Monthly update: Superhuman achievements and penny-pinching

Aug 28, 2021 9:06 am

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

๐Ÿ’ช This month in self-improvement

On my website I've written a short article called Stronger, smarter, richer โ€“ coincidentally, also the title of my upcoming autobiography (not really).

Have a read, and learn how all it takes to achieve whatever you want is a small, constant effort.

๐Ÿค‘ This month in discounts

Entrepreneur Noah Kagan has a challenge where you have to ask for 10% off your order at Starbucks "just because". Why? To get comfortable with rejection, which he believes is a pre-requisite for achieving anything of importance.

(Similarly, Tim Ferriss endorses randomly lying down in public places to get comfortable with appearing weird in front of others.)

I'm terrified of rejection and have never so much as haggled at a car boot sale, but I have starting making a conscious effort to negotiate every price in a business situation (where it's somehow more socially acceptable).

I've currently got a 100% success rate, just using a basic formula of:

  • Asking for a bigger discount than I actually want, without it appearing ridiculous. This allows the other person to counter back slightly higher, letting you both feel you've "won".
  • Offering some kind of non-reason that sounds like a reason โ€“ even just "I'm struggling to fit this cost within my project budget".

Obviously, this is just geared to chipping a bit off โ€“ whereas for negotiating big purchases (like buying a property or entering into a major contract) you'd want to deploy a whole different bag of tricks to discover the absolute rock-bottom price.

So far I've saved money on web hosting, venue hire, consulting, software, and probably other things I've forgotten. It all adds up, and represents a pretty unbeatable ROI for the few seconds or minutes it takes.

๐Ÿ˜ฒ This month in superhuman achievements

My father-in-law has a rule of thumb that in timed events, elite athletes can finish in half the time of a reasonably fit normal person.

Watching the Olympics over the last month, the rule has held surprisingly well when comparing my own best times to the pro runners and cyclists.

(It very much doesn't hold for swimming, where you could give me until the next Olympics and I'd still be breathlessly doggy-paddling the first 100m.)

This ties into a jokey-but-actually-quite-good suggestion I've seen for improving it as a sporting spectacle: for every event, have one extra competitor who's just a normal person and hasn't spent years dedicating their life to the sport in question.

For events you have no direct experience of, it's hard to appreciate how ridiculously good every single competitor is โ€“ so having a point of contrast would make their incredible talent and dedication even more impressive.

๐Ÿ› This month in shopping

It was when buying a new can opener that I noticed just how broken Amazon is as a shopping experience.

When you search any generic item (like "can opener"), you get a page full of virtually identical products with different names โ€“ and when you click on one with a large number of good reviews, it often turns out that the reviews relate to a completely different product (presumably one that used to be sold via the same link).

And when you search for a branded item (like "Oxo Good Grips Can Opener"), there are often reviews complaining that they received a cheap knock-off rather than the branded item itself.

I'm not a rabid "anti-Amazon" person by any stretch: I just found it interesting that having become the world's biggest retailer by being "customer obsessed", it's now turning into an irritating bazaar rather than an "everything store". Even the most dominant companies of the past have all been supplanted, and it's possible that even Amazon could meet that fate in the end.

(Because I'm sure you couldn't rest without finding out, in the end I bought an Oxo Good Grips Can Opener from Lakeland instead โ€“ and using it to glide around the rim of a tin of tuna is the best thing that's happened to me all month.)

๐Ÿฟ This month in media

๐ŸŽถ I love making music recommendations in this newsletter despite having terrible taste and knowing full well it's not what anyone signed up for. So, here you go: Regent's Park by Bruno Major. Lo-fi, jazzy, catchy, cute.

๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช One of my guilty pleasures is listening to true crime podcasts. West Cork โ€“ about an unsolved murder in a rural community โ€“ is a few years old, but I only just discovered it thanks to my friend Nick. Quite apart from the crime itself, it's a great exploration of human psychology and the role of the media.

๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ The Rise of the Ultra Runners โ€“ a book by Adharanand Finn (and recommended by my wife) โ€“ is a brilliant portrait of people who do something that I still can't quite believe is possible. One chapter sees the author running around a 400m track non-stop for 24 hours โ€“ which is weirdly quite appealing, and I'm tempted to put put it on my goals list.

๐Ÿ‘‹Thatโ€™s it for August! Could you do me a favour? If you can think of one person who might enjoy receiving these emails, please forward this on to them. They can then use this link if they want to sign up to receive more.