Out of the corner of my eye, just past the cars lined up in the turning lane, I could see that something was coming towards me quickly. Way too quickly. I tried to swerve, but knew that the inevitable was coming.
I heard crunching metal, the screeching of tires sliding sideways against the pavement, and smashed glass. A driver ran a red light at full speed and t-boned me.
Once the car stopped, I hesitated for a fraction of a second before looking over at my fiancée. The car had driven straight into her door, which she was leaning on. She was okay. Good.
I got out of the car, now facing traffic in the oncoming traffic lane and walked towards the other guy's car. His airbags had deployed and the front of his car totally smashed. He looked at me with a blank stare. I opened my palms towards him as if to say, "what was that all about?"
My main goal as a writer is to write pieces that will spark a permanent positive change for someone. I assume that most posts won't do that for anyone, but if I write enough and have enough people read my posts, it will happen from time to time. I read a lot of blog posts and it rarely happens to me, but when it does, the effect is powerful and makes it worth reading all the posts that have no effect.
Around five years ago I read an excellent piece by Sebastian Marshall about Consolidation (http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/on-brilliance-and-consolidation) that had such an effect on me. Before reading it, any consolidation I did was random. Sometimes it happened, other times it didn't.
Consolidation, at least as I think about it, is taking time after progress to both cement the process and reset so that you're ready for the next piece of work. Some examples:
1. I built CruiseSheet to be a great cruise search engine, but it required a lot of my own intervention to keep it running. Things would break and I'd have to go fix them. So I spent a bunch of time automating maintenance, building failsafes, and building alerts to to let me know when stuff stopped working. This didn't increase revenue and certainly wasn't exciting, but it allowed me to keep the gains I'd made and free up my time and focus for the next project.
I remember hearing about the Teforia a long time ago. The story around it was that it was this comically overpriced tea brewer, often compared with the Juicero, that symbolized what was wrong with Silicon Valley.
So, of course, I took very little interest in it. I like brewing tea and, having brewed it at least a few thousand times, I'm pretty good at it. What's the point of a machine that's not going to do it as well as I can?
I can't remember why, but a few weeks ago, the Teforia came back on my radar. I searched and found that they had gone out of business and that the machines which were once $1000-15000 were now being sold as cheaply as $200 on eBay.
At the same time, I had been noticing something troubling about my productivity. I realized that because I made tea at my desk every day, and because it required a fair amount of manual intervention, I would avoid any tasks which required serious concentration for the first couple hours.
It cost me about $100 to go to my friend's Christmas party. I had to buy a cheap flight from Vegas to San Francisco, and then a couple uber rides to and from the party.
On the surface, that doesn't make all that much sense to do. But I made a deal with myself—any time one of my good friends in SF invites me to something in SF, I will go, even if it's not quite worth it on paper.
My friends in SF are some of my closest friends. I love living in Las Vegas and have saved a ton of money in doing so, but if moving meant that I'd never spend time with my SF friends, the move wouldn't be worth it for me.
Sometimes the only way to unlock something valuable is to overpay for something else. The only way I can live in Vegas and still maintain important friendships is by overpaying most of the times I hang out with them. So overall it's a net benefit.
In one of my (many) posts about optimizing, someone made a comment to the effect of, "What's the point of optimizing everything? Eventually you'll optimize your entire life away and have nothing left to do." That reminded me of what people say when they hear that I'm being cryogenically frozen when I die. Very often they say that they wouldn't want to live forever.
It is very peculiar to me that people would ever want to die, but that's another topic. Even stranger to me is that people somehow believe that the exact right time to die is when they are going to die anyway. Good genes and healthy living, dying at age 95? Perfect. Cancer at 65? Also perfect.
If you would not end your life earlier, and would likely get medical treatment to extend it to a "normal" life expectancy, why would you not also live forever, or at least until you voluntarily died at age 500?
(I should say here that I believe there is only a 5% chance I will actually be preserved and resurrected in the future, so you can save the comments about why it won't work)
One of my friends likes to remind me that everyone is worrying all the time, because he senses that I almost never worry. He's right, and when I do worry it tends to be a more active process where there's something happening and I'm trying to figure out what to do about it. I'm not really even sure that can be defined as worry.
Of course, a large part of being able to rarely worry is that I have a very good life. If I was in an abusive relationship and under constant threat of violence, I have to assume that I would worry all the time.
While there are circumstances from which it is very difficult to extricate oneself, I've found that a lot of not worrying is just putting yourself in a position where you have few things which concern you.
A perfect example is living below your means. I have always been perfectly willing to live below my means, even when there wasn't all that much room below the bar. For a while I lived in my RV and cooked the same lentil, quinoa, and vegetable stew every night for dinner. Though I really enjoyed that lifestyle, it was certainly less convenient and comfortable than living in a nice apartment and eating out every night.
The first thing I did where I was aware that people thought I was crazy was to buy a school bus with my friends. In retrospect it probably wasn't the first time people thought I was crazy, just the first time it was so obvious that I couldn't ignore it. I was somewhat oblivious back then, so a lot got by me.
People really thought I was nuts when I started gambling. I suppose I sort of encouraged it as a prank, but there was a very real consensus at school that I had become a problem gambler.
Not everyone thought I was crazy when I dropped out of school, but many people did.
Again, almost everyone thought I was crazy when moved to LA with a few weeks notice to learn pickup. Same when I sold everything to travel the world with a tiny backpack, when I bought the island, when moved to Vegas, when I go on cruises, and who knows what else.
While a lot of the actions I take on a daily basis strike people as normal and reasonable, I'd wager that the majority of people would classify most of my major life decisions as crazy.
For years I've thought about doing a live event for my readers. It's always been on the backburner as I've thought about formats and group sizes, but my friend Leo Babauta challenged me to set a date and just do one, so I did.
Last weekend ten people came into town for a 1.5 day event. They were pretty brave, because I gave almost no information on what the event would be like, since I didn't really know when I posted it.
As the weeks passed and I thought about the event, I decided to keep it simple. We'd hang out together in a big hotel suite and I'd coach them one on one, pairing them up with someone else to act as an accountability buddy. I had done something similar via video chat for a charity a few years before and got good feedback on it.
Not having ever done an event like this, I didn't really know what to expect. Would people get along? Would we have way too much time or not enough? How many breaks should we take? What kind of person would actually show up?
Take it easy, she said. A-Yi, a middle-aged Taiwanese woman, rushed us out the door. Go eat! Enjoy! Thirty seconds earlier we sat at her table and enjoyed the two different teas that she prepared for us. I tried to pay, but she wouldn't have it. Take it easy.
Odd behavior for a woman who runs a tea store. We came in looking for some tea cups we wanted to buy, but she only had one left, and Leo wanted four.
Want to drink some tea, she had asked? We'd already had two pots, but it's hard to turn down good tea.
We sat far an hour or so and drank two teas from Dong Ding, her hometown. We had a nice little conversation about tea, her store, and our lives. When my rough Chinese failed, she called her daughter's husband to have him translate a few things.
Once in a while people who meet me give me the feedback that they're surprised that I'm actually a real person who doesn't just work 24/7. A challenge of being a public writer is balancing giving useful information versus giving an accurate picture.
I think a lot of the confusion comes from a post I wrote six years ago called Love Work. I just re-read the post and it brings me right back to that time in my life. I really was working about twelve hours a day and loving it. In some ways I miss those days. I remember being in my RV almost all day, eating the same food every day, and making huge progress on Sett.
That period of time was very important for me because before then I didn't know if I could work hard or not. I thought that I could, but I had no proof, and I felt that in some key ways I was lagging behind my peers whom I admired. I also had a tremendous amount of work that needed to be done, so it felt great to cut right through it.
By the time we wound down Sett, I was burnt out. Not from hard work, but from working on something that I didn't feel would succeed. I forced myself to do it for a while because I knew that it was important to cultivate the ability to work hard, and if I quit early I wouldn't be able to know whether I quit because I couldn't work hard or because I had made the right decision to stop working on something that was unlikely to succeed.