I was going through a big pile of mail recently, finally making notes and trashing all the various mailings from bank statements and credit cards and whatever, and something caught my eye: the concierge ability on high-end cards.
AMEX I think was the first to do it, though now Visa Signatures and World Mastercards have concierge, among others. I got a new American Express Platinum a couple months ago, and so I decided to call.
I'm not so into entertainment. I love to work, I love working all the time, and when I'm not working on business work, I do creative and nonprofit projects with my friends and colleagues. So I generally skip on fine dining and fancy entertainment, given that that's cash I could use to do more adventurous enterprising world-building type stuff.
So, then, what would be useful to call the concierge and ask about?
One thing I'd been meaning to get around to are fixing two fraying cords -- on my Mac Air and iPhone 4S. I was wondering if it's possible to fix myself, and if not, there's no Apple Store in Taipei so where is best to get it serviced?
My strategy on buying clothing: generally hold off on shopping for clothing until I wind up in very favorable conditions for buying, and then buy a lot at once.
That means if a very good 70% or 90% off sale is happening at a high-end American store, that might be a good time to restock everything.
Failing that, I'll look to buy my clothing in China or Malaysia. Recently, I was in Istanbul where clothes were incredibly inexpensive for very high quality, perhaps the least expensive country I've seen in that regard, and foreigners taking their materials will them got all taxes refunded at the airport. It's a good deal.
So I bought a lot of clothing. For a couple hundred dollars, I've got all my casual clothing taken care of for the next couple years. I'll pick up a couple nicer items in New York City for occasions that dictate it, get tailoring done in Beijing, and be good to go.
There is a downside, though: by doing this relatively quickly, I don't agonize over every single piece. Sometimes, I buy things that don't fit so well or aren't so durable. If you look at it mathematically, you can just put into the cost of the items you do like. Quite cool casual shirts in Istanbul started as low as $3 USD (no joke) up to $25 or so. This is roughly the same quality level you'd be looking at for $25 to $70 in the United States.
From Ray Dalio's "Principles," my favorite work of nonfiction —
While the logic here is incredibly sound, the vast majority of people do not think this way.
It doesn't help that experts encourage you to delegate your authority to them, and specialized topics are confusing.
Dalio uses the health/doctor example, which is a good one. But here is another obvious one: if you're pursuing a legal case, it is absolutely up to you to plan your legal strategy, set your budget, interview attorneys while communicating your expectations and plan, pick an attorney that "gets it" and communicate your expectations to him or her, and then manage and followup appropriately.
The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger is surprisingly insightful, riveting even. Excerpt, emphasis added by me:
This process [of international shipping] was so expensive that in many cases selling internationally was not worthwhile. "For some commodities, the freight may be as much as 25 per cent of the cost of the product," two engineers concluded after a careful study of data from 1959. Ship ping steel pipe from New York to Brazil cost an average of $57 perton in 1962, or 13 percent of the average cost of the pipe being exported-a figure that did not include the cost of getting the pipe from the steel mill to the dock. Shipping refrigerators from London to Capetown cost the equivalent of 68 U.S. cents per cubic foot, adding $20 to the wholesale price of a midsize unit. No wonder that, relative to the size of the economy, U.S. international trade was smaller in 1960 than it had been in 1950, or even in the Depres sion year of 1930. The cost of conducting trade had gotten so high that in many cases trading made no sense.
By far the biggest expense in this process was shifting the cargo from land transport to ship at the port of departure and moving it back to truck or train at the other end of the ocean voyage. As one expert explained, "a four thousand mile voyage for a shipment might consume 50 percent of its costs in covering just the two ten-mile movements through two ports." These were the costs that the container affected first, as the elimination of piece-by-piece freight handling brought lower expenses for longshore labor, insurance, pier rental, and the like. Containers were quickly adopted for land trans portation, and the reduction in loading time and transshipment cost lowered rates for goods that moved entirely by land. As ship lines built huge vessels specially designed to handle containers, ocean freight rates plummeted. And as container shipping became inter modal, with a seamless shifting of containers among ships and trucks and trains, goods could move in a never-ending stream from Asian factories directly to the stockrooms of retail stores in North America or Europe, making the overall cost of transporting goods little more than a footnote in a company's cost analysis.
Again, "By far the biggest expense in this process was shifting the cargo from land transport to ship at the port of departure and moving it back to truck or train at the other end of the ocean voyage. As one expert explained, "a four thousand mile voyage for a shipment might consume 50 percent of its costs in covering just the two ten-mile movements through two ports."
This week is the final week of the first version of the Lights Spreadsheet. I upgraded it, and will share the upgrades with you shortly after I hammer out the details.
This week, I want to talk about pragmatism and mantras.
First, pragmatism: I have a theory that I call The Theory of Rapid Repairs.
It goes like this:
A good reflective comment from Radhika on her habits/lights tracking --
Well, it's important to note we all start from different places. A person who has some "ADD-like" characteristics will have more ability to generate raw creativity, but have a harder time nailing consistency habits. If you're only tracking consistency via Lights (which is what it's primarily for), it'll miss the magnitude, frequency, and depth of creativity -- thus leading to the feeling that "jeez, I'm not doing as good as other people."
But -- ! You're not other people. The high-creative/high-inconsistency person benefits more from getting on structures like Lights, despite seeming to do more poorly objectively. Yet, being able to harness and channel that creativity leads to huge gains.
You know? The same could be said of someone who naturally has high levels of fatigue -- it might be harder to do fitness, stretching, etc -- but they also benefit more from incrementing up on it than someone who naturally has a ton of energy.
There's a certain tendency to look for magical solutions.
Maybe this has happened to you.
You tried to get a fitness program going, then fell off, and you're trying to restart now — what do you do?
Most people will want to look for a magical solution.
They'll find something. Maybe Starting Strength or Stronglifts, or maybe Crossfit, or high-intensity interval training, or whatever. And they'll get excited —
I just started Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War.
Boyd's father died of illness when he was young, and his mother was left to scratch and scrape by desperately with five kids. But Elsie Boyd — John's mother — led her household with such strength and will. I find myself admiring her so much reading this.
The youngest Boyd daughter, Ann, contracted polio, which often consigned the person suffering from it to the wheelchair. Overriding doctors, Elsie insisted her daughter would walk. From the book —
When Elsie brought Ann home, it was clear that neither the operations nor the treatment were of much benefit. Ann wore heavy braces on each leg and could walk only with the assistance of crutches.
Look, look, look. Hold up for a second. Hold on. Wait a moment.
Our ancestors survived for, like, thousands and thousands of years without advanced climate control, 24/7 news feeds, and 10 million modern conveniences.
You won't die if you're a little uncomfortable.
Not only that, but there's this really cool thing your body can do called "homeostasis" — see, your body doesn't want you to die from heat stroke or freeze to death, so if you're out in hot or cold weather regularly, you actually get tougher and more able to withstand it.
Likewise — get this — walking to places makes your legs stronger, running makes your lungs stronger, lifting makes your muscles stronger.
Reader Christopher Williams graciously sent this over. How intriguing:
"People prefer electric shocks to time alone with thoughts"
I think being able to deal with boredom effectively is probably the challenge for hard-driving knowledge workers who work alone and don't have deadlines.
Being able to sit there and be miserable until it passes is critical. Meditation helps with that, obviously.
Thanks Christopher. It's worth reading, that link.