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Author: Patrick (page 1 of 42)

Luck in Life

Around 5 years ago, while in the process of building part of my business on Amazon.com, I came across an industry selling servies for Amazon sellers which seemed intriguing.  I wanted to understand more about the industry and how the economics worked, so I dug further.  The more I looked into it, the more I discovered why so many businesses were competing within the industry – there was a fair amount of passive money to be made in a growing market.

Driven by this discovery, I spent around 3 hours building out a site of my own to compete in the industry.  My thought was two fold – on one hand I wanted to setup something purely for the practice and interest in building out the website to learn more about the industry, and on another hand it was to build it and see if anything came out of it.

Those 3 hours in hindsight proved to be time well spent, as that site grew into a sizable business over the years.  At the time, it was impossible to know what would come of it, but by spending those 3 hours, it transformed my entire business for the next 5 years.  Those 3 hours could have also produced nothing other than a website no one visited, the difference was really just a matter of luck.

The industry was competitive, but I was confident there was opportunity.  Part of the game of the internet is capturing attention, and if I could build out a business that captured attention more effectively than others, then I would profit.  The lucrative part of this business is that if you can automate capturing attention, you run a sizable passive business.

This story is a simple example of luck in my own life, a topic I want to talk about more.

Life & Luck

Luck is a factor in life.  It influences certain situations, sure, but fundamentally it has affected the outcomes of our entire lives (see Free Will post).  It’s easy to miss attributing luck to “hard work” because when you work hard work and the outcome turns out to be what you expected and worked for, instead of saying it was luck, you say it is hard work.  It’s a common fallacy people make when attributing a successful outcome to hard work rather than luck. But what gave you the motivation, inspiration, desire, and/or genes to make you work hard? Did you choose them?

The way I’ve looked at business on the internet is very much in a luck sense.  There is a huge amount of luck involved, and the way to set yourself up to potentially get lucky is to constantly be building businesses that help people or provide some sort of value to society.  The more chances you give yourself, the greater chance that one of the chances will work. It’s doesn’t guarantee success, but it increases the chances and therefore is the best route to take, if you’re wanting to get lucky (ie. successful).

This sort of thinking is described in many quotes, such as:

I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.

Opportunity favors the prepared.  You can’t control your luck, but you can take actions which increase the chances you’ll get lucky.  In other words, you can’t guarantee a home-run but you have to step up to bat to even have a chance.

The other key in building processes and habits in life, that increase your chances of getting lucky, is how you approach the actions.  Because I don’t know if 1 in 10 attempts will end up with a lucky outcome or 1 in 50, I try to make every attempt a forward action, regardless of the outcome.  It’s what Tim Ferriss has called “failing forward”.  This sort of thinking means that when you approach a project with a goal in mind, even if the project fails, you’ve got something out of the process (ie. knowledge, a new skill, the enjoyment of building the project, a new perspective, etc.).  Then even if you fail at every project you attempted, you still have learned a great deal since each project brought you forward, led to an improvement, or allowed you to grow as a person. Failing forward really matters since it’s all about the journey, not the result.

If I look back over my life, in many situations I was unlucky, and in many situations I was very lucky.  Because humans want to be lucky more than unlucky, we need to strategize our lives to increase the chances of getting lucky.  This is why building processes/systems into our lives is important – it steers our lives in a general direction to where we want to be, and increases our chances of something good coming out of it.

It’s easy to dismiss luck in life.  You’ll find a lot of people who say work your ass off, get off your ass and push yourself to do things you don’t want to do, and just take action. While this is true and increases your chances of succeeding, it doesn’t guarantee it.  It requires some luck for success to actually happen.  Hence why many successful business owners don’t attribute luck to their lives because they worked hard and therefore attribute the success to that, but many other people worked just as hard and didn’t have such success.  You also see many people in life who attribute much of their success to luck.  I’m certainly one of them – while I’ve worked hard, spent a lot of time thinking about strategies, spent time hanging around the right people, I didn’t give myself the genes I have that make me as motivated as I am or as hard working as I am.  Because of this, I’m more willing to have sympathy for people who try hard but still fail.   The pursuit of solving problems, overcoming challenges, and building things is what matters – enjoy the process, not the result.

So, if what I’m saying is true, in that luck is a big factor in the outcome of life, what should we do? We should prepare ourselves to get lucky as much as possible in whatever pursuit that is.  Read books to increase your knowledge, awareness, and decision making, make friends who inspire you to increase your motivation and accountability, take care of your health so you have the energy to create and take action, and take action to step up to bat.

I could have just as easily not taken those 3 hours to build that website.  But I did, and it made all the difference.  If I look back on my career, my relationships, and my life, the times where I felt confident my decision would succeed, it failed, and where I wasn’t so sure, it often worked.  As a result, you just have to put yourself out there, learn as much as you can about as much as you can, fulfill yourself with solving problems and challenges everyday, making progress in your life, seeing every day as an opportunity to grow and improve, and being open to talking with people of all different beliefs and views about things to broaden your own perspective.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you’re the easiest person to fool
– Richard Feynman

Don’t fool yourself, create chances to become lucky.

Consciousness Separable

We can’t escape our subjective experience, this thing we call consciousness. When we speak objectively or about things that are objective, we’re doing it through our subjective lens. We communicate with other humans via spoken language, body language, touch, smell, etc. as a means of communicating our emotions, feelings, thoughts, and desires.  We feel as other humans can mostly understand our perspective, which enables us to work together on projects, explore together, change together, and learn together.  But we can’t escape our subjective experience (listen to the excellent “This is Water” speech for some more insight on this).

People have contemplated what consciousness is for millennia, and how these processes in our brain give rise to this feeling of being – consciousness.

The “hard problem of consciousness” has been discussed and debated for decades, in which philosopher David Chalmers states:

It is undeniable that some organisms are subjects of experience. But the question of how it is that these systems are subjects of experience is perplexing. Why is it that when our cognitive systems engage in visual and auditory information-processing, we have visual or auditory experience: the quality of deep blue, the sensation of middle C? How can we explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image, or to experience an emotion? It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does.

So humans seem to have this subjective state of being we call “consciousness”.  What about other animals, insects, or creatures we see around Earth? Are they conscious? Can they perceive?

Many think so, for the right reasons. The result of these contemplations has led many to believe “that consciousness is one”.  When they say this, they mean that feeling of perceiving, this ability to perceive, is all connected, in that we as humans can see each other, bats can use sound waves to know we’re here, snakes can sense our warmth, and they can sense each other, to an extent.  We may perceive it differently, but we all perceive something, and this state of perception is what we call consciousness.  This is a common philosophical view of consciousness in that all sentient beings can perceive, and therefore consciousness is connected, it’s “one”.

While this is one plausible view, I had the opposite realization – while it is all connected in the sense mentioned above, it’s infinitely separated.  As humans we use language, touch, sound, body language, etc. to communicate with each other.  While it is the best we can do, it is far from perfect.  Some say that the barrier of philosophy is language, in that at some point philosophically people start debating what “is” means, or “the”, or other words in language.  This happens because as mundane and straight forward as those words seem, to do carry some meaning which can cause philosophical discussions to fork.

Misunderstandings, lack of connection, and lack of agreement all occur due to the imperfection of our communication – a barrier which we can’t overcome.  In other words, it is impossible to communicate ones consciousness amongst us humans, and is equally impossible to communicate our consciousness to other sentient beings, such as a bat, a bear, or an insect (assuming they are sentient).  While we can communicate some of our consciousness, such as describing how something tastes, our consciousness is infinitely separated.

Will it forever be that way? Only time will tell.  As we understand the mind better, I suspect we may be able to bridge the gap and connect each other more than perhaps can possibly be perceived.

Don’t Create Goals

People often talk about creating goals as a means of progress. A challenge.  Challenging ourselves to move forward, setting deadlines to avoid taking too much time, and feeling satisfaction of reaching milestones. With each new milestone, another one comes about, a new goal is created.

I long believed in goals.  I enjoyed seeing myself accomplishing goals. It was fulfilling, enlightening, and challenging.  But what I’ve found is that by focusing on the result and not the process, it makes things less sustainable, less fun, and less likely to succeed.  I was focusing on the shiny object at the end, not in the day to day actions and time I spent getting there.  As a result, I’d often fail.

Instead, build processes and systems.  Again, don’t create goals, create systems.

A few examples:

  • Goal may be: Squat 500 lbs
    System: Go to the gym everyday and squat a tiny bit more each day than you did before.
  • Goal may be: Make $10,000/month
    System: Work on improving skills, making connections, and providing more value to society each day.
  • Goal may be: Lose 25 lbs
    System: Improve diet each day and reduce caloric intake, go for a run each day, eat vegetables every meal
  • Goal may be: Read 40 books this year
    System: Focus on reading 30 minutes each day consistently.

The big point here is that a goal is a milestone, but it doesn’t have a strategy of how to reach the goal.  Because big goals are hard to reach, coming up with a strategy can save you time, energy, money, and willpower, and make you far more likely to reach the goal.

A goal without a path to the goal is a goal that is typically not reached.  Systems are daily routines and habits you build which move you in the direction of your goal, which enables you to build habits that last long after you’ve reached your goal.  Remember, for each goal you reach, another goal then awaits.  It is never ending.

In Scott Adams’ book “How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big”, the brilliant Adams talks about systems and processes.  A system or process that steers you in the direction of where you want to go is never ending.  As you continually refine your processes and systems, you build habits, enjoy the journey each day, and inevitably reach the would-be goals.

As the Stoics found out 2,000 years ago, for each thing you think you want, once you get it, you may realize it wasn’t what you wanted/expected, or if it was what you expected, you inevitably get used to it and long for someone more, or something different – a new goal.

Goals focus on the end result.  They say nothing about how to get there.  Systems are the processes that can lead to a result. Fall in love with the process, not the result.

Life is a journey, enjoy the ride.

If you enjoy this way of thinking, you’ll probably enjoy James Clear’s article Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. 

2017 Year in Review

It’s already that time of the year again where we look back on the last year of our lives and look forward to the next.  It is useful because it allows us to review what we did right, and what we can improve on in the future. You can see my previous years here: 201020112012201320142015, 2016 . Here’s a look back in what I did in 2017.

Summary

  • I rang in the new year in Pai in northern Thailand at a music festival.  After Pai I visited by friend Vy in Chiang Rai for a few days. Later in January attended a small Art Festival on Onnut road.
  • In February I completed a 10 day water fast.
  • In March drove to Cambodia, flew my drone, and attended a wedding in Sa Kaeo.   Also celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Bangkok with some friends.
  • In April celebrated Song Kran Water Festival in Bangkok.  A few days later I flew to Nepal for a month to hike the Himalayas, climbing the Dhaulagiri Circuit, bungee pumping, and paragliding which were all firsts for me.
  • I arrived back into Bangkok from Nepal on May 17th, had a goodbye party for a friend, and a going away party for Kemji and I at Y Spa.
  • In June I headed to Colorado to visit family and friends, went camping near Gunnison at the Kelly campout, attended the Renaissance Festival, and relaxed with family and friends.  In the later part of June my girlfriend Kemji flew to the US to meetup with me.
  • We celebrated July 4th in Lakewood at a relatives house.  On July 6th we drove up to Mt. Evans with my uncle, which is the highest paved road in North America.  In early July we went to a Colorado Rapids game, and a Colorado Rockies game, as well as up to a friends cabin in the mountains for the night.  On July 14th, we flew to Medellin, Colombia to begin our 5 month trip around South America.  We visited Medellin and Cartagena in July (future trip writeup coming).
  • In August we went to Bogota, Colombia and spent several days there exploring, working, and relaxing.  We met a lot of interesting people and had many interesting AirBNB experiences.  In mid-August we flew to Lima, Peru to begin exploring Peru, and to meet with a Peruvian friend Luis who was also there. In the later part of Peru we took a bus south to Ica, explored the sand dunes, then went to Nazca for a night, then took an overnight 18 hour bus ride to Cusco, Peru, arriving at the end of August.
  • In September we did a day trip and climbed Rainbow Mountain at 16,000ft, and visited Machu Picchu via a night in Ollantaytambo.  We ended up spending over 2 weeks in the Cusco area and loved it. In the later half of September we flew north to Iquitos, Peru, the largest city in the world without roads to it, along the Amazon River and Amazon jungle.  It was a fascinating experience spending 2 weeks there and in the jungle.  I did 2 ayuhasca ceremonies.
  • In early October we flew back to Lima and bussed north to Trujuilo, then to Piura, and into Ecuador to Cuenca over the course of several days. We spent several days in Cuenca, and from Cuenca we took a bus to Banos for the hot springs.  From there we bussed to Latacunga for a couple nights to visit the infamous Quilotoa volcano and lake.  It was a fascinating experience. We continued north to Quito, the capital of Ecuador where we explored until the end of October when we flew to Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
  • Early November we spent in Zihuatanejo, and then to Ixtapa nearby for a friends wedding, which was a lot of fun and beautiful.  From there we headed back to Zihuatanejo for another week, then flew east to Cancun.  We immediately headed south to Playa Del Carmen with the idea that we’d explore Cancun later before we fly out of there.  We spent a week in Playa Del Carmen, and did a trip west to Piste to explore Chichen Itza, the famous Mayan archeological sight. We then headed back to Playa Del Carmen in late November.
  • Early December we went to Cancun for a few days, relaxing on the beach and in the pool, getting some work done throughout.  We flew out December 9th to Tampa Bay, Florida to meet my mom and brother to embark on a 7 day cruise back south to Key West, FL > Cozumel, MX> Belize City, Belize > Costa Maya, MX > Tampa Bay, FL.  It was a fun and interesting experience seeing such a massive object moving around the ocean.  We got back to Colorado late on Dec 17th, and celebrated Christmas and New Years with my family in Colorado.

WHAT WENT WELL THIS YEAR?

It was an adventurous year.  About 7 months of the year were spent on the road, starting with a month in Nepal in April/May, a month in the US, and 5 months in South America.  This made routine tough to follow, though I was able to keep my 5 tasks each day for most of it: meditate, read, study Spanish, work, and exercise.  Work-wise, I made a lot of progress and setup quite a few processes, learning a lot along the way.  I spent a lot of time and money learning the modern FB Advertising game, and several sites I’ve had setup for years were expanded.  Health-wise, it was a neutral year.  I feel I’m in better shape than I was a year ago but definitely have a lot of room for improvement here.  Knowledge-wise, I read around 30 books, and have learned a lot this year.  A few of the top books that stick out are: Sapiens, The Beginning of Infinity, Tribes, and Homo Deus.

WHAT DIDN’T GO SO WELL THIS YEAR?

I don’t have a lot of complaints this year.  I felt like this year was overall a huge step forward in my life in all the aspects that I’ve been working on. I can definitely improve my health and routines, but I’m quite satisfied with that considering how sporadic my schedule was in 2017.

WHAT AM I WORKING TOWARD?

Next year I have a few goals: read more pages than I did this year, spend a lot more time working on flexibility and mobility and simply spend more time working on my health. Travel wise, not sure yet, but Australia and Japan are on the radar, as well as perhaps hiking the Colorado Trail. I signed up for a 10 day meditation retreat in late March, 2018 in Thailand which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  I also want to do a few more 30 day challenges, firstly being a 30 day vegetarian diet.

ALL TOGETHER

As stated every year, 2017 was the fastest year of my life, and perhaps one of the best.  In all the aspects of my life that I’ve focused on: health, business, knowledge, connection, I’ve made progress.

You can see all of my posts from 2017 herehttp://www.patjk.com/posts/2017/

Thanks for reading. Happy New year, see you in 2018!

Note: You can follow what I’m reading and things I find interesting daily on my G+Twitter and/or Facebook page.

Lost in Thought

In “The Power of Now“, Eckhart Tolle discusses how the present moment is all there is.  And how, fundamentally, time is an illusion.  The past and the present exist only through our thought happening in the present moment.

What is the present moment, the now? It’s often hard to see.  Let’s say you’re sitting at a table having a conversation with your friend, but as your friend is talking you’re gazing off into the distance thinking of something unrelated.  Sure, your present moment is just that, but in a sense it is completely distracted by thought.  Instead of paying full attention and being fully mindful of your friend talking, you’re mind is adrift elsewhere, most likely unaware of it.  As soon as you become aware that you’re drifting off, that is mindfulness, bringing you to the present moment – observing your thoughts as they arise out of consciousness.

The example above is how our minds, more often than not, function – we’re often lost in thought without knowing it.  The idea of mindfulness meditation is 2 fold:

  1.  It gives you a point to focus on, a reference point – the breath for example – so that when your mind is distracted, you actually notice it.  See my post on Mindfulness here.
  2. With practice, you naturally become more mindful of the moment, more present, more in the now. You truly begin to see thoughts as exactly what they are, simply thoughts, nothing else.

So why is being in the now important? Why does it matter? Well, that is all there is.  Like the Stoics came to conclude 2,000 years ago, all there is to being is the now.  Studies also show that being in the now is also the place with the highest wellbeing (Source).  A wandering mind is not a happy mind.

So when one says that most people spend their entire lives lost in thought, it is true.  A thought is just a thought.  It is so obvious that most people don’t know it.  But with mindfulness practice, it becomes obvious.  And when you’re angry, sad, stressed, or anxious, you can stop, become present, and recognize it is simply a temporary sensation (or thought) that will pass, and not react to it.  Or at the very least, if you do react to it, know that you’re reacting to it and ensure you’re mindful of your reaction.  If thoughts get out of control, they cause unnecessary emotions and reactions that cause unnecessary suffering. It happens all the time to most people, unnecessarily.

You can become the observer of thoughts rather than simply laying victim to them which causes unnecessary suffering.  This is the idea behind meditation – simply observing thoughts as they arise out of consciousness, seeing them for exactly what they are, thoughts.

I’d highly recommend reading “The Power of Now” or listening to the audiobook, it is useful to truly becoming a more aware, useful, and joyous person.

Conflicting Ideals

One of my goals in life is to avoid living conflicting philosophies.  This means thinking one way of living is best for me, yet contradicts other held beliefs without knowing it.  It is very easy to conflict yourself, and the more you learn, the stronger the realization.  It goes along with the lines of “the more you know, the more you can know” and you often “don’t know what you don’t know”. This is shown by the Dunning-Kruger Effect:

In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is. The cognitive bias of illusory superiority derives from the metacognitive inability of low-ability persons to recognize their own ineptitude.

Without the self-awareness of metacognition, low-ability people cannot objectively evaluate their actual competence or incompetence

Source

Mark Mason recently published a great short read on The Value of Money (stop here and read the article now).  His posts sums up my beliefs on money and wealth quite well, and how people wrongfully misinterpret their goals.  Money isn’t the goal, it is what the money gives you that you *think* you want.  But humans are also very bad at predicting what they want, what will make them happy, etc:

How great would it be to win a brand new car? How horrible would it be to get laid off from your job? Research by psychologist Dan Gilbert at Harvard University suggests, not that great and not that horrible (respectively). Among the many things Gilbert studies is how people make predictions about future events—specifically, how we make predictions about how we’ll feel about future events. One of the most important questions we ask when making any decision is “how will this make me feel?” But no matter how much time we spend thinking about the future, we don’t get any better at predicting it. That’s why, as Gilbert writes in his book Stumbling on Happiness, divorce lawyers and people who remove tattoos continue to have a steady stream of customers.

Source: Stumbling Upon Happiness book

One of the fundamental conflicting ideals plaguing modern society is simply put as this: in a capitalistic society where the incentive is money, it doesn’t align with the what humans really want – wellbeing. The vast majority of modern day humans have conflicting ideals here.

It’s easy to get caught in the stir of this mixing machine.  While people around the world are vastly different in culture, beliefs, ways of life, habits, and appearance, humans all universally want a good wellbeing, to be happy, and to not suffer.  This is universal, and this should therefore be our goal in collective society.  All good comes from wellbeing, so we should maximize this.  It becomes a philosophical discussion in itself, but some pieces of it have quite straightforward answers.  For example, there are 1 billion people suffering *unnecessarily* from extreme poverty (read The Life You Can Save).  This is a situation where suffering  is definitely occurring unnecessary, is solvable right now, and the barrier is simply human connection and communication.

Now with this said, in a capitalistic society the goal and incentive isn’t human wellbeing, it is money.  People can create companies that destroy villages, families, cities, countries, and lives.  Yet they make money, their goal and incentive.  Politicians can make agreements and work together to increase their GDP, not necessarily increase wellbeing or reduce suffering. Most peoples lives in modern society are taken up by work that is entirely incentivized by money.  In fact, 70-80% of Americans don’t like their jobs or otherwise hate what they do (Source). They’re caught in the machine where every bit of society tells you to make money, buy a house, buy stuff you don’t need, and then finally retire at the end of life when you hopefully have money.  In fact, we spend most of our time in effort to simply earn money – how crazy is that.  It is entirely backwards and contradicts what we really want.  People don’t want or necessarily need more money, they need a new perspective that changes how they live their lives.  They need freedom – freedom to choose, freedom of time, freedom to think.  Consumerism has plagued us to spend all our money on stuff we don’t need, or to spend all our time making money so we can buy time later (a vacation or early retirement), or so we can buy all the abundance of consumerism that we don’t need.

Our motivational systems are off.  While the vast majority of modern western society is motivated by money, what people really want is to be happy.  And money and happiness aren’t directly coordinated (Source). We should instead be motivated by helping others, learning more so we can better help others and ourselves, using our creativity to create things we think should exist, traveling to broaden our perspectives – all things which are proven to increase wellbeing – again something that universally humans want.  In short, society is living with conflicting ideals.

The bottom line here is that we should really be questioning our incentives and goals in society.  I don’t have a good alternative to capitalism, but money is certainly not our goal as humans.  And while it may increase the collective human wellbeing on some levels, it also causes a grand amount of unnecessary suffering.