Wegmans

Wegmans is dominating. They’re welcoming. They’re fun. They’re innovative. And now, for the first time, they’re cheaper to shop at than Wal-Mart.

That is, unless you shop in the prepared food section.

Wegmans can sell eggs for $0.58 because so many people overpay for food at the hot food bar. They overpay for subs, pizza, sushi, coffee, and the latest bottled-water fad. Wegmans can take a loss on its eggs because its prepared food section is so profitable.

The irony is that it’s better for your waistline and better for your wallet to stay out of the prepared food section.

By all means, pile on that Asian food when your team goes to Wegmans after a game, but in real life it’s better to treat that section for what it is: a treat.

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Graduation and what career to pick

I was recently asked by a student, “How do you know what career to pick?”

Well, for starters, if you don’t know what career to pick then you can’t know what career to pick. Not right now, anyways. Best to stop trying to figure it out and just do something.

I just finished Steven Pressfield’s Nobody Wants to Read your Sh*t–this passage seems relevant, called “How Careers Happen, Part Two”:

“It happened for me from the inside out.
     I was seized by an idea. I followed it. It failed.
   I was seized by another idea. I followed it, and it failed too.
     I did that a hundred times. Five hundred.
     Finally an idea or two succeeded.
     While I was thrashing from one idea to the next, I could discern no pattern. It all felt random. Each passage was one of a kind.
     But when I looked back, I could see not just a pattern. I could see a career.
     It had been there all along, infallibly working itself out.” (p. 179).

In the future I’m not sure we’ll be thinking of the question in terms of “jobs” and “careers” anyway, particularly once robots can do them better than we can. It’s almost certain that the job you’re training for today will be obsolete in fifty years.

It’s more likely that, instead of jobs and careers, we’ll be thinking in terms of “trades” and “projects”. We’ll frequently hear the question, “What have you built?” and “What problem can you solve?”, rather than “What do you do for a living?” and “What’s your major?” In the future, many more of us will be entrepreneurs and freelancers, which is why Fredonia holds “entrepreneurship” as a key part of its mission.

If that scares you, then it might be a good thing to explore. You don’t even need to start a business; you can be an entrepreneur in whatever job you already have (This is the core idea in one of my favorite books, Linchpin).

For instance, I built a strength and conditioning program at Fredonia from the ground up. Then I built this blog. Then I built a following around these things because I was excited about them. Eventually, somebody paid me to do it.

Through the process I picked up a number of skills: public speaking, writing, coaching, marketing, and photography, to name a few. Those skills apply to a lot of careers. When in doubt, focus on what you can control: your skills. (Start here).

Keep learning, because in the future the separation between high performers and low performers will come from their ability to adapt.

I wasted a lot of time trying to find the perfect career. Please don’t do the same.

Why I’m getting rid of the internet

My friend recently got rid of his internet service after he and his wife decided they were beholden to streaming television. Now, he forces himself to watch TV on his smartphone. Turns out it’s hard to binge-watch Netflix on a 6-inch screen.

I liked the concept, but for a different reason.

Every January I go to Florida with our swimming and diving teams for their training trip. For ten days we stay in a hotel, eating together, sleeping together, and training together. There’s no need for outside entertainment since you’re surrounded by people you love all the time.

Returning to Fredonia can be a depressing experience, not because of the temperature difference, but because of the loss of community. I come back to my apartment, and instead of being surrounded by people I’m surrounded by gadgets: a TV, Xbox, cell phone, laptop, refrigerator, and a shelf full of books. If it weren’t for my job I’d hardly need to leave.

I want to see what happens when I get rid of some of it.

Without the internet at home I’d need to go to the library often. I’d run into people there all the time, and I might even make a new friend. I’d need to be more intentional about when I publish my blog posts, so I’d need to get better at scheduling my time, which can’t be a bad thing.

It’s an experiment: After a month I might hate it and go back to being an at-home internet user.

[Update: I wrote this post two days before publishing it, and my plan backfired somewhat.

I called Spectrum and asked them to cancel my internet service. The nice man on the other end gave me three options: downgrade to a slower speed (I had no idea I was at a higher speed), put my service on hold, or cancel it outright. 

The lower speed would cut my cost in half, from $60/month to $31/month. I could put the service on hold for $5/month. Or, I could cancel and have someone come uninstall it. The catch was that if I cancelled, then decided in the future to renew, I would have to pay for someone to come install it again. 

Pressured in the moment, I decided to downgrade the speed, cutting my cost in half. I felt glad to have saved $30/month, but ashamed that my experiment had failed before it even started.

Here, it’s worth noting that I was barely affected by the slower speed. Netflix took slightly longer to load, as did Twitter, but overall I would never go back to paying $60/month for internet. I do not play Fortnite, so I don’t know what would happen with online video games.

I’m still considering putting the service on hold as an experiment, but this served as a reminder that there’s a big difference between saying what you’re going to do, and actually doing it.]

Date rape

Undercover Colors is launching this fall. It’s a nail polish that changes color when exposed to common date rape drugs. You dip your finger in your drink if you’re suspicious.

Just thought you should know, given that 1 in 6 women will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime.

It doesn’t surprise me that Undercover Colors was an initiative from the ground up: Four undergrads at North Carolina State incubated the idea. It seems to have worked better than publishing lists.

[h/t to Cindy Whitehead.]

How I save money

Every time I think I need something I write it on a post-it note. For instance, here’s what a recent post-it note said on my refrigerator:

* Batteries
* WD-40
* Scissors
* Vitamin D
* Suit
* Dress shirt
* Backpack
* Underwear

These aren’t things that I need immediately; these are things that I can do without for a while (If there were no food in my kitchen, I would not write “Eggs” on a post-it note). Then, I go on living, looking for opportunities to get these things for free or at a greatly reduced price.

My credit card (Capital One Venture) gives me two points for every dollar I spend. Once I build up 5,000 points I redeem them for a $50 Amazon gift card. I recently used one to buy batteries, WD-40, Vitamin D, and scissors.

Then, I remembered that a couple years ago my brother got a brand-new suit from his boss that he never needed. He also had two dress shirts he no longer wore that I liked.

Then, my friend noticed I had a torn-up Patagonia backpack. He said I could send it back to Patagonia and they’d fix it, for free, even though it’s ten years old.

Total savings: $400.

Sometimes I need to bite the bullet and buy the things I need (underwear), but often I save a boatload of money by being intentional about those needs.

“But Ryan,” you respond, “If you have the money, why don’t you just spend it and stop all this nonsense? After all, you can’t take your money with you when you die.”

This is shortsighted at best. Read this.

Finals week

It’s here.

The enlightened student knows that everything significant has already happened; two things, namely: learning and persistence.

Learning, because that was the entire point.

Persistence, because humans tend to quit learning without an incentive (loss of money, fear of failure, etc.).

The unenlightened student thinks the results of her final exams are important. The irony is that to her they probably are.