-- A blog maintained by a pessimistic over-confident High-School kid.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Mental Blocks vs Bursts of Ambition

3 weeks into my summer vacation, I have faced an issue. While the number of duties that I have has decreased, I seem to be more frustrated about the work at hand. Be it academic writing, coding or even my stress relieve,  drawing. In times of tight schedules, creative ideas of possible programs or contraptions spring into place, and I am often left wishing for some free time to pursue them. But when this kind of free time finally came around the corner, I no longer want to do what I wanted. I tend to drift off to an option of least resistance. In my mind, this is the situation in The Tell-Tale Heart with the phrase "be careful of what you wish for". You might lose your ambition when free time is accessible. While this situation might seem ironic, ironically, this happens to me all the time. I would die to work on projects when I do not have time but be frustrated with the project just a week into it. I still remember my wish to become a full-time self-employed engineer during the school year, but now, I cannot even finish one project.

What happened today was mostly depressing. After finally finishing the two programs with higher priority, I was set to do college preparation today. I woke up at 6 in the morning only having 5 hours of sleep, and I carried off to follow my carefully thought-out plan from the day before, and that is to write a few test college applications and research a dozen or so colleges. Mind you now, I also had taken a whole day off yesterday, spending time doing easy tasks such as cleaning my room and sketching. But what I wanted to do did not match what I did do, and I end up spending the whole day using basketball and youtube to procrastinate my time away. I accomplished nothing in the end. There is this strong opposing urge for me to write anything important even when the stakes are clean and it being only a mock. I have no understanding of why I behaved such way. My writing while not the best, had been polished a lot through all the blog posts I have written and proof-read. My earlier habit of reading from the start of the month definitely helped too, but I just did not want to write today. Burnouts aren't an explanation as I am well familiar with it and had taken a whole day off to prevent it. And as I had mentioned, it was also not about me being an idealist as the stakes were low. Except for youtube, there were no distractions, and I can personally say that the friction to start working would be enough to influence me to stare at a wall gladly instead of typing. This pattern of resistance does not make logical sense as it does not tie to factors of mindset, environment and stress. To make the matter worse, this opposing urge to work is not only on college applications, but rises when I am programming as well. The first two days of coding any program are always splendid, but the third day is where the frustration of working on the same task sinks in. For me, this also applies to video games. Anything that is attached with a goal, and where you are grinding indefinitely to achieve the goal annoys me, and I do not understand the reason. I love coding. I love writing. In a way, I even love grinding. Why on earth would I not want to do it?

I finally drew something.
Don't mind his right eye, this is a ROUGH ROUGH draft.

Two years ago, I discovered self-help books, and it had taught me immensely about how to set goals and manage my time. It engraved a relatively efficient mindset into my brain. But after following its rules of "Just do it", "Ship it", "Start with just 5 minutes", "Write bad", and countless others, I now seem to be less affected by them. It is like my anti-bodies had adapted to all the medication I have took, and efficiency is slipping through my hands. "Just do it" does not work, as I am doing it. I am staring at the screen and thinking about the next possible steps, but I am not typing. "Ship it", similarly, does not work either, as I am already aiming low and coding the bare minimum. "Start with just 5 minutes" does not work because I am already into it for half an hour. "Write bad"..... go look at my code [facepalm].

I wrote this blog trying to find the cause of my behaviour, but 750 words into it, and I still do not seem to get the problem.

To take a blind guess...    (I sat here for 5 minutes, and I cannot come up with anything).   I can only say that it is how the human mind works. With all the complex system of dopamine realises, motivation, and hormones that affect one's mood, it is another war that wages on an individual, and it is a certain phase of efficiency that I have to fight through. While blaming my mistakes on the biology of the human brain is lame, I cannot come up with anything I could do except "Just Just Do Do IT". Although all this is a definition of a first-world problem, I still think I am entitled to say, "When life throw you lemons, make lemonade", as cliche as it might sound. (My Calculus teacher's favourite word) Greatness, is for the people who work for it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Elon Musk - My Admiration is now to The Next Level

"Ah ha ha" in a monotone delivery is this most depressing reaction you can get from Elon Musk. This reaction of his means that he disagrees heavily on you, and it is probably accurate as this evaluation is given by a practicalist founder of multiple companies. In the past, I did not know the extent to which Elon Musk is successful. When you look at the billionaires today, most of them have some common traits. And whether they come from a humble background or not, they are mostly businessmen by trade. They might have a significant hand in the early days and the making of the company, but the multi-billion-dollar company's labour force would not contain them as a member. Elon Musk is multiple of magnitudes different from other CEOs and founders of companies. Studying a dual major of physics and business in college and dropping out mid-way when getting a PhD easily introduces Elon Musk quite accurately. He combines his knowledge about the feasibility of ideas along with business 101, and he is able to do the impossible. I have been hooked on Elon Musk for almost 2 weeks now, and I cannot stop watching his interviews. In my imaginary mind, I thought that I could somehow strike some mystical gem to his successful attitude or knowledge, but the conclusion is still that there are no shortcuts.

What strikes me the most about Elon Musk is how involved he is in his companies. Although I am not as familiar with other CEOs, former or not, such as Steve Jobs, Jeff Besos, Bill Gates, my surface-level assessment of them is that they are about the management, but not as the chief engineer. To my knowledge, I would not classify them as anything of a genius in their industry's skill. Steve Jobs is a master in envisioning the software possibilities to a solution, Jeff Besos understands the needs of the public, and other founders of companies are idealists that could manage human resources well. But ask them to have a competition in coding with their skilled employees, they would lose by a big margin. Elon Musk on the other hand, in my point of view, understands the public's need, envisions the right future, contains the skill, and has the business knowledge to find funding for his projects. Even Jeff Besos that understands mass economics failed at finding a way to fund his own rocket company, and he was left with funding by himself (almost) entirely. While Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Ma, Robert Kiyosaki, etc. relied on a financial consultant that literally wholly defined their success. Meaning that they would 100% fail, and I can guarantee, without one person guiding them through the financial market and helping them get funding. Jack Ma stressed that he worked hard, but in reality, he was successful because he can talk and luckily has a very competent financial advisor. Yes, these visionaries' initial efforts attract competent financial advisors in the first place, but it does not change the fact that they are reliant upon them. Rolling back to Elon Musk, he himself is the financial advisor. And of course, collective knowledge is better than a dictator, and so he has advisors himself. But the major difference is that he is able to devise a competent plan by himself. His description 7 years ago of Paypal that he co-founded really just illustrates this clearly. He said, "If you look at [paypal's] product plan I wrote in 2000, there's hardly any difference, in fact, it's slightly worse than that." While this alone does not justify his acquisition of business knowledge, with some estimates and predictions, you can tell that he knows his stuff. While other founders and CEOs just gather the right people, Elon Musk is part of the talent, and he is open to assistance.

Leave me alone, I will draw
when I draw, thank you

Elon Musk knows how to run a business, duh, he founded, co-founded, 6 very successful companies out of 6 attempts, a 100% success rate, and he is not in it for the money either. The part that makes him overwhelmingly great is his involvement in the making of the products. While wealthy people (Manny Khoshbin, Robert Kiyosaki) work 2 hours a day, scrolling through amazon for lands and houses, Elon Musk is being the chief engineer for SpaceX rockets, dealing with problems that scientists have a hard time with and taking them upon himself to solve it. While Steve Jobs criticizes the work of his employees, judging them against the idealistic possibility1, Elon Musk takes the idealistic possibility2 and does it himself along with his employees. He does not do this because he doesn't have the resource to hire a talented engineer, scientist, his budget is literally multiple billions, he can afford anyone. He leads the team and solves the problem himself as a self-taught engineer because no one else can. No one dares to dream nor knows how to conceptualize rockets' reusability. He knows his product in-and-out and would do the crazy, such as manufacturing AI chips in-house in his Gigafactory. He understands everything there is to the modern way world of economics and innovation. In the investor conference for Tesla a year ago, his attitude when compared with the chief engineer for the AI chip says a lot. While Elon Musk understands the importance of satisfied investors, answers questions dedicatedly, the chief engineer dismisses the absurd uneducated questions of tech-lame people with one-liners, thinking that "these questions are not worthwhile, my stats explains it quite simply". Elon Musk learns anything, meaning anything, needed that are needed to overcome his obstacles, and he strives to better humanity.

A couple of months ago, I admired Meursault's ability to be in a higher plane of existence, being aware of his surroundings and uncaring towards the wounds inflicted by others. I alluded to that the role models that I have and the ideal person that I want to be are all fictional. While I had always admire Bill Gates, I cannot relate to his desire to end human suffering. I had not gone through the trauma that puts me in that position, and that is entirely on me. But now, I see Elon Musk's action to the cause. He both provide solutions to the problems of Earth such as greenhouse gas and human congestion and provide solutions to problems of humanity such as making human multi-planetary. He did all this by learning everything necessary to get money and make stuff. He knows rocket science, he knows the silicon valley, he knows public desires. He empowers himself for his goals by learning things one by one, and this is reflected in his conclusion that human learns very slow. He, by experiencing the need to learn all these stuff, have a personal understanding of the process of learning. Although he did drop out of college, his assessment of learning makes it evident that he had learned a lot. In his interviews, he still illustrates the importance of education, and that in today's world, while college is not perfect, it is necessary unless there is a better conventialized way.

While getting to where Elon Musk is now for me is to just keep learning as he did, I think I will end this post with some of Elon Musk's quotes. I don't know why the quality ones all escape my head at the moment, but I still remember the ones that are aside his jokes, so here goes:

"Try to learn as much as possible that allows you to predict the future or make the future. The best saying is that the best way to predict the future is to make it. And then assess what you are learning is enabling you to predict the future with less error or be less wrong. We are always wrong to some degree. But you can reduce the error on your future predictions"

"Well, I do think there's a good framework for thinking. It is physics. You know, the sort of first principles reasoning. Generally I think there are -- what I mean by that is, boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there, as opposed to reasoning by analogy. Through most of our life, we get through life by reasoning by analogy, which essentially means copying what other people do with slight variations. And you have to do that. Otherwise, mentally, you wouldn't be able to get through the day. But when you want to do something new, you have to apply the physics approach. Physics is really figuring out how to discover new things that are counterintuitive, like quantum mechanics. It's really counterintuitive. So I think that's an important thing to do, and then also to really pay attention to negative feedback, and solicit it, particularly from friends."

"People worry a lot about these days are the people that called college-smarteness. People like us street smart, we are never scared of that... I do not know man, it sounds like famous last words"

1: iPad, iMac, iPhone, IOS, Pixar. Steve Jobs envisions the idealistic possibilities for Apple and Pixar
2: reusable rocket, electric car, mass solar arrays, hyperloop. Elon Musk is directly involved in making the idealistic possibilities into reality

Friday, June 5, 2020

My Thought Process - Autism - The quirks and pitfalls that comes with it

Time is not a friend of mine, and while writing this blog post might be the last thing I would do today, I would try to write down how I am different from others, and if that statement is even true. Watching a TED talk given by a speaker that is formally diagnosed with autism after college years, her short on-the-side mentioning about her conditions of autism stroke me in a very personal way. She talked about how her thoughts while are not as glorified as what popular belief of autism intelligence is like, is rather a unique language of hieroglyphics of thoughts in her head. She said that she is able to form words out of thoughts without trouble, but it is the combination of that along with other things that confuse her. Her line, "my neurodiversity makes it difficult for me to think, listen, speak and process new information all at the same time" sums it up very effectively and I resonate a lot with it. While I think my blog posts are quite good representations of my thoughts, I am not able to express myself accurately or just gather my thoughts when I am listening to someone. I am not saying that I have autism, but I am exploring the possibilities of it. In life, my method of thinking is what restricts and guides my thought process.

The flow of my thoughts are very dynamic, while I have no idea if it is special among other people, I am curious to see the inner-workings of it. I could never put this phenomenon of my thinking into words, but Hannah Gadsby, the TED talk speaker's, words ring true: "[My thoughts are more like] ever-evolving language of hieroglyphics that I've developed and can understand fluently and think deeply with. but I struggle to translate... and as for the written word, I'm OK at it but it's a torturous process of translation... Speech has always felt like an inadequate freeze-frame for the life inside of me". All those are true, but it is not a full description of my thoughts, it is a little bit off.

"[My thoughts are more like] ever-evolving language of hieroglyphics that I've developed and can understand fluently and think deeply with. but I struggle to translate"
Most of my conscious thoughts are through written languages, and the most common one in my brain is English. But under the surface of thoughts related to reasoning, my deepest thoughts are an ever-evolving language of indescribable items of feelings. These thoughts are blurry images of my mechanical inventions inside my brain, foggy diagrams of program structure that does not have a label to any parts, imaginative feelings of past or possible future situations. All these visual types of thoughts are not as clear as one would imagine, they are more like a low-resolution transparent hologram that you cannot touch or distinctively see. To put it vaguer, it's there but it's not there. It is so difficult to translate because I myself cannot see it either. It is a concept that exists in my head, but I myself do not grasp.

I am still out of artwork :(
it's fine tho

"and as for the written word, I'm OK at it but it's a torturous process of translation..."
As one can image, it is hard to articulate a concept you yourself do not understand. Yes, I can describe my thoughts as images, diagrams, and imaginative feelings, but each of those word version of my thoughts is written with minute-long pauses in between. It is a "tortuous process of translation" because it takes huge amounts of time to write each sentence. And in a conversation, I do not expect the listener to wait a minute in between my sentences. And even if one would wait that long, the awkwardness surely would interrupt my thought process.

"Speech has always felt like an inadequate freeze-frame for the life inside of me"
Whenever I talk, my brain goes into a numb stage, and it doesn't even take a formal speech to drive me into it. I do not think when I am talking. Time shifts right by like the pressing right on youtube. I do not speed up time but miss it entirely. After a dialogue of my speaking, I would sort of regain consciousness. As articulated by Hannah, it is "an inadequate freeze-frame for the life inside of me". I just freeze in my brain when I speak.

This special thinking of mine drives me to think about how I have been able to succeed, and have struggled in some areas at the same time. If I am allowed to compare myself to the classmates that struggled in computer science, I question if my foggy abstract thoughts have helped me piece together functions and if statements in my "visual" mind. While I myself disagree with that (backed with my own countless time-consuming struggles in computer science), it might have been beneficial for me to not have a clear direct line of thought. Through two years of coding, I have picked up countless examples of solutions to different types of problems in programming. If I need to access binary, initiate a WebSocket, define a data structure, I have all the experience pertaining to each of those. But the thought process is a subconscious act, and I cannot be sure if it had actually helped or is it other parts of my thinking.

Finishing up the benefits, the counter is that my foggy thoughts definitely hinder my progress in reasoning. In the example of SAT, if my thoughts are labelless objects of content, how would I myself know which summary is the best fit. If my summary of the text is nameless objects, how would I choose the best summary? In the default response, I would have to also translate each of those given summaries into nameless objects as well and compare them with the objects of the text. If it sounds confusing, that is exactly why it is difficult for me. Of course, I am not giving myself an excuse and blaming my low score on my brain. I have countless ways to improve, but it might be one of the reasons why I struggle. I understand that many other people struggle even more, or that others have gone through the hard work of struggling already. Maybe everyone has the same problem with me. But if my thought process is special, it illustrates the challenge. But at the end of the day, practice always makes improvements, and I am definitely not exempting myself from responsibility.

Do I have autism like Hannah? I'm not sure. If my thought process is more special than others, did it help me in the things that I am good at? I'm not sure either. If a conclusion has to be made in this post, I think it is that I have to embrace my method of thinking. Hannah found her solution as doing stand-up comedy. For me, it might be writing, coding, drawing, or some skill that I have yet discovered. One day, when I identify the right medium to translate and articulate my thoughts, I must get hold of it and exploit it to the best of my ability.