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A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about what I think single people in their thirties should do. A few people emailed my about it, and one reader named Jack asked some really good questions. Rather than reply to him directly, I asked if I could reply to his email as a blog post. Here are his questions, as a single thirty-something-year-old, and my answers.
I'm not sure how selective I can be. And I am an inherently selective person.
I actually think most people are not selective enough, or are not selective on the correct criteria. For you to really succeed in a healthy relationship, you should be able to be happy single too. Someone should add to your life, not "complete" it. Someone who is in that position will naturally be selective. I remember distinctly thinking that I'd rather be in a great relationship than single, but would rather be single than be in a merely good relationship.
We all have our own criteria, but there are also some universal ones that I think everyone should consider. Among the most important would be a commitment to growth, and good communication skills. It's great to find the most perfect person ever, but what's more important is the quality of the relationship you will build together, and these sorts of traits will lead to a much higher quality relationship.
That said, I think it's important to know what your dealbreakers are and to stick with them. After being frustrated with how difficult it was to find someone who doesn't drink (one of my dealbreakers), I tried to relax that and date people who drank once in a while. They were fine people, but after going on a few dates I had to be honest with myself and accept that I'd rather be single than date a drinker.
I oftentimes will tell myself I need to be less selective, only to get into relationships that I'm not really interested in or feel wrong. And then I leave.
This is a tough balance, but I'd say that there's no harm in going on a lot of first and second dates. Date people who may not fit your most specific criteria, but once you know they're not going to be the one, move on.
I'm waiting to feel smitten with someone. And that seems just never to come to me.
I think that this is an overrated indicator. Sometimes it means great things, sometimes it means that the person is terrible for you and that taboo is attractive. I found my now-wife to be extremely attractive when I met her and also recognized many of her amazing traits early on, but if you had asked me if I was smitten with her then, I would have said no. I even wondered if it was a problem, but we were so compatible and were building such a great relationship that I actually just decided to accept that I wasn't going to be totally smitten with my wife. The funny thing is that it slowly grew over time and now I'm definitely smitten.
Do you think there is a group of people who maybe would be well suited to marriage but just are intrinsically too selective to find the right partner other than by luck? I feel like that's me. My premises:
I want to be in a relationship because I know it would help me learn to be more selfless, have a person to share things with, and to grow with. All things I want.
I want to be in a relationship with someone I am deeply attracted to (physically and personality-wise) and is also attracted to me.
I want to be in a relationship with someone who can appreciate my faith and moderate/conservative morals.
I just intrinsically have very high standards in #2 and #3. That's just my personality. I've tried to ignore it and it doesn't work out.
Your article makes it sound like finding a partner for everyone is a tractable problem. I'm just not so sure. It is at least plausible that, for some people, finding a partner is either a very difficult venture or perhaps at times an intractable problem. I'm curious to your thoughts on this. Should I just bite the bullet and try to work out a relationship with someone I'm not initially very attracted to or that seems intellectually or personality-wise incompatible?
I think Jack's reasons for wanting to be in a relationship are the right ones, and are some of the things I value most about being married. Attraction can be a little bit different in a long term relationship, where the emotional attraction adds to the physical attraction. The way my wife treats me and our mutual bond has added to the physical attraction in a way that can dwarf the physical attraction alone. So while I do think that it's important to have someone who you are attracted to, I think whether you think of her as a 7 or a 10 will end up not being as big a factor as you think it will.
If you haven't experienced this, think about a time when someone very attractive annoyed you and you lost all interest in them. This is basically the opposite.
Your values and morals are important to you and they should be respected by your spouse. That doesn't mean that they have to be the same, though. In fact, being slightly different can lead to growth because you end up having two respected opinions in your household. I have at least a few friend-couples who are on the other end of the political spectrum from each other and it seems to enhance the relationship. Again, I think that's why communication skills and a growth mindset are important.
I really liked these questions both because they're interesting to answer, but also because they've come from someone who has good clear thinking on the subject and is worrying about the right things. My advice would be to pare non-negotiables to a minimum, test them to make sure they're really non-negotiable, and be more selective as you get deeper in the dating process. I'd be looking for 65% compatibility on a first date and about 90% on the wedding day, with a few "must-haves" covered.
Hopefully this helps, and when you do find someone I'd love to hear back and see how they meshed with the questions.
Photo is a bigger picture of the ducks we fed on Lake Mead.
I've started with some new coaching clients and am finishing up signing up a couple more, so I think my schedule is full now. I'm no longer doing a waiting list, but will probably make an announcement in 12-18 months if/when I decide to take more.
I don't usually write about current events because I don't necessarily think that yet another semi-informed opinion floating around is of much value. This time the event is easily actionable on a personal level, though, and I'm personally doing what I can to make the best of the situation, so I figured I'd share.
Before I get started, I want to recognize that some people are suffering and dying, many more are scared, and just about everyone is going to be affected financially. In the short term this is going to be very bad for a lot of people and at least somewhat bad for all of us.
Like most people I have older family members I'm concerned about, and as you can imagine my business was hit to an extreme level. My income is actually negative this month because all I've been doing for the past 30 days is canceling cruises. I don't invest a ton in the stock market, but my retirement accounts took a hit, too. I mention this to put my next few points in context.
Despite all this, I think that over the long term coronavirus may end up being one of the most positive events for humans in recent history. I understand that that sounds crazy or hyperbolic, but I don't think it is.
I have a surprising number of single friends who are in their 30s. I don't think that this is a problem by any means, but I know that a lot of them don't actually want to be single. I'm married and think that being married is pretty cool, but I could also see a great path being single or just dating, so this post is only for people who are single and don't want to be.
The biggest realization that single people in their 30s need to make is that what they have been doing is not working. Dating is hard, finding the right person is hard, but... you've been working at it for at least 15 years and many other people have been successful in that time. At this point, the problem is your approach, not the outside world.
I would (and did) make dating a top priority. Not in title, but in practice. I would be swiping Tinder and every other app every day, and if that wasn't getting me enough matches I'd be dusting off the boots and making myself approach people in person. It doesn't really make any sense to leave something as important as your life partner up to chance. You wouldn't do that with any other major area of your life.
You can argue that most people meet their significant others by chance, but that's because most people just wait years and hope something happens, not because that's the most effective method for finding love.
The normal financial path that's prescribed by our society is to get out of school, get a job, and then start making money and keep making as much money as you can until you retire. That works for some people, but it also leaves a lot of people unsatisfied and feeling trapped within the rat race. I've followed a different path, some parts deliberately and others by accident, and I think it could serve as a reasonable guide for anyone who doesn't want to have a job for life.
First Phase: Some Independent Income
The first phase is just to start making any independent income. The two best times to do this are when you are in school, and thus have few responsibilities but plenty of free time, or when you have a job that you're trying to escape.
Don't try to hit it out of the park, just try to make some money. If you can do it in a way that is perpetual, that's a lot better than something that takes up your time, but either one is good.
As I always say, I really do believe that I have the best group of friends that a guy could ask for. I use friends as a shorthand, but I really mean it to include everyone who surrounds me, including my wife and my family. The people in my life are truly incredible, and a day doesn't go by where I don't think about how lucky I am to have them in my life.
Across a lot of dimensions they're very different, but most or all of them have a few core things in common. I first realized this many years ago when I was so busy with Sett that I no longer had time to just hang out with everyone all the time. I thought about all the people I was friends with and wanted to become better friends with and distilled down what they had in common.
By far the top quality that is shared with everyone is that they are all very genuine and authentic. That can mean a few different things, but I mean it to say that none of them try to put on a front and pretend that they're someone they're not. They know who they are and they accept it.
This feels normal to me now, because I spend very little time with strangers, but on the rare occasion I spend time with someone who isn't as authentic it is plainly obvious immediately and I notice how much effort it takes for me to accomodate the difference. Someone who puts on a front is generally doing it to mask a big insecurity, and that insecurity needs to be walked around in conversation.
Living in an RV was one of the best things I could have possibly done for the eight or so years I did it. It allowed me freedom, both physical and financial, made it easy for me to travel, forced me to become minimalist, and taught me a lot. If I were still living in an RV today, that would probably be a mistake.
When I moved to LA for a year to learn how to date, I was out in clubs nearly every night. I dressed crazy and had few obligations that weren't social. I grew tremendously as a person during that time, but I couldn't be more glad that I'm not doing it anymore.
In 2008 I had a backpack worth of stuff and I left the US for nine months on a backpacking trip around the world. I don't know any other way I could have gained the perspective and learned as much as I did, but my possessions can't fit in a bag anymore and I'm in the US almost every month.
Those are three examples, but I could go on for days about all of the things that I did, especially things that defined who I was, that I no longer do. I don't regret any of them, but I am simultaneously glad that I am no longer doing them.
As I wrote (last week), it's very easy to criticize problems, and it's easy to categorize things as good or bad without any nuance. I think that it's a lot more productive to recognize the good in everything and everyone, and so in that spirit I'd like to challenge myself to share some positive things about things I don't like.
I never eat fast food myself, but I am impressed with how efficiently our system can bring people nutrition. It may not be ideal nutrition, but I think it's great that people who are struggling can get a quick and tasty meal for not much money.
Last week I posted about buying our fifth group property, an apartment in Tokyo. I got more emails and messages about this post than any in recent history, and people asked a lot of good questions, so rather than address them individually I will answer them all in a blog post. It's also worth mentioning that I go into more detail on the topic in my last book, Forever Nomad.
How is this actually better?
A few people asked questions about how this is actually better than just renting an AirBnB. I think that this is a really good question and is the hardest one to answer. I've tried a few times and I think I've done a bad job at actually getting the idea across, so I'll try in a little more detail here.
For the past three years I've been actively searching for an apartment in Tokyo for my friends and I to buy. It was by far the most difficult city in which to find a suitable apartment, and even up until I got the notification a few minutes ago, I wasn't entirely sure that it would happen.
One of the biggest challenges in Tokyo is that you must buy a vacant apartment. An apartment that is occupied may take years to vacate, as apparently renters are entitled to renew their leases with no price increase. If you want them to leave or even to increase their rent, they must agree to it.
Location in Tokyo is not as simple as finding the center of the city and trying to get as close as possible. The ideal situation is to get an apartment that is a short walking distance away from a station that hosts lines that provide good coverage.
Last, most apartments in our price range (around $100k US) were not only small but only really had one room. I felt strongly that we would want to have two rooms so that two groups or individuals could each have a little privacy.
If you spend time in San Francisco, you hear a lot of startup ideas. A few of them sound really cool, but a lot of them sound pretty dumb. I used to fall into the trap of criticizing them, without the founder present, because it was easy and fun. He thinks he's going to rent blowup mattresses in people's living room? Ha!
You feel smart when you shoot down someone's idea, and that makes you want to do it more. If you look at a lot of popular media creators, you'll notice that they like to shoot everything down. Besides being fun and snarky, they will often be right. Most new ideas do fail and we live in a society where the price of testing new ideas is cheap, so we do it often.
The problem is that the best ideas all sound stupid at first, and few of us are good at predicting which dumb ideas will actually work. If you aren't going to be good at that part, I don't think you've earned the right to call out the ones you think will fail.
Even new amazing products will have flaws. There are no Apple products which I think are good enough to use, but I still try to find things about them that I like. For example, a friend watched a movie on his MacBook the other day and I was blown away by how good the speakers sounded. I'd rather talk about those positives than the negatives.