I turn 27 today: here’s ~27 micro-essays on life

Luckmaxing. You were born to adapt. Earning your dopamine. The “It is done” mindset. And the power of the follow-up.

man writing on laptop with feet up on table sitting amongst trees
man writing on laptop with feet up on table sitting amongst trees
There aren’t many more activities that give me a better high than sitting and writing. Photo by Sam Bourke.

1. Don’t plan just show up

Go on, keep holding yourself back by waiting for the perfect moment to arise. Plan it all out, make sure you’ve got everything ready to go. If you don’t, don’t even think about starting.

2. You’re smarter doing than you are thinking

Writing is nature’s way of showing you how poor your thinking is. The best example of this is when you write down your fears or worries.

3. I don’t care what you do or much you earn, what sets your soul on fire?

What have you made? Not from a salary. Not from your job. But from scraping the inner lining of soul and pouring it onto the pavement, cleaning it up, refining it, removing what doesn’t need to be there and turning it into something worth admiring.

4. Learning isn’t linear

You read one book, you get the equivalent of one book smarter.

5. What doesn’t work

There is another side to knowledge and a seeming lack of progress: figuring out what doesn’t work, the most valuable kind of knowledge. However, despite the value of knowing what doesn’t work, you will not get rewarded by others for it.

6. Specifics win: show, don’t tell

When I worked in Apple retail, we had a saying.

7. The follow-up

I’m writing a novel. Three drafts in I decided to hire an editor. I’ve never hired an editor before so I asked Derek Sivers where he’d recommend I look. And he told me EFA (Editorial Freelance Association).

  • If you care enough about an opportunity, you’ll follow-up.

8. Payoff space and consistency space

There are two ways of earning. Payoff space and consistency space.

9. You were born to adapt

A fallacy which pisses me off, partly because I fall victim to it often is: avoiding change whilst forgetting you were born to adapt.

10. Earn your dopamine

Save yourself from the grips of this addictive hormone with a simple heuristic: no risk, no reward.

11. Luckmaxing: increase your chances of serendipity happening

Every worthwhile opportunity I’ve had in the past three years has come to me. Meaning, I haven’t applied for any of them. The difference between the last three years and the previous three years? I increased the amount of creations I put into the world.

12. Make the pathways

A really useful way to see your brain is as a pile of programmable mush. And the way to remember anything, in other words, make the pathways between neurons is through simplicity and repetition.

13. Own your territory

An internal argument I have is between the concept of putting out work for the sake of the work itself or putting it out there with your name on it. Think creating something and being anonymous versus taking responsibility for whatever it is you’re doing.

14. “It is done”

Amen is traditionally said at the end of prayer to signify “so be it” or “it is done”.

15. Fix your balance: Creation vs. consumption

It’s never been easier to create but it’s also never been easier to consume.

16. The longer something has been around, the longer it will continue to be around

There will be a new iPhone in a couple of months. And there will probably be another one next year. However, in 10-years time, it’s unlikely either of these devices will work how they were intended.

17. It’s amazing what you can get if you just ask

It pains me to think about the opportunities which have evaporated because someone didn’t have the courage to ask. Imagine the number of lovers bathing in loneliness because each is waiting for the other to ask them out.

18. Build more things with your hands

I am using my hands to type these lines. Seeing the letters come up on the screen gives me a good feeling. However, when I look at the coffee table in the lounge room I made when I was 15 in a woodworking class, the feelings do not compare.

19. Use less tools

If only you had the right pencil to write the book trapped in your soul.

20. Time spent doing nothing is rarely wasted

An accordion only makes sound when compressed and pulled apart. Filled with air and then emptied.

21. Copy others until you have your own style

Ideas are commodities. If you’ve thought of something worthwhile, someone else probably has too.

23. Amplify your weirdness

If you haven’t heard there’s a computer program out there now which can probably write better articles than you. It’s called GPT3. What the letters stand for don’t matter. But as you can imagine the “3” stands for version three. Which means there’s probably going to be a version four, which will probably be better than version three.

24. Why so serious?

The Joker came out last year and became the top grossing R-rated film of all time. I have an idea why.

25. Ready, fire, aim

Saw video of lioness stalking flood of warthog streaming past.

26. I missed number 22

Didn’t you notice?

27. Anti-X

Anti-goals, anti-role-models, anti-ways-of-living, anti-ethics.

28. Love yourself like your life depends on it

You tell others you love them but when was the last time you told yourself?

Bonus round

Sheesh. I didn’t realise how large a number 27 is. These didn’t make the original list but circled around long enough to be mentioned.

1000 ways to skin a cat

My physics teacher used to say, “there’s 1000 ways to skin a cat” to describe the number of different ways you could solve mathematical equations.

Have fun

If you’re not having writing it, how do you think your readers are going to feel?

Health by first principles

I’m shredded. Meaning, my abs are visible. You can see veins coming out of my limbs in various places. Google statue of David and you’ve got me.

More data cannot prove, only disprove

A turkey has 999 good days until thanksgiving comes along. Based on the good days you’d think all was well.

A list of failures

People, including me, avoid specifically defining their goals or assigning timelines to projects because it means if you don’t adhere to them, you lost.

  • Book release date: was meant to be April 2019 (wow, this one is longer than a year), still not out. I owe Dave $500 for this one.
  • Detectron2 project: I spent 6-weeks replicating Airbnb’s amenity detection pipeline with the goal of improving their results. My results weren’t better.
  • Snapchat Lens: had a four week contract with Snap to build a multi-class food detection model right within Snapchat. At the end of the four weeks, it only worked for one class.
  • Liquid cash in the bank: the goal at the start of 2020 was $250k, with 4-months left, it’s about $100k.
  • YouTube subscribers: 58k/100k for 2020. At the risk of sounding like a copout, I’ve never really cared about the number here. 1,000 was my only goal.
  • Writing every day: some days I miss.
  • Reading 1-hour per day of a book which intimidates me: the going rate is about once every three to four days.
  • Build a nutrition education app: started, on hold for another project.

People I’ve learned from

Find a person’s inspirations and you can often learn more about them than through their own work.

  • Nassim Taleb — taught me more about the mathematics of risk taking with words than any math book I’ve ever read. I bought the hardcover version of his Incerto series and am now reading through it for a second time. Thank you Nassim.
  • James Altucher — much of my writing style comes from emulating Altucher articles. He’ll write something, I’ll read it and use it to fuel my own writing. Thank you James.
  • YousXP — the “It is done” point comes directly from one of his tweets. Also recently read an article of his called “Life’s Gamble”, the takeaway? Throw more darts, take more chances. Thank you Youssef.
  • Danny Miranda — great articles combining some of his own wisdom and that of others. Makes me want to do better work. Also, great name. Thank you Danny.
  • Paul Skallas — the LindyMan. The payoff space and consistency space point came directly from his work. Sign up to his newsletter and read his Tweets for an in-depth understanding of the value of time-tested traditions. Thank you Paul.
  • Scott Galloway — plenty of lessons here not only about business and marketing but about injecting your soul into your writing. The definition of the edutainment. Thank you DAWG.
  • Scott Adams — if you want to know why Trump is such an effective persuader, read Scott’s book Win Bigly, then go through all of his other books.
  • Joe Rogan — there’s only one person on the planet I know who can go from talking about how you could f*ck a turkey up if you kicked it in the head to some the most important issues of our time with some of the most important people of our time. Thank you Joe.
  • Elon Musk — no words necessary. Looking forward to peering down onto Mars from Heaven and seeing a statue of Elon. Thank you Elon.
  • Programming booksHands-on Machine Learning and Effective Python: 90 Specific Ways to Write Better Python have both stepped up my coding game this year.
  • Alex Becker — sometimes it can be hard to relate to someone if they’re a couple of decades older than you. Alex is about 5-years older than me and doing many of the things I endeavour to do. Feels like having an older brother on the internet. Thank you Alex.
  • Seth Godin — everything I know about marketing and storytelling comes from Seth. I only put the knowledge he’s already shared into practice. Thank you Seth.
  • Steven Pressfield — I’ll tell you if you want to be an artist, you’ll read Steven Pressfield’s books. But he wouldn’t. He’d tell you to do the work instead. Thank you Steve.
  • Hunter S. Thompson — I found my first Hunter S. Thompson book in a community library on a road trip through Melbourne. I then went on to read his entire catalogue. If my writing has improved this year, it’s because I’ve stolen from Dr. Gonzo. Thank you Hunter.
  • Lex Fridman — a blackbelt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, an artificial intelligence researcher, a content creator but most of all a deep thinker. All of the things I’ve taken a liking to only much more skilful. Thank you Lex.
  • Caleb Kaiser — building a machine learning product and writing about it along the way. Inspiring work. Thank you Caleb.
  • Justin — an older brother I never had. Let’s get more hill sprints and morning garage sessions in this Summer hey? Thank you Justin.
  • Patrick Bourke — thank you for teaching me not to take life so seriously. A role model for no matter what happens, still figuring out a way to laugh. Thank you Dad. I love you.
  • Anne Bourke — I’ll be lucky to be as half as caring as you are. If reincarnation is real, I must’ve done something pretty good in a past life to deserve a mother like you. Thank you Mum. I love you.
  • My brothers — Will, Josh, Sam, thank you for constantly pointing out where I’ve contradicted myself and challenging me to be a better role model. I love you all.

I play at the crossroads of technology, health and art. Broadcasting from: www.mrdbourke.com

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