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In one of my (many) posts about optimizing, someone made a comment to the effect of, "What's the point of optimizing everything? Eventually you'll optimize your entire life away and have nothing left to do." That reminded me of what people say when they hear that I'm being cryogenically frozen when I die. Very often they say that they wouldn't want to live forever.
It is very peculiar to me that people would ever want to die, but that's another topic. Even stranger to me is that people somehow believe that the exact right time to die is when they are going to die anyway. Good genes and healthy living, dying at age 95? Perfect. Cancer at 65? Also perfect.
If you would not end your life earlier, and would likely get medical treatment to extend it to a "normal" life expectancy, why would you not also live forever, or at least until you voluntarily died at age 500?
(I should say here that I believe there is only a 5% chance I will actually be preserved and resurrected in the future, so you can save the comments about why it won't work)
The same is true of optimizing. Would you intentionally add hassles to your life to slow you down? If not, do you find it peculiar that your life has exactly the correct amount of hassle in it?
It seems that most people assume defaults are correct for them. I always assume the exact opposite. That's not to say that I don't eventually find that some defaults are correct for me. But usually I find that the reasons a default exists are not consistent with what matters to me. For example, some people say that they'll be bored when they're old or they'll be too sad that everyone they know has died. I am never bored and can't imagine the joy of spending time with those still alive will ever be eclipsed by the sadness of losing people.
It's important to challenge our beliefs constantly. The defaults that society assumes for you are the low hanging fruit. If you're not questioning all of those, then will you ever question the harder things like : Should I quit doing this thing that I really like? Do I need to reinvent myself or part of my life? How have I changed, and how should that change my daily life?
Photo is a crazy act from Mystere in Vegas. It's one of my favorite Cirque du Soleil shows.
Short post today because I'm trying hard to get my next book finished. Way overdue by my own standards.
It cost me about $100 to go to my friend's Christmas party. I had to buy a cheap flight from Vegas to San Francisco, and then a couple uber rides to and from the party.
On the surface, that doesn't make all that much sense to do. But I made a deal with myself—any time one of my good friends in SF invites me to something in SF, I will go, even if it's not quite worth it on paper.
My friends in SF are some of my closest friends. I love living in Las Vegas and have saved a ton of money in doing so, but if moving meant that I'd never spend time with my SF friends, the move wouldn't be worth it for me.
Sometimes the only way to unlock something valuable is to overpay for something else. The only way I can live in Vegas and still maintain important friendships is by overpaying most of the times I hang out with them. So overall it's a net benefit.
I remember hearing about the Teforia a long time ago. The story around it was that it was this comically overpriced tea brewer, often compared with the Juicero, that symbolized what was wrong with Silicon Valley.
So, of course, I took very little interest in it. I like brewing tea and, having brewed it at least a few thousand times, I'm pretty good at it. What's the point of a machine that's not going to do it as well as I can?
I can't remember why, but a few weeks ago, the Teforia came back on my radar. I searched and found that they had gone out of business and that the machines which were once $1000-15000 were now being sold as cheaply as $200 on eBay.
At the same time, I had been noticing something troubling about my productivity. I realized that because I made tea at my desk every day, and because it required a fair amount of manual intervention, I would avoid any tasks which required serious concentration for the first couple hours.
My main goal as a writer is to write pieces that will spark a permanent positive change for someone. I assume that most posts won't do that for anyone, but if I write enough and have enough people read my posts, it will happen from time to time. I read a lot of blog posts and it rarely happens to me, but when it does, the effect is powerful and makes it worth reading all the posts that have no effect.
Around five years ago I read an excellent piece by Sebastian Marshall about Consolidation (http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/on-brilliance-and-consolidation) that had such an effect on me. Before reading it, any consolidation I did was random. Sometimes it happened, other times it didn't.
Consolidation, at least as I think about it, is taking time after progress to both cement the process and reset so that you're ready for the next piece of work. Some examples:
1. I built CruiseSheet to be a great cruise search engine, but it required a lot of my own intervention to keep it running. Things would break and I'd have to go fix them. So I spent a bunch of time automating maintenance, building failsafes, and building alerts to to let me know when stuff stopped working. This didn't increase revenue and certainly wasn't exciting, but it allowed me to keep the gains I'd made and free up my time and focus for the next project.
Out of the corner of my eye, just past the cars lined up in the turning lane, I could see that something was coming towards me quickly. Way too quickly. I tried to swerve, but knew that the inevitable was coming.
I heard crunching metal, the screeching of tires sliding sideways against the pavement, and smashed glass. A driver ran a red light at full speed and t-boned me.
Once the car stopped, I hesitated for a fraction of a second before looking over at my fiancée. The car had driven straight into her door, which she was leaning on. She was okay. Good.
I got out of the car, now facing traffic in the oncoming traffic lane and walked towards the other guy's car. His airbags had deployed and the front of his car totally smashed. He looked at me with a blank stare. I opened my palms towards him as if to say, "what was that all about?"
To see if anyone had any tips for smuggling huge amounts of Chipotle into a hotel (which I only discovered at the last minute wasn't allowed), I searched Google for "Chipotle wedding".
I wasn't the only person who had the idea to have Chipotle catering for my wedding, but that part didn't surprise me. What surprised me was that most of the questions about the idea online were, "My fiancée and I both love Chipotle, but we're nervous people will judge us if we serve it at our wedding. Should we do it?"
The answer was a resounding no. Chipotle is totally inappropriate for a wedding, said the internet.
And, for a moment, even I felt the social pressure. What would people think, eating their DIY Chipotle out of cardboard bowls with plastic spoons? And then the moment passed and I realized first that it was my friends and family so they'd probably like it, and second that since this was the one party per lifetime I was going to plan, I/we could be a little selfish and have the food and drink (water) that we like.
I'm not sure how to even begin talking about 2017, except to say that it was a really exceptional year for me.
As I've said in previous years, every year of my life has so far been better than the previous. The primary driver is that I work for permanent, not fleeting, progress.
The net improvement year over year varies. Sometimes it's a small incremental improvement, and other times it's a huge one. I feel confident saying that 2017 delivered the biggest improvement ever.
The strange part of it all is that two areas that had been constant areas that demanded a lot of focus and time, dating and finances, both went to a 10/10 this year. I realized that part of my identity had become based around working on those things, so it's been weird to have both totally taken care of.
I'm going to do something a little bit different with the gear post this year. Usually I go over every single item in a small amount of detail. This year has only a few changes but they are really exciting changes, so I'm going to highlight only the differences.
Once you finish reading this post, you can go back to the 2017 Gear Post to see the things that didn't change. Next year I'll do a full writeup again, as it would be annoying to have to keep going through back posts.
Wool Wool Wool
I have to start the gear post off by talking about wool, even though I'm sort of sick of writing an ode to wool every year. The bottom line is that it is essentially impossible to travel light without wool clothing. Everything I wear is wool, and that's the secret to being able to wear the same clothes every day, and thus not have a huge backpack full of stuff.
Eleven years ago I switched to a Dvorak keyboard. I was worried that I would get carpal tunnel syndrome if I stuck to Qwerty, so I made the switch. The first few days were pure agony, but then after a week or two it felt as natural as anything else. And, of course, it's still the keyboard I use and I don't have carpal tunnel syndrome. Not yet, anyway.
When I visited my friend Derek in New Zealand last year we geeked out and he showed me his linux setup. He used a window manager called ratpoison, which is a tiling window manager. The basic non-nerdy explanation is that instead of windows all piling up on top of each other, they are automatically tiled to be next to each other.
I tried it, hated it, and deleted it.
This summer, because I saw a desktop that used it and looked cool, I decided to try a tiling window manager again (i3-gaps). Again, I hated it. But this time it reminded me of when I switched to Dvorak. I had felt the same way, but that unease went away quickly. So I decided that I would stick with it for a least two weeks. I wanted to quit again on day three, when I had a lot of work to do, but I didn't allow myself to.
I wanted to write a post about making the Biggest Decisions. Before doing so, I thought I'd jot down some of mine and look for commonalities. What surprised me most was how few decisions of this magnitude there were. Depending on where I set the bar, I've probably only made 10 huge decisions in my entire life. I made the first about 20 years ago, so I make one every two years.
Here are some of what I consider to be the biggest decisions:
1. Dropping out of school2. Deciding to travel around the world for an extended period of time3. Moving to Las Vegas (as well as other moves)4. Living in an RV5. Focusing entirely on pickup for 1-2 years6. Getting married
It was interesting to realize how few there were, especially while keeping in mind the enormous changes they've made in my life. In other words, they are even higher leverage than I had subconsciously considered them to be.