A few years back, I was getting complacent. I was a successful entrepreneur, in the top 1% for my age. Whenever I compared myself to people similar to me, it wasn't even close. I worked more, accomplished more, produced more, did more meaningful things, was traveling the world. I read more books, did more writing, was generally healthier and more disciplined, spent my time well. I was the top 1% for my age, and even better than that if you measured me against people from similar backgrounds.
I think it's easy for people who are doing great to get complacent. You look at the general sloth and laziness and complacency of most people, you see that you're achieving greatly, and you feel like you're so far above that. You give yourself a pat on the back. "Ah, yes, I'm doing great!"
I had a shift. I don't remember the exact day, but one day I thought to myself -
"I'm not going to compare myself against people my age any more. I'm going to start comparing myself to the greatest men of all time."
Got a good question from a reader about sleep. One of my goals is to sleep less than 8 hours/night
Hello, and thanks for inviting your blog visitors to email you directly. I just came across your site today, and got some good reading out of your "top stories" list. What compelled me to write, though, was a trend I noticed on some of your "goals" posts: sleeping less than 8 hours per night.
It caught my attention, because at first glance it looks counter-intuitive. Yet I understand exactly what you mean.
Cut. Return to monologue later. Get to the askin':
How is it working out for you?
Ah, this is so awesome. Christophe Ducamp has translated my newest daily tracking template into French.
The full Habit/Life tracking in French is in available in plain text here. - very cool and exciting stuff, cheers to Christophe.
He's on Twitter, too. Christophe Ducamp is @xtof_fr.
This makes my day :) :) :) Thought apparently in France you're supposed to smoke a cigarette before exercising ;)
You know how you get excited to do all sorts of stuff, but you forget and it doesn't pan out? Well, like I wrote in "The Joys of Public Accountability," making a public commitment helps you follow up with things.
I'm going to set aside some of my income for charity henceforth forever. I'm thinking 10%, but I'm not sure yet. I just listened to the audiobook of "The Richest Man in Babylon," and it was really amazingly excellent and it's got me inspired. I ran a couple small charity events in the past in London, and given a bit of money to charity, but nothing systematically. So, I'm committing to doing that.
To clarify a few points -
Note that I wrote "set aside" - I'm not going to dump the money on whoever has nice marketing materials, I really need to do some research. If I've got the money sitting in a bank account marked for charity for a year or two before figuring out what has high impact, so be it. The path to hell is paved with good intentions, and I want to make sure I'm supporting the right causes. I'll let you know the who/what/when/where/why/how of how I'll be going about charity later.
Note that I wrote "some of my income" - I'm not sure exactly what I'll donate on. All cash received annually? Earned income? How about if I get stock options as part of a deal? How about if I'm in a deal where I've agreed to automatically reinvest the profits for the first few years? Only when I cash out? I'm not sure on these details yet. Definitely earned income cash, at least. I'll figure out the specifics later.
Question from a reader -
Hi! Interested to hear your thoughts about this: where do you draw the line between impossible and huge-effort-possible goals?
First, I'll be honest. I don't have a perfect neat answer for this that's epiphany generating... I'm going to try to work through it on paper, and I appreciate feedback from everyone in the comments if you have related ideas.
Let's get started. First and foremost, I can't say this enough - study history! If you don't study history, you don't know what's possible. Period. You need to study history if you want to know what's possible.
Here's some good people to brush up on. Now, most people's reaction is, "I couldn't do that! He did so much!" But trace their steps, these men often came from humble origins and suffered much. Don't say "Wow." Ask, "How?" How did they do it?
1. My answer is yes! Yes, you're all added.
2. However, I'm in Vietnam, where Facebook is banned.
3. I had a VPN I was using, but it stopped working. So you're all stuck in limbo in the meantime. Sorry and no disrespect intended!
4. In the meantime, I'm @sebastmarsh on Twitter. If you tried Twitter once but you don't understand it, go ahead and send out this message - "@sebastmarsh Okay, I'm trying Twitter, but I still don't get it!" I'll message you back, click on "@[yourname]" on the right-hand menu and you'll see when a reply when I write back. Basically @messages seem to be most of the value of Twitter when you're getting started, but it's a chicken and egg problem - you're not talking to anyone, so it seems useless. But, we can chat and connect on there a little, reactions to my posts or 140 character philosophical discussions are always welcome.
Finally, if you want to be pals on Facebook, here's Sebastian Marshall's Facebook - that's my page, not a fan page. But maybe I'll add a fan page later. Though! You'll be stuck in limbo for a while until I get a new VPN or leave Vietnam, so please don't feel unloved!
When you come across some era of history you've never heard before that might be fascinating, or an obscure but highly recommended book on conflict management, or you come across some primary source papers that are largely unread any more about an important event - jump on it right away.
You'll never really be motivated to read Baldissare Castiglione by Julia Cartwright. It's an obscure-ish book, cited not particularly often, about the 17th most interesting guy in the Renaissance. He hung out with da Vinci, and Borgia, and met all the Popes of his lifetime, but you'd have to either really love the Renaissance, or come across Il Cortegiano in research to read him.
Baldis-who? If you don't look him up now, it likely won't come up later.
A lot of good strategy and being a successful generalist is about picking up obscure skills. Steve Jobs talked in his famous Stanford address about how the class he took on calligraphy in his late teens became one of the drivers behind the Mac being the first computer with beautiful typeface.
There's plenty of calligraphers in the world, but how many calligrapher-entrepreneur-designers? A good mix and synergy of skills gives you the ability to make a contribution. A good mix and synergy that includes something obscure can help you make an original contribution.
A friend of mine set some goals for last week, and failed. His goals were realistic and possible, but he did not do them. He sent me an introspective email analyzing why. We had a good discussion on it, here's an excerpt of what I wrote him -
I understand. This really sucks. By the way, I still do this, myself. I still catch myself making the occasional fundamental mistake. The good thing is, no single mistake kills you (well, usually). Usually you can recover. Don't flip out when you a mistake, damage-control it and move on. How old are you - 28? You've got 10-15 years of mediocre societal programming, you don't get that out of yourself in seven days. 30 days, 60 days, you can take a huge chunk out of it. A year or two, absolutely you can almost completely re-wire yourself. But remember how you were saying, "Dude, I can do this so much faster than your timeline!" Well, I've been there. Shit like this happens. You're fighting some of your deepest, instinctual defense mechanisms to keep you alive. You've also got your toolbox of good instinctual mechanisms limited by society, so you're needing to create new tools. Basically, you've got all the disadvantages a caveman had (fear, nervousness, pressure), but you lose a lot of the advantages (unbridled, raw power, no rules, etc). You've got to make new tools - calmness, focus, intent. It takes a while. There's no shame in that - let me say this -
THERE'S NO SHAME IN THIS, IT'S NO REFLECTION OF YOU - WE'RE ALL BUILT WEAK, YOU'RE ONE OF THE FEW WHO ACKNOWLEDGES IT AND TRIES TO BECOME STRONG.
We're all built weak, man. Most people hide from it, deny it. That way they don't have to feel it. But you're diving right in, into your weakness, into your errors, into your unrefined patterns, into your fears... so you feel it. But don't mistake these things - these things are the weakness that everyone feels, there is NO SHAME in feeling it. It's part of being human. You need to feel it to conquer it. This is what I was writing in "Give me strife and suffering" -
This had me cracking up laughing. I added the bold for emphasis.
Avoiding Standard Error: Being a sloth and unreliable create such an asymmetrical negative payoff for what little upsides they bring you. So does fostering addiction or dependency, letting impulsions go unchecked, or being envious or resentful. So does not studying or taking seriously your susceptibility to the natural cognitive biases we have. If you set out to eliminate standard error, or things that can inherently cloud your judgement, you may realize the low-hanging fruit thats occasionally up for grabs.
Whole post is pretty good and insightful, there's examples of looking at non-mainstream ways people have broken into finance and Hollywood -
"Trailblazing" over at Sami Baqai's site
I see such an obsession with happiness these days. It's sad.
There's different sorts of happiness, but the one people seem after the most is the lowest, saddest form of happiness - a pleasurable mix of biochemicals.
Do you know how cocaine works? It's what's known as a triple-reuptake inhibitor. It makes some of the happiness chemicals - serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine - cycle out of your brain more slowly, giving you wonderful feelings.
And - so what? You've got more happiness chemicals in your brain so you bliss out? How could anyone in their right mind think this is the meaning of life?
I try to do things that I find meaningful, ideally on the largest scale I can. I'm not there yet, but I'm trying. I still need to get stronger in other areas, get more disciplined. But I'm working on it.