Read My Book about Habits!
Check out my bestselling book on habits, Superhuman by Habit. .
A quick preface to say that a lot of people are in real poverty through little or no fault of their own, and that's a sad thing. I would like for them to have it better, and agree that to some degree it's worth forcing the richest to pay for them.
That said, I think that there's way too much focus on wealth inequality, and not nearly enough on how great we have it, even at the lowest levels.
Earlier this year, I visited a couple castles in Romania. One was new and it was truly beautiful inside and out. The ceiling in the main hall was a retractable stained glass window, a happy overlap in timing of the last of the castles being built and the earliest mechanisms of that sort.
Across the country, though, I also visited an older castle. It was built some time around 1400, but was in use until 1920. Now it's a museum, so you can see it as it was last used. And I'll tell you-- castle or not, I have a lot more luxury than that in my RV.
If you've ever led a group of more than a couple people, you know that timeliness is a big factor. If there's any leeway for people to show up late, someone is going to do it every time, which means that nothing starts on time. Then when people see that things don't start on time, they come late to compensate.
This happened on day one of our big transpacific cruise this year. Several people were late to things the first day, and it became obvious that this was going to be the standard if something wasn't done about it.
So we came up with the idea that anyone who was late, even by a minute, would have to do one pushup for every minute late.
The problem was immediately solved. People were late once in a while, but generally just by a couple minutes. Nearing dinner we could be seen all over the ship looking at our watches, calculating the time necessary to be ready, and hustling if needed.
At last! I'm going to start this gear post with a promise, since everyone's been so patient: the 2016 Gear Post will be out on or before the Monday following Thanksgiving of 2015.
The bad news is that I fear my gear posts are going to slowly become more boring over time. While my main goal is to have the very best gear to travel with, my secondary goal is to have as little of it as possible. At this point my backpack is half empty, and a handful of items are being eyed for removal for next year.
But that's the great thing about great gear. It fulfills a need so wholly that nothing else is needed to share the burden. And, in some cases, like clothing, the gear is of such quality that spares aren't necessary.
So, without further ado, the 2015 Gear Post. As usual, many of these links are affiliate links, as this is one of very few posts that I make money on. Some products are given to me for free. While I do try more gear because of this, I never list anything that I don't think is necessary and the best in its category.
Beginning now, Sett is going into maintenance mode. Todd won't be working on it anymore, except to help me fix the occasional bug on parts he built, and I will work on it as a side project, mostly fixing bugs.
Before I talk about some of the upsides of this decision, I want to acknowledge unequivocally that we have failed. More specifically, I think that our failures were those of strategy, particularly early on, and I take responsibility for those personally.
We had hoped that Sett would become a major blogging platform and would have either made enough money to sustain itself, or that it would be purchased by a larger company and that we could work with their resources to make it even better. We also hoped that we'd be successful in converting many big bloggers to it. In the end we failed at all of those things.
We knew that we could build a better blogging platform, at least for many bloggers, but we completely underestimated what it takes to get people to switch. For most bloggers to switch, it has to be exponentially better, because the hassle, or perceived hassle, of switching is huge. For most people we aren't exponentially better, and even for those we are, we have failed to communicate that effectively.
Glasses clinked and spoons rattled against porcelain as we sat in a backstreet cafe in Tokyo. Our table was three chairs one one side and a low couch on the other.
Across from me was Jimmy. We met a couple years ago because a mutual friend moved to Jimmy's town in New Zealand. He introduced us over email and we became fast friends. Right of him was John, who I met a few days ago through Jimmy and had already bonded with over standup sushi and plans to buy a cruise ship. To my right were Adrienne, a 21 year old who keeps a fascinating journal of plans. We met briefly at Karaoke six months ago, and then got to know each other on the cruise. And at the end of the table were Chris and his girlfriend Kaori. I met Chris by random chance, having shared an apartment with a mutual friend seven years ago. It just so happens he's also friends with Jimmy.
That's about half of my social circle in Japan, at least right now. Only Chris and Kaori actually live here.
It's strange, having this ephemeral group of friends. Most will be my friends forever probably, but maybe that's the only time we'll convene in that particular group. It's not like Friends on TV where it's the same gang every episode.
Most of us, especially people like you who have come to read this blog, value freedom. And not the corndog and bald eagle variety, but the ability to make a wide range of decisions that affect the outcome of one's life.
Freedom may not be everything; the single billionaire can do almost anything he likes, but can still be unhappy. It is something, though, and it's a big part of a good life.
Debt is the opposite of freedom. It binds, controls, and looms. It's the monster standing between you and freedom, growing slightly bigger every day thanks to the wonders of compounding interest. It's easy to think of debt as "just money", but I've seen how it affects people. Its reach extends beyond the ledger.
There are two types of debt that are often worth taking on. One is operational debt. You have an opportunity that's going to make you $1000, but you need $500 more to make it happen. So you borrow the money, make your profit, and pay it back. That's a simple and unlikely example, but more complicated versions of this are common in business.
I'm a natural maximizer. Whenever I do something, my natural inclination is to go all the way. For example, I travel comfortably and productively with just one bag that weighs less than ten pounds. My RV has become almost comical, with marble and wood floors, gold leaf, and advanced security and automation systems.
The pitfall of being a maximizer, though, is that you're unlikely to have the time or resources to maximize everything.
I'm in the process of buying a condo in Vegas right now. I could tell you exactly what I'm looking for, because I found it. There was a perfect condo that had the exact type of layout I wanted, was the right size, and had the right parking. I rushed to get an agent and told him I wanted to make a full price offer during our first conversation.
Since I was in Vienna at the time, he visited the property for me and told me the bad news. There was a ton of water damage and an accepted offer came in an hour or two prior anyway.
Sometimes I would be in my own little world. I remember, as a kid, helping my dad with projects, and he would say that I was oblivious to what was going on around me. He'd be waiting for me to hand him a hammer, but I'd be staring off at something else. And then, around that same time, I took scuba diving lessons. My instructor cautioned me that I was so unaware of my surroundings that I might get into a dangerous situation.
That's when I became aware that I was oblivious. All that I perceived wasn't necessarily all that there was. I became more introspective and determined to be more aware of what was going around me. Eventually that pursuit of awareness extended to myself. That was the hard part. It's easy to make a habit of looking around to see what others are doing and intuit what they need, but it's a lot harder to become self-aware. The shadow of our egos can hide a lot.
It's hard to know how you're perceived, because a true mirror doesn't exist in others. Their feedback comes warped like a circus mirror, hiding some deficiencies and strengths, while highlighting others. Not being aware of strengths is a handicap, but not being aware of faults is critically dangerous. I've seen plenty of people who have no good friends, and it's all because of how they act. Not integral parts of who they are, but unconscious mannerisms and habits that drive others away.
I once read somewhere that we criticize in others those deficiencies which we share. If I think someone's annoying and hogs the spotlight, maybe it's because they're diverting that spotlight from me. If I don't like how someone is sarcastic, maybe it's my own sarcasm that they're reflecting back.
A while back I watched some of the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, a firmly entrenched creationist. The debate was mostly hilarious and mind-boggling, but one question really stood out to me. Someone asked each of them, what, if anything, could change their mind. Bill Nye said anything-- any shred of evidence that "divine" creation may have occurred. Ken said nothing. He admitted that there was no possible way he would ever change his mind.
Whether you believe the insanity of creation or not, it should alarm you that he had a belief he was not willing to change under any circumstances. It's one thing to have a lot of confidence and admit that the bar of proof would have to be very high, but it's another to openly admit that you would choose to ignore reason.
That made me think a lot about how we approach life outside religion. There are some things that we are very willing to change our minds on, some that we'd be reluctant to, and in some cases, some that we would almost never change our minds on.
For example, I think that Chipotle makes a great burrito bowl. I'm crazy about Chipotle. But if you told me that the place next door is even better, I'd be totally open to trying it and quite possibly conceding that it's better.
I think that gratitude is an essential part of a good life. If you don't appreciate the people, places, and things that make up your life, you don't have much motivation do anything. I feel the weight of gratitude every day. Many times a day I think of how fortunate I am to be where I am, and how so much of that is due to other people. I can't write that post every day, but I think I can get away with it on Thanksgiving.
I'm most thankful for my family and friends. The two categories of people are intertwined because I feel like I'm best friends with many of my family members, and that many of my friends are so close they may as well be family. Genetics make clear lines, but in real life they're one big group of people I love.
I traveled with a lot of friends this year, and I'm particularly grateful for that. Sharing my favorite places around the world and discovering new ones with friends are among my favorite things in the world. I'm very fortunate to be able to do a lot of that.
I made only a few new friends this year, but I feel like I became closer with a lot of friends, often as a result of traveling together.