The Long Answer To “Don’t You Ever Relax?”.

“Don’t you ever relax?”

This is the kind of question that drives people like me insane. I know a dozen of high achievers that if you ask them this, they’ll punch you. Seriously.

There is something wrong with this question because of the meaning that it carries. When you ask me something like “don’t you ever relax?” it predisposes two things:

a) That what I do is stressful or hard.

b) That there is an actual, practical difference between “what I do” and “the rest of my life”.

The truth is a lot simpler. There is no difference. There is no work time and free time. There is no study time and entertainment time. I don’t believe in this way of seeing life. Instead, for me and for many others, life is simply life. There is no part of “I hate doing this but I must do it” and a part of “I’m doing what I want now”.

I honestly believe that this kind of mindset, of separating “enjoyable activities and not so enjoyable but most be done type of activities” is wrong. It is like you’re wasting half of your life away so the other half you are doing what you love doing.

Personally, I just love what I’m doing. I love working. I love reading. I love exercising. I love self-reflection. I am not doing these things to get to something else. They are not a necessary evil so I can do something I enjoy. They are simply the things that I enjoy. This is my mindset when it comes to work and relaxation, you can’t separate them. I enjoy my work, in all its dimensions and I don’t need relaxation in the traditional sense as my work stimulates me more than it stresses me. I don’t wait to finish what I’m doing so I can watch TV or play computer games as the work itself is far more interesting for me than watching TV or playing mindless games.

About two years ago, I’ve met a few fascinating people, two girls and one guy. They were pilots in training (civilian). Their life was about studying about how to be good pilots and training for this. That was it. Yes, they had fun and everything but it wasn’t a feeling of “oh, no, tomorrow I must fly” but rather “tomorrow I get the chance to fly again and I love this”.

This mindset of “the hard and necessary part that must be done” and the “relaxing part that comes after” usually comes from poor and unaccomplished people. Rich, successful people tend to simply enjoy whatever they are doing. They succeed in their field because for them, this is the best form of spending time. They are not trying to get their work done as soon as possible to be somewhere else – they are exactly where they need to be.

I’m not saying this to be judgmental but if you’re not enjoying doing something, then why you are doing? I can understand that sometimes you must do things you don’t enjoy. We all do things out of a sense of duty but we’d rather be doing something else. But when it comes to work or study, it takes like 50% of your waking hours.

If your mindset is “I must go to work but I’d rather be home watching TV” then you’re in the wrong field. You’re spending 8 hours a day at a minimum working so if you’re not stimulated and challenged by what you’re doing, then you’re either looking at your field in the wrong manner or you need a new field.

For example, a teacher may see each day as an exciting way of shaping the destiny of many people. He’ll use this as a way to creatively express knowledge and wisdom. For him, each day is a way of doing what he loves, teaching and learning. For another person, teaching may be just something to pay the bills. For both people, the job is the same – it comes with the same rewards and challenges. The difference is in perception.

When I was young, I hated reading. I’ve found it extremely boring. I would have rather played Need for Speed or something else. Now, give me a good armchair, a Kindle and a comfortable room and I’ll sit there reading for hours. I’ll forget about eating, drinking or going to the toilet. The activity is the same as before but how I feel about it is completely different.

The truth is that I don’t need to relax because relaxing is a tool for evading from doing something you don’t enjoy. I enjoy what I do, even the generic things as replying to my emails. I do need to rest, as my body has limits. Sometimes I’m so tired that my eyes simply struggle to keep open or I have tears in my eyes from working too much. But rest is not the same as relaxing. Relaxing, for me, is considered an escape. Resting is simply the process of letting the body renew itself, a natural consequence and requirement of being human.

I do have hobbies. Even as I’m writing this now, I’m sitting in a hotel room, on a small holiday. But for me, holiday doesn’t mean wasting time. I’m seeing new places, I’m trying new experiences but when these are done, I just get back to what needs to be done.

And as far as any “evading” goes, I’d rather accomplish things in real life than in reality. I’d rather live my own story than watch another (as watching a movie) and I’d rather accomplish something tangible than do it in a video game. This doesn’t mean that I never watch movies or play video games, it simply means that my own belief and value system place these activities as a low priority.

So don’t aim to “relax”. It is an outdated concept coming from the working class mindset of the 70s, 80s and 90s. It is a concept that comes from a time when you went to your factory or cubicle and at five o clock you were home, no matter what. You were paid a fixed income and you probably worked for the same employer for your entire life. Work was something you did 33% of your waking time so you can pay the bills.

But in 2017, this is not true. Your income is not based on showing up at 09:00 and leaving at 17:00. It is based on your ability to generate results. It is your ability to create value and leverage. While there are always going to be typical 9 to 5 jobs and I’m grateful for all the people doing this (because they are the backbone of society), many jobs today are positioning you as a knowledge worker. This means you are judged not based on the work you put in but on the results you get. For many people, there is no real limit on what they can achieve, as they are judged almost completely on the results obtained.

When the end goal is to accomplish goals and not to do a 9 – 5, there is no such thing as a “relaxation period”. You’re always in the race, based on your level of ambition. Knowing this – you may as well learn to love what you’re doing or find something that you love to do. After all, you’ll have to work hard for anything worthwhile in life and for this, you need to be passionate and excited to start working in the morning.

One final thing – I’ve noticed that no matter how exciting and glamorous a lifestyle may be, it is as hard as any other. Fields don’t get either. You see someone like Selena Gomez and you think “24 year old that earns millions of dollars”. Well, that’s true but she worked hard, day by day, to get there. So does the actor earning $50.000.000 for a role and so does the CEO or exec. They are fighting their own battles just as you are and they’ve found a way to create more leverage with each hour of their time. But I can guarantee something – Selena Gomez never thought about “oh, this is work and this is fun”. Instead, she obsessed about achieving her goals, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and because of this, she has a net worth of $50.000.000 at age 24.

Do you think that you get a net worth of $50.000.000 at this age, at an age where most people don’t even know what they want out of their life by separating life and work? By looking for ways to relax? Or do you think you do it by dedicating your life to a purpose and to a set of goals? Think about it. The answer may just change your life.

Best regards,
Razvan

Are Tools Good Or Bad? On The Ethical Properties Of What Surrounds Us

There’s an old saying …

“It is not how big it is, but how you use it”.

While this saying comes from a specific context, I’ve grown to appreciate it as a general truism.

I have an iPad. This iPad, as a tool is neutral. It can do whatever you want it to do. I can use it to play a video game or surf mindless web. However, I can also use it to learn Swift development. I can use it to study corporate finance. I can use it to enroll in one of the many high quality courses on iTunes U.

When you purchase an iPad, you determine the value it is going to bring you through using it. You can use it to watch cat videos or you can study the courses from Stanford and MIT. Your value in using the iPad can be $5/hour or $500/hour. Of course, you can use the same iPad to give a presentation that brings you $50.000 but that’s beside the point.

The point is that tools tend to be as valuable as how you use them. A hammer can build a house or break things. A book can educate and enlighten or it can be used as fuel for fire. A car can take you to a better life or it can sit in the garage for a few years.

Tools are not good or bad. I’m starting to realize this about everything. It is how you use them that determines their utility. I consider Facebook a fundamental waste of time but since I’ve first said that, I’ve refined my argument. Facebook, used in the manner used by most people and which is also the easiest is a huge waste of time. However, Facebook can be used for advertisement, for building communities, for building a brand around yourself. It can be a destructive tool that replaces a social life or it can be an amazing marketing tool. Same platform, different ways to use it.

For a long time, I’ve blamed tools. XBOX is bad because it leads to gaming addiction. Facebook is bad because it leads to a very superficial view of being social. YouTube is bad because it is a distraction from something more important.

But then I’ve realized that tools are mostly neutral in nature. This means that if there is someone to blame, it is us, the users. Our own nature, predispositions and idiosyncrasies determine how we use the tool. We are to blame when we waste time on Facebook, not Facebook itself. We are to blame when we go to McDonalds, not McDonalds itself.

Even something like a nuclear weapon can’t be considered bad by itself. It is bad when it is used to kill people. It can be good if directed towards an asteroid that can save all of humanity and in a way, as a deterrence mechanism.

The world is full of people that see a direct relationship between a tool and the effect created by that tool. These people fail to realize that tools are not run by a self-conscious AI that takes decisions. Tools are a means for us to achieve what we desire but tools are not us nor the desire itself. The tool is the vehicle we are driving but the tool is not in the driving seat. We are.

The only real influence tools have on us is the ability to create feedback loops that influence behavior. Our ancestors discovered most likely by mistake that combining meat with fire makes meat a lot more delicious. This made them predisposed to cook meat as the payoff was bigger than not cook it. This is when the tool influences our behavior. In most general cases, tools are used as we are, as a way to accomplish our own likes and dislikes than as anything objective.

This is most true in the case of money. What I’ve observed is that money doesn’t really change people, only reveal their true, basic, instinctual nature. An insecure person will use money to show of. A power hungry person will use money to gain control. A generous person will use money to improve the lives of others. A person that despises money will find a way to get rid of it fast. Those traits existed before the money showed up. People don’t become something when money is brought into the equation, they just use money to accentuate that trait. Money doesn’t corrupt, it just reveals those who are already corrupted.

And so is true with everything else. What we are influences the way that we use tools. Tools are as neutral as they get. You can’t call something evil because the way people use it is evil. The tool is just a tool and the best of things can be used for bad and the worst of things can be used for good. It is just a matter of perception.

Best regards,
Razvan

25 Rules On What I’m NOT Going To Do In My Life

I’ve wrote a lot about what you must do to be successful. However, time taught me that what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.

Below are 25 things that I know I must not do in order to achieve my goals as soon as possible. I can’t say that these are true for you too, as it depends a lot on who you are and what you want to accomplish. Even so, many are universal in nature and you may consider dropping or reducing them.

As a final note, I’m not saying to quit them completely, but that you can achieve a significant benefit in your life by reducing them (and yes, ideally, quit them).

The list is in no particular order.

  1. No computer games. I prefer to achieve something in real life than in a game. $10 achieved in real life are worth more than saving the world in a computer game.
  2. No smoking. I’ve been addicted for a decade and I know how much it can affect you. Smoking damages your health, burns your clothes, affects your teeth and generally, helps you little.
  3. Drinking in moderation. Last time I’ve drank was almost a year ago but it is okay to drink a bit. However, drinking a beer with some friends is very different from drinking a bottle of vodka to run from your problems.
  4. No movie binge watching. Watching 14 episodes of House MD in a row was a fun experience but it didn’t brought me any significant benefits to my life. Movies are nice and I want to watch the latest Resident Evil movie but not watching them six hours in a row.
  5. No bitching or whining. The more you complain, the less powerful you feel in your life. Swallow it up and move on. It won’t help you to bitch.
  6. No crazy women in my life. I’m in a relationship so I’m not dating. However, when I was dating, I’ve met many girls with issues, to say at least. Breaking up with them proved to be a very good decision.
  7. No fast food. I’ve ate for months almost daily McDonalds and Pizza Hut. After seeing the results, I’ve decided to never do this again. You can eat meat but if you eat meat, at least eat quality one. Big Macs don’t enter that category.
  8. No excessive sugar. Initially I’ve dropped sugar completely. Now I do consume sugar but no chocolate bars and such. Instead, most of the sugar comes from coffee, tea and the likes. I’ve decided on this after consuming huge amounts of sweets and having my body react really badly.
  9. No negative friends. Life is hard as it is. You don’t need someone to tell you that you can’t do something or to pull you down. You’ll need all your efforts to combat entropy, you don’t need to do more because of the people you associate yourself with.
  10. No people who don’t respect you. I don’t argue with people anymore but if I feel that someone doesn’t respect me as long as I respect that person, it is over. I don’t expect to be treated like a king but arrogance, narcissism, going over boundaries are a big no.
  11. No porn. Pornography is not real sex and it just tweaks your expectations. I’ve dated and slept with some amazing girls in my life and believe me, no matter how good the sex is, pornography tends to portray it even better. It just makes you be unsatisfied with the real thing.
  12. No impulsive spending. I used to spend money very easily. Now, I know that just because I have some money, this doesn’t mean I have to spend them. You’ll need money for something important sooner or later, the question is – will you have it?
  13. No ego trips. I’ve discovered that the less you care about the concept of fairness, the better life is. Life is not fair. Don’t ruin things for you just because you wish life would be in a different way. Focus on doing what works, shut your mouth if that works and move on. Keep your fighting for when it actually matters.
  14. No blind trust. People are generally good but this doesn’t mean that people will always do what you expect of them. At the end of the day, we are all driven by self interest. This doesn’t mean that it is a doggy eat dog world, as most people are NOT sociopaths but people are hardly rational and fully predictable.
  15. No killing time. Poor people kill time. Rich people put it to use. No matter where you are or what you do, find a way to use your time. Read a book. Listen to an audiobook. Watch an inspirational YouTube video. Answer your emails. Do some exercising. Stretch. Shave. Wash your hair. Whatever. Just don’t kill time. Time is too precious for that.
  16. No Facebook. I’m not on any social network anymore. I don’t like Facebook because it distracts me from what is truly important. Like it or not, we’re all addicted to it. It took me years to drop Facebook, each time becoming easier and easier. Now, I feel the pull of Facebook but I can live without it.
  17. No criticizing. Generally, being a critic is useless. You will antoganize another person just so you can feel good about yourself. Many times I’ve found myself writing long comments proving why the other person is wrong. I never publish them. I delete them and I return to doing something more productive. When someone will want your opinion, they are going to ask you. It is not my job to prove to someone what is right and wrong, no matter my degree of confidence.
  18. No negative news. It is incredible but you can live without knowing what Donald Trump did, who died in Syria or what other fucked up things happened in the world. Yes. You can. 99.99% of the things that happen in this world has ZERO relevance to your life. At any point in time fucked up things happen and we, as a human race, are fascinated by the morbid. However, you tend to become what you think about and if you think about the evil, you’ll become a magnet for that evil.
  19. No negative movies. I guess this goes for all forms of media. Yes, kids die and innocent people get convicted. However, seeing everything that is wrong with the human race won’t make it better. It can convince you to become an activist (however, I doubt it, most become because they SEE and EXPERIENCE THIS IN REALITY) but in most cases, it will just give you a bad mood. Your focus of reality becomes your reality.
  20. No feelings of being special. I’m not special. You’re not special. We become special through what we do. Our actions determine how unique and amazing we are, not our self-image. Feeling special comes with feelings of entitlement and these feelings state that you’ll want something you don’t deserve. Life won’t give you such thing so forget about this and just get to work.
  21. No oversharing. Even if I’m a rather open person, 90% of everything I keep to myself. I don’t feel the need to reveal what I consider private. It is not a big deal to reveal my productivity rituals or my thoughts on a certain topic. After all, authors do this all the time. However, for every thing that I share, there are 99 that are found only in a journal or in my mind. My life is not Wikipedia. I share what I want to share.
  22. No absolute views over life. Life is not white or black. Life is not just or evil. Life is life. It contains many shades of grey and you learn to work with them. I do believe in good but I do understand that absolute good does not exist. Things just are. Because of this, I’ve stopped judging. Before, I used to judge people for how they speak, act, dress. I used to judge them for not reading or for not engaging into better activities. In the meantime I’ve realized that what other people do is none of my damn business. When you go in the park, do you judge the tree for being a certain shape? Then why should you judge people for not entering some moral archetype?
  23. No sense of fatalism. I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe in a higher order. I do believe that we assign meaning to causality as this is how our brain is designed to do. I don’t believe I have a certain destiny. I believe I build my destiny through what I’m doing now. For this, I feel free. I am the creator. I know that I could get cancer or get hit by a car and die but I’m not confusing statistical occurrences to the idea of destiny. Things are not meant to be but when things happen in a certain way, we assign them this tag.
  24. No inflated self-esteem. My goal is to always be the least successful person in the room. This means that if I’m better than anyone else, I’m playing in a game that is too easy for me. I need to play in a game that forces me to grow and where I give it my best. It makes no sense to play life on easy mode. I may die tomorrow or I may fail anyway. If I fail, I’ll fail at my huge, ambitious, scary goal instead of a small one. After all, I’m 26. I have maybe 40 – 50 years remaining of life. Why waste this valuable time pursuing small goals?
  25. NO DAY WITHOUT A GOAL. This is the most important one. When I wake up, I decide what I need to do today. This is usually in the context of weekly goals, monthly goals, quarterly goals. Today is a day that you can invest towards something major in your life. Every day is a mission to achieve goals, preferably goals that make a lot of sense to me and a day not invested towards my goals is a day lost.

I don’t know if these rules are right for you. They make sense in the context of my own life. However, if they are, make sure you follow them. If you take one step ahead and then you take one backward, you’re not really progressing.

Best regards,
Razvan

How is it to actually pursue success?

At some point, I’ve thought that the road to success is glamorous and exciting. At other points, I’ve considered it to be a non-stop grind, a slow, methodical path of incremental improvements.

What is the true?

Both and none.

If you think that your path to success will be made by dressing nice, going to events, laughing and exchanging ideas with like minded people and catching the sunset talking life with some good friend, then you’re in for a treat. The road to success has little to do with Instagram perfect photos taken at events. Looking successful and being successful are two different things.

Is it instead a grind, a non-stop fight to climb out of your hole, a life that is extremely stressful and in which you need to sacrifice everything to succeed? Not really. Not even close.

The truth is somewhere in the middle.

You’ll have days, weeks, months of grinding. This means waking up and pulling your laptop to work a bit. Then you go to brush your teeth, shower and you work a bit more. Then you have breakfast and you work for a few more hours. Once you are done with work, you need to do something else like going to the gym or reading. However, in all honesty, the life / work balance here is more of an illusion than any practical strategy.

However, this doesn’t mean that your circumstances will stay the same. In the process of grinding, you are going to shape your reality. You’re going to meet amazing people. You’re going to travel. You’re going to places like Hong Kong for banking and Singapore for networking. You’re going to achieve small wins that will upgrade your life in an impressive manner.

Yes, work will remain a constant. The idea is to work like a slave for three years so you can be free for the rest of your life. You’ll have to put in 40 – 50 hours a week and read two books in the same week as much in week one as you need to do it in week 101. A lot of things change in life but the requirement of massive action doesn’t.

However, apart from the same requirement to work your ass off, circumstances will be very different. In day one, you may start poor, lacking confidence, lacking friends and lacking direction. You get to work. In day 1000 you wake up rich, confident, powerful, with a great network and with a great sense of direction. You get to work.

Some things don’t really change in life. In day one you take the cheapest train to attend an opportunity. In day 3000, you take a first class flight from Etihad to attend an opportunity.

Pursuing success is not something for those who simply want not to work anymore. The work never ends. It just changes. Today you may work on your job. Next year – your freelancing business. In two years – your business. Each comes with unique challenges and unique facets but the truth is that you need to wake up, brush your teeth, drink some water and get to work – no matter the environment.

This paradigm is true in every area of life. It can be academic, research, career, business, fitness or anything else. Anyone who excels in an area knows that there is no end zone. You just keep a constant never ending pace and slowly, you become better and better at what you do so in day 1000, you get fifty times better results than in day 1.

This is one of the most liberating realization I’ve came across. The fastest way to achieve success is to do it systematically, one step at a time and to maximize input. There is no magic formula. The only formula is to work towards the right thing, work hard and work smart. That’s all. You won’t earn $50.000/month from Amazon in six months by working part time on it. You won’t achieve amazing fitness results by doing a few push-ups a week. You need to grind, day in and day out. Success is like being in a mine and waking up in the morning and getting to work. You hit that rock and and again and you build a tunnel through the mine. If you’re heading in the right direction, you’re going to discover diamonds. If you’re heading in the wrong one, you’re going to be a lot stronger at the end thanks to the process then when you’ve became. No matter if you get the prize + the transformation or just the transformation, grinding always makes sense.

From outside, many people live a glamorous life. They wear nice clothes, drink expensive wine, dine in expensive restaurants. They drive expensive cars and run successful businesses. From the inside, their life is a ritual of work, work, work, work and work. What you see are the things you want to see. But the absolute constant are the 40 – 50 – 60 – 70 hours put in every single week towards accomplishing their goal.

I understand them because this is the same thing I do. I wake up thinking about my goals and I go to sleep thinking about my goals. Between those two moments, I work.

Best regards,
Razvan

 

Small Changes DO NOT Lead To Big Outcomes. Here’s Why.

Today I was surfing on a popular self-development blog.

I picked one article at random. This article had a simple idea “small changes made daily lead to huge results long term”. In this article, the author developed how very small rituals (the kind that take a few minutes) are what makes a person successful.

I disagree.

Amazing results in life do not come from mediocre results. The truth is that no matter what you want to do, you need to work your ass off. You don’t get a six pack abs by just eliminating sugar from your morning coffee. You don’t earn $500.000/year by just waking up early each morning so you have two hours that you can use to work on your dream.

The logic of the article was sound. There are many small keystone decisions that have a far bigger reward then the effort required. For example, making your bed in the morning is a very good habit to have, as it is a small win to start your day with and it cultivates discipline. Eating an apple a day (keeps the doctor away) is another habit that offers a far better return than what you invest in.

However, people tend to think that if you do 25 of these habits a day, you’ll end up rich, handsome and healthy. No. You end up rich by working daily on your dream, for at least normal schedule. You end up buffed up by hitting the gym four times a week and giving it your all. You end up healthy by eliminating most things that can hurt you and feeding your body properly, long term.

Small things improve your life. I can’t argue with that. However, long term success, the real kind won’t come from the fact that you take an Omega 3 pill. It will come from sustained, disciplined effort. You must learn to make the difference between them.

While I am a strategic person, I am also a big fan of taking the “buldozer” route to my goals. What does this mean? It means that whatever obstacle stands in my way, I can crush it with brute force. This means a lot of everything. Reading 100 books. Working 2080 real hours. Writing 200.000 words in my journal. Walking 3.000.000 steps. My main strategy for living is that by combining intelligence and massive effort, I’ll achieve anything I want. I don’t rely on the law of attraction nor on the universe sending me anything. I rely on putting in so much effort in different areas of life that it is impossible not to crush through my limitations.

And I wish more people would understand this. It is all nice and dandy that they want to implement small positive habits. However, one TED talk a day won’t change your life. Reading 10 minutes a day won’t change a lot. Going to the gym one time a week won’t change much. The truth is that for massive success, you need massive action, consistently. This means putting in a lot not once a month or a week but every single day.

In the article mentioned earlier, the call to action was “find one small action you can do this year and decide to do it regularly”. Okay, that’s great, if you want a small improvement in your life. If you want a linear growth, then sure, go ahead. But if you want geometrical growth, then small improvements are out of the question.

People that grow from 2 … 4 … 8 … 16 … 32 … 64 … 128, in other words, geometrically, don’t take small action. If you want to grow 5% or 10%, then you don’t need to do much. Even a small action like not putting sugar in your coffee is enough. However, if you want to double your results and apply Moore’s Law in your growth as a person, then you need to take the hard decisions and put in the hard work.

For me, this is the problem with most of these self-development blogs. I don’t claim to be a guru. I write mostly for myself. I don’t even know how many people read this. I use this blog more as a way to share ideas with people I know by sharing a link than writing for a public audience. But these blogs promote ideas that are for the average joe at best. They talk about small improvements that bring small results.

Most self-help blogs are written by people who discovered a few nice concepts, put them to use and that’s about it. These are good friends to have and I welcome them in my life. However, they are not billionaires. They are not Nobel prize winners. They are not writers who make it on the NYT best seller book – several times in a row.

A few years ago, I’ve read a nice analogy. I think this was in a book by Malcom Gladwell. The analogy was like this “Would you rather be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in the ocean?”. He was discussing about how the best student at a normal, small city school was among the worst at Harvard, how it is easy to be the best when everyone is mediocre but when the best of the best compete, things change dramatically.

The argument went that it is better to be an Harvard graduate even if you are at the bottom than to be the best at a school nobody heard. At the end of the day, Harvard counts for a lot.

(I’m not sure it was Malcom Gladwell but if it was, I think it was from the book Outliers).

And this is the truth in this space – the self-publishing, self-help space. Most are a big fish in a small pond. Among people without self-discipline, without goals, without a direction, they are impressive. However, when compared to the true over-achievers, they are not that good anymore. I know people from this space that have tens of thousands of followers but achievement wise, I can walk any day in London’s financial district and find someone who achieved ten times more.

Therefore, be careful who you read. Those who are big fishes in a small pond, tend to focus on linear growth. This means small things you can do that will generate a growth over the long term. Don’t get me wrong, these things are great but as the name says, it will lead to a small, incremental growth.

Those who are small fishes in a big ocean (because it is kind of hard to be the biggest fish there) tend to focus on geometric growth. This means doubling every six months or a year. It means aiming to be in the top 20% and an almost obsessive focus towards growth.

Here are a few simple examples.

  • The person who wants linear growth goes to Toastmaster once a week. The person who wants geometric growth practices public speaking 4 – 5 hours a day.
  • The person who wants linear growth aims to get a 10% raise at his job. The person who wants geometric growth wants to get $1.000.000 in revenue yearly.
  • The person who wants linear growth cuts fat from his diet. The person who wants geometric growth follows a strict eating ritual so he can get 10% BFI.
  • The person who wants linear growth reads a few books in a year. The person who wants geometric growth listens to audiobooks in his car, reads from his Kindle while in the bathroom, ends the night reading a few pages, reads the book instead of watching the movie and goes through 1 – 2 books a week.

    The person who wants linear growth puts just enough effort to have better circumstances. The person who wants geometric growth creates totally new circumstances and doesn’t advance to the next level but aims to complete the game completely so he can move to the next one.

It is up to you to decide what you want. Linear growth is simple and manageable. Geometric growth requires an obsession with moving forward and doing more to progress. To help you visualize, to grow in a linear manner in your life is like going in the park and taking a walk. It is good for you. To grow in a geometrical manner is getting your equipment and climbing Etna in the blazing sun of April.

Since I’ve done this, I know how it is. You’re going to get cuts. My skin was burned. I almost fell and broke my leg a few times. But it can be done.

You decide what you want. The reward will be more or less proportional with the path you pick. Small efforts, small rewards. Big efforts, big rewards. You get what you put in.

Success is not earned part time, no matter what your definition of success is. It takes dedication, it takes pushing forward through an almost infinite number of obstacles, it takes faith, it takes a lot of hard work, it takes giving up on many of the things you’re doing now so you can do what needs to be done. There is no magic formula to achieve success. A million dollars or a great life is not achieved by doing small tricks. It is achieved by operating at the highest level you are mentally, emotionally and physically capable, day in and day out.

And because of this, I call BS on every blog post that says that small changes are they key to long term success.

Best regards,
Razvan

What is the real cost of things?

Our parents taught us to save money. For most of us, the habit of looking at the price first and then judge the utility came from early childhood.

After a while, I’ve realized that this is a superficial way of looking at things. A purchase does not cost what you pay for it. A purchase costs in several ways, from the purchase itself, the means of purchase, the maintenance costs and the opportunity cost involved.

You want to buy a new big LCD TV. It comes with a price of $1000. Since it is a big TV and of great quality, $1000 doesn’t seem much. However, what is the real cost you are paying?

  • A few hours of research in what to purchase.
  • Driving to the store, the time and costs involved.
  • The TV itself.
  • Any accessories you may need like a wall stand.
  • Driving back to the store.

By this point, the cost may be around $1100 plus about seven hours of your time. It is not a big deal. But then comes the real costs:

  • A few hours setting it up and learning how to use it.
  • The cost of three – four hours of watching it every single day for a period of two years. We can average at two hours a day, even if most people watch a lot more TV.
  • The electricity and maintenance of using it for two years.

We’ll assume that an hour of your time is worth just $15. In practice, $15/hour is minimum wage in the United States so it is more. But let’s assume.

So let’s see how much it actually costs: $11000 in lost opportunity costs and about $1500 in maintenance and hard costs. Working two hours a day instead of watching TV means an extra estimated at $11.000.

I’ve noticed this idea years ago when I used to buy myself a lot of technology. Every time I bought one, I spent hours setting it up, customizing it and ignoring what is actually important.

Is my thinking a bit extreme? After all, all in life comes down to working? No. This would be wrong, very wrong. When I say work, I mean any of your goals. That time can be spent reading. It can be spent traveling. It can be spend painting in the park. Work is not only time for money but any activity that brings you closer to what you want.

This concept goes beyond this. Let’s thinking about smoking. What is the real cost of a pack of cigarettes? About $2.5 for the upfront cost. However, it is estimated that each cigarettes decreases your lifespan by ten minutes. This means that 20 of them will make you die 200 minutes earlier or three hours.

When taking into account a single pack, this is not a big deal. If you smoke one pack a day for three years (not unusual), then the numbers become a big deal. You will die 136 days earlier.

Of course, this is an assumption. It is hard to link smoking to dying 10 minutes earlier. It depends on many factors, especially how fragile your body is. However, for illustrating the hidden costs of our actions, it is a good example.

It is important to remember that each action you take comes with tangible costs and intangible costs. Watching TV may cost you $5000/year if you would do overtime instead (2 hours a day) or it may cost you reading about 100 books per year (yes, if you read 2 hours a day, you’ll finish more than 100 books). Or it may cost you time with your family or loved ones. It just comes down to what is important.

It is not about becoming obsessed to do just a thing. You’ve misunderstood me if this is what you’ve understood. It is about understanding the fact that time is limited and time invested in one area means time you can’t invest somewhere else.

It is not only about money. For me, it is about several goals and general areas of my life.

  • Productivity (hours worked).
  • Time with significant other.
  • Books read.
  • How much I meditate.
  • Writing in the journal.
  • How much I walk.

So when I invest 10 hours in a video game instead, I am taking ten hours away from these things. I could read or I could spend time with my girlfriend or I could write in my journal.

It is about NOT majoring in minor things but rather putting the time in what actually matters. It doesn’t matter what are those things as long as they are relevant to your life and to your goals. I know people for whom their highest leverage is meditating in the park. For them, this is more important than work. For them, it is not about how much money they lose by not working but how much time in the park they lose about working. It is a fair approach since goals are individuals.

For someone who wants to become the best gamer in the world, then spending time gaming is high leverage and doing other things is not. For someone who wants to build a perfect body, then working may come as secondary compared to going to the gym.

The more you become aware of life and what is around you, the more you realize opportunity costs. An opportunity cost is anything you invest into something that doesn’t help you live in the way you want. It is like learning Korean when your goal is to learn German or spending time with low quality friends when your goal is to stay around people that love and support you.

Best regards,
Razvan

A Lesson In The Idea Of “Opportunity Costs”.

I’ve played XCOM Enemy Within several times in my life. It never ended well. I can’t say it ruined my life but I’m sure it didn’t made it better either.

So while I was surfing App Shopper, I’ve noticed that it is discounted at 2.99 EUR (from 9.99 EUR). I’ve had it in the past but I don’t have it anymore.

So the temptation is to buy it because I will save 7 EUR. And then I am going to spend about 15 – 20 hours to play it before I delete it. It always happens.

So I save 7 EUR but I invest 20 hours that I could invest in something else, like working on my goals. My time is worth a minimum of 20 USD per hour when averaged so this means that it would cost me 400 USD in total to play it. Let’s decrease the 7 EUR (it is about the same as 7 USD) so the net total cost it would be 393 USD of playing Xcom Enemy Within and killing virtual aliens instead of working on my projects, studying, exercising, networking or simply doing something goal related.

And that ladies and gentleman is what is called an opportunity cost and where our brain fails to calculate properly. It applies to virtually everything. Buying stuff you don’t need on Black Friday. Spending valuable time on projects that don’t account to much. Thinking you are saving money when you are paying multiples in the actual opportunity cost.

This post is not about a video game. This post is about opportunity cost. In many things in life, we think we are getting a good deal when in reality, the deal is awful. We don’t take into account long term consequences of our deal. It is like when we get a free Facebook account but we pay in terms of productive time and with our privacy. Or when we pick the slowest train to save money but we waste a lot of time and we pay more in food, coffee and our state of mind. Or when we buy a cheap car and we end up paying a lot more in repairs instead of just buying the good thing from the first time.

This is why I’m a huge fan of Apple products. I pay more but in the long term, the opportunity cost is less. I don’t have to reinstall the OS. It doesn’t break. The battery lasts more. I get more done. It is like the example with the game above. I pay less upfront but there’s a huge backend cost. With Apple, I pay more upfront but it decreases the backend cost with every use and in the long term, it is a huge advantage to me.

Many times in life, what is profitable short term is not so profitable long term. Actually, system theory states that short term consequences tend to be the opposite of long term consequences. In other words, the more instant gratification you get now, the more you’re going to pay for it long term.

Don’t judge things by what they cost you now. Judge things by what they cost you long term. If you analyze what you’re getting and what you’re paying over six or twelve months, you can take far better rational decisions.

Best regards,
Razvan

 

Why I’ve Decided To Read / Listen To 100 Books In 2017

Hi,

In 2014, I’ve convinced my then girlfriend to buy a Kindle. I’ve bought one too.

(Since then, it became kind of a SOP to convince my significant other to buy a Kindle).

To celebrate this, I’ve decided to read 52 books in that year. I’ve read 53. (Note: read means here both reading, listening to audiobooks and in some cases, watching courses).

  • In 2015, I’ve read 66. I had a goal of 100 which I’ve then reduced to 75.
  • In 2016, I’ve read 52. I’ve had a goal of 52 books.

I don’t know how much I’ve read before 2014. I assume between 50 and 100 books in total. I’ve started tracking on Goodreads only in 2014.

So when I say this to someone else, there are usually two reactions – awe and admiration or a simply WHY. Why do I read? Why do I read so much? I don’t have a life at all? Am I a book worm who spends all his time reading?

The truth is that I do have a life. I work a lot, I exercise, I keep a relationship. Occasionally, I watch a movie and I take plenty of time off.

What most people don’t understand is that reading is not that hard. The more you read, the more you increase your reading speed. It is not hard to finish a 200 page book in five hours. An audiobook for a 200 page book is about 5 – 6 hours.

But the secret is consistency. It takes about 5 hours to finish an average book if you pay attention. If you read 30 minutes a day, then you can finish a book in less than two weeks. If you read one hour a day, you can finish a book. It doesn’t take a titanic effort to finish a single book. It just takes consistency and this is where I’m good. I do things day in and day out and I have good rituals and habits that support this.

My goal is to read / listen to 90 minutes a day and this is more than enough to finish 100 books in any given year. Actually, you can finish them in about 9 months. That’s just one and a half hour in any given day. It is just the duration of a movie. So if you have the time to watch a movie in a day, you have the time to do this. I rarely actually read 90 minutes and I’m still on schedule.

It is not hard. Reading is actually very simple and fast. It is not harder than watching any form of media.

But WHY do I read? What is the use?

There are two reasons.

The first one is that I have goals. Any of this goals is accomplishable by any other person on Earth. However, the difference is time or to be more specific, how long it takes. Since I know I have a limited time, I want to get from A to B as fast as possible. Knowledge helps me get more out of the resources I invest by increasing my efficiency. I know that what I learn  helps me do things better. By doing things better, I obtain results faster. By obtaining results faster, I can enjoy them more or obtain even more results, based on the circumstances at hand.

Knowledge is always an improvement in effectiveness. When you do something, learning more about it will always increase the efficiency of how you do that. However, it makes sense to learn either about general topics (like self-improvement, self-esteem, health) or things you’re going to put to use (like sales for a salesman, design for a designer, etc). Learning about topics that you won’t actually use is good for the sake of curiosity but is not that helpful in accomplishing your goals.

The second one is that I’m curious.

Most of the things I learn are helping me in a direct manner. When I listen to Brian Tracy or Jim Rohn, that wisdom is helping me develop my identity as a champion. When I read Rockefeller’s biography, I am learning from a person that is fascinating and that can teach me a lot of useful lessons about life.

However, some are not. Sometimes I read books with spies. Sometimes I read books with zombies. Sometimes I read books about history or about obscure topics. I’m simply curious. The information can prove useful but I also engage in topics that are hardly relevant to my life. I simply like to feed my mind, even if the ratio is 80% for effectiveness, 20% for curiosity.

So that’s it.

Everything in life comes to three main metrics:

  • What are you doing which determines your leverage. Working hard as a lawyer nets far more ROI than working hard at McDonalds. Your goal and your environment matters as they act as an amplifying factor.
  • How much you are doing. This is the actual work you put in and generally, the more, the better. Nothing ever happens until you work on it.
  • How good you are at what you are doing. This is your skill level. It can be your skill level at coding or at eating healthy. It increases by experience and studying.

The first is the field of strategy. The second is the field of execution. The third is the field of R&D and of improvement. All are important and reading 100 books per year tends to maximize the third one.

Best regards,
Razvan

 

My Love / Hate Relationship With Facebook …

I’m not on Facebook anymore.

Yet, I’m hardly out of the pull of Facebook. As of now, I have opened, developed and closed my account three times. This means adding photos, deleting photos, closing account multiplied by three.

Why? Well, the reasons are simple. Facebook still contains a straight line from A to B to any of my past contacts, friends, relatives and people I’ve knew for the last two decades.

It is also a way for me to feel special and to express myself, since I know that I’m going to get validation and positive feedback from others.

However, I’ll be damn if I return on Facebook. 

Why? Because from a practical perspective, Facebook is as addictive as smoking, drinking, computer games, gambling or anything in between. Facebook is built to lead to addiction, I have no single doubt about this. The same mechanisms used in video games or even in gambling are deep into the DNA of Facebook.

So why don’t we see campaigns to ban Facebook then? Because Facebook compared to all the above has a small negative payload. Smoking gives you cancer. Alcohol leads to violence. Gambling leads to losing everything. Facebook is a very safe environment. You don’t lose money, it is free. It is not directly unhealthy to your health.

Yet you lose one thing.

That is time. 

Facebook is the ultimate time waster and for me, time equates to money, equates to growth, equates to the resource I use to achieve anything in my life. Facebook is designed in such a manner that the more time you spend on it, the more you are rewarded.

By comparison, a movie ends after two hours. You don’t spend more because it makes no sense. It has a clear line. Even if you waste two hours when you are supposed to do something else, there is a limit to your loss. But on Facebook, that limit is gone. You can spend hours checking your feed, chatting, uploading, tweaking, creating your perfect “virtual resume” and generally, interacting on the platform.

I don’t hate Facebook. Facebook for business is great. I’ve met amazing people on Facebook (kind of). However, being on Facebook is like giving a blank cheque on my time. Even if I say I don’t want to spend time, will this happen? After all, I’ve met hundreds of people. With a few I keep in touch. There are people from my childhood, from high-school, from what was next to keep in touch with. There is an infinite number of relatively interesting things to follow.

In a way, it is like porn. How much is too much? Well, there is a point for too much because of the extreme stimuli involved. But with Facebook, it is not that extreme. There is enough diversity and there is nothing so polarizing to say “enough”.

If you have 100 friends and each friends posts once a day, this means 100 posts to go through. The amount of information can get overwhelming fast but most importantly, it takes time. It takes time to like, share and comment. It takes time to see those photos. It takes time to watch that video and in all honesty, they are not that important for your life.

You can live without having intimate knowledge of the vacation of your best friends. You can live without seeing 200 selfies in a single day. You can live without being up to date with all these small trivial details.

Facebook transforms the life of some people, or even your own into a reality show. In a reality show, a camera follows you around. On Facebook, you post moments from your life and in practice, it is not that different.

A decade ago, you lived without knowing all these details and your life was good. You can’t honestly say that your life is better because of Facebook. You can only say it is worse because instead of focusing on doing something for yourself, you’re caught up in what everyone else is doing.

Time is the essence of life. It is the resource you put towards happiness, money, health, anything you want. Time is the universal currency. Facebook may not cost you anything but it costs you in terms of time huge amounts. If you were to calculate, you’re paying a huge amount of time each day on this platform. Stop it. It is not worth it.

Best regards,
Razvan

PS: And I feel going on Facebook again yet … No.

Ten Reasons Why Computer Gaming Is NOT Good For You …

Here’s a secret few people know.

When I employ KPIs, metrics and advance measurement systems, I know most of them from computer games like Starcraft & Civilization than from MBA programs and business books.

A large part of how I interpret life today came through the filter of computer games or to be more exact, the mechanics of such games. I am talking especially about real time strategy games that deals, in an abstract manner with resource allocation. I have learned about the theory of constraints from Starcraft 2 long before I have read the famous book “The Goal” by Goldratt. I have learned about strategy and tactics from chess and from games like Civilization long before I have read books like “The Art Of Strategy” by Dixit & Nalebuff or books like “The Art of War”.

The truth is that computer games, especially management games, tycoon games and strategy games are based on the abstract rules of what works in real life. A game like Sim City may not be a realistic representation of how a city grows but the mechanics behind it are realistic. This is because at some point, concepts become so abstract that they eliminate a lot of what makes it realistic, yet, those concepts remain true.

So that being said, do I endorse playing video games? Well, the answer is no and this comes from someone who invested over 5000 hours of playing video games in his lifetime.

I think games are great in a way but I think they are a very inefficient way of learning life and that the ROI per time investment is way lower than through the other educational method. This is why I think that anyone who wants to achieve meaningful goals in life should stay away from video games.

Below, I’m going to write down why:

  1. It is a crutch. Video games are very, very good at simulating accomplishment. You see, when I achieve a major goal, there aren’t going to be parades, I won’t receive feedback from generals and presidents and I won’t feel like I’m the absolute champion in the universe. Chances are that nobody will know, the satisfaction will be only interior. But in video games, when you win, you are the toughest hero, the best general or the best entrepreneur. You’re the man (or woman) and everything around you points to that. Games have a way of making you feel like you’re achieving great things but this is just a design decision – because the more you achieve, the more you play.
  2. They usually rely on grinding. Grinding here is defined as doing the same thing again and again to improve. This is true in life too but life doesn’t end after you close your computer. In a video game you work 10 hours so you can get a +5 weapon and then with that weapon, you work 10 hours so you can get a +10 weapon. I can’t say life is that different, as you work hard to get your first million dollars then you use that experience and leverage to get to your second million but what’s available in life tends to have a lot more value than what’s available in a game.
  3. They are hardly stimulating. Most people in this world are not very smart and most games are made for most people. In the past, games were made as a form of art and some of them were hugely stimulating, intellectually. They’ve dealt with topics like ethics, morality, resource allocation, puzzle solving, story-telling and so on. I remember when I’ve played Broken Sword as a young child and a stage set in Scotland made me want to visit Scotland. However, most games today are appealing towards the casual crowd and they require as much neurons as it is required to watch reality TV, which is not much. Games stopped being art a long time ago.
  4. They act as an escape. Many times in my life, instead of facing real problems and real challenges, I used to play XCOM Enemy Within. I remember when I was back in Romania, my girlfriend was sleeping next to me and I was playing XCOM up to three in the morning. This didn’t bothered her but my life was going down in every possible way and this lead eventually to breaking up. When you have problems you need to face them and solving problems in the digital world won’t solve your problems in the real, tangible one.
  5. They take a long time. Some people can be casual at playing games. Others are sucked in. Most games encourage you to play more and more and this is time you can and should spend towards improving a real area of your life. Games like World of Warcraft can go forever. Most RPGs tend to take 30 – 40 hours of gameplay (that’s reading 3 – 4 books). Most FPSs can be finished in ten hours or less but the multiplayer takes a long time until it becomes boring. When you watch a movie, it is done in 90 minutes. There’s no reason to watch it again. When you start a game, it takes 90 minutes to get warmed up and then 900 minutes to finish it. I know this because if I install a game I like, I won’t stop until it is done. This usually means a few days of non-stop gaming. I have goals. I can’t afford this.
  6. They tend to hyper everything. In games, girls are sexual objects. Big breasts, big ass, few clothes. Most games portray women as sexual objects, in a very hyper-sexualized manner. After all, sex sells, you know that. This is also true of violence or anything else in between. You don’t really have realistic concepts, you have concepts pushed to the limit. The bad guy is really evil. The good guy is a saint. The female side-kick has huge breasts and she acts like a damsel in distress. The story is a good vs evil type of cliche. Life is not like this. Life is not black and white. In life, big breasts are just big breasts, not a sign of over promiscuity and generally, looks and sexual desire are not correlated. In life, the bad guy may be right and the good guy may be deceived. In life, it is not good vs evil but one side’s interest against another side’s interest. Life is made out of shades of grey while games tend to be very absolute in their portrayal. Games are not realistic and since we tend to become what we think about, it influences are interpretation of reality in a wrong way.
  7. They tend to be story weak. If you’re playing a game for a story, for a narrative, you’re doing it the wrong way. Some games are narrative strong but for most, stories are an afterthought. This means that if you want to get lost in a strong story, don’t play the game, don’t watch the movie – just read the book. It has been a long, long time since I’ve played a game with a story that makes sense or it is interesting. Spec Ops The Line had an interesting one, based on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness but even so, it is 80% gameplay and 20% story. For people who love to read, like me, it is too little to actually keep my attention.
  8. They tend to be bad for your health. I have no doubt that some games increase IQ and other forms of intelligence but this is offset by the damage to your eyes and posture. Let’s admit it, playing games for ten hours in a row is hardly a healthy thing to do. While it is hard to generalize, the average game is not really fit or strong. Yes, there are people who go to the gym and also engage in the occasional game but from what I’ve seen, most gamers are out of shape, a big overweight and with bad posture. This is not so much because of the games themselves but because it is easier to eat pizza and drink Coke than have a Cesar salad and water with lemon when killing mobs in World of Warcraft.
  9. Games tend to decrease social skills. Again, this is not directly because of games but social skills are developing by socializing. When you spend time with people, your people’s skills become better. For some it is slower, for others it is faster but social skills are developed by practicing them. When playing games, you don’t really spend time with people and talking to your guild buddies while farming for a legendary item doesn’t really count. Gamers tend to talk about games and think about games and honestly, most people don’t give a damn. No matter how fascinating it is, most people really don’t care about video games. I could explain to an entrepreneur how playing Civilization 5 leads to developing meta strategic planning skills but honestly, he’s not interested in Civ 5, only in ways to earn more money.
  10. There’s a huge opportunity cost. Look, to put it simply, the biggest downside is what you could do in that time instead. You can study, exercise, eat, work, fuck and 100 other things instead of game. Gaming takes a long time and good games tend to be long. Personally, I like strategy games and role playing games, as they are the most intellectually stimulating but a good strategy game takes 15 hours to complete and another 15 hours to play in skirmish mode. For a RPG, the average is 30 – 40 hours. That’s 40 hours I honestly don’t have. I’m not going to share my goals publicly but the reality is that I don’t have a single day to skip. I must wake up, get dressed, show up every single day if I want to achieve it. I can fail for many reasons but a poor work ethic is not going to be one of them and games go against that work ethic.

I like video games. Honestly, as I’m writing this, I have a background video on YouTube about someone playing Planetary Annihilation 2. I won’t play it. I don’t have time but I find it a good background noise and idly interesting. When I do play games, I do mostly on my iPad but I’m careful. Just because they are mobile, this doesn’t mean that it takes just a few minutes to play one. I’ve played XCOM on my iPad Mini 4 for 20+ hours and I’ve played KOTOR for at least 10 hours before deleting them both. There are many ports of AAA games from the PC on mobile devices and tablets and they are as time intensive as the real thing – after all, they are the real thing, just adapted to a new medium.

If I had $5.000.000 into my account, no belly whatsoever, perfect health and everything would be nice in my world, would I play games? Yes, probably yes. I enjoy them. Even if there are many reasons why I don’t play games, if I had the time and no need to do other things, I would play them. I would buy a nice gaming rig and play Rainbow Six Siege for 5 hours a day or more. Plus, I never leveled my World of Warcraft Paladin to maximum level and never got past level 27.

But that’s the point. I can’t. I must pick between my life, my goals, my future, my dreams and gaming. I can’t do both because I only have 24 hours in a day and I must allocate one way or another. I’ve decided to allocate them to my goals and I’ve promised myself that when I’ll be rich and at peace, I’m going to buy a great gaming rig and indulge myself. But before play, I must work and as long as I must work, computer games are not what I need nor want.

  • I’ve quit sugar to avoid diabetes.
  • I’ve quit smoking to avoid cancer.
  • I’ve quit fatty foods and a poor diet because I don’t want to have a round shape.

Just like the above, I’ve quit gaming so I can achieve my goals. It is not that I hate games, it is simply that between my dreams and a simulation of my dreams, between the real thing and a virtual thing, I want to achieve in the real world.

Best regards,
Razvan