The 2018 Year in Review

Kyle Ryan
Kyle Ryan
Dec 17, 2018 · 15 min read

Each year, I try to recap my experiences through writing. Often the writing goes unpublished, but this year is different. In 2015, I published an article called “How To Build an Instagram Time Machine”. It chronicled my thoughts about time & perception. 2015 was the same year I became interested in Psychology. I wanted to learn how my perception of the world could influence how I experienced time. I believed we perceive time as change — the seasons, aging, and rust. I felt that the more change I experienced, the slower life will seem to go.

Since it’s already the end of 2018, I will have to report back to my former self that this plan may not have worked out as expected. I wanted to believe that a watched pot never boils. Indeed it does. And as each moment passes, we move through a fading past, an overwhelming present, and into a blindingly bright future.

My main directive of 2018 was to point myself towards a meaningful trajectory for the next 10 years.

High-level events:

  • Started my first full-time job at Strava as a Software Engineer. I returned after graduating from the University of Rochester in December. As part of this, I moved to San Francisco and gained the bonds of some great housemates.
  • I launched OpenCare with Mikey Woodbury — an app I started building while at school to help caregivers of people with memory conditions like dementia.
  • I am towards the final stages of publishing a 92-page reflection on my undergraduate experience in Computer Science & navigating jobs.
  • I increased the amount of cycling I did each week. I went from near zero to passing 1,200 miles total so far.
  • Photography became a core interest of mine. Even though I had previous interests, this was the first year that it became a core part of how I exist. I started shooting 35mm film, and I grew my photography page to 7,000,000+ views.
  • I traveled to Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland.
  • I traveled to Boston for the SwiftFest conference with my co-worker.
  • Read a lot of books: see books section below.

Photos I will remember 2018 by

April birthday dinner
Strava soccer league
Biking 1,200 miles this year
Parents visiting San Francisco

My favorite photographs from this year (film)

Ocean Beach, SF
South Park, SF
Hayes Valley, SF
Between Vancouver & Seattle
Pacifica, CA
Lake Merced, SF
Chinatown, SF

Books I read this year

  • 21 lesson for the 21st century by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
  • The Capitalism Papers by Jerry Mander
  • The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce
  • Algorithms to Live By by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths
  • Talking to My Daughter About the Economy by Yanis Varoufakis
  • Machine Learning for Predictive Data Analytics by Aoife D’Arcy, Brian Mac Namee, and John D. Kelleher
  • The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker
  • How Jesus Became God Bart D. Ehrman
  • Principles by Ray Dalio
  • Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  • Drive by Daniel H. Pink
  • Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves
  • 5,000 Year History of Debt by David Graeber (audiobook)

Ideas I’ve found helpful

I am going to enumerate a few insights I have gained from this year. Most things are quotations from my reading.

On modern society

On Personality

As a double major in Computer Science & Psychology, I have seen a lot of personality models thrown around. At work, I went through training workshops for DiSC that helps people learn about the differing priorities of people in your workplace. One of the core things I am trying to work on is to genuinely understand the perspectives of others. The DiSC training at work helped me to understand myself, in addition to understanding the priorities of others. As it turns out, people’s priorities can vary widely. And a lot of their priorities come from driving assumptions about how they think the world works.

These driving assumptions power the life decisions you make in addition to the priorities you focus on in your work.

According to the model, my driving assumptions about the world fall into three statements.

  1. I should never be the source of someone else’s unhappiness.
  2. I “must” “always” maintain my credibility.
  3. If things are not completely stable, things are wrong.

Of course, you have to take every psychological model with a grain of salt, but I found DiSC to help me consider my own personality & the personality of others. The model determines that everyone falls into 1 of 12 buckets — iD, I, iS, Si, S, SC, CS, C, CD, D, Di. It presupposes that people gravitate towards behavior consistent with one of these buckets (see above chart). Basically, you can fall completely in the center of a segment, or you can lean between two segments.

For me, I am in the CS bucket — Conscientious (Logic) & Steadiness. But since I am CS and not SC, I prioritize Logic over Steadiness. By this model, I am motivated by opportunities to use expertise or gain knowledge, attention to quality, stable environments, sincere appreciation, cooperation, and opportunities to help.

At a core, I have a strong need for stability. I enjoy the world maintaining an even pace. At the same time, I minimize my exposure to potential threats to my lifestyle & position. I put a lot of energy into not being the source of trouble. The idea that I might be responsible for a screw up is particularly crushing. I have a natural instinct to set up a comfort zone. I put out fires & put up structures that prevent future problems. People with my style put a lot of pressure on themselves to not disappoint people.

Failing others can seem like the ultimate type of failure. People with my style become very reliable for others. It is a core value that I’m attentive to not inconveniencing others. I thoroughly research a decision because I actually want to protect the well-being of other people.

The idea that I may have lead others in the wrong direction is really troubling. The responsibility to not be a source of harm weighs heavily on me. I have a feeling of guilt over causing harm & can beat myself up over it. I make personal sacrifices to absolutely make sure that I am not the cause of harm. If someone puts their trust in me, I have follow-through in making sure I don’t disappoint that person. With a strong need to feel reliable, letting someone down is the ultimate source of guilt.

As the model suggests, I have a tendency to internalize stress. I put a lot of pressure on myself to mentally figure things out and to not burden other people with the weight of my problems. I engage in a lot of rumination — replaying events mentally — in an attempt to reduce tension.

I have a much stronger focus on the downsides of failure than the benefits of success. There is less tendency for me to be bored of a routine.

I have a belief that it is unethical to be wrong. If I put my name on something, it must be of high quality. The things I put effort into must be unassailable and refined. I take pride & joy in producing something of great quality. I like knowing that I’ve done a truly excellent job while controlling all aspects of it.

I like to work with people rather than above people. Power can feel uncomfortable for me. Because having power can feel like controlling people or even harming them.

I have a hyper-awareness of how failable I can be & how many ways I could go wrong. I am more aware of my mistakes than other styles & more aware of the potential mistakes I can make in the future. I have hyper-awareness of other’s needs & my own limitations.

I spend a lot of time developing expertise in the areas I matter. Competency provides safety. Expertise helps cement my worth. If something comes out of me, it needs to be controlled and measured. I have a deep instinct to ensure my flaws aren’t exposed. I also have an aversion to conflict, which is a natural threat to stability. I use logic to ensure I never cause harm & prioritize the world maintaining an even pace.

On decision making

“Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions” by Brian Christian was a good read on decision making. What struck me the most was their focus on exploration & randomness as the ultimate source of life’s meaning. In addition, how pseudo-random algorithms (algorithms the integrate randomness) are some of the best algorithms for solving problems.

He says that “Randomness seems like the opposite of reason — a form of giving up on a problem, the last resort. Far from it.”

“thinking about creativity as the outcome of new ideas being generated randomly and astute human minds retaining the best of those ideas.”― Brian Christian, Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

“Don’t always consider all your options. Don’t necessarily go for the outcome that seems best every time. Make a mess on occasion. Travel light. Let things wait. Trust your instincts and don’t think too long. Relax. Toss a coin. Forgive, but don’t forget. To thine own self be true.”
― Brian Christian, Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

“When we talk about decision-making, we usually focus just on the immediate payoff of a single decision — and if you treat every decision as if it were your last, then indeed only exploitation makes sense. But over a lifetime, you’re going to make a lot of decisions. And it’s actually rational to emphasize exploration — the new rather than the best, the exciting rather than the safe, the random rather than the considered — for many of those choices, particularly earlier in life.”
Brian Christian, Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

“Though all Christians start a wedding invitation by solemnly declaring their marriage is due to a special Divine arrangement, I, as a philosopher, would like to talk in greater detail about this” — Johannes Kepler

“some of the biggest challenges faced by computers and human minds alike: how to manage finite space, finite time, limited attention, unknown unknowns, incomplete information, and an unforeseeable future; how to do so with grace and confidence; and how to do so in a community with others who are all simultaneously trying to do the same.”
Brian Christian, Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

“Even the best strategy sometimes yields bad results — which is why computer scientists take care to distinguish between “process” and “outcome.” If you followed the best possible process, then you’ve done all you can, and you shouldn’t blame yourself if things didn’t go your way.”
Brian Christian, Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

“No choice recurs. We may get similar choices again, but never that exact one. Hesitation — inaction — is just as irrevocable as action. What the motorist, locked on the one-way road, is to space, we are to the fourth dimension: we truly pass this way but once.”
Brian Christian, Algorithms To Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

“Seemingly innocuous language like ‘Oh, I’m flexible’ or ‘What do you want to do tonight?’ has a dark computational underbelly that should make you think twice. It has the veneer of kindness about it, but it does two deeply alarming things. First, it passes the cognitive buck: ‘Here’s a problem, you handle it.’ Second, by not stating your preferences, it invites the others to simulate or imagine them. And as we have seen, the simulation of the minds of others is one of the biggest computational challenges a mind (or machine) can ever face.”
Brian Christian, Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

On motivation

“Have you ever seen a six-month-old or a three-year-old who’s not curious and self-directed? I haven’t. That’s how we are out of the box.”
Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.”
Daniel H. Pink

“There’s no going back. Pay your son to take out the trash — and you’ve pretty much guaranteed the kid will never do it again for free.”
Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

“elite performers have something in common: They’re really good at taking breaks”
Daniel H. Pink

“innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best”
Daniel H. Pink, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

“Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”
Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

On economics

“[A] great embarrassing fact… haunts all attempts to represent the market as the highest form of human freedom: that historically, impersonal, commercial markets originate in theft.”
David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years

“How did we get here? My own suspicion is that we are looking at the final effects of the militarization of American capitalism itself. In fact, it could well be said that the last thirty years have seen the construction of a vast bureaucratic apparatus for the creation and maintenance of hopelessness, a giant machine designed, first and foremost, to destroy any sense of possible alternative futures. At its root is a veritable obsession on the part of the rulers of the world — in response to the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s — with ensuring that social movements cannot be seen to grow, flourish, or propose alternatives; that those who challenge existing power arrangements can never, under any circumstances, be perceived to win.”
David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years

“The criminalization of debt, then, was the criminalization of the very basis of human society. It cannot be overemphasized that in a small community, everyone normally was both a lender and borrower. One can only imagine the tensions and temptations that must have existed in a community — and communities, much though they are based on love, in fact because they are based on love, will always also be full of hatred, rivalry and passion — when it became clear that with sufficiently clever scheming, manipulation, and perhaps a bit of strategic bribery, they could arrange to have almost anyone they hated imprisoned or even hanged.”
David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years

“In this sense, the value of a unit of currency is not the measure of the value of an object, but the measure of one’s trust in other human beings.”
David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years

“In fact, our standard account of monetary history is precisely backward. We did not begin with barter, discover money, and then eventually develop credit systems. It happened precisely the other way around. What we now call virtual money came first. Coins came much later, and their use spread only unevenly, never completely replacing credit systems. Barter, in turn, appears to be largely a kind of accidental byproduct of the use of coinage or paper money.”
David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years

“In San Francisco, an ideas factory for America’s most liberal social policies, more than six in ten homes are now worth more than $1 million. As Richard Florida says, ‘In the US your ZIP code is increasingly your destiny.”
Edward Luce, The Retreat of Western Liberalism

“The West’s global cities are like tropical islands surrounded by oceans of resentment.”
Edward Luce, The Retreat of Western Liberalism

“For all the emphasis we place on our multicultural cities, they epitomize our oligarchic reality.”
Edward Luce, The Retreat of Western Liberalism

“By any numerical measure, humanity is becoming rapidly less poor. But between half and two-thirds of people in the West have been treading water — at best — for a generation. Tens of millions of Westerners will struggle to keep their heads above the surface over the coming decades. The spread of automation, including artificial intelligence and remote intelligence, which some call the fourth industrial revolution, is still in its early stages.”
Edward Luce, The Retreat of Western Liberalism

“Almost half of Americans would be unable to pay a $400 medical emergency bill without going into debt.”
Edward Luce, The Retreat of Western Liberalism

“All of America’s new jobs have been generated by independent work, which has risen by 7.8 per cent a year.65 The next time an economist boasts about America’s low unemployment rate, remember that number means something very different from what it used to. This is not your parents’ economy.”
Edward Luce, The Retreat of Western Liberalism

“Jeffrey Garten’s history of globalisation, From Silk to Silicon, tells the story of the last millennium through ten biographies. His book ends with Steve Jobs. It opens with Genghis Khan. The latter’s impact was a fitting one with which to begin his story.”
Edward Luce, The Retreat of Western Liberalism

“People tend to form political beliefs in their early years and then stick with them for life. If today’s rich young are tomorrow’s thought leaders, democracy has a shaky future.”
Edward Luce, The Retreat of Western Liberalism

On goals

“If you’re not failing, you’re not pushing your limits, and if you’re not pushing your limits, you’re not maximizing your potential”
Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work

“the happiest people discover their own nature and match their life to it.”
Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work

“The greatest gift you can give someone is the power to be successful. Giving people the opportunity to struggle rather than giving them the things they are struggling for will make them stronger.”
Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work

“Look for people who have lots of great questions. Smart people are the ones who ask the most thoughtful questions, as opposed to thinking they have all the answers. Great questions are a much better indicator of future success than great answers.”
Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work

On career

All of the quotes in this section come from Pmarca Guide to Career Planning.

“In my opinion, it’s now critically important to get into the real world and really challenge yourself — expose yourself to risk — put yourself in situations where you will succeed or fail by your own decisions and actions, and where that success or failure will be highly visible.”

“Time spent on the ground in other countries and in other cultures will pay off in many different ways throughout your career.”

“The great thing about communication is that most people are terrible at it because they never take it seriously as a skill to develop.”

“Seize any opportunity or anything that looks like an opportunity. They are rare, much rarer than you think…”

“The world is a very malleable place. If you know what you want, and you go for it with maximum energy and drive and passion, the world will often reconfigure itself around you much more quickly and easily than you would think.”

“Be continuously alert to opportunities that present themselves to you spontaneously, when you happen to be in the right place at the right time.”

“Instead of planning your career, focus on developing skills and pursuing opportunities.”

On beliefs

“Listen, stop trying to be somebody else
Don’t try to be someone else
Be yourself and know that that’s good enough
Don’t try to be someone else
Don’t try to be like someone else
Don’t try to act like someone else, be yourself
Be secure with yourself
Rely and trust upon your own decisions
On your own beliefs”

– Frank Ocean, Be Yourself

On emotional intelligence

“EQ is so critical to success that it accounts for 58 percent of performance in all types of jobs. It’s the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence.”
Travis Bradberry, Emotional Intelligence 2.0

“People high in self-awareness are remarkably clear in their understanding of what they do well, what motivates and satisfies them, and which people and situations push their buttons.”
Travis Bradberry, Emotional Intelligence 2.0

That’s a wrap

Now begins 2019.

    Kyle Ryan

    Written by

    Kyle Ryan

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