An Insight a Day

Constantly Busy or Constantly Bored?

Between being constantly busy or constantly bored, which would you rather be?

People like to complain about being constantly busy and not having enough time in the day. Suppose we offer them the complete opposite, a life of being constantly bored with nothing to do. Do you think they would take it? Would you take it?

Note: Being constantly bored doesn't mean mindlessly scrolling social media or browsing the web all day, it means being stuck at home with absolutely nothing to do. Just you and your thoughts.

The funny thing is that most people actually like being busy, so much so that it's a status symbol. Being busy feels important, it gives us a sense of purpose and meaning, and it makes us feel like we're making progress toward something. Anything. It's like a free pass to not think about anything, an excuse to justify all the things we're not doing or achieving.

In contrast, what does a life of boredom look like? Unless you're filthy rich or can afford to do nothing all day, most people would see you in a rather negative light. They would look down on you and think you're wasting your life away. Society doesn't like it when people do nothing, it hurts productivity and drives down GDP, stuff like that.

I know what you're thinking, this is a false dichotomy. We should strive for a balance between the two, and you're right, which is why if you were ever offered the opportunity to experience a life of constant boredom, you should take it. Take it to balance out the years you've lost to the constant busy work, take it so you've at least experienced what it's like on the other side.

Perhaps the biggest reason why everyone needs to experience being constantly bored is this: It affords us the time to sit still and think. Having nothing to do is like a superpower, time slows to a crawl as you're faced with all sorts of existential thoughts. What will you do today now that you're free to decide for yourself? Will you trade away this freedom just to have the comfort of being told what to do again?

AI in the Office

Recently, there's been a series of AI-related announcements that blew (and maybe also broke) a lot of people's minds.

Google announced their new AI integration for Google Workspace and so did Microsoft with their Microsoft 365 Copilot. Go watch the two videos, they're both less than 2 minutes long. But if you don't feel like watching, here's a brief summary of what they are capable of:

Office productivity will never be the same once these AI products reach mass adoption. Think about it, you will never have to write a document or build a presentation from scratch again, and no more fiddling with spreadsheets trying to manipulate the data!

On the flip side, this means pretty much anything you read will be AI-generated one way or another. I'm not sure if that's a net positive or a net negative, but one thing is for sure, we will have to rethink what it means to work in the office again.

And this is just the beginning. As we get more and more AI breakthroughs, we will have to rethink what it means to work for a living when AI can do everything for us. Eventually, we might even have to rethink what it means to be human.

How to Keep Promises to Yourself

What do you do if you're the type of person who can't keep promises to yourself?

If you promise someone you'll do something, you usually have no problem keeping it. But the moment you promise yourself something, you just can't seem to keep it. After years of living like this, you might have even stopped trusting yourself.

The easiest solution would be to create social pressure and find someone to hold you accountable to your own promises. Since you have no problem keeping your promise to others, this should be an easy hack. Alternatively, create do-or-die situations where you are forced to keep your promise.

A better solution is to train yourself from the ground up and rebuild the trust you've lost in yourself. Start with the little things, promise yourself you'll shower before bed, and actually do it. It's not much, but it conditions your mind to start trusting your words again. It's a slow process, but eventually, you'll regain trust in yourself and get better at keeping your word.

Doers and Deciders

Some people are deciders, they like to argue about how things should be done and why. They don't want to actually do the thing, they just want to sound smart and make cool decisions.

Some people are doers, they like to do stuff and get things done. They don't really care about the what and the why, they just want to fix the problem and make it go away.

Which one are you? I find that I'm more of a decider than a doer, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

Have the Conversation

Another great insight from How to Not Die Alone:

When people ask me what makes a relationship work long term, I often refer to this quote about Charles Darwin’s findings on natural selection: “It is not the strongest of the species which survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Even if you have a strong relationship today, your relationship may fail if you don’t adapt. Your life or your partner’s life might take an unpredictable course. Creating a relationship that can evolve is the key to making it last.


Psychologists Jesse Owen, Galena Rhoades, and Scott Stanley observed that couples who take the time to talk through big decisions are happier than those who don’t. I’ve led workshops around the country to help hundreds of couples do just that by creating a Relationship Contract.

When you fill out this Relationship Contract, you should be honest, vulnerable, and willing to compromise. This is absolutely not a time to dwell on your partner’s shortcomings; nor is it the moment to make demands. The focus should not be transactional—“I’ll do the laundry if you’ll do the dishes”—but, rather, value-based—“We commit to supporting each other’s dreams and making the sacrifices necessary to enable those dreams."


Some couples reevaluate their contract annually. Others do it after five or seven years. This conversation forces a decision point when the couple can ask: What does our relationship need now? Then they’re able to amend the contract to reflect how they’ve changed as individuals. It also allows for consistent relationship tune-ups, well before there’s a breakdown. As John F. Kennedy said, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”


I love this quotation from psychotherapist Esther Perel: “The quality of your relationships determines the quality of your life. Relationships are your story, write well, and edit often.”

How often does she mean? I’m a fan of the weekly Check-In Ritual, a short conversation in which you and your partner discuss what’s on your mind. The Relationship Contract helps you set the direction for your partnership—and the Check-In Ritual ensures that you keep it on track. Many couples are afraid to speak honestly about what they want, whether it’s about having kids, opening their relationship, or even ending it. All relationships have issues, and almost all of us feel awkward about bringing them up. The Relationship Contract and the Check-In Ritual are tools expressly designed to make it less awkward.


We ask each other these three questions: How was your last week? Did you feel supported by me? How can I support you in the coming week? Sometimes this Check-In flies by in under five minutes. But when we’re having an off week, the Check-In turns into a long, intimate conversation. Sure, these discussions can be difficult, but they’re frequently important and illuminating. We try to deal with problems as they arise. It’s how we stay connected and discover new things about ourselves and our relationship. Creating this ritual lets us address what’s going on before too much time passes and too much resentment has built up.


Some of these couples shouldn’t work at all on paper, yet because they are intentional, their lives are filled with pleasure and joy. Some of these couples have lived through tragedies like rare cancers and multiple miscarriages. But they work through it by putting tremendous energy into their relationship every day. They are determined to beat the odds, to be part of that too-small percentage of couples who are happy and thriving.

I have to admit, I'm not exactly the type who feels comfortable having these conversations, which might explain why I'm in the situation I'm in right now. But anyway, I imagine this is something most people struggle with as well. Regardless, it's definitely something I need to work hard on from now on.

Don't just let it slide, have the conversation. Do it often. Do it before it's too late. Do it because the long-term happiness is worth the short-term pain.

The Monet Effect

I'm currently reading How to Not Die Alone by Logan Ury, which is about dating and finding love, with a bunch of behavioral science sprinkled all over. The passage below on the Monet Effect really struck me:

In Clueless, one of my all-time favorite movies, Tai, the new girl, asks Cher, the most popular girl in school, what she thinks about their classmate Amber. Cher says, “She’s a full-on Monet. It’s like a painting, see. From far away, it’s okay, but up close it’s a big ol’ mess.”

I call this error in judgment the Monet Effect. When we have only a rough perception of someone, our brain, hoping for a great outcome, fills in all the gaps optimistically. People seem way more desirable than they actually are. It’s only later, when they transform into real people standing in front of us, that we see the flaws.

We can see this play out in the corporate world. When companies search for a new CEO, they can choose between promoting an internal candidate or hiring an external one. Research into these decisions found that companies who decide to hire externally have sky-high expectations of the candidates. When you evaluate external candidates, you know only the broad details about them. They tell you about their wins. Internal candidates, you know more intimately; you are familiar with their successes and their failures. The Monet Effect helps explain why, when compared to internal candidates, external CEOs are often paid more but perform worse.

A gentle reminder to stop looking at things through rose-colored glasses. No one is perfect. We all have our flaws, we're only human, after all, and I especially like the CEO example as I've seen it happen many times.

Why Do Houses Go up in Value?

I've recently stumbled upon this video on Why Japan is Giving Away 8 Million Free Houses and it was pretty interesting.

That’s right, in just ten years’ time, nearly every third Japanese home will be vacant, according to the country’s largest economic research institute. And while its population is among the fastest shrinking in the world, demography alone cannot explain these strange real estate dynamics.


Broadly speaking, there are two ways to make housing more affordable: increase supply or decrease demand. Japan, uniquely, does both. For one, demography certainly doesn’t hurt. Its population has been declining since 2010 and is expected to return to 1970 levels within the next twenty-five years. Fewer people means fewer households means fewer homes. That’s on the demand side. But supply is no less important. To put it simply: Japan builds. like. crazy.


How can it be that Japan, with only 40% as many people,
builds almost as many new homes each year as the United States?
We all know California is starved for housing, but this is just crazy. The math doesn’t add up. The solution to this puzzle, it turns out, lies in the number of existing homes sold. Now we can see that although the total number of homes sold in each country — both new and used — is roughly proportional to its population, there’s a huge difference in composition.

The vast majority of American home sales are second-hand, whereas the vast majority of Japanese home sales are brand new. In fact, if we stretch the data out, we can see that it’s almost the inverse of America. And that’s Japan’s secret. The reason its housing market is so fundamentally different. It’s not just about national control of zoning, it’s also an entirely different perspective on what housing is.

In most advanced economies, a house is an investment that doubles as a place to live — a 401k you can sleep in. In Japan, a house is a consumer good — not unlike a car or a refrigerator — that rapidly depreciates in value. In a mere thirty years, the typical Japanese home goes from brand-new to about valuable as a CD player in 2023. That’s no exaggeration. According to the Ministry of Land, even a reinforced-concrete apartment has a lifespan of just 37 years. Try to sell your house on the 38th year and banks will tell you it’s worth zero dollars, or less since the building has to be demolished before a new one can be built.

Housing as an investment is something that I've never fully understood. To me, houses should go down in value because their physical structures tend to degrade over time. But most people believe that they will go up in value, likely due to the economics of supply and demand. After all, shelter is a basic human need, and land is scarce.

Turns out, I'm not alone in thinking that housing is more like a consumer good than an investment. In fact, I think it would be better if we stop treating housing as an investment. Then again, I really don't know much about the dynamics in the housing economy so take that with a bucket of salt.

Why Spend $3 Million on a Baseball?

In a recent podcast interview, why did Todd McFarlane spend $3 million on a baseball?

I was trying to make sports toys and I couldn’t make sports toys. Why? I couldn’t even get a meeting because I’m a nobody. The NHL, major league baseball, the NBA, NHL, why would anybody let me in the front door? They wouldn’t. And so you have to figure out back doors and alternatives.


Anyways, the 70 McGwire ball, the last ball he hit that was a record, goes up for an auction in Madison Square Garden. I’m the anonymous bidder. Anyways, nobody’s ever spent more than $300,000, $400,000 on any baseball paraphernalia. At the end of the auction, I end up winning the 70 ball and it costs me three million dollars. 10 times what the previous record was, three million dollars.


I knew that spending and getting that ball would get me headlines. So instantly it was a national story and I was on lots of talk radio shows and TV shows and everything. I mean I canvased the planet. And do you know how much money it would cost to get that attention by buying ads in any of those areas? It would cost you way more than three million, but let’s put that to the side.


Those headlines then got seen by all the sports leagues and the unions. And when I phoned the next time and said, “Hey, I’m Todd McFarlane and maybe you’ve heard of me, I bought the McGwire ball, but I’d just like to talk to you. I’m also in the toy business.” They let me in the door and I got to have a conversation with them. In short order I ended up having the license for baseball, football, basketball, and hockey.


I made more than three million dollars in profits on those toys multiple times over those 13 years. So at some point you have to put up an ante on the table to play the big game with the big boys in poker.


Then what ended up happening, people see those headlines and they go, “Oh, if he’s got three million dollars to wipe his ass on a baseball, he must be successful, he must have a lot of money. Bring the successful guy into the room.” And I got the four licenses and it was there.

Link to the full transcript.

The next time you see a headline about someone buying something for an absurd amount of money, stop and think for a moment. It could just be yet another marketing or publicity stunt.

As an example, remember that (in)famous NFT that sold for $69 million? Would you be surprised if the buyer turned out to be a crypto investor and the founder of an NFT investment company?

Everydays was purchased by Singapore-based programmer Vignesh Sundaresan, a cryptocurrency investor and the founder of the Metapurse NFT project, also known online by his pseudonym MetaKovan. Sundaresan paid for the artwork using 42,329 Ether. Both the buyer Sundaresan and the seller Winkelmann had a vested interest in driving up the price of the work, in order to bring attention to and drive sales for a speculative asset related to twenty other Beeple works, which they called "B20 tokens." The price of these tokens, in which Sundaresan held a majority stake, reached its peak during media coverage of the Everydays auction, and subsequently collapsed. Because of this, some observers have described the auction as a publicity stunt and a scam.

Endless Problems

Life is a series of endless problems to be solved one at a time.

Imagine a life where all your problems are magically solved and all your wants and needs magically met.

Craving for some delicious food? Here, bon appétit. Feeling a bit sick? Drink this magic water and feel instantly better. Accidentally broke your mom's favorite vase? Wave this little wand and it'll magically restore itself.

Sounds amazing, right? All your problems are solved and you can do whatever you want! You can finally start writing that novel, go live in Korea to experience the culture and learn the language, or hone your World of Warcraft skills to climb the world rankings!

Except, your novel is already finished. It's right here, and apparently, it's a New York Times Best Seller. Also, you've already experienced the culture in Korea many times and speak fluent Korean. And yes, you're also already the top World of Warcraft player in the world.

All those problems are already solved, so what will you do next? Put another way, what would you do when there are no problems left to solve?

The Trade-offs You're Not Aware Of

An interesting tidbit on trade-offs from Astral Codex Ten's recent article on cryptocurrency.

Yes, The Crypto Financial System Is Just Reinventing The Regular Financial System Except Worse In Every Way, And That’s Fine

The space program has existed for more than fifty years, and mostly succeeded at reinventing things we already have on Earth, only worse. Remember the story of that special astronaut pen that cost $1 million? We already have pens on earth, for like $0.10, and they work better! The lunar rover is just a car, only worse. That robocopter that flew around Mars is just a drone, only worse. We spent $100 billion building the International Space Station, which is basically just a big house in space. But we already have houses on Earth which are cheaper and more comfortable in every way!

The only excuse for any of this is: yes, but it’s in space.

In the same way, everything about the crypto economy is worse than the regular economy. The only excuse is that it’s decentralized. This means you can use it for all of those cool things - sending remittances, circumventing corrupt banking systems, resisting authoritarian governments - that are hard to do with regular money. Of course subjecting yourself to a difficult constraint is going to be harder than not doing that! You don’t hate the International Space Station for being worse than houses on Earth. You marvel at the fact that anyone can live in space at all!

If nothing’s wrong with your country’s financial or political system, then you don’t need crypto. If you use crypto anyway, it will be worse than your regular financial system, because it’s trading off many things you need (efficiency, speed, safety, the good kinds of regulation) for something you don’t need (avoiding the bad kinds of regulation).

Just because crypto is worse than fiat in so many ways, doesn't mean you should dismiss crypto or treat it as useless. It's also similar to Chesterton's fence where things are what they are for a reason.

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, 'I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away.' To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: 'If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.'

Just because something is there and you don't understand why, doesn't mean you should dismiss it as useless. A gentle reminder to keep an open mind to the many wonders of our world.