The “life-” part comes from the assumption that in our modern world, all this bullshit is a given — that you have to put up with it in large quantities. The “-hacking” part is there to assert that since you’re going to spend a lot of your life putting up with this un-opt-outable bullshit anyway, you may as well fiddle around with said bullshit.
I think lifehacking is so seductive because it’s simply easier than asking some bigger, harder, more important questions about where your time and attention go.
It’s incredibly easy to manufacture feel-good “productivity”, but at the end of the day, what have you really accomplished?
This is a recovery program I need to join.
Don’t ignore your dreams; don’t work too much; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy.
Never before has it been so important to say “No.” No, I’m not going to read that article. No, I’m not going to read that email. No, I’m not going to take that phone call. No, I’m not going to sit through that meeting.
It’s hard to do because maybe, just maybe, that next piece of information will be the key to our success.
Pause, prioritize, and focus. Make two lists—what to focus on and what to ignore.
Amaze friends and family at your next party with these five little-known facts about Argentina. Many of these we discovered over dinner with locals:
Luxury car dealers have to match imports with exports, dollar for dollar. So, Porsche dealers, for example, are also wine and olive exporters. 1
While we were here, Argentina banned importing books on the grounds that “if you put your finger in your mouth after paging through a book, it can be dangerous”. Why? Because there might be lead in the ink. As you have probably already guessed, this is actually a trade manoeuvre, not a safety one. 2
Under the “commercial loyalty law”, it is illegal to contradict government inflation figures. The government pegs the figure at 9.9% per year. Economists believe the figure is closer to 25%. 3
It’s difficult for Argentines to hedge themselves against inflation through the purchase of US dollars. To exchange pesos, Argentines need to explain where they got the money and prove that they have paid their taxes. This process takes up to an hour and is often denied. 4
Also while we were here, Argentina enacted Communication “A” 5294. To reduce capital outflow, this new law prohibits Argentines from withdrawing pesos through foreign ATMs. That would be like the Canadian government saying that we couldn’t use debit cards outside of Canada. Argentines can withdraw from foreign currency accounts… but, see little-known fact number four. 5
… or “what it is I’m doing and why I suddenly have a 604 area code, much to everyone’s confusion”.
Understandably, I’ve received a number of messages from friends who are confused as to just what I’m up to. Admittedly, I’ve done a rather poor job of keeping everyone in the loop. Though, to be candid, I wasn’t quite sure myself how this would all play out.
Allison and I left Toronto at the end of 2011 with a simple plan: “let’s go to Buenos Aires”. We spent about a week there as part of our 2008 world tour and thought at the time it would be an interesting city to spend more time in. Conveniently, Argentina also serves as the gateway to Antarctica, the only continent we had yet to visit. And so, we departed for South America in search of answers: “what’s it like to live and work abroad” and, the even grander, “what’s next”?
Buenos Aires is an incredible city. It’s a place where things are literally sugarcoated—from croissants to coffee beans; where you can while away hours at an outdoor café, only because you’re not all that sure where the server went; where you actively lie about not having change so you can break down those pesky 100 peso bills—the only bills dispensed by ATMs.
Daily average temperatures range from 25 to 30 degrees celsius, mostly sunny… though it sounds like everyone in Canada skipped winter this year.
If you avoid overpriced imports (with duties of up to 100%), living here isn’t all that expensive. Our one bedroom apartment, in the middle of Palermo Soho (one of BsAs’s trendier barrios), is only $750 per month. Including utilities and internet. And weekly maid service. Sit-down, three course lunches with coffee start at $10. Good steak and wine dinners at $15, though this has the unfortunate side-effect of making it far too easy to consume meat-sweat inducing quantities.
The expat community in BsAs is small and it was easy to get to know some of them. They each had their own stories and experiences, but there was one particular statement we heard over and over:
Life here is… easy.
To be clear, there are a number of things that aren’t so easy about living in Buenos Aires—the constant hunt for small bills, the crowded buses, inflation (which many expats are hedged against)—but all of these are inconsequential against the larger backdrop of living here. The reason these expats find it easy is because work is so different from home. If you’ll allow me to generalize: people show up minutes before they need to start, leave immediately after the work day is done, and then go on with their lives. They don’t bring work home. They don’t work weekends. They walk a little slower down the street. Store hours, especially opening times, are just suggestions. There isn’t an intense focus on growth. They really value their time outside of work.
So, in general, it is easy for expats—especially those armed with a North American work ethic. As pseudo-expats, albeit temporary ones, life in BsAs should have been relaxing and carefree.
But instead, I was restless.
Many North Americans would be happy to live the Buenos Aires lifestyle. Easy going—no need to rush. Yet, I just couldn’t let go and relax. Why?
Because I know I still have something I need to do. And I need to get started.
My work is a big part of who I am. I don’t just want to comfortably float through my days. I want adventure. I want to create something meaningful. I want to leave the world just a little better off than when I first arrived. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have already experienced so much, but I haven’t given enough back.
I’ve always wanted to build something of my own. I truly enjoy running a business. And I’ve been encouraged by family and friends to pursue this path for a long time. But instead I held off. I made excuses. I felt that I was missing something—that I needed to learn more, read more, or experience more before I would be ready to go. In retrospect, the truth is that I lacked the confidence to make the leap.
I’ve made the difficult decision to leave Syncapse1 at the end of May. As to what exactly my new venture will be, we will all need to wait to find out. I do have a few ideas I’m interested in pursuing (for what that’s worth), though my first step will be to find the right co-founder(s)—others who share similar values and aspirations. From there, we’ll work together to develop an idea that has meaning and is worth fighting for.
And what if I fail? Well, I’ll find a job. That’s it. That’s really the worst that can happen. Sure, I will have lost out on some income, but if that’s the price I need to pay to avoid the eternal “what would have happened if I had had the courage?”, it’s negligible.
I’m also excited that Allison and I are headed out on this journey together, as she left law to follow her dream of becoming a photographer. We’re both moving on from very comfortable jobs with steady salaries. It will be a big adjustment, and adventure, for us both.
As my brother said, “to live the dream, you must follow your dream”.
Which brings us to my new 604 area code. On April 11th we’re leaving Argentina and headed home to Canada.
Ultimately, I’d love to have a business that enables us to work from anywhere, but right now we need to focus on building the foundation. And Canada is the perfect place to build that foundation. Travelling gives you perspective on just how lucky we are to live in such an incredible country (minus the robocall nonsense).
As for Vancouver, it’s a beautiful city. We love the ocean, the mountains, and the parks. We have a great group of friends there, though I will miss the fantastic people I know in Toronto. And you really can’t beat the Asian cuisine, well… except maybe in Asia.
We couldn’t think of a better city to follow our dreams.
April 10th edit: I made some minor tweaks to the footnote. My intention was to reflect positively on my time at Syncapse and I didn’t want to leave room for misinterpretation.
Without Syncapse, my path would not have crossed with a number of incredible individuals. I wouldn’t have had the stories to tell, the experiences to grow from, or the fun I did. In many ways, I have Syncapse to thank for where I am today. ↩
Uncle Bob on technical debt:
A mess is not a technical debt. A mess is just a mess. Technical debt decisions are made based on real project constraints. They are risky, but they can be beneficial. The decision to make a mess is never rational, is always based on laziness and unprofessionalism, and has no chance of paying of in the future.
And while technical debt is being mistaken with a mess, Minimal Viable Product is often mistaken with a Half-Assed Product.
I’m a big believer in the lean startup, and pushing the bare minimum when launching or releasing new features, but often the mandate to deliver MVP is used as a shield to take shortcuts or push something that sort of works—”we need to deliver the MVP now; we’ll fix it later.”
MVP means you won’t deliver every feature on day one. It means there will still be room for your product to grow. It means what you do deliver is your very best. Yes, finding and defining the MVP is really hard work. You need to fundamentally understand your customers and the problem set you are aiming to solve for them—not hack and slash away at the feature set at random.
While it is cliché to use Apple as an example, they have truly mastered the art and science of the MVP. They purposefully hold features back in order to focus on the core product experience. They didn’t take a shortcut with copy & paste on the iPhone—they consciously held on to it until it was ready. They didn’t sort of deliver a developer toolkit with the first iPhone—they encouraged developers to build web apps, a first-class experience on the original iPhone. For everything that Apple did deliver, they delivered beautifully.
MVP is not a license to produce a HAP; it is a call to action—to roll up your sleeves, get to work, and focus on what really matters.
Is there a single trait that distinguishes the world’s great iconoclasts? Yes. In one word, it is nuance.
What makes those who actually succeed different is not just their excitement around a big idea, but their obsession with the idiosyncrasies and details embedded in the more nuanced folds of the story.
People often apologize for correcting grammatical intricacies, fixing 2 pixel alignment inconsistencies, or going back and forth on copy until it finally reads just right.
So, to hell with all that noise. It’s just a big mass of envy, chatter and FOMO. Let’s get excited and make things.
I’ve poured countless hours—with no end in sight—into articles that make the valiant attempt to bottle the elusive subject of what exactly we should be doing with our lives.
I recently read this simple, but great, piece from Rahul Bijlani. He does a good job of summarizing the classic “focus on the journey, not the destination” and doesn’t leave the reader lingering, awkwardly wondering “well that’s great, but what journey am I really supposed to be undertaking”?
…the game – i.e. maximizing your potential, and what you can achieve with your time and resources – is best played if you enjoy the pursuit of your goals. In other words – if you are journey based, rather than destination driven.”
What I realized was that playing the game the right way isn’t good enough – it needs to be played for the right reason: it has to be played to build something, to see something grow.