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I was telling a friend recently about how I was considering becoming a rapper. The gist of the idea is that I believe that I could make an excellent rap album if I dediated an entire year to it. To me the logic was inescapable: I have a lot of time, some base rap skills, and the ability to come up with plans and focus. It seems literally impossible to me that I could not make a good rap album in one year.
He kept trying to push me away from it, which I found surprising. He's an extremely supportive friend who thinks outside the box and does many much more "out there" things than that. Finally I asked why he was pushing against it.
He said that because I look like a normal nerdy white guy, I may not get the best reception. Maybe I'd be booed off stage if I tried to perform.
I waited for the rest of the objection, but that was it. Getting booed? Who cares?
This made me think a lot about the hypothetical situation. I could see why it would be a totally normal and reasonable response to be embarrassed or care that people booed me, but I couldn't connect with that emotion at all. I tried to put myself in that situation, and the only thing I could feel was amusement. I think it would be totally hilarious if I went on stage and got booed off. What a funny and unique experience!
At first I thought that this might have come from pickup. There I had to subject myself to potential (and, more often than not, actual) rejection many times per night. Maybe I had built up a thick skin through that.
I realized, though, that rejection in that setting never bothered me. I was often scared of approaching and felt uncomfortable putting myself out there, but rejection never affected me. If anything it made me less scared to approach the next time because I realized that it wasn't so bad.
Thinking more about it, I believe my immunity to the sting of rejection stems from my insistence on doing everything my own way.
My goal in making a rap album would just be to make an album that I think is good. There's a lot of rap out there that other people think is good and I think is terrible. If I made one of those albums, I would not be happy. I accept that we all have different opinions on things and I don't believe that it's possible to please everyone.
If we accept the premise that we can't please everyone, we also have to accept that we can't care about the opinion of everyone. Part and parcel with doing anything is that some people will like it and some people won't.
I care most about what I think. If I put out work that I feel is very good, I'm happy even if no one else likes it. That's not to say that I won't consider their opinions and make changes, only that I'm not going to really feel bad if they don't like it.
Next I care what my close friends and family think. They know me the best, so their opinions are generally the most valid. If a random stranger tells me I'm messing up my life, I won't think twice about it. If a family member says that, I'm all ears.
Some of my friends and family like rap, so I would listen to their opinions. If I thought it was good and they all thought it was really terrible, maybe I would even feel a little bad. Probably I would just be confused and motivated to improve.
Next I care about readers. I don't say that to pander. As any reader knows, I put out whatever I want on this blog, and it's always a pretty authentic view of how I see things. If someone has stuck around and has learned about me and thinks I'm messing up, I'd listen.
But strangers? I couldn't care less. It's not because I think less of them, it's because I have no possible way of knowing if their opinion is valid. I won't please everyone, and from my point of view it's impossible to know if a stranger is someone who should be pleased or not, so I give zero weight to their opinion.
So if I make a rap album and perform it and every single person boos? Well, maybe they're the same crowd that would be going nuts for some rap artist that I think is really bad. Or maybe I'm the only person who will like my rap album, but I'm the only one that has to live with it anyway, so that's fine.
When you find yourself caring about how someone else perceives you, ask yourself why. Is it because it's someone whose opinion you value? Or is it a knee jerk reaction because we think rejection is bad? If it's the latter, try to meditate on whether that's a reaction you need to have in the future.
Photo is me riding a dinosaur
People didn't like my iterative way of doing the gear post last year, so I'm listening and going back to the old format of writing about every single item, even if it's been on the list forever. There are a considerable number of new items this year, so there is a lot to write about. At least a few of the items are things I can just about guarantee you've never heard of.
I seem to go in ebb and flow cycles of trying to get a little more utility from my gear and paring down the weight and bulk, and this year was primarily the latter. Both are satisfying in their own ways, but I just love shedding weight. These days my bag is so empty that on my last trip I had room to bring back for friends two masks and snorkels as well as two extra jackets!
Things That Didn't Make It
I got rid of my chromecast. I liked having it, but didn't feel like it really got used enough to justify bringing it, especially when I also have an HDMI cable. TVs in hotels and cruise ships also increasingly have smart features that allow me to cast my screen to them without something external.
I have written this blog since 2005, and haven't missed posting at least weekly since 2012 or so. Writing this blog has had a massively positive impact on my life, both directly and indirectly, and I can't imagine what would stop me from continuing to write it indefinitely.
I enjoy the actual writing of blog posts. Writing is fun, my blog provides me with an outlet to connect with and provide some value to people, and doing so helps me clarify my own thoughts. The only thing I don't like is the looming deadline.
Between travel and other projects, my weekly blog post has become something that gets slotted in after everything else. I usually start thinking about it on Wednesday, but will accept just about any excuse not to post it then. On Thursday I feel a little bit of urgency, but I know it's easy to just do it on Friday. On Friday I really try to get it done, but if I have a busy day, I will allow myself to do it on Saturday. Once in a very rare while I don't get to it until Sunday.
I don't like the lack of consistency, and I like the looming ambiguous deadline even less. For half of my days, I have my weekly blog post on my mind.
I'm always grateful for everything in my life, but when I think about what I'm most grateful for this year, family and friends are my immediate focus. I'm incredibly grateful for the people in my life now, the people who have played a role in my life, and for all of the high quality time I'm able to spend with them.
My wife and I have been married for about a year now, and I'm more grateful for her each day. People say that marriage is tough, and I suppose it could be some day, but this first year has really been a breeze. I think she deserves a lot of the credit for that, because I'm stubborn about some things, travel all the time, and am generally a pretty unconventional person. She's handled all of that gracefully and has worked alongside me to constantly make our relationship better.
On our second date I distinctly remember thinking that she would make an excellent partner, and she really has. I'm very grateful to have met her, to have married her, and for all that she does for me and our relationship.
This year family members came and visited in Budapest, Hawaii, and the island. When buying all of these places, one of my fantasies was to have family spend time with me at them, and I'm so grateful that it's become a reality. Each is a little weird in its own way, like having to use an outhouse on the island, and I really appreciate how my family has embraced these places. Highlights have been having six family members stay on the island, having my father and step-mother come to Budapest, and having my brothers come to Hawaii.
I absolutely love living in Las Vegas. Even if cost was not a factor, I would choose living there over any other city in the world (ok, I'd have to think hard about Tokyo). This generally surprises people who don't live in Las Vegas (and even some who do), and would have surprised me at least a little bit if you had told me a few years ago that I'd feel this way.
Unlike some other cities, though, it's not obvious why living in Las Vegas is so great. The strip is indeed so flashy and glittery that it tends to leave everything else in its shadow. But lots of what makes Vegas great is outside of the strip.
Even though I love it regardless of cost, I have to mention cost to put everything in context. Vegas is an extremely inexpensive place to live. Housing is dirt cheap, there are no state income taxes, and just about everything else you'll pay for is cheaper than other cities, too. The tourism industry effectively subsidizes the entire city, so you get a great value.
Money aside, here's how to love living in Las Vegas:
In my every day normal routine in Las Vegas there are two events to which I look forward each day. The first is dinner at Chipotle. I still eat there virtually every day when it's an option, and still delight in it every time. The second is when I get the notification at the top of my phone that tomorrow's crossword is available.
For over a year I have done the NY Times crossword puzzle just about every single day. I may have missed one or two, but I went back and completed all of them. In fact, I've done somewhere around 2800 puzzles as I write this.
When I first started I could barely get through a Wednesday. Often I'd have to check the puzzle or reveal letters. Now I'm currently on a 250+ day streak and I believe that I'm at the level where it would be pretty surprising if I couldn't fight my way through a puzzle. They're still sometimes very hard (1 hour+ for saturdays on rare occasion but I can usually figure it out.
I very rarely recommend "fun" things on this blog, but I'm wholeheartedly recommending crossword puzzles.
I've been hearing back recently from some of the attendees of the first event and have been blown away by the progress that they've been making. Talking to them has motivated me to schedule the next event and work with a new group of people.
The event will be two days of working closely with me on your habits, goals, and priorities. You will leave with a clear vision on next steps to take in your life as well as specific advice on how to implement them to ensure success. You will also be paired with one of the other attendees to become accountability partners.
The attendees at the first event were all truly excellent people whom I was glad to get to know and who were all glad to get to know each other and many left with lasting friendships. I was moved by how positive they were and how interested they were in each others' success.
Besides getting specific personal advice from me, you will also hear your fellow attendees work through their challenges. We'll talk a lot about productivity, mindset, automation, prioritization, social skills, and lifestyle.
This is a topic that seems arrogant to even write about, but two people have asked me to write a blog post about it, so I'm going to take a stab at it. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and one of my strengths is that I have had a fairly interesting life. This has opened a lot of doors for me, specifically doors that would have been closed to me based only on my abilities. I've also seen this same phenomenon in other interesting people. We tend to get more than we deserve.
And it also goes without saying that the ability to be interesting is, in itself, very lucky. It's a luxury to be able to dedicate time and effort to anything other than survival, so I'm thankful I've been given that privilege.
Caveats and justification out of the way, let's talk about being interesting. I'd say that the practice of being personally interesting is primarily the practice of having relevant and unknown things to share with others.
These things can take many forms, but I'd say that the biggest two are having relatable stories to share and having useful knowledge to share. The methods by which you share these things are important, but the most important thing is to have them.
One of my biggest pleasures in life is creating opportunities for my friends and family. There are a lot of things I do all the time, but when I think of who I am by definition, I think of myself as someone who tries to create things for his friends.
This is what drives all of my shared real estate purchases. I obviously have a vested personal interest in buying all of these places, but I'm most delighted by being able to offer my friends the opportunity to own places all around the world for very little money and with almost no effort.
Those are big campaigns, but there are a lot of other things that you can do to provide great experiences for your friends. These things may not seem like a big deal, but being the one to organize events and activities in your friend group is extremely valuable. Here are a few ideas, ranging from easiest to hardest.
1. Organize a dinner for everyone a at a restaunt a few days in advance. This is so easy, but it doesn't happen that often. When was the last time someone in your group did it? Just pick a restaurant your group likes, pick a time a few days away, and invite everyone. I do this all the time and always appreciate it when other people do it.
There is one fundamental tool I use all the time, because it's so adaptable. I use it for myself and for a large number of my clients. I don't know if there's some official name for it, but I think of it as brain training.
We will all naturally gravitate towards activities that we find enjoyable and move away from those we don't. It's human nature and it's hard to combat. We can force ourselves to do things that are "good" for us for a short period of time, but if they are too onerous, resistance will build and we will probably quit.
This led me to wonder whether I could just change what I like and what I don't like. Could I prefer healthy foods to unhealthy ones? Could I prefer work to idleness? Discomfort to comfort?
The answer turns out to be yes, you can change virtually anything.