Taken in Malacca, Malaysia.

Taking Control of My Life

2015 was a rollercoaster, and I’m really excited for 2016! I recently began writing, not because I think you, my esteemed, potentially non-existent reader will benefit from what I write, but because I have many thoughts and it’s a helpful exercise for me to write down the ideas I have in a (hopefully) concise manner.

Year in Review

Pro Tip: There’s a summary of what I learned at the end, if you don’t want to read my whining.

I quit my part-time job in February to found my first company, Bitmo, a bitcoin exchange. Although it eventually became apparent that the company itself wouldn’t work out, it was an incredible learning experience. I also had the opportunity to present at StartupRiot, and actually won fourth place!

I experienced a hard reset on my life in April, when I sustained a traumatic injury that required two surgeries, and left me unable to walk for three months. For a freshman in college (and a privileged white male living in the United States), that was as much of a hard knock as I had ever experienced in my admittedly sheltered life.

Despite the injury occurring a week and a half before I was scheduled to fly from Atlanta to San Francisco to start my job working as a software engineer for the Safety Team at Uber, and the fact that my surgery occurred during finals week (less than a week before my start date at Uber), I decided to leave the support of my family, travel to an unknown city, and start my job right on schedule.

I spent quite a bit of time lamenting my condition, and struggling with a deep depression that lasted much longer than the injury itself. In spite of all of this, I became obsessed with the idea that I would one day run again (I’ve been a runner for a few years now).

At the beginning of September, I was mostly through dealing with my injury, but faced a new problem, that I had thought would go away when my injury did: depression. My entire family battles depression, and many of them take depression medication. I had previously (somewhat haughtily) thought that I had miraculously escaped from the disease that I had watched my family fight for all of my life.

I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and I knew I had to do something about it.

Luckily, this is where my obsession with running came in. The more exercise I did, the better I felt. I changed my diet, slept a consistent eight hours a night, and started learning about fitness. Diet and exercise changed my life more than I could have imagined. Thankfully, that was enough to dispel my depression. I had goals again, and although I struggled, I worked towards them doggedly.

After weeks of physical therapy and exercising with an elliptical bike to help regenerate the nonexistent muscle of my left leg, I got to the point where I could jog painfully slowly (not to mention painfully) a couple of times a week. In November, seven months after my injury, I ran a 5K with a time of 22:30.

Towards the beginning of November, I started meditating. I had been interested in meditation for a long time, but had never committed to it. I read a lot about different techniques, downloaded the Sit app for iOS, and started using the Wim Hof method of meditation (also, Zen Buddhism is really interesting). What started as an every other day practice eventually became every day. It makes a subtle difference, but I’m more cognizant of how my actions affect others, have a longer attention span, have more will power, and really look forward to having a bit of stillness from the busy everyday life of a college student.

I started lifting weights for the first time towards the middle of November, and followed the StrongLifts 5x5 program until the end of fall semester.

In December, after finishing fall semester, I traveled to Malaysia for a week to hang out with a friend who was studying abroad. Traveling is amazing! I had never left North America, but I definitely want to travel a lot more. After Malaysia, I spent my winter break learning Swift and how to create iOS apps through a course from Stanford (iTunes U is fantastic, and free!).

Thoughts in Retrospect / Summary

  • If you can change your habits, you can change yourself. But change happens over the scale of months and years, not days or weeks. The biggest change I experienced was a change in mindset while I was waiting to recover from my injury. I stopped thinking of short-term gains, and started to instead think of how I would reach my longterm goal of recovery.
  • Becoming disciplined in one aspect of my life was an order of magnitude harder than adding every other habit, even though I really like running. After I went from a complete lack of discipline to running every day (0 to 1 habits actively changed), I leveraged my success with running to add other habits easily.
  • Longterm change happens when you put life on pause, think about what matters to you, and start making small steps in that direction.
  • Having a growth mindset is key. Stop judging yourself, and start growing in whatever direction you want.
  • Modern life is full of distractions, and focus is the most important factor to success. Removing distractions, and training yourself to focus make incredible differences in your life.
  • There’s no reason to be too hard on myself. I’m still trying to figure out this whole “life” thing.