He was an American guy, fresh out of university, doing some mix of public relations and something like espionage for the Chinese government in Shanghai. Interesting guy - I'd been shooting pool by myself and he asked if I'd be up for a game. Sure.
So we chatted - he was in Shanghai to go through the Expo and talk to everyone foreign about their experiences. Being a young, white, American guy with a light East Coast accent, he blended in and was basically invisible. He was able to get an impression of what journalists really thought and people at the Expo really thought. He was getting paid decently for this and having a really fun time.
He added that he wasn't just there to make sure the publicity for the Expo was good: When he reported in that a number of people felt that workmanship setting up their display areas was shoddy and the local contractors had cheated them, Shanghai officials reached out to them, made it right, and took the contractors to task.
He seemed like a solid guy, athletic, hard working, smart, well read - kind of guy that's going to do a lot in life. I used to live in Boston, so I asked him if he followed the Red Sox or Celtics.
I still remember his answer. "No, I don't like spectator sports. Playing sports, sure. Spectator sports, no."
I've been thinking lately about how to become more prolific.
The equal-odds rule says that the average publication of any particular scientist does not have any statistically different chance of having more of an impact than any other scientist's average publication. In other words, those scientists who create publications with the most impact, also create publications with the least impact, and when great publications that make a huge impact are created, it is just a result of "trying" enough times. This is an indication that chance plays a larger role in scientific creativity than previously theorized.
I look at the sheer volume of work produced by someone like Einstein in science, or Robert Heinlein in fiction, and y'know what? Much of their stuff isn't good. Much of Einstein's observations outside of physics are pretty bad and off-base, he recommends courses of political action that were tried later and led to totalitarianism. If he were alive today, he'd no doubt say "mea culpa" - "I was wrong", especially in his opinions on the Soviet Union.
But it doesn't matter, because his good work is incredible. Even trying to understand special relativity makes it clear how amazing his work is (best guide to relativity for laymen I've found). It doesn't matter if you get some things wrong if you get one or two important things right.
I'm doing what I can to live to between age 100 and 110 or so, longer if possible. I'm aiming to have almost full mobility, respiration, and general health until age 80-90 or so, then perhaps gradually declining/deteriorating health until passing away between 100 and 110.
So I work on the big stuff - stretching, diet, aerobic exercise, strength training, nutrition, and so on. Lately I've been thinking more about having good skin at that age.
About five years ago I had a really lovely girlfriend who put lotion on twice a day in the morning and night, and she had the most amazing and soft skin. Now, I don't really care about amazing and soft skin now, I don't care about having great skin between ages 30 and 50, but I definitely want not-terrible-skin at age 90.
In Korea two months ago I spent time in a jimjilang, a big family spa/bathhouse type place. They had a room full of scrubbing salt near the pools of water, and after scrubbing my skin with salt and putting on lotion, my skin felt about a million times better the next day. The hotel I'm staying at in Hong Kong has free lotion here, so I put some on yesterday. My skin feels a little more smooth and a little less rough.
Flames erupted through my lower body, shooting from my calf to halfway up my back.
I'd been training pretty hard lately to get back into shape - every day at least 15 minutes of exercise, closer to an hour most days. I'd mix up the form, a little walking, jogging, hiking, swimming, or training with weights. Now I was having a masseuse in Hong Kong break up the lactic acid and knots in my muscles, and I cried out when she dug her elbow into my already tender thigh.
Focus. Focus. I read a lot of history, and greatly admire the warriors that wouldn't cry out even when wounded or being interrogated. I was just reading a story a samurai who faced torture for a day straight without crying out once.
I try to go into my head, separate the pain from myself. Like I'm sitting on top of a cliff and watching pain battle my body down in a valley below. I do roughly the same thing towards the end of a workout when things start to hurt - I don't try to tune it out. I observe it. I try to enjoy it - time is slowing down and becoming harder? That's good, it means I get to experience more time. And the hurt is proof I'm alive.
I do the same if I'm ever feeling sad - I try to reflect and appreciate the sadness. It's an emotion, it's something natural to be felt, and can be enjoyed like a bitter type of food or an acidic glass of wine. It burns a little, but acknowledging transforms it in a way. Instead of something to be fought, it can be accepted, acknowledged, and appreciated for what it is.