Escape from Paradise

One of the worst things about vacation is that it disrupts routine. It’s also one of the best things.

Not only because sometimes I need a disruption, but because I need to long for my routine. I need to feel the pain of its absence so I can get excited for it to start it up again.

A good vacation ends with a desperate desire to get back to normal.

Categorized as Commentary

Make it Fun

You’re never too old and it’s never too boring to make it fun.

Every voluntary activity can be made fun.

That is an extremely high standard no one can actually achieve (and most wouldn’t want to), but there is no law of the universe stopping it from happening.

Once you realize that, the onus is on you to figure out how to make it fun. That challenge alone is the beginning of the fun.

Fun is not a moral good in itself, but if you can make life fun – especially the drudgery – it’s pretty dang hard to do a bad job at moral goods. Fun has a way of chinking the armor of bad habits.

Categorized as Commentary

It’s Not Personal, It’s Just Cheese

No matter how many times it happens, I’m still blindsided by the revelation that some bad attitudes are cured by food.

My kids will shock me with brusk behavior from left field, and I’ll be flummoxed. My wife will say, “They haven’t had anything to eat in a while.” I poo poo this as an excuse. She gives them something to eat. The mood disappears.

It’s easy in developed countries where you spend most of your time higher up Maslow’s hierarchy to forget that humans are still physical beings with primitive needs.

I try to remind myself of this when I encounter someone acting like a jerk. Maybe they just need a piece of cheese.

Categorized as Commentary

Marketing without Selling

The best kind of marketing is just value creation.

It could be a free product tier. It could be entertaining or enlightening content. It could be a language and community.

When done right, no sale is needed. Those you create value for will choose your product when the problem it solves arises.

They may still want to customize and negotiate, but they don’t need convincing because you’ve already built trust.

Going deeper on this today at this event!

Categorized as Commentary

It’s Never Too Late

If you’re prepared to put in work long after you thought you’d be done, it’s never too late.

It’s only too late if you’ve already accepted that you can’t put in any more work.

It’s ok to decide this, but if you do, know that it’s a choice. You’re not a victim of circumstance.

Categorized as Commentary

Form the Muscle, then Optimize the Setting

We imagine the perfect setting will cause us to develop the habits we want to develop, but it won’t.

The perfect writing nook, the incredible gym, or the ideal kitchen will certainly provide a burst of initial inspiration and get us going. But they do nothing to overcome resistance, and resistance is inevitable.

The worst part about the perfect setting is that it buys extra time. We feel OK not getting the real work done because we are getting all setup, playing with setting, and thinking about what we’ll do. Worse still, the perfect setting crushes us if we don’t achieve what we wanted. Even with this perfect setup, I’ve squandered it – I’m such a loser!

Setting does matter.

But it’s better to relentlessly hone the habit before you create the perfect setting. Without distraction or excuse, you can hone the habit wherever you are.

Then, once the discipline is as natural as breathing, you find or craft that setting.

When a seasoned practitioner steps into the ideal setting, magic happens.

When the deprivations, limitations, and annoyances of the non-ideal setting are removed from one who’s learned to work in spite of them, new levels of precision and power are unlocked.

Put in the work. Prepare in season and out of season. Do it wherever you are. When the perfect setting avails itself, you want to be ready to really seize it.

Categorized as Commentary

Time Zone Time Warp

Travelling all day today. And when I arrive, it will be in a different time zone than I left.

This kind of experience always creates a strange time bubble for me. When I arrive at the destination, you can’t convince me it was the same day as when I left. The time in transit also feels non-contiguous with what’s before and after.

It’s like the travel creates a warp zone of some kind, which stands outside of time. It’s its own self-contained reality, divorced from the origin and destination. All rules of time are different in there. Then I emerge at another time and place.

Categorized as Commentary

If You Lived in a Post-Scarcity World, You Wouldn’t Know it

“If there was no scarcity, we could all work on self-improvement and higher things.”

If this were true, you would devote yourself to self-improvement and higher things now.

From the perspective of most humans in history, the average American lives in a post-scarcity world. Food and shelter almost never have to be thought about. Especially for the first 20 or so years of life.

Yet people still strive, work, envy, and desire.

This would remain even if all material wants could be satisfied with the push of a button.

Time is scarce. Space is scarce. You can only be in one place at one time. You can only be in the presence of those you want to be with when they also want to be with you at that same time.

This is enough for an economy, exchange, and inequality.

You can’t escape it. What it means to be a living individual is to be scarce and to live within a reality of scarcity. You cannot separate scarcity from human experience. The absence of scarcity is non-existence.

It doesn’t matter if it’s money, attention, or status – it will always take work to accumulate what others value in order to exchange it for what you value.

Rather than longing for escape, learn to do it earnestly and take joy in the process.

Categorized as Commentary

The Laziness of Pessimism

Yesterday, I saw a Tweet about unhealthy people delivering healthy food to other unhealthy people. It concluded that the world is insane.

There isn’t anything necessarily wrong about seeing malfunction and contradiction in something like this, or acknowledging the absurdity of the world when you see this kind of thing often. It may be true enough.

But it’s incomplete, narrow, and one-sided. It’s also easy.

To like or repeat this and similar observations (which I have often done) takes no work whatsoever. I get to keep my brain unchallenged with any deep analysis, and keep my sense of smug superiority. I walk away from the observation not having stretched myself or grown in any way, but with a slightly narrower, less happy experience of the world.

I had one of those moments of realization yesterday when I saw the Tweet. Normally I’d probably just scroll or even click like. It was a little funny and a little true. It confirmed my own tendency to judge those around me and feel I’m the only sane person in the world. A warm in-group is created by all those who rally around the observation.

Such observations and in-groups aren’t all bad. But it just struck me yesterday as too damn easy. When I’m easy on myself, I become less of who I want to be.

I forced myself to reframe the situation described in the Tweet and see it from an optimistic point of view. Total strangers struggling with health are voluntarily helping each other attempt to improve it through the miracle of market exchange.

As soon as I framed it that way, it snapped me into a better mindset. And the process of working to see a more hopeful angle sharpened my mind just a bit.

Just like the original Tweet, nothing about this alternate take was untrue.

Optimism doesn’t require you to pretend things are good when they’re not. It only requires you to push past the laziness of pessimism and find the less easy truths of a situation.

Categorized as Commentary

Goodness Must End to Begin

All good things must come to an end. But they can be replaced with things that are good in a new way.

It’s hard to let go of phases and feelings that are good. But the only choice is to let them go gracefully or to cling to them as they get ripped away.

Both leave you with a bittersweet pain over what no longer is, but the graceful process makes it easier to begin to grow new kinds of goodness in place of the old. Then you begin to see that the old good carried through as a seed that grew into a new goodness.

New goodness only grows as the old fades. New goodnesses are perhaps less sweet and light, but they are stronger, deeper, hardier.

Once you let go of the idea that what is good must also be easy, you will continue to see new goodness as old goodnesses pass.

Categorized as Commentary
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