Not Being a Robot

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.


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