I regularly blogged at this address from May 2013 to September 2016 which became one of the more fulfilling projects that I’ve done in my life. Initially I was terrified at the vulnerability, but for some reason I felt compelled to continue to write in public. Perhaps because no one knew it existed for a long time it felt ok, and more like a personal journal. With virtually no exposure my blog slowly gained a steady following chronicling whatever was going on in my life. As my writing skills and narrative voice began to take shape it morphed into something I loved: a place to share ideas with family, friends, and strangers that I found impactful.
If this was something that a small audience and myself enjoyed why did I stop for nearly ¾ of a year suddenly without warning? For the first time in nearly a decade after living as an entrepreneur I decided to explore getting a traditional job, and was advised by a career expert that having a personal blog (especially where I occasionally explored controversial topics with complete honesty) could be a detriment to that. It made sense to me, and without warning I made my blog private (essentially shutting it down) and quit posting.
As the months went on I really missed posting, and considered a host of different possible “professional” blog ideas. On a daily basis I typically study math, programming, general machine learning, and in particular “AI”/deep learning/neural networks (all different names currently used in the media for a particular variation of machine learning algorithms called Neural Networks). I considered doing a specialized blog showing off and explaining deep learning projects that I build, but that would mean that all of the philosophy/life altering ideas would remain internal, and just as important the audience that I primarily write for (my family and friends) would be left out.
It’s been a nagging thought in my mind: do I stop ignoring this group of people who tell me that my blog helped them on a regular basis, or do I want to minimize any potential damage that a radically honest blog could do to my career? After recently spending a weekend visiting Los Angeles and getting asked what books I’m reading, how I taught myself the most current Deep Learning frameworks, podcasts I enjoyed, if I meditate, a simple investing plan, my favorite cologne/candles/coffee, etc. I realized there was a pent-up demand for this information to be distributed in a more scaled manner.
During the 6-hour drive back north to Mountain View I had a reflective experience about what am I trying to optimize my life for (spoiler: happiness), and what really matters to me. It hit me that I’m not willing to compromise on writing something that impacts a group of people I care about as well as myself, and to begin publishing my writing on a regular basis again. 95% of the previous incarnation of my blog was safe for any audience, and if I just passed on writing some of the random potentially controversial posts (religion, sexuality, etc.) I think anyone scrutinizing my online presence could benefit as well by learning far more about me than a resume could offer.
With that out of the way I’d like to give you a very abbreviated high-level summary of what I’ve done in my professional life, what I’m up to presently, and why.
Looking back at the through-line that connects my career (and even since I was child) I’ve been involved in competitive games that involve applied statistics, psychology, and game theory. A key component of everything that I’ve done is using it as a tool for learning, particularly about reality.
When I was a pre-teenager I played a nerdy card game called Magic The Gathering, but unlike my friends who would play me (but not for long as it became one-sided) hoping to get lucky, I learned probability & statistics (use the smallest deck of cards within the rules that made the probability of drawing the slightly better cards higher), studied early internet forums regarding the game, ran hours of simulations playing against myself in my room, and traveled the country playing in professional tournaments against the best (adult) players in the world.
In high school I suddenly realized that this game could be perceived as uncool (not knowing that everyone could care less and were occupied with thinking of themselves), and promptly acted as if I barely heard of the game. My attention shifted to something that I had a side interest in since childhood: the stock market.
I graduated college from the University of Michigan with a degree in Economics, and started a dream job in Chicago as an assistant at a proprietary equity options market making firm called Third Millennium Trading. At Third Millennium I had highs and lows just like any stretch in life, but I ended up rising the ranks co-running a small department and making a lot of money trading stock options.
I hit a ceiling though when I wanted to extend my stock options trading experience to other markets in the world as the company I worked for was understandably content just trading in the US. It didn’t make sense to me, and flush with money combined with the kind of overconfidence that comes from a 25-year old suddenly moving from a Section 8 studio to buying a condo with an Aston Martin to decorate the parking spot (it’s a hassle to drive in Chicago) I started my own company.
Pretty huge downs and ups again, including me literally contemplating my imminent life post bankruptcy, to everything coming back and more. Eventually after banks were regulated in 2009 to stop trading as well as the subsequent market crash the business had completely died off. I decided to try some new things. Throughout all of this I got to learn by experience what it was like to start a business, make/lose/spend large amounts of money, travel the world, and many other things that has taken me a long time to understand.
Over the next several years I went immersively into several different entrepreneurial careers in Los Angeles including film producing, a movie camera rental business, and opening what grew into a small chain of CrossFit gyms. I also got pretty good at playing poker on the side during this, but it always remained a hobby in the background even when the stakes became pretty serious.
Eventually the CrossFit gyms, the film camera business, and in particular my carefree LA lifestyle that I loved/hated became stagnant, and I slowly sold them, and quickly sold almost everything else I owned in my life. I took off for an indefinite travel sabbatical living nomadically around the world.
After months in Boulder, Bangkok, New Zealand, and Stockholm I realized I needed to do something outside of my writing hobby. I recognized the money and hedonistic fueled ambitions of my 20’s had faded, but I still had the energy to reinvent myself into something new. I consulted with my brother and others, read a ton, and finally committed to the field that I had recommended to so many others over the years while being scared/lazy to take my own advice: technology.
I wanted something that would grow and change with me for as long as I wanted. I didn’t want to master one niche and sit there optimizing the last 1%; the learning should be continuous and nearly infinite so I wouldn’t have to career hop and reinvent myself again if I didn’t want to.
For me the only way to really do this was to actually becoming technically proficient. I had several start and stop attempts to learn programming in the past, but this time something changed and I was able to get over the hours of daily failure, and finally taste the morsels of success that come when things finally start to work. Over the months I knew I didn’t just want to get hired as a mechanic to fix/build other people’s websites, and I discovered Data Science & Machine Learning.
This field (ML is a subset of Artificial Intelligence) combined my previous education of applied statistics and games to using computer programs to solve problems for you. The inertia and work to get to a beginner level at the moment is tremendous, but you’re rewarded with an understanding of how the world, and in particular the future works. It’s renewed my interest in learning the basic Math that slipped through my educational cracks, as well as science, and the deep life philosophical questions.
My plans are to get a job in the field (and I just stuck my toe in the water with two prestigious institutions making it to the final round with each), and it will be interesting to see where I end up.
That was a long-winded way to discuss my past and what’s going on right now, but there are many practical things that I’m thinking about, reading, consuming, etc. that I look forward to sharing with this blog. I’ve also created separate sections that I’ll be slowly populating regarding books and other things I like for reference.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I would like to leave you with a quote from a spiritual guy I’ve been reading some of lately nicknamed Osho:
“When you are different the whole world is different. It is not a question of creating a different world. It is only a question of creating a different you.”