Own Your Time
When you own your time, even disruptions can be opportunities for leisure and learning
Happy Saturday! Today’s newsletter count: 934 words and ~ 5 min.
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1 Big Thing: Own Your Time
🚧 There was a planned upgrading at my apartment this past April.
I knew the month (April 2023) it would happen and the length of period (roughly 10 working days) required, but I wouldn’t know the exact start date until 2 weeks beforehand.
When I had the confirmed dates, I used the opportunity to visit two friends in nearby countries: Malaysia and Thailand.
👋 The Last Minute Visits
🇲🇾 In Malaysia, I first visited Friend #1 and his family over a weekend. I haven’t seen them in 5 years. And I enjoyed interacting with his brood of children, and dogs.
🇹🇭 In Thailand, I spent nearly 10 days at Friend #2’s apartment and got some 1-1 coaching from his tennis coach. The same friend I last visited back in August the year before.
Why These Examples Matter
Owning your time is a big deal. So, I want to use realistic, concrete examples to show and tell.
Even though I have yet to achieve 10k MRR in my independent business as a software engineer, it’s possible to transform the inconveniences into opportunities to reconnect with people in my life.
Viral internet content tend to showcase extreme results (Look at my Lamborghini! Look at my 100k MRR!!). Which may explain why they went viral in the first place.
But, extreme results are not helpful for serious independents trying to make progress.
Serious independents may dismiss their own progress because the size pales in comparison with these extreme results. (I made this mistake before)
No two paths look exactly the same even if they may end up in the same destination. Serious independents may take these well-meaning advice on the internet too literally and end up getting things wrong. (Also, I made this mistake.)
🚨Be careful of wrong interpretations
I don’t want to mislead people to think I don’t have to do any work and all my current revenue (~7.5k MRR) is 100% passive.
As an example, on the Friday afternoon I set off to Malaysia on a 4 hr bus ride, I receive last minute requests from customers. Which meant
I had to work on the same weekend overlapping the Malaysia trip. But only for about 3 hours at most. I still had time for go-karting and good food.
Across the 2 weeks, I have taxes to file, contractual negotiations, classes to attend, zoom calls with internet friends to make, code to write while transiting across three different countries (Singapore → Malaysia → Singapore → Thailand → Singapore).
Despite the variety of demands life throws at me, I can still meet obligations with a mixture of applied willpower and adaptability.
🕙 Cannot wait for perfect conditions
In the past, I kept deferring desires like visit old friends and pick up new sports. I felt they were distractions from my career goals.
Now, I see that the optimal attitude is to approach life and its obstacles/opportunities like a dance.
🆗 You need to be okay with hard-to-explain, non-legible efforts
And a huge part of this "dance attitude" is that you need to be comfortable at not being able to explain what you do. Which I explain below 👇 in 📊 Graph of the Day
📊 Graph of the Day
I don’t want to sugarcoat things. Reading this post won’t automatically give you the same lifestyle as I do.
I took years to build up enough to meet the conditions for this lifestyle. Such as earning a stable revenue while being my own boss.
But, even when I did, I still kept an ascetic lifestyle. I didn’t give myself permission until by accident at late stages of the pandemic.
A huge part of the non-permission is because I used to think that effort and achievement had a straight line relationship like this.
The chart above has two flaws:
One, I’m not so sure efforts is purely an objective measure. It’s more likely an interaction of objective and subjective elements.
Two, even if it is a purely objective measure, I think there’s a difference between legible and non-legible efforts.
Now, I have updated my thinking to this graph.
Why This Matters
In the past, I over-index’d legible efforts. Looking back, it was my safety blanket.
Nobody likes to fail. Least of all, in a way that’s hard to explain to people. Legible efforts allow me to turn any setback into a kind of plausible, heroic failure.
Jeff Bezos has this quote
Entrepreneurs must be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.
— from https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7954692-entrepreneurs-must-be-willing-to-be-misunderstood-for-long-periods
Being an independent software engineer is not the same as running Amazon in the 2000s. But, you also need to be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time by people around you.
It’s a painful journey and still on-going. (Next stop: 10k MRR!) But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As always, I wish you and your family good health and good fortune.