2022 01 17

In 2021 I wrote 81,316 words in 173 journal entries throughout the year. For the most part these were just shared with a single friend as a writing exercise and occasionally I would share excerpts with other friends. This year I want to share more publicly. I felt that I had a lot of interesting thoughts that could be interesting to others as well. I also enjoy reading travelogues and figured this could serve as a sort of travelogue of my life. I’m trying to navigate a transition from academia to industry with the (hopefully soon) end of my PhD so I think the journey of how I do it could be interesting to have documented. It’s not as flashy as a true travelogue, but I hope for there to be some Proustian appeal to it nonetheless.

I also want to share more because I feel that publicly releasing things is something that I am bad at and would like to improve at. To promote this I decided to set my theme for the year as sharing. Last year I had it set as producing which manifested largely in the journals as well as a few programming side projects (the one I’m most proud of is automating an airline manager tycoon game that my brother plays to help him climb the leaderboard). I want to keep producing things, but I want to share them instead of leaving them to collect dust in my filesystem. So I intend for these journal updates to also include information about my side projects as well as my main research project. I think that writing publicly about these can help promote progress as well. I was recently motivated in this direction by reading The Martian as well as several Jules Verne novels in which the characters chronicle their adventure and, in particular, the many problems that they have to solve along the way (in particular: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and The Mysterious Island). In a way life is just a long sequence of problem solving guided by goals/visions so I’m testing my hypothesis that writing about one’s journey can improve the process. I want to flesh out these thoughts about how I think the aforementioned books provide a useful framework for problem solving in a future post as I have found that fun to think about.

It’s often said how New Year’s Resolutions seldom last, but many things restart at the beginning of the year anyways. I at least find the beginning of the year as a helpful way of recalibrating my mind and one goal I have is to do these mental recalibrations more often. I think it was in How to Win Friends and Influence People where there was an anecdote about the most successful person they knew had a strict weekly regimen where they would go through the past week and analyze their decisions and figure what they did well and what they did not do well in order to do better the next week. This form of iterative improvement has appealed a lot to me over the past few years, but I have been not so good at doing it myself. Many hard computational math problems are typically solved with iterative solvers where successive approximations are made and refined with the hope of converging to the solution (for mainstream buzzwords: every neural network is trained this way). So I think we are in good company to try and improve ourselves in a similar manner as opposed to going on a quest for the one true solution to life. It was fairly easy to deflect the talks of myself doing this when I was held accountable to one person only, but now I’m hoping that exposing myself to the world more will be a better motivator 🙃.

A weird observation so far is that the writing voice in my mind feels different because it knows this is being shared publicly instead of one person. Hopefully in time I can do away with that voice and not say anything too controversial! My goal is to have this be my candid internal monologue voice instead of some polished speak that isn’t really me. Besides, that’s seldom interesting to read and inauthentic.