This summer, in addition to interning at Nokia Research, Palo Alto, I have been venturing little by little outside of my comfort zone (social & physical) and adapting surprisingly well. Meeting interesting people and hearing from friends who are on their own adventures has inspired me to think about my own goals for the summer. Self-improvement is a big part of my life, so it was only natural that I think about how to make the best of my time in the Bay Area.
Now, normally, I would consider a good summer to include some kind of international trip. Well, my trip to Shanghai didn’t exactly work out due to my internship, but after I gave up holding on to what I thought would be a great summer experience and embraced what I had access to, it turned out to be more enriching and awesome than I anticipated. The following goals emerged as a result.
1. Learn more programming skills: I’m learning a lot of programming skills that I had been meaning to learn but never made time. For example, I am learning how to make web apps using jQuery, Django, and Python, and how to create data visualizations using Protovis and Google Charts. From my project, I quickly developed an appreciation for location tracking applications and data visualizations, and I can’t get enough of infographics feeds1 in my feed reader!
2. Be proactive about meeting new people: At a networking session at a conference, I got the idea to ask people what their passions were as a way to break the ice with strangers (this icebreaker question can be whatever you’re interested in knowing about other people, after the standard introduction). I’ve had plenty of opportunities to practice this at meetups, such as the Rationality/Less Wrong, Habit Design, and Reddit meetups, and the Quantified Self conference. I still have a long way to go, but my experience so far has been positive. Another useful thing to try would be rejection therapy, which helps you overcome fear of approaching strangers (and asking for things) by desensitizing you to hearing “no” or being rejected in other ways (and realizing that it’s not that bad). Nick tried this and was able to get: a free ice cream, ghost story from a librarian, hug, photo of him trying on someone’s hat, and a homeless guy’s story and photo. If you’re at a social event where you don’t really know anyone, it helps if you’re with a friend who knows other people and can introduce you, but I’ve found that it also gives you an excuse to stick by your friend during the whole event than venture outside of your comfort zone.
3. Read more: When I was younger, I would inhale several YA fiction books a week, but I’ve lost most of my interest in fiction because it felt like another form of entertainment consumption (i.e. watching TV, movies), of which I already had enough. Instead, I discovered several non-fiction topics that I wanted to learn more about, and loaded my Kindle with the following books.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes
SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven Levitt
All Over the Map by Laura Fraser
How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes
To help me get through them, I am reading a different book every time I turn on my Kindle.
4. Get fit: In the spring, I got out of breath climbing up 2 flights of stairs, and saw exercise as grueling physical labor. This summer, after joining a super-fancy, awesome (and expensive) gym, I splurged on a personal trainer. Three times a week, I go in for a training session, and leave feeling exhilarated and accomplished. I’m not expecting to be able to hike Machu Picchu by the end of the summer, but I will at least have made it into a habit, and will be hooked on it. It’s not for every one, but I highly recommend getting a personal trainer if you’ve never tried it and are thinking about it. My body composition is retested every month, so I will know in a week how my body has changed.
5. Write for 1 minute a day: Yes, I know, every time I post, I keep saying that I’ll get into the habit of writing once a week (ha!), but it never happens. I recently attended the Bay Area Habit Design meetup where we committed to doing one habit for 1 minute a day after a daily routine. We then had to direct message @habitdesign saying that we had done the habit for 1 minute after the daily routine. I chose to write for 1 minute a day after I take a shower. The goal was to do it for just 7 days. So far, I’m on my 6th day, and I can’t bear to go to sleep without writing at least a minute. And thus this blog post was written!
6. Continue eating healthy: Some of my friends may know that all last semester, I was on a low-carb diet that I started after reading 4-Hour Body. As a result, I lost about 6 lbs by following the diet for most of the time over 3 months, developed new healthy eating habits, and drastically reduced sugar and carbs from what I eat (and my taste for them). I gained all of that back at the end of the semester from the CHI conference and eating out every day for the first week and a half I was in Palo Alto (we were living out of a motel and couldn’t cook for ourselves). Since then, Nick and I have been testing the Bulletproof Diet, and I’ve spent most of the summer refining what I eat to see what works best for me in terms of maintaining or increasing energy, losing fat, and increasing general health. I will write later about the specifics of my diet, how it’s changed, and what differences it’s made for me.
There are also other things I accomplished as a result of my lifestyle in the Bay Area:
1. Manage time better: I am spending 8:30am to 7:30pm on weekdays out of house (including commuting for 2 hours). By the time I come home, cook, and eat dinner, I have less than 2 hours of free time. In addition to my internship work, I am also working on CMU responsibilities. I knew I had to take advantage of being in the area to make connections and explore, so it was a challenge to maintain a balance between my priorities.
2. Think about my muse: In the 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss describes the concept of a muse as something you are passionate and excited about doing that you can make a living out of. My version of thinking about a muse is not necessarily to focus on the monetization aspect, but to just figure out what it is I like to do in general, and go from there. From talking to many people and working on my internship project, I’ve been able to think about potential research or startup ideas that I’m really excited about. I may write about my ideas in more detail in the near future.
1FlowingData, Good.is Infographics, Infosthetics, and Information is Beautiful (This is one of the few physical books that I own. It’s absolutely beautiful, delicious, and is great for turning to a random page and learning something new.)