"You ever played Mass Effect?"
"I haven't. Any good?"
"Oh yeah. Oh yeah. The graphics... out of this world. Great shooting, great to play, you get these great powers, you get to make these choices that affect the ending... man, just a great game."
We were sitting in the apartment of the Head of Marketing and Entertainment at a local top hotel. We're working with him. Awesome guy, I haven't met anyone I enjoyed just hanging out with doing nothing in particular so much in a long time.
He studied IT before getting into business, and he had a really cool setup. He plugged his laptop's HDMI output into his nice big flatscreen plasma TV. Then he took two knockoff Playstation controllers and plugged them into the USB ports.
He had a Mortal Kombat anthology on there, so there we were throwing around uppercuts and roundhouses, combos and grenades and "Get Over Here!" and ice blasts and whatever. I used to play MKII and MK3 back in the day, so after getting back on the controls I held my own. Still got whupped, but good memories.
And it's like... you know, this ain't so bad. He bought his own apartment, great view of Ulaanbaatar below. Nice furniture, did his wallpaper up somewhat like a nightclub. A real bachelor's place. Nice kitchen with good food, snacks and drinks, great entertainment and sound system.
And the lifestyle? Long hours, but working with interesting and cool people to Ulaanbaatar. Extremely connected among the local bands, entertainmeners, and nightclubs in Ulaanbaatar.
Later in the night, walking home (I checked out first, had planned on doing work in the morning), I got soaked head to toe when a car hit a huge puddle at full steam. My iPhone and headset got wet, so I turned them off, leaving myself with just the silence and myself, clomp-chomping my wet leather boots and socks, the t-shirt and light cloth pants clinging wetly to my frame.
And I think, "There's really some good alternatives to adventuring."
If you wanted to do an equation of strictly, "Pleasure Minus Pain = What I Want"... well, you'd never choose an adventuring and expansion path.
Because you know, a great place to live, great friends in the local area, solid job, decent entertainment...
...and you know, my man isn't satisfied. Head of Marketing and Entertainment at an awesome hotel, a position usually held by someone 10-15 years older. But it's not enough for him, he ran his own company a few years back and he's going to get back into the entrepreneurship game in a couple years.
And why? The world is his, pain is low, pleasure is high. Pleasure really doesn't get much higher than sitting around with friends, laughing, playing some Playstation. We went to the grocery store before to get drinks and snacks. ("Want to get some beers?" "Nah, I don't drink." "I shouldn't either! Ok, soft drinks!") So having some soft drinks and popcorn, dumplings, and some entertainment -- or some beers and vodka and electronic music -- can there really be much more raw satisfaction than that?
The sun rising over Ankor Wat? The feeling of achievement or writing a great piece? Taking a great photograph?
It fades, it fades... if anything, every time you push the bar, you see the higher height. The driven artist or entrepreneur doesn't do it for the satisfaction, but to push his or her potential... and once you've pushed it, it's harder to push it again. The pleasure and true pride of achievement builds your character permanently, but doesn't soothe the restless man's soul the way a warm hearth and home does.
You can't fail, not really, when you don't try. And the artist, entrepreneur, builder is certain to fail. And painfully so. Destiny is never written beforehand, there's no guarantee of success even if it seemed foreordained to bystanders with 20/20 hindsight.
My man charges up his super-fist and pounds the enemy soldier. He falls over with a satisfying thump. He runs, and his teammates provide covering fire. The digital character hacks the computer system. A robotic female computer voice chirps:
"Mission... Accomplished, Commander."
A wonderful graphic, a big congratulations, all from the satisfaction o fa comfortable couch in a comfortable apartment with an amazing view on a sharp and crisp HDTV display. Pleasure. No pain. There's a strong case to be made that's the sane way. And perhaps us soaking wet would-be adventurers, builders, and artists aren't the rational ones.
The stuff you've mentioned here is eerily similar to what you wrote at the very start of your book, Ikigai, and it's a sentiment that's had a profound effect on me.
I get where you're coming from. Right now, I'm trying to get a new joint venture off the ground while juggling a sole practice and some studies. It's always a question of "why not settle for a slow life?".
Back to this post. It's stuff like this that got me following your blog in the first place. The fact that even though you're accomplishing great things, you're human too, and you have doubts. And in that sense, you're reassuring the rest of us that our uncertainties are all part of being hustlers and entrepreneurs.
Good stuff, Seb. I hope you'll find some of the answers you're searching for, but in the meantime, don't forget to have fun doing what you're doing.
Great piece, dude.
I've been thinking a lot about this later, since I turned 20. Why not a median job, with a cool apartment, one normal car and a few trips per year? I could get this in like... 8 months to 1 year.I don't know, maybe the feeling of security is really good.
I don't have one answer and I'm still willing to try harder and longer before I quit.
Yeah, curious about the updates on your recent confrontations with airlines/book publishing houses, too.
Nice! Finally another really good piece after all those daily reports (For me personally they turned out to be quite boring, Id rather here about the conclusions, suggestions, etc. of this, than the actual things you did every day. But I guess you are just taking advantage of public accountability ;)
Hey, BTW: Any updates on your recent confrontations with airlines/book publishing houses?
All too true. We're not rational, not at all. Rational would be to enjoy the security our ancestors fought for.
Naturally, though, life that is safe and secure and pleasurable and all manner of objectively excellent things-- it's not actually that stimulating. And it turns out we're hardwired for stimulation more than security, or perhaps it's more accurate to say we oscillate between the two.
I think that's the point you mentioned about potential. Once you've grabbed the gold ring, that's all well and good, but time goes by and you want to know if you could duplicate the feat. Was it a one-time thing or have you lost your touch. Even once you get into the habit of achievement, you can't stop because it's just so deathly dull, never being challenged.
But what ever gave you the idea WE were the rational ones?
Both days untracked. D47 and D48 both untracked... started well, some decent work. We got off the schedule for work on D47, the Head of Marketing and Entertainment from a local hotel we did a deal with invited us over to his house. So we were there when we'd normally be working, played Playstation, ate popcorn, had a good time... can't remember the last time I had a day like that.
Unfortunately, it was pouring rain on the way back home. The drainage is pretty bad in Ulaanbaatar, and I was skirting around the edge of the road with a calf-deep or perhaps knee-deep below. It was a two-lane road, and most cars were wisely sticking to the dry side.
Then this maniac comes at full speed, hits the puddle, got soaked head to the toe. No joke. Quickly turned off my USB headset and iPhone, both of which were wet (they didn't break thankfully). Walking back after that, I felt some chills and woke up with a cold.
Going hard on the medicine, vitamins, going to stop by the pharmacy and grab some nuclear strong antibiotics. In countries without strict prescription controls, I'll usually keep azithromycin in my apartment, but didn't bring any with me. I'll grab some if I can find it, or amoxacillin if not.
It turned out to (almost) be a blessing in a disguise, since instead of an intense workday I just worked slowly and did a bunch of planning. I haven't had time for that slow planning stuff, but I've been basically out of commission for running around the last couple days. Let's see how this affects things going forwards.
When I talk about working like a maniac for 10-14 hours a day, I sometimes get criticized for working too hard. I need to relax or enjoy life more, people say. When I read this, I assume that I've done a poor job explaining how I feel about work or how I actually construct my life, so I figure I may as well write a blog post to talk about it, as well as the underlying principle.
There are many days where I only leave my RV to shower. I wake up, drink tea while I do a quick Chinese lesson, write a blog post, program for twelve hours with a few short violin breaks, read for an hour, and the go to sleep. People assume that this is a stressful and intense day, but I actually find it very relaxing and enjoyable.
Think about what our ancestors went through. They were constantly uncomfortable, hungry, and in danger of being killed. That's stress. My life is not stressful at all. Compared to what our brains are wired for, my life is a complete cakewalk. The problem is that we don't compare ourselves to that, but instead we compare to what the average American does, which is work not very hard, watch some TV, drink some beers, and go to sleep.
Any time I'm being compared, by myself or others, to the average American, I consider it to be a warning sign. The problem with the average American life is that most of his time is being spent in a mediocre fashion. He works because he has to, and not very hard at that. His entertainment serves to distract him rather than to enrich him. This is the exact opposite of what I want to do-- I want to fill 100% of my time with high impact activities, either doing very good work or having some sort of really high quality experience. I want to spend none of my time at all doing things like busy work or channel surfing. I don't actually expect for it to be 100% to 0%, but I set that as my goal and try to get as close as possible.