This is maybe not something you want to blog about, but I found myself thinking about this morning. I'm curious as to what you see as your current biggest challenges and weaknesses. Your written voice is wonderfully confident, I'm wondering if I met you the kinds of things we'd talk about that you struggle with in terms of discipline, getting things done, and making a better life for yourself.
Sure, Dan. Good question.
For me, this is a rolling sort of thing. I'm always looking for what's broken and trying to fix it quickly, or at least take a dent out of it. But here's a few -
Family and household building - One of the top things I'd like is to be a parent and start having children. I think it's harmonious with everything else I'm working on and I feel like I'm as ready and prepared as I'm ever going to be.
There's some challenges with that, though. Building a generally successful relationship and building a household are a little bit different. My lifestyle conflicts a little bit with some of the stability that'd be desirable for parenting, and I'm not wealthy to the point where it'd be trivial to travel back and forth from home and other places.
Also, I believe modern marriage in the West is in a disastrously bad state of affairs, which doesn't make looking to build a household easier. I won't be getting married under American law, no chance. This is probably a divisive point of view and I don't want to write a full exposé on it, but I can't in good conscience sign a contract that merges my assets completely with another person, where either of us can break the contract and divide those assets afterwards at any time, for any reason, without the consent of the other person you're signing the contract with.
It's... it's insane. It's not just money, either - I do creative work, research, business, I own a minority stake in a small private company... people count on me, I can't sign a commitment to an economic merging with another person who can break that at any time with disastrous consequences for all involved. Hell, not just from a pragmatic point of view - it also just seems wrong.
Unfortunately, there's no socially accepted way to establish a permanent, social/spiritual connection without the (insane) economic contract attached to it these days. This isn't insurmountable, but does make what I'm trying to do trickier.
I'm addicted to bread - On a much lighter note, I've cleaned up my diet a lot recently. I'm cooking most of my meals. Rice and beans is my primary staple, with hard boiled eggs, tuna, vegetables, oatmeal, plain yogurt, and apples mixed in, and maybe a little chicken.
It's really great. Fast, cheap, easy, tasty, healthy. I started lifting weights again too recently. But I want bread all the time. It's like my body is not in harmony with my diet. My mind just starts going IwantbreadIwantbreadIwantbreadIwantbread... - so that's tricky. I just had two lovely butter croissants before working out today, but I think that's the last bread I'll have for a while. I'm going to try to go for a month without it. If it's practical, I'd like to drop it entirely from my diet.
Eliminating down cycles after up cycles - Maybe you've experienced this. You do four days of amazing, exceptional work. Really push your limits. Achieve, produce a lot. But then you crash for a while.
It's no good. I've been looking for ways to eliminate or mitigate the crash after a few days of high upside time. I just designed a new tracking template for myself today actually, and I've got some theories on how I can reduce the chance of crash and get more work done during a crash if one does happen. I'll post on this in the coming days.
Things that are scary because they're unfamiliar - I want to be doing more of them. For instance, the Mongolian Stock Exchange. I rent my apartment right near the stock exchange. I'd like to just put on a suit, go in, and walk around. Pick up some brochures. Talk to a trader if I can find one who speaks English who has a free moment. Learn some stuff about it.
I think there's some opportunity here - it's still a huge hassle to buy shares on the Mongolian Exchange. Maybe I could do something with them? Or maybe not, but it'd be fun and interesting anyways.
So why don't I do it? I don't know. My suit is hanging in the closet, it doesn't need dry cleaning or pressing. The weather's nice enough. Put on clothes, shoes, walk in and strike up a conversation. Why not, right?
But it's kind of scary, because it's unfamiliar. I want to do more, faster, of these unfamiliar things. You know, I can walk into a cafe I've never been and order a coffee. No problem. Why should there be a problem walking into the Exchange? It's just walking into a cafe and ordering a coffee.
So why can't I walk into the Mongolian Stock Exchange like that? Ask for some brochures, maybe strike up a conversation? There's no reason I can't. But it's kind of scary because it's unfamiliar. I want to do more scary unfamiliar things, though it's still a legitimate challenge for me to do.
More enterprising and creative work - I'll post the newest version my time tracking sometime soon, but I replaced the old "A-task" category with two clearer categories - "Enterprising" and "Creative" - I also am now better defining priorities at the start of the day, and marking down everything interesting or important that happens in a day.
The tweaks I made seem good and I'm looking to translate that into to spend more time creating and enterprising.
Some other recent problems/challenges - So, I'm always looking for new things to be seeking out that aren't perfect and improving them. Some of the recent ones, these are all pretty much under control right now:
*I'm happy with the bodyfat cuts I made, I'm going to start bulking now and lifting every other day.
*I was feeling kind of run ragged and wanted to settle down for a while, so I got an apartment kind of an whim. $395 per month in the city center, furnished. Pretty nice work environment.
*Last year, I set some big goals to connect with more people. Now I'm connecting with 3-10 new people per week, probably an average of 5 or so? That's quite cool.
*In that same vein, I'm slowly building up the Cabal. Things are coming together there, though everything always takes longer than you expect it to.
*My email volume went up a lot recently, and I was starting to drown in it, but I adjusted my habits and it's more manageable now. I'm looking to hit zero every day, but still not there. Getting better about deciding instantly, first time I touch anything, and replying, filing, or scheduling right away. That's huge.
*Last month in China I had a lot of work to do, my blog writing was subpar, and I wasn't proud of it. I really stepped it up since I've gotten to Mongolia and getting some really great feedback. So that's cool.
*I started spending a lot more time on personal finance. I have enough going on right now that optimizing to get a 2% to 5% boost in cashback, better currency conversion and ATM fees, etc., is now worth doing. Usually it's better to put time into increasing production than it is to cut costs, because production scales and cost-cutting doesn't. But I've got enough going on money-wise now that optimizing made sense, so I put some time into that and reorganized it.
*Just played with a bunch of new technology infrastructure. I've added a solid VPN, Google Voice, Dropbox, and Spotify to the technology I'm using.
*Did enough research that the toxicity and downsides to taking Piracetam seem not so bad. Started on a low dose of 800 mg per day, no side effects. I'll increase the dosage soon.
Yeah, that's what I've got going on. Good questions here. You caught me in the midst of lots of good things happening, I would say things aren't always this smooth and straightforwards. Oh, I know you were doing some stuff with international corporations and tax law and such, and that's something I'm curious to learn more about. It's not short term important, but 3-5 years from now maybe, so I think we'd talk about that.
Life's pretty good. The nice thing about a "Give Me Strife and Suffering (but in manageable doses)" sort of attitude is that you wind up building decent fundamentals pretty quick, and then it's just like playing with house money. Even the bigger stresses and challenges right now are all pretty cool and interesting blessings - it's a direct result of fighting violently against problems as they come up, really immersing yourself in doing more and better.
I wrote this in September of last year in the Strife post-
Your mind – your thoughts – may come into conflict, especially when you’re trying to do meaningful things. It’s easy to feel the pull of distraction and ease, and to choke up and pause in fear when you look at the mountain you’re set to climb. The mind is not in harmony, especially at the beginning. Struggle, strife, conflict, suffering.
I say – give it to me! But not so fast that it will break me. I must be pragmatic. We must be pragmatic. We have our limits. We can expand them over time. It’s not brave to go into the gym for the first time and try to lift 400 pounds. It’s foolhardy, unrealistic, stupid. Being pragmatic, aware of our limits takes its own sort of courage.
But I want to suffer, I want to be bathed in strife, I want conflict, I want challenge, I want it to be hard – but just barely easy enough that I can make it through.
I set goals every week. I aim for a 70% success rate. That means I fall short on 30% of my goals every week. I figure, if I succeeded at 100% my goals weren’t set high enough. If I succeed below 70%, this might be too much to stay on the path. If I succeeded above 70%, I add more for next week. If less, I pare down to the most essential things and try to get my success rate up.
Every week I want strife and struggle. I want challenge. I want to be always falling short of what I could be, and that is the way forwards.
And you know what? It... worked. Life's pretty good now. Constant immersion in strife and struggle sucks for a while, but then you're playing with house money. Even my problems are a lot of fun.
Let's talk international tax law next time we talk! That'll be exciting to learn about. Good question here, and life is pretty good - thanks for asking.
I didn't know the law in the USA was like that for marriages... Very materialistic!
I'm Bulgarian and I married last year. It was the easiest thing I've ever done in terms of administration, and I still can't believe it (Bulgaria is usually an administrative hell).
We've had a law for the last year or so that enables couples to choose what type of material commitment they are making - so we chose that we won't be binded legally (we didn't even change our names or documents) - if I buy a house or anything, it's mine - we can choose co-ownership, but that's just like in normal people's co-ownership.
So you could try in Europe, I'm pretty sure most countries have similar versions of this law.
By the way it sounds strange - the way you worded the statement about building a family - like a 'to-do' entry just because you need this thing done and 'start having children' - as a woman, this sentence scared me :-D
"Unfortunately, there’s no socially accepted way to establish a permanent, social/spiritual connection without the (insane) economic contract attached to it these days. This isn’t insurmountable, but does make what I’m trying to do trickier."
Moving in together without getting married beforehand is getting more and more socially-accepted. I almost promised myself that I wouldn't get married either. To spend a lifetime with one person? That's just asking for trouble in my opinion. Then again, a lady could come along and change that viewpoint. But just like anything unorthodox, it isn't impossible, just more difficult.
"Eliminating down cycles after up cycles – Maybe you’ve experienced this. You do four days of amazing, exceptional work. Really push your limits. Achieve, produce a lot. But then you crash for a while.
It’s no good. I’ve been looking for ways to eliminate or mitigate the crash after a few days of high upside time. I just designed a new tracking template for myself today actually, and I’ve got some theories on how I can reduce the chance of crash and get more work done during a crash if one does happen. I’ll post on this in the coming days."
Greatness is cyclic; trying to get away from that just dooms you to mediocrity, the flat level plain of unrelenting hard work: the ditchdigger.
"Life is suffering," said Buddha. His plan? Release your attachments to this world and end your suffering.
I'm not with Buddha on this one. Give me strife and suffering. And once I have grown stronger, tempered, hardened by the strife, give me MORE.
Life is strife, suffering, struggle. Your body and mind are kept alive by a series of violent chemical reactions, your heartbeat, the acid in your stomach, the cells constantly breaking apart and dying as new ones are created, the battle towards homeostatis with different bacteria and cells combating each other, all inside your body.
Your mind - your thoughts - may come into conflict, especially when you're trying to do meaningful things. It's easy to feel the pull of distraction and ease, and to choke up and pause in fear when you look at the mountain you're set to climb. The mind is not in harmony, especially at the beginning. Struggle, strife, conflict, suffering.
I say - give it to me! But not so fast that it will break me. I must be pragmatic. We must be pragmatic. We have our limits. We can expand them over time. It's not brave to go into the gym for the first time and try to lift 400 pounds. It's foolhardy, unrealistic, stupid. Being pragmatic, aware of our limits takes its own sort of courage.
[caption id="attachment_396" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Yup, big dreams.[/caption]
This article was shared with me recently, it's an excellent read and provides some good reasoning for why people feel that vague sense of living an unaccomplished life. I'll admit it, I am most definitely a Gypsy. My garden right now it full of flowers of unrealistic expectations. I'd begun to discover this while meditating and watching my emotions daily. In Headspace, there's a section called the discovery series. You begin to focus on watching your emotions throughout the day and when your mind gets distracted and wanders. More specifically you watch the ways in which you wish things were different. You begin to notice the gulf between reality and fantasy.
At first I spotted the fantasties and dismissed them entirely. I was disappointed in myself for being so ridiculous and unrealistic. However, soon enough I realised that those fantasties had some utility. They could potentially shape long term goals. In Pragmatic Thinking and Learning (a book I'd highly recommend), there is a concept called the Pragmatic Investment Plan, where you essentially break down your longer term goals into where you want to be in say 5 years time and that's broken down into where you want to be in a year and what tasks can you do right now. Take a wild guess at where I found the inspiration for where I wanted to be in 5 years time? It's pretty fun breaking down some of your dreams into a potentially attainable setting of SMART goals.
Say you've started to get into drawing and you want others to see and possibly be moved by your work. Right now you still suck but you dream of the day when something you created was in a gallery or an exhibition. Well, you've found your five year SMART goal. You could have year one be to create a blog and regularly publish a new piece of work. The thing right now you could do is grab that drawing book you held off buying. If nothing else, it's a start. A few months down the line you might realise you're not that into drawing or you're totally into it. Either way to get to that point and either fulfill or dismiss the fantasy it starts with trying it on.
Sure, we all fantasise about about the craziest things and it's sometimes even embarrassing, but there's real insight there. Sit down with these fantasies and break them down into attainable chunks, then act on those chunks. You'll get a hell of a lot farther than just sitting there wishing things were different.