Monthly update: Building better habits and rocking out

Oct 31, 2020 11:01 am

Hi !

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Here's what had my attention in October...

What I've been up to

πŸ€” The other day I went for a business meeting in a place called Harpenden. (At this juncture I feel like I should reflexively add in "socially distanced, of course!", but I'm not going to.)

Based on a couple of hours' experience, I think Harpenden would be a lovely place to live. It's super-quick to get into London by train, it's surrounded by beautiful countryside, and it has a nice village-y feel while still having proper shops like Costa. Naturally, I got straight on the Rightmove app and discovered that you can rent a badass house with a big garden for roughly the same price I'm paying for somewhere smaller in London.

This is only a passing flight of fancy because my wife loves big cities and would hate living there. But if we got divorced or she suffered a nasty bump on the head that changed everything she stands for (neither of which would be compensated for by living in Harpenden, to be clear), there'd be nothing to stop me starting a new life there in a few months' time.

Why? Because we rent. (And yes, I've written about this before.)

I know I'll never live there, and in reality I doubt I'd want to – but just the thought that we could in little time and with minimal hassle makes me extremely happy. By coincidence, the previous day I'd heard the brilliant Annie Duke describe renting on a podcast as giving superior "optionality", and this nails it. I love renting for the same reason I love barely having any possessions and being OK at multiple things rather than great at one: it means there are countless possible life paths out there, and I can jump from one to another with very little cost.

There are many excellent reasons why renting isn't right for many people, and that's totally fine: that's just not a potential source of optionality for them. In general though, having more options is always a good thing – so when you have two choices and you can't decide between them, go for the one that gives you the most flexibility.

(The full podcast episode with Annie Duke on decision-making is well worth a listen, by the way.)

πŸ‘Ÿ I've started following an exercise protocol called 80/20 running (taken from this book). The theory is that most people run at moderate intensity for most of the time, which has limited efficacy. Instead, you should have a large (80%) base of easy-peasy running, and a smaller (20%) proportion of training when you're going flat-out.

The evidence in the book is compelling, not that I have the expertise to validate whether it's true. Nevertheless, the programme calls for running six or seven days per week – which sounds hard, but surprisingly isn't.

It supports an article I wrote recently that said establishing the habit of doing something two or three times per week is hard, but when you do it every day it quickly just becomes part of your routine and there's no internal debate about it.

When I did the odd couple of runs each week, if it was raining I'd use it as an excuse to put it off until tomorrow. Being October it's been raining a lot, but running is now something I have to do every day so I've just run in the rain a lot...and it hasn't been a problem at all.

Whether I still feel this way in dark and freezing December remains to be seen. But the experience shows that if you can find a way to lower the intensity of something to a point where you can do it every day, it's so much easier to make it a habit that sticks.

Random tech tip

Google search has become abysmally bad over the last few years. When it's not randomly excluding words from your query (you can put terms you definitely want included in "quotation marks", but why should you have to?) it's serving up bland, vaguely relevant information from the biggest sites instead of surfacing the best information on smaller ones.

For many subjects, there's now better information written by enthusiasts on Reddit than on sites that Google will serve up for you. Try Googling "best retirement investments" and get (after lots of ads) generic advice written by journalists with no particular expertise. Change that search to "best retirement investments Reddit" and you'll be linked to conversations that get to the real meat and detail of the subject.

To limit your search to just Reddit for more precision, search " your query".

(You might think just searching on itself would be easier, but their built-in search is abysmally bad too. So I guess Google is still good for something.)

What I've published

– Habit formation for lazy people. As spoilered above.

– An easy way to keep your online accounts totally safe. I know no-one is going to bother doing this (the most common password in the world is literally "123456"), but I can only try.

– Why you can ignore 95% of what you hear about investing. But, erm, anything I write falls within the 5%, yeah?

A question for you

What would you like me to write about more?

I find it extremely difficult to get a sense of what's been over-done by others to a point that people are sick of it, what's so niche hardly anyone cares, and what falls into that happy gap in the middle.

So whether it's a subject that's book-length, blog-length or quick-mention-in-here length, I'll be very grateful for any thoughts you share. Just hit "reply".

What I've enjoyed

πŸ“‰ A big thank you to readers Gareth and someone else whose name I now can't find (sorry!), who both independently suggested I check out the work of Jeff Booth on the all-important "inflation or deflation?" question.

I've listened to three or four interviews with him, and this one on the Pomp Podcast is probably the best. I've got a bit obsessed with his concept of the tug-of-war between central bank inflation and technological deflation, and I'll be writing an article about it soon.

🦈 I love watching Shark Tank (the American, far more OTT and less boring version of Dragons' Den), and Kevin O'Leary was always my favourite Shark.

But this multi-billionaire seems to be recording short video endorsements of companies he's never heard of for $1,200 each, as revealed in this YouTube video.

It can't be because he's broke: even if he's got a cash crunch surely he's got assets he can borrow against inexpensively. Maybe he enjoys it and somehow doesn't realise how bad it makes him look? I can't think of a single explanation that makes any sense.

🀘 I never share music recommendations because I know I have highly suspect taste, but I'm making an exception for this live performance video by Illiterate Light. It might not be your cup of tea, but listen and be astonished that this sound is being created by two guys, completely live with nothing pre-recorded on tape. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that over 100 of this video's 17,000 views were me.

πŸ‘‹That’s it for October! It'd be great to hear from you if you've got news or recommendations to share.



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