Why isn't my book done?
I started thinking about the idea sometime last year, started organizing my notes and outlines in August 2009, and started writing a little in November or December before shelving it.
I was on fire in Taipei, Taiwan in January. Everything was just right, I wrote 4,000 words on a bad day, and my best day was 17,000 words. Book was complete in rough shortly afterwards.
I was in Northern Thailand in February, in Chiang Mai. I was going to edit, but I didn't really. I was kind of flat. I played a lot of Conquer Club online, surfed around, didn't really get anything done. Then I was traveling around and I wasn't really working on the book.
In fact, I never sent anyone a copy until maybe three weeks ago, when I gave it to one of my friends who was asking. He's a great guy, amazing guy, but I was even gunshy about sending it to him. Lord knows why. If you do creative works, maybe you understand this. If you haven't done anything creative and this doesn't make sense to you, I can't explain it. I think creative people will understand a little.
Had a great conversation last night with a friend of mine who is a trained philosopher. I was telling him all I'm building - working on science, entrepreneurship, writing, building a family, and so on. He asked, "Why do all that?"
And I think the best answer is because I like humanity. Humans are cool. Oh, there's some knuckleheads, heck maybe there's even more knuckleheads than there are really cool people.
I'm really, really grateful to the scientists and engineers and inventors and builders and artists that came before us. We'd be living in forests and jungles and caves if it weren't for them. And I'm grateful for the long line of my ancestors that survived and thrived to lead to me. I figure some of them must have lived under really desperate circumstances, gone through all sorts of struggle and strife and misery, but they still were able to have and raise their children that eventually became my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, and so on. If one link in that chain isn't there, I'm not here. So, wow, I'm so grateful for my ancestors doing that.
So I'd like to pay it forwards. I'll build some stuff that will be used in our lifetimes, and then will help all generations henceforth. I'll have some children and help build the next line of humanity, and all lines after that.
I like building. I like humanity. I'd like to see us grow and thrive and expand. I can't really think of anything else I'd rather do with my time.
If I ate the finest cuisine every meal, every day, for 10 years straight - it still wouldn't be as satisfying as the joy that comes from creating something worthwhile.
Building things that matter. Doing things that matter. This is so much more satisfying than consuming.
I eat plain oatmeal, brown rice with tunafish on it, drink black coffee, eat some fruits and vegetables, and try to eat light. Nutrition, not pleasure. But still - there is quite a lot of pleasure in a simple bit of tuna on rice or pasta. That right there is pretty enjoyable - it gives me fuel, keeps me going, gives me life.
How much better is the finest chef's meal than plain tuna on brown rice? Somewhat better, I guess. I've eaten really, really nice food. My favorite is chutoro nigiri, the slightly fatty part of the tuna. It's a delicacy. I had a $15 piece of chutoro once. It was great.
But was it much better than plain tuna on brown rice? Not so much. Creating, producing, building - that gives so much more satisfaction.
I'm in Mui Ne, Vietnam for just one night. It's amazing here, really, it's paradise.
Before this short trip here, I never understood why people do a weekend getaway or leave the city they live for just one night. I always wondered - what's the point? I thought, "If you're going to travel, why not spend long enough to get the flavor of the place you're going? What's the point of going for one night?"
I didn't understand back then. I understand now.
When you're very attentive and taking great care of your time, two days/one night can be a lot of relaxation and rejuvenation. I did two hours of work yesterday in the morning before coming to Mui Ne, and an hour at the end of the day. I slept on the five hour bus ride here, I took a short nap while here, and I'll sleep on the bus ride back - so I'm basically getting 21 hours awake here.
Do you realize how long 21 hours can be when you pay attention to your time, nurse it, nourish it, and spend it well? Sitting by the water, swimming in the ocean and pool, having Vietnamese coffee, drinking coconut milk out of a coconut... ah, I feel like I've done so much living while here, much more than 20 hours of living.
Running errands. Waiting in line. Waiting for a train, bus, or flight. Commuting. Driving in your car.
There's a lot of dead time, you might not even realize how much there is. If you can fill this time up with valuable things, you're going to have a much better life.
I used to try bringing a book with me for dead time, and it works sometimes. Now I listen to audio, which can be done pretty much anywhere. Waiting in line at an airport? Audio. Commuting? Audio. Getting groceries? Audio.
I can't stress enough how big of a difference this makes. Fill up the dead time. There's lots of it. You'll be amazed at all you can learn in the time that's normally slipping through the cracks.
Maybe the biggest problem really intelligent people have is that they spend more time being clever than being effective.
I used to suffer from this disease of the mind. I'd want to do something new, novel, and fascinating - instead of just getting something done.
The really effective people I know, the people who make the biggest difference in the world, who make the best things, who get the most done, who live the best lives - they all are more concerned with getting something done that fits than with making it clever.
Over-researching relatively minor things is a great example. Take a quick look, get an understanding, choose one. Change later if it becomes an issue.
Trying to reinvent the wheel constantly.
"A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system." -John Gall
I built a pretty good daily tracking template, and I evolved it over time. It's serving me pretty well now. I'd like to show you the evolution.
Version 0 - I realized that tracking my time would be a good thing. I started writing down just one or two things per day.
Here's what my first day of tracking looked like:
26 May - Success
It's a rule I have. Every place I spend time should be better because I was there.
Everywhere. A table at Starbucks? I'll wipe it off with a napkin when I sit down, and pick up my mess when I leave.
Be friendly to staff everywhere. Tip great service well. Point out terrible service politely to a manager, because terrible service is bad for everyone (the server, manager, business, and customers are all worse off if terrible service is happening).
Lightly clean any room you go to.
Don't trash a room just because other people are going to clean it.
From The Proverbs of Solomon,
20 Wisdom shouts in the streets. She cries out in the public square. 21 She calls to the crowds along the main street, to those gathered in front of the city gate: 22 “How long, you simpletons, will you insist on being simpleminded? How long will you mockers relish your mocking? How long will you fools hate knowledge? 23 Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise. 24 “I called you so often, but you wouldn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. 25 You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered. 26 So I will laugh when you are in trouble! I will mock you when disaster overtakes you— 27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone, and anguish and distress overwhelm you. 28 “When they cry for help, I will not answer. Though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me. 29 For they hated knowledge and chose not to fear the Lord. 30 They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them. 31 Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way, choking on their own schemes. 32 For simpletons turn away from me—to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency. 33 But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.”
If I ever had a son with some Jewish ancestry, I think I'd name him Solomon Marshall. I'm a big admirer of King Solomon.
So long, Hong Kong, it's been fun. I'm sure we'll cross paths again sometime soon.
I'd have shaved if I'd known I was getting some photo ops...