February 2020

I engaged in a friend’s casual weekend “hackathon” hangout. I paid an overdue visit to family and friends in Wisconsin. I connected and re-connected with people from all over the globe, mostly within San Francisco. I’m currently transitioning between jobs and learning (living) the art of negotiation.

A lot has happened in 2020! I’m grateful to be alive and well. And excited to have dealt with enough heavy life lifting for the year such that I can improve the regularity of my monthly blog publish, and daily (as yet, hypothetical) exercise routine :p

I’m looking forward to visiting college buddies in Puerto Rico next month, investing in personal spaces (for example, using my kitchen to greater effect), and playing more phone tag with the world.

Thanks everyone for your existence and love and support and trust and readership! Ring me anytime.

On Humility

I used to think humble meant “meek and unassuming” and that this was a virtuous way to live. It led to some tension between quiet, composed Andy and silly, rambunctious Andy.

Because I wasn’t fully at peace with my state of being, I tended to be overly self-aware. I projected insecurity and instability outward. I did things which demonstrated poor calibration and a lack of direction towards what matters.

I remember an interaction with a guy I had just met after graduating high school. I thought he was the coolest thing since iceboxes and I wanted to be friends. I did my normal thing and swiftly received his keen judgment—delivered with piercingly casual vibes:

“Dude, just chill out.”

I think I was aggressively trying to give away a bag of potato chips so the food wouldn’t go to waste. Classic. Lays?

So I was young and immature, so I still am…so what?

Erroneous beliefs tend to manifest in the long run, even if they are only slightly or imperceptibly off—perhaps invisible—in the short run. Thank you Eric Li for the valuable data point and guidance at prez scholars 2014 that has now manifested six years later :)

It has recently become much more clear to me that an effective definition of humble treats a meek and unassuming demeanor as orthogonal to true humility. Humility is really about epistemic confidence and maintaining a healthy dose of self-doubt. It’s not about speaking loudly or softly.

(Please for the love of all that’s good and holy, loud talkers be mindful of those around you.)

Because I default to meek and unassuming, I have to practice being direct and assertive. I have found myself pleasantly surprised with the results of speaking my mind fully…even doing so a bit overmuch to ensure that the points come across clearly.

Conflict avoidance and humility are very separate mentally, but confusingly similar behaviorally.

True humility is acted out over time. It shows in how much you think you’re right, and how much you’re actually wrong.

It remains a good idea to lean towards thinking you’re wrong, but ending up as being right. It’s chess, poker, engineering. Holding strong opinions, weakly.

Something something black swans are undervalued by definition, don’t want to have bias, be under-biased not over-confident, blah blah blah.

On Adulting

At this point, I feel that I’ve gotten the gist of the contours of how this all works, adulting.

This is a dangerous point.

My original goal upon graduating MIT was to have a 2-3 year “real life business school” seeing that traditional school was a suboptimal fit for me and not very impactful overall for my personal growth.

It is now officially two years later, and I’m pleased to say, mission accomplished!

One way to view the past two years would be

  • a year and a half of bumming around watching anime and doing random impulsive things
  • until I realized I was being stupid…
  • Then a half year of real-people work
  • working a bit harder than the average beaver in order to catch up.

A more generous way to view the past two years would be

  • a patient exploration of my interests along with
  • a patient exploration of the world and adult life within it
  • culminating in a vocation and balanced existence (primed for further sustainable growth)
  • enabled by fortuitous circumstances and a beautiful first 22 years of life.

It’s remarkably easy to compare oneself to those who are obviously farther along (or significantly behind) in their journey, whether those folks are older or younger.

It’s much more challenging and satisfying to avoid comparison. Why not view each step—each day, each hour—as a necessary turning point on the windy road forward?

Plateaus and dips are to be expected. Pushing through with optimism and gratitude is required.

Yesterday, a friend articulated the danger to me. He said, “be very wary of attractor states, where you adopt a belief and in so doing it will only tend to get stronger over time due to its structure. Where you are likely to observe disproportionate confirming evidence of the belief.”

And so I remind myself, that I really don’t understand adulting at all yet!

On School

The best school teaches you to learn how to learn.

We can argue about the skills involved, how maybe you have to first acquire a language in order to think, etc. But at the highest level, perhaps we can agree the general concept of school should ultimately be teaching independence. Should guide you towards a place where you can make further progress increasingly on your own, in whatever direction.

School might be considered part of “pre-adulting” where there is less clarity of specific, self-set goals. Then “adulting” is the daily sense of responsibility to act appropriately towards clarified goals.

Goals might be values, like patience or kindness, or specific little or big things, like running on a treadmill for 17 minutes or writing and publishing a book or getting married.

Impetus from within is desirable, but that’s not to say reliance on others is bad in any way. However, the best teachers and schools are the ones you can query long after they’re gone. Meaning they have embedded and taken root within you.

The discussion of artificial general intelligence and superintelligence under-emphasizes— at least for now—the miracle of human intelligence which occurs and grows every day.

It’s an interesting question to what degree (and when) I might want to be ahead of my time versus firmly rooted within my time.

On Work

A year ago, I thought that I had enough work experience. I thought, hey I have tons of skills. I can both recognize and achieve good work. I have full confidence in my ability to take on any challenge.

…so I should be able to create my own job, to make my own way, and not have to rely on an employer…

Now I see that work is a small part of a larger picture. And regardless of one’s career aptitude —life takes time, life takes living!

Often doing good work is not about the work in itself, but the planning and prioritization of the work. What does alignment mean and look like? How do we focus and show up with the right conditions and emotional state to achieve success?

Understanding how to invest time, and where—what tables to sit at—once we understand the full game and what constitutes it, then we have grasped the practical necessities to have a real job and own it.

You always need a clear “who’s it for, what’s it for” as Seth says and I repeat. This can be refined by learning to adult better, to goal-set and follow through.

In any case, “Reliance on an employer” is a naive phrase. It fails to consider that partnership, teamwork, connection are all essential to the individual, society, and living a great life.

This is why I love Seth Godin. He talks about not only shipping great work (that’s a given), but then the next step is to market and demonstrate the impact…and make others care. Provide true value and tell a story about it.

And thus live a great life.

On Social Media and Google

I have no Facebook, no LinkedIn. I have never had a snapchat nor insta. And I currently plan to keep my sole online presence here, under my full control (and responsibility).

A colleague recently Googled me and asked about the search results. To snapshot everything in one place, here’s some of what the internet currently says about me:

On Priorities

In my most recent post, I stated 3 objectives for 2020:

  1. Being healthy, mindful, present.
  2. Doing a great job at work.
  3. Shipping side projects to learn and grow technically.

To refocus and rephrase, I’d like to bundle the last point into the “health” part of the first. Learning and growing and creating (3) is a huge priority for me, but it isn’t limited to the technical, as stated above.

Instead, I’m OK just focusing on the first two for now, and making tradeoffs between and among them. Overall health therefore includes physical, emotional, social, etc. Basically, health is my barometer term for how close to optimally sustainable my current lifestyle is.

This is probably the best way for me to phrase what I hope is a virtuous cycle of two personal goals for the year:

  1. Being healthy, mindful, present.
  2. Doing a great job at work.

It’s all about being more purposeful. Engaging day by day, investing in and loving life.

An Article

Enjoyed “A Brief History of Existential Terror”, thanks Aatish.

This is great fodder for thought on the above themes, and general productivity.

A poetic afterthought, written first

If I died today I would probably give all my resources to my sister, Wendy. And if I had to have a tombstone of sorts, I might ask MIT to put a little thingy in a public place…perhaps name, birth / death year, and a blurb:

“Take care of your body, mind, and soul. Listen fully before speaking, as a thoughtful scientist. Love everything with all your heart; trust and empower others. Raise the bar; expectations will shape your reality. Dance with the fear. Grow and enjoy.”

The scary part is that I am dying today. The exciting part, the part that I’m grateful for, is that it’s happening slowly enough for me and others to enjoy it.

The funny part is that none of my above self-quoted sentences are original at all.


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