Tynan http://tynan.com Life Outside the Box en-us Wed, 03 Mar 2021 12:47:58 -0800 http://sett.com Sett RSS Generator Reflecting on Fifteen Years of Blogging (Plus a Survey) http://tynan.com/fifteen I always mean to be clever and commemorate years of blogging on roughly the anniversary of me beginning blogging, but I never remember when it is, and then every year think, "Okay, Ill do it next year instead". But fifteen years is a long time, so rather than wait a year]]>

I always mean to be clever and commemorate years of blogging on roughly the anniversary of me beginning blogging, but I never remember when it is, and then every year think, "Okay, Ill do it next year instead". But fifteen years is a long time, so rather than wait a year I'll just be a few months late.

I started blogging because I decided to do the polyphasic sleep schedule. I had tried twice before and failed, and all of that time was such a blur that I resolved on my third attempt to record it as it happened. I was successful, and the topic was rather trendy at the time, so about 100 people started following my blog.

After a while I gave up on polyphasic, but felt that I had an obligation to my readers. Luckily I had spent the first half of my twenties doing insane things like putting a swimming pool in my living room, climbing radio towers, breaking in to the tunnels under UT Austin, a exploring a cave, etc., so I had plenty of crazy stories.

The swimming pool post made it to the front of Digg, which was like reddit back then, and it remained one of the top ten stories on the site for a year or so. After that I had about a thousand people reading. I hate breaking streaks, and I never wanted to let readers down, so I just kept writing. I went through phases where I posted every day, two years where I wrote every single day (but posted once a week), and some phases where I didn't quite write every week. But I don't think in that time there's ever been a gap of more than two weeks, and for many years I haven't missed a single week.

As my topics switched from polyphasic sleep to crazy stories to pickup to self improvement I gained and lost a lot of readers. People would get really upset sometimes that they had grown attached to this blog about crazy stories and now I was telling them how to eat healthy food. Some people stuck around the whole time, which sort of blows my mind. Some of you have really watched me grow up over fifteen years.

Even as readers have come and gone, I've always felt like I had a big group of people distributed around the world who cared about me. It's a weird feeling, almost like having an imaginary friend. I know that any project I start will immediately have some level of success because I've built up trust over these fifteen years and readers will at least take a look at whatever I create.

I didn't meet readers for many years, mostly because I was worried that I wouldn't like my readers. I knew that if I didn't like and respect the people for whom I was writing, I would lose all motivation to write.

I had a few meetups in the early days, have run into a couple dozen people randomly over the years, and have met dozens of people through the live events I was hosting before COVID happened. My fears turned out to be completely unfounded and the people who read my blog turned out to be extremely high quality people. Every event I have leaves me totally humbled by the quality of person that cares what I have to say. That knowledge has kept me writing all these years, because I really do think it's a privilege and honor to have smart and kind people read my work.

The other big reason I keep writing is because it forces me to crystallize and challenge my thoughts and ideas. There have been a couple times that I've written something a little too hastily and tons of people have let me know that I was off the mark. Knowing that keeps me diligent.

I also like scrolling back a few years, because if I read a post I wrote back then I can immediately remember what my life was like then and what I was thinking about. It's like a mental time machine.

I'm not sure what the future of the blog will be. On one hand I can't imagine that I'll ever stop writing. It's always been a positive thing for me, and I also feel a debt of gratitude to my readers. You're the ones who bought my books and got the ball rolling on Amazon, and you're the ones who signed up for coaching and live events. I still benefit from those things today, so I feel like I should keep writing.

On the other hand, I no longer feel like I'm bursting at the seams with things to write. When I wrote 730 posts in two years I felt like I really got burnt out on coming up with post ideas. These days I feel like I sometimes rehash the same concepts over and over again, but then people write me and tell me they had an impact, so I think maybe that's ok. I've thought about taking a year off just to see what it feels like and to see if I recharge. I can't decide whether not having as many new ideas is a sign that I've settled on a winning formula or that I've stopped growing. Maybe it's the same thing.

I used to ask people to fill out a survey every year, but I stopped doing it ten years ago. I took the results very seriously and made big changes to the blog (even changing the name once), and it helped me understand my readers better.

I'd like to ask you to help me out by filling out a survey. Most of the questions are optional, but please help me by filling out as many as you can. I rarely fill out surveys because I don't care about being a tiny voice in a crowd, but I promise you my survey isn't like that. I read each one at least once and really try to take the answers to heart to understand you better.

Please answer the survey here!

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Photo is the chair lift at Lee Canyon. Did you know you can ski in Vegas?

I accidentally upgraded to PHP 8.0 on my server and it messed up Sett and a bunch of it's dependencies. If you haven't been getting notifications, that's why (and if you didn't get one on this post but were expecting to, please let me know)

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Sat, 27 Feb 2021 21:54:21 -0800 http://tynan.com/fifteen
Crafting Your Identity http://tynan.com/yourid One of the best things about the rise of technology is that it has enabled us to connect with people all over the world. I thought about this today when I randomly came across an "over 50 makeup" YouTube personality who was talking about Superhuman by Habit. She was talk]]>

One of the best things about the rise of technology is that it has enabled us to connect with people all over the world. I thought about this today when I randomly came across an "over 50 makeup" YouTube personality who was talking about Superhuman by Habit. She was talking about some specific habits that had helped her, and I felt good about myself for being able to impact someone. How interesting to be able to benefit each other across the internet.

It's also interesting that we have specific identities to each other. To her I'm "the habit guy" and to me she's "the 50+ makeup lady". Hopefully there's a lot more to each of us than that, but the internet has made it so that we come across so many different people that we are forced to distill people down to an identity.

To some extent, I think these identities have always been there, but they've been internal. In high school I thought of myself as a slacker who did crazy things. If someone suggested doing a crazy thing, like climbing a construction crane or jumping on a moving train, I would go do it. I liked doing those things, but I also felt some sort of obligation to my identity. People liked me for who I was, so on some subconscious level I wanted to reaffirm that identity.

This was also true of negative habits like slacking off. Even if I had time to do some homework and really didn't mind doing it, I might be more likely to put it off and try to do it in the morning before class, because that's who I was.

One of my identities was someone who was shy and bad with girls. When I learned pickup and, over the course of a couple years, shifted my identity to being someone who was good with girls, two things changed.

First, I realized that identity was malleable. If I could go from being so bad to so good at something that felt like a core attribute of who I was, I could probably do that with anything.

Second, people just updated their map of my identity. Once I tried to show off for some friends to walk up to a random girl and get her number, in hopes that it would inspire them to also learn about pickup. I overheard one say to the other, "Well yeah, but he's always been good with girls." Nothing could have been further from the truth, of course, but it was interesting to see how quickly I could be redefined.

The point is, we treat identity as a boundary, when really it's just an ephemeral summary.

It matters somewhat how others think of us, but it matters far more how we think of ourselves. It's so common to see someone who lets a negative identity hold them back. They're a loser, or poor, or lazy, or flaky, or a liar. No one wants to be those things, but it's comfortable to live up to your identity, and most people's actions are dictated more by comfort than desire.

How do you want to think of yourself? How would you like others to see you?

Really think about it. As you do, you'll probably find your mind shooting down ideas. You'll think, "I want people to think of me as funny", and your brain will say "but you're not." Push through that and allow yourself to be honest about how you want to be seen.

Think about how people see you now. Some people will have trouble being honest with themselves here, either because they'll put themselves down or because they're too blind to their weak points. Sometimes it's easier to think about how you would see a clone of yourself.

I have a fundamental belief that others will always see you for who you are. You can try to hide it and can limit interactions to the superficial to prevent them from figuring you out, but I think these efforts usually fail, especially with time. Because of this you must actually become who you want to be seen as, and you should advertise accurately (i.e. don't try to pretend you're someone that you're not).

Identify the gap between how you want to be seen and who you actually are, and work on closing that gap. If you used to procrastinate like I did, update your identity to "someone who is working on overcoming procrastination". It's honest, but it's also useful, unlike "someone who procrastinates". Don't try to fix everything at once, just pick one or two things and get them to where you want them to be.

Catch yourself when you say things that reinforce a bad identity. If someone says, "I'm always late", I know they are not going to change. Subtle things like blaming things on "the rich" are also bad, because they reinforce your identity as someone who is poor. Identity is just a construction of language, so we can't allow ourselves to use language to cling to bad identities.

I will literally never say anything bad about myself that is forward-looking. I don't mind saying, "Wow, I really messed that up. I'm totally responsible and should have known better.", but I will never say, "I'm such a loser. I always mess stuff up." Our brain, which controls most of our actions through the subconscious, is programmed by our thoughts and speech.

Don't choose a one-size-fits-all template of an identity. Don't be "a gamer" or "a stoner" or "an entrepreneur". Those are boring and limiting. Make up your own identity that is true to who you are and how you want to live. It should be a little bit difficult to describe yourself, because no individual can honestly be categorized easily, but it should not be impossible, because you should know who you are.

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Photo is a helicopter we saw on Lake Mead. I think it was some sort of military exercise.

For the first time in years today I had the thought, "maybe I've written everything I have to write and I should stop blogging." Then I thought about the people who prepaid a year of Patreon and felt like I couldn't quit!

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Sun, 21 Feb 2021 14:21:07 -0800 http://tynan.com/yourid
Why I Didn't Buy a Tesla http://tynan.com/bmw My Bentley was delivered back to me recently. It came in a tow truck and the trim was removed from the dash and piled up in the trunk along with half of the trim of some random Mercedes. Half of the windows were stuck down and the dashboard lights looked like a disco whe]]>

My Bentley was delivered back to me recently. It came in a tow truck and the trim was removed from the dash and piled up in the trunk along with half of the trim of some random Mercedes. Half of the windows were stuck down and the dashboard lights looked like a disco when I turned the key. The company that repaired (and frankly did an amazing job) of the bodywork managed to get the alarm out of sync and took the whole thing apart trying to fix it. They then went bankrupt and shipped the car back to me. It's so sad to see the car in this condition that I no longer care about getting it working and will just sell it for parts or as a project.

I have a 15 year old minivan, but in the Bentley's absence I found myself driving my wife's Nissan more than the van, just because it gets better gas mileage and is newer and nicer. Upon realizing that I'd never drive the Bentley again, I decided to get another car.

At this point probably 90% of the people I know would only consider buying a Tesla. And to give credit where it's due, Teslas are truly incredible cars. They're very fast and fun to drive and they have excellent range. They also have the best charger network (though any EV can easily use those chargers too). I think Elon is a genius and I think it's pretty obvious that electric cars in general would be a decade behind if it weren't for him.

That said, I think Teslas are massively overhyped and (partially as a result) a poor value unless you really need the range (or really need to go 0-60 in 2 seconds). For most people's use cases there are much better values. For example, if you care about range, you can get a 2017 Chevy Bolt which gets ~240 miles on a charge for $13k.

Vegas is such a convenient place to live that most drives here are short. Most restaurants I go to are about 10 minutes away, with my furthest usual trips being 20 minutes away. Lake Mead is about 30 miles away, and that's the farthest destination I go to regularly. My interest in going fast or accelerating quickly is about zero. In the past year I drove a Ludicrous Mode Tesla and a Lamborghini. I floored both of them, each put a huge smile on my face, and 5 minutes later I'd had my fill.

I'll admit, though, I do like having a nice interior. That's what I loved about the Bentley-- everything was soft top quality leather or hand finished wood. I looked at the Nissan Leaf, which is an incredibly value, but really didn't like the interior. The Chevy Bolt was better, and had great range, so I considered it. Then I saw the BMW i3 and the Mercedes b250e.

The b250e was a pretty basic Mercedes outfitted with a good EV system, and it was the frontrunner for a while. I've had three Mercedes before and loved them, and never really liked the BMW equivalents as much. But then I learned more about the i3 and it was a pretty easy decision.

The i3 looks unlike any car I've ever seen. It's not beautiful like the Bentley or sleek like a Tesla, but I like the look. Even the 2014 model (the one I ended up getting), looks like it's a concept car from the future. It isn't just for show, though. The BMW engineers said that since they weren't building a normal combustion car, they decided to start from the ground up rather than try to make it look like one.

The chassis is carbon fiber. The front wheels are tall but narrow. The rear doors open backwards and there's solid glass in the back. All but one of the colorways are two-tone. The car lights up blue when you unlock it, but the lights fade to white when you open the door. It just feels like it's from the future.

More impressive are the stats, though. They come in 22kw and 33kw models (and newer ~42kw). Mine is a 22kw model, which gets me about 65-70 miles of range. Because the car is so light, it actually gets the best range per kWh of any EV, so the running cost is extremely inexpensive. However, mine is a "Range Extender", which means that it has a trick up its sleeve. Under the trunk in the rear is a tiny engine that acts like a generator. If the battery gets too low it whirs to life and its little 2.4 gallon gas tank can keep the car charged for an extra 80+ miles.

How cool is that? I can drive this thing and never worry about the battery because it has a built in generator.

I also love the interior. There are a few options, but mine is the "Giga" trim. The seats are made of a blend of wool and recycled plastic bottles with leather accents. The dashboard is a giant slab of eucalyptus wood. There's a small screen that serves a dashboard and then a bigger 10" screen in the middle for media and maps. I find the Tesla touchscreen interface to be really annoying while driving (though maybe you get used to it), but the BMW controls are pretty good and I like that climate control and presets are plastic buttons (speaking of presets, the presets can be radio stations, or literally any option or screen in the car!). The remote control features aren't as good as Tesla, but you can lock / unlock / set climate control / etc.

It has adaptive cruise, which is a primitive version of AutoPilot. It just starts and stops based on the car in front of you. I actually prefer this, though, as my experiences with AutoPilot were really terrifying. It worked like magic for most of the time, and then once tried to exit where there wasn't an exit, and twice tried to drive straight through a turn lane. The BMW can also parallel park by itself and you can install a ~$150 module to enable it to stay in a lane while following the car in front of you.

Best of all? My 2014 BMW i3 with every option (besides the cool sunroof!) only cost $13.5k. It has enough range for 95% of the trips I take, and the little backup engine will kick in for the remaining few. If I really need to take it to some remote place with no EV charging, I can still run on gas (albeit with annoying stops every 60-90 minutes).

Two points here, first the BMW i3 is probably a better car than you think it is (if you've ever thought about it at all), and second that like so many other things, the mainstream most hyped option is often good, but never the best for each individual. It's cool that we live in a world with so many different choices that we can find the perfect thing for each of us if we just do a little bit of research.

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Photo is my car!

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Sun, 14 Feb 2021 11:29:12 -0800 http://tynan.com/bmw
Making Space http://tynan.com/space Most people who come to me for advice are either working too hard or not hard enough. The latter group knows that there's a problem and want to fix it, but the former group always come under the guise of wanting to work on something else. No one, except maybe your family]]>

Most people who come to me for advice are either working too hard or not hard enough. The latter group knows that there's a problem and want to fix it, but the former group always come under the guise of wanting to work on something else. No one, except maybe your family, will criticize you for working too hard, so it's not obvious that it's a problem.

I've gone through both phases in my life. Most of my twenties was spent working not nearly hard enough, and about half of my thirties was spent working too hard, so I've seen the pros and cons of each. Those pros and cons interact with different times in our lives in different ways, so there are times when it's appropriate to work "too hard", and other times when it's appropriate to barely work at all.

Hard workers are often driven by the metric of "what percentage of my time is being spent working?" and strive for 100%. This often leads to burnout, a very narrow area of expertise and experience, and poor results relative to time invested. I noticed some of this when I was working on Sett. I eventually got burnt out, but the biggest thing I noticed was that my prodigious output of work didn't always result in better results. Sometimes I spent a month or two working feverishly on a feature that ended up being useless.

If I had really stopped to think about what I was doing and why I was doing it, I may have realized that what I was working on didn't matter and could have saved weeks of time. I had no time to stop and think, though, as all I thought about were my tasks. Once I finished a task my goal was to start another one as soon as possible.

My biggest sources of inspiration come from three places. The first is my friends. Often a conversation with a friend will spark some idea that I could not have thought of by myself. The second is through random research. Random research is a very high variance activity, because you never know what will be useful and what won't be. I spent an hour or two researching how heat pumps work because I only recently understood what they were. Will that ever translate into a big gain in my life? Probably not, but I would have also said that when I first started researching cruises, which eventually led to starting a cruise agency. The last source is just idle time when I begin to feel the first inklings of boredom and begin to let my mind wander.

Some people have too much of this sort of time, of course, which is why one must also have a honed work ethic and time to turn ideas into reality. Others have none of this sort of time and they miss out.

As a general rule, if you're the sort of person who maps out a routine for your life, I think it's good to have about an hour of space in the day where you have nothing planned. Sometimes you'll have important tasks that spill over into this space, and that's ok -- a buffer is a good thing. If that happens every day, though, you probably don't really have space.

During that time you shouldn't watch TV or play video games, but you shouldn't otherwise have a very high bar for how to use the time. You can sit around and let your mind wander, take a walk, tinker with something that doesn't seem very important, or go down wikipedia rabbit-holes to learn about new things. Think about things that mystify you or things that you wish were another way.

Most of the time you'll think through and idea and realize it's not worth pursuing, or you'll learn some trivial amount about something useless and never learn any more about it. These results are valuable by themselves because they let you close that door and not think about it anymore. One rare occasions, though, you'll find something meaningful that will have a huge impact and justify all of the other time spent.

Make sure that you have some space in your life for exploration and curiosity. It will help you understand life better, get more out of it, and focus your productive efforts on things that matter.

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Photo is a mob of ducks on Lake Mead. The weather is finally good for boating again (I would have never bought a boat if I didn't have idle time to learn about boats and the lake)

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Sun, 07 Feb 2021 15:06:40 -0800 http://tynan.com/space
Why I Love Buying Properties With Friends http://tynan.com/hilowithfriends When I talk about buying properties with friends (we've bought an island, a flat in Budapest, an apartment in Tokyo, and an apartment in Hawaii), some people get it immediately. Others don't get the point, quickly do the math and realize that they'd save money and hassle]]>

When I talk about buying properties with friends (we've bought an island, a flat in Budapest, an apartment in Tokyo, and an apartment in Hawaii), some people get it immediately. Others don't get the point, quickly do the math and realize that they'd save money and hassle if they just stuck with Airbnbs. It's hard to rebut that argument, because most of the benefits are hard to explain unless you've experienced them. But as I sit here in Honolulu Airport on my way back from a trip to Hilo, I think I can use this trip as an example to illustrate why it's worth buying properties with your friends.

First, the decision to do a trip at all was much easier. The three of us that went on the trip all own the property together, so it makes Hilo an obvious place to visit. There are also no logisticts to worry about. We can come or go on any days we want, don't have to check in or meet someone to get keys, and have our minivan parked out front. Imagine if we wanted to go to Maui. We'd need to rent cars, choose an airbnb, and all go on the same days because no one wants to pay for an Airbnb by themselves if others leave early.

And, of course, the marginal cost was totally insignificant. We had to buy plane tickets (or use miles, more realistically), but we had no lodging or car rental costs. Because of this we can go on trips whenever we want, so we tend to travel together much more often. Before owning a place in Hawaii I visited once every few years. Now I go once every few months, almost always with at least one of the other owners.

Once we arrived in the apartment, everything was just as we left it. I changed into my linen Hawaiian shirt and board shorts, both of which sit in a plastic bin under one of the beds. I took out my set of sheets and made up one of the beds. Unlike an unfamiliar apartment or AirBnb, I feel like I'm home.

The next day we went and had poke at Poke Market, which I think may literally be the best poke in the world. We eat lunch there every single day, so we know the owner and all of the employees. We chat with them for a while and catch up on the latest Hilo news. Even though we don't live there full time, we're regulars and have made friends all around the city. When we leave people don't ask when we're coming back, they ask how long we're leaving for. Besides getting to see friendly faces immediately, we don't have to waste any time figuring out where to eat. We still try new restaurants all the time, but we have our default routine.

After Poke Market we go get shave ice at Kula Shave Ice, which is one of the best shave ice places in the world. They have lots of employees so we don't know them all, but we've become friends with the owner. I ask her about some sesame oreo ice cream she had on her instagram a few months ago and she says she'll try to make some before we leave. From Kula it's a two minute walk to Nautilus Dive Shop, a really cool mom and pop dive shop. I actually learned to scuba dive there 20 years ago. We ask about the conditions and get some advice on when to dive. They found a GoPro underwater, so they give it to me to charge for them to see if they can look through the pictures to figure out whose it is.

We end up not diving that day, but instead dive a few days later. We have three sets of scuba gear in a closet, so we don't have to pay to rent anything except for an air tank. We just load our plastic bins into the van and head to the beach. Sometimes it's amazing and we see really cool stuff, other times it's just a relaxing hour underwater with the usual fish and sea life. But for $8 and no hassle, we may as well go whenever we want. I brought a diving compass this trip so we explore a few hundred feet beyond our usual underwater landmarks. If we were renting and going on vacation, we would have to rent all of the gear and go with a diving company. If we didn't see amazing fish we might feel like it was a waste of money.

In the afternoons we might go for a little hike or something, but we're also happy to just stay at the apartment. It's equipped pretty well for us to work, and because we know we'll be back dozens or maybe hundreds of times in our lives, there's no pressure to be doing tourist stuff all the time. Some days we just sit around and drink tea and chat, taking breaks to play VR together.

We also spent a good day or so improving the apartment. Our living room use to be pretty spartan and had one awful light mounted to a noisy old ceiling fan. We replaced the ceiling fan, got end tables and lamps, some decorative pillows, and a couple poufs for extra seating. Now the living room feels great and I noticed that we congregated and spent more time there than usual trips. It was fun to permanently improve our apartment and was very inexpensive for all of us because we shared the cost six ways. I also got really bad allergies at the apartment so I got a HEPA filter and started running it. I was skeptical, but it solved my allergies completely! I don't think I could count on an Airbnb to have an air filter.

I left tonight, but one friend is leaving tomorrow and another friend is staying for almost an extra week. It's impossible (or at least expensive) to have that kind of flexibility if it's not your own place.

Even leaving is easier. I just put my stuff back in my little bin and lock the door behind me. If this was a once-in-a-lifetime Hawaii trip, maybe I'd be sad that I was leaving or be disappointed that I didn't pack every single day full. Instead I just feel grateful for my trip and look forward to doing even more next time.

I hope this post gives a glimpse into why it's so great to own properties with your friends. You can't just do the math and decide that AirBnB is a little bit cheaper and easier. Those things are true, but it's such a different and better way to spend time in different places that there's really no comparison.

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By the way, people always ask me to write a book on how to buy properties with friends. I doubt I'll write a book, but I think I will do a YouTube Live and talk about it and answer questions. If that's something you're interested in, let me know.

I did a podcast interview that was just released a couple days ago. Check it out!

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Sun, 31 Jan 2021 12:14:35 -0800 http://tynan.com/hilowithfriends
DIY Home Projects Can Be Easy http://tynan.com/diy When I was a kid and something needed to be repaired or built, my father did it. He plumbed things, ran new lights and wires, built new walls, and even built new additions to our houses. Because everything you see as a child seems normal, this all seemed normal to me. It]]>

When I was a kid and something needed to be repaired or built, my father did it. He plumbed things, ran new lights and wires, built new walls, and even built new additions to our houses. Because everything you see as a child seems normal, this all seemed normal to me. It was just one of the jobs that dads had, along with teaching you to ride a bike and driving you to the museum every weekend.

It didn't occur to me that everyone didn't do things like this until one of my roommates hired a handyman to hang a single picture frame. My father was a carpenter and handyman, so like when you copy a copy in a xerox machine, I was a worse handyman. Now that we have a new old house and there are almost unlimited projects ahead of me, I think a lot about how lucky I am to have a father who taught me this stuff.

As I see others approach similar projects, I realize that although there is a skill gap, there are also some gaps in perception. Understanding a few things about construction and doing projects can make you feel much more comfortable and willing to try by yourself.

1. Almost anything can be fixed easily and cheaply, so you don't have to worry too much about messing things up. I recently wanted to see what was in the crawl space above the ceiling and there were no hatches, so I just cut a hole in the wall of a closet and peeked through. Once I saw that there was enough room for me to crawl around up there I expanded the hole to be just barely big enough for me to squeeze through. I don't mind doing this because I know that the small hole would be trivially easy to repair, and even a big one isn't all that hard.

2. Most mass-market construction jobs (i.e. not detailed finishwork) are intended to be as easy and standardized as humanly possible. Construction is so ubiquitous that everything has been made ultra-efficient. I learned this mostly when we built a loft in the yurt on the island. Building such a large structured seemed complicated, but it turned out to be very fast, easy, and cheap, because that's what the market demands. We didn't do it perfectly, but we weren't that far off either. So when you're thinking about tackling a job remember that there's a huge industry that has tried to make it so that any unskilled laborer could do the job. A friend and I recently resurfaced a bath tub, something neither of us had done, but he has a similar upbringing and attitude, so we just followed the steps and knocked it out in a few hours.

3. Only the outer layer has to really be good. If you go to Home Depot or Lowes and buy 2x4s (a standard size width and height of wood), you'll notice that none of them are straight. They're all warped, cupped, and twisted to various degrees. But once they're put together and finishing layers are put on top, they make pretty straight walls. The point is that you can mess up a lot of stuff and be inaccurate and stuff will still come out pretty well. When I redid my old bathroom I tore out all the old stuff, framed in the new tub, but then hired someone to do the finish work because I didn't think I'd be able to do a great job.

4. Materials are usually cheap. An 8 foot long 2x4 might only be about $6-7. So generally you can just try to build something and if it comes out terribly you haven't wasted a lot of money. Some materials like granite or nice tiles can be expensive, but most of the cost of construction is usually the labor. That means that you can save yourself serious money by doing things yourself, and that if you try and fail you probably haven't lost much money.

5. Youtube knows everything. There are so many good videos of carpenters and other tradesman doing things that you can figure just about anything out. Very often the task is much easier than it seems like it would be, and seeing someone explain it and go through the steps gives you the confidence you need to tackle the project.

6. Electricity is the easiest. Most basic plumbing is super easy. Electricity and plumbing seem scary, but in my experience they're actually some of the easiest projects. If you turn off the breakers and use a non-contact electricity sensor, you can be very confident you're not going to be electrocuted. Replacing lights, fans, outlets, or anything like that is simple. Once my 16 year old cousin visited and I taught her how to replace light fixtures so that she could help me. Plumbing is a little bit more complicated, but only because there are a few different standards for fittings. If you bring the old pieces into Home Depot and tell them what you're trying to do, they'll give you the correct ones. Connecting them is easy, but just make sure to check for leaks and check again after some more time.

Generally speaking, you can probably do most household handyman tasks by yourself. They may not come out as well as a professional could do them (and, honestly, it's amazing to see how good pros are), but sometimes it doesn't matter. We wouldn't have paid the $1000-2000 it would have cost to repair our shower, but the $150 + our labor was a no brainer. Other times, like in replacing fixtures, you'll do it just as well as a pro. Don't be afraid to try, even if you have no experience, as you probably can't mess it up beyond repair. Besides saving money, and often time, it's very rewarding to be competent enough to fix your own home and to make improvements to it as you wish.

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Photo is me pushing through into the attic in my pajamas.

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Sun, 24 Jan 2021 17:23:53 -0800 http://tynan.com/diy
How to Stick to a Project http://tynan.com/stick I like writing about things that I used to be terrible at but am now good at, because I can be sure that those things could be learned by anyone. In the past I was unable to stick to anything. I went through various phases of convincing myself it didn't matter and accept]]>

I like writing about things that I used to be terrible at but am now good at, because I can be sure that those things could be learned by anyone. In the past I was unable to stick to anything. I went through various phases of convincing myself it didn't matter and accepting that I would probably never be able to stick to anything because it wasn't "who I am".

In particular I had a very tough time sticking with projects. I would start one project, get bored or frustrated or distracted, and switch to a different one. I was only able to change my behavior when I had a few key realizations:

1. If you always switch projects, you will never finish a project, and thus never receive the rewards of that project. This is incredibly obvious, but never comes to mind when we're thinking about giving up on a project. This doesn't mean that it's always best to stick with every project, but it does mean that you have to have some ability to finish a project.

2. When I want to quit a project, it's usually because I've experienced most of the downsides and none of the upsides. If I'm halfway through a programming project I've done a lot of work, have probably experienced a bunch of frustration, still have some outstanding issues to deal with, and haven't made a single customer happy or received a single penny. It's important to recognize that this is exactly the wrong position from which you should make a decision.

You must also realize that you are comparing apples to oranges. We never know all of the obstacles or downsides of a new project, so we are comparing reality with fantasy. That's not a fair comparison.

3. Completing one project makes it more likely that you can complete another project. Quitting early makes it more likely that you'll quit likely next time. For that reason, we should bias ourselves towards completion, all other things being equal.

Once I had these three realizations I began to stick to things. My simple rule was that I finish what I start, no matter what. This sounds simple, but it has some big implications.

Most important, it means that I have to be very careful about what I start and that I need to know where my stopping point is. If I know that I will finish everything I start, I am much more diligent about making sure it's a good idea and I think more about what might be difficult or unpleasant about the project.

The stopping point that I choose isn't a final destination, but rather a waypoint where I get to decide whether to keep going or not. I always tie it to a time where I will have received some benefit for my efforts and can see the beginnings of real success. For example, if I were to start a business, I would say that I can stop once I get ten customers. That means that I have to do the work of building the product and sharing it with other people, but if I start receiving that success and don't think that it's the best thing for me to do, I can still quit.

For a long time, I considered my primary identity to be an "executor". Not the guys who work the gallows, but someone who just got things done. I looked for evidence that I was an executor, like getting a lot of tasks done in a day, and when I fell short of that level I reminded myself that I was an executor, so I should just keep executing. It's easy (and seductive) to get attached to an identity of a dilettante, but it's better to think of yourself as someone who sees things through to the end, and to try your best to live up to that identity.

Last, think about people you admire who had the kind of success that you'd like to have. How many of them chose projects and saw them through to the end? How many of them hopped from project to project, giving up when they faced resistance? I always find it hard to think of even one person who is the former.

Having the ability to stick to one thing and see it through to the end is a valuable, and maybe even necessary, skill for reaching your goals. First understand and convince yourself why it is important to see things through to the end, understand the pitfalls that will lay in your path, and adopt the identity of someone who sticks to things.

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Photo is some crazy pelicans we saw in Cabo.

I did a live YouTube "office hours" with my friend Noah Kagan. It was so much fun. Should I do one for my readers too?

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Sun, 17 Jan 2021 17:40:19 -0800 http://tynan.com/stick
Ingenuity vs Money http://tynan.com/ingenuity My very first "business" was buying and selling used Palm Pilots and Apple Newtons. I would negotiate back and forth over the smallest increments of money, both on the buying and selling side. When I first started, my inventory was one Apple Newton, so it was important t]]>

My very first "business" was buying and selling used Palm Pilots and Apple Newtons. I would negotiate back and forth over the smallest increments of money, both on the buying and selling side. When I first started, my inventory was one Apple Newton, so it was important that I get the best price possible.

After making a little bit of money buying and selling these things I had some savings and could start buying things for myself. As you might imagine, I used the same principles in buying those things and still tried to save the most amount of money possible.

I started all this in high school and college, and a lot of my peers were frugal, though often in different ways. I noticed that most frugal people care about absolute price rather than value, whereas I only ever cared about value.

As I grew up, though, I noticed that most of my peers stopped being frugal entirely. Frugality was a response to not having enough money, not to wanting money to buy them more utility. Once they had enough money to buy things, the frugality switch turned off.

To some degree, that makes sense. I used to scour the internet to save a few dollars on a purchase, but now I'll just buy most inexpensive things on Amazon.

On the other hand, I still apply some ingenuity to all big purchases. I've never bought any car that was newer than 15 years old (except for a shared van in Hawaii that was 10 years old). I've split 4 different properties across the world with 6-10 friends each, but besides splitting the cost I did a ton of research on each one to find incredible deals. The average purchase price per property across our island and apartments in Vegas, Tokyo, Hawaii, and Budapest was around $75k (not per person, total).

Those are some of the biggest purchases, but I also do this for medium level purchases. When we bought solar panels for our house I got on the phone with all of the well-rated shops in town and negotiated the price. The price we paid to have our floors redone was 1/2 of the first quote I got. I wanted a solid wood door so I watched Craigslist until I found an awesome one for $80, instead of paying the $500-1000 a good solid wood door would cost at home depot. I waited to find the exact hot tub I wanted on OfferUp and got it for $500 vs $3000.

If you're thinking, "yeah, but the whole reason I make money is so that I don't have to save a few bucks here and there", you're totally missing the point. Frugality when you have money isn't intended to make ends meet, it's to multiply what your money can do for you.

If you develop the habit of trying to maximize the value you get for your money (above a certain threshold), you can have an incredibly luxurious life for less money than most people spend for a very average lifestyle. Or you can have an average lifestyle but save enough money that you can retire decades earlier.

How do you actually do this? The first is to think about purchases in terms of value. How much better is a new car than a car that's 10 years old? It's better, sure, but is it 3x better? If it's not, then why buy it? Is it worth 10x the real estate prices and an extra income tax to live in California? If you can make 10X the money there than it probably is, but if you make the same money elsewhere, it may not be.

Next, be willing to put a little bit of time and effort into finding deals. The effort should be proportional to the value you will get out of it. The value of owning a private island was, to me, almost infinite, so I looked at every single island for sale within my price range. If I'm going to buy a pool pump and can save a maximum of $200, maybe I'll put in 15-20 minutes.

At first finding deals feels like a hassle, but once you get good at it, just like most things, it becomes fun. I actually have to stop myself from going down rabbit holes to save small amounts of money because I enjoy it so much.

Many people follow the fallacy of "I make $X/hr at work, so anything that saves me less than that isn't worth it". While it's true that you shouldn't take an hour off of work to save half your hourly wage, that's usually not the trade-off. Most of us have some underutilized time that could be spent saving money and dramatically increasing our lifestyles. For me the trade-off is more like, "Is it worth looking for deals or researching a big purchase instead of reading Reddit or Hacker News?"

Any time you're making a big purchase, think about its value and what you could do to either increase its value for the same price or to lower the price you have to pay. Take pride in being frugal not because you have to be, but because it enables you to live a better life with less stress.

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I just got back from Cabo, Mexico, where we got to go whale watching. This is the closest I've ever been to a whale and it was really cool.

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Sun, 10 Jan 2021 11:27:39 -0800 http://tynan.com/ingenuity
Sayonara 2020 http://tynan.com/sayonara-2020 I know many people are cursing 2020 and are glad that it's over, but the older I get the more I realize that any time is good time, and that what we do with what we're given is more important than what we are given. So I'll just come out and say it: 2020 was an amazing y]]>

I know many people are cursing 2020 and are glad that it's over, but the older I get the more I realize that any time is good time, and that what we do with what we're given is more important than what we are given. So I'll just come out and say it: 2020 was an amazing year, and while it was obviously significantly worse in many ways, it was still overall the best year of my life.

Last year I wrote that it felt like such a dense year, with almost every day being packed and accounted for. This year was mostly the opposite, with long stretches of empty time with not only nothing to do, but very little I could do.

While I wouldn't want every year to be this way, it was really refreshing to have such a big change and to take on the challenge of adapting to it.

As usual, here are the highlights of my year:

Japan Apartment Completes The Empire

As you may already know, I buy properties with my friends to use as home bases around the world. I knew for years that Japan would be the last feather in the cap, but it was by far the most challenging one to find.

The main issue is that there is no one obvious best area of Tokyo, and you have to really sort by commute time to places you like to go, which ends up being a tedious process.

We ended up getting a tiny but awesome little apartment in Nakano. It's really a best-case scenario of amazing location, great views, and a nice adaptable space. I visited it once to get the keys and once again as the last trip I got to take before COVID forced a lockdown.

Besides the excitement of having a cool place to stay in Tokyo forever, it feels great to close the chapter on looking for properties to buy.

Tea Ceremony

(Todd doing tea ceremony in Hilo pre-covid)

I made a lot of progress in tea ceremony classes and while I am still a beginner in absolute terms, I do feel like I'm starting to "get it". It's the sort of thing where I'm sure you look back every year and can't believe the dumb mistakes you were making back then.

It's been fun to dig deeper into an esoteric topic with no practical value other than the learning and practice itself. It feels a little bit like social meditation where you get to drink delicious tea.

One Cruise

(me at the Louvre)

I had at least five cruises planned this year and only got to do one. But... it was still an awesome cruise through the Middle East on one of my favorite ships (Jewel of the Seas). I scuba dove in Oman, visited the Louvre in Dubai, and ate a record 16 lobster tails in one sitting. I also remember doing a ton of work, but I can't remember exactly what I worked on.

The cruise was intended to be one of many, but managing to do one cruise before COVID struck now feels like such a treat. I think there's a decent chance I won't get to cruise at all during 2021, though I hope I'm wrong.

3D Printing

(I designed and 3D printed a lit for this chaire, a tea container used in tea ceremony)

I had always wanted to buy a 3D printer and learn how to use it, and COVID gave me a perfect opportunity. The technology isn't quite mainstream yet, but it feels completely magical to imagine an object and then be able to make it real within an hour or two. I go through phases, but very routinely use it make little jigs and parts for different projects. Last week I wanted some hooks to hang robes near the hot tub, so I just printed a couple out and they were ready before I went for a soak.

Health + Fitness

My general rule is that I'm 100% strict when I'm home and eat what I want, within reason, while traveling. Well... I'd been doing a lot of traveling. The heaviest I allow myself to get is 165, and that's where I was when I began to quarantine. For most of quarantine (until I moved) I hit a really strict diet and workout regimine and got down to 150lb and 13.5% body fat from 165 and 17%. 150 is the lowest I like to be, so I'll be ready for some buffets once I can cruise again.

I don't really care much where I am between 150-165, but I really enjoyed turning on the discipline and seeing the results.

I also bought a sauna and hot tub off craigslist and have probably done one or both of them about 50% of the nights I'm in Vegas. I'm skeptical of the health benefit claims, but maybe there's something to it.

Coaching

As I was thinking about what I really enjoyed this year, coaching came to mind. I always enjoy it, but I think it was extra enjoyable this year since it was so easy to schedule. A bunch of my clients had huge wins and breakthroughs and it has been a lot of fun to be part of that journey.

The biggest challenge was that many people want to work on social group stuff and I don't feel like we were able to get the kind of results we could have gotten without a lockdown.

Clearing Backlog (email spam, moved sett, etc)

I had a HUGE amount of random tasks, mostly tech stuff, that I was deferring because it was never urgent enough. A perfect example is moving the Sett server to my own server from AWS. It only took a few days, but it was a few days of complete focus and dealing with dozens of unexpected roadblocks. I had been dreading this for years and just kept putting it off because the extra $100 a month charge didn't matter that much and I had more interesting work to do.

After doing it I realized that I had wasted almost $10k on these charges!

That was the worst example, but there were a lot of other little ones like moving newsletters in-house, writing some analytics software for my services, cleaning up a bunch of cruisesheet stuff, fixing my spam filter, etc. Now all of these things are done and while the impacts are relatively minor, they add up and I feel great having no deferred maintenance.

Investment

For the first time ever I understood the point of building a portfolio and investing.

I won't rehash it all here, but I feel like my understanding of personal finance is finally complete and my system for managing my finances is exponentially better than in previous years. Most of the satisfaction here is in finally understanding how everything fits together, not so much that I think I'm going to have wildly different results.

VR

In a non pandemic year I don't think VR would make the list, but it ended up being a surprisingly satisfying way to connect with friends. Even though I was at home the whole time, I feel like I've been in all sorts of virtual worlds, mini golf courses, and escape games with my friends. The technology has now gotten to the point where experiencing VR is accessible and worth it for most people.

I can't remember the last time I played a game, but I've played almost 700 games of Population: One, almost all of them with two friends on my team. The game looked so stupid to me, but it ended up being really interesting and a great way to spend an hour chatting with friends, flying around with them, and trying to strategize against other teams. I suspect that once I can travel and see my friends in real life I'll play a lot less, but for now I really enjoy the time spent in VR.

Vegas / Moving

My only actual stated goal last year was to spend more time in Vegas. I'm not sure I had this much time in mind, but I certainly got my Vegas time in. I used to say that if I had to live in only one city and never travel I wouldn't choose Vegas, but I think at this point I probably would. We've found even more to love about the city, and I appreciate it's strengths even more than I did before.

The one weakness in my Vegas life which COVID exposed was the lack of outdoor space at home. At one point Lake Mead was closed, Red Rock was closed, and the ski mountain, Lee Canyon, was closed. Those are my three go-tos for outdoor recreation in Vegas and I started to feel pretty confined being in an apartment all day. We even looked up a random hike to do off a highway somewhere and it, too, was closed.

Our new house has a pool, a big patio, and a good sized yard, tons of big windows, and it makes a huge difference. I love having some space to just walk around, hear birds, and get some fresh air.

The house also has hundreds of unfinished projects (this week I'm setting up a hardcore video camera system, refinishing and installing a cool old wooden door, and building a mount for the projector screen). I had run out of projects to do at our apartments, so it's nice to work with my hands again.

As you might guess from my history with properties, another couple of friends have already bought a house down the street and at least one other friend is actively searching. It's nice to have the space and facilities to have each other over to cook meals, swim, sauna / hot tub, or just drink tea for hours.

A Big Secret Project

Early in quarantine I grabbed the bull by the horns and started a big secret project that had been sitting on my todo list forever because I just wanted it to exist. Unfortunately I got to about 95% by the time we bought the house, and have made no progress since then. The main problem is that I do projects because I want to use them, not so much because I want to make money, and it's now useful enough for me to use but not polished enough to sell.

I generally force myself to finish what I start, and I already have another project I want to do, so I think I'll finish this one within some number of months.

Next Year

It's hard to set goals for 2021 because so much of the year will be dictated by circumstance, but next year I want to...

...get the house fully remodeled and set up, which I think will happen no matter what.

...do more Superhuman events and will plan them as soon as it seems responsible to do so.

...launch the secret project and announce the next one as well (it's catered towards blog readers, so I'll make sure there's enough interest)

...make up for lost time and spend more time with friends and family I wasn't able to see this year.

I don't have a lot of goals these days because I am completely happy with my life and don't really need anything else. Most of the things that I hope for are good things I want to happen to other people in my life.

I hope that you had the best year you possibly could in 2020 and that 2021 is even better. More than most years I think it will be interesting to look back on this post next year. If you want to send me your yearly summary and goals, my email is my name at my name dot com. I'll read them all and try to reply!

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Top photo is part of the tea room at Yakumo Saryo in Tokyo. It's one of my top 3 tea houses in the world.

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Sat, 02 Jan 2021 14:52:22 -0800 http://tynan.com/sayonara-2020
Four Difficulty Levels of Life http://tynan.com/difficulty There are several different difficulty levels on which you can live your life. They are ascendingly difficult, though the difficulty is really mostly in switching to that method of living. Once you get to the next level it actually becomes far easier. An analog would be ]]>

There are several different difficulty levels on which you can live your life. They are ascendingly difficult, though the difficulty is really mostly in switching to that method of living. Once you get to the next level it actually becomes far easier. An analog would be financial investing-- it's hard to save a lot of money when you don't have much, but doing so makes it easier for you to live later and also makes it easier for you to save more and invest better.

Most people will use a combined version of several of these levels, so you may not find that you are entirely described by just one.

The easiest level is to do the wrong thing. For example, if you eat garbage food, do drugs, and play video games all day, you never really have to challenge yourself. Most people are resourceful enough that they will figure out a way to survive in this situation, but they will probably not find that their lives become better over time.

The decision making process here is a simple and likely unconscious, "what would give me the least immediate pain?". Ironically the avoidance of immediate pain usually generates (with interest) future pain. Avoid the pain of being healthy now and you are likely to be plagued by disease for decades.

The next easiest level is to do the right thing without thinking about it. It's hard to know what the right thing to do is without thinking about it, but you make an effort. The decision making process is an unconscious, "what will make me feel like I'm doing the right thing?". You may not eat fast food, but you probably eat things that say "33% less fat" because that seems like a smart decision. You base financial decisions off the advice of those who benefit from those decisions. When the mortgage broker tells you that you can afford a house that costs $X, you buy one that costs $X.

Following this method allows you to abdicate your responsibility. If things don't go well for you, you can tell yourself that you were just doing what other people told you to do and that everyone you knew was doing the same thing anyway.

The next level is doing the right thing, but focusing only on the how and not the why. You know that you should get a degree, get married, have kids, have a good career, and buy a few status symbol items, so you do so. In this life you don't suffer physically, but you may suffer mentally, feeling unfulfilled and feeling like nothing is ever enough. You have many victories along the way, but they seem fleeting and unsatisfying.

The decision making process for this level can be summarized as, "What action would improve others' opinion of me?". This level is harder than the previous because it requires some autonomy in achieving goals. Because most others are chasing the same goals, there is an element of competition. The focus on how to achieve these goals usually completely clouds out any sort of consideration of whether or not those goals actually matter.

The last and hardest level is to try to figure out what the right thing actually is, and then do that thing. The right thing isn't a universal right thing, but rather an individual right thing. We are all different in our abilities, desires, and circumstances, so our ideal paths are always very different. This lifestyle requires sacrifice, mostly in certainty. Whether the promise is actually true or not, society promises us a certain level of happiness if we just do what it tells us to do. Deep down I think we all know that if we stop doing what society asks of us, we are then responsible for our own happiness. That can be a heavy burden.

My first thought after dropping out of college was, "Well, I'm responsible for myself now."

Everyone is different, but I've found that people who fall into this category are less likely to drink, more likely to have unusual careers or jobs, more likely to work out and eat healthy, and much more likely to have really random hobbies.

The decision making process here can best be boiled down to, "What do I actually care about, why do I care about it, and what's the best way for me to get it?". These questions are so open-ended and wide ranging that just about everyone comes up with different answers, and short-term outcomes vary wildly. I have noticed, though, that people who have lived life like this for a long time tend to all have good results in the long term.

The payoff for living this sort of life is contentment and satisfaction. It's hard to not be content when you are actually living in accordance with your own goals and actively working towards them. It's not uncommon to second guess oneself along the way, but seeing the results at the end tends to foster a deep sense of confidence, not just in the results but in the feeling that the results mattered and that future results will also be good.

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Photo is me skiing in Las Vegas for the first time of the season!

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Sun, 27 Dec 2020 12:01:36 -0800 http://tynan.com/difficulty