Posts tagged self development

Don’t Give Up

My personal trainer's business card says "don't give up."

At the gym, it's never applied. I pay for training and if I cheat on reps, that's on me. Sometimes you work out and get nauseous. There's a Wall of Vomit for that.

When I did almost give up was on my quest to leave Lockheed Martin. Leave my cubicle. It started late September 2016.

I was working a menial project and wasn't growing as an engineer. There was an opportunity cost to staying at the company. I dream huge for myself, and couldn't get there at LM.

Like Emma Watson in The Circle, my biggest fear is unrealized potential.

For 10 weeks I hit InterviewBit really hard. Learned more about algorithms and data structures than all of undergrad. At work I'd secretly get in more study time, coding common solutions over and over.

Working at Bloomberg was in my sights. I made it to an on-site interview and left there feeling great. For two weeks I waited, walking around Lockheed like it'd all be over soon...

Until it wouldn't. Until the no.

I wanted to throw up. I wanted to cry. I felt like an anvil crushed me.

It took a few days for my mind to produce a next move. Like delayed reaction to a punch in the face.

First, I blogged about what happened. I talked about it with a good friend. "Getting it out" raised my spirits. The world wasn't over.

Then I thought, well, I need something more for my resume. So many big firms didn't even get back to me. I need to tighten this resume to get more opportunities.

This was the pivotal moment - I kept moving forward. To help my resume, I got involved in an open source project I'd been lurking on. A connection I made there led me to my new company.

Overall, by moving forward at that hardest moment, success was achieved.

Was it tempting to settle into Lockheed Martin for the long haul? In a sick way, yes. I could've started a master's degree at Syracuse University and/or signed a lease on an apartment. Gotten a prescription for antidepressants. Started drinking heavily at "happy hours." Complacently tried to enjoy (??) my situation.

But I didn't give up. I kept my goal in mind, acting and making decisions through that lens.

Things ended up better than they would've at Bloomberg. Victory was that much sweeter when a 6-month-old vision became reality.

Life has a funny way of working itself out when you persevere. When you keep - at - it.

Don't give up.

Gambling, The Multiverse, and Making Luck

I used to deal cards at the Turning Stone casino in upstate New York. One of my good childhood friends works there now on my recommendation. Sadly, he seems to be addicted to gambling.

Casino employees, barring technicians, are allowed to play the gaming machines. It's virtually impossible to get around their house edge. Conspirators can more easily exploit card games.

I love the gaming industry for its charm, glamour, and applied statistics. But gambling makes me nauseous. I think about what went into the money I'm losing - my time, creativity, grit. Especially right after a 2 AM to 10 AM shift.

Maybe this mindset is the exception. Unfortunately my friend doesn't have it. From the sounds of a recent, increasingly rare encounter, he's playing the machines after every shift.

"I was up two hundred! I was hitting every bonus. But then my luck went south."

I expressed surprise that he wasn't too exhausted after his shift. He does nights like I used to.

"Well, the machines were hot."

What am I rambling about here? Luck.

A slot machine is just a Linux terminal. The code it executes puts the same odds behind what patterns appear on every bet.

There's nothing 'hot' or 'cold' about that. You'd have to factor in luck.

Aren't we all lucky

One of the books I read this summer was Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. As someone who struggled with AP Physics in high school, I highly recommend it.

Something you realize as you read it is how unlikely it is that we're all here. The human race. And that we can /think/ about how unlikely it is, mention it on the Internet, and almost anyone else on the planet can read that.

Aren't we all lucky? Wasn't it lucky all these events happened and now we're here?

I don't believe in luck, where luck is some quantifiable thing.

As if we could graph out these spikes in luck, over billions of years, that ultimately resulted in Earth and us and the Internet.

The luckier and unluckier universes

Something I do believe in is the multiverse theory. It sounds more outlandish than luck, but there's a better scientific basis.

The idea is that there are infinite variations of our own universe happening concurrently.

So, infinite times over, there's a version of you that's less lucky than the one reading this. Who doesn't have a phone or computer... doesn't have clean water, who's dead.

The implication of that, however, is an infinite amount of luckier versions too. Where you can fly or are made of ice cream or have wheels where your legs are.

Coincidentally this concept gets mentioned in A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking is a proponent. But a better overview would be this Sam Harris podcast if you're interested.

Making luck

Why do we care about luck? What's the root of superstitions? Why call a slot machine 'hot' or 'cold'?

We want good things to happen to us. That's it.

Instead of wasting mental energy over luck, there are some things you can do with a better track record.

These are strongly related:

  • Have an open mind
  • Practice strong mindset

What's an open mind? Trying new things when opportunities arise. Saying "yes" to unfamiliar experiences. If you're honest with yourself, any downside is probably minimal, avoidable, or nonexistent.

(Still, if an acquaintance wants to steal a car with you, don't do it.)

What's a strong mindset? Being optimistic. Practicing mindfulness to ground yourself - instead of worrying about how many minutes are left in your workday, tell yourself "there's no place I'd rather be." Think about how fortunate you are to have the things you do, whether that means an Internet-connected phone or working limbs. Keep a journal of your day.

Read the book Gorilla Mindset. It covers all these as a quick, enjoyable read. The paperback is $10 on Amazon but the audiobook is free with an Audible trial.

Another thing you can do - nurture skills that increase your odds of success. Define success however you'd like. Odds are, binge-watching TV doesn't contribute to you being successful. Binge-anything probably doesn't. But what about going to the gym? Working through HackerRank exercises?

Conclusion

I don't believe in luck. But maybe, like God, luck's existence is just impossible to confirm or deny.

Regardless, there are tried-and-true ways we can improve the odds of good things happening to us.

Keep in mind that hunting around for 'hot' slot machines doesn't seem to be one of them.