Being True to Your Dreams

Since I’ve moved to Silicon Valley I’ve started some good habits: waking up to a 7 am alarm and going to 8 am CrossFit on weekdays, tracking my macronutrients on My Fitness Pal, and reading more thought provoking works.  One habit that I haven’t integrated yet is any kind of regular blogging, and for that I apologize.

My brain has been a bit scattered with a mix of buying things to make my new apartment livable, setting up my life in the Bay Area, selling the assets from my camera business (finally closing it down after a good 5 year run), and daily Data Science study.

I recently read a blog by Paul Graham called “The Top of My Todo List” and a passage in it really spoke to me: “5 commands:

Don’t ignore your dreams; don’t work too much; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy.

which I then put at the top of the file I use as a todo list.”

I copied this and put it at the top of my todo list as well.  Right now I’m transitioning into a career in Data Science, and my default instinct is put everything else in my life in the background focusing on my studies until I’m at a competence level that I’m comfortable with.  I did this when I was in Sweden this summer as my health, social life, and happiness took a bit of a downturn.  I’m now at a pace that allows me enough time to keep the rest of my life thriving while still spending the bulk of it on learning.

I think the part about not ignoring your dreams is very important as well.  Even now when I’m training in a field that has so many exciting possibilities (various forms of artificial intelligence in particular) I find myself often pulled into conversations about how to make money or earn a good salary for myself.  It usually involves some form of doing the least amount of work possible while getting paid a lot/flipping a startup.

I’m all for making lots of money and getting paid well, but I recently thought about how much money I wanted to make as a goal in the next 7 years, and I realized I really don’t care.  It’s not a goal that motivates me at all.  I’m 34, have no children nor intentions of having any, and am lucky to have essentially any option for how I want my life to proceed. Something hit me in the past year when I realized I needed to make a choice.

The choice was between two pretty strong life alternatives: 1) Do I do the things that come easy to me to make more money and maximize pleasure with the remaining years that I have whether that’s jet-setting to exotic locations/ staying in a cabin in the woods and reading? OR 2) Do I pivot and try new things spending my time and money in a struggle to do something that makes me feel like I’m doing something “important”?

Here I am in Silicon Valley now having made my choice.  It’s definitely not the popular/fun one to society or my friends, but I had to do it.  To do otherwise would be living a dream that isn’t mine.

Wishing everyone a beautiful start to Fall!

(Hiking in Marin County just outside of San Francisco last week)

marin

 

 

Pausing the Nomadic Lifestyle and Moving to Northern California

I’ve severely neglected my blogging duties the past several weeks as I’ve been in different beds on a weekly basis.  I flew from Stockholm to Boston for a night, spent a few days in Michigan for a surprise visit for my Mom’s 60th birthday, 8 days in Los Angeles to settle up a few things there, and then drove 6 hours to Silicon Valley where I am now moving to for the indefinite future.  I signed a 12 month lease for an unfurnished apartment in Mountain View which for me is a huge increase in commitment.

Although I’m sure I’ll have several international trips in the next year, I’m pushing the pause button on my nomadic lifestyle.  I’ve spent the past 9 months outside of the US living in Thailand, New Zealand, and Sweden for approximately 3 months each, and before that I was in Los Angeles + Boulder for 3 months each.  I’ve learned a lot from these different cultures, as well as about myself.

In one of the next few weeks I’ll more deeply explore some of my biggest takeaways, but I felt like it was more important to get some momentum and publish a blog than spend a few days putting a longer post together.

Why did I move to one of the most expensive places in the world when I could continue to comfortably travel indefinitely?  There are several different reasons (good weather, consistent friend base, closer to my brother) but the biggest one is evolution.  Just like working out you need to push your mental capabilities past their comfort zones to improve.  I have a tendency to get complacent when I feel like I’m “winning” by a large margin compared to my peers: making money in trading, my camera business, etc.  I want to make an impact in the world, and surrounding myself with the smartest and most ambitious people around feels like the fastest way to get myself to do it.

It’s a huge area here with tons of hiking, coffee, new technologies, and other cool things that I look forward to sharing.  I’ve already met several interesting people from different countries (approximately 6-year-old kid from Shanghai coming to Stanford for the summer to program robots) that makes me feel like I’m hardly in the US.

Anyways apologies for the lack of posting, looking forward to sharing more in the near future!

Detroit: Even though I grew up in Michigan I’ve only visited a few times because of my fear of the danger.  It’s morphing into a great place for young people to work/live cheaply.

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MIT Campus:  Beautiful and inspiring place that I highly recommenda2

Flying over Greenland: I woke up and saw these glaciers in the middle of the summer.  It reminded me of how amazing the warmer neighbor Iceland is, and it’s at the top of my list of places to go back to.a3

Simplifying and Productivity

Another nice week went by here in Stockholm.  I have such a good balanced life between fitness (minus an occasional nighttime candy snacking habit I started), spending time with good people, and studying programming.  I consistently wake up excited to get up and accomplish things which is one of the most pleasurable things I can think of.  It probably helps that I don’t have an alarm clock though.

I took a boat from Stockholm to Helsinki, Finland which is something I would highly recommend to do while here.  For about $200 you can go on an overnight cruise with a decent buffet, wake up in Helsinki with 8 hours to visit the city (and that seemed to be the perfect amount of time), and then come back on the boat for another evening.  It’s a comfortable way to see another country without worrying about hotel/transportation.

Helsinki is similar to Stockholm but much more compact, and with a lot less people.  They pretty clearly haven’t allowed the huge numbers of immigrants into their country that Sweden has, so it feels a bit more like what you would expect vs. the integrated and cosmopolitan Stockholm.  Being the number-one coffee consuming per capita country in the world of course I did my coffee tour, and was happy that everything was within a reasonable walk.  The coffee was good, but a lot of the brands were Swedish ones I normally have.

If you need to buckle down and write/program/study/create something it’s a great city that has everything you need, but without some of the distractions of a more fun place like Stockholm/New York/Chicago.  If I lived in Helsinki I would CrossFit, eat a lot of salmon, drink coffee, and be super productive working.  Or maybe I would take up a heroin habit.  You have to do something with your time when there’s eternal grey/dark outside.  In all seriousness though I really enjoyed my brief visit there.

I’ve recently cut back on a lot of the information I consume, particularly sports, which I used to look at as a way to relax, but I now believe it creates low-level anxiety.  So much of sports now is about how much people get paid.  There’s articles and hundreds of vigorously debated comments on ESPN regarding NBA/NFL/etc. player’s deals and whether they deserved their $17 million signing bonus, they should have gotten more upfront money, and how long with their spending habits until they go broke.  For me the real beauty of sports is the extraordinary mental/physical discipline it takes to reach the top, and you get to see the actualization of that work displayed in a game.  Polluting games with contract dramas and money issues is a shame.

I also have been filtering my phone notifications down to it’s intended use: calls and texts.  I do have Instagram on my phone, and I go to Facebook almost everyday (embarrassed to realize this), but I have disabled alerts for them on my phone.  I even disabled alerts for all of my email accounts.  There were plenty of other notifications that came up that I also eliminated on my phone.   The only time my phone buzzes now is for calls/messages.  Before when I got notifications several times a day about strangers liking my pictures on Instagram I would go check it out even if it pulled me away from what I was doing.  What that lead to next was the inevitable time-suck as I became hypnotized by my feed.  Now I log in when I want, which is usually around once every few days.

My main news source now is Hacker News.  Admittedly most of the articles are technology focused, but a few aren’t, and the quality of the things that they link to are very high.  The comment quality is great where I often go to read debates about different topics to help form a stronger opinion.  Unlike Yahoo News the comments aren’t just a forum for racism, religious battles, and pissed off people arguing.

I use the app Wunderlist to organize my goals broken down into the following groups: 7 year goals, 1 year goals, 1 month goals, 1 week goals, 1 day goals.  In these I have things related to my fitness, career, and relationships.  The goals from 7 years flow into 1 year, then I decide what steps I need to take this month, week, day to make those a reality.  My big 7 year goals have changed recently when I got into technology, but the themes of them are the same.

Not having a 9-5 it really helps me to have something that I can refer to each day for what I need to be working on, especially in a world where interruptions are normal.  I set what I think I can do in a day on Wunderlist (and over time it’s usually less than I think, and changes with my schedule that day) and go at it.  If I’ve been doing things properly I have a weekly goals list that I pull my daily tasks from.  This weekly list changes everyday as I find new things I want to learn later in the week, or realize some things aren’t that important.  When (if) I finish all of my Wunderlist tasks I decide if I want to do some more things, or just call it a great day.

Even though I go through periods where I forget/don’t use a goals/task list it helps me just having made one in recent periods.  It causes me to systematically reflect on what I should be doing and why.

Here are some pics from my Finland day trip.  Subjects in order:

A Siphon Coffee, The Church of Silence, Rock Church (less about visiting religious places, and more about seeing the cool modern architecture), and a greenhouse in the middle of the city.

fin1

fin2

fin3

fin4

 

 

Another Year Passes

This past Friday I celebrated my 34th birthday at a Japanese hotel/spa just outside of Stockholm.  It’s funny when I thought hard to remember what I did for my birthday the previous year, and it was also at a spa in Los Angeles.  For the past several years I’ve treated my birthday as more of a contemplative week, eschewing partying for hiking/relaxing activities.

Turning 34 for me felt like one of my least impactful birthdays;  pretty on par with 31/32/33.  Each year of my 20’s made me feel like I’d arrived into a new adult status.  It’s strange now that I’m in a 30’s blur.  It feels like playing tennis in the middle of the court; you feel like you should rush to the net or go back to the baseline.  Should I settle into more routines and a standardized lifestyle to maximize my focus, or should I push for a few more unique experiences/pleasures before those opportunities become less frequent?    Perhaps next year when I turn 35 and am into the second-half of the decade I’ll feel more wisdom and age.

I had an interesting and wide-ranging talk with my landlord in New Zealand before I left.  He’s in his 60’s, but very active, working, and with a teenage son.  He said he often doesn’t realize he isn’t 40 anymore, and in his mind he often forgets how old he is.  I feel the same way.

I moved to Chicago immediately upon graduating college at a fresh-faced 21.  That’s the absolute youngest you can get into a bar/club without a fake id, and it seemed like the worst age to be when trying to meet women.  If a girl was just a year older (and everyone was older than me at a bar mathematically)  they felt like I was too young, even though I was relatively mature.  I concealed my age, and eventually just started lying and saying I was 25, an acceptable age for everyone it seemed.  I often forget that I’m not 25-27 anymore. I certainly don’t feel much different, and  I can’t imagine turning 40.  It’s not a scary prospect or anything I fear, just more of a surreal thing when (hopefully) I make it there.

I’ve been studying technology for around 6 weeks now, although it feels much longer.  I think that’s because I spend so many hours a day consumed with it, and it challenges me so much that my previous 8 months of mental efforts are probably equivalent.

Being a nomad is actually a great way to start new challenges.  I get a blank slate of habits/friends/associations, and now I’ve created a routine of spending the majority of my day learning tech here in Stockholm.

One thing that helps traditional language learning efforts is immersion: moving to a country where they speak the language you’re trying to learn.  I’m slowly picking up Swedish phrases every week that are sticking just by living in Stockholm without actually trying to learn the language.

My approach to programming is evolving towards this.  Outside of the online bootcamp I do at FreeCodeCamp, I have some programming/tech books on my kindle that replace some of my other genre reading, and for entertainment with my girlfriend we started watching the TV series Mr. Robot  on Amazon.  The first season is free if you have Amazon Prime which I still do even though I’ve had to learn to live without being able to use Amazon for anything outside of Kindle/Streaming.

The show is centered around a guy who has extraordinary hacking abilities that he uses against bad people, but he also has serious social anxiety and a morphine habit.  It’s very dark and edgy, something you would enjoy if you like things like “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”/”Drive”/”Ex Machina”.

It’s been a fun way to give my brain some relaxation and escape while still absorbing small bits of technology.  The field is so large and constantly changing that when I try to formulate longer-term plans it feels daunting, so for now I’m just focused on learning the language (specifically JavaScript and technologies based off of it like JQuery/React/Node etc.).  It feels like starting college again in the sense that I don’t know where it’s going to take me, but I’m confident if I put in the work it will be somewhere good.

Djurgarden, Stockholm

JurSwe

 

 

 

Simplifying Life For Increased Results and Happiness

Another good week in Stockholm.  I started to feel the effects of self-induced burnout with my programming curriculum, and I took some extra hours off each day.  I also read a bit more percentage of books vs internet (which I think is important to balance those out tipping the scales in favor of real books), and did more on the social activity end.

I really enjoy spending the majority of my weekdays in productive pursuits, but if I treat Saturday and Sunday like a Monday several weeks in a row I get a sense of restlessness that hurts me more than if I just took a day off each week.

I watched a good chunk of the European Championships in Football (Soccer) which just ended yesterday.  The last time I watched any soccer was the World Cup, but the excitement over all of the matches here, even well after Sweden was eliminated, coupled with the games being on everywhere I went to, got me sucked into it.  It’s funny how little you need to know about the players and countries to start feeling a vested interest.  Being in Sweden I noticed people cheered more for the underdogs including of course Sweden, but also Iceland and Wales.  It was fun following these small countries as they got far, but the final of France vs Portugal was like the US Presidential election: a contest between two teams that almost everyone dislikes.

Sports are a funny thing.  When teams that I was geographically born next to/currently live near are doing badly I just shrug and could care less about them.  When these teams are winning though all of a sudden I feel a strong connection; like I’m part of a superior group.  I guess we all just want to feel significant somehow, and it’s funny how we can use something as passive as watching sports to feel like a winner.

Similarly being here in Sweden I am often the lone representative for the United States at social functions.  I feel a combination of respect, envy, and annoyance towards me that only has to do with me being from the US.  It’s only compounded from residing in the city of Los Angeles.  I must admit though that the overwhelming comments are positive, outside of people making fun of me for Donald Trump being a presidential candidate.  The US obviously isn’t a perfect country, but you realize how good it is when you travel without so many of the luxuries US citizens take for granted, and hear the wishes of so many people that wish to live there.  Of course the US to the rest of the world= California (San Fran + LA as if they were bordering towns), Las Vegas, New York, and maybe Miami.

One thing that I’ve really been focusing on lately is simplifying my life.  I still have a long way to go in many respects, but it’s been a transformative process.

With simplifying I mean not just spending/living with less, but purposely giving myself less choices.  I think one of the hardest things now in this world of abundance is making decisions.  Now that I can listen to infinite songs on Spotify I often find myself spending more time curating a playlist I want to listen to than listening to it.  There’s so many great books, podcasts, blogs, etc. that it’s hard to choose.  What to do?

There’s many strategies to curate the clothes/food/exercise routines you want.  Once you find a resource that really resonates with you, mine it deeply.  It’s like how I used to just want to read each author’s “best book”.  This often led me to reading a style/voice of writing I loved, and then being sad when a different author didn’t deliver for me.  Now I give an author I enjoyed several other chances and read his/her work.  Same with blogs: I will read a lot of older entries from great bloggers as many of their ideas aren’t dated.

I found a new goal for my current life (learning technology and how to do something impactful with it) and a great resource to get me going on the journey (www.freecodecamp.com).  I looked through tons of resources, and I still learn from other sources, but once I found this amazing one I make sure to put 90% of my programming energy into it.

I enjoy writing (or maybe it’s the act of finishing and publishing writing?), and found that this little blog gives me a lot of satisfaction.  I play around with other writing, but I make sure to not let this blog go too long without an entry.

My week is very simple and fulfilling.  I try to blog once a week (but a necessity to blog every 2 weeks if I do miss), train CrossFit 3-4 times a week, spend 3-8 hours per day programming, walk around the city or countryside of Stockholm at least twice, and do a few social activities with other people.  I can easily make all of this happen, and it’s a great week for my life.  I have a few other things like reading and eating well that I don’t quantify, but they happen on their own usually.

I guess it’s about learning  what really matters to you in your life, but then having the courage/discipline to stick with those things once you know them to be true.  No easy answers, and the path will certainly change, but if you keep on it you will be spending your time fulfilled that you’re doing the right thing for yourself.

Sending you some sunshine from Stockholm!

Swedenme

 

Programming in Stockholm

The weather here in Stockholm has been idyllic, although I have been spending the majority of my hours inside my apartment absorbed in learning web development and technology.  If anything it’s been too sunny and warm; the sun semi-sets past 10pm and rises again around 3:30 am, and the constant light means I have to force myself to sleep many nights.

I do keep the windows open and feel like I’m participating in the good weather even if I’m happily programming away in full geek mode.

I’ve set some very ambitious goals for my educational output, and so far have been exceeding them.  Friday and Saturday I was mostly alone and spent around 12 hours each day learning about technology.  Unfortunately with this nearly single-minded focus I’ve been neglecting my blog.  I did start writing a post after I sold my stocks a few days after they recovered from Brexit, but I think everyone’s already over Brexit (for now), and I tossed it.  It might be like this for a bit, apologies in advance.

My reading output dipped a bit as well, but I managed to pick up a few good books lately.  One that I couldn’t put down and finished was a biography of Elon Musk:

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

I’d heard of this book for a while now, and heard nothing but good things, but for some reason I thought it was going to be some love-letter written to Elon.  It certainly wasn’t.  The entire book constantly points out his problems with his ego, lying, lacking normal human empathy, and that he might be more than a bit “off”.

I hate to admit it, but reading all of the dirt on him and seeing him suffer through multiple massive near-failures was as enjoyable as the success stories.  I feel like I have a high tolerance to risk, and am willing to put a lot of my personal money on the line for something I believe in, but Elon in the book really took it to another level.

Some people could see this book as demoralizing if they tried to compare their goals and work habits to this guy’s, but for me I was very inspired.  I’m going to wildly mess the numbers up here, but he pocketed from the sale of his first startup something like $15 million, and the second startup (Paypal) $120 + million.  Both companies required years of non-stop 12+ hour workdays, and stressful power struggles in both where he was demoted by force from the Venture Capital companies that invested that didn’t like his leadership.

Most people would be content at that point to buy an island, write poetry, and raise their kids, but for some reason he got up and went back to work starting two separate huge companies, Tesla and Space X (three if you include Solar City where he was the biggest investor).

The biggest reason according to the book was that he wanted to “do something with his life”.  I really empathize with that.  I often wonder about professional athletes who are put into retirement in their 30’s (if they’re lucky and successful) with millions of dollars but no clue what to do afterwards.

On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs people need food-safety-love-esteem and finally self-actualization.  Ignoring self-actualization once you’ve risen past everything else hurts just as bad as when you were missing something lower on the ladder.  For me it’s to be of service/positive value to the world, and as long as I’m on a path leading to that I feel self-actualized.

I don’t know where this programming and technology education is going to lead me, but it feels like one of the best things I can be doing for my future self and others right now.

For all of my American friends, Happy 4th of July!

(Hiking just south of Stockholm.  Great to get outdoors on Sundays.)

hikingSweden

 

 

 

Getting Motivated

Sorry for being MIA and missing a post last week.  The past month has been challenging as I have been going through some big internal debates, and I haven’t addressed them here on the blog.  A lot of good friends and family read this blog though, so I finally figured I should blog about it.  Warning in advance: it’s a mostly personal and long post!

Everything I’ve learned and experienced about happiness basically boils down to 1) having a purpose (aka work/compelling goals), and 2) having people you care about in your life.  I feel happy and fortunate with my relationships (even though I often regret not making a better effort to stay in regular touch), but my purpose has been hazy for a while now.

Without the necessity to get up in the morning  at a specific time I found myself sleeping in longer, starting to wind down ever earlier in the evening, and in general wasting time throughout the day.  It’s a vicious cycle that was brutal to break once I got into a pattern, and it became easy to pass the time in a soul-draining psychosis with FB/IG/time wasting websites.

I have a love/dislike relationship with the process of writing fiction, but on several obvious levels I’m not a professional in that arena yet.  The past 6 months I’ve been trying to focus on it as a profession, even though I haven’t yet put a single work out for sale, and trying to mold an artistic hobby into a business so pre-maturely stunted my process worse than if I would have just kept it as a hobby.  It’s a ridiculous excuse, but I started and stopped several projects (although I’m still determined to finish out my poker book) just because I was worried that they would pigeon my writing brand into a certain genre, or wouldn’t be marketable enough, even though I hadn’t even completed a single book!

Without any real work outside of writing I put all of the weight of my career needs/dreams/goals/aspirations onto my writing hobby, and I found myself paralyzed into inactivity.

On the outside I was living a dream life that people regularly told me they were jealous of: living/traveling around the world, no schedule, loads of free time, no restrictions, no obligations.  Internally I often felt more lost than I ever did when I had no money or time freedom though.

During a slate-grey and stormy evening in New Zealand a little over a month ago, after a glass of strong local cider, I decided to apply for a job at a hedge fund whose public research I really enjoyed reading (not going to use names, but it’s a big one).  I had read several influential things they had written, including a great book, and they are known to have a unique and highly intelligent staff.

Just like how I quickly adapt to the weather wherever I live (I’m comfortable with a scarf and gloves in LA when it gets down to 70 degrees), I felt like some small-town New Zealand kid emailing the President of the United States knowing that I was wasting both my time, and the time of the machine that was going to negatively process my application.

Even though I’ve started several successful businesses, made money, and done some cool things, I don’t fit the mold for many jobs.  I’m not fresh from college or grad school, I have atypical work experience, and it’s hard for some people to think that I would be ok to start over working under people younger/in general less experienced than I am (which oddly doesn’t bother me at all).  For a while now I’ve put my own money up to start the companies/jobs I want to do ever since I did well with my first job out of college, and I haven’t cared at all about my appearance for the employment world.

I realized I hadn’t applied for a paying job (I did do two internships in the film business in LA for free) since I graduated college in 2004, and being self employed for nearly a decade left me with the lame task of re-writing my resume, plus creating a cover letter from scratch.  I put on my headphones to focus and took down another glass of the strong cider.  I wasn’t sure if what I was writing was good or not, but I was certain that it was a waste of time.  Writing a bragging bio about myself was far more painful than any fiction/blogging I’ve ever done, but the fancy artisanal New Zealand cider got me through it.

After submitting the application, even though the end result would be a waste, I still actually felt pretty good about myself.  I had something that I could point to that I did that day!  I was applying for work that someone needed enough that they would pay me to do, even if I wasn’t actually going to be picked.

Life continued, and a few days later I got a generic email from the hedge fund requesting me to do a personality test as well as watch some videos about the company.  It would be a few hours long, but I would get the results and learn something about myself.  This sounded like fun, and I was all too happy to drop my morning writing to go at it.

I answered the questions as truthfully as possible, ranging from things like (me paraphrasing from memory): “it’s sometimes ok to steal?”, to “which word do you like more: innovative or logical?”.

I got my results back immediately from the automated test, and for their cultural requirements I could clearly see I scored terribly for the position I applied for.  I shrugged it off, and went back to my normal life.  The question of why I even applied wouldn’t go away though, and I started journaling every day trying to figure it out, but the answer eluded me like a puzzle where you feel like some pieces are missing from the box.  This frustrated me, but I finally chose to succumb to the mystery for the time being.

One of the reasons I was able to get through the application was that a friend had previously applied, and he actually got a response back.  Even though it was negative I respected that they gave him an answer, and I would be fine getting my “no” as well; in fact looked forward to it closing out the process.

Several days passed, and I grew annoyed waiting for my rejection.  It was one more unfinished task on my list.

Finally one morning I woke up with an email from a real person from the company.  I jumped up and opened it immediately to finish this whole process.

(Paraphrasing again) “Dear Andrew, the fit for you and the job that you applied for isn’t there for us.  We have a more senior position in Investments that we are interested in for you though.  Would you like to be in interested in that?”

I quickly googled and found a jobs website http://www.glassdoor.com that had some information about the exact position title that she stated.  This job wasn’t on the hedge fund website as one they were hiring for, but it was much more interesting to me (focusing on investing/trading vs. managing), and paid literally triple the compensation according to Glassdoor.  The money wasn’t the reason I applied, but it didn’t hurt that it was enough that I could live a very comfortable life in the expensive NYC area (I didn’t want to have to move into a cramped micro-studio), and still have money left over to invest/save.

I replied affirmatively, got in touch with the new HR person for that department, and sent her my availability for an initial phone interview for the following week.  It was the week I was flying to Sweden, so it was a little tricky, but I still was open 3 out of the 5 days that week.

I told a select few friends, and went on a cram session to rival anything I’ve ever done in college.  Not only did I study everything I could find about the company and the industry, I studied myself with a vital sense of purpose.  I wrote down every mistake I could remember making in my life since I was a kid (and looked for any themes), thought deeply about what my strengths and weaknesses are, and solicited my best friends for an honest evaluation as well.  I repeatedly talked out loud about my resume, accomplishments, mistakes, and goals (my first few run-throughs were embarrassingly bad, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly).

I finally had a reason to get up in the morning, and this job preparation gave me energy morning to night.  Everyday I was refining my speeches (vs. what at first I could only guess was the truth as to my strengths/weaknesses/career), which were starting to refine my thoughts.

I realized I was missing motivating/challenging work, and I wanted to surround myself in a quasi-academic environment with the smartest people possible.  We get so influenced by the people around us, and I’m no exception, so why wouldn’t I elevate myself by surrounding myself with the best?

I got no response before the following week started as to the interview date, but I was relieved to get maximum prep time.  With the clarity of the work and environment I wanted to be in, I unfortunately only found myself with one solution: I had to get this job.

The first week in Sweden I continued to prep, but diminishing returns set in, and after putting in full day and nights preparing there quickly wasn’t much else to cover.

The week in Sweden I oddly got no response still, and I sent a follow-up email saying that I was literally available everyday the following week with the ability to move my schedule around to accommodate the interview.

The following week started progressing, and still no response.  Since I no longer needed to prepare I started looking at competitors and other jobs in the financial arena.  The few companies I liked weren’t hiring, or not hiring for any jobs that I was interested in, and the other companies I looked at were pretty much in the same boat.  I didn’t want to get a job to “get a job”,  I wanted to do something that I was interested in, and the finance industry doesn’t have a lot of that for me anymore.  The industry has been on a pretty steady decline, and it seems like that’s a trend that will be continuing.

I went through a brief period where my backup idea was to go back trading stock options electronically like I used to, but something about it didn’t feel right.  My plan was to put myself in an academic environment where I could learn, but this would be setting myself in a solitary room clicking away on my computer.  It also felt financially driven, which is a short-term motivator for me, but gets hollow quickly for me.

Another week went by with no response from the hedge fund, and I sent another email with my schedule for the following week.  I was starting to care less about the job, which was a good thing in many ways.

That following week a friend pointed me to a blog post from a poker player who detailed how he became a programmer in San Francisco at Airbnb.  He went from 0 resume experience, to getting into a top coding bootcamp, to becoming the best student there, to getting 7 job offers from the top tech companies.  He also documented in a clear way the process to replicate everything he did.

HaseebQ

I’d thought several times about the tech industry, but dismissed it due to my previous starting/stopping attempts at learning programming.  Something felt different though this time, and I quietly followed the first step of doing a free Java Script course at CodeAcademy.

I happily finished this course spending about 4-6 hours per day programming 7 days straight.  I emailed my brother (he’s a programmer in Silicon Valley) when I was almost done asking him to give me an honest answer if I was too old, if I could learn programming, and the like.  I wanted all of my fears to be addressed immediately if I was going to go any further.  I was embarrassed to be talking to him about programming as I’ve been semi-inspired to learn it several times before, and told him so, before abruptly giving up.  It was one of those little emails that is innocent, but had life altering questions.

He responded saying that the ageism thing isn’t as big of a deal as it gets press for, he knew some people who’ve done these software development bootcamps and been successful, he pledged the support of him + his friends for me in the industry, and he said he believed in me that I could do it.

It feels cheesy to admit, but my younger brother (whom I put through college, hired for an internship at my trading company, and tried my best to help guide him in life) saying that he believed in me meant a lot.  I decided to continue to go full-steam with learning technology, and the language of technology (programming/coding/computer science or whatever you want to call it).

It’s only been about 2.5 weeks, but I haven’t looked back.  I haven’t taken a day off, I do some programming study in the morning, afternoon, and often in the evening.  I don’t need any motivation or goals, I just do it whenever I have any chunk of time, and the time flies by.  I also read about the industry, cryptocurrencies, learning, and even enjoy reading hard science fiction more now that my brain is into that vein.

I still haven’t heard anything from the hedge fund (and I sent a final email right before I got deeper into the programming to both HR people that I had contacts for requesting an update), but I’ve been enjoying my time learning about technology so much that I haven’t even cared.  I love the community of people who create everything in the technology infrastructure, much of it for free use to benefit society, and there is an endless amount to learn.

Everyday I read articles about different things going on in the tech world, I can barely understand a lot of it, and that’s amazing.  I’m also very impressed by the intelligence and ideas of the people, and I’d be happy to emulate their creative approaches to problem solving.  The tech ecosystem is collaborative, educational, and helpful.  The free resources for learning alone that people spend so much time putting together has added some extra faith in humanity for me.

I’m so used to money-centric businesses where it has a natural tendency to pit everyone against everyone else in a competition to be the richest.  I can handle myself well in those money arenas, but I start to question myself as to why I need to keep putting myself in those positions?

I think the biggest thing for me is I thrive in adversity/difficult environments.  Instead of being in emotional/psychological financially challenging environments, I have to realize  I have the option of being in intellectually challenging businesses like tech.  Learning programming is hard, rewarding, frustrating, but somehow enjoyable.

I don’t have my 5 year life plan or anything yet, and still keeping all of my options open, but I’m going to see where this takes me.

In the meantime I have to get back to some practice problem sets!

(my current home Stockholm)

SWEBuild