“If you admire somebody, you should go ahead and tell them. People never get the flowers while they could still smell them”
“I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
– Walt Whitman
I recently read a Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris where he asks people 11 questions to share advice and really enjoyed it. That same day I read the first quote above and wanted to add my own as a sort of letter of appreciation. The best advice can come from anywhere.
1. What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
My favourite books to give as gifts are; for fiction Hover Car Racer by Matthew Reilly and non-fiction; Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher.
The first book is an amazing story of an underdog who works hard, never gives up against insurmountable odds and trains to become one of the greatest pilots in the world. Resiliance, gumption and just staying in the game can sometimes be enough to win. It’s an easy yet exhilirating book. I read it when I was a kid and I love to re-read it every few years. It’s the book that coined the Bradbury Principle about Australian Olympic speed skater Steven Bradbury. He comes back from dead last to win the gold medal when every other competitor wipes out in the final lap in the most astonishing win of all time. I watched that event live when I was a kid and it changed my life. Sometimes you can win by default if everyone else wipes and loses but you just keep racing.
The second book is probably the shortest but most impactful piece of writing I’ve ever read. It’s all about negotiation, motivations and getting what you want in a way that everyone wins. Everything in life is a negotiation and how to do it effectively and create consensus and agreement out of conflict and tricky situations. There’s a great story in it about 2 boys are arguing about an orange they both want. But one boy wants the orange peel to cook with while the other boy wants the orange flesh to make juice. If they stopped to ask why each boy wants the orange, they could find a solution where they just share the orange and both get what they want. A lot of conflict in life is like this I feel where people are so busy trying to get what they want, they don’t try to find win-win outcomes.
The secret third book would be the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. Reading this was the first time I realised that lifestyle could be something that you could design and optimise. That you could be successful and create the time to do everything you want to do by creating effective systems that work for you. You could work on the macro of time.
2. What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.
Below $100 the best item I’ve bought is the MZOO sleep mask from Amazon. It is amazing how much small lights disturb your sleep at night, even with black out curtains. It’s made of memory foam so is gentle and is completely black out. I can nap in the middle of the day in total sunlight with these babies on. Above $100 the best purchase was the Sennheise HD 380 Pro wired noise cancelling headphones. They’re incredibly comfortable and can be worn for several hours. Because they’re wired, they never die and I never need to worry about charging and are perfect for long haul flights and long work sessions.
3. How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
My favourite failure is when I was 18 I tried to enlist in the army. I got into the Australian Special Forces which something like only 1 in 1,000 applicants qualify for and it was the first time I’d ever achieved anything noteworthy in my life. I enlisted and then was discharged 3 weeks later for lying on the medical form about not having asthma (which I did have) with a permanent ban – meaning I’d never be able to join the army again. This removed a career pathway that I was certain of doing at 18 and steered me towards comedy and technology instead. If it wasn’t for this moment, my life would have turned out completely differently and almost certainly for the worse.
4. If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it—metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions—what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)
It would be; “Never Give Up, Never Say Die” ….. Or instead perhaps; “Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.” I know they might seem contradictory but both have really resonated and helped me in my life. The first is about resilience and perseverance. The second is about forgiveness and letting things go.
5. What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)
One of the most worthwhile investments I’ve ever made was writing this blog. It may not bring in money or anything like that. But as an outlet for creative expression and to put my thoughts in forever, it’s really been helpful. For me it’s always been kind of like a Pensieve from Harry Potter for Dumbledore. A place I can take things out of my mind and store forever and revisit whenever I need to. It’s always made me feel mentally light as a result.
6. What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
I really enjoy sending long emails. Brevity isn’t really my style and I love sending someone a giant essay as an email, especially when I’m trying to convince them of something. I always imagined it like a digital version of receiving an old school letter in the post. Which I love receiving also.
7. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
I never used to like animals. In fact I was often allergic to them and thought they were a lot of effort. But my wife is a Veterinarian and as a result we’ve adopted a lot of animals. We have 2 dogs and 3 cats at the moment. I love them to pieces. During the pandemic in Melbourne, Australia we had one of the longest and harshest lockdowns in the world. Close to 2 years spent at home where I spent more time with animals than humans. It completely changed my life. I never realised that a person’s life could be filled with so much uncomplicated and unrequitted love as that which comes from animals.
8. What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”?What advice should they ignore?
I’d tell them to try as many different things as possible to find out what they’re not just good at, but better at than everyone else they know. Then they should do that. I think the advice they should ignore is to only do what they love. Love is only one piece of the work puzzle, the other is being able to do it 8 hours a day for 30 years which generally makes people stop loving something. Plus plenty of people love something they’re not good at. I think that better advice is to find something they love that they’re also better at than everyone else they know.
9. What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
That people should invest in themselves by doing things like travel or expensive courses or such before acquiring more tangible assets like a home. Often the same amount people spend on these things could form the upfront deposit for the purchase. I see students all the time with $100k+ in student debt but in many places that’s the cost of a house or apartment.
I think that people should buy a home as soon as they can. Few things in life provide as much stability as home ownership. Knowing that whatever happens in the world, this is your fortress where you’re safe and no-one can take away from you is incredibly freeing. Having a space that is truly yours is liberating – a patch of the Earth where you get to make the rules and can choose to live however you want to.
10. In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?
I think I try to say no to everything these days. Or at least as much as possible. I learned not to worry about hurting people’s feelings but that everyone is more understanding than we imagine. You can be content and happy with where you are without needing to constantly be trying to do more. And in fact, you can be happier by doing less.
11. When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)
I try to meditate or spend time with my animals every day. If it’s a particularly bad slump, I will detach completely and play a lot of video games and eat junk food in a sort of mid-week sabbatical. I’ll then just do that, stop and chill out until I’m feeling better or have returned to a mental state I can focus again. The trick is to just disengage completely for as long as you need to and not try to rush back before you’re ready. Sometimes the best ideas actually come from these moments where you let your mind wander and think about other things for a while.