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Sometimes a preference can morph from being your best assessment of a particular situation into a fixture of who you are. When that happens, you're in a bad position to reevaluate and make a better decision, because your ego gets caught up in that decision. That happened to me when I decided that I preferred multi-month trips to shorter ones.
When I started traveling, my intention was to come back to the US as infrequently as possible. I hadn't done very extensive traveling, so my plan was meant to combat that. I'd stay in places for long periods of time, generally months, and really get to know them deeply.
This worked really well for me. I haven't been back in a few years, but Panama felt like a real home base. Tokyo did, too, and it still does today.
Now I travel much more frenetically. I'm sitting in Paris working on a blog post, but by tonight I'll be in Jordan. My last meal was in Brooklyn, New York. Over the next week I'll also travel to Cairo, Amsterdam, and Hong Kong.
One of the hardest things in life is deciding what to do next. Think about what life would be like if you knew every single step that you had to take to get where you wanted. Some of the steps would be tough, but if you knew that what you were doing was the best thing you could be doing, I have the feeling you'd be able to walk that path pretty easily.
But that's not how life is. If you're anything like me, a large percentage of your time is spent trying to decide what it is you should do. I mean that on the micro level, like whether or not you should go to that party tomorrow night, and on the macro level, like what business you should start.
A heuristic is a mental shortcut to make decisions. Always split aces and eights is a heuristic for some decisions in blackjack. An easy heuristic in deciding what to do is to just do something good for someone else. It may not always be the optimal thing for you to do, but it's almost always a good thing for you to do.
This is true for two reasons, as far as I can tell.
I have four books that I've published myself. Three are on Amazon as paperbacks and Kindle, and a fourth is only available on Kindle. Despite all sorts of other projects I've worked on, my books represent nearly all of my income. Just ten years ago, before good self-publishing tools became available, this would not have been possible.
Although I don't make a very large income, the ROI of time spent on my books is incredible. I wrote Make Her Chase You in approximately one week six years ago, and it still makes hundreds of dollars per month. At its peak, before I got a crazy one-star rating, it made about $4,000 per month. Superhuman by Habit still hasn't settled into a predictable sales pattern, but it's already sold several thousand copies.
I didn't realize that these numbers were exceptional until Superhuman By Habit started to hit some Amazon bestseller lists. I googled around and found that all of my books have or are on track to sell more than the average publisher-produced book.
I've also been helping a friend work on her book, and the experience has made me realize that I've picked up a lot of knowledge on how to sell a book on Amazon, and that knowledge could be useful to other people. I've already written before on how to write the book, so this is about how to make money on it.
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 can't believe the year's over already! As I look over my past year, it feels like the things that happened last January were just a few weeks ago. Trips blended together to create a whirlwind of a year that, as asual, was packed with a lot more than it feels like at first glance.
This was a frustrating year for Sett. At times I really got into the groove, but a lot of times it felt like I was putting out fires and struggling to figure out how to make Sett earn money. It's a bittersweet decision to stop actively working on it, but it feels good to start this next year without that obligation. I've already written about this in detail, so I'll move on.
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.