One of my overarching goals in how I present myself is to be consistent. Although the relationships I have with my family, friends, acquaintances, and random people on the internet is always going to be different, I try to be the same person with all of those groups. I think authenticity is important, and this consistency is a sign of authenticity.
Try as I might, though, people who read my stuff online and then meet me in person are consistently surprised that I'm actually a happy guy who jokes around a lot and is more human than robot. I see why people expect me to be different, though. My writing tends to be serious and I'm always talking about habits or rules or working hard.
Although all of this rigidity is a big part of my life, it's also just the foundation. From the rigid parts of my life I'm able to get a tremendous amount of work done, keep myself healthy, and move towards my goals. But there's also a lot that it can't do. Rigidity doesn't build relationships or spark creativity, two important parts of life.
I think you learn a lot about someone when you see what he does when there's nothing he has to do. And I think by changing what you do when you have nothing to do, you can change what sort of person you are. I design my life to have as few as possible externally-dictated things that I absolutely have to do, and I create systems to fill that void. Every day I have sixteen hours ahead of me, and no one to tell me what to do in that time except myself.
I know what I would do without my systems, because I didn't have them in my twenties. I did whatever I wanted. In a lot of ways this was a good thing, and it made me who I am today, but it wasn't a complete system. My productivity lagged behind where I wanted it to be. My progress towards important goals was lackluster.
So now I have long days with few constraints, and I've iteratively built a system to fill those days to move me closer to my goals. Recognizing that life is more than typing on my computer in my RV, I allow myself to break from the system, and when I do so, I do it completely.
For example, if a good friend wants to have tea, I will almost always go. While we're there I don't check my phone and I don't think about work. We have good conversation, joke around, and only after we leave do I return the rigidity. The same is true on trips, where I temporarily let go of non-essential habits.
I'm not a big fan of balance. I think that we accept it as a good thing without really thinking about positive alternatives. In some ways, I want my life to be as unbalanced as possible, making productive time brutally productive, but then letting go entirely when I'm not working. And then there are some things that aren't good in moderation, and are better avoided entirely. Systems that look rigid and robotic on the outside can be the backbone of a good and productive life while still leaving room for spontaneity, creativity, and connection with other people.
Photo is a graffitied tiedown in Zurich.
We're having a reader meetup next Sunday in San Francisco thanks to fellow reader Mac. Check out his community post for details.
Want to buy my Asus Zenbook UX21A that I imported from Japan? I'm selling it on ebay.
It's about being a man of practice. You practice within the confines of your rules in order to allow you to have the freedom to step out of the rules when needed. Being a man if practice is not an easy thing to become, until it is a habit, and then it's a piece of cake, well, at least most of the time. I just started following you and I'm very impressed. Can't wait until your next post.
Do you value these blog posts more than the underlying thoughts in themselves? By that I mean are these concepts of yours a partial byproduct of your blog, instead of real insight? Its just the impression I walk away with sometimes, as if you are compelled to grind these out, week after week. Maybe its just me, an elderly gent, who actually lived in the pre-internet era, and rememebered when an answering machine for land lines was innovation...
Great article man! Just wrote and article like the last paragraph. I agree "balance" is not the best option most of the time. I rahter be ruthlessly productive for blocks of time within weeks, months and year that I know I can be 100% dedicated. Time and Time again you see the top producers and creators being obsessed and wildly motivated about their ideas and putting in 110% at a time when trying to reach keystone goals, then slowing down while getting ready for the next big keystone goal.
I think of "balance" differently. Things don't have to be weighted equally to be in balance. Think of a lever with a fulcrum way over to one side. If the fulcrum is moved towards the object of greater mass, it could still be in balance.When you are talking about people's lives, the fulcrum could be located in widely varying points, and they could all lead to "balance." There just isn't one right answer for everyone.
I think authenticity is important...
What do you mean by the word "authentic"? I used to throw that word around a lot and eventually came to see it as a sort of metaphysical meaningless word, often used in status-seeking games - so I'm curious about your definition of it.
Some of the most beautiful moments of life occur as spur of the moment occasions (your tea with friends).
Structure keeps us on the path, but we choose which fork to take in the road and when.
And that opens the door for beautiful Serendipity.
Thanks for the constant reminder to be brave and try the unexpected.
A guy on Twitter asked a pretty good question the other day: "Why do you worship productivity so much? Honestly? (I am currently sitting at a ski hill with an ear-to-ear grin from powder turns.)" I gave him an answer, but I think the question deserves an answer longer than one hundred forty characters.
Something I've been circling around a lot recently is the idea that my own experience doesn't really matter so much. Happiness follows the law of diminishing returns, and I'm so happy all the time that making myself more happy is pretty useless. I've had so much fun and had such a breadth of experiences, that, for the most part, I feel like having one additional one is insignificant.
I'm an imperfect human, of course, so I do still do things "just because I want to" sometimes, but when I take a step back, look at the arc of my life, and think about the time I have left, I mostly think about ways that I can impact the world. If I can spend some effort and make someone who's not so happy a little bit happier, help someone who hasn't had so many cool experiences have a few, or help someone become more productive themselves, maybe that's a better use of my time.
None of that means that I think I'm some sort of great person. I'm completely aware that probably a lot of my real motivation stems from ego or from wanting the satisfaction of knowing that I had an impact on people. I get emails sometimes from people who tell me I've changed their lives, and that sort of blows me away every time and makes me feel really good.
I have been a fool.
In retrospect, my life up until this day would have looked extremely different from the day I was 16.
I have not immersed myself in what I love. Not at all.
I love communes. I love weed. I love polyamorous people. I love yoga. I love travel.