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#15: Are you turning your friends & family into residual beneficiaries?

What happens if you do not put the most important things in life first? You’re stuck giving them the “leftovers” of your time. Nobody wants that, so let’s change that. But first ...

Dominik Nitsch
5 min read

Welcome to the 15th edition of International Generalist! Today, you’ll learn why removing friction from your life is essential, how you might unconsciously prioritize incorrectly, and why our worldly resources might not be finite after all.

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Photo by Sandeep Singh on Unsplash

[1] Preventing your personal Y2K by removing friction

Insight from Steven Bartlett and Adam Alter.

In aviation, pilots are taught the rule of 1 in 60. It states that if an airplane veers off course by just 1°, after 60 miles flown it’ll be one mile off course. If you veer off course for a few miles, the effects will be negligible. But if you’re flying, say, from Berlin to San Francisco, and are off by 4°, your plane would land in LAX instead.

Quite a significant difference in destination for a minor deviation.

When Y2K came around, people were afraid that airplanes might fall out of the sky, nuclear power plants would explode, and the world would end. Why? Computers only had 2 digits to express the year, and consensus was that all computers would think it’s 1900 again - crashing all systems.

This issue was already flagged in the 1960s: a scientist argued that computers are here to stay and that the Y2K problem should be fixed while it was still easy to fix.

But nobody did.

So in the 90s, governments spent $600 billion to update all programs and computers to four-digit year numbers.

An issue that would’ve been easy to fix initially now became a huge headache. Just like veering off course by a few degrees.

This applies to many aspects in life:

  • An unchecked, untreated illness or injury, no matter how small, might balloon into a full-blown illness
  • A seemingly small issue in a relationship isn’t addressed, grows over the time, and eventually kills the relationship
  • A bad habit that seems mundane turns into a full-blown addiction, requiring therapy to get straightened out

Steven Bartlett (one of my new favorite podcasters) does what he calls “Friction Audits” - checking regularly if there’s any friction in his relationships, and working hard to remove these small issues so that they don’t get out of hand.

Where could you do a friction audit?

[2] Do not turn friends and family into “residual beneficiaries”.

Insight from Nir Eyal, author of “Indistractable”.

When a company gets sold, the money isn’t distributed evenly, but in a hierarchy. Highly simplified, all debt is paid back first. Then, investors get their money back (sometimes with ungodly liquidation preferences). Last, founders and employees receive whatever remains from the sale - these are the residual beneficiaries.

In our calendars, work usually is scheduled first. Then, we might schedule social events outside of work, parties, trips and so on. Maybe you do some next level time management and even schedule your workouts.

But almost nobody I know actively schedules (recurring) time with their family, friends, and romantic partners.

These people - the most important people in your life! - then become residual beneficiaries, getting only what’s left over from your time and energy.

The same is true for other unscheduled things, like exercise, sleep, me time etc. Anything and anyone that doesn’t make it onto your calendar is essentially rendered a residual beneficiary.

More bluntly: if it’s not in the calendar, it doesn’t exist.

Yes, this isn’t spontaneous. Quite the opposite. But if “being spontaneous” means that you only get to address your “residual beneficiaries” when everything else you’ve got going on in your life is done, then that’s not the right way. We all have too much going on in our lives already.

Put the rocks in first, then the pebbles, sand, water.

Dan Martell calls this the “pre-loaded year”: when planning the next year, put the big events, like holidays, family events, trips with friends, parties first onto your calendar, then design everything else around it.

This makes it much easier to set boundaries at work: when a business trip comes up, you can always say that you’ve planned this trip for a year already. It’s incredible how non-urgent most business events seem all the sudden in comparison to that.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to my parents who somehow manage to always book their summer holiday 12-18 months in advance. When I asked my mother about why she’d do that, she replied: “it gives me 12-18 months of anticipation [in German, we have a beautiful word for this: “Vorfreude”] towards the trip.”


So for a change take your mother’s advice (or in this case, my mother’s), and put the most important things in your life onto your calendar first.

[3] Having finite resources assumes having finite knowledge

Insight from Naval Ravikant, one of my favourite thinkers.

“To a caveman, few things are resources.”

What on earth is a resource? According to the Cambridge dictionary, it is “a useful or valuable possession or quality of a country, organization, or person.”

For most objects to be useful, you first need to obtain the knowledge how to use it. Before fire was invented, wood wasn’t a resource. Before crop harvesting was invented, grain wasn’t (really) a resource. Before nuclear reactors were invented, uranium wasn’t a resource - it was basically worthless.

Naval argues that the assumption that the world has finite resources also assumes finite knowledge. Yes, the earth indeed has finite resources - if we don’t identify new ways of using previously unknown materials.

Take energy generation: yes, the world will run out of coal and oil eventually. Does this mean we have finite energy? In the 1800s, probably yes.

But we don’t live in the 1800s anymore: we live in 2023, where generating energy from hydro, solar, nuclear, hydrogen, wind, biomass, … is possible. Once we figure out nuclear fusion (where scientists had a major breakthrough in December 2022), we won’t be talking about finite energy resources anymore .. or so I’d like to think.

On the flip side, this theory doesn’t apply to everything. Time is the one resource that is truly finite.

Or is it? When we somehow figure out how to live forever (I wouldn’t be surprised if that still happens during our lifetime), even time becomes somewhat infinite.

Until then though, we should be careful with all of our resources, whether it is time, fossil fuels, or mental energy.

Action Items

  1. Start auditing your life for unnecessary friction
  2. Schedule the most important things first; work comes after
  3. Remember that the finite resource model assumes finite knowledge

That’s it for this edition of International Generalist. Thanks for tuning in and reading!

If you enjoyed this, please ask yourself: which one person that you know would most benefit from reading this newsletter? The number one way to support me is to share this with others aspiring to become more effective in their personal and professional lives.

Who’s behind International Generalist?

I’m Dominik, and every day, I try to figure out how to become a tiny bit more effective. Then, I share some of the lessons learned here.

When I’m not writing, I build the international business for Sdui - the Leading European SchoolOS -, play Lacrosse, lift weights and enjoy draft beers.

Here’s how else I can help you:

See you in two weeks!

Much love



Dominik Nitsch

Proud generalist: Entrepreneur, Athlete, & Writer.

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