Benefits of Not Being Productive

I never read about the benefits coming from hours spent surfing the web, hanging out late at parties, and various other things that are mostly a distraction from life.  The reward/wasted life ratio is so small, yet how do you quantify the value of major life insights that you occasionally stumble upon through this?


I’m guiltier than anyone of churning through precious life-time on sports news, Youtube, and loitering at the gym after training.  Through procrastination activities though, I’ve come upon some of my biggest life changes.  Maybe not through the sports news though.


A few years ago when I flirted with getting back into the mainstream working world in Silicon Valley I had a related breakthrough.  At the time I was studying from morning until night with a growing sense that I wasn’t prepared, and never would be prepared. I felt “behind” as I didn’t have the undergrad computer science background and brainteaser proficiency that many of the Machine Learning Engineer jobs I was applying for interviewed me on.  I could do the actual Machine Learning work, better in fact than most people I knew, but oddly the requisite skills to get into the big companies had nothing to do with proficiency in the real work I would be doing.  


I stopped going out socially, stopped doing anything fun, started working out less, and slowly cut everything besides sleep to make time for prep.  I still never felt like I was catching up, and my online job applications were met with automated rejections, or even worse, silence. I was burning out cramming for these interviews that I wasn’t even getting, and wondering why I chose this life path.  One day I very reluctantly decided to take a day off, and re-asses.  With the aid of a psychedelic (my brain wasn’t going to leave work mode otherwise, and I was hoping to enhance my creative thinking) I was able to step out of my daily grind and realize that not only was this mental prison of me being “behind” fictitious and self-created, but also that I’m a social person wasting away indoors applying for jobs online when I knew that was statistically a terrible way to get a job.  That weekend I went to a concert with a friend, started socializing again, and all of a sudden I had interviews set up through acquaintances at Google and Twitter.  I made it to the final round of both, but fortunately (although I wasn’t happy about it at the time) they passed and I was forced to turn my crypto trading hobby into a real venture.  I actually wasn’t even trying to network or job hunt when I started being social again, but people came to me, and I had multiple other interview offers that I turned down once I realized how enjoyable it was getting back into trading.


What got me thinking about this is that I was at the gym a few days ago, hanging out after class a little upset with myself for not getting back home faster to start work (which I’ve been doing more of lately), and a random conversation about nutrition that I should have never had blew my mind.  I’m still in the experimentation phase with a new diet approach, but I went from eating a mostly vegetable (and increasingly carb-heavy) diet that wasn’t working very well for me, to strictly protein and fat (carnivore diet).  I’m not sure how good it will be, if I will stick with it, etc., but I like the counterintuitive results I’ve read about and am experiencing so far.  


Most of my weeks are micro-tweaks of whatever I was doing the previous week, but a few times a year I have ideas/things to try that have the potential to change my life.  Some of the ones I’ve had this year are the chance encounter of eating at this gymnastics gym and discovering calisthenics (finding a replacement after a decade of CrossFit), getting the motivation to finally do a major renovation of my trading operation via incorporating heavy Machine Learning, and hopefully now this carnivore diet.  I’ve had some smaller ones too along the year, but these ones have changed my fundamental daily life.  


I wouldn’t want to stumble upon life-changing things daily, because at some point that would mean I’m floundering around too much, but there are still plenty of areas where I could make radical improvements.  I hope someday to humblebrag about my new beautiful meditation practice that has allowed me to effortlessly become enlightened… but I’m not there yet.


I guess my roundabout point to this blog is that the curation of new ideas doesn’t happen without some free time or socializing.  I’ve been starting some big projects lately, and there is the temptation to turn off everything in life until they are done, but I have to remember some of my biggest ideas come when I give myself some time mental time off.  


With that I’m going to feel productive for finishing this blog, and get back to the machine learning.  Leaving you with a pic of the sky here in Bali.



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