Your primary desire, says Epictetus, should be your desire not to be frustrated by forming desires you won’t be able to fulfill.

If you refuse to enter contests that you are capable of losing, you will never lose a contest

Reading the above quotes in William B. Irvine’s “Guide to a good life” didn’t resonate with me at first. The advice seemed to contradict with my idea of chasing dreams. Not forming desires you won’t be able to fulfill feels like always staying within your comfort zone and never pushing yourself. Refusing to enter contests that you might lose sounds…


About two months ago I wrote a post about my experience with my second personal growth sprint. The focus of the sprint was to write a small post everyday, and in that post I reflect on why I enjoy focusing for 2 weeks at a time, and how I conceptualize a sprint differently from a goal.

The last personal growth sprint I did was during the last weeks of June. Afterwards I told myself to take July off from my obsession with productivity. I wanted to stop my paranoia of wasting my free time on low leverage tasks, but if…


Today I practiced the habit of showing up (doing a neck mobility routine) instead of thinking whether it was worth it. The unproductiveness of overthinking has been brought to my attention again after watching Forest Gump and Captain Sinbad’s review on the movie. I found myself trying to maximize the surface area of hot water showering onto my neck, to then maximize the effectiveness of the neck mobility routine. I started thinking of whether I want to stay in the shower for the entire duration of the routine, or should I do it at my desk?

I think I noticed…


I’m getting into the habit of building for the sake of building. For better or worse, I’m addicted to the productivity corner of Youtube, so naturally I’ve heard about Obsidian, the back linking note taking app. I don’t think I could do the app justice with a sales pitch of my own, so please check out their site. However TLDR instead of a traditional folder-based hierarchical organization, Obsidian organizes notes in a graph to mimic how thoughts are stored in our brain.

Local (notes immediately connect to current note) graph view of Neel’s blog

Where did I get the idea for this project? I really enjoy Neel Nanda’s blog. I enjoy his…


This is the second post I’m writing using a project I created to pull Neel Nanda’s blog into a note taking app called Obsidian. These posts are meant to show Obsidian’s utility in connecting ideas similar to how our brains connect thoughts.

Today I chose Neel’s post on learning from conversations as a starting point. This post is interesting because it doesn’t reference his other work. Makes sense since it’s his 5th post. However the post is referenced by his future work. This is hard to discover unless you remember the references in each posts. …


I’ve been learning more often lately that I and most people, go through our days without thought. James Clear calls it habits that we do on autopilot. Ramit Sethi calls it invisible scripts. Jason and Caroline want to counter this behaviour by instead “Wandering Aimfully” — I like this phrasing the best! I definitely hate when I ask why and people tell me “Just the way its done”. Yet I neglect to ask myself why I do certain things on autopilot.

The following three posts by Neel Nanda really helped me reflect on my undergrad experience:

being deliberate
systems and…


Becoming a freelance developer is my largest goal thus far in life. I’m more interested in not having a boss than the glamorous perks of time flexibility and remote work from anywhere. As a developer, especially post COVID, time flexibility and working remotely from anywhere in the world isn’t going to be hard to find as an employee. In my case, I already have those options. I can work pretty much anytime I want outside of team meetings, and live anywhere that is close enough in timezones. …


Tomorrow is the last day of my goal to post everyday for two weeks. This is a big increase from my original cadence of posting every Sunday. This is the second two week goal I’ve set for myself. The first was to try six vegetarian recipes to speed up my process of cutting down my meat consumption. After watching several documentaries about animal cruelty and the environmental impact, the Netflix documentary “Seaspiracy” did the trick. I don’t plan on becoming vegetarian or vegan, but I think I can make a difference by drastically reducing my meat consumption.

I don’t think…


I’ve heard from many people much smarter than myself, Bill Gates being the exception, that reading non fiction books cover to cover is absurd. Non fiction books should be treated like textbooks. Read the chapter list, see what topics you are interested in, and only read those chapters. A new strategy I tried with Deep Work by Cal Newport, was to look through the index for interesting topics. I liked this approach better because interesting chapter titles can often be misleading. This is especially true in the self help industry. Many books regurgitate or rephrase the same learnings, if you…


Everyone was rewatching Adam McKay’s “The Big Short” in 2020. Similar to how the main characters predicted the housing bubble, we all wanted to take profit from the economy dipping to the pandemic. After weak bets on Air Canada and Suncor, tied with reading “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham, I realized I wasn’t cut out for this. I couldn’t stomach the risk of betting a large quantities of money and my $100 bets weren’t going to make me any meaningful money.

Sad? Not really. Yah it would have been ridiculously amazing to become rich during an economic recession/crash/depression, but…

Janarth Punniyamoorthy

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