a change in weather, my life is altered but not disrupted by changing my location.
While before I used to go to places for the sake of the place itself, now I move around more because of the people. I always come back to San Francisco because it has the highest concentration of good friends. My friend Nick and his family invited me to go on a cruise with them in the Baltic Sea this summer, and my friend Jimmy was planning on being in Europe afterwards, so I'll spend the late summer and fall in Europe.
The hassle of switching locations used to be a big deal, so I would try to minimize it by staying in one place for long periods of time. As I've grown accustomed to it, moving around a lot impacts my productivity and schedule far less than it used to, so I do it more.
I've also found that certain types of travel aren't as valuable to me as they used to be. I used to find solo travel exciting, but now I'm most likely to hole up in my airbnb and work if I'm by myself. So if I'm going to be by myself, I just go back to Vegas where cost of living is low and productivity is high. Traveling to new countries just for the sake of seeing a new place is also less exciting to me. I still enjoy it, but it's less revelatory, so I only do it if there's some other reason to go.
This is how I travel now, but I expect it will change in the upcoming years. If I was traveling this same way ten years from now I'd be concerned that I had stopped evolving as a person. After all, our habits and routines should reflect who we are.
Maybe I'll even stop traveling. It's hard to imagine that now, but you never know. Part of being flexible is having the flexibility to stay in one place if there's some reason to.
Travel is a big part of my life, so it's worthwhile to examine it and make sure that it still reflects my priorities and goals, and isn't just a vestige of an old identity. It may not be travel for you, but it's worth examining those things that take up a lot of your time to make sure that your time is being spent in a way that aligns with your goals.
Photo is a bamboo forest in Noumea, New Caledonia. Probably the most "off the beaten path" place I've visited recently.
My new book sales have been really bad! I still enjoyed writing the book, but you readers have spoken... I will only write self-help books in the future. I'll probably write the next one I have planned in the fall.
Guess what? I've got a new book out. I hate all the launching and promotion sort of stuff, and I'm not sure it actually helped my last book, so I'm going to do things the old-fashioned way and just quietly announce it here.
A little over a year ago I wrote a story about visiting a tea shop in Amsterdam. There was no moral to the story and no lesson, it was just an attempt to capture a really nice day that I had and an interesting person that I met. People loved the story, which made me think that maybe I should write a book full of travel stories.
So I did. The Amsterdam story is the only one I copied from the blog. The rest I wrote from scratch, and most of them have never even been mentioned on the blog, so they'll be new to you. Leo proofread the book for me and thought that the Amanda story was one of the least interesting, so if you like that one, you'll probably love the book.
I had a lot of fun writing the book and felt good making a tribute to all of the people who have contributed to my travels over the past eight or so years. All of my favorite memories while traveling are because of the amazing people I've met, and most of those memories are captured in these stories.