Turning Off Comments For Now

I’ll be turning off the comments for this blog since I only really get spam. Before I do though, here are a few choice ones I’ve received this past year. There were a ton more, but unfortunately I’ve deleted most.

P.S. Comments are live on this post, DO YOUR WORST!!

Photo by Rostyslav Savchyn on Unsplash

Preventing Burnout

Burnout is a serious issue that needs to be proactively dealt with. In this video, I discuss some ways I’ve found to prevent burnout from happening. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Mailing List

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:


Getting Started With Reading Books

I love reading, and have read over 60 books in the past year. In this video, I talk about ways I’ve discovered to read more books. As always, let me know what you think!

Mailing List

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:


Getting Started with Journaling

I’ve talked a lot about journaling before, in this video I discuss three ways to help you build a journaling habit. As always, I’d love to know what you think.

Mailing List

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:


Getting Started with Music Production

I have a Youtube Channel!

I made a Youtube channel last month and have been posting some videos. This first video addresses music production. Let me know what you think.

Mailing List

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:


Flat Pat

Pat is flat.
And that’s that.
All of Pats friends are fat.
Pat was born to a couple of famished expats.
The fat pack won’t let Pat into their frat.
He tried to show them that he could scat; but on his face they spat.
Pat grows up resentful and becomes an autocrat.
Drat.
He implements new laws stat. Now everyone has to be flat.
And that’s that.

Mailing List

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:


Hacking The Rate of Self Improvement

What You’ll Learn

  1. Why change is slow
  2. Why planning too much is bad
  3. Using the Pareto principle to grow faster

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

“Where is that saying from?” I thought to myself. After a quick Google search, I found out that the saying originates from a French phrase from 1190, written in the collection Li Proverbe au Vilain. I love this maxim. To me, it represents the slow motion of a stream that erodes the face of a mountain, the slow formation of the Earth at the infantile stage of the Solar System over 4 billion years ago. It represents a patient parent, waiting for the day that their young child’s violin lessons (even though they sound pretty bad now) will create the next concerto.

I then took a step back and marveled about how easy it was for me to find that information. In fact, a lot of things are pretty easy in this day and age. I’m rarely ever bored, because I can always distract myself at a moment’s notice with my phone. The irritation from boredom is easily remedied by opening Reddit or Instagram. What does that make me? Impatient.

In some ways, being impatient is a really good thing. Hopefully this will come as a surprise to no one, but death is inevitable. Time is limited for us humans, so being impatient spurs action. Being impatient keeps us hungry, hungry to solve life’s problems before we buy the farm.

I became interested in the idea of finding a happy medium between the guarantee of change over large periods of time, and the day to day minuscule changes. How do I make measurable changes in myself in a fair amount of time? What if I don’t want to wait a whole generation to become happier? What if I don’t want to spend five years in school pursuing a graduate degree to have a piece of paper tell me I’m an expert?

Planning (in correct doses)

In machine learning, there is a problem set known as overfitting. Overfitting happens when an algorithm that describes and predicts data is much too complex.

As an example, imagine we are trying to decide what to eat for dinner. We had pasta yesterday, so we don’t want pasta. Oh, and my partner just started Keto, so we can’t have pizza. I’m not in the mood for tacos. But General Tso’s has too much salt. Down the rabbit hole we go. We could spend weeks mulling over what to get for dinner out of the near limitless options. And in the process, die of starvation. By trying to acknowledge every potential data point, we end up making a worse decision.

Often, overfitting can be attributed to zealousness. We have data, we see what didn’t work before, and we analyze, analyze, analyze. We all know people who are compulsive overthinkers. People who spend their waking hours trying to predict every single outcome. This type of thinking is necessary to a point. Forging through a forest without a map is a dumb idea. Mapping out every rock is an equally dumb idea.

For myself, I try to not overthink things, but I’ve found a good trick is to set a timer to think and worry. I give myself 20 minutes to think of worst case outcomes, to pick apart data, to dissect any morsel of meaning. After that timer goes off, I step away.

By doing this, I’ve been able to short circuit the urge to overthink things.

Effectiveness

I’ve mentioned the Pareto Principle before, but I’d like to take a few sentences to give some real life examples of how you can add the Pareto Principle to your life.

The Three Steps To Effectiveness…ness

First, start with a well defined goal. Your goal doesn’t have to be SMART but it should point you in the correct direction.

Second, choose one thing you can do today that will bring you closest to this goal.

Third, repeat this process and tweak as needed. Iterate on what you did yesterday, try something new, because the same inputs net the same result.

Examples

Here’s an example. Say I want to learn how to be an archeologist. That goal is pretty vague, so let’s first define it better.

1) Define the goal

Instead of “I want to be an archeologist.” let’s say, “I want to go on a geological dig with paleontologists.”

2) Find the most effective thing you can do today to achieve this goal.

Day 1-7: Research what archeologists do, what they study in school
8-14: Search for volunteer opportunities on https://www.archaeological.org/fieldwork
15-22: Buy/rent a metal detector on Amazon, and go dig in a public park or forest
23-31: Post your findings on a blog, or YouTube

3) Repeat to taste

Example 2: I want to be able to bench press 1.5x my body weight

1) Define the goal

Goal is well defined already. Awesome!

2) Find the most effective thing you can do today to achieve this goal.

Day 1-7: Research what bodybuilders do, the correct form for bench pressing
8-14: Work on grip strength (apparently this is pretty important for confidence while lifting heavy)
15-22: Find a spotter, work out and eat the right foods
23-31: Get the amount of sleep you need to perform your best in the gym

Our goal will morph over time, which is why it’s important to not have the goal be too rigid. Remember, we aren’t trying to think of everything, just the important things.

How Fast Can I Change?

This really depends on how you define change, how many variables are outside of your control, and how well you are able to stick to a schedule. But I’d argue the going rate is around two months of continuous, well placed work. This conclusion is anecdotal, but is also based off of James Clear’s blog on automatic habits. We don’t need something to become automatic, but the less you need to actively think about the process, the better. This goes for everything from dating to astrophysics to piano to basketball. Work on the effective fundamentals and you’ll notice changes! I promise.

On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact.

Conclusion

The only constant is change.

In conclusion, set a defined goal, work on the most effective thing you can do today, and iterate/restructure your goal weekly. You may not become Donald Glover overnight, but you might like what you find instead. It’s important to find a balance between patience and impatience, to learn when to look and when to leap. Change is inevitable. However, we can steer the ship. It’s really great to walk into a room with people you know and have them say to you: “You seem different.”

You can check out my three favorite apps to stay productive here.

Mailing List

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:


Accelerating Your Potential

Great news! MassChallenge has agreed to share their thoughts on helping individuals create startups and to teach us (myself included) about startup accelerators. Thank you MassChallenge!

MassChallenge is a non-profit startup accelerator that has raised over $4 billion dollars! for startups. That’s a lotta dough! If you’d like to see my thoughts on whether or not an idea is worth pursuing, you can check out my post on “Million Dollar App Ideas” here.

Full post after the break:


Are you interested in setting up your own startup company? I am pleased to tell you that these days, there are a number of paths you can take to ensure that your startup gains the support and indeed the investment it requires to thrive. One of these options is a startup accelerator.

What Are Startup Accelerator Programs?

Startup accelerator programs provide support to growth-driven, early-stage companies. They do this by offering education, mentorship and of course, financing.

Startups do not remain in accelerators. Instead, they enter them for a fixed period and are joined by a group of other companies that share the same or similar characteristics that match the investment thesis. Experience within the accelerator is both invigorating and intense. Rapid learning is designed to speed up the life cycle of these young, innovative companies. Essentially, years of learning will be compressed into perhaps several months.

I am sure you are aware of other similar options such as incubators, seed stage venture capitalists or angel investors. While these can be effective they do not have the collective elements of the startup accelerator. This is a fixed term mentorship-driven program which will ultimately conclude with a ‘demo day.’

A typical accelerator will last between three and six months compared to an ongoing angel investment or an incubator that can continue for up to five years.

The First US Accelerators

The first noted accelerator in America was Y Combinator. This launched in Boston in 2005 and was known as a seed accelerator program. TechStars was then founded in 2006 in Colorado. Since then, these two have become two of the top accelerator programs on a global level.

Between 2008 and 20014, these accelerators were increasing at a rate of 50 percent every year.

Today, there are nearly 200 accelerators throughout the US and Canada and over $100 million has been invested in these programs in total. The average investment can be anywhere between twenty and fifty thousand.

The Application Process

As you might expect, these accelerator programs are competitive due to the benefits that they could provide a company. Of 3000 applicants, a system will select 150 teams. They will ensure that these teams match the investment verticals and the requirements of the thesis before accepting between 45 and 90 applicants.

Applicants are required to show why their startup is different from the rest and why it will thrive on the market. They will also need to have a full team and strategy in place to ensure success in both product development and success with a target customer base.

Benefits Of Startup Accelerator Programs

The main benefit is that the founders of the startup will be able to learn and develop their company at a rapid pace that exceeds other opportunities on the market. In learning by doing ventures can be scaled in a matter of months. The main value of these programs comes from the intensive learning environment that is created and may help the company attract seed as well as early-stage financing.

If you are keen to learn more about the staggering impact of accelerator programs on startups today and the process required to apply, I encourage you to check out the infographic below.

Infographic Courtesy of MassChallenge

The Road to Startup Acceleration

The Art of Living Below Your Means, and Still Having Fun

A Series of Unfortunate Graduations

The sign of financial health is when you don’t have to think about your finances

In 2018, non-housing debt passed four trillion dollars in the US according to the Federal Reserve.

Despite being a notable number that’s easy to talk about, this presents an alarming picture of consumer debt in the years to come. Unfortunately, a lot of this debt isn’t even the fault of consumers. In 2004, credit card debt (a good thermometer of spending habits) represented .69 trillion dollars of consumer debt. In 2018, credit card debt climbed to .87 trillion dollars.

1 trillion = 1000 billion, so .87 trillion = 870 billion

More shockingly, student loan debt rocketed from .26 trillion dollars in 2004 to 1.46 trillion dollars in 2018. That’s over one trillion dollars taken over 14 years, or “3.5 full cycles of undergrads” (real 100% valid math, take my word for it).

The number of students projected to attend American colleges and universities in fall 2018 is 19.9 million, which is higher than the enrollment of 15.3 million students in fall 2000, but lower than the enrollment peak of 21.0 million in fall 2010. Total enrollment is expected to increase between fall 2018 and fall 2027 to 20.5 million. During the 2018–19 school year, colleges and universities are expected to award 1.0 million associate‘s degrees; 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees; 780,000 master’s degrees; and 182,000 doctor’s degrees (source). In 2015–16, postsecondary institutions awarded 939,000 certificates below the associate‘s degree level, 1.0 million associate‘s degrees, 1.9 million bachelor‘s degrees, 786,000 master‘s degrees, and 178,000 doctor‘s degrees.
source

As a recent grad with student loans myself, I feel this sting personally. Hopefully future generations will make more informed decisions about whether or not a four year university is worth the financial burden. Until then though, no use crying over spilled milk, right?!

spilled milk

What the hell am I supposed to do with this?

A lot of disgruntled new grads have realized that a degree in that subject they hopefully liked will only take them so far. Unfortunately, Sallie Mae always be comin’ and knockin’. There are multiple options to manage student loan debt (one of my personal favorites is the Personal Finance subreddit but I want to talk about one particular way that’s near and dear to my heart, budgeting.

Budgeting for Fun and Profit

For my first year or two out of school, budgeting sounded like a dirty word, or some kind of unachievable pipe dream (I can’t budget! I don’t have enough money for that!). But that phase is ironically where budgeting is the most effective. Budgeting your expenses is kinda like getting eight hours of sleep. We all know we need it, but like, c’mon what’s one more episode of Umbrella Academy gonna hurt?

A few years ago, my friend put me on the idea of YNAB and I was like nah, too hard. Then around September 2017, in a fit of rage seeing a credit card statement where I spent way more money than I thought I did, I decided to give YNAB a shot. About four months later, wowza. It’s a game changer. Here are two photos that will give you a good idea of my financial status since downloading YNAB.

spending chartA chart mapping my spending habits over the past few months

net worth chart
A chart mapping my net worth over the past few months

Two Graphs Walk into a Bar and Break It Down

I wanted to show both to paint a more realistic image of both my gains and losses since October. As you can see, my spending spiked a few months, but the other ones average out to about the same amount. This might seem depressing, but it’s actually really good news. I can pretty confidently say I’ll spend the same amount each month. This includes my static expenses like my rent, groceries and student loans, and gives me a good idea at the rate I buy frivolous s*** (I live in NYC, it’s really hard not to buy/partake in frivolous s*** here).

The second picture is much more rewarding, this is a picture of my net worth. For the uninitiated, net worth is:

Net worth is the value of all the non-financial and financial assets owned by an institutional unit or sector minus the value of all its outstanding liabilities.

In a less boring way to say that, net worth is your total value, including your debts. The red bar = bad, the blue bar = good. As we can see here, my debt is going down while my assets are increasing. How is this happening? Well, let me tell ya!

The best way to protect your assets is to put money into savings first. Another bad word, by savings here, all I mean is taking some small percentage of your income and putting it into a separate account than your checking. Hopefully you won’t need to tap into this often (you’ll need to find out your own burn rate against the money you bring in!). Slowly, sometimes over the periods of years, this one action will start to add up. Your debts will continue to go down as you pay them, and your assets will go up. This is a really good feeling. This small win is really important for new grads like myself, and can give us back a modicum of control.

What About Fun, Though?

The real point I wanted to draw here is that budgeting doesn’t mean that you have to give up the things you love. I mean, with all the minimalist joy resources out there today, you’ll find no shortage of ways to pare down on life and still have a dope time. But as a twenty-something who lives in New York City, here’s my take:

  • Seriously ask yourself: Do I need to do this thing? Do I need to go out this weekend? Am I doing this because I enjoy it or because I feel like I have to impress somebody else or save face?
  • Adjust your mindset: Fun is a malleable concept, and there are a ton of fun things you can do while you save. Maybe one of you weekend nights becomes Netflix and Chill instead of I’ll Foot the Bill
  • Pick up Reading: Not trying to sound like anyone’s dad here, but I started reading last year and it’s been a game changer, both financially and well-roundedness…ly?

Conclusion

We, the luckiest generation, who were thrust into higher education post Y2K have the “fortune” of having some crazy debts. Fortunately though, with some clever planning, we can use this to our advantage as well. Get out there and save! And after that, get out there and enjoy your life!

Mailing List

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:


3 apps that make you more productive

We live in a pretty cool time. We’re surrounded constantly by gadgets, are in constant communication with each other and new technologies that improve life come out every day. One thing that’s worse though, is the anxiety that comes with always being connected to each other.

I grew up with the internet, so I can’t relate too many firsthand experiences, but I’m told before the Internet was around, when the work day ended, you were expected to go home and not think about work!

A Brief History Lesson with Dr. Adams

In Algorithms to Live By, Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths talk about the creation of the Internet and how the communication layer of the world changed. Basically, the internet works similar to FedEx. Your computer will ship out a package and another computer will eventually receive it. Your computer then waits for a receipt, an acknowledgment that the other computer got it. Then your computer will send the next package. If no receipt is returned, your computer can keep sending the same package over and over too (think of this like a ‘return to sender’ in the mail).

Before this, phones (like those old ones with the cords!) followed a different model. In order to send data, both lines need to be active. If you’ve ever been hung up on, you know exactly what I mean. You can talk and talk, but the other person won’t ever receive it.

What does this mean, in the context of productivity? Well, think about your email inbox. A lot of us myself included, are obsessed with “Inbox Zero”. But since work can come in at any point in the day, we’re never really done (asymptotic to zero). We’re expected to stop drinking our margaritas on the beach. We’re expected to look at our phones compulsively every five minutes to make sure we didn’t miss a “package delivery”.

This isn’t all bad though. The very cause of our troubles can be used to facilitate processes so that we finish things we need to do, or things we said we’d do.

Our goal is to decrease the load on our physical brains, by taking advantage of tools (our digital brain). So let’s jump into it!

Todoist

Todoist is a really powerful to-do list. The main selling points for Todoist for me are:

1) The ability to use natural language processing to add scheduling to todos
2) The ability to track past and completed todos with filters
3) A pretty intuitive project structure

That said, trialing this app to see if you like it isn’t really a thing. Their free tier is garbage, but you can occasionally find a code on Reddit to give yourself a free month (or use a referral, email me if you want one!)

Todoist is my “first line of defense”. When something comes up that I’m not ready to deal with, or if I’m busy doing something else, I’ll add it to Todoist. There have been times when I’ve been scrolling through my unfinished todos and I’ll realize that I forgot to do something small from months ago. Context matters. Sometimes you need to be in front of your home desktop to do something!

Back before todo lists were a thing, I honestly don’t know how people just didn’t forget to do things. I know I forget constantly. But maybe that’s just because I get distracted, I digress.

Habitica

Habitica is a gamified way to keep track of habits. Habits are extremely important for productivity for multiple reasons. For one, habits when practiced every day, leads to major growth over time, but only when done consistently. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your meditation habit.

To quote Atomic Habits:

Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. Your clutter is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits. You get what you repeat.

I treat my habits as static if possible because it allows me to plan my day around the ~30minutes it takes for me to finish them. By externalizing my habits into a game, the feeling of accomplishment has a tangible existence. Habitica also allows you to feel like an RPG hero while you do them, which is really fun. This app kind of reminds me of level progression back in my World of Warcraft days, but is much healthier.

Notion

Usually people say that they save the best for last, but I actually did.

Notion is amazing. It’s kind of like Evernote, Trello, and Google Docs had a baby. But this baby was born strong as f***. Notion has a very intuitive UI, and I use it as my goto “long term” planner. Because everything exists in one space, I can easily context switch from one project to another. I can’t say enough positive things about Notion, it really feels like one of those apps that change the way you interact with your computer/phone.

Their offline support is pretty buggy, though.

Conclusion

These three apps didn’t change everything in life for me, but in tandem they make me a much more productive human. One who gets s*** done!

If you’re interested in productivity, check out my post on blocking distracting websites with Python or sign up for my mailing list below.

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: