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Going Tribal with the Mentawai of Indonesia

Spear, machete, bow and a quiver of poison tipped arrows at my feet. Wearing a loincloth I made from the bark of a tree.

I spent the last 10 days in the jungles of Siberut Island in Indonesia, living with an indigenous tribe known as the Mentawai. I helped make poison tipped arrows, made a loincloth from tree bark, trekked for hours at a time, balancing on narrow logs through muddy swamps to gather and prepare jungle food such as, Sago Palm starch, Sago grubs, river shrimp, small bony fish, the fruit of the chocolate tree (cacao), and of course, coconuts. In return I taught a few of them how to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together.

The Mentawai people live in traditional longhouses which are built on stilts, occupied by one family and are usually miles apart. Most of their food comes from the starchy trunk of the Sago Palm which they also use as feed for the chickens and wild pigs. At least once a day, the man of the house will split a Sago trunk, toss the logs down into the mud and then call the hogs in from the jungle. Let me tell you, for sure, there is no scarier sound than wild pigs mating; especially when you are on a night walk trying to dig a hole for a toilet. High pitched screaming combined the most demonic growling I've ever heard (followed by a stampede in my direction???); they sound like monsters.

Follow your Passion

On Meditations

The idea of following your passion has been a concept that has been vastly overused, but still has a lot of value to it. The way that I think it applies best is to what you do with your free time, but has benefits for work and school as well. I think that the things that excite you is basically a way of saying this is what you should be doing right now. For me personally, what excites has changed dramatically over the years. In my work year after high school, I got really into a computer game. I spent months getting really good at it and reached a peak where I was ranked 2nd out of 50,000 people. Then came the time where I was just done with it. I didn’t want to look at it, hear about it, or even think about it. A few months afterwards, I started down the road of learning about finance and investing. I was reading $200 worth of books from Amazon every few weeks. While that is still one of my hobbies, it isn’t nearly as intense as it was at the beginning.

For me, I look at my passion and my excitement as an honest indicator of whether I should be doing what I’m doing or not. I’ve stopped trying to force myself to do, what I “think” I should be doing. One example that comes to mind is book lists. It has been a popular trend to find a book list that you “should” read and slowly work your way through it. While I don’t think this route is bad, I certainly don’t think it is optimal. I personally hate having things I think I should be doing, and have that act as a weight that I carry around on a daily basis. I much prefer to be free of any obligations, that way I feel quick, agile, and better able to focus when I so choose.

I’ve always found time management to be such a breeze when I’m in the midst of an intense learning phase. My mind is constantly figuring out ways that I can spend more time doing and learning about what I love. When I was learning about finance I would wake up in the morning, pull out a investing book and read for an half hour before work. I’d read during my half an hour lunch break. And then I’d spend my evenings either reading or golfing. I felt incredibly productive and absolutely loved what I was doing. On the other hand, there has been many times where I’m reading a book, and I can only get through a few pages before my mind starts to wonder. I take that as a sign that I’m not truly interested in the subject matter.

I think it is silly to become a renaissance man, simply to say that you are. It makes far more sense to live an awesome life that you love and realize that you have become one naturally. Here are some examples of my interests:

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