How To Vacation Like A MotherFucker

From Colombian Jungles, To Navy Seal Training. How I Use My Vacation Time To Build New Skills, Learn Cool New Things in 72 Hours or Less, and the 3 Steps You Can Use To Do the Same

Any such field of learning would have to include, physical, artistic and scientific elements to be truly rounded.
-Robert Twigger-

The email came in at 2:52PM on a Tuesday. In less than 48 hours, I sent $800 to some stranger, bought a plane ticket to LA, and was looking at a set of Camo and a hunter’s knife on Amazon.

If the NSA was watching my online activity… I’d have a few difficult questions to answer.

What I would have explained to the NSA is that I had a 3 week vacation coming up, and for the past 2 years I used my “downtime” to become a polymath.

Streaming Netflix just isn’t my thing.

Generalist vs. Specialist

I came across an article 3 years ago written by Robert Twigger — on the value of being a Polymath:

In his article, Twigger makes a strong case for becoming a Generalist as opposed to a Specialist. Our society and economy values the opposite. It tells us to specialize in a field. To go to school for that field, get a career in that field, and become monolithic in our thinking.

Becoming a Generalist allows you a wider breadth of experience to pull from.

Polymath: a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas; such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.
Wikipedia

People like Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs were all considered polymath’s.

I was hooked!

I decided I wanted to condense life-long learning into short, focused bursts.

When I was a kid, I was diagnosed w/ Tourette Syndrome. I didn’t yell out cuss words, or have uncontrollable outbursts. My symptoms came in the form of a mild-case of ADHD and OCD.

It made learning difficult for me, because I would get bored easily. Because of that — as an adult — I’ve had to teach myself accelerated learning strategies and new ways of learning skills.

I’ve been experimenting w/ a format to learn any subject in 72 hours, for the past couple of years. I’ve refined it to a point that it works pretty regularly, and allows me to learn quickly — before my boredom kicks in.

I figured I could apply this same methodology — essentially using Parkinson’s Law — to hone in on a set of skills, during my vacation time.

I first decided to test this new strategy September of this year (2015), while on a trip to Colombia. In 3 weeks I learned enough Spanish to take Salsa lessons, enough Salsa to compete in a local competition, and had a blast traveling around the country and learning about the culture.

I did it by following a few simple hacks.

3 Principles to Hacking Your Vacation

Here are the Principles that I’ve pulled from, which I’ll go over one-by-one: Eustress vs. Distress, Experience > Things, and using Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences as a framework to learn (I tend to gravitate towards experiential learning).

Eustress vs. Distress

“Role models who push us to exceed our limits, physical training that removes our spare tires, and risks that expand our sphere of comfortable action are all examples of eustress — stress that is healthful and the stimulus for growth.”
― Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Work Week

In short Eustress is the good stress, while Distress is the bad stress. My goal w/ this principle, is to push myself just beyond my self-prescribed limits, without tipping the scale into Distress.

I’ve often found that this principle is a lot like savings in the bank. You build this war-chest that you can pull from in your day-to-day encounters.

All of a sudden, things that seemed stressful, or unsurmountable, no longer are.

Experience > Things

If you walked into my apartment right now, you’d see a standing lamp, a bed and a chest of drawers. In one of the window sills is a handful of my favorite books. That’s it.

I believe in collecting experiences, not things. And I’m in luck. Clinical Pyschologists agree with me.

You can read a great article in the NYTimes, written by Arthur Brooks on this.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences as a Framework to Learn

This one’s pretty easy to understand. Basically — people learn through different modalities. Some are visual learners, others audio, some are written learners, and those like me are more experiential learners.

But by activating different modalities, you cement the thing you’re trying to learn in different areas of the brain. Your brain will make the connections in different areas that you’ve activated, and create new and more efficient neural pathways.

And thus help you own the subject.

In addition to these 3 principles, I have 3 simple Rules of the Road on my vacations.

Rules of the Road

Below are my 3 simple rules. Feel free to use. I’d be interested in hearing your experience.

I must take on 1 new physical challenge

I must take on 1 new artistic endeavor

I must take on 1 new scientific field

During this vacation, my physical challenge was Navy Seal training. It kicked the shit out of me, and I was sick for 3 days after. But it’s hard to debate the value of that experience… even the almost drowning part.

My new artistic endeavor is… this. Writing and creating content. I haven’t written much since running an AI real estate blog, and it’s been interesting figuring out how to become a good storyteller, using this mode. My goal isn’t to be a writer — but rather hone the skill of writing and storytelling (which I’ve found also helps sharpen your thought process).

My new scientific field is learning the field of Deep Learning — a set of machine learning applications in AI. Enough to speak at least 2–3 levels down. I don’t have enough Python under my belt to execute. But I’m deeply fascinated w/ the subject matter.

Learning is fun. I enjoy it. And I’ve personally found I’m able to come up w/ interesting, new and creative solutions to problems in my day-to-day work.

Extreme Vacationing?

The reason we shouldn’t pursue balance is that the magic never happens in the middle; magic happens at the extremes. The dilemma is that chasing the extremes presents real challenges. We naturally understand that success lies at the outer edges, but we don’t know how to manage our lives while we’re out there.
Gary Keller — The ONE Thing

Is there value in just vegging out? Yes

Is this a bit unbalanced? Yes

Is this an “extreme” approach to vacationing? Maybe

I don’t know the answer to the last one, and I don’t really care. I get WAY more value approaching my off-time this way than I would just fucking around.

If that’s your thing, I totally get it. Do you. I just know I wouldn’t be happy doing that. I like pushing myself into uncomfortable situations (read uncomfortable, not dangerous. Lesson learned in Colombian jungle).

I think it builds character, and gives you strength you can pull from.

Does this work for everyone? I don’t know. I’d be curious to hear your experience. This is a process I’m working on productizing.

If you found value in this, and would like me to turn my 72 hour learning process into a workbook or some sort of thing, let me know by recommending this article.

If you found this valuable, it would mean the world to me if you shared this to Facebook + Twitter. Thanks, and Happy New Year!

And if this is the first thing you’ve read of mine, and want to understand my general life philosophy — Start Here ☺L>P

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