There is a lot of hype and trepidation about the future of AI and its putting people out of work. A new model that generates incredible videos from text prompts was just released and has amazed just about everyone. Chicago was gray and dull for the entirety of December and January, but the winter was warmer than expected. We had a hard time settling into our new place, hearing footsteps upstairs, drafty windows letting in the cold Chicago winter. Unexpectedly high bills, a general malaise hung over our transition from Boston. Is it nostalgia? Is it the baby? Is it the lack of freedom? Or is it just the postpartum up and down? Were we like this on moving to Boston?
I recall driving into Boston in a small UHaul, the sliding door of the back didn’t latch so the night before I parked it up against a brick wall so no one could still our entire life. The guy at the UHaul location was a total dick, and I queried the taxi driver on “how racist is Boston really?” I think settling into Boston became easy in that the place we purchased was beautiful, almost exactly what we were looking for. On the river, next to some amazing walking paths. In the warmer months, I would love for an open-ended stroll, and end up wandering back 2 or 3 hours later occasionally, walking all the way to the bridge to Kendall square. I recall the warm summer breeze on the bridge and just hanging out in the moment. Of course, it’s easy for nostalgia to take moments of a prior good time and expand them into an ocean of memories which may or may not be entirely true. My partner was busy, I think that helped a lot. In fact, that was the big issue in New York, was her lack of busyness. Maybe that is the key to my happiness…
Gradually, feelings of shock and betrayal are being replaced by acceptance and understanding, he explained. As we looked at sweet-natured pictures of the pig and his owner trading nuzzles and belly scratches, I asked Austin if he thinks Waylon regretted attacking him before he was killed. He went silent for a few seconds, mulling over my question before responding. “I don’t think it was Waylon who attacked me,” he said. “I was attacked by a warthog.”
This longform read was about a guy and his friend warthog, who he raised from birth. From going through the drive through at Whataburger together to playing games with each other – there seemed to be a solid bond between them, until there wasn’t (when the warthog tried to gouge his insides out).
The captivating bit about this was the ending and the work/therapy it took this dude to get over the fact that his friend tried to (and almost successfully) killed him.
“I don’t think it was Waylon who attacked me,” he said. “I was attacked by a warthog.”
I think this – this right here – could be applied to a lot of situations and people. Sometimes you know and love someone, and they act like a real asshole. It wasn’t them, it was the animal-side within, that made them behave this way. Alas, another coping mechanism outside of the lack of free will Robert Sapolsky espouses.
The baby grows, cuter, and easier by the day. Month number four, almost, and we have accepted and settled into a routine of perpetual exhaustion. Living single was carefree, living married was still carefree, living with a child is an abandonment of that carefree lifestyle. No longer can you just go do anything, at the same time, how often did you really “go do anything.” I suppose I did at a small scale, and sometimes at a large scale while working with the foreign service, but not so much after I got married. Either way, the entirety of freedom has been more than halved.
If there is one thing a child has taught me, it is that you truly cannot value something until you have had it and it is gone. The free time, the extra cash. The lifestyle of “let's just get up and go.” Alas, on several occasions of having a drink with friends, I have thought to myself, “I think I am sort of over this.” Life, as a novelty burn function, truly requires something else after you’ve spent years on the same thing. This winter was tough. Post-partum hormones, being locked indoors, a gloomy and gray season, and with little to no sleep – wondering when it gets better. The rosy lens of nostalgia will rectify the short-term difficulties I am sure (maybe… it did not for my stay in Minnesota), but one thing is for sure – something has got to change to make things better. Perhaps that is the city that we reside in.
I am however grateful for a supportive friend circle nearby, a happy, healthy, and smiley baby, a nest egg to fall back on, and a wonderful life-mate. These are probably the ingredients everyone wants in their life, and I am lucky enough to have them. It is of course the perversity of the human mind to constantly then think, “ok now what else?” A major career milestone would be great too 🙂
The Spring’s plans are already sorted. Another month here, a work trip to Dubai, a stop-over in London to see my extended family, and then a bachelor party on the west coast. It sounds a bit of a dream until the real-life drudgery is taken into account - Dubai and everything around it is uncertain as it is a work gamble, London will be nice, a bachelor party with a group of people I am unsure I am so happy to see.
I don’t need a vacation, I think I just need my routines back. “My friends, my habits, my family, they mean so much to me.” I really miss the routine. It will be back soon.
At the start of 2023, I returned from London energized (and jetlagged). That helped me wake up at 4:30am and start my day. Then, again, the next day. And the next day, and the next day. And my entire 2023, up until the birth of my child, I had this phenomenal routine of waking up before sunrise, getting into the office, getting an exercise in, meditating, and starting work – all before 9am. In the summer, I would go running around the river and listening to music or a podcast. I distinctly recall telling myself, “I could do this forever.” It feels good to be industrious, productive, and in good health.
It’s the start of 2024, the script has flipped quite a bit. Getting up that early only works if you’re in bed by 9:30pm or 10pm latest. My entire schedule is, at the moment, dictated by a child completely unaware of circadian rhythms. I suppose it is still possible to get back on that schedule. Maybe I should…
This new year was the least exciting one since, well, ever. I don’t think its an indication of a permanent change, maybe just a small blip in the midst of the instability of having a child. Thinking back on all of the New Years eves in my life, I don’t know if I even recall 20% of them, so I suppose this will get lost to the winds of time as well. I do recall my last enjoyable one, on a rooftop in Dumbo, Brooklyn, underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, then off to Times Sq after everything had shut down and was being cleaned up (probably the best time to go 😀). I also recall a number of NYEs in a row that I did while I was traveling.
This year brings some uncertainty. I have grown oh so stale at a job I have done oh so long. I hope to leave it in February or March, but that is contingent on a few things, including securing investment, which I think we did but I am not sure? Perhaps career disappointment has been the stain of 2023, which I hope does not carry into 2024.
It’s a mild day in overcast Chicago on Jan 1 2024. Hopefully today is the start of a fantastic year.
Another new beginnings
I don’t recall my mood when I first moved to New England. I do recall the intense moment of reflection as I realized I was leaving New York permanently. Living in a big, international city like New York gives you the feeling of “riding the wave” of culture. You see everything, first hand, as its happening. It’s a big place, and as much as I hate to admit, with a big status attached.
The feeling of moving to the midwest is probably the exact opposite.
It’s the cusp of 2024, we’ve just had a baby, we are reconnecting with old friends in a new city and a new life. Life with a baby changes everything– drastically. Everything requires a plan, equipment, and a “get back home time.” Impromptu everything is finished. This is, of course, to be expected, and I imagine it’s the first 3-6 months that truly are the tough ones with managing lack of sleep. As much as I dislike Jordan Peterson, every now and then he has a point. His point of significance here is that a child is a journey of growth and development, and a challenge. Is it selfish to have a child? It seems, probably. But the growth of commitment and attachment to things does indeed bring growth, not to mention a well being of being connected to things. I used to think “to love and lost is better than to have never loved at all,” was a stupid statement, why bring misery when you could albeit sidestep the entire ordeal? But my views have shifted there slightly in that that process of loving anything, to reiterate your friend Jordan Peterson, is growth, and a journey. It rounds out your development. You could stay malnourished, or you could grow. Not to imply that having a relationship or a child is necessary for growth- there are so many other ways to grow- but it is one way that has been tried and tested by humanity for millions of years. Am I full of shit? It is very likely. Let this be a reminder, though, that one child is more than enough 🙂
Everything is a hamster wheel. Same resolutions, same hopes, same plans, another year, almost 40 years later. A narrow focus on something is necessary to achieve anything, but picking that narrow focus is difficult, and without achievement in that narrow focus you begin to wonder why have you been focusing in this area in the first place? Are you focusing your life and actions where you should be? The time just passes much faster than you would think.
Alas, I hope to make this year a big change for myself– with the added risk of supporting a family while doing so, I certainly hope the changes this year set me up for a free decade in my 40’s– but I am pretty sure I was thinking / doing the same thing at the end of my 20s – perhaps without the master that came in the decade prior.
Once back in a routine, I can’t wait to finish Robert Sapolsky’s book Determined, to further confirmation bias my own belief that you are not in control of your own destiny. So maybe I should take the advice I gave to my partner with regards to her parents and the way they behave → maybe you should just give them a break 🙂
So I’ve heard that a baby is both the worst thing and the best thing that can happen to you. Right now we are in the thick of the thick of it. Sleep intervals at 2-3 hours with no clear end in sight. If there were something to write to remember, it is that: (a) A baby is a 24-hour job (b) you surprisingly start to acclimatize to the lack of sleep (c) perhaps one baby is enough (d) I can’t wait to have a full night's rest again
My mother told me incessantly of her life of regrets when I was an adolescent. In an attempt to soothe her and put to rest her concerns of a regrettable life, I reverted to the argument that having kids is be one of life’s greatest achievement- however deep down I understood it was a weak argument; and though children may, for some, be part of the equation of a life of achievement, it isn’t THE equation wholly. None the less, it was the best argument I could think of at the time.
Years later- in my adulthood- I’ve finally found the argument. Free will doesn’t exist. We are not to blame or to be celebrated for our achievements or lack thereof. Each action is preceded by the variety of variables just moments before it, and minutes before them, and hours before them, and years before them, and then it’s just turtles all the way down.
I was voraciously reading “why have kids” articles until the day of the birth. My brain is split in two halves…
On one hand, humans are a self-replicating virus. Even our charity towards our own species is doing nothing more than helping the virus continue. We bring destruction and eat everything in our path. We are destroying the planet, our bodies, and everything else in our wake.
On the other hand, after an experience with the enigma shroom, I can’t help but see as humans as nothing more than a state of the time-spanning biological machine, a network of ‘personable’ hormones that are here for the continuation, development and progression of organic matter into the universe past our small sliver of space and time.
In the car, I couldn’t keep my reservations contained and started speaking with S, until I was quickly quieted- probably for good reason, pending, you know, a birth in about 24 hours. But sure enough, like eating a sandwich or taking a shit- when you scratch a biological itch- it’s satisfying… having a child is in the same vein 100x. You can’t help but think your child is the cutest child there is. The meaning of “human recursion” has never been more apparent to me… this is a new iteration of the same thing that happened only 30-some years before. And this chain and cycle just continues on and on. The machine keeps pumping its pistons into the infinite black of the universe.
Why do people have children? The story of the Greeks I’ve told myself and others is largely something I don’t really believe in myself. Why do people get married? Well, there is something to be said about loneliness and old age and accompaniment. The stakes are low however in that if it doesn’t work out, that is totally ok, and you just move on. Life doesn’t change much, in fact, maybe it nets out for the better to not have all that excess time wasted on completely unnecessary pursuits. My routines became better, including my sleep and wake cycle. I drink less, party less, enjoy myself the same if not more. I am more focused on the long-term building of things instead of the short-sighted weekend plans. I enjoy seeing someone partake and enjoy in the same adventures and pursuits I used to, even if they aren’t as outlandish as they used to be. So why do people have children? Perhaps the answer only comes in retrospect like marriage, and like life. It’s hard to draw a narrative line through all the plot points without being there and experiencing them.
The two hour blocks of sleep are terrible, but I am told it is only for the first 2-3 months. I am sure the trouble of dealing with emotions is much harder than losing out on a little sleep. Having parents and in-laws around has been a tremendous help, the city of my relocation has been a bit of a drag despite having a deep circle of old friends around. I can hear every footstep of my neighbor upstairs, despite all the ceiling speakers, brown noise, and requests for rugs.
So… why do people have children? I don’t really know, but when you behave according to your programming it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Reddit is a terrible place and a place only to find endless tunnels and confirmation biases. Maybe, once we get into a cycle of things, I won’t have such a fear, aversion, and redlining regret as I did before October 25th.
Excess of Choice
I don’t know how I felt when I got to Boston. I certainly knew how I felt when I was leaving New York - despair. New York. and cities akin to it, simply have an element of cool that you can’t put your finger on, but you feel it when you’re in it. You’re at the edge, on the cusp, watching every shitty and sometimes ok trend come and go right in front of you. I do recall arriving in Boston, on a hot day at the end of summer, crossing the bridge over the Charles River and thinking it was a nice and quiet place to be. In retrospect, what a beautiful place to live and what a wonderful time. The old-world charm of Boston evokes a sense of Alain de Botton’s book, The Architecture of Happiness, where he discusses the effect of beauty in architecture on your mindstate. I truly believe it. It is a wonderful, beautiful, walkable, city in the northeast corner of the United States, surrounded by mountains on all sides except one- where the ocean begins.
The economists are full of shit. An excess of choice is not good, it breeds despair. An excess of choice is terrible. Never ending FOMO and wondering what-if.
I’ve gotten to Chicago, and despite my brain’s oscillations on how it feels, largely: the homelessness issue here is the worst I’ve seen, the transit system is nothing to boast about, we can hear our neighbors every footstep, and every building looks like a brick cube. It is not a beautiful place, albeit, despite the concrete high rises downtown- which are a bit of a spectacle and lens into “The American Empire” of days gone.
We are debating our time in Chicago, it might get cut short. That decision is partially dependent on the support we receive as we embark on a new adventure on Oct 25. I fear the winter, I fear my missing Boston habits and routines. I over-analyze absolutely every decision to no bottom. The right car, the right time, the right interior, the right place, the right neighborhood, the right decisions, how about another move, on and on and on. Some of those ruminations make some sense. Some of those ruminations do not.
Once you’ve made a decision, you should fully embrace it and move forward with it like you had no other choice. Unless of course, it’s one that you can reverse with medium to no pain, in that case, practice meditation to dull the chatter.
I have a problem with rumination, both excessively in my diet and in my brain. I could just overthink something for hours and hours and hours. The bottomless pit of the internet allow me to descend its bowels on the ever-search for information with no real outcome. Forums, where age and expertise are completely absent, strangers post opinion like fact and with conviction, confirmation bias of your own, all factor into an endless hunt of
“Did I make the right decision”
It is exhausting to catch myself, days, weeks, months later - still thinking about the same problem, and with an expertise that dies with every death of a neuronal cell and makes you think – was all that thinking really worth it..?
My brain oscillates between hating Chicago and thinking, “well, it’s all right”... but not in an overly positive way. I miss New England dearly, the manageable small town despite its lack of variety, the beauty of the architecture a la Alain de Botton’s “Architecture of Happiness,” the quick access to New York, the old-world charm, the cosmopolitan feeling, walkability.. the list just goes on. I hope settling in here will feel less like a chore and more like a soothing submerge into a hot bath, one without a plugged in toaster in hand. Where you live dictates what you do, what your hobbies are, and your general routines/habits. My habits in New England were wonderful, and perhaps there is a chance to reignite them on a return. It would be great to know my partner has a base nearby, just like in her hometown, while I have quick/safe access to a beautiful town, a gym, and places to work.
On the precipice of one of the biggest changes of my life, I wonder if it is actually worth it. To bring more suffering into the world, truly on both sides. We live in a time where the tides of thought are changing on creating a family. Perhaps creating a family is nothing more than a truly selfish act, albeit one with an enormous, ongoing, financial and emotional price tag. The Kierkegaard approach seems the most reasonable (“you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t”). I am coming to find you must accept your life decisions and happenings as they are without rumination on alternative paths. For one, there is no benefit of rumination, and for second it’s better for your mental health.
My mental scaffolding is changing, reconstructing, over the months as I accept the fate that is as certain as the seasons changing. Babies are cute, but my god life is different, less exciting, more “home.” My penchant for excitement will need to be put to rest, in favor of other pursuits. But I am finding, purely business and monetary pursuits are just so boring - especially as you get older. On the other hand, as a beneficiary of a monetary pursuit thus far that has paid off ok, I suppose it’s hard to judge where you are in your life without significant cognitive distortion and bias.
Things are progressing with the unicorn business, but I do worry about the durability of the products, and the boom/bust cycle we are experiencing. I am questioning my capability given my floundering success thus far in enabling things forward. I have 5 months to generate a significant impact, and am trying to do so while establishing my new routine in the Midwest. 6am starts in River North are certainly different in look and feel than the same in Boston.
At this point in time, I am tentatively happy. Trouble with my Boston home, adjusting to new routines, the lack of safety and beauty of my new home, the trouble with the noise upstairs, the pending life change and the rapidly changing seasons all add to a shaky mental state. I would love to reevaluate my mental state a year from now, or at least in the spring. I don’t remember what it was like to move from New York to Boston, and the move from Boston to Chicago is top of mind so I feel the sharpness of the emotions so clearly now.
A bit disappointed I didn’t update anything over the course of a wonderful summer. A month-long in Europe, a couple weeks in London, a week in Italy, and a week in Greece.. what a once-in-a-lifetime wonderful experience. Bought a place, bought a car, went to Philadelphia for a conference, New York to see friends, had two friends come visit New England, each for the first time, went to LA, stayed over with some high school friends, and had the most idyllic day of the summer in New England with some friends, not quite the most idyllic day of last summer in Hawaii, but close… Amazing way to live and close the summer. Truly no regrets and no downtime there.
On the Exertion of Stress
Exercise has no effect on your weight loss. Herman Pontzer wrote a book called Burn. It’s not a long one, and certainly one I recommend, but it has upended a lot of the fitness and nutrition industry in a big way. Amongst the many arguments he makes, the biggest one of the book is that your workout routine has virtually no effect on your weight loss. If you want to lose weight- hitting the gym isn’t the solution. It is 95% your diet (with a small caveat that major fitness changes in a short amount of time will impact your weight, only until your body has time to catch up to your routine and diminish the weight-loss returns).
Robert Sapolsky mentions in A Primate’s Memoir about how he saw small kids with various diseases in remote parts of Kenya who were extremely skinny and malnourished, likely from the energy exerted by the body to fight off those diseases. Herman Pontzer similarly writes about the body being an ‘efficiency machine,’ allocating resources to where your body needs it to find equilibrium. If you are not exerting energy, your body will find a way to use it (often on internal processes). If you are exerting mental or physical energy, your body will re-allocate those resources used internally to the activities that require energy.
Working out is a human necessity. That may sound like some really obvious bullshit, but I think it gets underappreciated as actual therapy. Working out is therapy, in a physical way. Brace for the broscience oncoming… if your body is an efficient machine, allocating resources where they need them, then perhaps when you have an excess of stress and anxiety, your body is feeding those thought patterns with energy, to actually think about them. To Herman Pontzer’s point of reallocation of resources… if you wake up every day and work out pretty hard, you don’t have as many resources to think about all the things that bring you stress, grief, and anxiety.
These days in the gym, I actively think about what is causing me pain, and it helps not only fuel the workout, but also relieve some of the tension of the stress. Working out is mental health, and therapy. When my business venture crashed last summer, I started running 5ks, then 8ks, now 10ks. It was cheaper than therapy. Albeit physical exertion is no substitute for therapy, I think it is under-appreciated as a mental health tool, and over-appreciated as an aesthetic tool.
I think I am onto something! …but it’s not a big thing!
We used to chase that Chattanooga fray
Couple of kids in a Chevrolet
Catch a little air when we cross the tracks
Sippin on something from a paper sack
You hang your shirt on that maple lamp
Slippin through the moon to the river bend
Wasn't very long I was jumping in, jumping in
I guess I'm still doing now, what I was doing then
What a verse. Though country, hilariously written by someone that, by virtue of demographics, is outcast from country (hint: black). Sitting in Bogota, fresh after changing myself in a minor but major, I wonder if it’s worth it, and constantly ruminate on the amortized cost breakdown over time to evaluate its worth. It’s funny how it always comes back to the cost of things. Sometimes it’s not enough to just accept it as something that you want. On the precipice of a new year, for me, some things have changed but a lot has stayed the same… as it has been for a decade. It’s easy to forget there is progress because sometimes there isn’t any outward portrayal of it. If you look hard enough maybe you can start to appreciate the minutiae that has built up in many intangible ways.
“I guess I'm still doing now, what I was doing then”
I think your mid-thirties are when a lot of people hit a stride. Then again, I may have thought that about my late twenties before, and maybe this is just another instance of thinking of a bygone time as your best time. At what point does that feeling start to go away? In the finality of my mid-30’s, I feel the pressure and stress of career stagnation (Yes, how American. And also, what a surprise, read my blog from a decade ago and nothing has changed in this regard, but in retrospect, things have been upward and fine).
True to being the douchebag that I am, this year I started meditating daily and also waking up at 5am-5:30am. It’s been incredibly productive, I feel great, workout more, and get more done. I get time to myself, see the sunrise, and feel smug about my habits. I think waking up early is a function of age. I always knew it’s something I’ve wanted to do, but couldn’t do it until this specific point in time. That gate has to be crossed at a certain age- like a lot of things. Maybe inspiration has to be perfectly timed to meet the “age gate” as well… admittedly I was inspired by my father-in-law to take this sleep schedule, and it mimics my own fathers as well. My father-in-law doesn’t let a morning pass without mention of his morning routine which includes waking at 4am, albeit maybe slightly excessive as many times I see him napping by the time I come downstairs. At this age: the thought of clubbing seems horrendous (then again it was horrendous back then as well, but it had the air of being cool or popular), dating is an exhausting exercise firmly positioned in the rearview, I don’t have much desire to stay out too late in preference for having an early morning, and am seeing the worn years sketched around my eyes.
It’s weird to be an old person when you’re used to being a young person.
“Dear brother, you cannot prevent the birds from flying in the air over your head, but you can prevent them from building a nest in your hair.” - Martin Luther
In meditation, I’ve noticed that thoughts simply bubble to the top of your consciousness, and you just cannot help that. Sometimes those thoughts, like a train, collide directly into your consciousness, and sometimes they come in a way that slips right past your conscious gatekeeping, and slowly take your mind somewhere other than on your breath.
In this way, thoughts are like birds, you can’t prevent them from flying over you, but you can prevent them from nesting in your mind… or “taking over.”
I notice sometimes when I follow the birds, my emotions follow right, and immediately, behind. First the thought approaches, then the emotions follow immediately after. If you can prevent the birds from nesting, you can prevent the emotion from initializing.
Note to self – you can simply stop following the birds.
Technology & Humans
Brilliance knows no context. To be brilliant, in one way, means to pull concepts, ideas, and thoughts from the future, into the present – even if they may sound insane for the context of the present. Noam Chomsky proposes that, like growing arms or legs, we grow into the ability to speak a language. It’s as natural to human development to “grow into a language” as it is to grow a nose, or two arms. We are biologically wired for it.
What if the same concept applies to the development of technology and machines; humans were meant to, as a biological organism, create machinery that would ultimately integrate with our biology, producing all together the next evolution of the species? Have I smoked too much marijuana?
On Slowing Down
Adderall is a stimulant. It is the more “dinner-friendly” cousin of Methamphetamine, a highly addictive, and highly destructive drug. In the book Blitzed, Norman Ohler talks a lot about the prevalence of amphetamines in pre-WW2 Germany, and how Adolf and the Third Reich were so doped up amphetamines, and that that, in part, led to the dominance of the Third Reich. A lot of college kids take Adderall, which is scary to consider for a variety of reasons.
My entire life, I assumed “to work” meant to be in "go-mode." Highly alert, highly awake, with a focus on speed -- speeding through an assignment, a task, something, everything. I spent a full decade with this as my primary mindset.
Only recently have I realized, to work, to focus, and to go for long stretches, requires you to actually go slow. Execute tasks slowly but immersed in them, take breaks as often as you would like, stop and look around, however keep on the single task, and sure enough, it eventually gets done. A slower approach prevents anxiety, prevents task switching constantly, prevents the perceived-need for stimulants, and may generally garner better results.
Unsure if this realization is a result of getting older or meditating more lately, but I think it is great. The days are actually long. You generally have more than enough time to get the things that need to get done, done.
I am feeling stuck, to the point where I can't get myself to do anything. There are about 5 different directions I want to go in, but they all require an amount of time and dedicated effort, that it makes it impossible to even get started in one direction. What if it is the wrong direction?
This whole week has been a blunt stopping point. I've not done much, I've consistently eaten a terrible diet, I havent been going to the gym. I am tired by 8pm to the point of lying on the couch and starting at the endless entertainment on my phone. My working hours havent been regular.
I need a change, but I dont know how to execute on it. There is a lot of uncertainty with the next steps I want to take and I wonder
God Bless Longform Podcasting
I love long, 1.5+ hour long podcasts. What an interesting format. Especially when there are interesting people discussing interesting things. What a way to expand your own mind and learn from the experience of others.
I've been listening to Sam Harris, and despite hating on him for most of my life (I still do), I find his podcast interesting. He had a funny mention in his interview with Arthur Brooks, where he mentioned a quote from Gore Vidal where he says something along the lines of "Oh I love then hate when my associates find success." Reminds me of when my friend Brian told me, 10 years ago, that there are only a small subset of friends he would be genuinely happy for on their success.
Human nature is a paradox
The summer of 2022 was great... and shit... but probably mostly great (but still shit too).
I was due to board a plane to Dubai in April to meet an investor that would fill over half of a pre-seed round I was looking to raise. Things were fumbling along, but slowly, somehow, starting to go to plan.
I had spent the prior 6ish months building a corporate entity, opening a bank account, talking to prospective customers, and reaching out to over 100 investors. Half of those investors responded. Maybe half of that ended up turning into multiple meetings. One investor gave us the verbal thumbs up for a substantial check. The other two wanted to chat further. One of those two wanted me and my cofounder to come to Dubai for a series of meetings, after which they would tentatively fill out our pre-seed round.
Success is built on a lot of shit, and after going through a lot of shit, we were finally getting somewhere. Truly the road to starting anything is bumpy, uncertain, and full of just shuffling about until positive signals begin to peak through.
My cofounder called me when he landed in Boston and asked if he should come to my place or if I could meet him at the airport. It was then my COVID test came back positive... for the first time.... since the pandemic started. I was shocked. I retested, and retested with the same result. I spent the subsequent 6 hours worriedly sloshing about, wondering what to do.
I finally gave my cofounder a call and told him I have COVID -- and told him to go without me. I told him as soon as my test came back negative, I would be on the next flight.
The next morning I got the ol' "breakup email." In very short and direct words, my cofounder told me he was taking a (very) highly paid job that I didnt know he was still interviewing for, and he said he didnt want to work together anymore, and was effectively done with our little experiment.
I still took the week off of work, and ran around the river that runs alongside our condo more than I have probably ever ran in my life. Insane how meditative running can be. I took an impromptu trip to New York and had a wonderful weekend with some friends bouncing around Manhattan (well.. as wonderful as it could be given the circumstances).
The solution my cofounder and I were building was in a pretty densely crowded space, but with his engineering and my sales capability, I figured we would just get in there and figure it out. I couldn't go it on my own, after all someone has to build, and someone has to sell. I decided I needed to pump the breaks. Without a strong team, there is no way I would be able to build anything viable, nor survive the long drunken walk to product market fit -- especially in the area in which we were building.
I decided to take the summer off and for the first time in my life (seriously) just relax. Do what I need to do in order to keep my job, but also travel a lot, take the weekends off, go hiking, relax, have a drink, etcetera. And that is what we did.
We spent a week in LA visiting an old friend and attending a baby ceremony. We then, despite the cost, went to Kenya and spent a week and a half in Nairobi, seeing an old coworker, on safari in Masai Mara, and then took the train to the coast where we spent the last few nights on the beach. On return, we hosted old friends for two consecutive weeks in our current hometown, then we flew to Hawaii where we spent 10 days hopping between two islands and enjoying a work trip that was gifted for an achievement I had made in the previous year.
What a summer.
As we round the edges of a beautiful, sunny, summer, the reality and lack of progress begins to set back in. Fully understanding I've been saying the same thing for the last decade of my own personal blogging, the impulse is a double edged sword. I'm however grateful for such a wonderful summer, have learned the importance of just disconnecting (though I still feel guilty about it, need to work on that)... I've learned I get stressed out when I grind it too hard, and that stress is. a negative impact on my mental health. I've learned stimulants in exchange for success is a bad (and false) bargain. I've learned productivity isn't just sitting in front of a computer all the time. I've also learned that coming to the coffeeshop or the library requires you do to have tasks on hand versus coming for the sake of coming. I've learned stressors, limitations (on time and otherwise) are important drivers of success. Unlimited time and unlimited stimulants sounds like a recipe for success, but paradoxically, it is not. You are more productive with less time. You are more successful with more challenge.
Yesterday was an otherwise idyllic summer day. A river-side sunset, seafood with good friends, and an evening on the “tall ship” which is an expansive astroturfed summer hangout for Bostonians looking to drink and be merry.
I departed all of this at 10:40pm on the dot in an effort to get home, sleep early, get up, and run in the morning. I’ve always wanted to be a morning person, but the allure of late-night nothing perfectly wasted every early-rising opportunity. Being married has certainly lessened the late night debauchery, maybe also getting older.
I took and finished a comedy class recently… and it was awesome. Not in the sense that I was (or have become) funny, but only if it was a brand new experience. I met new people, had a few challenges, and headlined the end of the class show and had a drink with some people I may never see ever again. Then again, I was at a rooftop restaurant last weekend and unexpectedly felt a tap on the shoulder. On turning around - it was an acquaintance from the class! Moving to a new place hasn’t been as challenging as I thought it would, but taking classes in a new city, meeting new people, then seeing them around the city is a pleasant surprise. Just another texture to add to a life that makes you feel more engaged. Like getting a cat. These layers don’t have a price tag, and generally increase wellbeing.
I think a lot these days about getting older, where the time went, and how did I use that time. I sometimes regret I didn’t have more focus on a hobby, or a work-effort, or a business idea… but at the same time that is all part of growing up. Things tend to take much longer than you expect. However it was more unusual to see others of accomplishments at the age of 25, or even 30. But into the late 30’s you start to see a lot of folks, not too far from your own place in space and time, doing a lot of very interesting things. I can’t happen to wonder if I will ever make it to any sort of notoriety — even if in a niche or at a small level. If only to prove to myself that I made a footprint in something.
I recently finished John Green’s, “Anthropocene Reviewed,” which I felt a little embarrassed to be reading in public, however most of it I finished while on a Chinese-built train in Kenya, traveling from Nairobi to Mombasa on the coast (no one there knows John Green). Chapters on things like the founder of Piggly Wiggly, the Indy 500, and Nathan’s famous hot dog eating contest I found so interesting, albeit far too short. The book was sprinkled with a healthy dose of Nihilism which made me respect it so much more. The older I get, the more I start to wonder… what’s the point of it all anyway?
I recall as a teenager telling my brother one summer that, “I didn’t spend a single day at home — all summer,” and feeling good about that. I have always been happier away, outside of home. After my business fell apart when my co-founder emailed me a breakup email, I spent the week off of work, running every morning long distances, in the wonderful summer sunshine. It felt great. This entire summer I have been spending more time relaxing, taking the weekends off, having a mid-week drink at a sidewalk bar, generally enjoying being social. Its been great. To temporarily remove the concerns of career progression, or comparison to your social group, and revel in the moment and being outdoors… what a wonderfully therapeutic thing.
Last night the lights strung above the boat, in the dense, warm summer air had a relaxing hazy glow. Looking around at the expansive space and the view of the Boston skyline, it really felt like summer. A friend did a handstand for 3 seconds and everyone cheered. After all, what’s the point of it all anyway?
I am not a bird
This morning I awoke at 4am to the sound of a bird that sounded like a malfunctioning R2D2. I wasn't convinced it was a bird, so with as much mental energy that I could muster, I focused in to see if there was a drone filming me while I was sleeping. Sure enough, no drone. One thing is certain, the bird has a larger octave range than I do, even after years of private vocal lessons.
Before R2D2, there was another suspected bird, but this one sounded like it had a dying battery. From high pitch to lower pitch, three beeps in a row indicated that either this bird was looking for a worm, or needed to be plugged into a wall outlet.
I wonder if this is all retribution from mother nature. For the last 36 years, maybe less, I have realized I have been making my own bird noises between the hours of 12pm-5am. These noises resemble a deep grumble more than the song of a bird, more commonly referred to as snoring. After downloading a sleep app, my suspicions were confirmed that I am no bird, just potentially struggling with sleep apnea.
After having a sleep test done and being informed that I have "mild obstructive sleep apnea that will likely get worse with time," I was truly elated. Another problem to push off until tomorrow!
The incel movement does not get enough credit for being truly shitty, but I cant help that some of these incels have wasted many more hours of their life than I have researching things that I should probably at least have some situational awareness of. I read a New Yorker article of a quack orthodontist out of England named John Mews, that evangelizes a "very controversial" method of tongue posture (against the roof of your mouth) and nasal breathing. The theory is that your jaw and face develop more structurally appealing this way -- though there is no proof (through scientific study) that this works, especially as an adult, only anecdotal reports by incels (and regular people) all over the world.
Given the lackluster strength of my jawline, no harm in giving it a try, if anything to breathe better through my nose.
This, compounded by the book by James Nestor around "the art of breathing," which strongly advocates for nasal breathing to prevent long-term illness, brain fog, endurance, etc. In the book, James also refers to Mewing as a practice that should be practiced!
After taping my mouth shut last night, getting only a few hours of sleep, and being awoken by R2D2 outside of my window. I checked my sleeping app... surprisingly... very little snoring.
As a side note: I have just begun reading Carlo Rovelli's "There are places in the world where rules are less important than kindness," and though it is slightly dry, and brief in elaborating the chapters, it is an interesting take from a very respected physicist. My takeaway thus far: it is important to have a theory, though it cant be proven, and work towards a proof. It is better to know something deeply, then extrapolate, and make the theory better, than to do nothing at all.
36 & More of this
April 1 2022
I had a chat with a friend in Brooklyn a few months ago and he asked me, "Who invented the sailboat? Or the semiconductor?" all getting to the eventual point that nothing we do matters. I never really, seriously, considered that statement until recently. And is that statement real or something that we can all use to comfort us when we consider all of the things we didn't accomplish in our short, and long, silly little lives. Does anything we do actually matter?
Oliver Burkeman, a writer based out of the UK, made some decent media buzz with his new book, "Four Thousand Weeks," where he stuns his readership by actually stating the average life of an individual is only four thousand weeks (this is true), and goes on to say that you have to sacrifice some things for others -- effectively you cannot do it all. Though I hoped this book would be much more eye opening, it was largely a rinse and repeat of many books of the same genre before it. Though, truly, you cannot do everything you want to do.
In the last month, I have landed on the veritable conclusion that the human race is a virus. We attach to a living thing (the earth), occupy it (or, completely fuck it up), but still find solace is in our kindness and capacity for love (which doesn't exist en masse, given we continually blow each other up). The nature of a virus is to take command and control of a living thing and to spread its influence across the vessel it is within. Are we any different? If I may nosedive into absolute darkness for a second, wouldn't the ultimate form of charity be to simply not have any children? Ok, back to the sunshine now.
I've recently turned 36, and this birthday with less fanfare and expectations than probably any of my past. I laugh (or recoil) in reviewing blog posts from a decade ago where I was writing about achieving my capitalistic dreams (I still haven't achieved them, for the record). At what point do you look back and think, man, how much time have I wasted in a particular pursuit? At the end of it, will it have been worth the years of toil (more mental, than physical)? I recently re-realized that most of what I do or think is an extension of everything that happened in my youth, and nothing more. Here's what I mean...
I saw Chris Rock last night, and his routine he stated several times that he's rich, "...but I still identify as poor!" As he went on to explain that his daughters have grown up rich, and though he is and has been rich for some time, his upbringing is so strongly washed his mindset and personality that no amount of wealth will change his identity. I went snowboarding a couple times this year (something I started as a child), I play here and there on the ukelele (something I started as a child), I still read a lot of books (started this before I could even drive a car), still am chasing a capitalistic dream (the zeitgeist of my childhood, a la Zuckerberg et al), spend an inordinate amount of wasted time in front of a screen (Starcraft consumed a lot of my teenage years). So, what's changed? Simply experience, the rest is the programming.
Blackfish, the documentary about Tilikum and Shamu, and more broadly Seaworld, has a very interesting little segment in it where they talk about the brain of an Orca has an overdeveloped region of the brain that houses emotion; they argue this is what makes an orca's "sense of self" apply to the group or community, versus the individual. The exact inverse of the broad cultural zeitgeist of humanity. Imagine, if you thought of yourself, and that thought was no different than your friends and family. Jealousy wouldn't be a thing, you would be happy that "you" are succeeding or sad that "you" are failing in a very aggregate way. In reading "Born to Run," "Burn: The Misunderstood Science of Metabolism, Robert Sapolsky's, "A Primates Memoir," and other books that often refer back to tribes of hunter gatherers -- you see a common thread between them and orcas. It is not a question to give what you have to someone else, it is expected. The sense of self is a broader net -- it is the community -- not just yourself. My entire American upbringing has taught me the exact opposite.
I had a date with the notorious Gamma Goblin a couple weeks ago, and spent the following day wandering around in a bit of a haze with a friend from graduate school where we: (a) debated whether or not cryptocurrency is super annoying (and if it could make you rich and (b) whether or not we have any free will whatsoever. I, at this point in my life, think we have no control of anything. In fact, we are simply observing time, but all of time has already happened. Everything you will have done, and have done before, is a single instant; to us the observer, it seems like we are moving through it, but in reality we are just seeing a cross-section of time with every seconds passing. The date with GG was fantastic though a bit weird. "Seeing the bigger picture," never gets old.
I have read, this year, more than any other year of my life. Fiction is a great escape from stress, I highly recommend it. I hope this doesn't mean I have been more stressed out this year than any other year, but who knows. In "Down and Out in Paris and London," George Orwell writes in a travelogue fashion about being a plongeur in Hotel X in Paris, the long hours and terrible working conditions, and then about living in the homeless shelters in London awaiting a job. Not his best work, but entertaining and a fresh perspective. "Hacking of the American Mind," by Robert Lustig was actually fascinating and well done. He starts with the basic argument that we have conflated Pleasure and Contentment. Pleasure is dopamine and Contentment is serotonin, and in fact imbalancing dopamine and serotonin has a detrimental effect on our well being. Pleasure is also fast food, alcohol, screen-time, social media, porn, and any other vice of modern society. Contentment is the opposite. More of one equals less of the other. He writes about how half our literal shit is made up of bacteria, and the miraculous discovery of fecal transplants to repair gut health and microbiome. He also writes about how half of your dietary sugar intake is actually simply from the food you eat -- not the sweets or the sodas. He talks about the 4 Cs, Coping, Cooking, Contributing, and Connecting as the ways to achieve contentment, and serotonin balance. Though his single comment about terrorists (Re: America, "If we cant join em, beat em!") was enough to make me question how much I like the book, the book other than that statement was wonderful. Albert Camus, "The Stranger" was a dream of a book for the first half, a hazy, beachtown summer in Algeria, then becomes a much more challenging read on actions that don't quite make sense. A great fictional read, however my brain was too small to really get the point. The two books of Charles Bukowski, "Postman," and "Factotum" were rebellious and counterculture. Reading them gave me a penchant to not give a fuck. I felt like my high school self in the punk-rock scene of my rural town, the same place where a friend called a venue owner "fascist" for telling us the music was too loud. I've read enough Bukowski to get the themes, and probably enough to move on happily from the work. Anna Lembke's "Dopamine Nation," was fantastic in that it declaratively said something I have often wondered about. Humans are weak - if you want to kill / stop addiction, make it difficult to get the thing you are addicted to. Dont have it around, put obstacles in your way, etc. Anything can be addictive. "Circadian Code," by Satchin Panda was eye opening if not only to say, in a very long winded way, that all systems of your body have a clock. And that intermittent fasting is one of the best ways to keep your clock healthy. The literary WG Sebald's, "Rings of Saturn," I highly anticipated but found myself absolutely uninterested with.
It's Friday and I am in the sunny downtown public library. This weekend the month of fasting begins. And I really, as always, need to get some work done.
Jan 11 2022
The theme of the last decade, I can't help feel a sense of stagnation. Drugs do not help, besides helping stay awake. Part of it is engaging with and tackling a complicated problem with no clear step by step process. The other part of it is introspective -- dealing with the ups and downs psychologically of your own process.
The problem is things take time. And sometimes idly coasting to the culmination of a goal wastes years unintentionally, hoping to reach shore at some point in time. Looking back, you start to realize you sort of hazily spent a lot of time on a goal, but not REALLY on a goal. Sort of, doing the non-serious auxiliary work to try and get to that goal.
I've realized spending time getting degrees, getting certified, getting and goal-post that signifies your progress, though meaningless to you, is meaningful to society at large, and individual people. It shows that you have a drive to play the game that you are inside versus just brushing it off. If I am going to learn something, I might as well get certified -- it lets people know that I did it, and ultimately helps you get to where you're going.
These days a general and heavy malaise just seems to be like a blanket. It could be winter, but it could also be a constant mental gear-shifting and unfocused direction. Trying to go down 100 pathways at the same time, you end up running in circles and depleted of energy. The hard part is gear-shifting gives the illusion of progress.
Listening to the Huberman podcast, and understanding Ultradian rhythms is helpful. Maybe that is the best way to work, just 2 cycles of 90 minutes focused on one particular thing.
July 13, 2021
Everyone talks too much. We could all do with just a little less idle chatter.
June 28, 2021
I checked my phone with eyes so dry that they hurt to hold shut. Through a blurry lense I could see it was 5:30. I don't think I've slept normal hours since I got to London in the middle of June.
I spent the night previous dreaming about being in College Library in Madison, WI with a nerdier, fatter version of Brendan Frasier. I was having a coffee when a classmate came over and started discussing an assignment that involved a blue car for Physics class (I had completely forgotten about that assignment!). The night before I dreamt I was in a caravan of hot air balloons, in a perpetual sunspray, floating to various stopping points, and then drifting off again. I had either my son, or the son of somebody, in my cart, who I believe I mistakenly let fall from the side of the hot air balloon basket. On diving into the water -- something happened but I don't recall what. I do remember the guilt of letting the kid drop. The more frightening of dreams I've had recently is of my dear cat Ginny. It was a momentary dream, but I dreamt she was laying there, and she suddenly grasped my hand tightly and pinned it to the ground, I was afraid she was about to claw it open when she let out a horrifying scream. When I looked down I realized my elbow was leaning into her - causing her an acute pain to the abdomen. It was a wtf squared dream in that I couldn't figure out why she was so intense suddenly, and also, how did I not realize I was nearly impaling her with my elbow?
The last few nights have been an assortment of dreams that are more vivid than usual. Maybe it has something to do with the somersault of my circadian rhythm after arrival in London. Or maybe I'm both mentally and physically a little tired. Between subletting, finding a place, finding a new job, getting rejected for the job I expected, moving cities, traveling to the UK and Portugal, as well as the never-expiring stress of Status Anxiety (as my friend Alain de Botton puts it), I am maybe ready for the closing of some of these loose ends. I remember thinking this on the 40th return from some USAID a few years ago. Thinking back on it, those times of action and business were the moments I was maybe most fond of. Happiness is maybe in retrospect (as my friend Tim Krieder puts it in his article Averted Vision).
I think it's silly to be in such a hazy time block of stress; looking at my blog from a decade ago, it seems this state of mind for me is a bit of a constant. And it has always turned out to be just fine. Every single time, through every single trial and tribulation -- it has been ok. This time will be no different. I believe the Status Anxiety is one of the root causes of this problem for me, but perhaps its a double-edged sword where the stress is the reason for the better outcomes. At the same time, the reason for my zeal in changing career at this point in time is rejection (from a job). Sometimes the enormity of things happening at the same time is what keeps life interesting. Without it I think the motivation tends to slip away, and time spent idle isn't as productive as I think I THINK it is.
I think I'll look back on this in 5-10 years and think, wow, how could I have been so stressed in such a burgeoning moment of life. Newly married, traveling internationally after the pandemic has subsided, en route to a beautiful destination, and at the precipice of a new career move. With both sides of the family in relative good health, and the summer season at its apex.
I think my problem is the obsessive compulsion to dwell on problems that are not moving so fast and with no real proper solution (as my maybe friend Esther Perel says, "Americans think there is a solution for every problem." But then again, maybe that's what makes the tiny bit of 'American Exceptionalism,' exceptional). The older I get, the more I become an ingrained Fatalist. My friend Robert Sapolsky nearly preaches fatalism in the most fantastically scientific way possible without actually saying (?) he's a fatalist. We are doing nothing more than the beautiful exercise of living out what has been preordained for us by an orchestra of the universe, chemicals, happenings, and DNA that have been established far before us. The problem with this and being an American Millenial is the dreams of grandeur -- the belief that I was destined for greater things.
Reading Richard Holloway's book, "Waiting for the Last Bus," is more like listening to a grandparent that has lived an interesting life than it is learning anything concrete. He opens the book with the woes of hair loss and how he should've simply accepted it as a reality when his time came (I will never surrender!!!). At the same time, it's nice to be reading something other than the obsessive compulsions of my life.
May 15 2021
I have a coworker that has an incredibly strong jaw. Not in the sense that he is able to bite foods (and other non-edible items) with incredible might, but in the sense that it is large and well defined. My strong-jawed friend is a sales person, and one that I have been working with more over the recent months. One peculiarity about Mr. Jaw that was unusual to me was his prevailing ability to email sales prospects incessantly, to the point, on a couple occasions, where they would respond, "Can you please stop emailing?"
Other sales folks would close that account in their books, and move on. Not worth their time or effort, refocus on other prospects. Brother Jawline would continue to message (in brief interval) to ensure he was top of mind, and I have seen this work out in his favor.
On Being Stubborn
May 13 2021
Being stubborn is a gift and a gigantic pain in the ass. It's the same trait that'll drive you to Krispy Kreme at Times Square while thinking, "why the fuck am I at a Krispy Kreme in Times Square?" And though they seem similar, you cannot conflate stubbornness with an "addictive personality." An Addictive Personality is terrific for working, but an absolute misery for vices. An addictive personality helps you work 20 hours everyday while smoking a pack of cigarettes, in full disregard of the nicotine patch under your sleeve. A guy I lived with had this problem and a full-tilt addictive personality to match. Said guy had a herculean work ethic, and his capstone to every single day was three, double shots of gin and tonic. Though I never cleaned his vomit, I often anticipated cleaning his vomit. Regardless, stubbornness is different. Being stubborn doesn't necessarily have the "catapult function" that an addictive personality does, but it certainly does fixate you on something whether or not you have the energy to actually do anything about it. (Note: I have a hard time doing anything).
I am a stubborn, non-addictive personality. That means (on the upside) I don't have a cocaine addiction, but (on the downside) I don't have *any* addiction. My state of existence is a persistent languish. So that's something I suppose. Now, to go do nothing of importance.
May 10 2021
As a New Yorker, I never took the bus. It never occurred to me. The train is so well put together, well connected, and (generally speaking) pretty timely. The insanity of New York certainly gets filtered onto the MTA platforms, without a doubt, but still it is the mode of transportation that immediately comes to mind when you think of New York.
I moved to Queens for more space and per wifey mandate. It's...ok. I feel the unnecessary brunt of the Manhattanites. "Oh you live, where? Long Island City? Is that in Long Island?" Elitism aside, I appreciate the space, the proximity to Queensboro plaza, and at this point the little community of the Teriyaki cart, the uncle's smoke shop, the overpriced Korean bodega, the rundown Mobile gas station that smells like a cigarette (and reminds me of my family), as well as the pharmacy that is government subsidized (with just *amazing* rates on everything but dish soap).
I recently caught the Q32 to Manhattan. Just over the bridge. At sunset, the best views of the city are through the window of the Q32. Every now and then, a local will turn to take a picture since the photo opportunity is irresistible.
If you have time, or what to spend the time. Take the bus, it frames the city in a portrait that is otherwise impossible to see.