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New Year Reflections
2021 Highs and Lows, 2022 Goals and Intentions
At housemate Greg’s (left) consulting firm’s holiday party. Many of the consultants there acutely felt existential angst and were happy to (nihilistically) dive in to the meaning of life, which was actually good fun.
Started a company. Last January I was at the very start of my journey, and I set a few simple goals for the summer: find a cofounder and idea I love, and get funding. That happened, and we've continued to build up steam since. Our app is now in private beta, and our first hire starts in January. After seeing firsthand how tough it is to emerge from the "idea wilderness", I'm feeling very grateful for where we are. 2022 will be a big one for us!
Community. The house had officially decided to throw in the towel until one housemate decided to take on the master lease, leading to some of us opting back in for a (successful) recruiting push. I'm proud of the new community we've created together, and it has been such a source of warmth and hilarity since returning to SF.
Writing. I wrote some Substack posts I'm proud of, and doubled my subscribers over the last year (to a humble 120). Writing these posts helped structure and solidify new areas of exploration, exercise vulnerability, and attract like minded-people to riff and share ideas with. It was fun, my dear subscriber, sharing some of the journey with you.
Family. This year I spent roughly 5 months in Ontario, more than I had spent in total over the previous 5 years. I left feeling more connecting to my family than I had in a long time. I went for daily walks after dinner with my Mom. I went to my Dad's cottage for the first time (even though he's had it for around 8 years). I got to settle into a routine and just exist in a way that isn’t possible in a whirlwind holiday visit. I feel they understand my life a bit better too, after witnessing customer calls from across the living room and providing feedback on mockups and prototypes.
Building. Often you can get a lot of feedback from mockups, landing pages, or plain old words, but I did write some code this year, nicely illustrated by my commit graph:
The first block of green was building Braindeck, which is still up at: https://braindeck.io/. The vision was to make it easy to learn anything. The first step was generating a personalized curriculum to most efficiently move you from what you already know to what you want to learn, using existing content on the web and our network of creators. The second step was to start synthesize better content with generative models. I moved on because it didn't seem to be a hair on fire problem, the market was small, and the tech is a bit too far out.
Standard Care, which made searching for and enrolling in clinical trials for new treatments easy. It was a lot of fun hacking on and launching this with Zain. We were actually able to find plenty of people who were keen to explore clinical trials as a treatment option, but the chances of finding a trial they're eligible for, that’s currently enrolling, and in their area, are almost nil. This insight led us to explore how we might make trials cheap, fast, and ubiquitous.
V0 of the Eureka Health app. Our MVP was made and run entirely from Coda, and after that initial validation we started building our "real" product. It's starting to look like a real product, and we're now learning and shipping as fast as we can.
Confidence. My confidence was a bit shaken at the end of last year. Am I really ready to try to start a company? Shouldn't I find a job and learn for a few more years first? After building some momentum and getting some wins, I feel like I've got my feet under me again, and I'm ready to work hard and grow with the company.
Investing. I revisited my "personal burn" spreadsheet I made when I left my previous job. I expected to dip into personal savings significantly over the past year, but miraculously I've doubled my money instead. The "ultra-aggressive techie" portfolio of crypto + Tesla + S&P 500 seems to have paid off. I've rebalanced to something a little less crazy (down to "only" 35% crypto now) in anticipation of a rockier 2022 for the markets.
Fitness. I only rode 2000 miles this year, down from 4000 in 2020. One knee has been hurting enough to keep me off the bike, and the other one is easily upset by running. I need cardio to think so this will be important to address.
Breakup. I had a tough one in the first half of the year, which was particularly hard because we did had a lot going for us. After spinning over whether it was the right decision (in quarantine no less, with little else in my head for those 14 days), I reached conviction that it was the right choice (this Waitbutwhy article was very helpful) and clarified what I'm looking for, which is a silver lining for sure.
Writing. I barely published any posts in the last half of the year, and I'd like to carve out more "me" time to get down whatever thoughts are top of mind. Perfect is the enemy of progress, and I'll bias more towards publishing. I'm using Reflect for notes and have been loving it, hopefully journaling more will naturally lead to more posts.
Reading. 15 books isn't bad, but there were long stretches without any real progress being made. Also, my rate of reading paper/kindle books was abysmal, with just 1.5 books completed. At least my retention from Audible is pretty high (I think) so that helps pick up the slack.
The Cold Start Problem
Structure of Scientific Revolution
An Elegant Defense
The Angel and the Assassin
15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership
Billion Dollar Molecule
A Crack in Creation
Good to Great
High Output Management
The Great American Drug Deal
The Wires of War
Company: Don't die. Hire a great team. Find product-market fit. Exceed 1000 completed health experiments. Work super hard and grow myself as much as I can.
Fitness: Run (at least a small amount) 6x/week. Run a sub-1:18 half marathon. Do 5 muscle ups and 5 planche pushups. Ride a bike for 100 miles without pain.
Reading: 2 books per month.
Writing: 1 monthly update and 1 article about any topic per month. Double subscribers to 250.
Relationships: At least 2 deliberate, quality hangouts with friends per week. If I'm dating, at least one proper "date night" per week.
Work: 60 hrs/week
Working out, meditating, writing: 5 hrs/week each
Sleep: 8 hrs/night of sleep, with consistent bedtime
Be bold. Having a big, bold, exciting vision for the future can feel scary. What if you overpromise or fail? Isn't it better to start small and humble and build from there? Yes and no. When you dream big, the dream starts to attract others who are excited to make that vision a reality. With so much changing and so many exciting opportunities around us, nobody really cares about a base hit. We're working towards an extremely exciting future (we’re solving personalized medicine and disrupting clinical trials!), and I want to develop and tell this story. Of course, we’ll balance this with a laser focus on real product value and growth.
(Truly positive) impact. It's easy to get distracted with fundraising, OKRs, and the day-to-day within the company, but we started this company to help people. I want to stay close to our users and do whatever it takes to have a positive impact on their lives. It has been incredibly rewarding improving the health of the handful of users we have so far, and I can't wait to help more, at a larger scale.
Beginner's mind. When faced with a new problem, start with curiosity, openness, humility, and the assumption that you know little. Replace assertions with questions. This frees the mind to discover, learn, and think from first principles to arrive at better solutions. In my life, losing this has led to slower learning and reduced impact.
Focus. In previous periods of high output, I invariably had little else going on to distract me. During final exams in university, I would carve out two hours each day for eating, running, and showering, and the rest of the day was just for studying. I like many things, and often try to do too much, and in my personal life, and with the company, I want to focus on doing a few things really well. This means more quality time with friends and less parties. Less Netflix and more deliberate time working, writing, or sleeping early. Over the holidays, I've exercised, worked, called a friend or two in the evening, and slept, and this simple, almost ascetic life actually suits me quite well. This year will demand more of me than any other period in my career so far, and I'm excited to make it my focus and give it my all.
Presence. For me, this is crucial for a life well-lived. Being in lockdown demonstrated how quickly life passes by when we have the same routine in the same four walls for months at a time, and how much our brain turns to mush when we're always online and always being hit with notifications. Cultivating presence and bringing it to everything I do makes me happier and more productive, and helps ensure I actually experience the life that's flying by faster every day.
I’m trying to deliberately cultivate community to support my 2022 goals, so if you’d like to book club, share writing, run, work out, or discuss company strategy/product/early stage startup life with me, do reach out. Thanks for reading, happy 2022!