6 ways I [try to] diversify my life

When properly diversified,  nobody can say “no” to you anymore. Disappointments and failures become a natural part of life that you learn from, in the same way you learn from success and opportunity. Intelligence springs forward from the additional creativity. Love comes from the most blossoming part of the social tree you build for yourself.

— James Altucher

1. Upset at least one person a week with your honesty. Makes them think.

2. Try desperately to never give advice especially to someone who is pleading for it. You are not them and you cannot possibly know what is best for them so don’t try and tell them.

3. If you are as shy as I am, speak to strangers walking past. A simple hello, morning or good evening will do. Do it with a smile. Most people are shy with strangers and to them you are a stranger too (something we all forget).

4. Surprise someone who has done something nice for you with a gift right after they have done it. This one forces the mind to take stock of other people and why they are doing what they are doing.

5. Surprise someone who screws things up for you by apologizing for putting them in a position where they made a mistake. This one is hard as anger and annoyance are on hair triggers but the feeling you get knowing you have have helped someone off of the floor is fantastic.

6. Need less and have more. Which is the best, most simple, easiest and yet at the same time hardest way to diversify every aspect of your life. If you can embrace and practice need less and have more then you’ve cracked it, in my humble opinion.

It’s a work in progress.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I want to be wealthy

What would appeal to me about being wealthy is unconditional autonomy regarding work: being able to work when I want, on what I choose. In other words, having the right to decide the best use of my talents instead of having it decided “for” (against?) me. Even founders of some small companies whom I know ended up as clients’ bitches and lost autonomy, because they knew a single client could sink them. It’s also pretty much impossible to bring your A game if you feel like a subordinate. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a subordinate in title and have a boss and still do great work, but once a person loses a sense of autonomy, the quality of work goes to zero. When you’re wealthy, you can avoid this situation completely and, as soon as you lose autonomy or the ability to excel, move on.

People romanticize the “starving artist” whose work becomes famous after his death, but I’d argue that 4/5 of the people who really moved humanity forward were wealthy people, not because they’re any better but because they had the time and autonomy to follow their interests. Sociologically, the most effective people tend to come from the fringes of the elite (cf. Jobs, Gates): people who don’t have their life and work clogged up by common burdens (distractions, stress and fear, subordination) but who also aren’t in the “golden prison” (the elite’s conservative, status-obsessed core) which is just as disabling a place to be, for a person wanting to do something good with his life, as reeking poverty.

My guess at how I would react if I suddenly became wealthy is that first I’d have an hour of euphoria, then 3 days of anxiety, then 6 months of a “this is nice” celebratory mood, and then spend the rest of my life marginally happier but a lot more productive than I’d otherwise be. What appeals to me most about making lots of money isn’t some false promise about being super-happy (that’ll wear off) but the thought of actually being able to contribute to this world, and maybe make it better so that when I pass on into whatever comes after this place, I do so with a sense of completion and good karma.

Strict progress is illusory

I’ll be 21 in a couple of weeks, and I already see the progression from when I was 12, 15, 17, 19, etc.

However, it’s not a strictly monotonic function of progress. Me_{2007} had a better life philosophy than Me_{2009}, though I think Me_{2012} has surpassed both, plus I know a lot more. I’ve learned things when I was younger that later I either forgot or learned something opposing the initial belief, and then later either relearned or realized the original belief was the correct one. I’m certain there are things I have yet to (or may never) learn/relearn and thus correct whatever is incorrect with my present self. Was there something I understood at age 16 that I don’t anymore, and such a thing would make me (even just marginally) better? Probably.

Do you find your self progressing after each year, or every few years, and never taking a wrong turn? As an extreme example, I can imagine someone having a bad drug problem in their 30s during which they’re worse off in every way than in their 20s, and only come out of it in their 40s. I think for most people, improvement and regression are more subtle and happen in many dimensions. Strict progress is illusory. I think it’s too easy to get caught up in your present values and discount the wisdom of your younger self just because you care about your present self more than your past self.

It’s also fairly obvious with older people that their minds just don’t work like they did when they were in their 30s. Are they really wiser, do they really have more total knowledge than at their prime? What’s the ratio of those who are and those who aren’t? I also like to point out that a lot of important knowledge and wisdom can be found in books alone without experience.

It’s easy to forget this fact among all humans regardless of age: other people (including your past selves) may be privy to information you are not privy to.

NYC Skyline

NYC Skyline

Camera: Sony RX100

The New York City skyline with the Empire State building lit green for Eid ul-Fitr. Taken from Hamilton Park in Weehawken, NJ.

Coming up short

The last couple of years I have found myself constantly measuring life by some invisible standard that is grounded on a hazy idea of what my potential is.

And coming up short.

Recently I’ve been looking around me more. I notice that not everyone has the same stringent criteria of what constitutes success or fulfillment of one’s life purpose. They seem happier too.

I am all for aiming for the sky, putting in the hard work, getting out of the rat race, raising capital, becoming a billionaire, whatever. But then I step back and see the bigger picture; I try to suppress that emotional memory, try to stop being depressed because I am not swinging for the fences as I should be doing. I stop comparing myself to the top 1%.

Then I become happy and content. Because I am alive and healthy. Because I don’t have to slave away to secure my food.

But this only lasts for a tiny bit, until once again, I swiftly swim back into my self-perceived ocean of mediocrity.