Juan David Campolargo

Giving Up Optionality: Updating 2020

I was excited about 2020, but then...I got more and more excited. 

As convoluted as 2020 was, it was a year to be grateful for all the things that happened. This was the year I graduated from high school, I started college, I started sharing my ideas online, I started making videos, but it was also the year of a pandemic, my grandfather’s passing, and overall a foundational stage for years to come. 

If we survived 2020, it means we learned many lessons that strengthen us.

Updating 2020 will focus on three parts: 1) 2020 Recap, 2) On Curious Equilibrium (Positive/Negative), 3) Goals for 2021. 

Key Footprints

New Articles Published: 38 

Email Newsletters Sent: 42 (started in March)

Unique Website Visitors: 7551

Email List Growth: 1 - 278 (27700% Growth)

Favorite Song: Time (Alan Walker Remix)

Favorite Songs: Spotify playlist of my favorite songs of 2020

Favorite Quote: "Perhaps all the dragons in our life are princesses who are only waiting for us to be radiant with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything terrible is at bottomless helpless, waiting for our help." From Letters To A Young Poet.

Favorite STEM book: The Art of Doing Science and Engineering.

Favorite Philosophy Book: A Culture of Narcissism 

Most popular video: Tyler Cowen's Advice to Young People

Awe Moment: The resplendence of the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam

2020 Recap

General Overview: how I feel out this will probably be affected by how I felt in the last few months of 2020, which won’t be 100% accurate. However, I can look at older essays, newsletters, and weekly reviews to get a more vivid picture.

First things first, my realization when writing this essay is how unintentional I was this year, meaning I didn’t have any clear or specific goals, I kind of knew what I wanted to do and accomplish but few of these goals were written nor had a plan. I hoped that if I put it in the work, they’d be accomplished. I couldn’t have been more wrong...

Looking back, this was largely on purpose because I feared limiting myself to things I wasn’t sure I wanted to do. I realized I need to be super specific with my goals and if I’m going to do something, I should go all in. 

I used to think that if you were broad, you would get more opportunities, but I’ve realized the opposite is true. 

This isn’t just me. This is a phenomenon my entire generation is facing, which is our unwillingness to commit, and our eagerness to keep our options open.

I’ll be honest. 

I feared committing to sharing my ideas online, such as writing on my website, publishing newsletters, and making YouTube videos. All I wanted was to keep my options open, and as many open doors as possible. 

However, the best way to open doors in the future is to close as many doors as you can in the present.

But if I want to increase the quality of my life, work on “important” and “meaningful” work, and help others, I need to commit! To commit to a field of study. To commit to projects. To commit to commitment. 

This isn’t commitment for commitment’s sake because if I commit to the wrong activity or endeavor, I will have still learned to commit. 

I want to do the type of work that requires working on important problems and being emotionally involved. 

And my work will require commitment. 

Online Transformation: In 2020, I started writing essays, sending newsletters, and making YouTube videos. 

I wanted to challenge myself, and I wanted to humbly share the few things I’ve learned with others hoping to learn together. 

Let’s go over each one: 

Sharing my ideas online is an interesting process, but it’s one I remained slightly skeptical about. You can work hard and produce all the content in the world but the impact is still somewhat limited. I would rather work and try to contribute to an “important problem” [1] by the founding of a company or using science to research a curious question. 

I’ve realized these sharing ideas online and working on an important problem are not mutually exclusive and could be combined in a leveraged way that would make it easier, more convenient, and more impactful to transition from “sharing ideas online” to “working on an important problem.” This is what I call the Elon Musk vs. Gary Vee Approach

On Curious Equilibrium

How do you find curious equilibrium? You write the curious expression, determine the molar concentrations, and use an ICE table to solve.

Just kidding. This isn’t chemistry (I hope).

Curious Equilibrium is a section exploring the Positive & Negative of the year. 

Positive

First Year of College: I thought a lot about whether I should go to college. 

I had conversations with smart people about whether I should go and what I should study. I’d form hypotheses and would try to prove them wrong. After I decided to attend, and well my mom forced me to, I thought a lot about what I should study. 

If I’m going to go, spend time, and money there, I may as well study something useful that I like.

Then another dilemma started. Long story short, I went with engineering (read more about my decision here).  I’m interested in having a long-term impact, and engineering provides a combination of timeless principles such as mathematics and physics that few other careers offer. 

Unlike most college students, I came to campus and had some in-person classes. My school made an incredible effort to have students on campus as they develop rapid testing protocols, and innovated with a system never seen before. 

My first semester was tough as I learned how I needed to study. I made a few costly mistakes that hurt me in the end, but I can learn from them and not repeat them.

I need to keep two things in mind: 1) College isn’t about “learning.” As Nir Eyal told me, “It’s about signaling you can do something hard.” So if college isn’t really about learning, what is it for then? 2) It’s a time to explore and meet people. I can’t allow myself to lose sight of the bigger picture by studying test after test. I need to know why I’m there and then figure out how to get the most out of it. 

In case you’re wondering, I’m the weird guy with the glasses.

90% of Time with my Parents: If there’s something I tell my friends that causes them to change their perspective immediately is this, by the time we graduate from high school we would have spent over 90% of the time we will ever spend with our parents.

“We’re too cool to be with our parents, right?” Lockdowns happened, and we had to be home, which meant our limited time with our parents got extended by months! I know about all the arguments, fights, etc. “They just don’t get us, right?” Sure, whatever. Grow up and don’t wait for them to get old or die to appreciate them. 

Quarantined happened, and I went from, “It sucks to be home” to “Wow, I’m genuinely grateful.”

Twitter: Sometimes social media helps you more than it harms you. 

I’ve found Twitter to be the only social media with the only net positive out of all the social media apps. Why? Twitter is the place where you find the smartest people sharing thoughts, ideas, and advice. 

There’s a catch, you need to avoid the following at all costs: politics, entertainment, and sports. For instance, I’m interested in engineering, science, business/startup, and philosophy. I can follow the best people in those fields in the world and learn from them. 

From using Twitter, I’ve not only learned from startup founders, engineers, and thoughtful people, but I’ve found incredibly opportunities such as Write of Passage by David Perell or Progress Studies for Aspiring Young Scholars by Jason Crawford, and countless others which have allowed to give leaps in my intellectual life. 

However, I said earlier that Twitter isn’t all net positive. It’s still incredibly distracting and addicting. My solution has been deleting Twitter from my devices and using an IFTTT plugin to tweet without opening the app. Then, to check notifications, browse the feed, and write threads, I use my computer with another tool called TweetDeck. 

Graduating from High School: High school was one of those experiences you look back on and say, “Wow, that was quite a memorable experience.” But also, “Thank God I graduated” I already talked about my high school experience in more detail in this essay where I talk about my entire journey.

Incredible Learning Opportunities: I knew the summer of 2020 would be different. In the past, I’d go work for a startup or a company in Chicago. But I wasn’t able to do that, so I looked for different opportunities.

In the first week of June, I took part in the Emerging Leaders program where I learned more about leadership and working with people. We worked on projects such as writing business models, pitch decks, TED talks, and mini books.  

Then, Tyler Cowen tweeted about Progress of Studies by Young Scholars, which is a program focused on the history of progress and technology. I couldn’t have been more excited about learning about scientific discoveries, engineering breakthroughs, and the lives of the pioneers. This program lasted for more than two months, and I enjoyed every class and every assignment.

While I was doing the progress course, two other courses started: Google CSSI and Write of Passage. In case you’re wondering, yes they occurred at different times. 

Google CSSI was a computer science program where I enhanced my JavaScript skills by creating projects with teammates. I also created a final project that I presented to our class, instructors, and community leaders. 

Along with CSSI was Write of Passage, which is one of my favorite courses I’ve ever taken. This was the course that inspired me to share writings like the one you’re reading right now. It was my second time going through the program so I could focus on meeting more people, working on the assignments, and enjoying it. The first time in February, I didn’t have a website, newsletter, or writing experience, so it was difficult to keep up. 

The last one before college was the altMBA, which is a course for those who want to level up and lead. The course has aspects of self-introspection, business ideation and execution, public speaking, and teamwork along with a community of coaches with great expertise and wisdom that makes it a transformative experience. 

This course was rewarding but also uncomfortable because of how much I had to dig to find the “real me.”

This was one of my best summers ever and I’m grateful to have found these programs but also grateful to the people who allowed me to participate in them. Again, I don’t share these experiences to show off (if anything, I “failed” because I wasn’t able to find an internship or research or anything like that). 

I’m sharing because I hope you get inspired by how much you can do. I don’t mean that you should copy me, but I hope it opens up your mind and your neurons spark. I was inspired and thankful to the people who shared and reflected on their experiences, they are helping me become who I want to become. 

Before I end, I want to highlight that some of these programs are not targeted at high school or college students, hence they have very high costs. I certainly couldn’t afford them. Your age or financial condition shouldn’t be the limiting factor [2]

What should you do? Genuinely reach out to them about why you want to do the program and explain your situation. People will understand and help you more than you’d expect, but be sure to work as hard as you can to make them proud, show them you’re grateful and pay it forward. Remember, they’re helping you and investing in you because they simply want to, but they also hope their help pays off and contributes to your development. 

Wonderful Conversations with Smart People: I’m always curious, and sometimes, you can’t figure things out by looking them up. The other solution is talking to “smart people.” 

Because of the pandemic, people had more time to reply to emails or schedule video calls. So I took advantage of that. I talked to incredible people, from economists, physicists, best-selling authors, engineers, and entrepreneurs. I was truly fortunate to gather some of their insights and apply them in my life. 

I also had thought-provoking conversations with college friends. Occasionally, I was awkward enough to record and publish them.

Another way I had spontaneous chats with stimulating people was using an AI tool that makes introductions to people. They’re in private beta, but you can skip the waitlist by using my invite link

I’m young and ignorant about many things, but having wise people who can share their thoughts and perspectives on issues or questions helps me learn from their mistakes and move with velocity (in the right direction).

Link

The pandemic had a lot of interesting Zoom meetings.

First Row: Patrick Collison, Michael Siebel

Second Row: Seth Godin, Tyler Cowen

Learned CAD: In one of my engineering classes in my first semester of college, we learned CAD. Personally, I had never used CAD. When I saw the first assignment, I had no idea what to do. 

I knew I had to do something. What did I do? YouTube, baby. I taught myself by watching videos every day for 1-2 hours for two weeks straight. Even then, I wasn’t great, but I understood what I was doing.The assignments increasingly became more difficult every week, so I needed to push myself every week to finish those assignments. 

The class ended with this group project where we applied what we learned to solve a problem in the COVID world. I’m not super proud ok this project because I wanted to create a real product that could solve a real problem that could be sold to real people. But this was a team project and not a solo endeavor. 

I’m excited to have learned CAD and thrilled to use it to model my ideas and create prototypes for products. 

Let’s build!

Running: I’m not a fan of working out. In fact, I don’t like it. However, I’ve forced myself to like running due to how hard it is, and how disciplined you have to be. 

One of my goals was to run every weekday during college. I wanted this to become a habit to keep fit and healthy even during the wintertime. Even though it's freezing, dangerous, slippery, and snowy, I still go out and run for 2-3 miles. 

2-3 miles isn’t a big deal, but I try to do them in under 20 minutes.

I’m happy about this newly acquired habit, and I’m happy to keep running into the future! 

Teaching Myself Calculus: Why in the world would I teach myself Calculus? Am I out of my mind? Yes, a little bit. Let me explain. When you go to college, there are certain prerequisites for classes you take. If you don’t have those prerequisites, you can’t take those classes. Therefore, you get behind and delay your graduation. 

I didn’t do well in the placement test, and they put me in a lower class. But I didn’t realize that would put me “behind.” My goal isn’t just to graduate, I want to learn as much as possible in the most optimal way. But, you know, college isn’t cheap either to be there forever.

In October 2020, I met with my advisor, and that’s when I realized I needed to take Calculus 1 to take Physics the following semester. I had two options: 1) Follow my sequence, and graduate 4.5 or 5 years, 2) Teach myself that Calc class and take the proficiency exam in January and be on track as everyone else. 

What did I do? Although I was warned about the risks, I went for option #2 because of the challenge. To be honest, it’s not even a real risk because the worst thing that could happen is that I don’t pass the proficiency exam. If so, I can continue to follow my sequence and I would have an advantage for being introduced to the class concepts before. 

But if I pass it, if I only pass it, then I would graduate earlier, save money, and accomplish the goal of successfully teaching myself Calc in less than three months. 

I took the test and didn’t pass it. Well, I’ll be more ready for this semester’s class, and Physics? That will have to wait until next semester. Oh, wait? What I teach myself?

Reflecting back, I had about 8 weeks to learn Trigonometry and Calculus 1. Although I went over all the material, I didn’t have time to relentlessly practice every concept. 

Writing: 2020 was the year I started sharing my ideas online. Writing was the main way I accomplished it. I value anonymity and privacy, and I’m still getting used to being this open and public. 

In March, I embarked on this goal of writing online, so I set out to write and publish one essay and one newsletter every week. And I’ve kept that going and hope to keep it going for many years in the future. 

 Other stats:

Especially, I’m thankful to Rohun who made an investment to help me start my website.

Disconnected from Email & Social Media: In the last two weeks of 2020, I ran an experiment and deleted all social media and email apps from my phone. Why? I spend too much time on social media and email. Sometimes, for a good reason, but most of the time I’m just checking the apps to get dopamine hits.

I’m studying engineering and science, and I’ve realized I don’t need to be on top of things all the time. I need to be as Stanford Prof. Donald E. Knuth says, “On the bottom of things.” 

I need long hours of uninterrupted focus. Therefore, I deleted all social media, email, and distracting apps from my phone. My goal is to make my devices boring.

NEGATIVE

Ego: When you do something most people don’t do or do something “hard,” you will start thinking you’re better than other people, but you need to catch yourself and avoid falling into this trap. 

I was being egotistical without realizing but someone pointed this out and gifted me Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. I read it and realized I was going off tracks. I’ll always be grateful to this person. 

Ego is the Enemy is about fighting our greatest opponent. Ego is an issue I wasn’t aware of and an issue with the potential to destroy me and tear me apart to pieces.

What most impacted me was by believing you’re above average or thinking of yourself as good at X, you lose the sense of reality and can no longer improve. This idea touched me because I want to be the best in whatever I’m doing. To achieve that, I have to always improve, but if I believe I’m already “good,” I won’t improve. 

SCARY!

I learned I should always remain with a Student Mindset who has the humility to say, “I don’t know. How can I learn this?” and Make a Canvas for Others, which talks about the idea of helping yourself by helping others first.

I’m grateful to have learned about this, and even more excited to learn to balance confidence and humility. This is a lifelong journey that I’ll face my entire life. 

Not Being Intentional: Ok, this is the one I’m most surprised by. I didn’t have goals for 2020. I couldn’t believe it. I have goals for 20-50-100 years but I didn’t have goals in the short-term. What??? 

This will be an important focus of mine in 2021. 

Not Being Specific and Clear: This comes from my belief and fear of commitment. I wanted to be as broad as possible to have more options in my opportunities. This behavior proved to be faulty, and that’s why I’ll try to be as specific, clear, and committed. 

The more specific and niche you are, the better. In fact, you could even create your own “niche.” How? By uniquely defining what you do in a way that no one else is doing it.

What are some things that make me? I was born and raised in Venezuela, moved to the U.S. freshman year of high school, I write essays, I send newsletters, I make videos, I create companies, I like to invest, I’m an engineering and science college student, I’m a biophysics researcher, I speak Spanish, and so on. 

How can I define what I do uniquely? 

I do and “share” stuff that makes people more optimistic, ambitious, and curious.

Is that unique enough so no one else is doing this? No, still more work to do. Suggestions? Let me know.

First Semester of College: Before college, I wanted to learn as much as possible from past students’ mistakes. For instance, what they wished they knew or what they wished they had done. I talked to many, many people, wrote essays like this one, or this one

But still, my first semester didn’t go as I had hoped. As expected, I made some mistakes. 

Some mistakes were simply how to study correctly, while others were outright dumb. However, I can reflect, understand how and why they happened, and avoid repeating them. As Ray Dalio says, “Pain + Reflection = Progress.”

I also have to recognize that the first semester could’ve gone terribly worse. I’m not happy or sad, only excited to continue improving.

Coding: this skill will be like knowing Word or Excel. But for me, it opens up the realm of projects I can create and develop.

I’ve asked people, I know what to do and how to teach myself. However, I’ve fallen short because I haven’t created a project I’m proud of. During quarantine, I taught myself an entire 8-course python course and got all the way until ML and A.I.

But I didn’t create or build anything with what I’ve learned. I kind of did, but it wasn’t really working.

In 2021, I want to learn more programming by building and creating projects. That will be my metric. 

Generation Optimism: I wrote Generation Optimism to inspire younger generations to embrace a worldview of optimism.

It’s a cool idea, but an idea that needs to be improved and polished. 

The first edition of the book wasn’t bad but also wasn’t good. Therefore, I need to edit it and write a second edition, but that takes time and resources I don’t necessarily have. 

I’ll be looking for an editor, so if you are one or know of one who would be interested in contributing to this project, please reach out

Book Project with Neuroscience Professor: Right before quarantine happened, I began working with this professor to write a book about the future of marketing.

My job entailed writing the chapters, researching ideas, and organizing content. This is what I mostly did over quarantine.

We worked from March until about June. When I finished writing a 30,000-word manuscript, he stopped replying to my emails. 

What happened? I don’t know, and I don’t want to assume. I’ve sent him a couple of emails asking him what had happened, but he hasn’t replied. I hope he’s ok. 

This was a project I was and still am tremendously excited about. It is what it is. I learned a lot about neuroscience, market research, and the future of marketing, so I’m happy about that. 

Book Reading: I didn’t read a single book from years 0-14. Not one! 

Then, I moved to the U.S. at 14, and I started reading one book a week. It was almost like I was catching up. I couldn’t believe how much there was to know, and how much I didn’t know. 

Over the span of my high school years, I read about 200 books. Mostly nonfiction about personal growth and business. Then, I transitioned to science, engineering, and philosophy. 

My peak was 67 books in 2018. I went down to 49 in 2019. And 19 books in 2020.

I don’t care about the number of books I read, I care whether I’m following my curiosity. 

Although I read fewer books in 2020, I read denser books such as biographies, and the Bible (more on this below).

For 2021, I want to keep reading more science and engineering books as well as biographies of pioneers in these fields. 

Chinese (Mandarin): Soon after I learned English in 2016-2017, I wanted to master Chinese as well. I wanted to keep challenging myself. 

I took an introductory class in high school, but then I transferred to a school where they didn't teach it. So I taught myself using Duolingo, changing my devices to the language, and taking online courses. 

I was extremely consistent until I lost a 300-day streak on Duolingo during college. I didn’t have the same time as before and I had lost the incredible momentum, so I stopped.

I want to master the language but have found Duolingo isn’t enough. Duolingo is good for practice and reinforcement, but not necessarily for long-term learning. 

My options would be to take classes either online or in college (unlikely), or what I would prefer, which would be to study for two or three months, 2-3 hours every day. Just like I did with English. 

The latter option is intense and leaves little time to focus on other ventures and projects. 

As of now, I should get back to my Duolingo and set a time every week where I sit down and focus on teaching myself for 60-90 minutes. In college, I have many Chinese friends so I’ll get one of them to sit down with me every week to teach me Chinese, and I’ll teach them something else I know. 

Businesses: the pandemic occurred, then I started college, and I wasn’t able to keep going with my businesses, which significantly reduced my income. 

But I also needed to focus on school, and engineering school isn’t a joke and requires a high level of commitment and dedication. 

Goals for 2021

ave a Successful Academic Year: One of my primary goals for 2021 is to transfer to the engineering school. To achieve that, I need to get good grades. 

Telling myself to care about grades is a confrontation with my existence. But if I want to study engineering, I must propel out of this stage of college. 

I can control how I see this situation. I can focus on learning, and grades will come. Grades should be a consequence of my discipline and concentration in my studies. 

I hope I can transfer to engineering as soon as possible and get this off my list. 

Start Building: Because I’ve been focusing on school, I haven’t been able to focus on building projects.

I have so many ideas that it’s killing me not being able to work on them. This will be a goal that I will prioritize in the second semester of 2021. By then, I should be on track to transferring and ready to move on. 

Write Every Day: I only missed a couple of days in 2020 and I don’t want to miss a single day in 2021. 

Writing allows me to revamp my thinking and ideas, and share them with others. 

I need to do it every day to build the foundation of future ideas and projects. I don’t like writing, but it’s one of my favorite daily activities. 

Write Long-Form: Writing long-form essays is one of the hardest but most rewarding things you can write. 

In the first half of 2020, I wrote mostly long-form, and that attributed to my growth in both page views and newsletter subscribers. 

But I also challenged myself to get feedback from experts, research a ton, and overall gain deep insights on a topic. 

After college started and I found I was writing shorter essays (less than 1000 words), and those essays were good but not great, and I wasn’t learning much. 

Going forward, I need to ask big bold questions and attempt to answer in a long-form essay. I want to write at least 5. 

5,000 Email Subscribers: Given my current subscriber count, it would make more sense to have a goal of 1,000. But I want to aim higher for two reasons: 1) To reach 1,000, I need to aim higher than that, 2) I may experience exponential growth. 

How can I achieve this goal? By writing top quality and insightful essays on topics, I can provide unique perspectives. 

Strategy?

  1. Keep up consistency 

  2. Keep inviting friends and family 

  3. Keep sharing your ideas where your future audience might be (e.g. HackerNews, Twitter, LessWrong)

  4. Identify my Persona

    1. Curiously ambitious person who values insightful ideas and knowledge. They want to keep improving and reading ideas gives them an advantage.

    2. High school or college student who is interested in ideas that help them be a better person. 

  5. Build an Audience on Twitter by consistently tweeting threads

100,000 Page Views: Similar as above but as long as I keep up consistency and follow my curiosity by writing insightful essays, achieving this goal is close to being guaranteed.

However, my job isn’t just to put words to a paper and hit publish. The most important part comes after, which is to help the essays/ideas find their readers. 

How? Follow the same strategy as above and email the essay to at least three people who might be of interest. 

1,000 YouTube Subscribers: My YouTube Channel has a lot to improve. I mean a LOTTTTTT.

I’ve finally started and I need to keep improving more and more.

The biggest area of improvement is video editing. I wasn’t able to learn and improve my videos because I didn’t have the tools. I know why, how, and where to learn the skill. Now, I need to put it into practice with at least 10 edited videos. 

I need to keep sharing the weekly video. And I need to do more of the Head-to-Head Chats, which has done incredibly well. I’m here for the long game and to keep constantly tweaking until I get to where I want to be. 

Twitter: Twitter was one of the best findings of 2020. I learned a lot from smart people and found unique opportunities. I want to reach 1,000 followers. How? By writing Twitter threads about essays, notes, and ideas. 

Threads will be my focus. 

Inspire more People (esp. Young people) to be Optimistic, Ambitious, and Curious: This is why I started sharing my ideas online and why I want to increase these numbers. 

We need more people to fit this criteria and I want to contribute to this area. 

I’ve received a couple of emails from teens in Germany, India, the UK, and the U.S. Very few, but those meant the world to me and pushed me to keep going forward. 

Create and Define an Internship/Research Opportunity: When most students think about this, they try to compete with others. I do not want to compete so I need to define what I want, how I want it, and why I want so uniquely and differently so I avoid competition and avoid hidden forces that may be driving me. 

Read More: I read with one goal in mind. Learn from other people’s mistakes. 

I usually have a goal of 30 minutes every day. Often, because I don’t have any distracting apps on my phone, I end up reading. That way, you can read a lot. 

I only read 19 books in 2020, but one book I read that I still haven’t finished is the Bible. I got through half of it, but I have a long way to go. Whether or not you're religious, it’s a book everyone should read if you want to enhance your understanding of the world, our culture, and learn from people’s mistakes (lots of people’s stories in there). 

When do I plan to finish the Bible? Summer of 2021. 

Where will I read, in general? Either early in the morning, in the middle of the day, or before I go to sleep. 

Let’s keep reading and learning from other people’s mistakes.

Find Ways to Get A Revenue Stream: Either through a business, consulting, services, or a startup. I don’t know, but I need to work with my brain.

Like David Perell advised me, I need to think more about making a small amount online instead and keep it simple. 

Take Breaks and Have Fun: For me, it is harder to do nothing than to do something. 

My purpose isn’t to do something for the sake of doing something, but to get perspective to work on the right things and be fully present. Every week, I need to take a few minutes, to do nothing, walk around, reflect, talk with friends, etc.

And if it’s harder to do nothing, it’s a good indicator I should do it. 

And have fun, whatever that means.

To me, fun means working on ambitious projects or following my curiosity. 

What does that look like? Trying to program an idea I have no idea how to do, learning a new skill or language, or working toward one of my goals. 

That’s a lot of fun, but I don’t do many things for the sake of just being fun like I used to do when I was a kid like playing soccer or playing with a toy. Sometimes, these “fun breaks” could be intertwined and have a good time. 

Fitness: Keep running but also lifting. 

I love running, but often it’s not enough. That’s why I also need to add lifting into my fitness equation and increase the number of miles I run to about 3-4 miles. 

One of my best friends from college also understands the importance of fitness, and we started going to the gym together. Our routine is quite fun. 

We wake up at 6:30 am and meditate until 7:00 am. We run two miles to the gym where we lift for an hour. Then we run back to our dorms to start our day. 

Publish a Scientific Research Paper: I’ll be researching a biophysics question where there’s a possibility to reach publication.

My goal isn’t to publish but to learn and research a worthwhile subject that could advance our efforts in science. 

If my work can contribute and make a discovery, the publication will be considered. 

Minimize Commitments: I need to keep my commitments and my burn rate low as Sam Altman advises.

I like to get busy, but busy doesn’t mean productive or that I’m working on the “right” projects. 

Consistency with My Productivity Systems: Every week, I go into reflection mode to review my week, to schedule it, and think about the important problems of the future.

I call them:

Keep Myself on Check About Hidden Forces: Prestige, mimetic forces, money, pleasing my parents, and trying to impress others are some forces that may affect my choices such as what I work on, study, or and even think about. 

Sometimes, you aren’t even conscious of these. By being aware, you can try to minimize and get rid of them. 

Let’s have a great 2021!

 

 

**Notes**

[1] What’s an important problem? The ones I can contribute to, no matter how trivial. 

Richard Feynman explained to a former student how to approach this:

“The worthwhile problems are the ones you can really solve or help solve, the ones you can really contribute something to. A problem is grand in science if it lies before us unsolved and we see some way for us to make some headway into it. I would advise you to take even simpler, or as you say, humbler, problems until you find some you can really solve easily, no matter how trivial. You will get the pleasure of success, and of helping your fellow man, even if it is only to answer a question in the mind of a colleague less able than you. You must not take away from yourself these pleasures because you have some erroneous idea of what is worthwhile.”

[2] Many people don’t participate in similar opportunities because they often don’t know about them, aren’t sure if they’ll succeed, aren’t old enough, or can't afford them. Those seem to be valid points. But if you really want to do something, you figure it out, and if you can’t figure it out yourself, you ask other people how you can figure it out.

Realize that you are just as capable as anyone else. Excuses should not exist. People will help you more than you'd expect, and the worst they can say is no.

[3] I was inspired by Richard Hamming’s practice. Read more about it, here.

 

Thanks to Savannah for reading drafts of this essay. 


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