I like to kill two, three, four birds with one stone whenever I can. Produce and learn at the same time, consume and produce, learn and relax, connect with people and learn, learn/connect/relax/produce, etc. Every day I try to exercise and learn at the same time by listening to some smart audio while I walk, jog, or run. I like to do small projects with friends and acquaintances - it's a great way to connect with someone, get to know each other more, learn/knowledge exchange new skills, and maybe make some money in the process.
Mixing "walking around" into other time and paying attention goes a long way towards getting smarter. Sometimes when I want to think, I go walk or jog around a neighborhood I don't know. I figure if I pay attention, I can learn the layout of the neighborhood, what kind of people live there, what kind of businesses are there, what kind of businesses aren't there that could be.
I went for a three mile walk near Sheung Wan in Hong Kong yesterday. I walked through an area with lots of mechanics and other mech/craft shops. I kept walking, and as I climbed up some hills, I came suddenly into a really upscale neighborhood and the cars started looking nicer - I saw particularly quite a few BMW's. So I think - hmm, there's a lot of mechanics two miles away, but I'm not seeing a garage up here. I know in nice neighborhoods people will pay as much as a 2x premium to get their car serviced without driving far. (I made the mistake of going to "Bel Air Auto Care" once when I lived in Bel Air last year - yeah, 2x what it should have cost for some work). But that's a good deal for some people whose time is very precious to them, they'd rather get premium auto service fast than drive a couple miles to save a couple bucks.
So I start thinking, if I spoke Cantonese, was local to Hong Kong, and had money to invest, would it make sense to look for some space two miles up the hill in Sheung Wan in the nice neighborhood? I was impressed with the mechanics walking through - generally looked pretty skilled and hard working. In one shop there was a boy, maybe 8 years old, reading a book while his dad worked. So I think - these are smart, hard working people. If you could get a lease at the right price, you know there's already talented mechanics nearby you could hire with a pay increase. Could your auto shop make enough money to cover the lease and expenses? I think locking up a long term lease in Sheung Wan would be worth some money in and of itself, so if the business was slightly profitable you'd have a good thing going.
It was like a scavenger hunt trying to find good coffee when I was in Cambodia a few months ago. I thought to myself - hey, here's an opportunity to build a chain of cafes, starting in Siem Riep and Phnomh Penh. You could brand/gear it up like the coffee chains that tourists like - Starbucks, Pacific Coffee, Coffee Bean, etc. If you went a step further and branded it the right way, you could also make it the kind of place that's an experience to go to, that would be a fun activity for even a relatively poor Cambodian family to aspire to go every so often. I was thinking I'd call it the "Western Coffee Company", and brand it like the Old West a little bit. Wooden saloon type vibe, little brick mixed in, Old West-inspired dress, and maybe live guitar or fiddle once a day or once a week. It could be an aspirational, entertainment place for local Khmer people while serving tourists heading to Angkor Wat and exploring Cambodia. And again, that land's only going to go up in value. Someone's going to build or expand a coffee chain into Cambodia and make a mint.
I'd do a heck of a lot more research if I was going to implement an idea like that, but just walking around and paying attention goes a long way towards figuring out opportunities and learning where things are. And I just mix it into my day - go for a walk, get some exercise, listen to a book on audio, and pay attention to my surroundings. Maybe do some errands or shopping at the same time too. No problem. Expand my mind, kill four birds with one stone.
Just started reading the blog. Really enjoying the posts. I often walk around the city of Mumbai for inspiration. I notice I get some of my best ideas when I am in a reflective mood and in an open space. Thanks for this post.
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Excellent post, very inspiring. I already am always trying to do a few things at once and get some learning into other activities, but I never thought of trying to play pseudo-entrepreneur while walking around. Definitely a good way to develop an instinct for that kind of thing.
I think it's not walking around or paying attention, it's being interested.
Pick any random topic, birds, ship anchors, triple layer cakes, anything and interested people can come up with questions that would like answered about the topic. They are interested.
What's shocking is how little interest some people have in their own area of specialization. Many people aren't even interested in the thing they've decided to dedicate their life to.
In 2006, I quit the vast majority of intoxicants. I don't drink, I don't use recreational drugs, I don't smoke tobacco, I don't drink soda, and I am working on quitting all sweets entirely, and largely succeeding. I am not one for fine dining, and not frequently one for other forms of hedonism.
I usually do not advertise this - I might write about it for people who wish to know what I do, but I do not bring it up in conversation unless it comes up. But occasionally it does come up, and a common reaction is someone saying, half-joking, "Then why bother living?"
I think I understand. Many people do jobs they dislike for causes they feel nothing about. This must wreak havoc on a man's spirit. Most people spend more of their waking time on their work than any other thing - I can only imagine what spending the bulk of my time on something I disliked would feel like. Or worse, not even something I disliked - but something I felt very neutral about.
If a man's occupation becomes a slow crushing of his spirit, then of course he would need high energy, and high impact to free him from it. He needs to fit all of his leisure into his remaining waking time - from 6PM at night to 10PM when he is home from work, on the two days of his weekend, and his vacation time each year. Of course, not even that time is all his own - he still has to commute, run errands, do admin, do necessary little things. The reality of the situation is far worse - most people don't live bad lives, they just move slowly and quietly through things they don't particularly care for.
Of course, if a man only had 5% of his waking time to himself, he would want to maximize this time in the easiest, most surefire way of producing pleasure and relaxation. Who could blame this man? I don't. If I was suffering through a soul-killing occupation and had very little time, I would want to make sure that the time I did have was very enjoyable.
Walking has been a big part of simplifying my life. I don’t think there is anything simpler than grabbing a pair of shoes, or going barefoot, and walking to where you are going. At first I found the experience of walking to be incredibly painful. My legs tightened up and hurt for days at a time afterwards I realized this was because I didn't have any leg muscles, and my walking had forced me to start building them up again. I also find walking relaxing and meditative. I'm a thinker, and love to spend my time pondering different ideas or concepts, and figuring out how I could use those ideas in the real world. Walking allows me to do this without any real distractions. I get to have my body moving which helps to disperse built up energy, and I don’t have to worry about the things related to driving.
There are numerous people in history who have spoken about walking and all the benefits it provides. Henry David Thoreau would make himself some breakfast, then choose a direction and walk for hours. He would explore the wilderness around his cabin. Thomas Jefferson said that the morning is for learning different ideas, and the afternoons are for long walks. He felt that it was a good habit of able bodied men, and that with time, you could greatly increase the length of your walks. These walks seemed to help clarify the thoughts of these great thinkers, and enable them to better put those thoughts into words.
The next benefit of walking is the muscles and posture that it helps to develop. The habit of sitting all day has been disastrous to our health. For me personally, it had caused a utter lack of back muscles. So when I overexerted my back, I pulled a bunch of weak muscles in my back, causing long term damage. I believe walking, and standing, help to build all the muscles in your body because you don’t have anything to support yourself or lean on. I think other things should be done to build muscles as well, but walking certainly doesn't hurt.
I love how simple walking is for me. I no longer own a car, and it has been quite a while since I owned a bicycle. I find it such a relief not to have to worry about looking after these items. I no longer have to pay for insurance, gas, repair bills, parking passes, or have the general responsibility of car ownership. Even not having a bicycle is nice. I don’t have to worry about people stealing my bike, or figuring out how to fix it when it gets broken, or getting run over when I'm biking on the road. It is extremely liberating to just walk, not having a care in the world.