Turn Someday Into Today

Everyone, without fail, thinks that their future self will be better than their current self.

More disciplined. More virtuous. More rational, and less prone to bursts of emotion.

Today you can’t muster the energy to go to the gym, but tomorrow you’ll leap out of bed at the crack of dawn to get a workout in.

Today you procrastinate on that important work, but tomorrow you’ll be able to shut out all distractions and get it done.

Today you’re spending money you don’t have and racking up credit card bills, but you’ll tighten your belt tomorrow.

It’s almost never true. The best predictor of your behaviour tomorrow is your behaviour today.

Recognise that, accept it, and deal with it. It’s your life — live it today, not tomorrow.


A lesson on the power of incentives

As an Econ grad I love stories like this.

The story of the Honduran railroad epitomises life on the isthmus. In 1870, the government hired an engineer named John C. Trautwine to lay track from Puerto Cortes on the Atlantic to the Bay of Fonseca on the Pacific, but made the mistake of paying him by the mile. When the project went bust in 1880, Honduras was left with sixty miles of track that wandered aimlessly here and there through the lowlands.

That’s from The Fish That Ate The Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King by Rich Cohen. Fantastic book.

Never forget the power of incentives. There’s a reason that Warren Buffett himself puts together the incentive schemes for Berkshire Hathaway managers – it’s hugely important and he doesn’t trust anyone else to do it.

Self-awareness is useless on its own

People pride themselves on self-awareness, but it’s bullshit. You can do all the personality quizzes, introspection and discussions with coaches and mentors – you can do as much of that as you want.

But it’s ultimately worthless if you don’t ACT on that knowledge. You know you talk over people too much? Get people to call you on it. You have a tendency to flit from project to project when things get difficult? Strap yourself to your chair and force yourself to finish something for once.

If you’re not using that self-awareness to improve yourself, your life, your relationships, and your decisions, then it’s all just masturbation.

Locus of control

In a class the other day, the lecturer was talking about common traits among successful entrepreneurs – risk-takers, creative types, driven to succeed.

One of them was locus of control. From wikipedia:

One’s “locus” can either be internal (meaning the person believes that they control their life) or external (meaning they believe that their environment, some higher power, or other people control their decisions and their life).

Not surprisingly, the theory is that successful entrepreneurs have a high internal locus of control.

This is something that’s talked about a lot in self-development literature, particularly with pickup artists. The other week I listened to an interview between a pickup artist and Ramit Sethi, discussing the crossovers between pickup and personal finance. They mentioned one key similarity – the mental barriers that stop people achieving their goals.

  • I could get that girl, if only I was better looking/in better shape/funnier/more charismatic
  • I would be saving more and investing, if only I earned more money/didn’t have all this debt/knew where to start


  • I can’t get a job/start a company now because the market is tough/I don’t have enough experience/it’s a really competitive area

How many times have you heard people say things like this? All these thought processes have one thing in common – an external locus of control. “I could do X if Y happened (but I can’t control Y).” But let’s break these thought processes.

Society generally holds men to much lower standards of looks than women – any guy with a decent haircut, workout regime and some new clothes looks pretty good (and in any case, looks are much less important to women than to men). Anyone can go running 3 times a week and buy a cheap set of weights to use at home. Toastmasters helps tons of people become more confident, as do improv classes, not to mention that you could always just, you know, talk to more women when you get the chance. There are people who save money on tiny salaries, by forgoing the things we often see as essential, like an iPhone and eating out all the time. There’s a ton of books and blogs out there to help you get started managing your money. Groupon, the fastest growing company ever, was founded 18 months ago, in the midst of the biggest recession for 30 years. And tons of people still get hired in a down market, they just have to be better at what they do.

In a sense, it’s liberating when you start framing things with an internal locus of control – you actually can do pretty much anything, if you really want to.

It’s also terrifying. All those excuses you’ve ever told yourself, the assumptions you’ve made, you start to see them for what they truly are – irrelevant. And then the only thing left is you.