2016 in Review

Today, I spent a good portion of my day reviewing my past year in depth.

I did an 80/20 analysis of 2016, figuring out what 20% of people, what 20% of tasks I took on, what 20% of my hobbies, and what 20% of my money-related activities brought me at least 80% of my general good feelings. In contrast, I examined what 20% of things in those same categories brought me 80% of my general bad feelings.

This post is dedicated to this 2016 review and will be a guideline for me to look back on throughout the year.

Essentially, it is an introspective and in-depth resolutions list.

I began by spending roughly 5 minutes writing down all of the best and worst things I could think of revolving around my 2016 year. Next to each item, I put a plus or a minus sign, respectively. I then spent another 20 or 30 minutes going through my calendar, starting from January of 2016, all the way to December, and figuring out what appointments, events, meetings, friends, clubs, or whatever else, had a positive or negative impact on my life.

I then put each of these items into 4 distinct categories and found trends within each category to create an overall summary of what to improve in 2017 and beyond.

Academic and Career:

  • Take on less at the same time.
    • This was because I joined many various clubs, all while studying for the MCAT/GRE, writing grants, and working more than 15 hours a week in my research lab, all with a full course load. I felt that I wasn’t able to form connections with anyone in the organizations that I joined, or really have a meaningful impact on anything I did.
  • Dedicate more time to my senior design team.
    • I kind of pushed this one aside for a while, especially the development side of my senior design project. Although I worked on a lot of the actual in-class assignments, I feel as though knowledge-wise, I am quite a bit behind on the topic and on the software usage.
    • I also want to get closer to my actual team members. Not just laugh/drink close, but deep meaningful relationships close.
  • Dedicate more time to my research lab.
    • This is potentially my future career, which means I should not be half-assing any of this. Already I have gotten criticism from my mentor about not meeting his expectations throughout this quarter. I felt as though I made a great impact over the summer when I dedicated 40 hours a week to my research, but ever since starting up classes again, and applying for graduate schools and grant, I have really fallen behind.
  • Start important things earlier.
    • Many of the things I did over 2016 were very last minute, and I was ill prepared for most of them. This was mostly big, important things like the MCAT, the GRE, the NSF grant, and my graduate applications. I should plan things further in advance, and break each task into steps that I can complete over time.
  • Summary: Give real dedication to the tasks that I choose, or otherwise need to take on. No commitments should be half-assed, they should be full-assed, both in terms of actual work, and making the connections in those areas. Deep work is key to make the most of my time and feel fully immersed in my work.

Sides/Hobbies:

  • Go rock climbing more, and schedule it in advance. If it’s not on the calendar, it will never happen.
  • Keep meditating twice daily, the benefits are huge, and the peace of mind is needed.
  • Get really into making my own beer, like from the full on hops, not the pellets. And from full grains too, not the kits.
  • Go camping more, especially when my mind begins to clutter, and I am in need of some serious introspection. The stars and nature are unbeatable for peace of mind.
  • Keep going to the gym, and go alone.
  • The frat isn’t worth it. I don’t feel close, nor do I feel like I could get close to many of the guys in there. The ones that I am already close to won’t suddenly stop being my friend. No more of this just because stuff. (Plus it’s $300 a quarter).
  • Read more fiction/fantasy books, and stop reading it if I don’t like it.
    • Although non-fiction and self-help books are great and motivational, I need a bit of fiction and story-telling in my life.
  • Summary: Schedule the good stuff, or they won’t ever happen. Deep work on my academics so that I can make more time for the fun stuff.

Friends:

  • Figure out the best way to hang out with each friend.
    • I have a friend whom I cannot stand hanging out with when we’re around other people, but the minute we’re alone, we have great conversation and we are the best of friends. Thus, I should only hang out with him alone.
  • Be a better friend to those who make me feel happiest, or whom I feel closest to.
    • This means sacrifice time to go out of my way and do the things that are most meaningful to them, even if it doesn’t sound that great. I know they would do it for me.
  • Schedule more stuff with those who are closest to me. I hardly have time even for myself, but I need to make time for the important things in my life, and friends are one of the top priorities.
  • Call my long-distance friends more often. I always have trouble talking on the phone, or over skype, but I need to make the effort.
  • Summary: Focus more time on good friends, and be the friend that I would want them to be for me.

Money:

  • Spend less money going out for food and coffee.
    • I will try to cut it down to at most once a week, both for coffee and for food.
  • Meal prep more often, and plan it better (i.e. plan next Sunday’s meal prep on the previous Sunday).
    • Not only is it healthier, but way cheaper, too.
  • Cook more often with Stephanie. Again, cheaper, and it’s fun.
  • Don’t spend any money (besides Uber) going out to Pacific Beach.
    • Drinks downtown are extortion, especially when I can have a fun pregame with friends beforehand.
    • Also, the pregame is usually the most fun part of the night, which brings me to my next point.
  • Have more hangouts at my place with close friends.
    • Just invite them over for drinks sometimes.
    • It’s fun, and it’s a great way to connect. Going to clubs hardly allows any actual time to talk.
  • Summary: Be conscious of the spending. Stop spending on the things I can make myself at home, and stop spending on extortionary nights out.

There’s the entirety of my list thus far. If I think of more points, I will likely append them to the post. In fact, I will probably make a page on this blog specifically for this post, and update that page instead.

I highly suggest everyone make a similar introspective post of their year (and yes, you can make it even after the 1st of January). It will keep you accountable, and it will be much more of a motivation to yourself if you give the “why’s” of your resolutions.

I look forward to applying these resolutions to my life, and improving myself in 2017 and beyond. I am curious to see what kinds of points will be on my list a year from now.

2016 in Review

The Good and Bad of Military Funding

I tend to question the ethics of military advancements. Not only the ethics honestly, sometimes I question the point of even having wars and hostility between nations. Obviously it’s not so much a choice as it is a by-product of many other factors leading to war, but I guess my main question is whether the conflicts between nation, and the arms races (even the unofficial ones) that are constantly ongoing between our nations is more destructive or more beneficial. 

If you think about, so much money is funneled into the military, especially their research and development teams. Of course a lot of it is spent on developing new weapons or vehicles, but much of it is also spent developing health related technologies that eventually get applied to the general public. 

There is of course the argument that the military funds could go directly to academic and industrial research and development, advancing our technology that way, but it seems that the there is more of a panic and rush to get out advancing technologies when it comes to the military.

The only downside is the devastation that comes out of wars. So the underlying question is: do the amazing medical and beneficial technologies being developed due to military pressure out weigh the atrocities arising from wars? If we take a humanist approach to this question, it becomes a little more simple: are more people being saved by military funding than are being killed? If yes, then it is ethically good. But I don’t believe this question stops at this humanist approach. I have no idea where it stops, but it just doesn’t feel right to stop there. I’m not sure why.

The Good and Bad of Military Funding

Just Because

Sometimes it feels as though I’m in some kind of robotic trance. I begin just simply accepting things for the way they are, or go about my day without a question in the world, and just follow along, since it’s just the thing that I do, just because.

This just because lifestyle is a lifestyle that people simply accept, and go along with because that’s how it’s “always been” for them. People are scared of change and are scared to ask themselves the hard questions that may lead them to a realization that veering off course would actually make them much, much happier than staying on their current path.

I find so many people in life follow this just because lifestyle without ever questioning it. In fact, I might even argue that they actively fight these questions. Most don’t want to feel different (at least when they are surrounded by people that also don’t want to feel different), so they choose to accept the way their life and their society works since there’s no other way to be (or so they believe).

I believe it is this just because that causes so much misery and wasted lives in society. Maybe I’m ignorant and young, and don’t know anything about the real struggles of the world, but I’d argue that many of the consistent factors of mental and emotional hardships in one’s life can be solved by going against the just because.

An example of this is one that crosses my mind a lot, mostly due to an old girlfriend that I was with for roughly four years. During these four years, there were, of course, many great moments. We loved each other, we explored together, and we had fun together. On the other hand, there were many, many (did I mention many) bad times. We fought more than we had normal moments, let alone good moments. We were plagued by a common problem in relationships: attempting to shape each other into our perfect companion. Looking back, it seems obvious, but hindsight bias is real, and it’s hard to see it in the moment, especially when you’re actively repressing your introspection about it. I would constantly find myself thinking, “why am I with her? There has to be something other than this in a relationship.” But of course, I kept it going, because I was too far in it already.

We had been together for over 2 years when the majority of our fighting began, and it seemed like a waste to “throw that all away.” Well, that’s what I told myself at least. This shitty relationship kept going for another two years. But if I had been honest with myself, I would have realized I was simply just scared to break up with her and scared of what my life would be like without a girlfriend. So basically, I stayed with her just because that was the norm of my life. I was scared of change. Luckily at the end of the four years, I kind of snapped and broke it off suddenly and completely. It was probably one of the best decisions and one of the hardest decisions I have yet made in my life.

So from this, I would argue, question your relationships. If you start asking yourself a question and you feel yourself repressing it, and fighting your oncoming answers, maybe that’s exactly the question you want to be asking, and the question you want to take the time to figure out.

This idea of asking the uncomfortable questions doesn’t just apply to relationships. The exact same methodology can be used for a job that you’re miserable in, or a friendship that you feel is one-sided and is giving more stress than happiness (what are friendships for, after all?), and many other situations.

In conclusion, I would just say, ask those uncomfortable questions. Follow your tough thoughts. Don’t be afraid to stray off of the just because lifestyle just because you’re afraid of change. Change can be good, and sameness can be bad.

 

p.s. 5 minutes after posting this, I came across a Wait But Why post that is a great attempt at an explanation behind the fear of change from this just because.

Just Because

Active and Silent Minimalists

Last night I watched “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things” on Netflix, which is heavily focused on Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus’ (The Minimalists) book tour.

During one of their stops, one of the audience members makes a comment (and I’m paraphrasing here) saying more minimalists need to be like them, sharing this message of minimalism and anti-consumerism since they are the people that will actually make a difference, taking down Wall Street and the big corporations that take advantage of others. He also comments, in a negative way, on how the monks and the silent minimalists are essentially useless since they are not bringing minimalism to the attention of others.

In a sense, I can see how their usefulness to society as a whole is decently small. They are definitely inspiring to a certain group of individuals, but most of our society couldn’t care less about monks, and no one actually knows about the silent minimalists. The Minimalists, however, have motivated a large group of people, myself included when I read Josh’s book back in 2013, to take on, or at least intentionally consider a lifestyle of minimalism.

The difference between these two groups (the activist minimalists, and the silent ones) are their purpose. The activists are just that, actively trying to spread awareness about minimalism and the ability to intentionally buy and use what you actually need. Their goal is to spread this message, and as the audience member said, “scare Wall Street.” Looking, in contrast, to the silent minimalists, we see instead the ones who simply want to apply this minimalist style to their own life. Their purpose isn’t to spread it and preach it to all those who will listen. Instead, they find comfort and happiness by simply living minimalism, and don’t find the need to spread the word.

In today’s society, most would argue that if you don’t have utility in the greatest way possible, you are useless, and maybe even a detriment to others. Perhaps that’s true, but do those mindful and minimalist folks actually care? Since they find themselves avoiding the societal norms of high achievement, defined in our lives as having more money, or more things, they instead choose to ignore the societal need for the greatest contribution towards society.

As conflicting as it may sound, perhaps it is this idea of needing to effect the most amount of people possible that creates such selfish and ignorant people. If anyone gets in our way or contradicts what we say, we feel attacked and oppressed. Instead, maybe we should be more open to the comments of others, and focus on the things that make us happy. We don’t have to preach about it to everyone else, but instead only to those who want to listen with an open mind. I believe that is the goal of The Minimalists, and likewise the goal of the silent minimalist and the monks. Neither group is trying to convert those who don’t want to be converted, but instead simply live their minimalist lives as they feel makes them happy. The activist minimalist reap joy from spreading the message to those who seek it and the silent ones are equally content by simply living it.

Active and Silent Minimalists

The Fallacy of the Incapable Millennial

It’s odd listening to someone say that my generation is stereotypically useless and helpless.

Don’t get me wrong, most millennials totally suck. There are, however, many “negative” stereotypes about millennials that I don’t agree are negative at all and are instead simply the evolution of our society.

This came to mind from when I was talking to my girlfriend’s dad and his co-worker. Both work at General Motors and are total stereotypical car guys. They brought up the fact that they frequently complain about their children, both college-aged millennials, and how they won’t have any idea how to survive in the real world. Not surprisingly, their main complaint was that “millennials have no idea how to fix a car.” Let me be the first to admit that I would have precisely 0% of an idea of what to do if my car broke down in the middle of the street (besides call triple A, hoping that I have cell-service), thus I am not saying that their argument is false. However, I do believe that the logic behind the ability to fix cars correlating to real-world success is completely flawed.

If we look into the society in which that the older generation grew up we see almost an obsession with cars. Most of the men that I know who are over the age of 40 have at one point or another worked as a mechanic, or at the very least taken a shop class. Now looking among my millennial friends, exactly 2 of them have taken some kind of car-oriented class or worked in that field, and both of them are sons of men who have worked for car companies. For the older generation, it made sense to take these classes and work as mechanics as the job market was essentially overflowing with car-based, hands-on jobs. If we look at the same job market today, jobs requiring technical car skills come down to almost nothing, since 99% of those jobs are automated. Staying on this topic of automation and further investigating the job market shows a substantial increase in the need for someone who can develop software to automate the labor that the older generation was trained to do. Using the same logic as my girlfriend’s dad and his co-worker, we could, therefore, say that perhaps it isn’t millennials that are useless, but instead, the older generation that hasn’t learned these software production skills, and thus could not thrive in the newer job market.

Therefore, I agree that perhaps us millennials could never thrive in the job market of the 70’s or 80’s where technical and hands-on skills are highly valued, though, in consequence, the older generation could never thrive in the current and future job market where technological and theoretical skills are prized.

The Fallacy of the Incapable Millennial

The Path of High Achievement

I find myself all too often getting caught up in trying to be “the best” in my classes or in my side hobbies. This even starts showing up when I play video games, where 90% of my time isn’t spent playing the actual game, but instead looking up videos on the most efficient builds, or the quickest playthroughs. It makes me wonder if we are genetically adapted to try to be the best, or whether society has pushed us to need to be better than the others around us.

It is curious that when I sit down and self-reflect on what I believe my true goals are in life, being “the best” at something almost never comes to mind. I find myself instead wanting a happy family, living somewhere with dense and luscious green trees, and having the time to read and enjoy my family’s company.

The thoughts of being the best seem to instead occur in spontaneous manic bursts, which might be interpreted as a moment of inspiration to others. It almost feels addicting, picturing myself in the spotlight of the biggest company of X or Y field, and having my name trailing in every related magazine or podcast. But this moment of instant gratification, coming from these thoughts of fame, feel only too similar to the rush of satisfaction given by getting more likes on a facebook post. In the end, both intrinsically mean nothing. Having fame or facebook likes doesn’t correlate with having long-term happiness (that I know of), and perhaps this means that these thoughts of high-achievement should be followed with caution.

It too seems to be the driver of the “rat-race” of modern life. We are told we must achieve our maximum potential, and follow this track, or that track, and get years of experience, dedicating the majority of our waking hours to our career. If we don’t, how will we afford the best house? How will we afford the best meals? How will afford the best new phone? But in the end, will any of those things really give any happiness besides the few moments after you get them?

We have the ability to ask “why” to anything we feel, or think, or do. We are, after all, the most conscious and intellectual beings on this planet, and we should use our ability for deep introspection to truly determine what, in the end, will make us happy. Maybe we should determine how to achieve those goals, instead of our forever evolving career goals, and our essentially unobtainable dreams of fame. Consequently, maybe we should learn to appreciate what we have instead of always trying to reach for the most “efficient build.”

The Path of High Achievement