Tell us a little bit about yourself, what do you do, how do you like to spend your free time?
I’m an iOS engineer at Peloton. My chief interests are human cognition and performance; in my free time I do a lot of cycling, writing, and reading. I previously worked at Tumblr on the Core team, Imgur as an API and iOS engineer, and spent time building side projects at the Recurse Center. I was one of the founders of UVA’s first student hackathon and also studied math and computer science there.
You seem to be really passionate about personal tracking and self-reflection, what benefits do these activities have for you in the immediate-term, what are your hope for the impact they have long-term?
I treat personal tracking and self-reflection as two means to the same end — they act as a frame of reference in the journey towards my often-moving, sometimes-unquantifiable goals.
I generally don’t have fixed targets to hit. This has made all the difference for me. The act of tracking itself provides a frame of reference from which I can adjust course, if needed. I’m employing the strategy in many areas — my habits, sleep patterns, journal, heart rate, weight, body fat percentage, workouts, and travel data are all public.
Digging into self-reflection: I’ve journaled every day for the past four years. Doing this allows me to capture smaller experiences and emotions — ones we often forget, but end up mattering the most. The journal also serves as a sort of time capsule for my inner life. When catching up with an old friend, I’ll often search the journal for their name, find a happy moment (maybe a thoughtful text they sent that made my day), and share it with them. It’s gone a long way in making deeper friendships.
You’re a fairly active Twitter user. Can you tell us about how you use the service, any stories about people you’ve met through it, or opportunities that have arisen through being on Twitter?
It’s worth noting first and foremost that Twitter has a significant amount of work to do in making the service a better experience for women, PoC, LGBTQ, and other minorities. That said, I’ve been lucky enough to have mostly positive experiences using it; it’s felt at times like “access to some great [collective] super-genius for the ages,” and given me the ability to foster an ambient intimacy with my peers, even when I haven’t met them in person. I’ve formed some of my best friendships through the service and it’s put me in touch with a group that made NYC feel more like home.
Who are a few under the radar people you follow on Twitter that you think more people should know about?
All with fewer than 1k followers, but deserve way more. Each one makes my timeline infinitely better and I’m glad we crossed paths!
What are 2–3 things you are currently thinking through and that you’d enjoy having a conversation with others about?
- Ways to slow down one’s perception of time
- How we can foster effortful learning (espoused in Make it Stick) in an age of fleeting content (tweets, snaps, and faster-paced blogs)
- There are tons of clear thinkers out there that don’t write. How do we surface their thoughts without the friction associated with blogs and Medium posts, yet provide more room for nuance than Twitter?
What idea would you like someone to be working on that given a lack of time / energy, you can’t commit to working on yourself? #WhatWouldYouLikeToSeeInTheWorld
A personal knowledge management system (PKM). Mark Bao has a great series on his attempt to build one. A PKM is a tool used to gather, classify, store, search, retrieve, and share knowledge one has acquired over time. The “Second Brain” goal that Evernote is chasing. For me, my digital “knowledge” is loosely tied together across Instapaper, notes in Day One, Twitter, and Pinboard. A PKM would harmonize these disjoint sources and allow relationships between nodes (thoughts, notes, links, etc.). Moreover, if this “second brain” goal is ever achieved, imagine being able to simulate a “digital dream” in it, where you observe a traversal of the knowledge graph.
What’s an article, a book and a thought that made your mind go whoa in the past month?
The intersection of fitness and tech is where I see myself working for the next 50+ years. More specifically, my dream is to work on an effort like the one mentioned in the article: a team of designers, engineers, coaches, and physiologists pushing the boundaries of human performance. They’re setting out to help three top marathon runners to break the 2:02:57 record _and_ go sub-two hours in the race. This blew my mind as a former middle-distance runner. 4:41 per mile for 26.2 miles is a mind-blowing pace.
Book: Spark by John J. Ratey
Certain books come into your life at the right time. I read Spark in the middle of 2016 and it changed my life (don’t mean this in some flowery, cliché way). The book explores the interplay between exercise (specifically high-intensity cardio) and cognition. Ratey provides an approachable introduction to the subject, while diving all the way down to the neurotransmitter level.
Thought: Without a doubt, Kevin Kwok is one of the smartest people I’ve met. During a recent conversation, he mentioned something that stuck with me — groups which name themselves before having a goal are usually the ones you want to bet on. Aside from professional contexts, I’ve seen this amongst friend groups that I’m really close to. An example in my own life: ‘Awesomest Turntable DJs’, a Messenger thread of nine of my best friends scattered across the country. We’ve supported each other through breakups, family losses, life-threatening accidents, and the random troubles that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday. All of these groups in my life have had the common theme of explicitly labeling ourselves — no matter how goofy of a label — and that fosters the group dynamic. Obviously a lot of factors at play here, but a thought I’m still processing.