Some of my best how-to posts are coming up soon (how I deconstruct languages in one hour, applying metrics to personal life, interviews with gold medalists on performance, etc.), but today I ask you to indulge me and some odd behavior.
Two problems became clear to me a few minutes ago: there is less than 48 hours left for LitLiberation, and I’m quite bored of the single life.
Screwed on both counts, you say? I thought so too, but then — in a moment of extreme clarity/confusion — I realized the solution to both: just prostitute myself!
Some of you will think me a little Howard Hughes, but here’s how I look at it… Worst case, I’m a cheap date for Quasimodo. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Best case, I get an evening with a smart hottie and we help a few thousand students at the same time… Read More
The menu in the Slovak Republic: full-contact video below.
Long time no see! I just landed back in CA from a long overdue mini-retirement through London, Scotland, Sardinia, Slovak Republic, Austria, Amsterdam, and Japan.
Some unpleasant surprises awaited me when I checked in on the evil e-mail inbox. Why? I let them happen.
I always do.
Here are just a few of the goodies that awaited me this time:
-One of our fulfillment companies has been shut-down due to the president’s death, causing a 20%+ loss in monthly orders and requiring an emergency shift of all web design and order processing.
-Missed radio and magazine appearances and upset would-be interviewers.
-More than a dozen lost joint-venture partnership opportunities.
It’s not that I go out of my way to irritate people — not at all — but I recognize one critical fact: oftentimes, in order to do the big things, you have to let the small bad things happen. This is a skill we want to cultivate.
What did I get in exchange for temporarily putting on blinders and taking a few glancing blows?
-I followed the Rugby World Cup in Europe and was able to watch the New Zealand All Blacks live, a dream I’ve had for the last 5 years.
-I was able to shoot every gun I’ve ever dreamed of firing since brainwashing myself with Commando. Bless the Slovak Republic and their paramilitaries (video at the end of this post).
-I was able to film a television series pilot in Japan, a lifelong dream and the most fun I’ve had in months, if not years.
-I met with my Japanese publisher, Seishisha (Tel: 03-5574-8511) and had media interviews in Tokyo, where the 4HWW is now #1 in several of the largest chains.
-I took a complete 10-day media fast and felt like I’d had a two-year vacation from computers.
-I attended the Tokyo International Film Festival and hung out with one of my heroes, the producer of the Planet Earth television series.
Once you realize that you can turn off the noise without the world ending, you’re liberated in a way that few people ever know.
Just remember: if you don’t have attention, you don’t have time. Did I have time to check e-mail and voicemail? Sure. It might take 10 minutes. Did I have the attention to risk fishing for crises in those 10 minutes? Not at all.
As tempting as it is to “just check e-mail for one minute,” I didn’t do it. I know from experience that any problem found in the inbox will linger on the brain for hours or days after you shut-down the computer, rendering “free time” useless with preoccupation. It’s the worst of states, where you experience neither relaxation nor productivity. Be focused on work or focused on something else, never in-between.
Time without attention is worthless, so value attention over time.
Here are a few questions that can help you put on the productivity blinders and put things in perspective. Even when you’re not traveling the world, develop the habit of letting small bad things happen. If you don’t, you’ll never find time for the life-changing big things, whether important tasks or true peak experiences. If you do force the time but puncture it with distractions, you won’t have the attention to appreciate it.
-What is the one goal, if completed, that could change everything?
-What is the most urgent thing right now that you feel you “must” or “should” do?
-Can you let the urgent “fail” — even for a day — to get to the next milestone with your potential lifechanging tasks?
-What’s been on your “to-do” list the longest? Start it first thing in the morning and don’t allow interruptions or lunch until you finish.
Will “bad” things happen? Small problems will crop up, yes. A few people will complain and quickly get over it. BUT, the bigger picture items you complete will let you see these for what they are–minutiae and repairable hiccups.
Make this trade a habit. Let the small bad things happen and make the big good things happen.
[This post kicked up some strong comments! If you'd like to see my responses, just search for "###" in the comments.]
-Here is another signed original 4HWW manuscript with the bonus stories that didn’t make it into the published version! Perhaps you saw recently that a 1st-printing Harry Potter fetches more than $40K. 4HWW is no Harry Potter yet, but unedited manuscripts are a rarer item. The Ebay auction is here, and you have 72 hours. The last one sold for $1,525 and there were 8 copies available. Now there are only 6 left. The total winning bid will be donated to this school in Nepal, where your name will appear on a plaque on the door. If you would like to skip the auction, just PayPal $2,000 for however many copies you want (max of 5) to timothy-at-brainquicken.com. The total will also be donated to education. If someone beats you to the punch, I’ll refund you.
-For those interested, I’m featured on pg. 67 of this month’s Men’s Fitness. Nothing fitness-related, just 4HWW stuff.
-I did a fun interview on .SAP INFO, where I talk about all things quantifiable.
Weapons of Mass Distraction: boys love guns. I’m sorry, but that’s how we are wired, especially at $80 for a full Soviet arsenal, complete with anti-tank machine gun. Don’t worry, I’m just a target shooter. No strapping guns to my bed just yet.
As an agnostic New Yorker, he attempted to follow every rule of the Bible literally for an entire year.
I read an advanced copy of his new book, The Year of Living Biblically, this past July, and it blew my mind. It is AMAZING. Now it’s finally out, and I’m allowed to talk about it. I learned more about religion in this book than in all previous books combined, and I laughed so hard I almost got kicked out of two airports. Here’s a Q&A with my friend AJ on his incredible experience:
You call yourself an “agnostic Jew” in the book. Why did you even decide to do this? What could the possible benefit be?
This was my most radical experiment yet. It affected everything I did: the way I ate, talked, dressed, thought, and touched my wife.
I did it because I wanted to see if I was missing anything. And I have to say, the benefits were huge. I’ve carried over a lot of thinking and behavior from my Year of Living Biblically. Even if you aren’t particularly religious (in fact, even if you’re a diehard atheist), I believe there are lessons to be learned from the Bible and a biblical lifestyle.
What was hardest for you?
Two types of rules were hardest for me. First, there was avoiding the sins we commit every day: no lying, no gossiping, no coveting. I’m a journalist in New York. That’s like 70 percent of my day.
The second type of difficult rules were those that will get you into trouble if you follow them in modern-day America. For instance, the Old Testament rule that you should stone adulterers. Luckily, I was able to stone one adulterer. I was in the park dressed in my biblical garb (white clothes, a beard, sandals, walking stick) and a man came up to me and asked why I was dressed so strangely. He seemed hostile right from the start. I explained to him my project. And he said “I’m an adulterer. Are you going to stone me?” I said, “That would be great.”
I took out a handful of pebbles, because the Bible never specifies the size of the stones. This man actually grabbed the stones from my hand and chucked them at my face. I felt I had the right to retaliate, so I tossed a pebble at him. And in that way I stoned.
Do you think many people are misguided in their “creed over deed” mentality?
[Note from Tim: "Creed over deed" refers to people who value religious belief more than moral behavior. "Deed over creed" would be the opposite.]
I wouldn’t say misguided. But I’d say most of us do underestimate the power that behavior has to shape thought.
It’s astounding. I watched it happen to myself. For instance, I forced myself to stop gossiping, and eventually I started to have fewer petty thoughts to gossip about. I forced myself to help the needy, and found myself becoming less self-absorbed. I never became Ghandi or Angelina Jolie, but I made some strides.
I even watched it happen with prayer. After a year of praying, I started to believe there’s something to the idea of sacredness. It was remarkable. So if you want to become someone different, just start acting like the person you want to be. It’s like that business motto “fake it till you make it,” but it works on a spiritual and ethical level as well.
Even with my wardrobe, I saw how the outer affects the inner. There’s a line in the Bible that says “your garments should always be white.” I decided to take that literally, and walked around in white clothes. It affected my mood. I felt happier, lighter. Clothes make the man. I felt I couldn’t be in a bad mood if I looked like I was about to play the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
What were some of the greatest benefits of following rules to the letter, and what are the things that have stuck with you since ending the experiment?
It was fascinating. I’d always loved freedom of choice. It’s why I went to a loosey-goosey liberal arts college with no core requirements. But this experiment was all about freedom FROM choice. Or at least a minimal-choice lifestyle. I had a set structure: Should I read the gossip magazine about Cameron Diaz’s latest sex romp? No. Should I give 10 percent of my money to the needy? Yes. Should I turn off my email on the Sabbath (as both the Bible and Tim Ferriss recommend)? Yes.
In fact, there was something Ferriss-esque about the entire way of living. It reminded me of your low-information diet, for instance. In some ways, it was a huge time-saver.
What would you call yourself now?
I’d call myself a “reverent agnostic.” Whether or not there is a God, I believe there’s something to the idea of sacredness. Rituals can be sacred. The Sabbath can be sacred. And there’s an importance to that.
I’d also say that I’m a fan of cafeteria spirituality. During my experiment, I learned that you cannot follow the entire Bible. It’s impossible. You must pick and choose. Everyone does it, whether they admit it or not. Otherwise, we’d end up stoning adulterers on the street.
Some call this “cafeteria religion,” and it’s meant as a disparaging phrase. But I say: There is nothing wrong with cafeterias! I’ve had some great meals at cafeterias. I’ve also had some turkey tetrazzini that made me dry heave. The key is to chose the right dishes, the ones about compassion and tolerance, and leave the ones about hatred and intolerance on the side. So in my year, there was this amazing balance between choosing your religion, which then leads to fewer decisions on a daily basis.
And finally, I’d call myself a reformed individualist. I still see the value of individualism, but I’ve taken it down a few notches. As one of my spiritual advisers told me, you can look at life in one of two ways: As a series of rights and entitlements, or as a series of responsibilities. The biblical way is to look at it as a series of responsibilities, to your family and to your society. It’s like the JFK quote, ask not what your country (or world) can do for you, ask what you can do for your country (or world).
What was the hardest for your wife to put up with?
Well, my wife’s a saint. At one point, I built a biblical hut in our living room, and she didn’t appreciate the construction project in our apartment. Also, the Bible says not to touch women during that time of the month. Even more strictly, though, it says you shouldn’t sit in a seat where an “impure” woman has sat. My wife didn’t like that, so in retaliation, she sat on every seat in our apartment. I was forced to do a lot of standing that year.
Do yourself a favor, whether you’re a bible beater or a beret-wearing atheist, and go get AJ’s book. I put more notes in this book than any book in recent memory.
ODDS AND ENDS:
-Exclusive 90-Minute Marketing and PR Teleconference with Tim Ferriss:
I will be offering an exclusive 90-minute teleconference (date to be mid- or end of November) to discuss marketing and PR in the web 2.0 and social media era. This will be a one-time event and the cost is $125, with all registration money going to LitLiberation and helping US public school students. Line space is very limited, as we will be taking questions at the end, so I encourage you to sign up now before we cut off registration. To sign up for this one-time event, please go to PayPal.com (you can use your credit cards to pay) and send $125 to timothy-at-brainquicken.com. We might increase the price as space gets limited. Call-in info will come via e-mail in the first week of November, and we’ll post a “FULL” notice on this post when we cut off registration. I cannot tell you the exact date of the call, but if you pay and then cannot attend, I will simply refund you in full — no worries.
This is a question I have fought with a lot over the years.
Spending time with the upwardly mobile in places like NYC and LA, one can’t help but believe the consensus: It is better to wait until you have made a lot of money before trying to change the world. The idea (excuse?) is that you can then have a greater impact. But is it really true?
I no longer think so. There are a few reasons I have decided to commit at least $100,000 of my own money to education in the next 12 months:
1. Giving back is like investing with compound interest.
Less money earlier often beats more money later.
$1,000 invested now may very well have a much greater impact — due to growth and ripple effect — than $10,000 invested in ten years. How many world leaders and innovators could you create or save if you acted now instead of at an undefined “someday”?
Here’s an extreme example of how time changes value: Manhattan was bought for $27 in 1626. Invested at 7.5% then, compounded yearly, that $27 would be worth $22,224,711,000,000 now. Or compounded quarterly: 4.73442004 Ã— 10^13 ($47.3 trillion). To put that in perspective, the entire yearly GDP for the USA these days is around 7 trillion. (Thanks to Ryan for this example).
Act now and very little can do a hell of a lot.
2. Prevention costs much less than cure and is ultimately more powerful.
For example: to educate a girl for 10 years in the developing world, ultimately producing an economically self-sufficient family and ending the cycle of poverty, costs a total of $2,500 with Room to Read. How much does it cost to provide aid or welfare to an entire family for decades on end, not to mention treating the famine, disease, and violence generated from this collective poverty? Look at Africa and the $50 billion+ that has been given as aid.
Charity doesn’t work — empowerment does. The good news is that the latter depends on acting early and precisely, not lots of money.
3. Giving is an investment in yourself.
Giving shouldn’t be viewed as losing anything.
Based on previous polls on this blog, 32.2% of you make $51-100K per year and more than 20% make $100-200K per year. Regardless of income, could you afford to empower 100s or 1,000s of others with 5-10% of it, especially if it permanently increased your feeling of self-worth and contribution? Of course.
In fact, this self-perception boost is one of the greatest bargains, and performance enhancers, on the planet.
4. Changing the world is cheap.
Changing the world doesn’t require much money. Again, think in terms of empowerment and not charity. How much were Gandhi’s teachers paid? How much did it cost to give Dr. Martin Luther King the books that catalyzed his mind and actions?
Just imagine that you and your friends make $40,000 per year. Imagine that you convince just 5 of them to join you in building a children’s school in Nepal dedicated to your parents (or your lifelong friendship). The total cost? 5 people x $3,000 each= $15,000. I know that most people, myself included, will put $3,000 of crap on credit cards in the next few months that could instead create a miracle… a miracle that you can visit.
You and your friends could plan the trip of a lifetime in 6-18 months to visit the completed school, teeming with dozens or hundreds of students who greet you with smiles and thank you letters. You’ll know it’s your school because your names will be on the door.
If that seems like too much, you can finance a girl’s education for 10 years ($2,500) and effectively guarantee a future without poverty to an entire family. How would you feel about yourself if you just did it and pulled the trigger now?
I can tell you — it’s amazing. It changes your life almost as much as it changes theirs, and you won’t miss the $2,500. I guarantee it.
If you haven’t given before, I encourage you to do it now. Just do it. Take it for a test drive and see how it changes you. On the personal side, you’ll feel great about yourself for a long, long time. On the results side, especially with the groups I’ve researched and selected, you’ll measurably improve the world, something few people do, and possibly win some amazing prizes I and others are offering to people who donate this month.