Category Archives: Personal

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4 Ways to Minimize Regret

Regret sucks. Let’s talk about some ways to make it suck less.

What You’ll Learn

  1. The Regret Minimization Framework
  2. Any Unasked Question is a No
  3. Make Mistakes of Ambition, not Sloth
  4. The Only Question

The Regret Minimization Framework

The Regret Minimization Framework is a fantastic tool. It is similar to an algorithm in Computer Science called Hill Climbing. Hill climbing is focused on finding local maxima (a fancy term for finding the highest point close to you.

Math is Fun Maxima Graph
thanks to math is fun

Given multiple choices, we want to take the option that results in the least amount of regret after it’s over.

Example

You have 3 options that will take you one hour to complete. Doing one prohibits you from doing the others, adding an opportunity cost to all the choices.

Option A: Exercise (Regret score: 15)
Option B: Hanging out with your friends (Regret score: 20)
Option C: Watching Netflix (Regret score: 45)

In this case, it is best to spend the hour exercising. It incurs a cost of missing conversation with friends, and not getting ahead in our show, but minimizes the guilt felt at the end of the hour.

Hill climbing and regret minimization is not a perfect science. By focusing on local maxima, we miss chances to find optimal routes. But the ones we do find are good enough.

Any Unasked Question is a No

Anxiety is the sibling of regret. Regret criticizes choices made, and anxiety criticizes thoughts about choices. Anxiety is useful in doses. It prevents stupid decision making, for individuals and societies.

The sucky part is that if anxiety wins, regret will also win later.

Let’s say you want to ask your boss for a promotion. You’re anxious because you don’t want a light shined on the work you’ve done. So you don’t ask. 3 months later, your coworker is promoted to the role, and you regret not asking.

You’ve felt and acted on both the negative feelings of anxiety and regret. Ouch.

Any unasked question is a no, so go ahead and ask!

Make Mistakes of Ambition, not Sloth

“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”
– The Prince, Machiavelli

The quote sums it up. There is no such thing as “no risk”. Make bold plays.

The Only Question

The final and easiest way to minimize regret is to ask yourself:

When I’m looking back at the end of my life, did I do everything I wanted?

Think in the long term. The short term has too many variables that pollute thinking. Long term thinking is values based, and since you can’t see how your plans play out, you’ll only have your values to guide you.

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wow queue time smh

Week 1 – Regret Minimization Framework: Choosing a WoW Main

What you’ll be reading:

  • class choice regret
  • too many options
  • minimizing regret by optimizing variables

When you look back at the end of your life, would you do it all over again?

Heroes of Azeroth, WoW Classic is upon us.

It is time to retrieve our weapons, don our armor, and sound the horns of war.

After your 4 hour wait in the queue, you finally see it. The character creation screen.

You pick a Tauren Shaman, and grind tooth and nail killing wolves, accepting quests and learning new combat abilities to level 10. You decide to become an Enhancement shaman.

You continue your journey, entering a PvP zone. You get ganked by a rogue. Multiple times. You get upset. Why can his class turn invisible? Yours can’t.

You decide to enter a dungeon. You whisper a group looking for a DPS. They ask you to heal. Wait, you say. I don’t want to heal. That’s why I chose Enhancement. Tough butts, they reply, they’re not looking for your role. Better luck next time.

You head back to the character screen and select Undead rogue. You grind to level 10. You head into a PvP zone. A warlock fears and DoTs you. You die. You get frustrated. Repeat.

There are many different ways to approach WoW, from casual to hardcore. And while there isn’t one correct choice, there are many wrong ones. Let me clarify that point. A bad choice means you chose a class or a role that is considered “bad”. At its core, WoW is a group game. If groups don’t want you, you’ll have a lot less fun.

Barking up the wrong tree costs time, and time is an invaluable asset. If you get to level 30 and decide that you hate your class, you’ll have to start a new one at level 1.

Regret Minimization Framework to the Rescue

Instead of considering all potential variables for a class choice (and there are a lot), let’s instead ask one question:

In one year, will you regret picking your class?

Go through the selection screen, through all of the races and classes you may want to play and ask yourself this question.

As for me, I’m going druid. Or maybe rogue. Hunter? Damn, still some choices to be made. See you in game.

Trying Out Mental Models

I’ve been hearing a lot about mental models. How they improve decision making, and can supplant heuristics we use day to day in our brains.

Over the next 30 days, I plan to use them to help me make decisions and see if I become happier, more productive, have a positive overall ROI.

via GIPHY

The Rules

Focus on one per week, try and make at least one major decision and two minor decisions based off the model of the week. First up, regret minimization.

The Models

  1. Regret Minimization Framework
  2. ICE

Make short-term decisions using this model: When facing many options needing prioritization, score each on a scale of 1-10 using three variables.

The positive impact it would have if it succeeds.
The confidence you have that it will succeed if you try it.
How easy it would be to try it.
For each option, average its three numbers to get its ICE score. Then order all your options by their ICE scores. Options at the top of your list will have the highest expected value and should be given priority.

  1. Pareto Principle
  2. Eisenhower Matrix

First Month Retrospective

Intro

It’s been one month since I started working on my side projects full time. I’ve learned some things in this month. I’m not sure if any of these will be helpful to anyone since everyone has their own situation, but I hope something will be helpful to someone, somewhere.

Time

Having all your time back isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

I thought that regaining back my hours of the work day (9-5) would allow me to feel that time is abundant. I was wrong. While it’s true that I get to decide what my hours are spent on, that doesn’t mean that they are spent better. A lot less time spent at a desk, but a lot more time on Netflix.

Night ?== Day

One of my friends asked me how my days are structured. I replied: “It’s like summer vacation, but worse.” For those of us who haven’t had a summer vacation, it basically means that all the days and hours blend into each other with no one hour being more important than any other.

I attempted to set up a schedule with Google Calendar, but I found that it was much too rigid. Next month, I’m experimenting with a more fluid schedule that enforces the number of hours worked, not when the hours are worked.

Money

Budgeting

I started a budget last year. It’s been a phenomenal help to me. This month I spent what I considered to be “very little”, but I was still surprised by how much I spent at the end of the month. When moving your side projects into full time gigs, you need to calculate “runway”. I know mine, but let’s just say I’ll be eating rice and beans for the next…while.

my spending in june vs july

Spending in June vs my spending in July; still higher than I would have liked.

No Paycheck

My first month without a paycheck was interesting. One gets used to a certain standard of living when every two weeks money magically hits your bank account. I’ve really been able to reflect on what I need, and what’s worth abandoning. This quote from Nassim Taleb sums it up beautifully:

‘The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.’ – Nassim Taleb

Making Money from…something?

My initial goal was to work on my YouTube presence until I started being visible to sponsors. The goal would be to continue putting out content I enjoy creating, and live off of ad revenue and partner opportunities. If this month has taught me anything, that is a long way off from happening. In the meantime, I’m considering freelance opportunities and keeping my ear on the ground for opportunities that are remote and part time.

Inspiration and Motivation

It’s tempting to just “wait” until you feel so inspired to be productive. Unfortunately, inspiration rarely follows any logical schedule.

Cognitive Dissonce Hurts

I recently learned a new word! Akrasia. Akrasia is a Greek term for “the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgment through weakness of will”. Basically, Akrasia is when you have a feeling that you should be doing something, but you’re not. You should be mowing the lawn, but you’re on Reddit. You should be working on that React Native app, but you’re watching The Office again.

Akrasia: “the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgment through weakness of will”

When you have a boss, you have performance reviews, you have entire teams of people tracking your output. When you’re on your own, you become the manager and the managed. The only way to get something done is to do it. Simple as that.

Consistency

Showing up every day. Compound interest. Garbage in, garbage out. Don’t skip leg day. Building a business is a marathon, not a sprint (or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself).

compund interest

Compound interest doing its thing! Snapshot of July from my Youtube analytics page.

Authenticity

I’ve always been a closet nerd. I own six Hunter x Hunter shirts. I spend a lot of my days on YouTube watching One Punch Man and DBZ reruns.

But since I’ve always “disliked” that side of my personality, I haven’t been able to integrate that into my work. I hope to change this next month, to be able to release content that is true to my soul; and non apologetic.

Habits

Exercise

This one is huge. Exercise truly is what it’s cracked up to be. Stressed? Jog for a bit. Tired? Knock out 15 pushups. Need a morning routine? Head to the gym.

Exercise feels like a Swiss army knife and has become a core part in my routine, and helping me maintain a level head and getting me swolleeee.

Omega 3

The science isn’t conclusive, but I can say that taking omega-3 supplements have helped me feel less lethargic and more motivated when I would normally fall into patterns of depression.

(I’m willing to acknowledge that maybe it’s a placebo effect ¯ \ (ツ)/¯)

Sleep

My sleep hasn’t been great. I’ve been able to sleep in, but I’ve been getting to bed too late. It’s incredible how an entire day can go by without a single good idea, but then 2am hits and the mind becomes a F-35.

Reading

I’ve been able to read a lot more, which is awesome. My favorite reads this month were Skin in the Game by Nassim Taleb and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, for entirely different reasons.

Regrets

Still none…well no major ones, at least. I do miss the snacks in the office.

Wins

  1. Podcast with Max Hertan
  2. Finished my portfolio
  3. First stream on Mixer
  4. 24 subscribers (small, but a big deal to me!)
  5. Daily* conversations with my friend Ulrik, keeping me both grounded and motivated

*okay, maybe every other day

Losses

  1. Still no solid niche idea for YouTube
  2. Still spent more money than I would prefer to
  3. Too much time spent unfocused, neither resting nor working; just upset and unfocused

Plans for Next Month

  1. Find a monetization strategy to help propel business (profit first!)
  2. Find a mentor

Conclusion

I like the feeling of control. This world has so many incalculable variables, it’s a fool’s errand to try and control everything. But there are some things I can control. My time, how I spend my money, appreciating who I have and what I have.

This month has taught me a lot about self-reliance. I’m excited for the next one.

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if youre happy youre successful

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

Today, I had some medium to poor Chinese food, but the fortune in the (stale) fortune cookie was very insightful.

“If you’re happy, you’re successful.”

Mindfulness is back in vogue recently, and a lot of people are realizing that keeping up with the Joneses’ isn’t any way to establish long lasting happiness.

I’ve been working on my entrepreneurial projects and a thought occurred to me. On the off chance I do succeed, I have to acknowledge the fact that I won’t be happier. Thanks to the Hedonic treadmill, we can pretty much guarantee the our baseline is where we’ll spend most of our life, no matter what events occur.

On the off chance I do succeed, I have to acknowledge the fact that I won’t be happier.

So I guess the only rational path to happiness is to fall in love with the journey, not the outcome. The outcome isn’t the prize.

fog

Next Steps

“Two paths diverged in a yellow wood…”

I just left my job.
Worse yet, I left my job to chase a quote-on-quote dream.
Even worse than that, my dream isn’t even well defined, isn’t supported by $10M seed funding, and doesn’t have the support of a university or company behind it.
And the worst sin of all? I don’t feel bad about it.

Some background

I’m very fortunate.
I’m extremely fortunate to have a functioning body, a functioning mind, and a network of family and friends that inspire me and care for me.
I have an education, experience in a field that taught me a lot about the world and to live in a city that taught me a lot about people.
I’ve learned a lot of life’s lessons early on in my life. Lessons of mortality, lessons of money or lack thereof, lessons of love and lessons of hate.

Reality

“The more in harmony with yourself you are, the more joyful you are and the more faithful you are. Faith is not to disconnect you from reality – it connects you to reality.”
– Paulo Coelho

I find that it’s important to be realistic. It’s important to list out as objectively as possible the things that are true. Things that are tangible: my height and weight, my favorite foods, places I like and places I don’t. Things that are intangible: the times of the day I’m most focused, the books that make me happiest, the songs that make me feel most alive.

I find it’s important to be realistic about death. How long, yet tragically short, life can be. I find it’s important to acknowledge one’s “dream”, and to mercilessly pursue your own meaning in this universe (because no one else will do it for you).

Insecurity

“I Am an Old Man and Have Known a Great Many Troubles, But Most of Them Never Happened”
Old Man

As a consistent journaler, I began to notice trends. Patterns in my behaviors, in my wants and needs. Things that rattle my nerves, and most importantly: my insecurities. Oh, my insecurities! So many and always changing, never fully healed and constantly tender, like open wounds.

My most tender wound? The feeling of renting out my time on something that I don’t own. I guess this insecurity can be blamed partly on my ideology, from being raised in a WEIRD household. The need to feel like an individual, and to feel I’ve left a legacy on this planet. For my life to feel bigger than it is, to feel longer than it is, and to be more meaningful than it is in reality.

And so, with time, effort, and a lot of self reflection I threw all of my realities and motivations into one “pot” and stirred. Stirred and waited. After a while, something emerged from the cloudy liquid. Then all I had to do is take whatever emerged seriously.

Permission-less Work

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”
– Thomas Jefferson

Can I? May I? Should I? We spend so much of our lives asking other people if we can do something. To a point, this is logical. Often, people will try to protect you, they care for your growth and safety, and value your comfort. The problem is, when you ask other people for feedback on your motivations, other people are really just granting permission for themselves, veiled as permission for you.
We can only perceive the world as we know it. If you ask me “Can I be a chef like Gordon Ramsay?” I may reply, “Yeah, I love the stir fry you made the other night! But aren’t you still set on med school?” Whether or not I truly believe you could succeed as a chef is irrelevant, in this moment my main concern is to maintain a positive relationship with you by telling you what you want to hear.

In the extreme, some people will refuse to act, and refuse to be, unless they have assurance from other people. They’ll assign their identity to their profession, the school they went to, or the town they grew up in.

My favorite thing about our current era, the Information Age, is the driving force of social evolution, and how anyone, anywhere, can create something that creates immense wealth for society (e.g. Google, Uber, Facebook, etc.) in less than a lifetime. In this world you can be whoever you want to be.

Say it with me: you can be WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE.

The barrier of entry is much lower. You no longer need to take a physical risk to extend influence and to create something that matters to you. In this day and age, opportunity is abundant for those who are willing to look for it. People all over the world are meeting each other for the first time every second of every day, most over a screen. Their words enter your mind, and their feelings enter your heart. Even now, this post is my feeble attempt to join in on this great game, to meet and hopefully help people who I’ve never seen before.

I guess, in a way, I’m setting out to test this hypothesis. I’m setting out to find out if everyone is right about the way the world is supposed to work. If we’re meant to consign ourselves to doing things we don’t enjoy in this world, because “that’s just the way things are, and that’s the way they always have been and always will be.”

Calculated Risk

“Between calculated risk and reckless decision-making lies the dividing line between profit and loss.”
– Charles Duhigg

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about risk. Taking on risk is well… risky. Why expose your feelings by asking out the person you’ve been secretly crushing on the past five months? Why bet your life savings on a startup? Why move out of the city you know, with people who love you, with $20 in your pocket to go and pursue an idea you had at 5am one night?

The obvious answer is reward. Reward can technically be unlimited. The greater the risk, generally correlates with a higher reward. This is due to the increased accountability in the endeavor. It was a major risk to be the first people to fly to the Moon. The reward is being known as the first people on the Moon forever.

With increased risk comes increased chance of failure. Some failures are minimal, and wounds can be licked. Others are earth shattering and catastrophic. If startup culture has taught me anything, it’s that it’s better to fail forward, tripping a little bit each day, rather than to succeed for a consistent period of time and then suffer a major setback.

I’m a firm believer that empty platitudes don’t do anything. That it’s better to make mistakes of ambition rather than mistakes of sloth. That failure is a healthy and integral part of growing up and creating something that matters. That improvement is a continuous process with peaks and valleys, but trends upwards if you put in the effort.

So What Projects Are You Gonna Be Working On?

At this moment in time, I am driven solely by my obsessions. Tasks that intrinsically motivate me, that make me feel alive.

These obsessions are: music, coding, acting, writing, reading books, and public speaking.
Tomorrow my obsessions may include cooking or skiing, who knows. People change, value calculations change with new inputs, the things that are important to us today may not be important tomorrow.

I’ll be working on this blog, on my music, on more open source projects, getting involved with the tech community at large, and some projects that I hope to make money from.
I’m going to continue uploading to my YouTube channel about rapid skill acquisition, and my videos will continue to get better, because I will get better. I want to spin a podcast off of the channel as well, interviewing experts and trying to hone in on what sub-skills people should focus on to grow rapidly.

P.S. reach out to me through e-mail if you are an expert in your field, I’d love to interview you.

Most importantly, I’m not gonna ask anyone or wait for someone to tell me yes to make something I want to make. I’m just gonna do it.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.
– Steve Jobs

What am I worried about?

Bye bye paycheck (for now)

There is a certain standard of living one gets used to after making consistent money, but that is no longer the case for me currently. I’m hoping Seneca is right about our relationship with daily comforts and fortune; that it’s out of my control in the first place, and I should be grateful for what I had and what I have now:

“Remember that all we have is ‘on loan’ from Fortune, which can reclaim it without our permission—indeed, without even advance notice. Thus, we should love all our dear ones, but always with the thought that we have no promise that we may keep them forever—nay, no promise even that we may keep them for long.”
– Seneca

My own self doubt + other’s doubt at the same time

It’s one thing to have to battle your own demons, it’s another altogether to have to fend off family and friends from the quote-on-quote poor decision making I’ve done around this. 😉

Loneliness

I don’t mind being alone in a room for hours on end. My books and work keep me company enough. That said, it will take more effort now to meet people who will inspire me and help me to grow, and I’ll need to take a much more active role in my social development.

Managing my own discipline

Discipline is never one of those things that is truly “solved”. It’s very dependent on mood, motivation, and physical state. There are great tools out today that can increase productivity, but I can’t imagine it will be easy.

People are less effective solo than on a team

There’s honestly only so much output one person can do in any given day, and honestly, it won’t be as high quality as what a team is able to produce. I’m excited to push my boundaries with the resources and skillset that I have, but I do worry about “not being good enough.”

Uncertainty

By and by, I have no idea what’s going to happen. That sucks, let’s be frank.

Where Do You See Yourself 5 Years From Now?

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing one year from today, or even scarier, who I’ll be. Will I have to go back to a full time job? Will one of my family members get sick? Will I get sick? Will I make zillions of dollars, win a Nobel Prize and be the first man to successfully bake a souffle on the moon? Probably not.
None of us can predict the future, but I think that future vision might suck the fun out of life. Spinning the wheel is only fun if you can’t predict the outcome after all.

All I can see, all I can do, is take the next steps.

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