Medium Top Authors Interviews: 10 Questions with Alan Trapulionis
It’s been a while since I released an interview article. I love asking top authors on medium how they work on their craft and stay productive. It inspires me, it keeps me motivated, and I often learn about new tools and techniques I didn’t know about.
A few months ago, I released 50 People Who Do, my most comprehensive expert roundup on productivity to date. It contains 35 interviews, 15 extra-long interviews, and 8 pages of recap with all the tools and the books mentioned, plus some fun data crunching. For instance, 60% of the people I asked wake up before or at 6am.
Most of my guests created their own business, and they got where they are today by successfully implementing self-discipline in their life. To each one of them, I ask questions about their life, their learnings, their tools, and sometimes about which celebrity they would like to have coffee with.
There are no rules for success, only consistency in the work you do. None of the people I interviewed are super-humans. They’re just dedicated, and they have a lot of awesome things to teach us.
Let’s get to it.
My guest for this episode is Alan Trapulionis. Alan writes about business and entrepreneurship on Medium.
Do you have a morning routine?
I am not a morning person, so I try to take it slow. A cup of coffee, some oatmeal and two episodes of The Office usually form an energizing enough breakfast for me to get out of bed and do something useful.
What is the number one habit/routine you attribute the most to your success?
I would say elimination. It’s not really a habit as much as it is a style of living. “You can have anything you want, but not everything you want” would be the motto. In reality, it’s far less sexy and it means ruthlessly eliminating things.
Things like hanging out with friends on the daily or watching Netflix for 4 hours every night. There are studies showing that boredom is like cocaine for creativity — but it’s hard to tolerate boredom. People will literally shock themselves with electricity instead of sitting idle. Progress happens when you make your life so boring that the things you consider hard are the most fun things you can do.
What is the number one productivity item you can’t live without?
Earphones, for sure. I’ve evolved to control my moods and energy levels based on how far I go through my daily playlist. It also helps me track time internally. I think Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball, said something similar in an interview with Tim Ferriss. He always listens to the same playlist. He’s not really listening to the songs, but uses them as a background to focus and track time. Not sure how it all works down there but I don’t imagine a day without earphones — at least, a productive one.
The one book you recommend for self- improvement and/or productivity?
You write a lot about entrepreneurship. Is there one big lesson you’ve learned from the research you put together to write?
Again, I probably have to go back to elimination. Most entrepreneurs I write about recall periods of time when they did nothing else but work, 24/7. James Park of Fitbit used to wake up, go to the third bedroom, write code, watch an episode of Seinfield, sleep, then repeat — for years. Many of them are aggressive readers. Divyank Turakhia said he’s read for 800 hours every year, for the past 20 years (he’s 35).
What they don’t say is how many day-to-day pleasantries they had to sacrifice in order to focus on their businesses. All the coffee invites declined, all the movies not watched, all the hobbies not taken, all the hours spent reading, writing, building. It sounds romantic when you read about these stories but in reality you feel alienated, you feel like you’re missing out. Combined with the uncertainty that comes with anything entrepreneurial, elimination is really, really, really unpleasant. But it pays off.
How important is time off for you, and what do you do when you take time off?
I’m not a big believer in work/life balance, to be honest. If I was, I would’ve gotten a job. I like being engaged in projects 100%. It gives me a sense of purpose. I’m 25, I have no real commitments, and I feel like now is the time to explore the extremes.
What advice do you have for people who struggle to actually start working on the projects they have?
If you’re inclined to procrastinate in some area of your life, it’s probably a symptom of a larger issue. At least in my case, whenever I feel like procrastinating, I usually realize that I don’t really want to do that thing or there’s some other thing that I’d rather be doing. Once you’re honest with what you really want, you take up fewer activities that you don’t want and then you’re not procrastinating with the ones that are left.
On marketing. You don’t appear to have a website or a newsletter. Do you have a business model?
Right now I’m only writing for Medium. I like the competitive nature of it, and it’s much more rewarding than writing for clients. Every day feels like a challenge. I’m trying not to dilute my attention on other things that could make sense (online courses, newsletter, etc.) and just try my best to succeed on this platform.
Investing in yourself is key to success. What is one of the most recent ways you’ve invested in yourself?
A great way to invest in yourself is to explore areas of life that you’d never even think of exploring. In my experience, best insights and lessons occur when you interact with worlds outside of yours — like reading a random book you’d never normally read or trying martial arts if you’ve never tried it before. Most of my life lessons came from people who were very different from me — in age, gender, profession, character, period lived. I think value occurs when you work on weaknesses, not when you keep improving on your strengths.
If you could have a coffee and talk about anything with a personality (dead or alive) you admire, who would it be and why?
Carl Jung. Unlike the modern pop psychology (which aims to please the audience rather than explore human nature) Jung went deep, and he tried to explore things that are extremely difficult to explore — like the human psyche. He wasn’t afraid of the darker sides of human nature. I have no idea what we would talk about, but I’m sure I would leave the room a slightly changed man.
There you have it. I want to personally thank my guest for taking the time to provide me and my readers with really insightful answers. I am deeply grateful to Alan Trapulionis. Thanks a lot, and keep up the great work!
And thanks to you for reading my content! I’ll keep releasing interviews once in a while, so stay tuned!
To get instant access to my 150+ page guide containing the 50 best interviews I conducted, download it for free here! This is road-tested advice from real people who get things done, hope it helps!