August 11th, 2011. Chiba, Japan.
A mix of confusion and awe as I step off the platform.
I must have made a mistake. But maybe a good mistake.
Birds caw and cicadas click gently, filling the warm afternoon air with sounds of nature. The train platform is open to the air and on the other side of the tracks is a high fence. Beyond it, a bicycle and walking path leading to a park.
Children are running around and playing in the park, but surprisingly quietly. Very Japanese.
It's like I'm not in a cafe any more, but rather receiving a diplomatic corps from a nation I'm at war with. The woman has a "stern and serious fucking business" look on her face, and another waitress is standing alongside her right flank with arms crossed.
I shake my head and try to wave them off, doing the universal "I'm on the phone" gesture, holding up a thumb and pinky finger.
She starts speaking anyways. She's loud and insistent.
"Hold on, Marcus."
I take my headset off. "Yes?"
"Everything is training."
I sat on the floor in Chiba with Marcus and Rob, both expert martial-artists, biomechanists, and entrepreneurs.
Most people don't and can't understand why you'd analyze, re-engineer, and repeat doing a small action over and over again to make it slightly better. But these guys got it. "Everything is training," as Rob says.
And it strikes me that there's the core things you're trying to achieve, the skill and habit-building that gets you there, and that two are very harmonious. In terms of producing more, the best training is often immediately applying what you've learned in an attempt to produce.
What is the rest of life, then, except the time that facilitates doing what's most important to us?
I've worked in a variety of new-ish industries and old world industries lately. One distinction strikes me between them -
With many an old world industry, people already know they want to buy. Thus, it's about maxing dollar per sale.
With many a new world industry, people don't know what you're offering. Thus, getting a larger percent of people to try your product/service is a bigger deal.
Take a restaurant. Everyone in a restaurant goes in with cash already. Maybe they look at the menu first, but probably they just sit down. And when they sit down, they're buying something.
Thus, the restaurant business is about getting people into the restaurant and then maxing out the good experience and dollar per sale. Designing your menu so the high margin items "pop out" and get chosen more often, training your wait staff to be very cool and professional and to upsell drinks/desserts/wines/whatever.
Weight and space are the enemies of the long-term traveler. Whenever a friend hangs out and watches me pack my luggage after I've been in one place for a while, they're always amazed at how I sit and analyze whether to toss or keep any given piece of gear.
For instance, the USB-to-power-outlet adapter for the Amazon Kindle and the iPhone works for both of them. So, I threw one of them out. A friend was with me when I was packing, and he said, "Dude, why don't you keep both? It's tiny..."
And yes, it is tiny. But I'll probably make 80 decisions like that in a given year, and if I default to "yes" on all of them, that adds up to quite a lot. (Eventually, I threw out the USB-to-power adapter entirely, and I just charge both devices from phantom power on my laptop now)
This gets tricky, though, when you have something that's somewhat valuable but also bulky. When I got a new laptop, I now had two power cords/bricks. I've had a pretty nasty run of breaking power cords/bricks for whatever reason - just one of "those things," I guess - so I was sitting and figuring whether to pack both.
Eventually I tossed one.
Saw this post on mathematicians disagreeing on 0^0. It was a little bit interesting, but then this Hacker News comment by Kalid was exceptional. The relevant part -
How would you explain to a 10-year old why 3^0 = 1 beyond "it's necessary to make the algebra of powers work out". I use an "expand-o-tron" analogy to wrap my head around what exponents are really doing: some amount of growth (base) for some amount of time (power). This gives you a "multiplier effect". So, 3^0 means "3x growth for 0 seconds" which, being 0 seconds, changes nothing -- the multiplier is 1. "0x growth for 0 seconds" is also 1, since it was never applied. "0x growth for .00001 seconds" is 0, since a miniscule amount of obliteration still obliterates you.
It was a fascinating discussion, but I'm most interested in the bolded part which says it perfectly - "a minuscule amount of obliteration still obliterates you."
This is very important in business, especially if you're doing online type stuff where many of the probabilities are invisible to you unless you carefully study the analytics. Analytics-inclined people already do this, but in 2011 that's still definitely a minority of the business population.
So if you want to get a sale, you might have something like this -
Question from a reader -
You strongly recommend audio books but I have a bit of trouble seeing myself listening to them regularly.
It just seems vastly inefficient compared to books, and even though it has the same content (perhaps even more through intonation), I feel as though I lose a lot of context when I listen to or watch things instead of reading them - perhaps a different part of the brain is being used? I think the exception to this is motivational work such as Brian Tracy (who I dismissed without reason as some sort of get-rich-quick schemer but gave a listen after your recommendation and enjoyed). Actually, I think conversational style books such as Gladwell's tone, or the research-heavy but not-too-deep books might work well as audio so I may have answered my own question.
Anyway, how did you make the jump to more audio books? What great books switched you over? Why are you such an audio book fan (all the extra books is a good argument, but I feel like there's a lost cost of all the books I now won't read and would hate to risk the greatness of a good book, just as one should usually read the novel before watching the movie).
Okay, this is a common question, observation, and mistake I see. You're thinking "audiobook = replacement for book"... but it's not. Audiobooks are a replacement for staring at your shoes while you're waiting to clear customs and immigration at the airport, while you're in line at the grocery store, or while you're going for a walk or otherwise running errands.
Was exploring this in my own notes. Here's what I came up with -
The writing skill is the act of:
*Sitting down somewhere suitable to work *Outling a rough idea of what I want to write *Starting to write (by which, I mean starting to type)
But sometimes I "don't have it" - then what?
Well, alternatively I can: *Write ANYTHING *Read a little while *Just sit there and suffer
Was up late last night, woke today 11:30AM.
Man, the difference between waking at 4:30 and 11:30 is staggering. If I had to guess, I think I'd guess somewhere between 300% and 500% higher productivity for being up at 4:30AM.
If you do "standard morning stuff" after waking for 30-60 minutes, shower, groom yourself, and eat, you can sit down to work sometime between 5AM to 7AM on the early schedule.
You're starting between noon and 2PM on the late schedule.
Why's it matter? A lot of things. Psychologically, the "ahh, I'm up early" helps. Then, it seems like we naturally start to slow down when it starts getting darker at nights.
From a recent Hacker News comment by me that was both popular and controversial, in response to the declining fertility levels, declining interest in family, and projected downturn in Asia -
I have a theory that I haven't found expounded before. It came from a combination of travel through 60+ countries, living and working and interacting with local people on a pretty intimate level sometimes, and study of lots of history.
It's going to be controversial and maybe even shocking, so brace yourself for a moment before reacting please.
I think peaceful societies self-destruct.
With a few notable exceptions that require a geography suitable to isolationism, long term peace has historically been achieved through your country or one of your ally's having military supremacy over the rest of your neighbors.