2021: Halfway Review

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I started this year with a a comprehensive review & planning—a practice I hope to continue into the future. As we are now a little more than halfway through the year, it seems like a great time to check-in and see how these goals have been going.


First, let's see what's working—the goals I've already reached or am on track to reach:

  • 🛫 Move back to North America.
    • I have been in sunny California for five weeks. No second thoughts.
  • 🎓 Finish my thesis; finish my masters.
    • I didn't quite get the 9+/10 I set out for (nor any awards), but the important bit is that I'm done. That's an enormous relief (and I'm perfectly happy with an 8.5).
  • 📕 1 book a week. Read through the works of Twain, Orwell, and the Stoics. Read ≥5 non-English books.
    • I could read a little more of Twain and Orwell as well as in the non-English category, but I've actually outperformed this goal and am already at 45 books. Because of this, I've upped my aim to 100 books for the year. Unfortunately, that would mean that I'm not actually ahead but behind—7 books from where I need to be. Time to catch up.

Partial successes

What about the goals that are sort of working—but that maybe need a rekindling or adjustment?

  • 📊 GTD
    • This has been an on-and-off commitment.
    • But now that I'm no longer juggling both entrepreneurial and academic responsibilities, it's much easier to stay organized and disciplined with my time. I find that the "deep work" model of doing no more than one thing a day works best for me. My brain just can't handle much more.
  • 🧘‍ Meditate daily. Try a (≥) week-long meditation retreat.
    • On the daily meditation front, I've come to accept that vanilla Vipassana just doesn't work for me. I already sit much behind the computer that I'd rather spend time for meditation doing something non-sedentary.
    • My alternative is to just go to the sauna. You get the benefits of the introspective time plus the benefits of the sauna. And if clearing your mind's the goal, then the sauna sometimes outperforms Vipassana. Just as turning up pink noise can tune out distraction, raising the temperature can dial down the brain.
    • As for that meditation retreat, it's just not going to happen this year.
  • 👟 More cardio.
    • At the start of the year, I was stressing out about my heart rate being too high as well as my height (6' 5") substantially increasing my risk of early death.
    • I'm a little less stressed about this because it turns out my heart rate is fine. Those hours in the sauna must be doing something. And next to sauna, I've found swimming to be a great fit.


What about the goals that are not working out? The places where I need to make a change?

  • 👥 Join a community at our new home.
    • We've only been here for five weeks, so I haven't had a whole lot of time to explore. But I could do a better job starting right now. I'll be looking specifically in the rationalist and language-learning communities.
  • 🗣 Italian to B2; German to B1
    • Next to masters and business, language has been on the back-burner. That's okay. The only real deadline I have is reading Faust in German by my 25th birthday (for a bet with a former roommate).
  • 🦵 Continue daily mobility and flexibility exercises. Reach at least 6 months without injury.
    • I wish, I wish. This time, it is my right shoulder that's been acting up. The consequence is that I'm continuing to ignore strength work and focus on mobility over all else.
  • ✍️ Write weekly and develop a course (likely about workflows for academic research) for passive income.
    • Somewhere in the mix of starting a business, finishing courses, then writing my masters, I began to neglect my blog. That's a shame because there are few better ways to refine your thinking. Fortunately, I didn't stop writing—so I haven't lost that habit.
    • Starting now, I am rebooting my blogging practice. My aim is to have averaged one piece a week at the end of the year. That means that starting now I have to finish three pieces every two weeks. Definitely possible now that I have little else in my way.
  • 💵 Achieve consistent growth with Health Curious (my business). Get into YC S2021.
    • It is in the nature of start-ups to pivot, pivot, and pivot again. So we have, so we will continue to do. That's why I don't feel bad about not meeting these goals. We're working super hard and now that I can work full-time, there's nothing in our way (except slowly dwindling funds, but that's part of the excitement).

What now?

One of the major lessons from this first half year is just how bad I am at multitasking. Not just in the moment (when, for example, you're talking to your mom and trying to cook at the same time), but throughout the day. My brain needs a few hours before it can really switch from one subject to another, say, from masters to business to blogging and back.

One consequence of this is that I've been more susceptible to wasting time on Reddit and YouTube. That needs to change. My solution is to use a VPN on my phone that blocks these websites. I might do the same on my computer.

My priority over the remainder of this year is to get enough money to my partner and I's business, Health Curious, that our team can last until the end of the year. I'll be sharing a more in-depth update in the next few weeks. Because of this, another consequence of my inability to multitask is that I have to "neglect" my side interests. Expanding my SRS and languages may have to wait as long as these other concerns take precedence.

The next few months may prove to be some of the most routine I've ever experienced. I'll be coding, entrepreneuring, and writing 12 to 14 hours a day, with the remaining hours reserved for a bit of movement, sauna, food, and girlfriend. It's good that we started a company together: she knows what we signed up for.

Maybe the weirdest part is how much I'm looking forward to this regimen. Maybe it's that I've been brainwashed by our culture to worship work as religious duty. Maybe it's that I've brainwashed myself into programmatic stupor. Or maybe it's the start-up lore of Bill Gates and Paul Allen churning out Altair Basic on a sleep-deprived diet of Tang, Marc Andreesseen and Eric Bina slaving away behind Mosaic, and many other luminaries besides these entering the world through an unhealthy-seeming rite of start-up passage. We will have to wait and see how this story turns out.