Skip to content

#17: the power of tiny interactions, being busy = being lazy, & more

Take out your AirPods more often and be happier.

Dominik Nitsch
5 min read

Welcome to the 17th edition of International Generalist! Today, you’ll learn why you should take out your AirPods more often, why being constantly busy might be an expression of laziness, and my definition of the “ultimate flex”.

If you don’t find this valuable, you can always unsubscribe at the bottom of this email. If you like it, tell your friends about it using your personalized referral link. It’s the best way to support this newsletter (& to get some cool benefits in the process). :)

Don’t do this | Photo by Dugba Cauley-Hushie on Unsplash

[1] Try walking around without headphones and watch your happiness increase

It’s become our new normal to experience the world with headphones.

Everywhere you look, people are using AirPods and similar devices (so many, in fact, that if AirPods were their own company, their revenues would be just 10% shy of Netflix’s revenue).

I’m one of them: always listening to podcasts, audiobooks, music or brainwave stimulating whale sounds. So much that my AirPods tend to run out of battery.

Surprisingly, this is where the magic happens:

  1. All the sudden (specifically in the gym and at the grocery store), you start picking up conversations. You might chime in, and everybody gets a good laugh out of it.
  2. You become more approachable. While I’m barely ever approached in the gym with AirPods in, without them, people find it much easier to engage in conversation. Recently, I had a kid come up to me and ask why I’m doing a lot of single leg jumps - which was a great coaching opportunity.
  3. Leaving out the extra stimulation helps with passive thinking. By giving yourself permission to daydream and be bored, good things happen in your brain.

Chatting with strangers is a scientifically proven way to increase your happiness. The leading researcher on this, Gilliam Sandstrom, accidentally stumbled upon this field of study because she was much happier every time she interacted with the Hot Dog lady outside her office.

Anecdotally, I can confirm this: every time I have a tiny interaction with someone (sometimes as little as smiling at a stranger), I feel much better.

So look up and take out your AirPods every once in a while. It might just make you happier.

[2] Being busy is a form of laziness

Tim Ferriss posted this the other day:

“If you consistently feel the counterproductive need for volume and doing lots of stuff, put these on a Post-it note:

Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.

Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.”

To add to that: being busy also keeps you from thinking things through correctly. The best thinking happens when we’re bored.

Which is why I sometimes get out of the city and spend a few hours or days in solitude:

The Think Day

Dominik Nitsch • May 21, 2023

Sometimes, the right content finds you at the right time. Last Wednesday, Sahil Bloom sent out an as usual outstanding newsletter about a “Think Day”. A great coincidence, as: The day after was a bank holiday in Germany I needed to minimize screen time anyway as I was still recovering from a concussion

Read full story →

With constant busy-ness, it’s hard to feel true boredom.

Without boredom, it’s hard to do deep thinking.

Without deep thinking, it’s hard to solve the most critical problems.

Thanks, Tim. I needed to hear that.

And maybe you too.

[3] Health is the ultimate flex

When we think about status symbols, we think about objects: fancy cars, well-designed villas, yachts, expensive watches, … .

The thing is: if you don’t know the person, you’ll have no idea whether they earned them, or merely inherited them (like the 19 year old business students at my alma mater floating their Rolex and Porsche).

Health and fitness, on the other hand, have to be earned (aside from certain diseases outside of your control, of course).

You can certainly spend money on becoming healthier and fitter: with the right nutrition, a personal trainer and an A+ gym, everything’s a lot easier.

Fundamentally though, you need to put in the work:

  • Exercising requires discipline.
  • Eating well requires discipline.
  • Having healthy sleeping patterns requires discipline.

That discipline cannot be bought. It can only be earned.

I’m far more impressed by someone that’s healthy and fit (especially when older) than by someone that wears expensive clothes.

(NB: There are many people out there who put in the hard work to get where they are financially, and I have massive respect for them. Earning enough money to afford these things is an effortful and risky endeavor.  But ultimately, what’s the value of all that wealth when you’re not healthy and fit?)

Action Items:

  1. Take out your AirPods more often. No headphones = more tiny interactions = more happiness. Everybody wins.
  2. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re not lazy. It’s okay to take time for deep thinking, and to work through the most important problems.
  3. Remember that health is the ultimate flex. Without health, everything else you have is worth little.

One ask from my side

I’ve been getting a lot of feedback that some of you really enjoy what I’m writing - which makes me feel giddy, warm, and fuzzy. Please keep that coming.

My friend Lea mentioned recently: “a few friends and myself love the newsletter - we don’t always agree with what you write, but it encourages discussions among us, and that’s awesome”.

I love hearing that. If everybody agreed all the time on the things that I write, this stuff would be boring as hell.

So if you feel anything like Lea, please tell a friend about this newsletter, and maybe even forward them this email. It’s the best thing you can do to help this newsletter grow.

The more people subscribe, the more time I’m forced to spend on writing the best possible newsletter. Again, everybody wins.

Thank you.

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

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.

Related Posts

Members Public

👨‍💻 IG#33: How to work full-time and still have a life

Working full-time hits hard. But there's a life outside of work - and there's a way to fit everything into your day.

👨‍💻  IG#33: How to work full-time and still have a life
Members Public

🌿 IG#32: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Athletic Greens

How a brilliant marketing ploy gets thousands of people to consume a drink that tastes like taking a bite out of a soccer field.

🌿 IG#32: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Athletic Greens
Members Public

🙅‍♂️ IG#31: How to Say No (& Set Boundaries Gracefully)

Decline invitations and opportunities without being a dick.

🙅‍♂️ IG#31: How to Say No (& Set Boundaries Gracefully)