BLUF: Fun Long Ranty Self Deprecating Post. Yes, it has pictures
The instant gratification monkey has been winning for a very very long time now. I’ve been failing to do things that don’t have any explicit deadlines. The only deadline is death. If you don’t know what the instant gratification monkey is, watch this video and then come back to this blog.
Where has the instant gratification monkey been beating me?
I’m 75.95 kg as of the time of writing. I have been thinking about losing weight for years but it’s just been going up and up 📈. I’m a short fellow, with that weight my BMI is 28.95 which means I’m overweight. According to the NHS because of my ethnicity if I’m above 27.5 I’m at a high risk of health problems like type 2 diabetes. I need to get to 66.4 kg to get to have a healthy BMI of 25. I need to go further down to 63.5 kg to be healthy for my ethnicity and have BMI of 23. Otherwise I’m at an increased risk of diabetes.
I’ve created MyFitnessPal accounts and running regiments multiple times and I have failed. Things look good and I quit. I do nothing I quit. I have a daily reminder at 8 a.m to meditate and run, I do nothing. What the heck is going on?
Weight has actually gone up since I first downloaded MyFitnessPal in 2017. I’m not better than I was yesterday.
I was 13 and I saw the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley and since then I wanted to be an Entrepreneur. I figured I was good with computers, math and programming seemed interesting so I should study to become a Computer Scientist. Before I joined College I would dream about dropping out of starting a company, that does well and then dropping out of University. Guess what, that never happened and I graduated from university in May 2017. Then while partying with a few friends I decided that by 11th November 2019 I’d leave my job and start a company. Why that date? It would be two years since I started working and that number seemed right. That didn’t happen either. It never happens. Simply doesn’t, unless you make it happen.
Moving on to July 2019, I thought I should get a new laptop and that might increase productivity as my old laptop was a clunky heavy bad battery laptop. I bought a Mac and wrote this post. Somewhere in the post I write that within one year I’ll make side projects that would get me the money I spent on the laptop back. That’s roughly $2270 before August 2020. Guess how much has been made till date? You guessed it, $0. “Oh, so you shipped products and they didn’t make money”. Hell no, I didn’t ship anything. Nothing at all. I started a few projects. Setup the CI server, revised go-lang, created DB models and boom I’m done. Some projects are empty Git repositories. What the heck is going on?
This year I have talked less with people than any past year. I don’t have any metrics but I just feel this way. I call home every now and then, it’s been a long while since I have talked to my grandmothers. The clock is ticking, I have a Saturday reminder to call my grand mothers. It’s been more than a month since I made a call. I’m probably talking to them once in three months at best. What the heck is going on?
Proof of Past Failures
In this list I’ll try to go through my blog posts and find previous blog posts where I made marvelous plans and failed. It’s going to be fun.
- I claim I’ll make products that make over $2270 over July 19 - Aug 2020 but I do nothing
- I claim that I’ll make podcasts every week, do this for a few months and then stop
- I write a big email about how we should do something different and make history and I do nothing
- I claim I’ll learn how to play the guitar. Enough guitar to at least play thunder struck. Can’t play a chord still
- I hope that I’ll take RouteRush forward with better UI/UX and I do nothing
- I plan on writing an MSX2 emulator in September 2017. I end up writing a CHIP-8(way easier) emulator in June 2018
- I write a post about how we have only 1500 good weekends in life and end up wasting a lot of subsequent weekends
- I write a post about how I plan on reading go-jeks reading list in 600 days if not 6 months. It’s been 904 days and I have read 11/38 books
- I plan on doing an open mic in Singapore during my time there. It’s been 3 years. No open mic
- I claim I’ll not drink Soda for an year. I give up in month 4
- I want to release a product, doesn’t happen
- I want to visit Bali, doesn’t happen. I hardly fail travel goals though. Usually exceed expectations
- I want to learn the Harmonica, can’t play a chord
- I claim I’ll run daily. Can’t even run all day in January.
- I claim I’ll vlog daily. Cause GaryV. Oh, that was stupid. Not sad that didn’t happen
- I want to Master Web Security. In an year? Yes I was naive. Didn’t happen
- I want to learn Full Stack Dev. Same year as above. Still suck at front-end
- I want to run half a marathon in 2017. I do run one, but in November 2019.
- I want to learn functional programming. I can’t do any Haskell still
- Write a blogpost about seeking location independence on July 9, 2016. No progress
I was really really naive in 2017 it seems. I wanted to “Master Web Security”, “Learn Full Stack Dev” and “Learn Functional Programming”, “Make a beautiful product” along with a bunch of non-programming goals.
I seem to love the word “hopefully” and “plan to”. Hope doesn’t work if you don’t.
And that’s just what I found on this blog. Never mind, random conversations, WhatsApp messages and claims on the podcast. In hindsight a lot of these goals weren’t SMART.
What the heck is going on?
In the video above Tim Urban talks about how procrastinators like us suck at goals that don’t have deadlines. I’m fine at my job and care about what I do. I was okay at College with project deadlines. I’m punctual when I set appointments but something happens to these “life goals”. I don’t do anything. I don’t want to be 70 and freak out and regret as I see the deadline coming up. That is not okay.
Suddenly the narrator from fight club is becoming more and more relatable. Let me bring up a gif.
and as we know
This is not because “the system is rigged against you”. It’s mostly because people like me(and possibly you?) don’t do shit. We fantasize about our goals and do nothing. I didn’t eat healthy and exercise regularly and end up fat. I didn’t work on side projects but get defeated by a “big global company”. I didn’t do anything. I wasn’t too poor to call people, I just didn’t.
I fly a lot. Environmentalists reading this post will probably not be happy reading what follows. I have probably taken about 39 flights that I could last year covering Guwahati, Delhi, California, New York twice, Abu Dhabi, London four times, Colombia and cities within, Georgia, Romania, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Germany and Kuwait. Given this long self deprecating rant I do deserve bragging about my travels. I hardly post about this on social media. Not proud of my carbon footprint though.
Any who, why is this relevant?
Every time I’m on my way back to Abu Dhabi, I am dreamy. I think about how life is going to change. How I’ll start waking up on time, how I will stop eating crap, how I will start working out and how I will start working on side projects and life goals. I get out of the airport, get home and order some junk. Eat it. All the planning goes south, hell I’ve just arrived from a trip. Let me get adjusted. Does this happen with you as well?
The good part about flying so much is that you get to read a lot. I read a lot. I usually fill my kindle with books and get a lot of reading done.
Stepping back to 2016
I was interning at Directi Mumbai in June 2016. I remember a conversation with a full time engineer. We were talking about the different side projects I had been working in addition to the internship. He said he was really happy that I was doing this and I should continue doing this. He said “most of us just go home, drink a two beers with friends and sleep”. I’m that person now excluding the daily drinking. I remember how I’d see peoples now empty profiles on Github after they had started working and be like, these people just got into the field for money and never actually love programming. Now, my Github profile is almost empty. The number of green squares can be counted on your fingers.
How wrong was I? I love to programmed. Always have. I love how I could write a few lines of code and build a product. With the Internet I can ship this product to everyone in the world at the speed of light. Very few other pursuit allows such resource little creativity that ships so fast. You can’t ship sculptures and you need new raw material to make them. As a doctor you can’t operate on a patient a continent away. As a mechanical engineer you just can’t as easily build a car, it’s heavy on resources.
I think what happens is that the instant gratification monkey starts winning faster as you have a stable income assuming you keep it in check during work. This reminds me of a quote by NNT.
Why don’t I work on side projects?
Recently I have been classifying problems into two categories.
- Easy - These problems are so easy that they are boring and hence are not worth doing.
- Hard - This is really tough to pursue alone. Not worth doing.
Finding the “medium level” problem has been an excuse. This mythical “medium level problem” is something that’s interesting, challenging, rewarding and worth doing. Probably lots of my ideas have been medium level but have been incorrectly labeled “hard” or “easy”. Yesterday I realized to counter this polarization, if I think something is easy I should add it with other similar things till it proves to be “medium”. If I think something is “hard” then I should break it down till I label it as “medium” and then work on the medium.
The other excuse for not starting a startup has been the lack of a co-founder. There aren’t enough Hackathons/Meetups here to meet people who’d want to start a company. That’s probably an excuse, I could definitely drive to Dubai. Or even easier, reach out to people on-line. If you are looking for a co-founder, reach out.
There’s a great book by Steven Pressfield called the “War of Art”. He says the blocker behind every creative endeavor is a universal force called “Resistance”. It gets stronger as you move closer to your goal. Anywho, let’s look at a random weekend plan in order of priority :-
- Work on a side project
- Run X kilometers
- Read a book
- Go out for a movie/dinner
Consumption is easy. Watching a movie or getting dinner at a restaurant is the easiest form of consumption. Netflix makes it even easier. I realize I watch more TV than play games as gaming still requires some effort. So #4 on the list gets done pretty easily. After that, you look at your list of goals and think that you should code. Instead, you start reading. It’s easier to read than it is to run. Now having made some good progress reading, I decide to do something else. Cross of reading on the list, two items left. I go for a run. Running is tough but it’s still easier than creating something. Resistance hates creativity. That gets done. Now I can finally work! I still have a few hours before I sleep and the weekend start. Instead of starting to code, I find that the house is too dirty and I start cleaning the house. After all, when the house is clean I’ll have a great environment to work. After I get done with cleaning, I decide to reward myself with some TV. Great, now I can work. It’s already a little late. If I’m lucky I create a GitHub repository, create a boiler plate and set up CI and then sleep.
Now the week has started and I’m not continuing the project. New weekend arrives, I’m already bored of the existing idea so I must do it all over again.
Unitary method fails in real life
One goal this year is to run a 1000 km. This can be broken up into months of 83.33 km or days of 2.73 km at any pace. Sounds easy right? Try doing it. Consistency is hard. Motivation dies a quick death. I’ve only managed to do 23.80/83.33 in January.
Losing control of life
The more I reflect on time passing I realize that the monkey continues to win. “I” have been losing control of life. Things have been happening to me rather than me doing things. I make plans and don’t do anything. Days, Weeks and Years pass by and the life goals don’t get done. Maybe you feel like this as well. This post by Tim Urban talks about how limited life is and is a great read. You’ll be over soon, death is the ultimate deadline.
How do we fix this?
I think that was a healthy amount of reflection. I’m surprised you’ve made it this far. You must be able to relate to some of this stuff. If you feel like this, please reflect. Spend some time reflecting. Write about it. You don’t have to publish it. You can reflect privately and still appear to be perfect on social media!
I’m happy that I have this self awareness. But now we need to figure out what to do about this?
Disciple == Freedom
Last year I read an amazing book by Jocko Willink called Extreme Ownership. Jocko is an ex-navy seal who in addition to that book talks about discipline.
Motivation is temporary. Discipline goes further. We can build discipline that eventually becomes a habit. Hopefully that habit is life long. Building discipline alone is tough, this brings me to Accountability.
My friend Bhavdeep is another Master Procrastinator. Recently we have been trying to create accountability by messaging each other every night with a list of goals that we want to get done next day. It’s something like “Wake up at 8, don’t snooze. Go for a short run. Get ready and go to work. Get X, Y and Z done at work. Go to the boxing gym. Work on a side project for an hour. Read and then sleep at 12”. Throughout the day or at the end we compare notes on how the day went. You don’t want to fail because you don’t want your friend to fail. Also, you have laid out the entire day in your mind. You’ll at least get something done. Schedules are good. Discipline == Freedom.
You can try doing this with a friend! If you are up for it I can create a group and do this every night with the rest of the people in the group. Reach out!
Small wins this week
It’s been almost a week since we started sending nightly accountability messages. I have started waking up closer to 8. A few days I didn’t even have to snooze! I have got more done. I have been working out. I have attended the boxing classes that I wanted to. I even worked on a side project! It’s a macOS app that tells you the number of seconds/minutes/hours/days left until the next YCombinator deadline. If you are wondering it’s around 150 days! Haven’t released it yet though.
Monthly Goals & Reflection
Ok this brings me to some monthly goals with rewards/punishments
Running : As said, I want to run 1000 km over an year. Given I have only run 23.80 so far I currently need to run about 2.914 km per day. That means in February I need to run 84.56 km. How do I do this? I’ll be doing 10 km on Saturdays and at least 5 km on Fridays. On other days I’ll try to hit the daily minimum. Win: I get a pair of sports headphones so that I can listen to music while I run. Lose: I done £50 to a charity around Diabetes, especially Type-2 cause thats where I’m headed.
Weight: Lose 3 kg. Win: I’ll be eligible for a fitness watch if I run the required kilometers in March. Otherwise this gets pushed till I get to 70 kg and run required distance for the month after. Loss: £50 to a charity around fighting Diabetes, especially Type-2 cause that’s where I’m headed. More on How later.
Reading: I finished “Three Body Problem” a few weeks ago. Brilliant book. I want to finish the sequel “Dark Forest” this month and make decent progress on the book after. Lets talk about this series if you are keen. No wins or losses here, I’ve been good at reading.
Side project - Build and ship a product on HN. Thinking of working on a podcast collaboration market place with Bhavdeep. Calling it IndieHackers for podcasters. If you wan to get involved reach out. Measure: V1 should allow you to list yourself and find guests based on interests. Win: I qualify for getting a new phone when I hit 70 kg. Lose: Netflix ban. That takes a lot of my time. I’ll also donate £50 to an open source project or a coding community.
About weight: I’ll be trying Intermittent fasting along with calorie counting for the month of February. Will eat between 2 pm and 10 pm. Will try different diets for a few months and write about them.
Will be posting reflections and goals for the next month at the end of every month. Or I “hope to”. Follow this sheet for tracking my weight, exercise and diet progress. If I do fail reach out with the name of a charity you like and I’ll make a donation. If you are a runner and are raising money then even better.
If I fail the side project goal, reach out with the name of a good open source project or a coding community.
This years goals
I spoke about them on a podcast we did before the end of the year. From what I remember :-
- 1000 km running - Being tracked!
- Full Marathon & Two Halves - No progress
- Regular boxing classes - Have signed up and haven’t missed a class since
- Build a Product - Tracking. Measure: HackerNews/Product Hunt releases. Better Measure: Revenue / User counts?
- Extreme ownership at work - Tracking. How do I measure this?
Thanks for getting this far. Tell me about your goals. Tell me about your already broken resolutions. Most importantly, reflect!
I think this was a very good way for me to procrastinate working on a side project. This seemed easier than working on a product. If Induction works none of the above will get done and I’ll be writing a similar post in an year or two. That’s all folks.
- Tim Urban for the cover image of the instant gratification monkey.
- Fight Club & Giphy for the random Tyler Durden references
- Nasim Nicholas Taleb for the quote on addictions. Watermarked website for the image.