to each their own

to each their own
or so I’ve been told

some will stand
others will fold

the apple; doesn’t fall far from the tree
golden or rotten, it’s all the same to me

a person manifests their destiny by taking action
the universe responds with an equal and opposite reaction

Planning

“A man without a plan will quickly become banned/canned/overly tanned.”

I hate planning. I also love planning. I love feeling like I can control the outcomes of things, that a plan I’ve written down is exactly how it will play out in reality.

In the tech world, everyone loves “sprinting”. A sprint is a two-week period of a project, with a planning session at the beginning, and a retrospective session at the end.

Most of the time, in my experience, the “value added” hierarchy to the project goes:

doing the hard stuff > talking about what broke / what was learned from doing the hard stuff last time > planning the best way to do hard stuff.

Ideally, a plan is a document that will illuminate problems before they occur, so they can be safely avoided. Some plans are skeletons, others are so full bodied, they take more time to do than the project itself.

The problem is, plans never play out like they should. At best, plans save an equal amount of time on doing the hard thing that they cost to formulate. At worst, the time is entirely sunk because the plan is a steaming pile of garbage.

Whether you are writing a book, learning to fly a plane, or just how to make a burger; get to it. The less thinking and planning, the better, or so I’ve found.

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.

Stay up to Date with the Newsletter

I send out a Sunday newsletter about books that have inspired me, thoughts from the current week and articles about efficiency, code, and personal development. Sign up below to recieve my three top mental models for free in your inbox:



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.

Stay up to Date with the Newsletter

I send out a Sunday newsletter about books that have inspired me, thoughts from the current week and articles about efficiency, code, and personal development. Sign up below to recieve my three top mental models for free in your inbox:



I’ve Been Journaling for a Month Now

Editor’s Note: Moving over a few of my old blog posts to the current blog — including this one, which I like a lot due to it’s vulnerability

Allow me to set the scene:

It was a cold day near the end of March. It was one of those days when you feel upset, not at anything in particular, you’re just upset to your core. I was browsing Reddit for todo app recommendations (I had recently felt very disorganized at work, and that I couldn’t remember the work I had done at standup meetings) and I came across a comment mentioning that their personal todo app wasn’t an app at all, but a bullet journal. Serendipitously, I was concurrently reading a biography about Leonardo DaVinci, whose journals are notorious and have secured him as one of the most talented individuals ever (Bill Gates bought one of his notebooks for $30.8 million back in 1994 [source]). So I impulsively left my studio apartment after midnight, stumbled into CVS and picked up a leather bound journal for $10 and a few pens.

Fast forward a month and I can’t believe I hadn’t come across the idea of journaling earlier. I can say with 100% accuracy that a journal has been a game changer.

Summary

In this article I’ll discuss:
1. Why journaling is a big deal
2. How this meta habit affects all of your other habits
3. Personal Experiences

What is a journal?

According to Dictionary.com, a journal is defined as:

[jur-nl] noun:

a daily record, as of occurrences, experiences, or observations

If I we’re to add to this definition, I’d say that a journal is also:
* A reflection device
* An idea generator
* An investigative tool
* A personal companion
* A secretary
* A source of truth

Let’s use these definitions to explore why journaling is a worthwhile endeavor.

Why journal?

Thoughts

Everyday, we think thousands of thoughts. Most of these thoughts are mundane. Some are pleasant, others are troubling. Some are great ideas. Others aren’t. A journal serves as a record of all of these, helping you categorize useful ones vs. the ones that aren’t productive.

Gratitude

Gratitude journaling has been shown by numerous studies to be an effective way to increase happiness. By writing down the things you are grateful for, you can make these feelings concrete, and they allow you to see the positive aspects on life instead of drilling in on the negative. Gratitude journaling has helped me be appreciative of those around me, and more open to gratitude in my daily life.

Mindfulness

The buzzword of the decade, in this case being mindful means to have a written relationship with the present. A journal acts like a picture of your mental state at any given moment. By freeing up your mind of these thoughts, it’s easier for your mind to create new thoughts, and therefore to appreciate the things going on around you at any moment.

Less rumination -> more mindfulness

Passion Finder

I haven’t been journaling long enough to take advantage of this one yet, but the roots are being laid for sure. In this case, you use your journal as a reflection tool, looking back at things that keep recurring in your mind. For example, lets say that you notice that you tend to write about whales. Like a lot. After a few months of this, you may decide you should start a passion project involving whales. Who knows? Honestly, it just helps to have a daily representation of where you want to be vs. where you are.

A Secretary / Goal Tracker

Accomplishing goals is a great way to feel that life is meaningful. Often, goals are complex and amorphous. We know that we want something, but the steps to achieve that thing seem unreasonable. Or we get distracted. Or we get set back and feel disheartened. A journal is a great way to have an honest interaction with your goals. Are you moving towards them? Away from them? Are you going after something else all together?

Discipline

Journaling is a great way to establish discipline. It becomes something you do everyday, and therefore it becomes a cornerstone. And if I learned anything from elementary school, routine is a good thing. The mind very much appreciates routine.

A Friend

This one is a bit more subjective because it depends on how you use your journal. Basically, a journal is a fantastic space to talk to yourself about whatever you want. It doesn’t have to make sense, or be grammatically correct, all that matters is that it makes sense to you. A journal is a listening companion, it will never talk back to you, or try to give you advice, or complain. It’s simply a space for you to project. Writing about stressful events in a productive manner has been proven to help overcome these events

Writing

I’ll be honest. I hate the idea of writing with pen and paper. It feels like homework, and I hate homework. But writing is a very important skill. Making the brain write forces clarity. It also makes you think more deliberately, and replaces useless thoughts with focused revelations.

Personal Experience

In the past month that I’ve been journaling, it’s proven itself to be an invaluable tool. I’ve received clarity on my relationships with others and myself, I’ve been able to see how I’m progressing towards my own goals, and I’m capturing so much every day in between. I’ll say it’s important to have a methodology while journaling, and I recommend the bullet journal. The index and monthly logs have proven very helpful. People always ask you “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, and I’ll be excited to respond, “I’m not sure, but I’ll bet my journal knows.”