Every year I set aside time to reflect, analyze, and learn from the year.
I spent the year focused on college. Studying and studying. Head-down and focusing on getting good grades to possibly get into the engineering school. I’ve never liked this mode of learning or mode of living but I went to college, and I wanted to study engineering.
The world defines you by skill but some people can’t be defined that narrowly. I think I’m one of them. You can either live the life of a craftsman, someone with a defined and polished skill, or the life of a problem solver, someone like an entrepreneur or researcher who chooses and solves a problem.
There’s a forgotten option, those defined by their own causes, which is where I probably fit the most. This review shows what it might be like to be defined by your own cause.
Updating 2021 will focus on five parts: 1) 2021 Recap, 2) Reflecting on 2021 Goals, 3) Goals for 2022, 4) On Curious Equilibrium (Positive/Negative), and 5) Closing Thoughts.
New Essays Published: 15
Email Newsletters Sent: 52
Favorite Song: La Ciudad by Odezsa
Favorite Songs: Spotify playlist of my favorite songs of 2021
Favorite Quote: “An unbelieved truth is often more dangerous than a lie.” From Wanting
Favorite book: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Most popular video: When To Start a Company? Before or After Getting A Job?
Most popular article: The Elon Musk Vs. Gary Vee Approach
Awe moment: The unmatched grandeur of Yellowstone
General Overview: I went month by month from January to December. I wrote high-level thoughts of what I was thinking about and where I was spending my time. Looking back, I spent my year head down in school. From January until December, it was a nonstop ride with classes and classes.
I was talking to a friend about the feeling we both feel as engineering students. We work and study so hard yet we’re massively understimulated. College has been largely a boondoggle where I feel greatly stifled. I expected college to be a time of exploration with the freedom to study and research anything but also an atmosphere of exciting people and ideas to build the future. I found busy burnout people trying to get internships who go by unquestioning everything blacking out every weekend.
In the future, I’ll write an essay about general thoughts on college. Let’s stay in touch.
I write this not to self-contemplate or for you to feel pity for me. I write this because I’m not the only one nor the first one who feels constrained by a system that is supposed to work, defines you by skill, and gives the appearance of working but in reality is just broken. We need better institutions.
Perhaps another reason to write something like this is to think about the importance of knowing what makes you tick. College gives you the chance to learn what you didn’t know was worthwhile, but in that effort, kills everything that you think is worthwhile, like a termite treatment that kills bugs but also harms everything that surrounds it.
Personally, I lacked consistency. I want to be consistent with activities like daily writing, running/lifting, and creating essays, coding projects, videos, and just doing cool stuff.
So how did this year go? It wasn’t my best. I know this because I can only remember a few days when I couldn’t sleep out of excitement to wake up to work on something. For example, the day I’m writing this. I went to sleep at 11:30 PM and woke up at 4:30 AM energized to work on this Annual Review and a coding project.
There were, of course, good things. I’m healthy, grateful, and for some reason, so enthusiastic to wake up EVERY morning and start the day. A large number of young people seem “depressed,” “sad,” “lost.” For me, that has not been the case. I’m bursting with energy nonstop.
2021? A year with lots of reflection to mourn what could have been and to be grateful about what happened.
Have a Successful Academic Year: This goal is going…ok? The spring 2021 semester went well. I tried to test out of my first calculus class but didn’t pass the test. That meant I couldn’t take the physics mechanics class. I even called the physics department head and asked for an override but he hung up the phone on me! Really? Hahaha.
This meant that I had more free time to take interesting classes so I took a CS intro class. I heard the class was phenomenal so I said, “Why not?” The class was remarkable and is the best class I’ve ever taken (and probably will take during college). Both the methodology and instructor were top-notch. Learn about the class here.
Summer came, and I took Physics, Calculus II, and Discrete Mathematics, which all went alright. Then, the fall came, and things went sideways. I took Calc III, Physics E&M, Statics, and Data Structures & Algorithms.
The first and the last class went well. The ones in the middle not so much. Statics was an incredibly boring class because I realized I really don’t give a shit about the moment of the force around the z-axis. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t interested, so I made an appointment with the instructor to get his perspective. The first thing he said was to consider switching my major. Ok? Thanks. This plus how boring this class was didn’t help. Next, was Physics E&M, which I found interesting but the class massively focused on long hours of homework and exams. I didn’t like this aspect at all.
I haven’t received my final grades yet so I can’t quite rate the semester. The rating of this goal will be contingent on whether I get into the engineering school.
Start Building: I didn’t have much time for things other than school work, but did work on quick projects here and there. I tried building some things like a QR Code Generator, an NFT making fun of my CS Professor, an outline for Profitable Affordable Housing, Fellowships Page for Code for Venezuela, a service to avoid spam calls, a way to get to target and get addresses for marketing purposes, and some other things I don’t even remember.
For me, the biggest challenge is finding the equilibrium between wanting to build and wanting to learn. The best way to learn is to build. The best way to build is to learn to see what others can’t.
Writing: I had two writing goals, 1) Write Every Day, and 2) Write Long Form.
In 2020, I only missed a couple of days. In 2021, I missed about 90 days. I would’ve missed more days if it wasn’t for my weekly newsletter.
This, of course, affected my other writing goal, which was writing at least five long-form essays. I wrote two. The number does not matter but it’s a way to get out of writing tweet-sized thoughts, and an opportunity to write nuanced, interesting thoughts and ideas.
However, I published fifteen essays on my website and did not miss a single week on my newsletter.
Online Metrics: This is where I was probably the most ambitious but I wasn’t even close!!!!! “Aim for the moon, land among stars.” I don’t think I even got to the rocket launch site haha.
Part of me thinks these numbers are vanity metrics, which they are. The other part of me thinks these metrics are a side-effect of the quality of my work. The quality matters but the distribution matters a TON too .
5,000 Email Subscribers: What was I even thinking? When I started, I grew to almost 300 but then about half stopped reading. Halfway through the year, I decided to “clean” the list to focus on the people who were loyally reading. Anyways, I initially set this 5,000 goal to reach 1,000 subscribers but my lack of writing consistency did not help with this goal. That plus a lack of distribution focus led me to miss this goal and others below.
100,000 Page Views: (awkward silence)
1,000 YouTube Subscribers: I went from about 70 at the start of 2020 to about 120 at the end of 2021. When fall classes started, I stopped making videos. Not one since August 2021. I still wonder how that happened. Well, not really. I usually recorded videos in empty school buildings but with classes being in person, buildings were less empty, and fewer chances for me to make the videos. Last year, when I set this goal I wanted to publish ten edited videos. I learned Adobe Premiere Pro and made steady progress, publishing five edited videos. This video was the best as I was able to put many hours into it and “showed off” my skills the most. Still, lots of room for improvement.
1,000 Twitter Followers: I reached almost 500, which was half of my goal. I didn’t write as many threads as I had originally intended.
If you do something you want, something cool, and something with quality. With enough time, you’ll get the results you want.
Inspire More People (esp. Young People) to be Optimistic, Ambitious, and Curious: After writing my book, I could continue focusing fully on that by being featured on podcasts, writing/videos, and other media. Once I started college, the engineering commitment was real. I had to roll my sleeves and focus on that goal. Moving forward, instead of telling you about why you should be optimistic, ambitious, and curious, I’ll share more about cool projects I’m doing/working on that will help achieve this goal in a greater way.
Internship/Research: In this section, I had two goals:
Research: I got involved in biophysics research at the start of 2021. Take a look at one of my research presentations. In the beginning, I was learning so much about programming, biology, chemistry, and physics. It was cool! Then, I realized it was one of those things I wish I liked. After learning how academia currently works, I became disinterested. I enjoy fast-paced things with quick feedback loops. From my experience, it was slow and only doing things that will get you funded. No more basic research. You’re only doing things to get published and to help you with grad school, grants, or tenure.
Internship: I couldn’t find an internship for the summer of 2021. I didn’t try that hard and I didn’t have “experience.” Instead, I took three summer classes and got involved in two research projects. In the fall, I applied for Summer 2022 internships. I mostly applied for CS internships and was selected for many interviews. I interviewed with Amazon, Google, Facebook (I mean Meta), and on and on and on.
How did they go? Not great. I realized I have not had much practice on Leetcode. I think it’s a horrible waste of time. For the most part, I could solve these coding questions but sometimes I couldn’t. Although working at “FAANG” sounds cool and you can make money and all, something felt off. I wanted the internship but realized that I didn’t, not really. Not a problem I have currently, but if you get the internship and you keep doing a good job, you’re almost guaranteed a full-time job at the company, which is cool. But once you’re that comfortable, quitting and doing something you want to do is less likely.
I probably won’t be the best programmer. But if you combine, let’s say programming, business, marketing, public speaking, and writing. I’ll excel. Instead of modifying myself on Leetcode, I can either try to find internships that fit how I work or combine a wide range of my skills. Or, find ways to make money through online businesses or startups. But as long as I can keep expenses low, no need to compete for a seemingly sexy internship.
Would my attitude have been the same if I had gotten the internship? I don’t know. Probably less biased towards not working with them. But sometimes the best is what happens.
However, I have a few companies I’d like to work at, like Replit. I would LOVE to work at Replit. Amjad, let’s make it happen.
Want to work together? Let's talk.
Or perhaps, I’ll follow Charles Murray’s advice on how to spend my twenties.
Publish a Scientific Research Paper: As much as peer-review and publishing suck, if you don’t publish what you did, there’s no proof you did anything. Well, I will finish this current project and publish it, and move on. Currently working on the manuscript.
Online Metrics: Last year, I set ambitious goals without trying to reach them. What I’ve realized is that sometimes goal setting is like chemistry titrations. If you do it just right, you get the right color. If you do too little, or a little too much, you’ll get the wrong color. Similarly, with goal-setting, if you get too unambitious or too ambitious, for some reason, you don’t try as hard.
With a combination of deterministic optimism and directed work, any goal can be achieved.
Here, it will be with online goals:
500 Newsletter Subscribers
200 YouTube Subscribers
1000 Twitter Followers
Even then, these goals seem quite low so I’ll try to achieve them by June and double each of these by December 2022.
Essays will be the main fuel for this creative cycle. More on that below.
College: If I get into engineering, great. But if I don’t, great too. All college is a stupid signal. I talked to Keith Schacht and I learned he went to the same school, dropped out, and put the college on his resume. Employers didn’t even ask him if he had finished. Oftentimes, they’d ask and when he’d tell them he dropped out, they congratulated him. As of now, I’d still like to finish.
If I don’t get into engineering, I’ll still take mathematics, physics, and computer science classes. But I’ll have more freedom. I’ll graduate with another major in math or maybe even philosophy. I’ll pick a major with flexibility with classes I want plus enough classes where I can learn what I didn’t know was worthwhile.
This alternate path avoids the boringness/tediousness of some engineering classes and more time to work on cool shit. This path, however, is a bit dangerous as I can have more productive time but also “waste” a lot of time due to a lack of direction. This path gets me excited because I’m placed as an underdog as someone wasn’t good enough for fucking studying engineering. Building in the real world is the only test that matters.
Or perhaps, Peter Thiel comes around and picks me as a Thiel Fellow. Just kidding (not really).
Another way I think about college is you can use this time to create your “big exit,” meaning work on something and get FU money. College is a weird period where some teenagers get a four-year break from reality. This time could be used to party and live like there’s no tomorrow. Or you can use the time to work to create your big exit to have more agency over your life after the four-year break is over.
2.5 years is what’s left for me. I want to use this time to learn useful and interesting things I wouldn’t otherwise learn. I want to take advantage of some of the good stuff that college still has to offer.
More Thoughts on What I’m Doing: Let’s say I do get rejected from the engineering school, which is likely.
I already got rejected from the CS + Philosophy program:
What do I want to do now?
Even if I still have a few more semesters to continue trying to get in, I don’t want to do that. Why would I do something I don’t want to do? Like why would I waste 2 more years doing something I don’t want to do? Oh, the piece of paper.
I know the subjects I’d like to learn more such as computer science, mathematics, and statistics, physics, philosophy, psychology, economics, and audit interesting classes.
Besides classes, I’d like to learn more about incentive alignment as most, perhaps all, problems can be solved by figuring out how to properly align incentives. For instance, any successful company figured out a way to align the incentives of a group of people to achieve a common goal.
If I know what I want to do, why am I not doing that? I want to do what I want to do.
While we’re on this topic, why the fuck is it so hard to study engineering? There’s this cult that all engineering students think they will be successful, rich, and happy. What? By the way, most engineering fields are a bad choice in terms of employment because demand is low or nonexistent. Besides Computer Science, most engineering fields have been bad career choices.
I didn’t care about this because I wanted to learn science and math so engineering seemed like the best path to learning these technical subjects.At least at my school, if you don’t get into the engineering school. You need to get a perfect GPA for majors like CS, bioengineering, etc. In general, above a 3.5 for most majors.
Why so much pressure? Why this cult?
I can understand not everyone can study engineering because money is limited and whatever.
But we need people who can build shit and engineers are the ones who sometimes have the necessary background to build. We should be PAYING people to study fucking engineering. Not the other way around.
Another way to think about this question would be, “Am I being lazy?” or “Am I giving up?” If I need to force myself to like something or if I need to try hard to make subjects interesting, I probably don’t want to be doing that in the first place. So why do it?
The best is always what happens. Do what you want by figuring out your internal resistance.
Scientific Research: I want to finish what I started, and this is one of these things. I want to get involved in basic science research but if I come back, I come back with a new institution or with FU money. Otherwise, you’re playing a game of publishing papers one after another, which is not the game I want to be playing. Regardless of what I do, I’ll be playing a game for the most part but it’s better to play a game that suits me.
Writing: I want to keep writing. In 2021, my writing was observation-based, and perhaps reactive to my surroundings. Next year, I want to write about topics where I learn while I write. For instance, I want to write an essay about economics and La Casa de Papel.
I plan to:
1) Write Daily: at least one minute when super busy. Normally for 30 minutes
2) 2 Long Form Essays: I want to aim to write at least five long-form essays where I think hard about a question, get feedback, think hard again, and publish. I want to find and discover truth.
With my writing, I aspire to achieve what Jose Luis Ricón Fernández de la Puente has achieved with his:
Besides these main themes I wrote two posts on wildfires in California which got condensed into a single piece for a16z Future. Out of that I got some emails offering me jobs in wildfire-related startups (!), a big tech company used the posts in an internal slide deck to help justify a wildfire-related project, and I hope, everyone that read the piece got more information about the wildfires situation in California.
Essays will be one of the things I want to be doing more of. I want to fully commit to it this year. It is only when you commit that you can get compounding results.
YouTube: I want to still make videos. I’ve realized that making quality YouTube videos takes a lot of time. Maybe, I can’t make a proper quality YouTube weekly. Monthly might a better goal to publish top quality.fr
The cadence could look like: 1) First week: recording, 2) Second week: editing, 3) Third week: more editing and publishing.
From the results I’ve gotten so far, I probably should stop. But my intuition tells me to keep going so I’ll keep going.
Curiosity Projects: Projects where I can pursue my interests obsessively.
Like when my mom called me because a website was charging her for a QR Code. I made a free QR Code Generator website using JS/React.
I had a couple of examples like this when I heard someone need or want something, and I developed a solution. Do what’s interesting and do what people want/need, and only perhaps those projects become important. Such is the nature of “importance.”
Everything will be ok: I’ll always remember Tyler Cowen’s words. I sent him a long email asking about how to think about my goals and ambition.
He replied that he never thought about that at all. He mostly pursued his obsessions. He says that’s probably harder to do today because the world is more homogeneous.
Dr. Cowen then goes, “I simply assumed everything would work out OK -- not really a recommended approach!”
Although he doesn’t recommend it, I do think everything will be ok.
Another reason why thinking about these questions becomes difficult has to do with our desires and expectations. Dr. Cowen explains that “It was also easier for me because I never really planned or expected to make much money.”
Am I planning to make a lot of money? Sure but that’s probably not the best way to make money. The world isn’t so linear nowadays.
Throughout the years, I’ve realized a weird way how the world functions which I call the Paradox of Intentionality. If you want something, you need to intensely want it but also be indifferent about it. Most people are either all-in or nihilistic.
Habits: here are some habits I’d like to continue/improve on.
Reading: I love reading and want to keep reading, especially more fiction books.
Running/Lifting: I want to run a marathon soon. I’ve found running to be hard enough where you can enjoy the suffering. There isn’t a day where it’s easier. Lifting is where I alternate to be easy on my knees and do a different exercise.
Minimize Commitment: I like to get busy but I want to have free time to be bored and just work on whatever I find interesting and curious.
Productivity Systems: My weekly planning sheet, My Weekly Reviews, and Great Thoughts Friday. The best way to catch mistakes and bad habits are to quickly learn from them.
Yellowstone Trip: One of the best things I did this year was going to Yellowstone. Yes, that’s the park you saw a documentary about and has one of the biggest volcanoes in the world.
Some friends got together and decided to go on a 10-day camping trip. We had never done it before but we said, “Why not?” A friend borrowed his parent’s car, and we all split food, gas, and any other costs. We didn’t spend that much. There were six of us, each person paid about $200, which for about a 2-week trip across the country wasn’t bad at all.
This is one of those things I’ll remember about my college days. Taking a car with a group of friends into the wild west.
First Stand-up Comedy Event: I’ve always wanted to do acting but in school, acting is so tedious with long hours meetings so I didn’t want to do that.
The closest thing to acting was standup comedy. I’ve never done it but I realized I crave the feeling of random uncertainty, borderline amusement, embarrassment, and “risk.”
Standup comedy looks easy so surely anyone can do it, right? We’ll get to that part later.
If it looks easy, it’s because they probably worked their ass off for hours. So I decided to go unscripted and had no idea what to talk about. The organizer would repeatedly ask me about what I was going to talk about. I replied with a genuine, “I don’t know.” I had no idea.
When the organizer introduced me, he made it seem like I’d recite poetry. Oh wait, is that why people didn’t laugh?
So I get to the stage and I still have no idea what to talk about but I begin.
I had thought about my introduction because I knew the first few seconds are where you hooked viewers so I say my “nice” little introduction, and the challenge begins.
I soon realized that I find myself thinking about what I’m saying, my body language, future topics I’m going to say, things I’ve said, and whether what I’m saying is even FUNNY.
The latter, especially, wasn’t as easy at all. Besides scattered awkward laughs here and there (and crickets), the auditorium was very much quiet.
The other thing I realized is that I’m good at thinking on my feet but not so good with my filter. I started telling jokes or stories, you’d tell to a close friend, and they’d find it hilarious but in an auditorium with a bunch of college willy wonk kids, I’m not sure how that would turn out.
Somehow, I talked for about 15 minutes and found a way to trace it back to a previous joke I had made and left the stage. Thankfully!
Read the full story with more details, here.
By doing something no one in their right minds would do, I learned that I like this type of exploration because I learned to see what it’s like to do standup comedy and just think on my feet. I love doing seemingly random things that my intuition tells me to do, in due time I’ll figure out what the purpose of this was. It was fun!
Coding: Earlier, I talked about how stupid school bureaucracies gave me space to take my first computer science class, which has been the best class I’ve ever taken (and will probably take).
In this class, I mastered the basics from “Hello World!” to programming an Android app to rate school courses.
I learned enough to be dangerous.
Something about seeing familiar stuff you’ve done gives you a belief that you can probably do it.
In the fall, I continued taking computer science classes and I took Data Structures & Algorithms, which was as usual in college courses not well-taught. Don’t get me wrong, the content was interesting but the lectures!! I went to the lectures for the first month, and after that, I just decided to go on YouTube. It was better, more efficient, and I UNDERSTOOD. Thanks, Abdul!
I learned C++ and more about data structures and a bit about algorithms. In the end, using a flights dataset, we programmed a way to find the shortest route from any airport, to its closest major airport.
Not sure yet, but I’ll probably take a few more computer science classes.
Ironically, I don’t think without taking that first class, I would have been able to feel as comfortable as I do with tackling any programming challenge. This class will probably have made college worth it.
Joking aside, the one thing that has helped me the most with coding was learning how to use the terminal through my research. That was always my problem when starting projects because I HAD NO IDEA how to use the terminal. That’s why I think people should start learning programming with the terminal.
Code For Venezuela: For more than a year, I had been trying to join this organization using coding to solve problems in Venezuela. I had applied many times but never heard back. It was until the summer of 2020 when I decided I really wanted to join so I messaged and connected with a bunch of members on LinkedIn. After they’d accepted, I’d send even more messages.
One day, they got tired of me, and they let me in.
Since July, I’ve had a blast learning from the smartest group of Venezuelans around the world, mostly based in Silicon Valley.
I’ve helped them create a Fellowships Landing Page and have started to create a brand new website for a site that has received almost 2 million views in the last six months.
Code For Venezuela has become a way to meet and learn from the smartest Venezuelans, work on coding projects, and most importantly help my country.
Housing Project: College is expensive. No doubt about that. But college housing is also freaking expensive. My college is in the middle of nowhere (Urbana-Champaign) and I couldn’t understand why the rent prices were as “high.” I wanted to figure out the reason why. We all know that according to economic theory, prices are determined by supply and demand, and I wanted to know the determinant factor.
My idea was to build affordable profitable housing. Oftentimes, affordable housing relies on government subsidies. I wanted a solution that relies on the invisible hand of visible hard work to create the technology and build the solutions to fix this problem.
I had this idea and I got accepted to an online REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) called altREU from Portland State University. They let you pursue any research question as long as you computational models. They also provided you with a mentor, which was very helpful.
I developed the idea with financial modeling and a business plan, but overall the idea needs a lot of improvement, and ….money.
I realized many students come from high-income backgrounds so paying $800 or month per month isn’t a problem. Especially the international students with sports cars. They don’t care about the price of apartments. The price elasticity is quite high, that is to say, they don’t care at all about the price.
My original hypothesis was that prices that price because they didn’t have that much competition, which was partly true. Partly true because apartments for the lower and middle class are somewhat available. While for the upper class, they’ve built skyrises (and continue to build more).
I thought they were more people from lower-income backgrounds and who were having a tough time paying for rent. But I realized the opposite is true.
Universities have become a playground for the children of the middle and upper-class. According to this NY Times article, “The median family income of a student from Illinois [my college] is $109,000.” This makes sense as tuition has become a filter for these types of families.
According to this UIUC website, for in-state residents tuition is about $33,060-$38,154, out-of-state residents, $50,850-$55,944, and international, $51,740-$61,292.
Peter Thiel has mentioned that there's something messed up with our college education when most people see it as insurance but think it's an investment. If we see it as insurance. What are we expecting to happen? Yikes.
You may wonder, how am I paying for this? I’m not a prince from a royal family. A combination of scholarships, loans, and jobs. This year, I became an RA (Resident Advisor) which covers housing and food.
Anyways, going back to the Affordable Profitable Housing project, I still think we can do it, perhaps not at UIUC, perhaps not at a college. Housing is a fundamental problem with our society and solutions like this will need to be used to solve the problem.
Check out the video presentation, publication, and slides.
And, if for some reason, you’re still not convinced that college is a four-year vacation. Explain why a university would bring Ava Max. No offense, Ava.
College: as intellectually underwhelming as the college has been for me, there have been good things. I know, the people! As cliche as that sounds, the people you meet and spend time with.
Mostly has to do with me. I expected college to find super motivated and crazy people who wanted to build and create cool stuff together. So far, I haven’t found that.
Interesting Conversations: One of the best conversations was with Keith Schact because we shared a very similar story. First, he didn’t get into the engineering school. Second, he was also an RA at the same building. Third, we are both interested in building technology and creating companies.
He stumbled upon my website and reached out. We had an hour-long conversation about his college experience and how college has been for me. His approach? Only took interesting classes and when realized he wouldn’t graduate on time. He dropped out.
And, you can probably guess the rest of the story. Dropped out, now successful.
I enjoyed talking with him because Keith is an example of my Future Self. People who care about you but who won’t be affected by your failures. Therefore, he’s not incentivized to give me the safe route because he wants to be the most successful, not the safest. The biggest takeaway from our conversation is learning to let go of the “Shoulds.” “I should do this or that.”
Learning to ask myself what I want and doing that. “I want” vs “I should” is the difference between doing a lot is feeling like doing nothing and doing nothing is feeling like doing a lot.
Many more people as well as email. They continue to be a source of great learning and inspiration.
Walking: I refuse to get a bike. Mostly because I want to remind myself every time to try to reinvent how we can move across space and time. Instead of biking, I walk around college. I average from 80,000 to 100,000 steps every week, and about 30 to 40 miles.
1729: Early 2021, I heard about Balaji’s project and I quickly got involved. 1729 started as a “Newsletter That Pays You.” Creating tasks, and if you complete them, you earn money. The first task ever was to make or submit a newsletter with content for technological progressives. I submitted my newsletter and I won!
1729 continued doing it for a couple of months, and they transitioned to building the Network State with a series of VR lectures. Every Wednesday at 11 PM, Balaji gives a lecture, answers questions, and hangs out with everyone afterward.
It’s a community of weird, smart people building the first-ever Network State. This is one of those things I’m excited about to build, meet people, and create this exciting project.
Email consistency: I did not miss a SINGLE week on my newsletter. Not once. That’s one thing to celebrate!
OpenAI: Oh man! Where do I even begin? I had so much fun with AI this year. I won’t tell you how because I may get in trouble but it’s so much fun. In summary, it makes you productive by helping you avoid BS.
Classes: I spent most of the year taking classes and classes. “Aren’t you a college student? That’s what you should be doing.” I never liked being just head down taking classes and just being a student. While studying, I also like to build and create projects. I’ve realized studying engineering allows you to only study engineering, and that’s about it.
Busy, busy, everywhere, and not a minute to think for yourself .
“But at least, you’re learning, right?” You’d think so, and even I’d think so. Maybe? I don’t know. I feel like I’m not learning much, only passing tests. My thinking is that if professors didn’t give practice exams, people would not do well or even pass.
If I want to learn something, I have to go to YouTube. For 1) actual understanding, and 2) efficiency.
What’s the way out?
Wait for the engineering decision. Two outcomes. 1) I get in, which is unlikely and probably don’t want to happen. 2) I don’t get in. I need to find a new major and fit the classes I want to take in philosophy, math, physics, and economics.
2) It would give me more time to work on stuff and use the 2.5 years remaining.
This is important but at the same time so meaningless because neither your major nor GPA matters for me. I say this because I want to be in a different field.
Lack of Consistency: I had periods throughout the year where I was consistent like, at the end year, I wrote every day for two weeks. During the summer, I ran 60 miles. And sporadically, I’d sleep early.
Consistency sets me free, especially doing these three things I want to do, I enjoy doing, and I’m decent at.
In the future, if I can’t do it every day, every week. At least, try not to miss two days in a row.
Peace: I spent a lot of the year being frustrated or wishing things were a certain way.
“Desire is suffering.” This year, I had so many desires and ideas of how things should go.
I want to be more at peace. The wisdom to combine working my hardest with intentionality but also letting things take their own way. When I’m 150, I look back at these Annual Reviews. I’ll probably laugh at myself and think I should’ve been more peaceful, and know everything will work.
I think about Murphy’s Law and remember that the universe is constantly looking for equilibrium, that’s why things like Tornadoes happen. Similarly, there has to be the opposite of Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go right will go right." You first need to want to create the change and use technology to fight entropy. Every action has a reaction.
The biggest takeaway here is that you’ll be ok. The common problem with many smart modern people living in developed countries is why they aren’t more successful. They ignore all of the other blessings they have. Focus on the blessing a bit more too, come on.
In my case, if I would still living in Venezuela, I wouldn’t even be aware of all these opportunities. I would certainly not be in college. I would have been kidnapped a few times, and maybe killed.
Long story short, my life could have ended.
But instead, I have the luxury to be writing and sharing my thoughts with you.
Who cares if I’m successful? I want to follow my interests and intuition. But the things I feel are interesting and curious to do, I want to do them. Not just half-ass try it. TRY it, and try it hard.
This year, I spent a lot of the time stressing about my major (even before starting college). I worried about my major and for nothing because it does really not matter in the grand scheme of things. But at least I tried and saw for myself.
Studying and graduating could be seen as proof of doing a hard thing. But I’m not sure if I care or consider graduating with an engineering degree a sign of success or ability to do something hard. I always joke engineering students think everyone else is dumber but perhaps the dumb people are them because they’re studying something they think will make them rich, happy, and famous. Without ever questioning anything.
The opposite of faith isn’t atheism, it’s unquestioning. The most faithful are often the most doubtful. For instance, the atheist “believes” their truth and does not question it.
We are struggling with the question of individuality in a collective society. We want to focus on how to be the most successful. Perhaps, you want to have enough money to buy things or to be comfortable. Perhaps, you’re doing things you should. And perhaps, you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing.
All is ok.
Most modern human problems have to do with people having nothing to believe in. Perhaps another reason the important thinkers of the future might be religious ones.
The way out might be following your intuitions in the form of obsessions of whatever gets your interest/attention and having the tenacity to pursue it, to commit to it, and see what comes out of it with an expectation of a determined result and the wonder of what may come.
The hardest thing about being ambitious and having a sense of urgency might be patience. Even though this movie wasn’t my favorite, “Paciencia y Fé” is a great message. Patience to enjoy everything life has to offer and the presence of mind to be excited about the future. Faith the future will be good while working to make it good.
We’ll overcome this. We’ll build the future. In Letters To A Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke writes, “We have no reason to distrust our world because it is not against us. If it contains frightful things, these frights are our frights, if it contains abysses, these abysses belong to us, if there are dangers we must try to love them."
Patience and faith with a love for everything, the good and the bad, and what is yet to come.
 This is making reference to this: “First time founders are obsessed with product. Second time founders are obsessed with distribution” from Justin Kan.
 Inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Thanks to Savannah and Aaryaman for reading drafts of this essay.
The List of my past Annual Reviews.
If you’re into interesting ideas (like the one you just read), join my Weekly Memos., and I’ll send you new essays right when they come out.