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There was a time in my life when I was singularly obsessed with output. I rated my days in terms of how much output I had produced that day and tried, within reason, to limit anything that did not produce output. It felt great to do this, as I had previously not been particularly good at producing output, and it was completely within my power to make any day into a good day.
Over time, both in myself and others, however, I noticed that high output didn't always lead to achieving goals. It was certainly better than not producing output, but I had a persisting feeling that my results weren't as good as they should be. I now have a more balanced approach and I my results towards goals now seem disproportionately good compared to my output.
If you don't feel like your results reflect your output or you are trying to figure out how to get started at being more productive, I have some suggestions based on my own experience.
It's important to realize that what you create when you are at your best will be many times more valuable than what you create at average or worse. Sometimes work created can even be a net negative. For example, if I force myself to write a blog post when I'm not at my best, maybe it will be unclear and actually turn people off from reading future posts. If I write some crappy code, maybe I'll have to spend hours in the future chasing down a bug that could have been avoided in the first place.
Just a few months ago I was talking to a new flight attendant about her job. I remarked at what a stable job it was, since people always need to fly, they have strong unions, and the airlines are big. Now she's waiting to be furloughed once the conditions of the bailout money allow it. Luckily she has a very stable financial situation and life, so being furloughed won't have a huge effect on her, except for putting her career on pause.
Life is full of people chasing the ghosts of things that used to exist. Just look at those who want things to be like they were in the 50s. One such ghost is a stable job. There are relative degrees of stability, and I'm sure there are some jobs that are still mostly stable, but the average job in the US these days is not stable. If you value stability there's nothing wrong with looking for the most stable job you can find, but you must accept that it may disappear.
Before you join the ranks of those who want to go back to the 50s, think about what this loss of stability has given us. Now we have way more flexibility and the ability to create our own jobs through entrepreneurship or gig working. It's not good or bad, it's just different.
Most people build lives around the presupposition of a stable job. They save very little money and think of their salary as monthly credits which they can use to pay off financing for whatever it is they want to buy. This works pretty well as long as they keep their job, because it's a very easy formula (money in = money out) and it allows them to maximize their immediate pleasure.
When I first began quarantine I was extremely productive. I rewrote some big parts of CruiseSheet and got a lot of work done. Then after a week or so I had cleaned out my backlog of tasks and, with cruise sales down about 100%, wasn't coming up with any pressing tasks to add to my list. I needed a new project.
For over a year, way on the backburner, I've had a project of building the world's most realistic LED candle. Over the past few years I've bought just about every possible contender on Amazon and found them to be pretty bad. Some have good color tone but flicker to much, others flicker appropriately but are orange, some have little movable wicks but cast weird shadows. I have one I programmed and built myself, but it's just a circuit board with wires dangling off of it. Maybe, in quarantine, it was time to build the exterior shell of it.
I've been interested in 3D printing for a while but was worried that if I bought a printer I would use it for a few days to print some of the standard stuff others had already made, and then it would just sit on my desk forever. The only friend who had one did exactly that and had only recently thrown the thing away. But I figured with at least one concrete project to do and a luxurious amount of free time, it was a good time for me to give it a try.
At the same time I saw a deal for a Monoprice Ultimate Maker (which is a rebranded Wanhao Duplicator 6), so I bought it. At the time I figured that any 3D printer would be good enough to make such a basic little project, so I didn't do much research.
I have almost no interest in politics, but I am interested in our country and society, so I inevitably get dragged into various political topics. If there's one thing I'm certain of in that area, it's that most people's interaction with politics is both harmful to themselves and counterproductive for society. At the risk of making many readers furious, I'd like to share my thoughts on politics.
First, though, watch my favorite video discussing politics that I've ever seen. It's the interview between Ben Shapiro (very conservative) and Andrew Yang (very liberal). Whether or not you agree with any of either of their positions is not relevant. Look at how they communicate. Both are clearly very intelligent, very respectful, and were looking for areas where they agreed. When they came across areas in which they disagreed, they tried to tease apart the underpinnings of why they disagreed. Sometimes they found common ground, other times they didn't.
I would love to see more conversation in this style. Just how refreshing it was made me realize how starved of intelligent debate our society is. I also found myself agreeing with both of them in ways I didn't expect I would.
Most people agree that division is one of our biggest problems in society. But how many of us can admit that both Trump and Obama did some positive things as well as some negative things? That's such an obvious and basic true statement, but almost everyone will bristle at it. If you cannot concede that a candidate you didn't vote for has done some positive things, and that someone you did vote for has done something negative, you are part of the problem.
In 2018 I wrote 52 blog posts on a cruise and scheduled them for the following year. They actually ended up lasting more than a month longer because of other posts I wrote in real time throughout the year. I originally did this because I wanted to find a way to eliminate the weekly pressure of having to come up with a topic and write, but I've continued it for a second year because, in addition, I think it produces better quality posts.
Last year when I did this I didn't have any posts I was burning to write. When I revealed what I had been doing, a couple people gave me the feedback that the posts felt a little bit forced and not written out of excitement. I could see their perspective and I think that it was the result of having to come up with so many ideas in such a short time.
This year was the opposite. I had so many posts that I was dying to write all year, so I put them in a text file. When time came to write them I was bursting at the seams to go. I hope that the enthusiasm has come through this year.
I really liked that I could go over my entire year and see what topics I hadn't covered enough and which ones I'd written too much about. I haven't looked through previous years to verify, but it feels like these years, especially this one, have been pretty well balanced.
Common knowledge says that buying a boat is a pretty dumb financial thing to do, and yet I find myself on the precipice of buying one. I'm in a familiar holding pattern where I haven't actually made any committment to doing something, but I also realize I've done enough research to know I'm probably going to do it. Normally I research, do the thing, and then write about it, but this time I thought I'd talk about it before I did it.
About a year ago I realized that you could ski in Las Vegas. I hadn't thought to look before, for obvious reasons. Skiing was a ton of fun, especially with my wife and friends, and it actually increased how much I like Vegas by a couple percentage points.
That realization made me think about what other things Las Vegas might offer that I've never even thought about, especially outdoors things. People who live in Las Vegas often say that the nature is their favorite aspect, which was totally counterintuitive to me at first. I spend all of my working time indoors, so it makes sense to look for outdoor activities for recreation.
The big obvious attraction is Lake Mead. You always hear people talk about it and you see it from above on certain flights. It looks amazing and unlike any other lake I've ever seen. I searched and the marina is under an hour away from my house.
Feedback I get often is that I do a lot of crazy things that are really fun, but that they aren't practical for normal people. I understand where this comes from. I marvel almost every day at how very good my life is, and how if I didn't already have it, it would seem unattainable. Besides the things that actually matter, like having a great family, wife, and friend group, I get to live in several places across the world, drive a cool car, and generally do whatever I want.
If you're rich, these things would all be very easy to do. But if, like me, you're not rich, you have to rely on finding sweet spots. This has essentially always been the case for me because I've always been frugal and have always had tastes that exceeded my means by normal standards.
A sweet spot is a situation or combination of situations that gives you something that seems like a luxury at a value that most people wouldn't believe.
I bought a two bedroom condo less than fifteen minutes from the strip for under $50,000. I bought an island with a close group of friends for under $10,000 each. I bought my dream car, a Bentley, for $22k.
A lot of people in my life seem to be at the end of a phase of great focus. They worked on a startup and sold or otherwise exited it, they built a business that's now running without them, or they left a job and are taking time off before the next thing. It's interesting to see how they deal with the loss of that focus.
I remember being a kid, and my whole life was exploration. One of my favorite things to do was to tromp around through the woods and look for worms, weird bugs, or cool rocks. Sometimes I could smash a rock and inside would be some crystals, like a geode. I had no aim in life, but I didn't need an aim to drive myself. I just went. There were always new woods and new rocks.
This sort of exploration didn't ever seem urgent, but it always seemed important. When we first moved to Austin my siblings and I went out into the woods with purpose every day. Sometimes we would find something new, sometimes we would just go over what we had already found.
That's how I felt when I first found computers, too. There was so much to learn and do, and none of it had much of a point. I'd spend hours trying to get a game to work or to make a program that didn't really do much except show some cool ASCII art and ask me questions.
In some ways I'm professional advice giver these days. I talk to people monthly and help them make big decisions that will impact their lives greatly. I also do events where 7-10 people join me somewhere and we try to plot the course of their next few big moves. Giving advice is an enormous responsibility, especially when you know it's likely people will follow through on it, so it's something I take very seriously and to which I have given a tremendous amount of thought.
That wasn't always the case, though. When I became a professional gambler in the early 2000s, I tried to convince all of my friends to do it. I was enthusiastic and proactive, but nobody listened to me, even as they saw me do well. The same thing happened when I learned about pickup a few years later.
Those two events were a huge lesson to me. I'd heard that people won't take advice unless they ask for it, but I had cracked two major problems that all of my friends had, and I was absolutely flabbergasted that none of them took my advice.
Now I give no advice unless someone asks, or if I have the type of relationship where there's an assumed openness to advice. I'd say that that group of people is 10-15 in size maximum.
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 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.