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And now it's time for the one post per year about which people bug me for months: the 2017 gear post.
I realized that a lot of non-subscribers read this post every year, so I thought I'd drop a little background for context.
I've been more or less a nomad since 2008, and was one of the very first to really travel in a minimalist (one small backpack) way. I'm sure others came before me (and my friend Todd), but none I'm aware of who were writing about it.
I still travel for half to two-thirds of the year, exclusively with the gear I'll outline below. And even though I obviously have more items at home (cooking stuff, gym shoes), I don't have any additional clothes or warm-weather gear. In any given year I go to warm places in the summer as well as cold places in the winter. I work full time from my laptop both programming and writing. In other words— this is all of the gear I have, and I use it to do a lot of stuff.
As you must know if you read my blog regularly, I really enjoy making extreme resolutions and then sticking to them. One was deciding in 2012 that I wouldn't date until 2015.
I had a weird mental shift in 2012. I've always wanted to settle down and start a family, but until 2012 I would add the word "eventually" to the sentence. At some point a switch flipped and I realized that if the next girl I dated ended up being the one I settled down with, I was ready.
Being in the early stages of a startup, I didn't feel like I had time to invest in a relationship like that. And I wanted to really focus on work. So, much to the chagrin of grandchild-wanting family members, I stopped dating.
Overall, it worked. Three years may have been a little bit too long, and there were definitely times I wished I was dating, but overall I had great focus and made good progress. I'd give the experiment a B+.
I was eating in Chipotle, browsing Hacker News on my phone when I read some outdated article about how the NSA may or may not have backdoor access to some cryptographic function of Windows.
Considering that the NSA's interest in my computer is probably around zero, and that I don't even use windows cryptography, this backdoor probably wouldn't ever affect me. But the sentiment of it did, and it was just enough to push me over the edge.
I'm not new to Linux. In 1998 my friend Phil and I drove across town to a shabby computer store to by Slackware Linux on CD. He sideswiped a lady as we approached the parking lot, so I ran into the store to buy the CDs while he swapped insurance cards.
We ran Linux for the summer, or at least dual-booted it, but eventually practicality made way and Windows was installed again. Diablo II just wouldn't run in Linux.
'm actually a few days in to my thousand word a day experiment, and it has now occurred to me that the first day's writing probably should have been about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. Better late than never.
I listened to good interview with Chris Guillebeau, and he said that he sets his daily writing minimum at a thousand words. Stephen King prescribes the same amount to start, and then recommends graduating to two thousand words eventually. Up until now I haven't had a daily writing minimum-I just write whenever inspiration strikes me, or if it hasn't stricken, Sunday or Wednesday nights.
I consider myself to be serious about blogging, but my writing output doesn't really support that consideration. How serious can I be about something that I don't even do every day?
As far as I was concerned, she was perfect. She was at least as smart as I was, was a dancer and had the body to prove it, and had a smile that could disarm the national guard. Let's call her Julie.
So, like an earthworm stalking it's prey, I put my usual game on her. Since my last flowchart was so popular, I've made another one to show you how I dealt with the ladies back then:
Nedless to say, things went slowly. We hung out nearly every day for the last couple months of our Senior year summer vacation. Like many guys, I was totally oblivious to her attraction for me. One morning Julie came over really early while I was still sleeping, and squeezed into my twin bed with me. I woke up, and assumed that she must be tired - it didn't even occur to me that she might like me. Finally on the last week of that vacation she said to me,
I went on my first cruise ten years ago. All I really knew about them at the time was that they were the most interesting things pictured on the back of cornflakes boxes, and that a girl I had a crush on found one for $199. Sold.
Since then I've been on ten cruises or so, half of them two week transatlantic runs, which are by far my favorites. Later on I'll write more about why I love these cruises, but the gist is that they're the Perfect Work Environment.
In the decade that I've been cruising, my technique for finding good deals has evolved beyond crushing on girls who might find a good deal. The best trick in the book used to be a site called Cruise Hot Sheet. At any given time it had a listing of most of the cheapest cruises available.
Then two weeks ago it became empty. No deals. I already have a cruise booked for November, so I'm not really in the market, but I like to keep an eye on prices out of curiosity. Every time I went to Cruise Hot Sheet, only to be greeted with an empty page, I was annoyed.
It's early and the whole day is in front of me. How will I spend my time?
When I was in middle school, frozen yogurt was served during recess for fifty cents. Sometimes I had fifty cents, other times I had to borrow it, and other times I didn't get to have frozen yogurt. Back then, it seemed like a pretty big deal. But now, looking back, whether or not I had frozen yogurt had no impact on my life. I don't really remember how it tasted or any particular times that I ate it. If there's any impact, it's probably that I lost a few hours of expected life by eating it.
It's interesting how things that seem like good ideas, or even seem important, can turn out to be completely irrelevant. The anguish over young love, which seemed so strong and so important back then, yet now isn't much more than a blur. The hours spent in school learning things like biology, which have now been totally forgotten. The acquisition or denial of that amazing gadget that we just have to have for Christmas. I waged a yearlong campaign to get an Atari Lynx, and considered not geting one to be one of the toughest struggles I had gone through back then.
I don't bring all this up to say that what happens in childhood doesn't matter, though. Not at all. In that same era, I think about how I met my childhood best friend, Charlie, who taught me Chinese and took me to Taiwan with him. Even today, those experiences (along with many others) are with me. We were issued TI-85 calculators back then, too, which was the first device I ever programmed on. I learned a lot. My parents never really let me watch TV back, and that, amongst so many other good decisions they made, have shaped me in positive ways.
I have a rule for myself that I have to shut my computer off at midnight every day. I allow myself to stay up until three, which means that after cleaning the RV and scratching a bit on the violin, I have two hours and change to read. So I read a lot of books. Usually I read non-fiction, but after a spell of three or four books about the brain, I wanted to read some fiction. With no particular title in mind, I went to Amazon and bought a book that was then the #1 editor's choice and a NY Times Bestseller. With both awards, it must be pretty good, I thought.
The idea for the book was interesting, but the actual plot was poorly constructed. The foreshadowing was so obvious that I couldn't help but hope that it was a red herring and that the actual twist at the end would be something more interesting. It wasn't. Worse, the author made so many amateur writing mistakes that I actually found it hard to read (things like using a lot of adverbs and using difficult words that aren't more descriptive than the simple ones they replace).
It was a disaster of a book, yet it was successful and fairly well liked. I thought about how that could be possible and came to the conclusion that the bar for writing a good book probably isn't set as high as I would assume. And, under scrutiny, that actually makes sense.
If you paid me fifty times what I make now to work at a regular job, I wouldn't do it.
Over the past few weeks I've informally asked some of my other entrepreneur friends how much they'd have to be paid to work a normal job in their industry. None of them quoted any reasonable figure. Some of them didn't want to answer the question because it was so uncomfortable to think about.
When Justin Frankel, creator of Winamp, quit AOL, he was offered a job by Microsoft. They asked what he needed to work there, and he responded with a written offer. In his list of necessities were things like a private jet, the ability to work remotely 100% of the time, and all boat rental fees to be reimbursed. It was a joke, but he sent it to them anyway. That's how abhorrent the idea of a real job was to him.
After many months of being deprioritized due to Sett and other obligations, I've finally finished my new book on habits, Superhuman by Habit. It's available right now on Amazon.
I've been writing for nine years now, and a good portion of that time has been spent focused on self-improvement. How can I get the most out of life? Out of myself? As I've gone down this path, the answers I've found have coalesced around habit building. Get your habits right, and everything else falls into place.
Doing things when they're the most fun and exciting things to do is easy. Those are the gains that everyone gets. Once we move beyond that, we have to rely on willpower. The problem with willpower is that gains are slow and incremental.
Habits, on the other hand, are the mechanism by which we can leverage our willpower. Rather than relying on willpower for everything, we use it only to build new habits. Once a habit is installed, it uses little to no willpower. That's why I called the book Superhuman by Habit-- habits let us expand our capabilities exponentially. Things that were difficult become easy, and stay that way.