Just got a comment on "Having Your Own Ethics is Lonely" by a reader. He asked one of the hardest questions about becoming successful - what happens when you're improving when your friends aren't?
I found this blog because I'm looking for advice. I've realized four years ago that I was unhappy with myself. I lived a poor, and dead end life. So I decided to look closely at my lifestyle and eliminate some bad habits and replace them with good ones. I also got a second job to make more money, and lived in relative poverty by choice. And it worked! I'm healthy financially and I've gotten a chance to learn anything I've wanted to know. I'm strong and smarter than I used to be. I think I know what God is, and everyday I work to be better than the day before. But, I can't connect with my old friends because they do all the things I dont want to be a part of any more, because they dont care to do well for themselves as much. In a way, to put it bluntly, they're not usefull to me. I'd rather make friends with people I truely admire and respect. I dont feel like I can tell them that I basically think they're bad people. They've done nothing to harm me personally, but I want nothing to do with them. What do you think?
Indeed, that's one of the hardest parts about becoming successful.
Most people don't like to change after they get established. If you improve quickly, it can upset and turn off old friends and cause breaks in friendship.
Perhaps the worst time is when you're still on a shaky ground with your old improvement. I remember one time, I was going through a super healthy kick. Lots of gym, weights, very clean and healthy diet. But with one of my buddies, we always ate junk food together when we got together. Pizza, chicken wings, burgers and fries, stuff like that.
Modafinil isn't the biggest gain I've made towards peak experiences -- that'd be just basic exercise. It's not the largest gain towards general well-being, which is just a cleaner diet and very good hydration. It's not even the biggest no-brainer of a nootropic, the honor of which probably goes to Piracetam.
But with that said -- wow. It's some pretty amazing stuff.
In this post, we'll cover: 1. The effects and subjective experience, negative and postive, of Modafinil. 2. The routine I built around taking it, through trial and error, for best performance. 3. Some jumping-off points for further research.
AJ Kessler is an extremely talented guy with lots of great insights on art, business, philosophy, and life. He's an excellent photographer, and he was kind enough to write a post on creativity for us. I'm pleased to bring it you. Here's AJ -
"I'm just not a creative person."
I hear that all the time. It's complete bullshit.
If you've never created something, or done something you'd describe as creative, you may lack awareness or curiosity (two conditions which are easily fixed with minimal effort), but that doesn't mean you're not creative.
Anyone can be creative. Even kids are creative, and kids don't know anything. That's the secret though: they're creative because they don't know anything. They don't know how things work and they don't know what the outcome is supposed to be. So they ask questions, they try things, they experiment, they break things. If the end result looks good to them, they're done.
As an entrepreneur for the past 12 years, I haven't collected a paycheck from any employer other than a company I own. In theory this sounds great, but there are few things in life that apply more pressure than being responsible for not only your paycheck, but the paychecks of employees. Most of these companies have done well, but some haven't. It's also quite taboo to talk openly about the emotional and mental stress that startups create, but privately almost every CEO I've spent time with has shared similar feelings with me. When Sebastian and I discussed posting on each other's blogs, I figured this was a great opportunity to open up about what it's like to be the CEO of a technology startup along with several previous companies, and specifically to discuss the self discipline that's required to successfully navigate the stresses of startups, because these same lessons apply in anyone's daily life. As you can tell by the title, I liken it to having the self discipline of a Buddhist monk.
But first, some background: When I was 22, I graduated from college with an offer from General Electric to work in their Technical Leadership Program. It was a sweet offer -- a fast-track to management role where a select set of college graduates were rotated through various parts of the company. It gave me the opportunity to work in Latin America. I was sent to GE's Crotonville leadership campus, where I'd see Jack Welch, GE's CEO at the time, fly in and out on his helicopter, and senior GE executives would train us in leadership seminars. It was like being a golden child, a chosen one. We knew that we were being groomed to be the next generation of leaders at GE, and GE did everything it could to foster that confidence in us.
This leadership program was just two years long. It was going very well, but something was nagging at me: Growing up, I had to be very entrepreneurial out of necessity. I had to pay for college myself. I'd always been very independent and self sufficient. Suddenly, I was part of a huge machine. Although I was being treated very well, I felt that I wasn't being true to myself and my entrepreneurial spirit. I knew that I could do more, and that if I didn't quit then, I would get sucked into the trappings of corporate life. So I quit GE six months before I was supposed to graduate from the leadership program. It was 1999 and the tech bubble was going in full swing. I felt that staying even six more months would be too long.
Going from GE's leadership program to a startup company is a bit like going from the comfy cigar chair at country club to washing dishes in the back. It's a jarring experience, but one that I was thirsty for. I soaked it up, and quickly learned my first lesson in startups: If you're not really, really passionate about what you're doing, then don't do it. Although being an entrepreneur is romanticized in popular culture, the road is so long, and the pain is so great, that unless you're really passionate about it, you'll be crushed by the pressure.
Passion for what you're doing in life applies beyond startups. It's easy for any of us to become trapped in the constructs we create. We feel like we have responsibilities to those around us to be risk averse. Maybe you have a mortgage. Or kids in school. Or a spouse depending on your income. But I'm here to tell you that you are not trapped by your environment. You are never a victim of your circumstances, and you have not only a right, but a responsibility to live your life in a way that inspires passion inside of you. Those around you will benefit far more from that passion than from your fear of pursuing it, and they will be inspired themselves to seek out the things that they are passionate about. You only live once. No, seriously, you only live once. If you're not doing something today that you're passionate about, then quit. Take that scary plunge into the unknown. You will be so happy that you did. It won't be easy at first, but it well be better immediately.
Jason Shen graciously contributed a new guestpost to the site -- his have always been popular here. He's running an online class on "The Science of Willpower, Habits, And Behavior Change" in January. Here's Jason --
Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is one of my favorite films and the best comic book to film translation ever done. Nolan's take on Batman is gritty, heroic, fresh, and even somewhat plausible. One of my favorite scenes from the first film, Batman Begins, is when he is being trained by Ra's al Ghul on the art of ninjutsu. The key conversation I want to point out here:
George St. Pierre pummeling your untrained face
I had a really fascinating conversation with Francesca McCaffrey, the Director of Development for the Children's Lifesaving Foundation.
Francesca and I swapped some notes on when the best work happens -- in addition to her role at Children's Lifesaving, she's an avid writer and really immerses herself into the historical era she's writing about to truly flesh out the characters and the environment.
Like everyone else, Francesca looks at those periods of time when things are clicking incredibly well, and wonders how to make them happen more frequently. Here's some observations we came up with:
*The most common time that massively great work happens is when there's a Big Opportunity + A Hard External Deadline
*The Big Opportunity means there's Large Motivation.
Kind of a speculative entry today, I don't have a complete answer. I've been trying to crack this nut for a while -
What's the difference between a generalist and a dabbler?
Rather, what separates a generalist from a dabbler?
They're very similar. Both dive into a wide variety of things and affairs. Both pick up new skills regularly, sometimes at the expense of the highest level of mastery in a specialized field.
But we all know people who dabble in this, do a little of that, and never make any contributions. And then, on the other hand, you've got people like Thomas Jefferson and Leonardo da Vinci, who did excellent work in a variety of fields.
"What gets measured, gets managed." - Peter Drucker
There is so much power in this quote. If you've never tracked yourself, you don't even know how much power there is in tracking. I couldn't even explain it adequately. You wouldn't believe me. You'd think I was exaggerating. The simple act of paying attention to something will cause you to make connections you never did before, and you'll improve the those areas - almost without any extra effort.
I'm not a believer in "free lunch" and I don't think the universe vibrates things to you just by thinking about them. But the closest thing to a free lunch getting vibrated to you by the universe is writing things down as they happen.
Before I go any further, I need to give you one piece of advice - start small and build up, so you don't overwhelm yourself. This is just being pragmatic. You want to scale up gradually, as I wrote up in "The Evolution of My Time/Habit/Life Tracking." You want to build small wins, lock them so they become automatic, and then expand.
I'd have a hard time convincing you of the power of tracking, so I'll just show you. I fill this out every single day.
I hear people talk about luck a lot. Straightup - luck doesn't exist.
If you believe in luck, then you believe either: (1) some people consistently defy probability, or, (2) some things aren't a result of cause and effect.
Life is a series of probability. Every day, there's a chance that a given set of things will happen. If you want to have a successful life, expose yourself to as much high-upside low-downside probability as you can. Any given thing you do might not work out, but if you expose yourself to high-upside low-downside, good things will happen. Read books, reach out to people, try to get projects working, keep trying to write and build things, keep learning new skills, keep treating people well.
If you want to fail at life, expose yourself to high-downside no-upside probability. This is short term gain at long term expense type stuff. Cigarettes. Unsecured debt for consumption. Most TV.
You'll keep getting "lucky" if you keep exposing yourself to things with upside and limited downside. If you get an amazing job or contract that you had a 1 in 1,000 chance of getting, were you lucky? No, especially not if you applied and pitched 1,000 other places. If you say, "Ok, I'm going to keep trying to get what I want until I do" you'll get it, as long as it's a positive sum game you're playing.
Still one of the finest videos on Youtube about getting things done. If you're in a hurry, watch the last five minutes. But really, watch the whole thing. Even if the conservatism isn't your thing, just tough through it. It's worth it. Really, truly, it is --