How The Gym Became My Temple

Hi,

I was never a spiritual person. I’ve never found God or Buddha or anyone else. When other people told me that the church is the best place to go to find inner peace, I just shrugged. It had no effect on me whatsoever.

Actually, I’ve never had my safe space. While some people would find refuge in Starbucks or playing with children or watching a movie at the cinema, I would find little joy in all of them. This is until I’ve realized that my safe space is the gym.

In all honesty, it is hard to imagine the gym as a refuge.

It is generally filled with men filled with testosterone, lifting heavy objects that if thrown would have enough kinetic force to crush you. The gym is the place of grunts and channeled aggression, not a place you would call “balancing”. Yet, the gym is the closest thing I’ve found to a temple in my 27 years of existence on planet Earth.

The reason for this is simple.

Fairness.

I see the world as a strange place. It is an echo chamber. There is little in terms of fairness or good and evil. Good is whatever a majority of people decide today to be. Healthy is what the general census decides that it is healthy. Our culture nowadays is built around stories we tell to ourselves and these stories rarely have anything to do with reality. Lacking objective standards of what can be considered good, the loudest voice in the crowd usually wins, no matter how contradictory is from a metaphysical perspective.

And the gym is exactly the opposite.

If you lift the weight, you grow. If you don’t lift it, you don’t. You can swear at the dumbbell. You can say that it is not politically correct. You can scream with tears in your eyes that you are a special little butterfly and that your muscle should grow without the effort required to lift it again and again. You can dispute the morality of doing physical effort in order to balance and improve your body and to say that fairness is that all people should look strong and fit, not just those lifting a barbell.

Yes.

You can do all of this.

The dumbbell will just sit there, shinning its chrome, without moving, without saying anything. No argument is going to make it jump into your hand and lift itself. You can only lift it or not. Like a good father figure, it gives you only two choices – do something towards your own benefit or suffer the consequences of not doing it.

For this reason, I do see the gym as the most sacred places out of them all.

Yes, it is generally loud, crowded and rarely comfortable. Yes, you end up hating every second spent in there and even a die-hard fan of exercising would rather do something else than wake up at 06:00 AM to exercise. But it is a place where your view of the world, where your preconceptions, judgement, beliefs, feelings of inferiority or superiority, egotism or lack of it do not make any difference. To the shiny chrome dumbbell the choice is simple – you lift it or not.

I am feeling more and more comfortable in the gym. I don’t have to argue with the machines about who is right and who is wrong. I don’t need to feel empathic or sympathetic or politically correct. I can say “fuck” as many times as I want. I can grunt without fearing that I’m offending anyone. It’s a place where I can be myself, not the self shaped to belong and appeal to a society that is making less sense each year.

It is a place where I am seeking salvation, but not salvation from my sins in order to reach heaven. No. I find the salvation in front of truth and away from self deception. It is a place where the law of identity remains true and A will always equal A. It’s a place ruled by absolute laws, one of the few where facts trumps opinions any day of the week.

Henry David Thoreau had written Walden in the mid 1800s. His declaration of independence was to live in a cabin of his own, away from society. While I was reading Walden, I couldn’t help but feel envy for his decision to do so. While I don’t know what he was really feeling when we wrote his masterpiece, I can only assume that he was attracted by the Bolean like logic of nature too. A nature that is always fair and is based on cause and effect, not on subjective interpretation.

I wish I could do what he did.

I can’t.

What I do, professionally is directly tied to the world to which I’m starting to feel more and more alienated. However, I do have my own place for self-reliance and spiritual rebirth. It is on a treadmill or on a running track or with a dumbbell in my hand. And each time I complete a rep, I remind myself that the universe is a rational place where the three big rules of existence apply.

  • A will always equal A.
  • A can not equal B at the same time and place.
  • Contradictions can not exist. If a contradiction exists, then one of the premise is flawed.

Think about all of this next time you see the gym as a necessary evil or worse, as an downright evil.

Best regards,
Razvan Rogoz

The Universe Is Run By Probabilities. Are You Using This In Your Favor?

Hi,

How are you?

It is the Chinese New Year in Taiwan, one of the most important, if not the biggest holiday in Asia. It is a time of celebration with family and loved ones, which means that my social life is virtually non-existing these days. Which in a way is good, as I have more time to think about what really matters.

Yesterday I had a call with a brilliant marketer from the US. Actually, we talk regularly. By talking with him, I have gained confidence in the notion that life is a game of numbers and that the numbers always add up. This may seem as a desolate way of looking at life for someone who tends to not think in systems but bear with me.

Probability works. It is a law of nature. Let’s take the simple idea of making friends. I’m a selective bastard so most of the people I meet, I don’t befriend. This is because I feel like I am interested in other things and because they’re seeing me as an elitist geek. However, I have learned that if I meet enough people, I do find great people to bond with.

So the math is simple. I contact 100 people. 50 reply to me. 25 I agree to meet. 5 become people I want to meet with again. 1 becomes a lifetime long friend. The conversion rate for meaningful connections becomes 1%. This means that if I want to have five people whom I hold really dear, I probably need to meet 125 people. The math always add up, even if sometimes it doesn’t seem so.

This is true for big opportunities too. I have discovered that about 1 in 10 professional connections with whom I build a bond tends to offer me some high level opportunity. This means investment capital (money to play with), a big job offer that usually involves relocating or high level mentoring. So if I want more opportunities, I just need to connect with more people.

Probability works in every scenario. The more products you launch, the more likely you are to have a good, successful one. The more calls you make to sell, the more likely you’ll earn money. If you close 1 in 10 calls, then you simply know that if you want to 10X your income, you have to 10X your calls or find a way to increase your conversion. Scale (approaching more people) beats conversion (improving the response you get) though. It’s far better to approach 100 people and get ten quality leads than approach just ten people and get only two of them.

I don’t believe in destiny. I don’t believe in fate. I don’t believe that things are meant to be. I believe in the power of distributions and simple probability. I know that in any given circumstance, there is an X change for something to happen in an Y sample. If I go on Tinder now, there is an Y conversion rate for every 100 people. This may be 7% or 0.4%. I have no idea. But it is there and this number allows me to take data driven decisions.

This goes both ways. This is also how I’ve quit smoking. There is a probability for me to gain cancer if I smoke. There is a probability to do so if I don’t smoke either. I know that healthy people can die of cancer and that even oncologists are stricken by this disease. Yet, I also know that the probability for cancer is three or four times higher when you smoke as opposed when you don’t. The probability for dying in a car accident when you drive drunk is multiples higher than when you are not. Yes, both can happen but 3 in 10 is very different from 0.3 in 10. You can never achieve a 100% rate nor can you lower it to 0%. You can only bring the odds in your favor and then play the numbers, knowing that given a big enough sample, the bell curve distribution will add up.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t calculate distributions and probability for everything. I do this mostly for things that make sense to be calculated. It is useful for my lead generation efforts to know the response rate I’m getting so I can compare approaches and scale. When it comes to running for example, I know for certain that running without warming up leads to a high chance of me getting injured. I don’t know how often it happens but I assume it is like 3 in 4 or 2 in 4, based on my experience. I can probably make a list of all the times I’ve ran (as I track them with a FitBit) and then see what is my injure rate after warming up as opposed to not doing it. I won’t do this as it doesn’t serve me a purpose for now. I just warm up as even if my knee can hurt afterwards, it’s far less likely for it to happen.

What about meeting people? Well, I’m doing this on a language exchange website, as I actually want to learn Mandarin. As of this moment, I’ve contacted 320 people. I’ve received 34 replies. I have met with six people (scheduled meetings don’t count). This means that about 1 in 10 will answer me (10.62%) and  from those that answer me, I meet in average with 17.64%. My meet-up rate on the entire sample is 1.85. This means 0.58 per 100 people I contact.

The math then is simple.

  • 10.62% will answer mer.
  • From those who answer me, I meet in average with 17.62%.
  • The contact to meet-up conversion rate is 1.875%.

The same rule holds for lead generation. I think that my conversion rate is somewhere at 1 in 50. I don’t track right now because there’s only so much work I can do and because … well, I should track actually.

From the six people I’ve met so far, 4 I want to meet again. So as far as I’m concerned, meeting people for language exchange is awesome!

The purpose though is to help you think in numbers, even if this may not come quite naturally. It is also to teach you that whatever goal you have, it is quite achievable if you play the numbers.

So, in essence, this is what I wanted to teach you. Play the numbers. If you do this socially, Gaussian distribution will most likely apply (I haven’t done a bell curve distribution analysis though).

Based on Gaussian bell curve distribution, in 100 people …

  • 0.1% will be the most awful.
  • 2% will be awful.
  • 14% will be below average.
  • 68% will be average.
  • 14% will be above average.
  • 2% will be excellent.
  • 0.1% will be above excellent.

As a law of nature, it tends to be very accurate, similar to power distribution. So if you are targeting prospects for sales, 16.21% will be your best prospects, 16.21% will be yours worst and 68% will be average. Based on the sample of people I’ve done for language exchange, let’s assume English skill and ability to communicate with you in English.

  • 0.32 will be the most awful.
  • 6 will be awful.
  • 44.8 will be below average.
  • 217 will be average.
  • 44.8 will be above average.
  • 6 will be excellent.
  • 0.32 will be above excellent.

The math always adds up. If it doesn’t, then the sample is not big enough but given enough trials, the distribution will always resemble something like the above.

So, if you want to meet cool people or find mentors, if you want to sell or prospect, if you want to get new opportunities or simply injure your possibility of an injure when you run, play the numbers. You’ll be surprised at how they add up and how beautiful and rational this universe is.

Best regards,
Razvan Rogoz

Want To Take Better Decisions? Increase The Number Of Options You Have …

Hi,

Some time ago, I was talking about optimization problems and how unwillingly, I’ve built a mindset around building functions in order to solve problems / achieve goals in my life.

At some point in my life, I’ve noticed an interesting trend. The more options I have available, the easier it is for me to think high level and make the most out of my circumstances. Contrary to what I believed it would happen, having multiple options has lead to a better cost / benefit analysis as opposed to having fewer.

If you think about it, it makes sense. If you are in a binary situation where you have only two options – a positive and a negative one, then you will place a huge value on the positive option. Anything is better than zero and even 0.1 is superior to 0.0. A bad job is better than no job at all. McDonalds is better than starving. Having awful friends is better than not having any friends at all (or so it seems).

Based on this thinking, I’ve put myself in some really questionable circumstances in my life. I’ve picked projects that I would never pick if I wasn’t desperate and which proved to bring me no ROI whatsoever. If anything, I’ve lost my time and money. I’ve picked a relationship with a girl that was not in the same story as me and with which, most of my time spent together, was a frustrating mess. Yet, honestly, after a painful break-up, having sex was better than not having sex. In retrospect, no, it was not worth it.

When I’ve took bad decisions in my life, there were multiple factors apart from limiting choices but this played a huge role. I can draw every wrong friendship, project, relationship, life decision to the fact that I didn’t felt that there was an alternative, so I picked the lesser evil compared to nothing at all.

This is not something I have done on a conscious level. It is more instinctual. We try to maximize value but we have a hard time understanding the concept of none. In many circumstances, doing nothing is better than doing something, lack of momentum and energy is infinitely better than misplaced one.

Yet, we don’t have this problem when there are alternatives. It is easy to say no when we are aware that there is a better way to have. Simply being aware that there is A, B, C and instead A and nothing leads to quantifiable better decisions. When you have ten potential start-ups to join, you are not feeling pressured to join any one of them. No high pressure tactic will work on you. You don’t feel like you may be missing out because even if one door closes, many remain open.

So it is with people. The best way to build healthy social relationships is to have many options. When you have 50 people with whom you can hang out with, I assure you that you’ll spend time with the ones that are bringing you the greatest amount of joy. You’re not afraid of saying “no” anymore for the simple reason that it is extremely unlikely for you to be left with nothing.

This psychological cushion is almost a miracle. It’s the confidence that we have when we visit a new place knowing that we have an extra $10.000 in cashier cheques. We may not spend a single dime of that money, but it is there, we have options. It is the leverage in a negotiation knowing that you can walk away with little consequence and that you have a goal to reach, not just get something on the table. It is the courage you have when you are surrounded by people who have your back and who are ready to support you if you need so.

In any system, social, business, personal, try and increase the number of options. Keep in mind that you will always default to the options you have available and rarely to maybe the best option out of them all – do nothing. The quality of your actions will be directly proportional to the quality of the decisions you are aware that you can take.

Improve your decisions. If you spend time with people in unproductive relationship, add 50 – 100 – 200 new people in your life. This is not hard. If you meet a single new person a day for two hours, you can build a huge rolodex in just a few months. If you are a freelancer and you always do projects you don’t like or even hate, make sure you have choices. Have ten people who can pay you at any time, even if you can do only a single project. This will give you massive leverage in how you treat yourself and others. Never let life push you in a corner. Like a chess master, keep a dozen options available at any time, so you can play the move that best suits your needs and goals, not one that is a compromise or worse, a loss.

Best regards,
Razvan Rogoz

System Optimization, My Past History & The Future …

Hi,

I’ve made a big realization lately. I love optimization problems. I loved them since I was a young child. I’ve realized that when I was playing computer games, as a child, I wasn’t doing it for fun. I was looking for the most effective way of accomplishing a certain outcome, an approach that can be replicated.

In other words, I was fascinated with algorithms and systems. I knew that one method of doing things, a certain combination of steps and actions was far more effective than others. I was creating functions, even if I wasn’t smart enough to realize what I was actually doing.

It was like in chess, where by following a certain pattern each time you start a game (two pawns dominating the center, knights out defending the pawns, bishops out defending the pawns, queen in front of the king, king castled), your chances of winning the game increased dramatically.

Chess for me was an optimization problem too.

I do not know if it was nature or nurture. When I was six years old, I have received an Atari 2600 (I think it was a clone) that didn’t really spark my interest in computers. To be honest, in 1996 there was Delta Force and 3D games were coming out so playing 8 bit games on an Atari was kind of underwhelming.

However, two or three years later, something interesting happened. I received from my father a Commodore 64 clone. It ran BASIC and used large, five inch disks. It came with no practical operating systems (unless you consider the fact that I could write code as an OS, but that was different from MS DOS or Windows at the time). On BASIC, if you wanted to run software, you had to write it. It was a canvas, nothing more and nothing less.

I can remember up to this day the green screen and the blinking cursor. For a long time, I’ve ignored it. I had no idea what to do with it. I could barely read. I wasn’t going to write my code now.

Yet, the life of a nine year old in rural Romania (I was living in the country-side at that moment) wasn’t that interesting. After all, there was only so much I could play with my dogs, on my bike or play Monopoly with my neighbor Teodora.

So I’ve decided to learn coding, at age 9 or maybe I was ten. In any case, I know I was still in primary school. I’ve started by writing code from an old programming book. Most of the time, it would fail. A single broken command would throw everything away and there was no easy way to find bugs. Eventually, I’ve learned to be more productive than copying code and saving it on a floppy disk.

I’ve started writing my own code. The first game I’ve ever created was tic tac toe. I wish I could say that I was employing some complex neural network based on which an AI could learn but honestly, it was scripted. There is a limited number of solutions in tic-tac-toe and based on where you start, the other best solution is always obvious. It sounds complicated but honestly, the permutation table was rather low and it could have been solved with ease by a 9 year old.

Then I’ve created a CMS, long before WordPress. Thinking about this, if I brought that to market, I would have been famous now. I created something that looked between WordPress and a Teletext system and that actually worked. The computer was not connected to the Internet, but the fact that I could create something with a front-end and a back-end that saved data was impressive for me.

Sooner or later I’ve created more games. I was using Bolean at least a decade before I’ve first heard about it. This is most likely because nobody told me that this was hard. It was fun. It was play. And I have this belief that if you don’t instill helplessness in people, you will be surprised at what they can achieve.

When I was 10, I received a 486 and I’ve retired my BASIC machine. Programming was replaced by Wolfenstein 3D and other games. From that point onwards, the next 3 – 4 years of my life were about playing video games and I’ve forgot programming completely.

In the ninth grade, I’ve decided to start game development again. I’ve taught myself how to use 3D engines, built a small team (kind-of) and tried. I’ve failed. I mean, in all honesty, I had a working prototype. My game was built around a tower of hell. There were nine levels, each with an unique theme and unique enemies. The enemies were taken from Half Life by taking the 3D models and importing them as creating models in Maya or 3D Max was way above my capabilities or budget. So I gave up on the idea and instead, started playing World of Warcraft and dreaming about girls that I had no way of dating them at that moment.

(Ironically, later I’ve understood that my limitations were in my head and that all the girls I liked liked me back. They were confusing my insecurity with a lack of interest).

Fast forward to now. I love optimization challenges. I love making the most out of my life and building algorithms that I can replicate. At this moment, I have a very complex system that works perfectly well for me. I have goals for when I wake up, exercising, running, productivity and so on. I could show you but this data is quite personal and I want to keep it this way.

Just like a programmer can write a function to automate solving a certain problem, so I’ve developed a passion (or an obsession, depending on whom you’re asking) for creating functions in my own life. I’m the kind of person that if I could eat the same three foods each day, every day, as they would provide me with the optimal amount of vitamins and macro-nutrients, I would gladly do it. I love having a morning ritual, I love aiming for 5.71 hours of work each day. These are stable systems, algorithms that are proven to work.

I love the mathematical logic of life, how cause and effect works. I know that everything that happens, happens due to mechanisms in motion. And this makes me wonder – have I’ve started programming so early because I love this or have I’ve learned to love this because I’ve started programming so early?

This leads me to another point. Do you remember those lessons in statistics about the original conditions and how they influence the outcome? How a 0.01% change in the initial state can mean a 1000% change over the long term? Well, I don’t remember them because I’ve never done statistics in school but I remember the idea from somewhere else.

And now, I’m wondering, how much did the fact that I’ve coded instead of having normal interest as a child lead me to where I am now? I can consider myself and most can see me as a successful person. Yes, I screw up things often but this is because I believe that failure is just the gas I need to put in the car to progress. But if that year, instead of receiving a computer, I would have received a football ball, would I be right now living a quite extraordinary life? Or would that lack of deviation lead me to a completely different outcome? Or would I would have found a way to gain access to a computer no matter what, simply because my natural tendencies towards systems optimization would have lead me to this point?

It’s a good question and maybe the answer doesn’t matter. I’m happy to be here and I’m happy that I’m good at optimizing systems, both for myself and for others. At the same time, I’ve realized that optimizing system is not the entire key to success and that value delivery is not the same as value creation.

I remember that the CEO of Toyota said once something like this “We are masters at creating quality cars, with minimum defects, at the lowest price, in the fastest time. What we don’t know is what cars we should create to begin with”.

And this is the problem with system optimization. It is high level managerial thinking. It is the person that takes a factory and makes it work perfectly well. The problem is that optimization doesn’t actually determine what the factory should produce. That’s my missing part. It is great that I’m good at delivering and exploiting value in a system, but I also need to learn what systems to build and towards what purpose. I’m saying this because while value optimization makes me a great management oriented thinker, it doesn’t make me a great entrepreneur.

An entrepreneur asks himself “what should we build to achieve a market match?”. An optimizer asks himself “how can we deliver this in the most effective way possible, maximizing ROI”. Both are important and together, they are far bigger than each individually.

A truly talented entrepreneur goes to a place, sees an opportunity and says “This would make for a great business”, even if he has no idea on how to achieve this. He’s the captain of the ship that sets a destination. An optimizer is the person that takes that command, the destination and finds a way to get there. So I do need to learn how to be the captain more while continuously improving and refining my skills as a system optimizer.

I’m so excited to unlock all the new value in my life by further developing my entrepreneurial personality.

Best regards,
Razvan

Translating Monetary Value To The Effort You’re Trading For It …

Hi,

Let’s say Adam is earning $10/hour, net. This means money in the pocket, at the end of the day. So if he works eight hours, he gets $80. Now Adam decides to have a night out. The bill is $120. Adam feels it is a bit high but since he has several thousand dollars into his account, he doesn’t really care. In practice, Adam has to work twelve hard hours for just two hours of fun.

This is just a basic example that shows us how disconnected we are from the idea of money. When we spend money, we don’t really think in terms of the effort we trade for the product or service we receive but rather, we use biases and heuristics to guide our efforts.

Because of this, most people are broke.

You see, money in a very real sense, is a zero sum game.

Money doesn’t appear out of nothing.

In order to get money, you must exchange something. Even if you are an investor, you must exchange the risk of losing money or the effort to manage it. Money, in the terms of USD and EUR is something we build through some productive or less productive effort.

For most of us, this means a job. You go there, you work, you create results or at least, effort for another human being or organization and you are paid in return. At the most basic level, you are exchanging hours of your life in exchange of tokens of value that you can exchange for other’s people effort. In this manner, when you want to buy an ice-cream, you don’t go work into the kitchen for 15 minutes. You just pay $5 and be on your way.

Yet the irony here is that while we’re very aware of this, on a conscious and even unconscious level, it is almost impossible for us to link money to our effort. If we did, we would not get credit card debt nor would we make large purchases. If you knew that you had to work 50 hours in order to pay for that weekend vacation, then chances are you would not take it. If you knew that buying with a credit card (using credit) will make you work an extra two hours per week, just to pay the interest, apart from paying it back, you would not use credit.

Imagine how a world like this would look like.

You go to the restaurant and you don’t see dollar values. You see durations. This meal costs me 3.4 hours to pay for. This mean costs me 1.41 hours. This bottle of wine costs me 41.9 hours to drink. You and I would automatically become a lot more conscious about our decisions on how we spend our money.

And in the past, this was true. If you were in Japan, for example, you would work for three months for a bag of rice. It was effort traded directly for the commodity. There was no middle ground. You could translate in your mind directly what you do and what you get. In some societies, this is still a valid approach – trading services for services or services for goods. It is nowadays very rare but you can see examples in rural areas of “I’ll help you fix your car if you help me with collecting the crop”.

In modern societies this would lead to chaos, therefore, money. It is a standard unit of exchange. Yet, we’ve stopped thinking in the terms of effort we’re putting in behind it. Therefore, you see people earning $5 per hour buying a $700 phone. It takes 140 hours of effort to pay that phone. That’s 17.5 full days and that’s assuming that you don’t have any other expense whatsoever, no rent, no food, no needs whatsoever.

Now let me ask you – if I go to a student and I tell him – first work for 140 hours and then you can get the phone, would he agree?

Of course not.

I don’t care about how cool is the iPhone 8. Almost no person would agree to 140 hours of productive effort in exchange of it. If it was a life saving device, yes, but for something that’s just nice to have, the answer would be “no thanks, I’ll stick to my old phone”.

The irony is though that he is trading 140 hours for that phone. He’s just not realizing.

The money for the phone came from somewhere and that required an actual investment of his resource (time and effort) in exchange for money (the $700 to buy the phone). So the joke is on him. The principles of free market economics work no matter if we’re aware of them or not.

So what is the solution?

Well, short of explaining accounting to you, the solution is to translate monetary value in tangible effort in order to get that value. If you have a fixed income, like a salary, this is simple. You take your net revenue (what’s left to you) and you divide it by the number of average hours you work in a month. So if you earn $2000 month and you work the standard 160 hours (40 hours per week), you are earning an average of $12.5 per hour.

The number is never fixed but a general approximation will do for most people.

Then you make a list of purchases you desire and you calculate based on your hourly rate. Let’s say that you want to spend money on three things this month. The first one is the new iPad that’s $800. The second one is a watch that is $150. The third one is a gym membership that’s $200.

Most people at this point would enter the fuzzy area of irrationality. They would take decisions based on how much money they have into the account, like if you have $20.000 instead of $2000, the expense is lower. No, $100 spent is the same $100, no matter how much you have. But if you calculate based on effort, you can determine if you want to spend it or not. If there was any difference, it’s based on your PC (production capability), the output generated in one hour not so much about your reserves.

  • The first one would cost you 64 hours of effort.
  • The second one twelve hours.
  • The third one 16 hours.

I’m again assuming you pay your rent and everything else from the remaining and that this is discretionary income, so no “upkeep” tax is applied.

Now the question is not if it is expensive or not. Are you willing to trade 64 hours for an iPad? If you know that it is going to offer you more value than this, sure. I’d definitely got a lot more value out of my iPad than I’ve paid for. If you know you’ll hardly use it, then it doesn’t make sense. So it is with the others. If you know that you’ll use that watch for the next three years or even one year, why not, it makes sense.

The idea here is not to tell you where to spend your money. It’s your choice if your next shirt comes from the thrift store or from Burberry. I am not a frugal person and I buy items that are rather expensive. The logic here is to translate monetary costs into your effort, so you know if it is worth it.

Many times, when we do this, we realize that saving half an hour would cost us more in actual effort involved. The priority lane at the airport is an example. You pay an extra $50 for a flight in some cases to save what, 10 minutes? For this to make sense, you would have to be earning around $300/hour, otherwise it is a net loss.

If we were aware how we’re trading our life for money, we would limit our discretionary spending dramatically. That coffee from Starbucks may be one hour of your productive effort. That dinner with friends may be five hours. That holiday you’re taking may be 100 hours. That dream party you’re giving may be the cost of your productive effort for the next two months.

This idea can get more complex with cost of ownership and other factors. COO means how much you’re paying for an item during the lifetime use of that said item. I have a MacBook Air. I’ve bought it about 18 months ago. I’ve paid around $1000 for it. I’ve paid an average of $1.8 per day to use it, not taking into account the electricity and such. I’ve once bought a blazer that I really liked. I’ve worn it for about 2.5 years. It had cost me around $100. This means I’ve paid an average of about ten cents to wear it. I’ve once bought an XBOX 360. I’ve paid $300. I’ve used it for about 20 hours before deciding to give it away. My cost of ownership was then $15/hour.

Then you have ROI.

This is assuming that your asset generates a return. If you spend $500 on a dinner with a client but this nets you a $50.000 contract, then theoretically, your ROI is 9900% (many things are involved too but it’s just an example). If you are a graphic designer and buying the new iPad Pro earns you another $5000 year, then your $1000 investment will net a 400% ROI. Theoretically everything was an ROI because everything helps in some way. The ROI though can be lower than the cost of ownership, leading to a negative return.

I’m not trying to teach you value based accounting here. You can simply stick to translating prices into actual effort. Of course, if you are an entrepreneur or if you make big purchase, do calculate ROI and cost of ownership. It’s just that most people don’t need to learn how to invest in assets first, but rather start with the basics – stop the insanity of spending without realizing the value of their income. If you are an entrepreneur or you make big asset investments though, chances are you don’t need to hear from me about COO and ROI.

This is how I do it. I translate value.

I have a list of investments that I want to make, from a new laptop as soon as this reaches two years to buying a new blazer to the rent and utilities cost. I know how many hours and subsequent days my rent costs and to some degree, I’m starting to know even for small purchases. It’s my heuristic model that allows me to take good decisions with money. And you know what happens? I invest more and more in what matters, I’m building financial cushions and I’m progressing in life.

The best part is that since I’ve started translating money into effort, I gave up on many things that were hurting me. I don’t eat sugar, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink and not only that I’m saving money, even if the savings are not that big, but I’m improving my health at the same time. Maybe the most important thing is that I’m done with impulse buys. It was not unusual to buy anything from expensive headsets to gaming consoles to $500 in some appliance I never use just because I had a lot of money in my account. That’s how I’ve bought a very expensive coffee machine when … I don’t drink coffee that much.

When I know that I would have to work 20 hours to pay for it, I realize that I want to translate my time into something useful. Something that builds for my future and that has an ROI higher than the cost of ownership. For me, the next step is to learn value based accounting or the method used by Eric Ries in lean methodology. Financial discipline is a must if you want to progress in life.

Best regards,
Razvan

Falcon Heavy Launch & Changing The World

I saw Falcon’s Heavy launch. This was the closest thing to a spiritual experience I’ve experienced in a long time. It is the kind of experience that makes you tear up, not out of sadness but because how triumphal it is.

Today I’m looking at Elon Musk as a hero. He is a hero. While I’m happy to say we share some traits, I know I’ll never be as successful as he is. I could be a blown up narcissist and I would still not give myself so much credit. Musk is changing the world. He is for the 21st century what Ford was for the 20th century.

Elon Musk and others like him are my hero. In 300 years from now, when we will have colonies on Mars, people are going to look back at today, where it all started. He will be seen just as important as Columbus, DaVinci or Washington in the history of humankind. For me and for millions of people around the world, he already is.

Yet, if you think about it, more people know who the Kardashians are than who is Musk. Is it fair that he’s building a better world for these people to benefit in? That’s beyond me to say.

What I know is that in 20 years, I want someone to look at my work and feel the same pride and joy about it as I felt today about the SpaceX launch. It doesn’t need to be a million people but if I can get 10.000 people to say that I’ve changed the world in a better place, I’m happy.

This thought is what drives me. Because of this I operate at almost intense levels of focus and productivity. I want to leave a better world behind me. I want to know that I’ve made a difference, not in one life but in tens of thousands or even millions. For this, I know my priorities quite well and I act on them. I don’t believe I have a duty to this world but I do believe that I have a duty to myself to set goals that are bigger than myself and that will take my entire lifetime, or more, to accomplish.

The highest joy I can experience is the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with doing the impossible. It is a form of muted adrenaline, where after giving it your all, you have finally reached your goal. You don’t even care about getting the reward anymore. The money or the fame that comes with success are not that even relevant anymore. Instead, you simply feel satisfied for doing the impossible – like a hiker who finally climbs his Everest.

And while I know I won’t even get close to the impact of the giants of industry, science and business, I take solace in knowing that we have something in common. We set impossible goals, that are unreasonable hard, where the odds are against us and we set to accomplish them. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. But when I do, there’s no better bliss.

Thank you,
Razvan

Instant Gratification Versus Delayed Gratification

Hi,

Today I was faced with a decision. In front of me there were nine tasks. All of them are high priority. Yet, since they all require a high degree of analytical focus and I have worked quite a lot on this project this week, I’ve decided to not do them.

This left me into a dilemma. I don’t want to do these tasks but does this means that I’m not doing anything today? Should I watch a movie? Play a video game? Sleep? Waste my time checking random blogs?

The answer is no. I have decided to spend the day reading “The Startup Way” by Eric Ries. It proved to be a wonderful idea as it filled some important gaps into my knowledge and I’m looking forward to reading more of it.

What is relevant here for you (apart from reading the book, as you should) is how I’ve got to this decision. I imagined that it is Monday. I am on a call with one of my partners. I can have better answers and better solutions if I read the book. I can not tell a story about the movie I’ve seen and certainly not about the video games I’ve played.

Your future self succeeds or fails based on what you are doing now. The “you” of tomorrow or the “you” of next year will be prepared (or lack thereof) based on where you decide to invest your time and money now. Life does not get easier. You make life easier by building bridges today that you can use tomorrow.

This is a concept that so few people truly understand. Your future self can have an umbrella over his head only if you, present self, pick an umbrella from home. The degree of success you experience in the future is a direct consequence of the time you invest in preparing that success, time that pays almost nothing in the moment but pays dividends thereafter.

As humans, we don’t wrap our head around this easily. We don’t deal with the idea of present and future self naturally. We don’t understand that the you of tomorrow is to a large degree based on how you design it today. It is a linear process of causality.

This leads me to my second point – instant and delayed gratification. I can’t prove this but from my experience almost anything that provides instant gratification tends to also account to long term costs or long term opportunity costs. Almost anything that is easy and provides satisfaction in the moment tends to affect you longer term a lot more than you’ve benefited from it.

Let’s take the idea of smoking. Smoking is instant gratification. You smoke, your brain fires up dopamine, you relax. Thirty seconds after you inhale nicotine, you feel the effects. There’s a problem though. Five minutes later, your clothes smell ugly. Thirty minutes later, your lungs can’t process oxygen as before, so you fatigue easily. Six hours later you enter withdrawal which makes you smoke again. One month later you realize you’ve spent $100 – $150 on ciggarates alone. Six months later, you notice that your teeth are becoming yellow and you smell like an old person. Sixty years later, you probably die of cancer.

This is a dramatization, of course but it is one from someone who smoked for ten years. Between the cost of burned clothes, one pack a day, missed opportunities, bad fitness and bad mood, my smoking habit was a six figure affair, at least.

Here is another example, credit cards. I know someone who wanted an iPhone 6, when it was launched. He could not afford it (mind you, not everyone has that much discretionary income). He used his credit card to buy it. He ended paying about 250% of the normal price over 24 months. By the time he finished paying, he could have bought three iPhones 6 at full price.

The world is full of ways to achieve instant gratification. Some are innocent. Playing computer games won’t kill you nor does it cost so much. The loss is in opportunity cost. You spend only $50 for a computer game, that is true. Then you invest 50 hours that if you spent in learning a new language or coding or working on your work, it could have been a lot more valuable.

Others are not so innocent. Hard drugs like cocaine provide instant gratification. Milliseconds after your body registers it, you are happy. Needless to say, cocaine does kill, both through the potential of an overdose, abuse, withdrawal and it costs a lot of money. You end up paying a lot for those hours of happiness.

On the other hand, everything that tends to benefit you is slow, not that interesting to do and rarely provides feedback in the moment. Before you have that beach body, you need to exercise, a lot. When you eat green foods, you may not feel that great in the moment but you’ll feel great over the long term. When you don’t spend $1000 on that new TV with your credit card, you may feel bad for not seeing the game in 4K resolution but your future self will be very happy for the extra $50 each month he gets to keep instead of paying interest (apart from the actual initial cost).

This is the irony of life.

Almost everything good and stimulating in the moment, that rewards you now, tends to affect you long term. Almost everything that is not that interesting nor does provide instant feedback in the moment tend to have substantial long term rewards. So success becomes a game of denying yourself instant gratification in order to maximize long term results.

There’s a catch 22 though. If you always invest in your future circumstances, when do you enjoy your rewards? Well, in the moment in the future where your circumstances are better and rewarded based on what you do now. The only time in this process where you deny yourself any form of benefit is when you start. It is the zero point where there’s nothing in the bank and before you can receive a profit, you must deposit.

To give you a better analogy, imagine planting a garden. If you eat the seeds now, you have a meal and then you’ll starve. If you plant the seeds, you won’t have a meal now but you’ll have many plants that give fruits, which will be far superior to the seeds you’ve planted. So is life. You deny gratification now but the fruits of denying gratification now are going to be vastly superior to any pleasure you may have got in the moment.

So the next time you want to waste your time or follow instant gratification, ask yourself what you’re paying for this. There is a cost. There is a real cost to pay for watching TV, eating too much sugar, eating McDonalds, buying with your credit cards or any other hundreds of activities that generate satisfaction in the moment and then will suck success away from you in the long term.

Best regards,
Razvan

Our Capacity For Self Deception Is Unlimited …

Imagine this. You’re coming to me and you’re attacking my deepest held beliefs. You’re attacking something that makes me e buho I am, that is a part of my identity. It can be my love of self-growth or the idea of personal freedom or my deep beliefs in laissez-faire economics.

How do you think I’m going to act towards you? Friendly? Open minded? Interested in reaching a win – win situation?

No. I will either try to convince you that I’m right or I’m going to feel automatically hostile. This is because when you are targeting my beliefs, you are practically saying that a part of me is wrong.

This is the problem with introducing new beliefs. Beliefs tend to work in self reinforcing feedback loops. If a belief becomes a part of us, then we defend it on an emotional level, because breaking it would mean emotional pain. It has little to do with rationality. For a religious person, to give up on the concept of deity is like asking to give up on his hand. He can’t. It is an integral part of his personality.

For example, I don’t believe in marriage. I see marriage as a legal construct. Marriage and love have little to do with each other. Marriage is a form of social and legal organization that has more implications on wealth division and accountability than on actual unity. I do believe that two people can live together for the rest of their life, to some degree, but I don’t believe a contract that puts them in a legal partnership is required or if it even adds any benefit.

Yet, if I say this to a person who is married, that person will antagonize me. That person may agree with me logically but agreeing fully means admitting making a big error in her life and it takes a certain breed of person to suspend ego to such degree.

We build beliefs from other people. We tend to think that they are ours because this is how our brain is wired. Our capacity of self-deception, both in a positive and negative direction is infinite. Yet, these beliefs have little to do with utilitarian value or rationality. They have everything to do with how attached we are to them. We see the world as we see it because that’s how we’ve decided the world it is and it is very hard for others or for ourselves to change this filter.

This is why a long time ago I’ve gave up on the idea of trying to change people. People don’t change because you disagree with their perception of reality. They change when they want to change. I’ve discovered that it is far easier for me to meet like minded people and bond with them than to try and change someone into my liking. I’ve also developed a kind of hostile indifference to those that try to convince me that their way is the best way.

If there is one thing you learn from this article is that we’re good at lying to ourselves. It is not about who is smart or not. It is not about who is mature or not. Many of the beliefs we form are valuable to us because they are ours. It is like the Coca Cola versus Pepsi debate. They’re both freaking water with sugar. The only thing that makes one better than the other is that we identify with one brand more than other, most likely because we’ve associated positive emotions to it.

People who held deeply entrenched beliefs will follow them no matter the amount of contrary evidence is being presented. This is not some kind of irrational stubbornness but a form of personal indoctrination. In the army, you are taught to follow orders and to never question them in battle. The role of this is because in the midst of battle, hesitating can get you killed or other people killed. Yet, eliminating the “why” when someone asks you something is good for organizational discipline but not so much for one’s ability to take the best decision for himself.

Religion is another example. You can argue with a religious person for hours. You can bring all proof you desire against the existence of a god. Yet, the other person will not accept it simply because being religious is part of his identity, just as being an atheist is part of the other person’s religion. If we drop who we are, we are left confused, in a sea of anxiety and misdirection. We don’t want to ask ourselves “who are we?” Or “why are we here?” Because these questions lead to some high degree of existential angst. So we get attached to our beliefs instead.

Based on this argument, I can say that the path to maturity is to see life as a process as opposed as a static structure. A process evolves. Beliefs change. Tweak. Adapt. What was true ten years ago, is not true now. What I considered true as a teenager is false now, because I have understood more.

I can not deny the fact that being attached to my beliefs provides me with emotional security. I don’t want to stumble from day to day questioning everything I do. I’d probably go insane. Or I’d be paralyzed. Or both. The motivation to do something is the tool used by the brain to perform that activity. If I ask myself “are these articles useful?” Then I may never write them as I could argue for or against to them.

So I do self deceive myself. I do form beliefs and I have irrational faith in them. I do have strong opinions about everything from love to the nature of the universe. This allows me to build psychological boundaries and operate as a mature, healthy individual. I need to know who I am in order to accomplish the goals I desire. Operating in constant debug mode, would be quite stupid.

Yet, at the same time I don’t try to get to attached to any belief. I see them as temporary tools. At some points in my life I believed in love. At others I did not. Those beliefs helped me in that period. Believing in love when you are next to a beautiful girl you adore is a good thing. Believing in being alone when you broke up with her is again, a good thing.

I know that the me of next year is going to be related to who I am now but it is not the same person. I’ll have better or more accurate beliefs that allow me to gain a higher utilitarian value out of my actions. I’ll see myself, others and the world through different eyes. Hopefully, the way I see everything will allow me to get better results in all areas of my life. Me, as a person, as a concept, as an idea will be very different after I’ve earned $1.000.000 than I am now. Me after running a marathon will see the world through different lenses (beliefs) than the me of now.

So the key is having enough faith in what you believe right now to walk towards what you want while also being ready to change or adapt your beliefs when you discover new ones. It’s you as a river, flowing, adapting, going downstream (or in some cases upstream, it happens) as opposed to being a lake.

It’s not easy. It’s a huge catch 22. To change you must be willing to accept the pain and confusion that comes with introspection. We don’t want this. Yet, this is the only natural way to progress in life as a person.

You know, when I was a kid (teenager), I considered myself not worthy. I mean not worthy of love, of affection, of sexual gratification, of financial success. This was the belief I’ve held mostly through high-school. I’ve developed this belief to protect myself from rejection. If I don’t see myself as a person who can win, then I won’t try and if I won’t try, I can’t be hurt. And it worked, to some degree.

Yet, once I’ve entered young adulthood, keeping this belief would have been toxic so I’ve decided to prove myself wrong very fast. As soon as I’ve moved in my first place, I’ve invited my then girlfriend to move with me. It wasn’t so much about love as it was about proving to myself that I’m worth it. Slowly, in time, I’ve realized that I am actually worth it and that people see a lot more in myself than I do. I’ve realized that people do respect and like me, girls are attracted to me and smart and successful people want to deal with me. I’ve changed my beliefs by constantly proving to myself that the old image of myself as unworthy was wrong.

Since then, the process never stopped. I constantly refreshed my beliefs. Like a husky which gets rid of the hair in order to grow new one, so I did built new beliefs that are more congruent with what I want from life. It’s not easy but it’s something that if you engage in, it’s going to change the world around you, by changing who you are to the core.

And isn’t this what all life is about?

Best regards,

Razvan Rogoz

Inner Limits & Outer Limits

Hi!

There is this myth that people use an excuse. Sometimes it is called “burning out”. Other times it is called “writer’s block”. For a large part of my life, I’ve used these two to procrastinate on what’s important.

You see, I do believe there are physical limits to what your body can take. No matter if you are writing or managing people or tearing down walls for a living, there is only so much your body can take. Even the best trained athlete need to rest. Even the most prolific writer must disconnect from his work.

The problem is that the real limits and the limits we use tend to be very different. We give up when we feel uncomfortable or when the work is not stimulating anymore. The real limits are far, far ahead of this.

To help you understand, I’m going to explain to you my love – hate relationship with running. Until the age of 26, I could barely run. This was a physical limit due to being a heavy smoker. After smoking one pack a day, sometimes chaining them, I would run out of breath after just 400 – 500 meters. Then I gave up smoking. Slowly, my body recovered. Once it recovered, I’ve started to run.

When I started to run, I saw myself as the kind of person who can run 500 meters before getting tired. And so I did. That was my “burning out” point. I knew I can not more until I actually did more. Now I can run between 3 and 5 kilometers. It is more likely to give up due to pulling a muscle than fatigue. My body have not changed that much. Of course, my fitness is better but the truth is that I’ve just eliminated my “breaking point”. I redefined what is the point at which I am “too tired to continue”.

Can you see where am I’m going with this? When I will run a marathon, a five kilometer run will seem just a warm-up. Now it is an achievement every time I do it.

So it is with work. For most of my adult life, I have averaged about 15 hours of productive time per week. Productive time means work invested with the intention of getting something done, generally tracked, towards a project or a category. For me, this was what I considered I am capable of. When I decided I am capable of more, I did more. Now I am constantly doing between 30 and 40 hours per week. While I admit it, it is hard to invest more than 40 hours of productive effort per week as a writer and marketer, I’ve almost tripled my average productivity.

The limits of burnout are generally the limits we impose to ourselves. If you think you are capable of only doing so much, you will automatically considered yourself too tired to keep moving onwards from that point. For some people reading one book per month is a lot. This is their burnout point. I have read 52 books per year for consecutive years. That was my burnout point. It is not physical. It is not external. It is simply what I’ve decided it to be normal.

I am not some genetic freak that lives on Adderall. I have simply decided what is “normal” or “average” to be high. It is normal to invest 5.71 productive hours each day. It is normal to invest 10 – 15 hours of study in business and self improvement per week. It is normal to run a minimum of 2.5 kilometers a day. Regarding the last goal, others have a normal of 5 kilometers. I know a guy that runs 10 – 15 kilometers every morning. He doesn’t see it as special. It just is.

There is a moral to this. You think you are tired. You think you can not do more. And it is true. You are tired and you can not do more for the simple reason that you have decided this. Most limits are internal. Your physiological limits are way above your psychological ones. You can work harder. You can invest more time. You can stay in the game longer. You probably don’t need as much rest as you are getting now.

If you are weak, you are weak because you’ve taught yourself that this is your breaking point. Some people break at doing a high-school workout. Others pass brutal Navy SEALs selection. Some people crumble under the least of pressure. Others stay there as a rock. There is no physical difference between them. Those who stay don’t have a different “hardware” than those who live. Genetically, we are almost the same and while there are genes for perfect memory or high intelligence, I don’t know of any genes for persistence or willpower.

When you say to yourself “I can’t do this anymore”, it is because you’ve decided that this is all you are capable of. Well, what you’ve decided is BS and hardly relevant because exhausted doesn’t mean uncomfortable. Exhausted means that you’ve emptied your tank. Uncomfortable means that you’re not taking joy in the activity and that you want to stop because of this.

Many people ask me how I can work so much – how I haven’t took a day off since Christmas (because I was sick, not because I wanted). I answer them because I enjoy it. I don’t need to run away from work and do something else. For me, working on my goals is just as fun as playing a video game or drinking a coffee with friends. My “giving up” point involves physical pain or extreme discomfort because achieving my goals is not optional. R&R is optional though.

But how can you sustain a high level of performance without actually burning out, the physical aspect of it? After all, your body, my body, will eventually give up, either through lowering energy levels or disease. Well, it is a combination of many things.

I can say that exercising definitely helps. Exercising 30 minutes, especially running adds hours of focus and energy to my day. Running 2.5 kilometers on the treadmill is the equivalent for me of one or two coffees, without the side-effects. It clears my mind and gives me control over my perception.

Meditation is also useful. I don’t always do it but when I do it, I do see results. Now, before sitting and listening to some guy on YouTube on how to breath and exercising, I’ll pick the second. It’s just more effective for me and it is hard for me to slow down. Yet, I know I should do more of it.

Spending time walking is of great help too. I usually take a one hour walk when I listen to an audiobook. I don’t go anywhere in particular. I just walk. This is my most consistent morning ritual, one that I stop only when it is very cold outside (like today).

These three rituals counter the stress and the pressure I add on myself by working on multiple projects and trying to operate at a high level, professionally. Without them, I’d be smoking or I’d be yelling at people or worse, I’d give up. And now I know that when I feel I can’t work, the answer is to hit the gym and then it will be a new me, like through magic.

Another tool that I’m using is cutting sugar. I have to work more on this but due to dental concerns and energy swings, I am working on cutting sugar completely from my diet. As I said, this is a work in progress.

So here is my call to action.

Whatever you are doing now, chances are that you can do a lot more, unless you’re operating at a high level of personal effectiveness. Aim for that level. Don’t settle for little. You can read two books per week. You can run 50 kilometers per week. You can work 40 real hours in any given week (which in an office setting is the equivalent of about 60 hours, as I haven’t seen a single person to work at 100% effectiveness). You can do so much more and be so much more if you raise the point of what’s considered normal.

This is the definition of personal evolution. You grow as an individual when your standard for what you’re willing to accept goes higher. You gain better self esteem when the crap you accept from other people decreases. You increase your financial results when the amount of value you’re willing to create, for the market, at a minimum, increases. You are happier with other people when the standard of the people you’re accepting is boosted.

So boost your standards. Don’t operate at the level of your fears or comfort. Nothing good happens there. Operate at the level of what you can be. And remember that the size of your life and what you get on a day to day basis, in terms of results, is all inner game, not outer game. You are living your own self fulfilling prophecy based on your psychology and habits. Change these and the outer border expands.

Best regards,

Razvan

Empathy Makes You A Better Writer & Communicator …

Hi,

As a writer, I’ve learned that empathy can not be faked. This is true both in writing and in any other form of communication. Let me explain.

Some time ago, I’ve started editing a memoir. I am not an editor. I am not a memoir writer. I don’t pretend to be one on the Internet. I am a non fiction writer specialized in business and self-improvement. Yet, as this is a person with which I’ve been working for a long time and he insisted, I’ve decided to give it a go.

At first I’ve read the memoir. I’ve treated it as non-fiction. I’ve spotted the errors and the breaks in the flow. I’ve focused on the technical part of writing the memoir. These were well received. Then I’ve actually started learning how to write one. I’ve had a two hour call with the writer. I’ve listened to the story on which the memoir was based. I’ve also visited my favorite online retailer, Amazon and bought two books on writing a memoir.

At some point, it hit me. You can not write a memoir without empathy. You need empathy and love for the reader. You need empathy for the people who were involved. You can’t present facts. A memoir isn’t an Wikipedia entry. You present a world. This world is not painted by events but by the significance of those events. A memoir becomes a story of transformation, of pain and pleasure, of sorrow and happiness. It is not a book on how to achieve something.

Instead, I’ve quickly realized that it is that time when you sit with a friend in a bar. You’re happy to see him. You have a beer in front of you. A blonde girl next to you, in her 20s is playing pool. Behind you, a couple is lost conversation. You focus back to your table and your friend is telling you a story.

It is not any story.

It is likely to be inaccurate. It is likely to have gaps. Memories are never identical to reality. They are better or worse but never the same. Yet, you are not in for the accuracy. You are in for the experience of listening to the story.

He tells you about times long forgotten that shaped him. You understand that it wasn’t easy for him. You see yourself in his story because we all follow a similar story. We all walk on wrong paths. We all dig our own holes and eventually, find a way to build castles out of the dirt we push out. The story may not always make sense nor it may play like a Hollywood script, but it is human.

That’s a memoir and that’s empathy.

In the past, I’ve tried to built empathy artificially. I would write an article or a  short eBook and I would use a very enthusiastic language. I would hype it. I would compliment my reader. Make him feel good. Yet, I’m the first to admit it that it wasn’t empathy. It was a technique.

Now I do understand things differently.

If I write something, no matter if it is fiction or non fiction, I must learn to empathize first with the reader. I must see him as that friend in the bar. He is not some stranger I’ll never meet and which is represented only by a +1 in my Google Analytics dashboard. Instead, he’s a human being with a problem for which I have the solution.

It is not about the information anymore – no matter if it is how to sell more effectively or five steps to optimize your email open rate. It is about him. He’s trying to sail and he’s failing. He doesn’t know what he’s doing wrong. He felt like a failure all his life. Everyone told him that he’s going to suck at his new job. Now, he’s proving everyone right. He wants a better car and a better house but between where he is and where he should be in his mind, there’s a long way.

Empathy is when you tell someone “take my hand, let’s solve this”. It is when you write with the intent on making someone’s existence better through what you’re offering, offering wisdom or your own example in the process. It has nothing to do with the language you use. It has everything to do with the angle and approach you’re taking.

Sometimes I look at those around me and I treat them like empty shells, like they don’t exist as I do. Like they don’t have fear and pain and suffering. Like they don’t wake up in the morning and wish something was different … or look in the mirror and wished that they were fitter … or sit on their couch, starring at the wall, wishing someone would make them feel less alone.

Sometimes yes, I do see others as robots, no matter if I desire this or not. Maybe it is because we aren’t really taught to see things through other people’s eyes or maybe because Facebook and Twitter is reducing the complex process of human interaction to notifications and 240 character tweets.

That’s the moment in which empathy is important. It is about understanding that your version of human existence, with all the drama, all the quirks and the intrigue, is truly universal. You are not alone in this. You are not the only one to feel heartbreak or looniness or to crave. They do feel the same.

They here being your mother, father, sister, significant other, best friend, neighbor, aunt, doorman, Uber driver, ticket clerk, intersection policeman and that construction workman you pass every day without even wondering what his name.

Your story is similar to their story. Your story will play out in an unique way. Maybe you’ll be a millionaire. Maybe they won’t be. Maybe you’ll merry a supermodel and live in Monaco. Maybe she’ll not merry anyone and live with eight cats. But human experience is universal across the spectrum. One may feel happiness for getting a 20% raise at work. Another may feel joy for getting a $2.000.000 bonus check from his Wall Street trading firm. One may feel pain because losing his job. Another may feel pain because of losing his family.

It’s not about comparing. It’s not about saying which is better or worse or quantifying joy and suffering. It is about understanding that while your interpretation on this planet is unique and subjective, your experience is exactly the same as the other 7.500.000.000 people. And once you realize this, you also realize that having empathy is nothing more than recognizing that your feelings exists in others. Once you realize this, how can you not care about those around you?

Empathy is not a politically correct word. It is the key to making you a better writer, a better communicator, a better leader. It is the key to dealing with other people in harmony because it changes the dynamic between “us” versus “them” to just us. And while this doesn’t mean that empathy is a moral imperative, feeling love or at least acknowledgment of existence for those around you, no matter if you want to interact with them or not, no matter if you want to move a finger to make their life different or not is surely to help you.

At least, it is helping me.

Best regards,

Razvan