I know it’s almost the end of January but I like to take my time with these posts. You can take a look at my previous year-end posts here.
In addition to just jotting things I was most proud/happy about this year, I also want to note down some of my learnings. There were many overwhelming moments that led to much introspection. I want to try and document some of those moments here (atleast the less embarrassing ones). So here goes:
Stuff I did:
- met John Paul White : if you haven’t heard of the band Civil Wars, I plead you take a listen
- learnt how to make my own latte (like an actual barista would). Given how big a coffee addict I am, this was bound to happen. Also landed up buying a Keurig machine for my new place >< (don’t judge me, it’s been the best investment ever)
- cleaned up the blog design yet again (did it in a Singapore lounge on an 8 hour layover)
- made the pilgrimage to Disneyland again this year (twice). The night parade blew my socks away (twice!)
- hiked Grand Canyon with some buddies. Grand doesn’t even close to describing this place
- Went camping at Yellow Stone National Park. It was crazy fun and cold! (we didn’t anticipate the temperature drop and woke up one morning in our tent to subzero temperatures.. that part was not so fun)
- travelled to Sweden for the first time (my first time to Europe). I went to speak at a conference and the overall experience was simply amazing
- Fragmented hit ep.70: this may not seem like a big deal by regular podcasting standards but Donn and I try very hard to keep Fragmented rich with content. Coming up with new interesting content every week is not as easy as you would think. But it’s been a crazy and extremely rewarding journey so far
- Fragmented joins the Spec network. It’s an amazing team and the collaboration really helps us move faster
- became a GDE. I’m honored and extremely grateful to have been recognized by Google for this
- open sourced TrueTime: as part of a really interesting and challenging project at Instacart, we landed up open sourcing this library for Android. Read more about it here
Buffet’s 2 list strategy
I found myself constantly interested in a gazillion projects but struggled for time. I achieved a lot but just found myself more depressed cause I couldn’t finish everyting on my admittedly unrealistic list. I then came across this fantastic post by James Clear on Warren Buffett’s “2 list” strategy that explained how Warrent Buffett tackled this problem. It was eye opening and I now follow a similar routine to really whittle down my wishlist of projects.
Highly polarized decisions
I knew we were on to something because it was so polarizing
Picked this up in the Presentable podcast. To paraphrase what’s said: You know you’re treading the right path if the decisions you take are highly polarized. If everyone is meh, that’s the most dangerous thing for your product. But if you have two groups both feeling very strongly about something, then you know you’re getting somewhere.
On changing your mind
Anybody who doesn’t change their mind a lot is dramatically underestimating the complexity of the world we live in
- Jeff Bezos
by way of this tweet.
Mindfulness and observation
Mindfulness and keen observation just makes you a smarter person. One of my buddies is a top notch designer and all around super smart person. I noticed this quality about her and i’m convinced there’s a strong correlation between smarts and a good power of observation. If anything, being more aware just gives you the ammo to have smarter conversations.
Here’s an interesting exercise for you folks: if I asked you to draw the super ubiquitous USB symbol, how accurately would you be able to draw it? You’ve seen it countless times but have you stopped to observe that there’s actually a triangle, square and circle on each of the spokes of the trident? do you know what it signifies?
Being happy and enjoying your life
I need to keep reminding myself of this more:
In the end, only three things matter:
how much you loved,
how gently you lived and
how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you
I draw my learning not just from scriptures but also the sanctimonious art form of TV: while watching a rerun of Boston Legal (James Spader at his best btw) I noticed this phrase, which just made me happy:
wake up every morning, with all the promise that morning conveys
By way of an anecdote that Matt Damon mentioned, in an interview:
It’s easy to be younger, just make time.
- Stephen Hawking
Software Engineering learnings
These are more pertinent to software engineers and developers
I came across this article by Yishan (an ex Engineering Manager at Facebook). If you’re looking for advice and tips on being a better software leader, definitely read this article. Key takeaways:
- Hiring is number one
- Let process be implemented by those who practice it
- Promote from within
- Tools are top priority (devs should really read this one)
This was a great read and honestly more a reaffirmation of some core technical beliefs. Keep learning and adapting.
Importance of vacation
Most of my career has been in startup land and I enjoy every moment of it. But make no mistake, it takes a toll. You’re driven by the energy around you and if you happen to have great colleagues, the excitement is compounded. I hadn’t taken a proper vacation in almost 2 and half years. I totally could have, but just never felt it was the right time. But I decided to take a good 3 weeks off for the holidays this time, and it was absolutely fabulous. I met up with old friends and made so many new ones.
Most importantly, I came back fresh and my productivity was 2x what it was. Definitely going to be slotting in proper vacation time moving forward.
I was reminded of this story about Pixar:
The most powerful example dates back to the making of Toy Story 2 in 1999. With only seven months to go before its scheduled release date, Pixar’s creative leadership felt that Toy Story 2 was not working creatively. Disney, Pixar’s distribution partner, knew that it took 3-4 years to make an animated film. They argued that it was too late to start over and that Pixar should release the film as is. But Pixar refused, deciding instead to tear up the story and re-write it from scratch. The studio pushed itself to the brink of collapse to complete the new version of Toy Story 2 on time, and the film was a huge commercial and critical success. And, when it was completed, the executive team took the extraordinary step of closing the studio for two entire months to let everyone recuperate.
2016 was by far my most action packed year. 2017 has started with much trepidation and fear. But if there’s one thing these years have taught me, it’s never to lose hope and always to keep charging forward.
Onward and upward peeps!