Two and Together

I always wonder what makes it likely for two people to connect. The “secret sauce” that causes two (or more!) people to really vibe together.

I’m not talking romantically, either. I just mean “connect” in some way that causes a more-than-casual relationship. I’ll see two people that I know, but that don’t know each other. I’ll think, “wow, these people have such a similar vibe; they both like A, B, and C and incorporate those things into their lived values – I should introduce them!” And I often will, but… nothing. They’re happy to have met, thankful of the introduction, but nothing really happens.

In my head, I was imagining grand partnerships, new business ventures, joint projects, maybe even deep friendships.

“Having things in common” simply isn’t enough for all of that (or any of that) to reliably manifest. Of course, it’s also quite possible that I’m simply wrong in my limited perception of two people “having things in common,” but even if I’m dead-on it wouldn’t be enough. So what is?

What is it that makes people “click?” What makes two people think that their lives would be sufficiently enriched by the other to the point where they put in the required effort to create a sustained reaction?

I don’t have the answers to this, but I love the question. It’s something I want to pay attention to more closely.

Hunger

Imagine that you haven’t eaten in a few days. You’re really hungry. Your blood sugar is low, you might pass out at any moment, and you’re definitely not at your most clear-headed. Suddenly you are presented with two options for food.

Option 1: A bowl of probably-rancid meat. It’s certainly out of date, it isn’t cooked well. It’s something not especially healthy even at its best, and it’s certainly not at its best. It may make you sick; at the very least, it won’t improve your overall health. But it’s food, and it’s available right now.

Option 2: A delicious and healthy meal, balanced and nutritious, cooked to perfection. It has all your favorite foods, but the meal itself is centered around maximum nutrition as well. This meal will take you about 6 hours to prepare; maybe only a coupon for the ingredients is provided and you’ll have to shop for the ingredients and prepare the meal, etc.

Many people pick option 1. In fact, it’s often correct to pick option 1; if you’re about to literally starve, don’t be picky. Picking option 1 isn’t the mistake people make. The mistake people make is that they’ll often pick option 1 and then instead of eating exactly enough to stave off starvation and then move on, they’ll eat it all. They’ll keep ordering it. That will just be the thing they eat, maybe for years.

The point is that sometimes you’re in truly dire straits and you have to make a call. That’s fine; make it. But don’t then make that bare minimum, that survival choice, your default. If you’re completely broke and you have to take the first job offered to you in order to make rent, okay. Zero judgment. But recognize that you made that choice under duress and as long as that choice is active, you should be altering your lifestyle until that choice is no longer necessary.

That means take four bites of the rancid meat, choke it down, and then stop. Move immediately onto the better healthy meal now that you’re not literally going to starve in the next six hours. Or, while you’re working whatever terrible job you have in order to make rent, make sure you’re spending every extra hour you can banking money and learning skills until that’s not the case.

Survival choices are fine. Allowing them to become permanent will kill you.

Borrow A Ladder

Let’s say you’ve got a sinkhole in your yard. That’s a pretty big problem, but it’s possible for you to solve. After all, you’re smart and capable. You have access to a modern world full of resources. You’ve got everything you need to fix this problem.

But now imagine the same problem, except you’re in the hole. This problem suddenly got much more challenging. While you’re down there in the hole, you’re still smart and capable – but your access to resources just got significantly more limited. You don’t exactly have a lot of options.

If, in order to get out of the hole, you need to borrow a ladder – do it. Even if you definitely wouldn’t need a ladder to solve this problem normally. Even if you already have a ladder, you can’t access it (because you’re in a hole). Don’t get salty about the circumstance. Just borrow the ladder.

Problems are easier to solve from the outside. In fact, the difference in difficulty (and therefore total resources needed) is much greater than the cost of renting a ladder or getting a small favor to get out of the hole.

Some people refuse to do it. Those people tend to stay stuck in a hole.

Self-sufficiency, as a default, is a good thing. You should be able and willing to solve your own probems. But part of being competent in general is knowing when you’re burning way more resources than you need to by using self-sufficiency as an absolute, rather than a default. Just borrow the ladder.

Hunker

When a storm is coming, you batten down those hatches. You prepare to weather the storm. But there are all different manner of storms. Paying attention to the signs that one is coming and preparing accordingly can save you.

Two major signs of storms that people tend to ignore: a major storm has just happened, or you’re planning for something very good at some point in the near-ish future.

If a storm has just happened, your resources are depleted. You used up provisions during the storm and you tapped resources to repair after. That means you’re vulnerable now until the stores are replenished. Tighten the belt, work more, and be cautious with risks.

Likewise, a major good thing (or project) that you plan to do will tap those same resources in the future. That means if those resources vanish due to a storm now, the storm does even more damage than it otherwise would. So be careful.

Pay attention to the trends in your life. There will be ups and downs, but they’re manageable. Know when to harvest, and when to hunker.

The Hardest Fight

The hardest fight is not against the strongest opponent. It’s against the opponent so small and so weak that its only defense is to convince you that it isn’t worth fighting.

That very first dark thought. That insidious little seed. You have to fight like hell against that.

Once it’s big, it’s not a fight anymore. You won’t have it in you, because all its strength came from you.

Carve Up

When you finish with a project, destroy it.

Okay, don’t annihilate it. Don’t remove it from existence and erase it from history. I just mean that you should take a copy and break it down. Carve it up. Look at the parts.

Not only are those parts potentially helpful as starting points or components in future projects, but if rearranged the right way, they might be an entirely new project – already done!

Any finished work isn’t just the components, but the arrangement thereof. So if your components are good, there’s a good chance that other arrangements will produce something of value, too.

So don’t always go on to a new blank page. Carve up what you’ve already finished a little, first.

Small Precious Things

There will be things you care about. Keep them few, and small, and light. Don’t let them be taken.

Some things are too big for you to protect, no matter how much you care about them. You can’t keep a whole ocean or a whole year to yourself. So you must be comfortable with that. And you only have so many hands.

Choose your precious little jewels well, but then they’re yours. When you have that day, keep it as you want it. That day may have to carry you for a long time.

Targeted Forgetfulness

Here is a superpower: the ability to instantly forget discomfort once it’s over. The very instant it’s not affecting you, it’s gone from your mind.

Why is this such a wondrous ability? Because people spend incredible time, money, and effort just to avoid the most temporary of discomforts. They spend hundreds of dollars on a hotel room they’ll stay in for nine hours, when a terrible room was fifty bucks. They’ll buy a neck pillow at a gas station for an hour-long car ride. Stuff like that.

Look, just be uncomfortable. It’s amazing. You become so efficient, you’re able to navigate life so effectively, if you can just be okay with some temporary discomfort. The long-lasting things? Your home, your office? Make them comfortable. Make them pleasant. But don’t spend that same effort on something so fleeting.

Learn to forget it. To let it slip away. And learn to remember that you will forget it, so it slides away that much more easily.

Looking for Trouble

I want to oppose some standard wisdom, oft repeated: “Don’t go looking for trouble.”

I object! You should absolutely go looking for trouble. How else will you solve it? How else will you improve the world?

Trouble thrives when it can strike first. It seeks the vulnerable, those not prepared for it. Keep the element of surprise. Sneak up on trouble.

No one saves the day from their couch. Get up and go looking for trouble.

Drift

I try not to be aimless. I try my best to move with purpose, act with intent. I think that there are many forces in the world that attempt to rob you of your power and agency and that it’s a bad idea to give it away for free.

But a tight grip is a painful one. Sometimes, just so you don’t break, you have to bend a little.

Not forever, but there is a time to let the wind take you for a while.