Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Hidden Work

I didn't get too much done today. I spent most of the morning thinking about creating a new feature for my app. I sketched out different designs. Erased some things here, added a doodad there. It just didn't seem to fit though. After awhile of it I took a step back and realized that my approach was all wrong. I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. And furthermore, because it didn't fit right, I decided that it wasn't worth the effort to do the necessary work for the feature and to work on something else.

Although it didn't seem like I did much I actually got a lot done. We are all going to have days where we don't have a bunch of lines of code or words on paper to show for it, but that doesn't mean we didn't do work. We did the taxing work of emotional labor and thinking. Thinking doesn't happen for free.

Tim Ferris once mentioned that he would write 5 pages and only have one good paragraph that he'd actually use for his book. The rest of the writing would be thrown away. But there is no way around this because its precisely the bad work that has to be produced to get to the good work. It has to be this way. So all the work I did today led me down a path and then back to the beginning. It seems like I am back in the same spot but I gained a new perspective and solved my priorities. This learning experience could potentially save me a lot of time versus me going down a wrong path. I got work done after all.

It takes bad to get to good. Not all work can be quantitatively measured. Don't get down on yourself if it seems like you are having an unproductive day. Getting stuck or hitting quicksand might be part of the journey to getting to your goals.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Life Is Short

Life is short. We all hear this but its really hard to picture exactly how short it is. Tim Urban has some great visuals and technique for thinking about this. Think about the things you want to do in the percentage of time left to do them. For example, most of use live with our parents until we turn 18 and then move on to college. If we work we might come home once a month or so. That means that we only have 5% left of the total "spend time with parents" time left. That changes the perspective a lot. How valuable are those moments now? Might even consider making changes to increase that time?

Now that we see that time is short, how do you increase the amount of time we have? Paul Graham recommends spending less time on bullshit. In fact "It's almost the definition of bullshit that it's the stuff that life is too short for." Work on things that you find meaningful and would care about looking back in the future.

Don't worry, you don't need to quit your job. If its not soul sucking, a job can provide you the cover (health insurance & cash, less stress, etc.) to do what you love. Focus on reclaiming your time, prioritizing, and spending it on the most valuable things.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Breaking the Rules

In families with multiple siblings have been studied extensively and one of the findings is that the second sibling tends to be more rebellious.

Why? Well the first sibling starts by himself and lives in the world of the parents. The parents set the rules and the sibling is raised to conform to them. Parents tend to be more careful with the first child and get more lenient with the later ones as they get more comfortable.

So then the younger child is born. The older child is more dominant and because he has been getting rewarded for following the rules, he usually passes his way down to the younger child.

Sometimes they follow suit but often the younger child realizes he can't win, can't stand out, or doesn't want to be told by big brother what to do. He doesn't like the game that the older brother (and the parents) have created for him, so he changes the game. He breaks the rules. A rebel is born.

Similarly, today's millennial look at the world the previous generation left them with: possibly no social security, a college system that doesn't serve them (rather than empower them it leaves them in debt and little hope for saving), and housing which is ridiculously expensive. Some will follow the path that their elders say they should follow, some scraping by, others digging a grave of labor. But I'm happy (well not with the situation but with the positive change) to see that some are starting to break the rules.

I love seeing all the creative reaction to this unfortunate situation. Some are deciding to not go to college. Some are deciding not to buy house. Take advantage of remote work. Live and work anywhere in the world. Or maybe roadtrip in an RV. There are movements to redefine what success looks like. Can't afford all the status items of the previous generation? No problem because now its about the experiences you are having. Take that hike to Machu Picchu or travel through South East Asia. Minimalism is on the rise. The internet is providing thousands of ways to make impact, relations, and money. YouTube, Podcasting, and gaming are just some of the new career options.

Sure, not everything is rosy. Depression in millennials is on the rise. There are bound to be problems. But creativity and new solutions, growth happens during hard times. Rather than play a rigged game, break the rules and find a better way.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Use Substitution to Your Advantage

Today I wanted to give some examples of how we can use substitution in our lives to our advantage. We often think in terms of addition or subtraction, but there are a lot of situations were we'd be better or where it is absolutely necessary to use substitution.

Every hour we have is already accounted for. Trying to do something new like learn to play guitar, or a foreign language or a side hustle? Well, you aren't going to get more hours in the day to be able to do that thing. Instead its going to have to come from somewhere. That might mean sacrificing a different hobby, or it might be less internet browsing. For me, I used to be a big sports fan but I gave up sports completely to work on my app.

Every habit that we have serves a need. Once we realize this its much easier to change our behavior. Many people try to quit smoking without addressing the need. That usually doesn't go well. The best way is to become self aware enough to figure out what need that thing or habit is fulfilling. Then, find an appropriate substitute. I had an alcohol dependency. I replaced a glass of wine in the evening to working on something I was passionate about. The alcohol was a pick me up because I was bored and uninspired. But once I quit my job and worked on what I was excited about, that went away real quick.

Trying to diet? Rather than do a calorie restrictive diet, try to do a substitution diet instead. You don't need to starve yourself. It doesn't have to be painful. You can eat as much as you want, but you are only allowed to eat healthy foods. Instead of eating this, eat that. If you are a picky eater you can pick out of the foods you like. I've maintained a steady weight this way for the last 8 years.

When trying to change a habit or behavior sometimes substitution is the most effective

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

It's Not Safe To Speak

Hitting on yesterdays point that life is inherently risky, Jordan Peterson says "It is not safe to speak, but it is even less safe to not speak". It can be scary to put something out there. To publish that app or write that blog article or voice that opinion. God forbid put it on YouTube and have thousands or millions of people listen to what you say. If you did that you are absolutely certain to hear criticism. People might not get it. They might say your work sucks. They might laugh or mock you.

But do the work anyway. Ship it. Because NOT doing it is even more unsafe and risky. If you don't ship you won't get the feedback you need. You won't affect anyone around you. You won't have the opportunity to iterate. There would be no personal growth.

Not doing it comes with no power, no self respect, no ability to voice your opinions... no truth.

And in truth, the negative consequences are mostly fabricated in our heads. Our fear is designed to keep us alive and reproduce. It will tell us "hitting that submit button might ostracize us from the group, maybe we should keep our mouth shut, that would be safe" The truth is the opposite: most people won't care enough about you to pay attention. There might be 1 or two haters but it would be hard to get people to take notice. And if haters do take notice, good. Maybe they'll have some good criticism to take note of maybe they won't. It doesn't matter. Continue to do the work, its safer than not doing it.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Life is Risky

When considering doing something risky, we often focus on the risk of doing it and the consequences of failing. But sometimes we forget that there is often the hidden risk of not doing it.

I think one of the biggest things people forget is that our time is limited and we are all going to die. This should always be taken account in our decisions. If life was infinitely long, then there would be no risk in not taking risk. Why? Because if you didn't do it now, there truly would be time to do it later. But we haven't found the Holy Grail yet. So we all have the risk of death as our baseline to compare to.

I think back to my article on dangerous vs. scary where I say I truly believe it would have been dangerous to stay at my job. Again, its because life is finite and I would be burning my finite time, my most precious resource.

The point of this isn't to say that we should be more or less risk averse. It isn't to say we should quit our jobs. It's just a reminder to not delude ourselves that we are living life risk free regardless of the path chosen. The safest path to one person might be the most dangerous to another. Risk tradeoffs are everywhere whether we are aware of them or not.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Its not About More Information

 When people are trying to lose weight, they might research the latest fad diet or start reading books about the best way to exercise. It seems like a logic thing to do. I've done the same for learning entrepreneurship. Seeking more knowledge is all good but, and especially since we have the internet, knowledge is not the problem.

"If information were the answer, we’d all be millionaires with six-pack abs." - Derek Sivers

 How many people today do not know the secret to getting a healthy body? Every single person knows this. You have to try hard to not know this because your friends, social media, the news will all have it. Yes another book comes out every month that adapts the previous diets a little bit, authers need to make money after all. The core knowledge doesn't change that often.

And what I'm not saying is that knowledge is bad, or that you will be successful with the wrong knowledge. Because if your info is bad and you eat cheeseburgers and pizza every day then you will likely not succeed in those six pack abs. What I am saying is that there is an overabundance of information today and knowledge is rarely the problem anymore.

So what is the problem? My answer is discipline. People lack the discipline to be able to apply the knowledge that they have. And the cycle continues because in order to develop discipline that takes a little bit of knowledge (which I'm still working on but I'll share what I know) and a lot of discipline.

For now, consider spending just as much or more effort on improving your discipline than improving your knowledge.
Bruce said it best:

Credit: Quotesgram.com

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Don't Judge Others

If you see someone living their life differently than yours don't judge them. You might see a young lady take frequent lavish trips to Europe on first class flights and wonder if she has any savings. You might see couples decided not to have kids. You might see people taking the "standard" route with a house and two kids and two cars and two jobs. You might even spot a millennial on her way to early retirement at 35.

Rather than judging, make an effort to have empathy. Remember that George Carlin bit where he says everyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac? Think back to that quote when people are doing something different than you. It points out how egocentric we are; everything is relative to us.

But when we employ empathy, we can understand that those people are different than us and are driven by different values. I personally wouldn't buy an expensive luxury car because I rather use that money for more freedom and travel. But I can put myself into that family-from-povery-first-to-graduate-from-college's mind and realize that the car is much more meaningful to that person than just transportation. It represents success and new beginnings of happiness for him and his family and he draws much more happiness from it that I could have.

Not to mention that we often are only working with partial information. Maybe that young lady is not being reckless with her money because she's been saving earlier in her life. We don't know what her financial portfolio looks like. We don't know exactly what her values are either. Maybe she's made a conscious decision to have fun the earlier part of her life and does understand that she will work harder later to make it up. Or maybe she even has a terminal disease so she is living it up while she can. We don't know.

It reminds me of something Derek Sivers said: we might initially think that a serial entrepreneur was super successful. But what if that person had really wanted to not work as much and settle down in a peaceful quiet life but couldn't because of the entrepreneur addiction. In that case, I wouldn't call him a success.

Through practicing empathy, I've learned to appreciate others' decisions. At the same time I realize that sometimes others will judge me and my decisions but I can accept (and ignore) that because I understand that they are seeing things from their lens. Its my dream not theirs.

Friday, February 8, 2019

People In Control Do Not Get Angry

One of my favorite posts related to the concept of "Fuck you money" (which I'll refer to as FYM from here on) is A Story of a Fuck Off Fund. In short, the lack of FYM hinders your ability to fight for your values and, by extension, to control how you live your life.

I just wanted to use it to point out something else: People who are truly in control do not get angry

See, FYM tends to have some anger behind it. Someone toils away building up their savings until they have enough. Then they can yell those magical words at their pointy haired boss and walk out the door. Pent up anger from years of being "forced" to do work they didn't want to do.

But if you look closely, you'll notice that there's weakness there. That's frustration. That's lack of control.

Why? Because someone else caused you to have these negative feelings. Something external. People who are truly in control don't get frustrated or angry. Why? Because they have the power to do something about it.

If the company changes and you end up having an inept boss? No problem. You have the skills to manage up or the financial discipline to leave. You don't throw your arms up like a kid and cry about your situation. That's what control feels like.

In reality, noone has complete control but the more you hone your resourcefulness, problem solving, and skills to empower yourself, the less you will feel the need to be angry (or sad, depressed, etc.)

In the FYM story, if you do end up reaching your financial independence, consider exercising your control muscle and leave with dignity and grace.. for it was really you who did not have the skills to improve your situation. But hey, you can also give yourself a pat on the back for building up the discipline to empower yourself. Good job.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Write Every Single Day

I was listening to Seth Godin's Podcast Akimbo and the Q and A section had some gold. I haven't been writing for awhile but after listening to this, I'm forced to start again. I'm just going to transcribe the question and response verbatim.

 From Akimbo, episode "The Big Sort", time 34:28


"You highly recommend blogging daily, you say it will change you for the better. You also talk about putting your work out there for people to see and not hide it because of what they may think, and also you remind us that there is no such thing as writers block. If you can't write things that are great just keep writing and it will naturally get better"

"So here's the question: If I commit to a daily blog, and I commit to putting it out there for anyone and everyone to see, should I still post on days when the content isn't as good as I'd want it to be? Should I just not care what people think?"

Seth's Response:

"I'm glad that my riffs about the daily writing habit are resonating with you. So let me try to be specific as I can. Your work will never be good enough. Your work is unlikely to ever feel good enough. But we do the work anyway. We go to the gym even though we can't run a 4 minute mile. We decide to write an essay or a book or a blog post even though we are not Steven King. That's OK. The goal here is not to be perfect. The goal is not even to be the best in the world. The goal is to express ourselves, to be interesting, to land an idea in someone else's consciousness so they can go ahead and also make things better."

"So yes you have to ship every single day. You can't say 'what the heck' and ship junk. But you have to ship every single day. Because that will put the resistance on notice and the resistance will push you to make better work the first time as opposed to spending all its time stalling and looking for excuses."

Recommitting again. Thanks Seth.