Hello old friend,
We're offering perhaps the most unique and cool Valentine's Day gift ever at Ultraworking —
The Pentathlon's been terrific for married and dating couples to compete in together in the past, and for Valentine's Day, you can get a spot for you and your loved one for less than the price of a normal full-price entry. Great way to thrive together, support each other, and potentially learn some life-long lessons about how to communicate and support each other forever.
In other news, The Strategic Review is going marvelously over at Medium — the most popular issue in the last series, by far, was Background Ops #5: The Nature of Operations. We started a new series two weeks ago, Unity, on how to establish really thriving teams and cooperation — it's getting some nice reviews and feedback so far.
You probably saw this already, but if you didn't, the audience really enjoyed my appearance on The Ecommerce Influence podcast with Austin Brawner and Andrew Foxwell —
It's not New Year's any more, but the lessons are still very relevant. All of Ecommerce Influence is pretty awesome by the way, very sharp podcast with great guests. Check out my episode and check out other episodes if you're into tech and entrepreneurship — I'm not in "pure ecommerce" and I still get a ton out of listening.
A huge salute and shout-out Matthew Graves, Oliver Habryka, Ben Pace, and the rest of the team creating the new version of Less Wrong — they're doing some marvelous things and the new site looks and works great. I wrote a few posts over there, "Success and Fail Rates of Monthly Policies" and "Just Suffer Until It Passes" were both well-received.
Hope life's well with you and Happy Valentine's Day if you celebrate it. Here's that Valentine's Day link again if you're looking for a really cool and unique gift —
The New Year's Pentathlon runs from January 6th to January 21st. It's the 6th Pentathlon we've held, and each one gets rave reviews. (Check the page for many testimonials.) It's a great way to start 2018 off with a bang and have two weeks of peak performance to start the year, as well as take lessons and skills forward with you all year.
For Cyber Monday only, when you get your spot on the Pentathlon, you get a +1 to give to whoever you'd like: a friend, family member, coworker, or colleague. The Pentathlon works great when you do it alongside someone you know and care about — we've had cofounders come together, husband/wife teams come together, we've had brothers do it together and connect more through it... it's pretty great.
Also potentially a great holiday gift. Normal price is $300, so it's a snazzy thing to be given. (You can inquire in advance if the person is available from Jan 6-21.)
if you're curious, check out —
I recently recorded a podcast episode of Nat Chat with Nat Eliason. It was super cool and I really enjoyed it — Nat's a brilliant guy and someone I've greatly enjoyed getting to know recently, and the podcast was quite fun and informative. The episode will be out in the next week or two.
One thing we talked about was time tracking and its value. Time tracking is super valuable and important. By explicitly tracking your time, even for a short little while, you get a much better and more objective grip on how your life is going — and then you can start making improvements.
I wrote about this somewhat years ago, but I hadn't publicly gone through what I do in a while. So in this post, I want to walk you briefly through the theory, what I do (which is a little complex), and what I recommend you do to get started (which is very simple and easy).
I. The theory: You need to know where your time goes.
One of my favorite books is Peter Drucker's The Effective Executive. I re-read it around once per year. The first chapter is titled "Effectiveness Can Be Learned." The second? "Know Thy Time."
One of the nicest benefits about doing science-y and ops-y things in public is that you prompt a lot of conversations with smart people, which makes you smarter in turn.
My friend Mike Johnson -- scientist and philosopher par excellence -- wrote to me recently with some interesting thoughts, and with his permission, I'm sharing them with you.
Mike initially wrote to Kai and I,
"Philosophical digression: I was really struck by Sebastian's question, 'How do you get people to install whatever makes them care about improving their life? How do you get people to start?' -- this seems like the million-dollar question. I also wonder if we could find a good way of understanding the neuroscience of what's going on in the brains of people who are engaged in a self-improvement spiral, vs those who aren't."
Two announcements --
1. The Strategic Review is now on Medium.
After many years of consciously choosing not to syndicate TSR, I just made the switch.
The potential downside, as I saw it, is that maybe I'd be more hesitant to cover potentially controversial topics like the Danger Flags series was -- but, what pushed me over the edge is that the newest series, Background Ops, is both incredibly useful and totally mainstream-friendly. That's a winning combination!
So Background Ops #1: Strict Limit is on Medium -- check it out:
I'm always into exploring why good things sometimes happen and sometimes don't. Chief among those is when there's a known best practice that some people follow, and others neglect. Why is this the case?
A couple weeks ago, Taylor Pearson and I wrote about the same topic coincidentally -- I put out Celerity #2: Power Laws and he put out How to Prioritize around the same time.
Taylor's one of the smartest people I know, and so I shot him an email to ask about this. I think his reply is very insightful and he gave me the go-ahead to share it.
"Good stuff. Coincidentally this week's TSR is Celerity #2: Power Laws. Covered similar ground.
I’ve got a number of free and exciting things for you. At Ultraworking, we’re very happy with where we’re at in terms of product and methodology, and we’ve been rave reviews from our customers. We’re now going to be expanding rapidly by doing cool things for people who might be future customers of ours — i.e., you. Even if you never buy anything from us, we’re more than happy to bring people into our orbit, help them work better, and hopefully spread the word about what’s possible.
So, without further ado…
Training, Tools, and the Pursuit of Enlightenment — the Ultraworking Pursuit is launched. Every month, there will be new technology you can integrate easily into your life, and very high-value free trainings for you. Zero fluff, all “do this and your life improves right away” type stuff.
You can join at this link, and you’ll get cool stuff every month.
September’s training is Work Cycles — many of you are already familiar with Work Cycles. It’s a method for buzz-sawing through hard work quickly.
I started a new series on TSR recently, Celerity -- about how to build the character traits of speed into your life. In response to Celerity #1: Frenzied Genius, I got a very nice email from a friend of mine who is both a CEO and an amazing writer himself, asking --
"Really enjoyed reading this. The pace of my life recently has made me lose any inspiration to write - not necessarily a bad thing, and the 10 days you describe are something I hope to have one day. How do you manage to write so much and keep it to such a high quality? Does the stimulus come naturally?"
I wound up writing what turned out to be a long reply, maybe there's some useful points in there for you --
Thank you, and that's a very high compliment from you -- you're one of the most lucid thinkers I know. No flattery there -- you're one of the few people I read and then am reliably genuinely surprised and informed.
How I do it, the obvious stuff:
So, this is pretty cool.
At Ultraworking, we developed a "Work Cycles Generator" to automatically create fresh templates of our work cycles spreadsheets -- a little useful if you're doing Cycles solo, incredibly useful if you're doing Cycles with friends.
Well, Gordon Yoon was a participant on Ultraworking Pentathlon IV, and he started using Work Cycles for coding work at Google. He said, "I'm getting tons of mileage out of the Work Cycles on the daily! Using work cycles at work, for coding… it's been awesome. It's such a powerful tool."
Gordon then coded up automatic graphing into a new cycles template that displays how your energy and morale changes throughout a work session.
Gordon was very kind to share his template, and it's really cool and useful. If you click this link, you can get a copy of Gordon's energy/morale-graphing version of the spreadsheet. Instead of entering high/medium/low as before, you enter how you're feeling on both of those from 1-100, and on the second tab, you'll get a graph of how your energy and morale change over a work session.
I ate precisely 2150 calories yesterday: 65 grams of fat, 199 grams of protein, 192 grams of carbohydrates. Breakfast was two servings of oatmeal with protein powder, lunch was chicken and cheese, dinner was salmon and Ukrainian pancakes.
All of this went in a spreadsheet, along with the times of each meal. At the end of the week, I'll sum and average the numbers of everything I ate this week, and I'll look to ensure calories were 2640 or a little lower. The macronutrients I don't worry as much about, as long as protein is high -- I actually target 222 grams of protein per day -- and fat isn't too low.
Now, I'll be the first to confess: this is actually really, really, really boring.
Upon reading the title, On the Conflict Between Excellence and Will, I imagine some readers might think there was some sort of typo or mistake. After all, a conflict between excellent and will? Isn’t will required for excellence? Doesn’t will create excellence?