Tynan http://tynan.com Life Outside the Box en-us Sun, 09 May 2021 23:44:03 -0700 http://sett.com Sett RSS Generator The Best Food in Hilo, Hawaii http://tynan.com/hilo I don't really consider myself to be a foodie, but the food in Hilo is SO good that it's one of the things I most look forward to every time I visit. I've been to the major Hawaiian islands and have had great food on all of them, but Hilo is definitely in a league of it']]>

I don't really consider myself to be a foodie, but the food in Hilo is SO good that it's one of the things I most look forward to every time I visit. I've been to the major Hawaiian islands and have had great food on all of them, but Hilo is definitely in a league of it's own.

Hilo is the rainiest city in the US, which provides a natural buffer against tourism. If you're going to book a weeklong vacation in advance, you might not want to choose somewhere where it may rain for several of those days. But this same rain, along with the size and geography of the Big Island, means that just about everything can be grown or raised right on the island.

In general the food in Hilo is defined by extremely high quality (usually local) ingredients, and chefs who are obsessive about making great food. Here are some of my favorite places.

Poke Market

Poke Market is so good that my friends and I literally go here every single day for lunch, except for Sundays when they're closed. Sometimes we get two bowls on Saturday so that we can have it on Sunday too. The owner, Ernie, was a chef at Nobu, and he brought that level of refinement to Poke. The fish is perfectly cut, and his sauces and sides are incredible. I always get the "Rainbowl" which is a little bit of everything. It's so good that as soon as I finish my bowl I always consider going back to get another (and I've actually done that a few times).

Kula Shave Ice

I also go to Kula Shave Ice every single day. Unlike normal shave ice, which uses gross artificial syrups, Kula uses local organic fruit to make theirs. The ice is perfectly shaved and all of the toppings are amazing too. I always get two flavors with coconut haupia cream on top. The lilikoi and lime are probably my favorite flavors, but they're all great so I get something different every day. The owner, Tiffany, also makes homemade ice cream which is sometimes available and is also amazing. I get mine with light syrup, which sometimes leaves some unflavored patches inside but makes it much less sweet when it's all melted at the end.

Mohala's Bayfront Fish and Chips

Mohala's is usually the first place I go for dinner, and most likely to be repeated if I'm there for long enough. That's saying a lot because it's also probably the least healthy place I go, so I'm biased against it. They deep fry fresh fish and it's essentially the perfect fish and chips. The variety changes every day, but all of their fish are great. I didn't get ahi for a long time because I thought it might be dry like canned tuna, but it's actually the best one. Portions here are enormous, which is almost too bad because the fried smoked mozzarella is the best fried cheese I've ever had but I just can't eat more than their normal fish portion.

Pineapples

Pineapples is the most touristy looking restaurant in Hilo, which still doesn't make it all that touristy, but it was enough for me to avoid it for a long time. I finally went with my brother, and after that he wanted to eat there every single night. Not everything is excellent, but most items are. The Local Plate, Kalbi Ribs, Kabocha Curry, and Skirt Steak are all perfect tens for me. The desserts are too sweet and the coconut crusted fish wasn't very good, but everything else is great.

Foodxjitsu

You wouldn't guess that the best sushi I've ever had would be from a random guy selling it out of his mom's house where he lives... but it is. To get the sushi you have to DM him on instagram and then go pick up your plastic platter of sushi at a specific time from his driveway. My friends ordered it and I was too skeptical to join in, but I tried a few of their pieces and was so blown away that I ordered my own on the next trip. It's expensive (~$100/person) but there's zero filler and you get a lot of sushi. He even does weird innovative stuff like dry age toro and put it into nigiri.

Papa'a Palaoa

This bakery is really hit or miss. The cookies, which you'd think would be pretty easy to make good, are pretty mediocre. However-- their cream pies are as good as a cream pie could possibly be. They make lilikoi (passionfruit), key lime, and coconut. The lilikoi is my go-to pie, but the others are equally good.

Mom's Hilo

Mom's is a new Japanese place and I've only been once but I thought it was excellent. I haven't eaten enough there to make specific recommendations, but I look forward to going back and trying more. The best thing I had so far was the Ahi carpaccio. I sat at the bar and watched the chefs prepare the food and you could tell that they really cared about making it great.

Hilo Burger Joint

I'd give the average burger at Hilo Burger Joint an 8, but the Green Chile Burger is a 10. You can substitute salad for fries to make it healthier and they're open late.

Jackie Rey's

This restaurant looks so generic and boring from the outside that I didn't go for years, assuming that it was an overpriced tourist trap. I finally went (after spending so much money on food in Maui that the sticker shock had disappeared) and was very pleasantly surprised. I got the seafood plate that had two of the best shrimp I've ever eaten, a crab cake, grilled fish, and mashed okinawan sweet potato, all over a Thai coconut cream sauce. It's a little bit expensive for what you get compared to other places, but I still look forward to going back.

Two Ladies Kitchen

This tiny Mochi spot always has a line. I've eaten most of their flavors (mainly because I didn't realize how huge they would be the first time I ordered a dozen), and I honestly find most pretty lackluster. However, there are three flavors that are SO good that I go every time I visit Hilo. The best is the strawberry shortcake mochi, butter mochi is a close second, and the seasonal pumpkin pie mochi is really good too. You can't leave Hawaii with fresh fruit, so butter mochi is the only one you can bring back to your friends.

Tetsumen Ramen

In Japan, where this chain is based, Tetsumen would merely be average or slightly above. Outside of Japan, though, it's as good as it gets. Everything I've ever ordered there has been great, and a big bowl of ramen is the perfect escape from the inevitable rainy day in Hilo.

Tabaraka

This new Lebanese food truck turned a parking lot into a fairly delightful place to eat. I've tried a bunch of their pitas and plates and all of them were excellent. I really like the kebab plate because you get to try so many different things and you get a lot of pickled vegetables.

Hilo is really an awesome place to visit. It really shocked me just how good the food was, especially considering what a small sleepy town it is. If you get the chance to visit, let me know what you think of the places I listed here.

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Photo is a picture of the Rainbowl from Poke Market

Tea Time with Tynan #5 is coming Sunday at 10am PST! In case you haven't been before, I do a live stream where I answer questions and tell stories. The readers who show up are awesome and we can all chat together.

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Sat, 08 May 2021 13:34:02 -0700 http://tynan.com/hilo
Attainable Excellence http://tynan.com/excellence By strange coincidence, I know a lot of people starting restaurants. Some are friends, some are family members, and some I've just gotten to know because I eat at their restaurants all the time. One is a world class chocolate company, another is a pizza place, another is]]>

By strange coincidence, I know a lot of people starting restaurants. Some are friends, some are family members, and some I've just gotten to know because I eat at their restaurants all the time. One is a world class chocolate company, another is a pizza place, another is a shave ice stand, and another is a sushi chef.

They all have two things in common. First is that they are absolutely world class. I travel enough and eat enough food that I know what's good and what isn't, and all of them are literally as good as it gets within their field. The second thing that they all have in common is that they didn't have backgrounds in food.

Once or twice is a fluke, but to see so many world class food companies start from inexperienced people really got me thinking.

I noticed that they all had the exact same approach. They all sourced the very best ingredients possible. The shave ice is all organic fruit and sugar, with no flavors or dyes. The pizza place cold-called the most famous meat supplier and got them to make them a special pepperoni blend. The sushi chef, who operates out of his mom's house, flies in the best ingredients from around the world.

They also all cared. I don't think I quite understood just how little most restaurants care until I saw how some of these people operate. They take pride in what they serve, they see it as an extension of themselves, and they care about learning their craft. All of them are constantly trying new things. The shave ice place is always testing new flavors; the pizza place is making totally different types of pizzas, most of which never make it to the menu; the sushi chef experiments with dry aging and unusual fish.

It turns out that excellence is attainable if you just get the right ingredients and care enough to learn and iterate until you get a good enough product. Maybe that's not true for every single food, but the cross section that I've seen is so broad that I suspect it probably is. It's also probably true for a lot of other fields. Sett wasn't anywhere near excellent as a business, but we wrote it ten years ago, stopped working on it seven years ago, and it's still ahead of its time in many regards. Minaal backpacks and Wool and Prince clothes are excellent because they used the best materials and cared enough to make something great.

Once you realize this, you're forced to confront the idea that most people just don't care. A meal isn't bad because it couldn't be good, it's because no one cared to make it good enough, or they cared more about squeezing a little more margin out and hoped that you wouldn''t notice.

Realizing this puts a lot more in reach. You don't need skills or background to make something excellent, you just have to find the right raw materials and care enough to put in the work to make it great.

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Photo is the sushi I mention in the post.

No Tea Time with Tynan tomorrow, but we'll be back in a week with Tea Time with Tynan #5. Please join and chat with me and other readers!

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Sun, 02 May 2021 08:30:00 -0700 http://tynan.com/excellence
Filter More Out http://tynan.com/filter We're all looking for the next thing that we should be doing or paying attention to. Maybe that's even part of why you read this blog. This is a good pursuit of course, but it often seems to me that people don't spend enough time figuring out what they shouldn't be payin]]>

We're all looking for the next thing that we should be doing or paying attention to. Maybe that's even part of why you read this blog. This is a good pursuit of course, but it often seems to me that people don't spend enough time figuring out what they shouldn't be paying attention to. I find that most people actually know what they should be doing, but they cram their lives so full of so much other stuff that they bury the needle within the haystack.

It's important to create a very strong filter, one that catches 99% of the stuff that you're exposed to, especially the useless stuff that masquerades as important stuff.

You need to know what you want to come out of the end of the filter. It's not enough to think about what's "bad", but rather you must know what matters to you. For me it's quality time with friends and family and trying to do and learn about stuff that others don't (so that I can bring it to you and my friends in a usable way). You could pick apart my life and find some other stuff too, but the vast majority of what I do is aimed towards those goals.

When you encounter something vying for your attention, ask if it is aligned with what you want to come out of your filter and whether it is actionable or not. If it meets these two criteria, go for it. If not, ignore it and move on. If you find that you are frequently filtering something out that you wish you didn't have to filter out, that may mean that you need to change to a different filter, maybe because you're at a different place in your life.

Some examples:

I almost never comment on politics and the news. Even if I got really into politics and was totally up on all of the news, it wouldn't bring me more quality time with friends and family. It also doesn't qualify as learning about unusual stuff, since it's literally what everyone learns about. Also, neither one is actionable at all. I will never care enough about politics to run for office or seriously help a candidate win, so I'm not going to divert precious energy there.

Most choices from my life are replaced my strong defaults. I wear the same clothes every day and eat the same food every day because making choices about these things is a waste of focus and energy.

I don't go to parties or large gatherings because even though this could result in me making new friends that I could spend quality time with, I find that I have MORE leverage just spending quality time with the friends I already have (and I accidentally make a few friends per year anyway).

Goals often require supporting actions which take up focus. That's totally fine and necessary, but it's important to make sure that the focus they occupy is proportional to the role they play towards the goal. For example, staying healthy matters because it allows me to have more quality years of life with which to spend with friends and family and it keeps my mind sharp. So I work out every other day and eat reasonably healthy food. Getting totally shredded would take up a disproportionate amount of time relative to the role it plays in my goal, so I don't spend effort on that.

I also end up doing a lot of stuff that seems like a waste of time. In order to discover things that others don't, I go down a lot of dead ends. Before the multiple-property-buying thing that I always talk about, I spent a few days trying to figure out how to make time shares worth it. Before coming up with How to Manage Your Finances Like a Billionaire I had to research all sorts of investment, tax, and insurance products. To find Budapest I had to visit a bunch of countries that were just OK. I don't beat myself up about wasted time because I know that those are the sorts of things that should be getting through my filter, because in aggregate they end up producing the results I want.

What do you want your time to be going towards? How much of it is going towards that now? How much of that remaining time is high-leverage? How much could you cut out to make way for more of the best stuff?

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Photo is the mountains near Mt. Charleston in Vegas.

No Tea Time with Tynan this weekend, but I think I will schedule one for the following Sunday.

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Fri, 23 Apr 2021 13:16:10 -0700 http://tynan.com/filter
How to Invest in Friendships http://tynan.com/friendvestments In just about any way I can think of, I have an amazing life. But of all of the aspects of my life that bring me happiness, the most important one is the relationships I have with my friends and family. This is probably true for almost everyone, but it's odd to me how mo]]>

In just about any way I can think of, I have an amazing life. But of all of the aspects of my life that bring me happiness, the most important one is the relationships I have with my friends and family. This is probably true for almost everyone, but it's odd to me how most people will manage their financial life meticulously but manage their social life haphazardly. Most people should invest more in friendships.

Just like financial investments, you want to choose your investments wisely. If you diligently save your money but invest it in random penny stocks, you won't get much of a return. If you invest your time and effort into the wrong people, you won't end up with the social group that you want.

It's easy to say yes to an invitation to a party or to hang out, but it's important to remember that you have limited time and limited focus. Even if you have nothing else going on today and you decide to spend time with someone you're not crazy about, you may be less motivated to seek out a friend the next day.

A good rule of thumb is to think about whether you are interested in deepening a friendship. If you are, you should spend time with that person. If you're not, you shouldn't. If you're not sure, you might as well hang out with them once or twice more to figure it out. The upside of a great friendship is high enough that it's worth taking the risk.

The biggest input into a friendship is quality time, not just time. My friends and I do activities together, but the bulk of our time is spent just sitting around in conversation. That tends to be the time that deepens friendships, so it's what we focus on. Part of why travel is so good for friendships is because it strips away the background noise and routines of life and allows for more conversation.

You can also think about how you can make your friends lives better. Each of you have different skills and experience, so you can lend that experience to each other. My friend Ben did a deep dive into crypto mining and helped me start mining ethereum. I did a lot of research on real estate in Las Vegas and he ended up buying a house down the street from me. You should always be thinking about how you can help your friends out in a way that they receive disproportional returns. That's part of why I like buying real estate with my friends... through a bit of work and research I can help each of them get a vacation house for a fraction of the normal price and hassle.

One really high leverage activity is introducing your friends to other friends and fostering a good friend group. If we already agree that good friendships are some of the most valuable things you can have, then it follows that helping a friend have a good friendship would be a really great way to bring them value. Along those same lines, you can organize events that help friends deepen friendships. Two of my friends organized a friends' trip to Maui this week, for example. You could also do simpler like organize a dinner or a game of frisbee together.

Good friendships build trust, and that trust allows for quality feedback to be shared. Amongst my best friends I probably have 10 or so people with whom I can give and receive very blunt feedback. If they tell me that they think I'm making a mistake, I will start with the assumption that they're probably right and will treat it as an opportunity to improve, and they will probably do the same. That allows all of us to grow with wisdom beyond our own.

Passively investing is usually the best method for financial investments, but the opposite is true for friendships. Think about your friends, think about which friendships you want to see grow, think about how you can benefit those friends, and invest the time and effort to do so. There is probably no higher return on your time and effort.

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Photo is my friend Noah at the driving range. Our friendship is one of the ones that has grown the most in the past couple years and I think he also does a great job of investing in friendships.

No Tea Time with Tynan this weekend or next. Hopefully soon!

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Sun, 18 Apr 2021 09:48:22 -0700 http://tynan.com/friendvestments
Your Annual Reminder to Move to Vegas http://tynan.com/vegasbaby I used to say that Vegas was the best place in the US to live (with a few caveats), as long as you didn't have to be here the whole year and could travel. And then 2020 came, I couldn't travel, and I was stuck here for the entire year. To my surprise, I love the city eve]]>

I used to say that Vegas was the best place in the US to live (with a few caveats), as long as you didn't have to be here the whole year and could travel. And then 2020 came, I couldn't travel, and I was stuck here for the entire year. To my surprise, I love the city even more and am even more convinced it's the place to be.

When people ask why I like Vegas, the first thing that comes to my mind is that it has the highest quality of life and the lowest friction of any city I've been to. In other words, there is a huge range of great stuff to do and experience here, and all of it is very easily accessible, so you actually do it.

There is no traffic, you can park anywhere (usually for free), and almost everything that isn't on the strip is reasonably priced. Because of the city's unique geography and surplus of space, there are things you can do here that you just can't do in most cities this size.

Nature

Especially being unable to travel during this past year, I became even more grateful for the nature activities in Vegas. Tonight we're going to go out on the boat in Lake Mead, and then tomorrow we're going to go skiing on Mt. Charleston. Most people probably don't think of boating and skiing as Vegas activities, but they're some of our favorite things to do. We also have Red Rock and Valley of Fire, which are a bit too hot in the summer, but offer great hiking for the rest of the year.

Vegas is close enough to Utah that you can do a day trip to hike around Zion, which is one of the best national parks in America, or go a little further to Bryce or Grand Canyon.

Seasons

Surprisingly, I've come to love the seasons of Vegas. The summer is hot, of course, but even if you don't have your own swimming pool, it's easy to get access at some of the casinos. Many houses come with pools here, all apartment complexes have them, and there are two water parks, one within 15 minutes of the strip. We moved into a house with a pool this year, and I jumped in just about every day and we went boating and swimming in Lake Mead once or twice a week.

Out of curiousity I looked to see how much houses with pools cost in Austin, and anything in any reasonable location was 1-2M. Here in Vegas a huge portion of houses in the $300-400k range have pools.

The heat in Vegas is a dry heat, which means you must drink a ton of water in the summer, but it also means that you never feel sticky and gross like you would in New York in the summer. It's very unpleasant if you're standing in direct sunlight, but if you're in shade or doing some sort of water activity, it feels great.

Spring and Fall are perfect, as you might imagine. Weather is in the 60s-80s and with so much nature around it's easy to enjoy those seasons. We also have almost no bugs, so you can eat outdoors or leave your doors open to have a nice breeze come through.

Even the winter here is great. You can see snow-capped mountains in the distance, and can drive up to them to ski, sled, or just hike through the pine trees. It's chilly for a lot of winter, but never so cold that you need to seriously bundle up and avoid being outdoors. A lot of houses here have fire places, and it's nice to get a chance to use them.

I also discovered, through researching solar, that Vegas has more sunshine per year than any other city in the US. What do you think that does for your mood?

Airport

I think Las Vegas has perhaps the best airport / airport location in the US.

Flying to LA or SF is so cheap (often $20-30) and quick (45-75 minutes) that it may as well be a more comfortable bus ride. I've actually flown to SF just to have a meal with friends before.

LAX and SFO are two major hubs, but so are DEN and PHX, meaning that within 1.5 hours you have access to four major hubs. Vegas isn't an airport hub (unless you count Allegiant), but because it's a unique tourist destination within the US it has a ton of direct flights to just about anywhere. I haven't actually checked, but I bet it has more direct flights to domestic locations than any other non-hub city.

Flights to and from Vegas are usually cheaper than from anywhere else, even when you connect through a bigger hub. This may be because it's not a common business route, but I'm not sure.

The airport is also 10-15 minutes away from where I live (and the strip), so it's trivially easy to go there and back to fly or to pick up friends. You don't even need to go on a highway. Contrast that to most cities where it can be 30+ minutes each way. Before we moved I lived 8 minutes from the airport and once didn't leave my living room until I got the alert that the flight was boarding!

Las Vegas airport also has an Amex Centurion Lounge and you can access all gates once you get behind security (a pet peeve of mine is when you have to leave security and go back in to get to a different area).

Housing

There is no housing crisis in Vegas. We bought a four bedroom 3000 square foot house with a pool and large backyard for $350k. There are quality condos in good areas available for under $150k. It always annoys me when people complain that younger generations can't afford to buy houses -- they can, they just have to move to cities where it makes sense. If you don't want to buy, rent is also very cheap with tons of good options under $1000 a month.

Having an affordable city also leads to diversity. Places like SF that consider themselves to be diverse are generally diverse in race, but dominated by wealthy liberals who all think more-or-less the same. In Vegas I find that in my regular course of activities I'm surrounded by all sorts of people across many different spectrums. I'm friends with rich people, poor people, liberals, conservatives, tech people, artists, and everything in between.

The one bad thing I'd say about housing here is that the vast majority of houses seem to be designed by people with horrible taste. I don't think I've ever seen so many horrendous interiors as when we were looking for a house, and it took a long time to find one that was good enough that we could imagine how to get it to look good.

Food

A friend was visiting Vegas last week and he said, "With New York shut down, I think Vegas might be the best food city in the US right now". I think he might be right! Not only do we have world-class food here, but it's also largely very affordable, thanks to cheap rent and lower labor costs than many cities. What's particularly great about Vegas food is that we have everything from tiny hole-in-the-wall places all the way up to some of the fanciest restaurants in the US.

One cool trend I've noticed recently is that many restaurants established elsewhere are starting to open branches in Vegas. Din Tai Fung is among the best dim sum in the world. Before opening in Vegas they only had locations in Seattle, Oregon, and California. Giordano's deep dish Chicago pizza is only in a few states, but they're here. Taco Stand, an amazing San Diego taco place, is only in California, Miami, and Vegas.

Every celebrity chef has a top-level restaurant on the strip. We rarely go to them, but once in a while we go to Rivea by Alain Ducasse, or Bobby Flay's Mesa. It's fun being able to go eat anywhere from a tiny mom and pop hole in the wall chinese restaurant to some of the most famous restaurants in the world. Very few cities have that entire range. Best of all, they're all within about 15 minutes from our house and there are no traffic or parking issues.

Oh, and I forgot to mention all-you-can-eat restaurants. We have AYCE sushi, korean bbq, hot pot, and many other types of food. You would think the quality would be bad, but it's actually amazingly good. We took our raised-in-Japan Japanese friend to our favorite AYCE sushi place and she loved it so much she started going every week.

Entertainment

Besides all of the nature stuff, Vegas is a world-class entertainment city. And once you live here and figure out a few tricks, you end up being able to go to shows either for free or at a big discount. The shows have been canceled this year, but I'd say that in the past we went to 25-50 shows per year, ranging from huge concerts like Justin Timberlake and Nicki Minaj to small community theater shows, to Cirque du Soleil, to magic shows.

If you're into sports, we are the center of the UFC universe, we have a great hockey team, and a great football team. As a bonus, the T-Mobile Arena (UFC / hockey) and the Allegiant Stadium (football) were just built recently, so both are state of the art facilities where every seat is good.

And, of course, all of these shows and sporting events are 10-15 minutes away and don't require you to deal with parking or traffic.

Finances

Frankly, it just doesn't get any better. Every city and state needs revenue, and we are unique in that most of that revenue comes from tourists. We have no state income tax, and extremely low property tax. Our sales tax is 8.25%, but I'm actually happy about that because I think sales tax is the best tax.

Housing is cheap, food can be cheap, flights are cheap, and solar is so cheap here that it's a no-brainer for everyone. Nevada is always ranked as one of the most small-business friendly jurisdictions. Early into living together in Vegas my wife said, "Vegas is so good and so cheap I don't think we could ever live anywhere else". I agreed.

Politics

I don't know much about the politics (I couldn't tell you what party any of our elected officials are), but I know that we're somewhat moderate and not radicalized to either side. The way we handled COVID seemed about right to me (strong shut downs at first, reasonable reopening, easy access to testing / vaccinations), and generally the city feels well run. We don't have extreme homeless or wealth inequality issues, and I find that most people are open minded when talking about politics, no matter which side they're on. It's refreshing.

The Bad

There are two major problems with Vegas. The first is that if you need a local job, you're going to have a tough time finding it here. We have higher unemployment than other similar cities, and there just aren't a ton of high paying tech jobs like other cities. The other problem is that the public schools are very bad. There are a ton of great private schools (including one that is taught in Japanese!), but obviously paying for one of those offsets some of the cost savings of living in Vegas.

Why Vegas Will Win

Part of the reason I'm always yammering about Vegas rather than just living here quietly is because it is so obvious to me that it's an amazing opportunity.

Even if you erase any financial incentives, I think the quality of life in Vegas is higher than anywhere else in the US. There are just so many things that we do regularly that we either couldn't do in any other city or that would be too much of a hassle to do regularly.

Vegas is massively underrated. No one considers moving here without a big shove from someone who is already here, because the reputation of the city is wildly divorced from the experience of living here (though it is accurate for tourism). It took a lot of convincing to get a couple of my friends to move here (they now live 3 minutes away), and even though they liked Vegas enough to move, they continued to be surprised by how great it was in the following months. I went here regularly, sometimes monthly, for a decade before moving here, and still had no idea about most of the benefits of it.

As other major cities decline (SF, maybe NY) or become overpriced (Austin), I think more and more people will realize how great Vegas is. At some point you just have to expand your search area. As more people are able to work remotely, the arbitrage opportunity becomes ever greater, and people will look for places with low taxes, high quality of life, and a cheap commute back to Silicon Valley.

In a more general sense, every city I visit in the US (and I primarily visit "good" cities) feels like a poor value. They all have great things in them, but it comes at too high of a cost. Vegas is the opposite, where it feels too good to be true.

The reason I see Vegas as a big opportunity right now is because you can actually buy a house or condo that makes financial sense. You lock in a really high quality of life and know that the taxes aren't going to force you out eventually. If you want to start a brick-and-mortar business, you can do it inexpensively here and it can grow with the city. Other cities feel like dead ends to me in a way that Vegas doesn't.

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Photo is from Lake Mead. I just don't take a lot of photos in Vegas except when I'm on the lake.

Tea Time with Tynan #4 is this Sunday at 11am PST and my good friend Noah Kagan will be joining me. Come chat with us!

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Fri, 09 Apr 2021 13:10:16 -0700 http://tynan.com/vegasbaby
Going Green for Fun and Profit http://tynan.com/green When we moved from an apartment to a house recently, I saw it as an opportunity to explore energy efficiency. I knew that switching to more efficient alternatives usually doesn't pay off for a period of time, so I figured we should start immediately and reap the benefits]]>

When we moved from an apartment to a house recently, I saw it as an opportunity to explore energy efficiency. I knew that switching to more efficient alternatives usually doesn't pay off for a period of time, so I figured we should start immediately and reap the benefits for as long as possible.

I was very surprised to learn just how quickly some things pay for themselves and how much of a no-brainer certain things are. The government as well as local utilities also have a bunch of rebates, making things an ever better deal. Here is some of what I've learned

Solar

Solar in Las Vegas is a complete no-brainer as the city has more hours of sunshine per year than any other major city in the US. The payback period varies, but it's around 7 years. However, panels do add some value to your house for resale, so the payback period is shorter than that in reality.

You can finance solar at such low rates that your solar system payment will be about half of what your electricity bill would be. So if you know you're going to live in the house for a long time, it's definitely worth it.

One interesting hack is that the solar company will give you extremely low rates (we got .99%) but add points to the purchase to make it more expensive. Once you get your federal rebate you're supposed to pay it back to the financing company to lower your payment, but it is dumb to pay off .99% loans, so you can actually just invest it in something safe and use the interest to pay off the solar loan, making it even cheaper.

When you create electricity in excess of your house's needs, you are credited with 75% of the value of that electricity. The trick is that during peak summer hours electricity is worth 35 cents per kWh, but during other hours it's worth only 3.5 cents. So every kWh you can generate during those hours will give you 7.5kwH of off-peak time. This is especially good for travelers, as a few weeks away from home in the summer could generate six months of bill credits.

I have also implemented some home-automation tasks like turning off my EV charger during peak hours.

We went with a 12.24kW system, which was a total guess. What I learned is that if you generate too many bill credits you can't cash them in, but if you aren't generated enough solar you can always add panels at the same price per watt, or possibly cheaper if/when prices fall.

If you have an electric vehicle you also get about 10% off all power from 10pm to 8am, including non EV power.

Electric Vehicle

As I previously wrote, I bought a BMW i3. It's the absolute perfect EV for city driving because it can go 60-70 miles on battery, but it also has a little generator to charge itself so you don't have to worry about running out of range. It also happens to be one of the most efficient EVs ever made. It costs me .8 cents to travel one mile, versus about 10 cents per mile in a regular gas car (or 40 cents in the Bentley). The car will never pay for itself in savings, but it does save hundreds per year in costs. If you're like a normal person who buys a car, drives it for a while, and then resells it, those hundreds saved may actually cover the depreciation.

It's also more satisfying than I thought it would be to have a closed loop system where photons hit my roof, are converted to electricity, are stored in my car, and then allow me to drive around. I also like knowing that I'm always at full range and probably only have to go to a gas station once every year or two for a couple gallons.

Pool Pump

I was shocked to discover that pool pumps pay off more quickly than anything else! Pool pumps serve two functions, the first is to skim debris off the surface of the pool and the second is to move the water around enough to avoid algae. Skimming takes 2-3 hours per day, but water needs to be moving for at least 12 hours per day to keep the water from growing algae.

Almost every pool pump is one speed, and because skimming requires a lot of water movement, that speed is high. A variable speed pump can run for 2-3 hours on high for the skimming and then revert to very low flow for 12 hours to prevent algae build up. Low flow uses only about 10% of the power of high. I bought a $500 variable pump on ebay, tried to install it myself, failed, hired a pro to do it, and even after paying him it will pay off in about 1-1.5 years.

Even better, it is silent on low, even if you're right next to it. Before you could hear the loud pool pump in our backyard at all times. Now I have it run on high in the middle of the night for a couple hours, then putter around on low all day.

Hybrid Water Heater

My friend found a crazy deal on a hybrid water heater. Normally it went for $1700, but with coupons and rebates we could get it for only $400. Our water heater was nearing the end of its service life, so I jumped on the deal.

In researching this water heater, I learned something absolutely fascinating. How efficient do you think a heater can be? I would have bet everything on 99-100%, because I know that heating elements are 100% efficient. They convert 100% of electricity into heat. As it turns out, heat pumps are MORE than 100% efficient. How? They "carry" heat from the air (all air has heat because it's above 0 degrees Kelvin), and are able to carry more BTUs of heat than they could create with the same amount of electricity.

This absolutely blew my mind. AC units that we have on our houses are heat pumps (they carry heat out of our house), and they run on reverse to heat the house, carrying heat in. This is why space heaters are SO expensive compared to central units.

A hybrid water heater is a typical tank heater except that it has a heat pump on the top. It is so much more efficient than a regular water heater that it will pay itself off in about 1-1.5 years for the deal I got, and around 5 years normally. It may only save a few hundred per year, but I am so enamored with the technology that at least once a week I think about our water heater and how much I love it.

LED Light Bulbs

This is a no brainer and I'm sure everyone here has LED light bulbs. Something interesting to note is that running an LED light bulb at really low dimness settings uses nearly no electricity but can create usable light. I have all of our lights in the house on all evening at 5-10%, mostly in warm orange colors, and it creates great atmosphere.

I feel good that the changes we made to our house our good for the environment, but I've focused mostly on the cost savings and other benefits because I think those are the factors by which we make most decisions. As someone who is a little bit obsessed with runway and low living costs, I also like that we can spend a little bit of money up front to permanently lower our costs.

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Photo is the Hoover Dam from Lake Mead. How cool is hydroelectricity?

This Sunday at 12pm PST I wil be hosting Tea Time with Tynan #3! We will have a loose topic of home improvement / home automation / workspace / etc, but you can come on and ask about anything. Please join!

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Sat, 03 Apr 2021 08:30:00 -0700 http://tynan.com/green
Dealing with Privilege http://tynan.com/privilege I'm a white male who was born into a loving and smart middle class family with a big support network of extended family. My family prioritized good schools, even when it was a financial stretch to afford them, and as a result I had the opportunity to be around great teac]]>

I'm a white male who was born into a loving and smart middle class family with a big support network of extended family. My family prioritized good schools, even when it was a financial stretch to afford them, and as a result I had the opportunity to be around great teachers, all of whom I remember to this day, as well as peers with similar situations. I may not exactly be the poster boy of privilege, but I'm probably not that far off either.

Everything I write comes from this privileged background. There's absolutely nothing I can do about that, since it is my reality. Several people brought up privilege in my recent survey, though, so I wanted to address it and also share what I think are some productive ways to think about it.

First, I think that privilege is a great thing. My grandparents grew up dirt poor (and first generation immigrants on one side), and through two generations they were able to get where we are today. America (and the world) had MORE problems then, but even so, that sort of mobility was possible. (And yes, I understand that there are some key things that are worse today).

When thinking about privilege I think we should focus on how to get more privilege to people who don't have it rather than demonizing those who do. For example, billionaires are very unpopular these days, but I love them. My life has unambiguously become better due to many of the billionaires. Rather than pick at their faults, which they all certainly have, we should be focusing on how we can create an easier path for less privileged people to get to that same level.

This is a big reason that I'm a huge proponent of universal basic income. I think it would eliminate a huge portion of the functional gap between the haves and have-nots. In my experience as well as the experience of those around me, the biggest change in ability comes once you can live extremely frugally and have most of your time to yourself.

One of the things that most bothers me about the idea of privilege is the victim mentality behind it. Even if you are an actual victim, feeling like one is not productive. My wife grew up poor and didn't own shoes until she was a teenager, but she never felt like a victim, and instead did everything she could to improve her situation. By the time I met her she had a master's degree, significant savings, and many pairs of shoes. I think this story is true for a lot of immigrants in our country, a group that we traditionally see as underprivileged.

In a more general sense, those who tend to succeed are those who focus on their strengths and tackle obstacles where they have agency or leverage. Those who tend not to succeed are those who focus on things they can't change.

All that said, I think there's very little worse than lucky people like myself who don't realize that they're lucky. I had it easier than my parents, they had it easier than my grandparents, and they had it easier than my great-great-grandparents. As I've written about before, a huge part of my success (not just financial) is due to factors I had zero control over. I am proud of what I have done, but realistically I've only run the last mile of a marathon that was mostly run for me.

We should also realize that even if we have less relative privilege than others (which is true for all but one person, whoever he is), we all have a certain amount of absolute privilege for which we should be thankful. We were all born, we all have access to computers, we all have unlimited opportunity ahead of us, we have access to infinite amounts of knowledge, we can make friends, we have self-awareness, and we have infinite other gifts.

Privilege exists, we're all recipients of it to a certain extent, and since privilege is a part of where we started in life, it is woven into our paths. We can't escape that, and there's no reason to try to. Let's acknowledge our privilege, be grateful for it, help those who don't have it succeed in spite of it, and have compassion for everyone.

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Photo is a wild donkey I saw near Lee Canyon Ski Mountain in Vegas. So cool!

No Tea Time with Tynan tomorrow, but I will be back on April 4th! There will be a loose theme of Home Improvement (improving your space, lighting, DIY, home automation, etc), but you can ask questions about anything. It's really fun to connect with readers and answer questions. Subscribe to my YouTube channel and enable notifications, or just set an alarm.

Here's the link: Tea Time with Tynan #3

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Sat, 27 Mar 2021 13:03:01 -0700 http://tynan.com/privilege
What You Need to Know About Buying Properties with Friends http://tynan.com/friendproperties Everyone always asks me for more posts about buying property with friends, but I never really knew what they wanted to know. Last week on my new YouTube Live show, Tea Time with Tynan, I asked people for their questions about buying property with friends. People asked so]]>

Everyone always asks me for more posts about buying property with friends, but I never really knew what they wanted to know. Last week on my new YouTube Live show, Tea Time with Tynan, I asked people for their questions about buying property with friends. People asked some great questions, so I figured I'd collect the best of them and answer them here as well.

How do you choose where to buy a place?

The way we've chosen each place has been different. We chose the island because we desperately wanted to buy an island, and the Halifax, Canada area was the only place to buy a cheap island that looked good and was accessible. In retrospect I think we got really lucky here, because Halifax is great. Budapest was chosen because I went there a couple times and loved it. It was the first place in Europe that I really wanted to get to know on a deeper level. Its central location also made it an easy sell as a European home base. Hawaii came when we realized that all of our properties were better suited for the summer than the winter, so we started looking for tropical places. I originally chose San Juan, Puerto Rico, but after visiting it again I wasn't convinced it was a slam dunk. Japan has been on the list forever as it's the one place that all of my friends and I keep going back to year after year. The only reason it was the last one purchased was because it was so hard to find a good place.

Within each city (island excluded), we try to buy as centrally as possible. Budapest and Hilo (Hawaii) are right downtown. Tokyo is 4 minutes from a station that servers two major subway lines, and a 15 minute walk to Shinjuku.

How much do they cost and how is money handled?

Each one has been in the 100-150k range TOTAL. People always think that you have to be super rich to do this, but you basically just have to be at the "could buy an extra used car" wealth level. Each one has been split 6-11 ways, so people have contributed anywhere from under $10k to just over $15k.

Ongoing maintenance varies a bit. Most properties are in the ~$50 a month range per person, but Hawaii is $100 because the HOA fee is annoyingly high.

For the initial purchase I figure out a price range in which I know I can buy a property, and then I get everyone to agree. Once we find the property I pay the deposit myself (it's always much less than my share is going to be anyway), and then I collect money from everyone else. I have also learned to leave a buffer of $5000 or so to cover initial furnishings, unexpected fees, etc. I create an LLC and a bank account (Wells Fargo only has a $500 minimum to have no fees on a business account), and have everyone send their money there.

I use stripe to collect monthly fees, which are deposited to the bank account. Usually I just pay everything with my own credit card and then reimburse myself. I track expenses in Google Docs (I have one sheet for all properties to make things easy).

In practice bookkeeping is a little bit loose. Several of us who use the properties a lot often end up paying for stuff without reporting the expenses, and I sometimes forget to log mine anyway. This started because there was a big wealth disparity during part of the island development, so one friend funded a few big expenses like buying us a better boat than we could have justified (after we sunk our first one) and building a platform for the yurt.

How do you convince your friends to buy these properties with you?

This really starts with just picking properties that I know people will enjoy and then selecting friends for whom buying a share of the property will be a great value. Luckily most of my friends like to travel, have similar interests to me, and can afford ~$10k for a lifetime vacation house. I send a big long email that I call something like "The Hawaii Hard Sell" and I outline why I picked the place, what there is to do there, how much it will cost, and what the experience will be like once we get the place.

After doing the island I had a group of 3-4 people who will say yes to any property, so I sometimes give them a preview and get them on board first so that I only have a few other spots to fill.

How do people get out of it later?

You can technically sell your share to anyone, but in order for them to have permission to access the island they must get unanimous approval from the rest of the group members. In practice nobody ever sells their share. One friend who was involved in Hawaii but moved to a country where it was really hard to get to Hawaii ended up selling his share at cost to another friend, and then using that money to buy into Tokyo instead.

I try to make it VERY clear up front that this is not a financial investment and that you should assume the money is spent and unrecoverable. That way we think of these properties as permanent home bases. If we did much more expensive properties, this would not be possible.

How do you handle maintenance and upkeep?

What happens in practice is that people who use the properties the most end up doing the most work, but they also get the most benefit. For example, I've been personally involved in every island project from clearing trees to cutting trails to building the yurt. These have all been really hard work but... I also use the island the most. My friend Brian is also very involved in every property and he does a ton of work on them as well. Other people do almost no work, but they also barely ever visit the properties, so they're not creating any sort of wear and tear.

I personally handle all of the bills and paperwork and all that, but I got to pick the places and the people, so the arrangement is more than fair.

Do couples count as one person or two?

Shares are sold individually to each person. Any member can invite unlimited friends/family members to accompany them whenever they want, but cannot send unaccompanied friends. This extends to couples. If I have a share but my wife doesn't, we can always go there together, but she can't go by herself.

How do you handle usage?

At a fundamental level, anyone has the right to go to any of their properties at any time no matter what. In practice, though, there are a few different kinds of trips that happen.

Most commonly a few of us get together and say, "Hey, want to go to Hawaii next month?" We plan a trip and then just go. I don't think it has ever happened that more than one group has randomly been at a property at once.

If someone wants to bring a lot of guests or wants the place to themselves, they post in the property-specific facebook group and requests that no one visit during that time. Technically others could still visit, but people respect requests.

Once in a while one of us will just pop over last minute without telling anyone.

We also have an informal rule that those who use the properties the most yield to others. I've visited all of the properties the most, so if I had a trip planned but someone else wanted it to themselves, I would just change my plans. Right now one owner is living in the Hawaii place every other month, but he has made it explicitly clear that anyone can displace him at any time.

People often think that scheduling would be difficult, but it's much more common that we would be trying to get others to join us on trips than it would be that we would be trying to exclude them.

How many people can each one accomodate?

It varies from property (Tokyo is 4, the island is probably 15), but I generally try to make it very comfortable for 2 people, and feasible for as many as possible. For example, in Budapest there are two bedrooms. The big bedroom has two twin beds that can be joined into a king. So a couple or two friends can visit and have a ton of space. In the other much smaller bedroom we have a bunk bed plus a trundle bed. Downstairs we have a fold-out couch.

Each property has two bedrooms (though in Tokyo one of them does double duty as a living room), so that two friends can go and have separate sleeping and work spaces.

Anything else?

I think those are the major questions that people were curious about, but I know there are always more questions. Something to think about is that when I started this I didn't know any of this information and had to just figure it out. If I can figure it out, you can too. Get some good friends together, choose a property that makes sense, err on the side of it being inexpensive, and then figure it out as you go. That's half the fun, to be honest.

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I am doing another YouTube Live Tea Time With Tynan today! Join us!

Photo is a bridge near our place in Hilo

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Sun, 21 Mar 2021 10:27:23 -0700 http://tynan.com/friendproperties
Leading Leaders http://tynan.com/leading One of the best compliments I ever received was when a friend told me that I was a leader of leaders. He was also a leader, so it meant a lot coming from him. I've had this topic on my "to write" list for years now, but every time I attempt to write it I'm worried that i]]>

One of the best compliments I ever received was when a friend told me that I was a leader of leaders. He was also a leader, so it meant a lot coming from him. I've had this topic on my "to write" list for years now, but every time I attempt to write it I'm worried that it will come off as conceited. So first, a disclaimer.

This post does not mean that I think I am THE leader of my friends. I think that most or all of my friends are leaders and that we all take turns leading or lead simultaneously in different ways. So this post is just as much from the perspective of leading friends as it is from the perspective of being led by friends.

When I talk about leading, I am mostly talking about serving. I've led my friends on many trips around the world, I've orchestrated a lot of group property purchases, and I've gotten many of my friends into things like tea, living in RVs, crypto, my style of personal finance, etc. I like to go off and figure something out that can benefit everyone, and then bring it back to the group and guide them through it. And, of course, my friends have also done the same for me countless times. My friend Nick got me into art, it was my friend Todd's idea to travel minimally (I wanted to get a huge backpack at first!), and my friend Jesse led me to love tea.

The biggest difference in leading leaders is that they don't need you. If you do a poor job leading or lead them astray, they'll just go off on their own and figure it out. For this reason, trust is the most important factor. A leader will not follow someone that they don't trust. For example, what's the point of friends following me on a 1 week trip around Japan if they think I might waste their time and they could have just gone and done their own trip? If I tell them that I've discovered a better way to manage finances, but they don't trust that I've actually done enough research, they'd be better off figuring out it out themselves.

The two primary ways to foster trust in this context are to build a track record and to provide context.

At this point I have such a good track record buying properties for friends that I literally had a friend buy hare of the last one without knowing what country it was in. Two properties ago he said, "I'll be in for any property you do, so for the next one just tell me how much money to send you and I'll find out where it is once it's all done." It was mostly just for fun, but illustrates the level of trust. Your process track record is even more important than the results, though. If people see that I research everything thoroughly, then even if I said, "Hey guys you should buy this random gadget", they would probably buy it because they know how thoroughly I research this things.

Of course, a track record can't magically appear, so there has to be another way. That other way is by providing the context that can allow someone to simulate their own research. For example, when I wanted to convince a friend to manage his money like a billionaire, I explained why each step was important and what the point of it was. I mentioned other things I had learned along the way. Someone who is a leader is used to doing this sort of process by himself, maybe in a different field, so he can relate and see that I recognized all of the factors that were important in making the decision.

Incidentally, I've found that in some ways it's actually easier to lead leaders. It may take longer or more effort to earn their trust, but they tend to ask fewer questions and procrastinate less because they recognize the process and also know that they won't be totally stuck if it turns out I'm wrong. Someone who isn't comfortable leading may ask a lot of questions out of fear and worry that if I'm wrong they'll be in a position that they won't know how to get out of.

Allow other leaders to lead too. A good balance for most people is leading when they're most suited to doing so, and allowing someone else to lead at other times. Only an insecure leader tries to lead everything. Leaders usually feel most valuable when they can lead others, and it doesn't make sense to have a relationship where you aren't allowing someone else to feel valuable. Plus that's really the best sort of friendship anyway, one where you each specialize in different areas and bring that expertise and experience to each other.

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Photo is from a hike I did in Oahu last week. I laid over there for just long enough to visit the Honolulu Museum of Art, which is one of my favorite museums in the world.

Tomorrow (Sunday 3/14) I'm doing my first YouTube Livestream! Please join as we talk about buying properties with friends, the island, and anything else people ask about. If people show up and enjoy it I will do more of them and maybe more YouTube.

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Sat, 13 Mar 2021 16:24:52 -0800 http://tynan.com/leading
2021 Survey Results and My First Livestream http://tynan.com/2021-survey-results-and-my-first-livestream Wow! Almost 300 people replied to the survey, most pretty thoroughly, and gave me tons to think about. I'll be digesting and acting on the feedback for a long time, but I wanted to share some of the biggest takeaways that I think readers will be most interested in. First]]>

Wow! Almost 300 people replied to the survey, most pretty thoroughly, and gave me tons to think about. I'll be digesting and acting on the feedback for a long time, but I wanted to share some of the biggest takeaways that I think readers will be most interested in.

First of all, I won't be taking a break from blogging. I was feeling a bit burnt out on it, but having read everything that you sent me totally reinvigorated my drive to blog. It reminded me of both who I'm writing for and why I'm writing. I have about ten posts ideas that I'm now very excited to write, and I'm excited about the people who will be reading them.

Maybe the biggest thing I learned was the importance of community. I built Sett from the ground up specifically because I wanted more connection with my audience, but over time the spammers became relentless and I just didn't want to spend my life fighting spammers, so I shut comments and the community section down. Many people said that they missed the community and comments, and many said that they wished they could connect more with other readers. At my live events people consistently rave about the other people they meet.

I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do, but I will create a subreddit, discord, slack, facebook group, or forum for everyone to meet in. It will either be free or very cheap and may be invite only. I'm going to think more about the best format and how to implement it, because my goal is for it to be a perpetual thing. If anyone has experience and strong suggestions, please get in touch.

One of my favorite communities is my good friend Noah Kagan's youtube viewing community. Every week he does an "office hours" livestream where they all chat and interact with him. I was a guest a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. I'm not sure that I'll do it weekly, but I'm going to commit to doing it at least monthly for a year as long as 50 or more people show up to the first one.

The first Tea Time With Tynan will be March 14th 2021 at 12pm (keep in mind the night before is daylight savings). It's going to be roughly communal-property themed, but I'll take any sorts of questions and talk about whatever people are interested in. I think it's really going to be a lot of fun, so please set a reminder and join.

I thought that I had a good handle on which topics people are most interested in, and I was right enough that people were generally happy with the post mix (though obviously this is very self-selecting because people who don't like it have already left). However, I was absolutely stunned that people were so into posts about the island and communal real estate. I felt like those topics made big splashes but that people weren't really interested in much follow-up, but I was totally wrong. I also shy away from writing about them sometimes because I don't want to be seen as constantly trying to brag about having an island or something.

By far the most controversial topic is tea. It was one of very few topics that some portion of people requested to hear less about, but also one that many people asked for more of. One of the only other topics people asked for less of was "meta blogging posts"... like this one. So, sorry about that, guys.

When people ask me what my blog is about I sort of mumble out something like, "Oh, I write about whatever I want... habits and travel and stuff", but I was surprised at how many people used very similar language to describe the blog. If I were to distill it down, people say the blog is about "Looking at a wider range of options and making independent decisions to live a better life" or something like that. I was thrilled to see that sort of language, because that's really the impact I want to have.

The advice and criticism was also interesting. There some funny paradoxes like some people saying I spend too much money and others saying I don't spend enough, some saying I'm too minimalist, others saying I'm not actually minimalist at all. Most people declined to give criticism, but of those who did, there was definitely a cluster of people worried about my environmental impact, and some saying that I came off as too smug or privileged sometimes. I have a post planned about privilege and am diving into environmental impact more before I respond to it, but I wanted acknowledge and say thank you for both pieces of feedback

I'm going to reread all of the survey answers again in one go and take notes for future blog posts. Thank you so much for being part of my blog, for reading, and for taking the time to respond. I'm really excited about blogging again and hope to chat with many of you in my livestream next week!

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Photo is the Rocky Mountains from an airplane yesterday on my way to Hawaii.

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Sun, 07 Mar 2021 14:35:26 -0800 http://tynan.com/2021-survey-results-and-my-first-livestream