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My 2020 Annual Review

This year is something that we all won’t forget, right? 

Following is the quick recap of my 2020, and I will follow the same pattern of annual review from James Clear, with the following questions.

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go well this year?
  3. What did I learn?

What went well this year?

Given the crazy pandemic year, surprisingly, I was fortunate to have somethings that went great. 

Recognition at work. I got promoted in less than a year of joining as an associate. While I don’t care about what titles have to say, this one made me happy and made me realize that I can excel in the corporate world. 

In the first three months of 2020, I went to work at 6:45 AM and made it a habit of waking up at 5 AM on weekdays. It took a toll on the body, but I was able to do it. 

Hard work. Even though it’s subjective, I measured my progress with real metrics, and I know the days that I have pushed myself more than what my body can handle. 

One thing that I put myself through was coming back from work and hitting the gym in a matter of minutes. I lifted to put on more muscle and successfully put on ~6 pounds in the first quarter of the year. 

Blog. Just after the pandemic started, I needed a way to use my time wisely. I started this blog back in March, and I have tried to understand my writing style and explored different topics. 

It’s not like I get thousands of views every day, but in general, I have my friends who read it, and occasionally some people find my work recommended in their WordPress feed.

Objectivism. Though people discover Ayn Rand in their teens, I started reading her work this year. I was fascinated by some of the ideas.

Some of the ideas that stood out were:

  1. Derive the meaning of life through the creation of value and the source of man’s values is independent thinking.
    1. Values are those things that one considers necessary to drive the person to purposeful, goal-oriented action. Some examples are a man loving education, art, or a particular woman. 
  2. Rand’s theory of selfishness as a virtue (Rational selfishness): the most misinterpreted objectivism idea. 

What didn’t go well this year?

Given that I was working in the middle of the pandemic (New York City), I got tested for Covid in March and tested negative with a pink eye. 

Anxiety. I have never really cared about anxiety or stress until this year. I was waiting for the Covid test results for seven days, and it was the longest time of my life. 

What would you have done when the doctor said you have the virus? Hell, I even remember his exact words, “Buddy, you got the virus.” At that moment, I knew what trauma is, what panic attack is, and what anxiety is. 

Job Security. The idea of losing the job was scary in the middle of the pandemic, and my company was the first to start laying off people to save money. Even though I was a top performer, the idea of losing the job was a nightmare. 

Millions in the world have lost the job and loved ones this year. You or I cannot fathom what it has been like for them. But, we have to remember to fight back and not give up. 

What did I learn?

Some of my major lesson from this year include:

Gratitude. It’s crucial to be grateful for your current life in whatever position you might be in. 

This year made me a believer in positivity and how not to fall for “what ifs.” Some of my what-ifs were: what if I lost the job? What if I get Covid and die alone? 

Learning. People do so many things to enrich their lives, and I figured that learning makes my mind go awe about the uncertainty that surrounds us.

I learned that following a pre-planned to-do list is challenging and requires a massive amount of effort. Through this learning process to make a list, I learned how much energy I can use without burning myself out after going all in on one day. 

Prioritization. We all want to do so many things in life, but we can’t. The time you have is limited.

If you value your time to be $1,000 per hour, would you still be doing the same thing you do every day? I learned this way of thinking from Naval Ravikant

If I cook a meal that takes one hour and comes out as average, can I automate it? I can if the total cost would be less than my hourly rate. 

Similarly, if you want to spend one hour talking to someone, you have to be sure that it helps you enrich your life for the better. Investing time in relationships is like investing in the stock market; the returns will compound over the long run. 

In short, 2020 has been a crazy year, but still, it’s no excuse for not being productive or slacking the life away. That’s it! 

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Career Advice for Uniquely Ambitious people

I was initially skeptical about buying this book but was interested to see what the author’s opinions were. 

Some advice was excellent, which most of us might only learn very late in our career. I have compiled the golden nuggets that I found from this small book.

Career Advice for Uniquely Ambitious People Summary

  • Your manager is the reason you will excel at your job. Everything else comes later. 
  • You won’t be necessarily happy if you earn higher $$$ but have a terrible boss.
  • To earn someone’s attention and favor – do a favor for them first. It’s the entire idea behind “Reciprocation Bias.”
  • Do things that are not considered to be sexy. These careers can be wildly successful because they are less desirable than other careers.
  • Specialize by mastering more than one skill. For example, learn finance if you are working in technology in the finance industry. Examples: Steve Jobs combined his passions for art and design with technology.
  • Find the career that gives immediate feedback on your work. The fast feedback loop is how we learn and improve.
  • If you put the same input in your work, it should always produce the same output. If you receive a bad output, then you know you gave the wrong input. Your feedback loop has to work with this level of clarity.
  • Set high goals and short deadlines. It ensures that you have “skin in the game.” You should make sure that losing or not hitting the deadline should not keep you from playing another round.
  • Choose a career where the best can make 100 or 1,000 times higher than the average. If you are a plumber and are great at it, you might make more than 30% of what the average plumber makes. It’s not the same for programmers, salespeople, etc.,
  • Before you start working your ass off in your career, look up the ceiling and see how high you can go. Go all in only if looking up the ceiling makes you question your ability. 
  • To maximize your income, learn this equation: Value created (What you contribute to society), Value awarded (how the market values the work), Value Captured (by you) How much you earn.
  • The more close you are to the job that creates revenue, the more valuable the skill and safer the career.
  • The skills that will always be valuable for almost any company are more sales, lower cost, better products.
  • A long-term plan is not a necessary piece of success. A long-term perspective is.
  • It matters much more who you work with than what you work on.
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Of all things that happened

In 2010, the statewide final exam result to graduate 10th grade was due in a few minutes. I was frantically walking back and forth outside one of the few places in my town with the internet. Almost everyone around me was there to look at their results; one could feel the increasing temperature.

The internet center manager told me, “You can take the computer in the middle at the end of the room.” I said, “Okay,” and proceeded to walk. It was the longest walk of my life, though it lasted only for a few seconds.

I sat down on a computer, typed my registration number, and hit submit. My mind was playing different outcomes as the website displayed its loading spinner.

The result flashed, giving me a score near the 90th percent! I called my parents and let my friends know. My mother was happy to hear the score, and my father was surprised that I scored so high. My sister and my friends were all happy! When I should be jumping around, I confess that I was sad and disappointed because I expected a much higher score.

I have failed in exams throughout my school years and have even forged my father’s signature to escape the embarrassment (I got caught multiple times and was horrible at it). 

Today, after ten years, things have changed. I have gotten good at the things that I was horrible at (I wish it were my father’s signature, lol).

What does all this mean to me? The tumultuous period is temporary. You and I will face many things in life, but we have to believe that they are temporary.

You might wonder why my father was surprised to see my high score? I wouldn’t compare myself to the holocaust survivors, but the ass whooping that I got due to scoring less made me want to prove that I’m as equally capable as my sister and other top students. I found meaning in the journey of establishing myself; this was what pushed me throughout high school.

I now think what would have happened if I didn’t get the ass whooping? Maybe I might not have found my enthusiasm and would have enjoyed the reward that I’m excellent no matter what I scored. No one promised me any external reward; it was only self-driven motivation. 

In the book “Mans Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl, he outlines the people’s experiences in Auschwitz’s death camp. Confronted with the brutality, almost everyone lost hope of surviving and began seeing death as some relief, but others, including the author, endured and survived; how is it possible? 

What these prisoners did for their survival was became to be known as “Logotherapy”: a form of psychotherapy. It suggests that finding meaning in the immediate circumstances that we are in will help us. For example, the survivors of the holocaust started enjoying nature around them on their breaks, instead of being worried about their inescapable reality. I guess I was practicing this form of therapy without knowing it during my high school years. 

What’s next?

One of the poems that deeply moved me was “Go All The Way” by Charles Bukowski. I would encourage you to read it slowly and reflect on every single line.

If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start.

If you’re going to try, go all the way.

This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs and maybe even your mind.

It could mean not eating for three or four days.

It could mean freezing on a park bench.

It could mean jail.

It could mean derision, mockery, isolation.

Isolation is the gift.

All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it.

And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds.

And it will be better than anything else you can imagine.

If you’re going to try, go all the way.

There is no other feeling like that.

You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire.

DO IT. DO IT. DO IT. All the way

You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.

by Charles Bukowski

I have started projects only for it to be abandoned after a few days. Discovering Charles’s poem was another unanticipated event for me. I plan to see my projects through all the way, even if it means writing garbage, coding a useless app.  

If this poem doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what else will. Call the artist within you; start a project, and go all the way. It’s the creative process that will take us to the place that we never thought to be possible. 

Of all things that have happened in your life, let the next thing may be something that you create all the way to the end.

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Birthdays make me think

I turned 26 today. 

Does it matter? Yes, it does. Since last year, this day serves as a checkpoint to evaluate what I’m doing in life.

Re-evaluating where I am

I ask myself one simple question: is my pursuit of life in line with my values? 

Have you ever spent time thinking about your values? I think about it a lot as someone who lives far away from family, friends. Is it all worth it? 

Over the years, I have seen my core values shift marginally. It’s crucial to re-evaluate periodically because we might think we are running in a circle when life has become rectangular. 

Today, I list my values below in order of highest priority:

  1. Knowledge: I want to keep learning new things and keep expanding what I know about this world. 
  2. Work & money: Nothing fulfills me other than completing a task with complete focus and getting paid for it. 
  3. Adventure: Accrue memorable experiences in the pursuit of everything I do.
  4. Human connection: Bonding with someone who is in the same “frequency” as like me. 

The above list covers what I consider to be the most important values (not universal). 

What has changed since last year? I had work and money as the highest priority, but soon I realized what I enjoy doing the most is learning something new. 

What made me realize that? At work, I was put on an ancient project. If you ask someone in my profession, they will all digress how hard it is to work on a legacy project, and making things worse, and it was a legacy technology that no one knew how to use.

I accepted the project and immensely enjoyed learning it at a pretty fast pace. When people were surprised to see how quickly I have learned something new, that’s when I know I not only enjoyed it but also was good at it. 

Losing out on opportunities

I recently came across a video from Jeff Bezos’s interview where he talks about a concept called “Regret Minimization Framework.” It asks the question: Will you regret what you haven’t done in life when you are 80 years old?

Thinking in that framework helped me look at things differently and make better decisions. Someone who has a predictable, stable career path will regret not taking on opportunities that came by. 

I’m someone who will regret it, and early on in my career, I even had to make such a decision. 

Change that you can’t control

The Internet is a beautiful thing; for some reason, the YouTube algorithm recommended me ALS-related videos. It’s a rare fatal neurological disease where everyone who gets it dies, which’s worse than cancer.

Soon after one video, I was watching two to three videos every day. Unlike other diseases, people who get ALS are healthy, most of whom are athletes. 

I couldn’t watch videos of young people of my age talking about their diagnosis and how devasted they are without shedding tears. 

Here is a person named “Eric Stevens” who is fighting it with everything he got. You can watch his story below:

In a way, I felt like I needed to watch it; I’m not a sociopath who enjoys watching such videos, I chose to watch it to see how people’s lives change in a moment when everything was perfect. 

I wish no one gets such diseases, but it does happen. In my culture, people are discouraged from asking negative questions, but it has to be asked. 

What will you do if it was you who gets a rare, incurable disease? Asking that question to myself made me make changes to how I spend my time every day. 

That’s all, I don’t know where life will take me in the next 365 days, but I’m looking forward to the journey ahead.