Tuesday, February 27, 2018

How Much Money Do You Need?

How much money do you need to retire? To live the life of your dreams? No really. Like give me an actual number of dollars.

I'm guessing the majority of people haven't really thought about this. It is just an estimate of course, one that has to be a bit fuzzy. But many people's initial estimate will be way over or way under their revised estimate once they've taken the time to write down a few things they want in life (a 2 bedroom house in California, a BMW M5, take a 2 week vacation to a different country twice a year, etc). A lifestyle like that will probably be around $2 million, but not $10 million or $100 million. Those are very significantly different numbers. Most people who haven't thought about it probably aren't within $1 million of their desired lifestyle. This is a huge problem.

The reason that this is a huge problem is that the amount of money you need drastically changes your lifestyle. If you don't desire an expensive lifestyle and can manage off of 25k per year you can safely (remind me to do another post about this assumption and its risks) retire when you hit 625k. Many families spend maybe 40k a year, which means they can retire and live off investments at the  $1 million mark. On the other hand if you truly do need a lifestyle that requires $10 million dollars then you are not going to get there working even a cushy software engineer job making $100k+/year. Your strategy must be completely different.

Thus if you haven't already, take the time to write down your expected lifestyle and calculate how much that might cost you a year. Go ahead and add in some buffer. Obviously its an estimate and subject to change, however its usually pretty close to the real number because people tend to not change their lifestyle and spending habits significantly.

Its possible too that if you put down something like "I want to ride a motorcycle across SouthEast Asia for a month", your research might tell you that it is significantly cheaper than you originally thought.

Its just a first step but a really important one. You'll be able to understand your life (and financial) goals and tell roughly if you are on track.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Millenials Are Alright

I really like the Millennial attitude. At least what I perceive to be the Millennial attitude based on my personal interactions with millennials. Millennial's are more inclined to not trust the old systems in place. Older folks might say "you must do A then B to get to C". But I think the Millennial's attitude these days is to try to get to C right away. When I was traveling I was amazed at how creative the young folks were. They were determined to continue their travels and would do all sorts of odd jobs or hitchhike or navigate hard to get to regions themselves. So much energy and not afraid to chase dreams. They grew up in a time where there is amazing opportunity and have learned to take advantage. Why wouldn't you go straight to C if the technology and opportunity changed to make it possible?

At the same time, because of the seemingly limitless opportunities around, I think its easy for them to get distracted. Too easy for them to get sucked in by the latest app or feel lonely from being connected but not really.  But that's okay, they are in a better mindset overall to take advantage of our new reality. I see them as more evolved to the new world than the older folks like myself. I think I have some outdated thoughts left around from the industrial age of my parents: go to a 4 year grad school, write a detailed business plan before starting, stay at a job, work hard and progress slowly each year and retire at 65. These ideas are probably on their way out and its this younger group that will recognize this first. Our world is moving fast, and we either adapt or get left in the dust. There's surely a lot to pick on about millennials, but rather than that, the smart crowd should be taking notes.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Consistency is key

I was just listening to Tobias van Schneider on the Indie Hackers podcast (if you are an entrepreneur or want to get into it I so much recommend this podcast). In it he talks about building a big following to his mailing list. Although his content was good, he talks about how consistency is so important. He sent out a weekly email and if he even skipped one week it was almost like starting over because he'd notice a huge drop-off the next week. He said that his readers appreciated him taking the effort to show up every week. And because he did show up nearly each week, it kept the conversation going and his email list grew. Its like going to the gym;  going once every two weeks and doing a 6 hour intense workout is not as good as going every other day and just doing a 45 minute workout.

I had a good laugh when he said something like "oh some weeks I didn't feel it but I just started writing even if it is something like I'm writing now, oh here are some words." I'm not sure if he meant this literally and if he actually sent an email like that, but it was funny to hear because I know the feeling and yes I did literally write a post that way.

Hey, I don't get paid for this blog, I just do it mainly for fun. Sometimes there's going to be shit but I hope to sometimes stumble on some gold to share with myself and any readers out there. Tim Ferris once mentioned that the bad writing is required to get to the good stuff. Its just that most of the time you should throw the bad stuff.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Near Misses

In Elon Musk's biography, Elon reflects on his rough childhood. He would get beat up by bullies daily.  One time even his best friend lured him out of hiding so a gang could beat him up. Then when he went home he would go to an abusive father. He actually described his dad of committing "almost any crime you can think of. Almost every evil thing you could possibly think of, he has done."

Malcolm Gladwell in his book David and Goliath talks about the idea of "near misses." During the second world war, Germany was doing bombing runs on London. The idea was that if they kept up the bombing, the moral of the Londoners would sink and they would flee and not support the war efforts. Even though there were hundreds of thousands of casualties, the exact opposite happened. People actually got more confident about themselves and support for the war grew. Malcolm calls this human psychology a near miss. If you have gone through a terrible event and survived, you start to gain a feeling of invulnerability.

It turns out that not everyone reacts to a near miss the same way. Depending on the experience some turn out scared, embarrassed, and this causes them to be worse off. But, for others, it leads them the opposite way, pushing them to heights. Malcolm goes on to talk about why a huge number of successful people (Richard Branson, Tom Cruise, Magic Johnson, Steven Spielberg, Picasso, etc.) have dyslexia and flips our perspective: They are not successful despite their disability, they are successful because of it. 

So yes I would definitely categorize Musk and a near miss as well. He is successful in a large part because of all the hardship he had to go through.  The book even states that he is sad that his children won't have the opportunity to experience the pain that he went through.

So look at the pain and adversity that you have gone through in the past and appreciate all the lessons you went through and how that has made you the person you are today. Also look at your struggles today and be thankful you have them. You can't become the greater you without them.

Monday, February 19, 2018

One Rep

People actually don't have a problem doing work. They actually have a problem starting. That means when you are procrastinating, you can think of it like you are delaying the start of work rather than delaying the work itself. Why is this true? I think its related because once you gain motion, once you gain momentum, that momentum will drive you forward to complete the task. In some cases it becomes harder to stop doing the task than to keep going forward.

This is actually good news because it means that instead of solving the problem of how we can complete an entire task, we just need to solve the problem of getting started; a much simpler (but not easy 😀) problem. Mel Robbin's 5 second rule (video below) is a good way to tackle this.


My own technique was when I go to the gym, I try not to convince myself that I am going to do a full body workout. Just thinking about all the exercises is exhausting. Instead I've convinced myself that I will just go in there and do some bench press. That's it. But of course once I'm in the gym and handle one exercise, I'm ready to roll and look around for the next thing to do, eventually getting around to a decent workout. So all I had to do to get started was to lower my expectations of the task to a minimum of 1 exercise. But now that I think of it, this can go even smaller. Maybe all I need to start is to get into the car. I'm not going to turn around once I'm leaving the house. Or maybe as small as putting on my gym clothes. Once I have my gym shirt on am I really going to take it off and not go?  Very slight change of habits can really lead to big things. I've combined the technique of just writing one sentence and having my blog already open in a sticky tab in my browser. Its working so far.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Switch off of Java

Back when I was looking for a software development job I had decided I was going to switch tech stacks from Java to something like Go or Ruby and do coding interviews with those languages even though they weren't my strongest language. A mentor of mine had given me some advice that it really wasn't worth doing. I should stay with Java and instead work on data structures and algorithms.  This would get me a job at a top company like Google or Facebook. I would still play with other tech/languages a bit on my free time but I took the advice and focused instead on Java while heavily focusing on  data structures and algorithms.

Some companies, especially the larger ones will interview you in almost any language and just want to see if you have the core Computer Science concepts down. They don't really care what language you use.  Data Structures and algorithms are obviously important, but this doesn't mean you shouldn't invest the time to switch languages.

Well I never made it back to a software development job because I changed course. But during my travels I did end up talking to a different guru (former Google engineer, started successful company) who gave me some different advice. Generally younger, more forward thinking companies start their tech with newer languages and technology. The culture, the type of coworker that I would have would be different. I'd probably like my coworkers better and like the company better.

It takes a lot of effort to learn a new language but this doesn't often times lead directly to higher pay. Thus, people don't do it. Java shops tend to have and older crowd since Java was the hot new thing back in the day. These days maybe Golang, Erlang, Kotlin, etc. Its amazing to think that for many young software engineers, these will be their first language. Some Java folks will try them out but many will not have the motivation to do so (hey after all Java is still the #1 used programming language). But if you are looking for extraordinary, it may be worth avoiding the laggards (majority) and stay with the early adopters.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Trigger Words

Your self talk is awfully important. What you tell yourself internally determines how you experience the external world. You can unknowingly create limiting beliefs based on just your choice of words. I've developed a list of "trigger" words (phrases) over a period of time. I review the list every so often so whenever I hear it, it immediately signals my brain to perk up and correct the issue. If it is myself I correct it immediately. If it is a friend, I'll politely point it out to them.

My personal Trigger Words list


Phrase: "It doesn't make any sense" / "what he is doing doesn't make any sense"
Meaning: Actually it does make sense. Everything in the universe makes sense. Even humans.
Use Instead: If you hear this you can immediately tack on ", to me." to the sentence: "It doesn't make any sense, to me."

Phrase: "I'm too busy" / "I don't have time"
Meaning:  Its not a priority
Use Instead:  Use "its not a priority". You will never have more time, you only get the 24 hours a day. If you really wanted to do the thing you are too busy for then you really need to reexamine your true priorities. But stop lying to yourself that you are to busy.

Phrase: "I should....."
Meaning: I should (but I probably won't)
Use Instead:  It's also not a priority if it was you wouldn't be using this language and procrastinating. People intend to do something will say "I will.." instead

Phrase: "You always..... You never.."
Meaning: These are examples of absolutes, often they are not true.
Use Instead:  Be careful about using absolutes. If you use them on other people it can be offensive. Instead try to say "when you do x, ... it makes me feel sad"

Phrase: "Only/just" as in "It's JUST a job." / "I'm ONLY going to have one cigarette."
Meaning:  "Only/just" is a way of making the what you are describing less significant.
Use Instead:  You need to catch yourself when you use these words and figure out why you used those choice of words. "It's JUST a job" might mean that you don't regard it as significant (and in my opinion means you should fine a job that you do care about). "I'm ONLY going to have one cigarette." is trying to justify a habit you know is bad by making it seem less significant.

Phrase: "I am  .... (a procrastinator/forgetful etc.)"
Meaning:  You are not a procrastinator, you have a habit of procrastination.
Use Instead: if it is negative, avoid taking on the identity because you want to build a mindset of change. Use "I have a habit of..." instead.

Phrase: "I don't feel like...."
Meaning:  You are telling the truth.
Use Instead: But, whether you feel like it or not is not the point. Successful people do what they need to do regardless of how they feel. And then once they get going, get some momentum... magically they start feeling like it.

Phrase: "Diet" / "I'm on a diet"
Meaning: People who make real change do not use "diet". A "diet" usually signals a temporary change, and then once its done the unhealthy eating continues.
Use Instead: I'm someone on a lifetime commitment to health. I never say "diet". I can see it used externally to get out of eating something unhealthy if it is offered but be careful if you are on a "diet" to lose weight.

Phrase: "That's interesting"
Meaning:  I'm bored out of my mind.
Use Instead: If I hear someone say "That's interesting", I change the topic right away. No they are not interested in what I am saying. They are just being polite. People who are really interested will never say "That's interesting" without some sort of followup. Even if I am bored, I avoid using the "That's interesting" phrase completely. There are so many adjectives, can we use something other than "interesting" which doesn't have any real meaning?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Setting Up Rasberry Pi as a git server



I had a Raspberry Pi that I bought a long time ago when it just started getting some notice. It was used for a little bit as a media server but was quickly replaced by a PlayStation 3 for that purpose. Its been sitting in my drawer for years. I finally dug it out today as I needed a private local git server for upcoming projects. Everyone else is making robots and plant water-ers out of their pi's but this will do for now. 

My steps (very easy)
  1. I followed the setup at here. The first step is to download NOOBS(New Out Of Box Software. Alternatively you can just install Raspbian but NOOBS contains Raspbian and is easier to setup for beginners. Start the download first thing since it is 1.5GB. It took about 25 minutes to get it downloaded.
  2. I'm using Linux and went through the directions to format my SD card here, but in the end after I formatted I wasn't able to mount so I ended up using gparted instead to reformat the card into Fat32. Raspberry Pi doesn't recognize any other file format type.
  3. Plug in the SD card to the Raspberry Pi and start it up. Select Raspbian from the menu and install. This will take awhile.
  4. When it boots up put on finishing touches of booting to CLI and turning on ssh. (My Pi is the original Model B without wifi so I'll leave it plugged in to a ethernet cable in a different room). 
  5. Then its pretty standard to install git 
    1. sudo apt-get update
    2. sudo-apt-get upgrade
    3. reboot
    4. sudo apt-get install git-core
  6. That's pretty much it. You can start setting up repos.
To do that 

ssh to git@raspberrypi

mkdir 'repo.git'

Back on the laptop:

 git init
 git remote add origin git@raspberrypi:/home/git/repo.git





Sunday, February 11, 2018

Slipstream Time Hacking

I was just reading this book called Slipstream Time Hacking (free on a Kindle) which really changes how I see my time. See, due to the theory of relativity (stay with me), time is actually not a measure of, well time, but instead a measure of distance. If you were to go to another planet that was moving faster, time would be moving slower relative to the Earth. On that planet you wouldn't even notice, but if you came back to Earth, everything would be futuristic. Thus the idea that you can make time slower by moving faster (covering more distance).

The next takeaway is that we are all moving at different speeds here on Earth. Or time is moving faster or slower based on how fast we are moving towards our goals. Say two people have a goal to retire, someone doing it at 30 vs. someone doing it at 60.  The former is moving twice as fast as the later. Considering the average american takes about 10 days of vacation each year, someone taking 8 months off to travel has basically experienced 24 years of vacation. These are contrived examples of course to illustrate the point, many of them make sacrifices to goals in other areas of life. But I do look at my 2017 where I spent 8 months traveling and time here deeply involved in my best friends wedding. I was having so much fun and made countless memories. In order to slow down time you need to enjoy it more and create more "best parts".
Compacting the largest amount of life into the briefest timeframe is how moments are remembered and time is dilated in relation to others.
Wormholes where you can basically move large distances and time travel. Where you move from point A to B almost instantaneously. Some examples might be winning the lottery, marrying rich, bypassing levels at a job, starting a company that allows you to retire early, not putting off goals and doing them them significantly earlier than anticipated. If you had planned to visit Hawaii in 15 years and reset that goal to manage it in 1 year, then that would be considered a wormhole. Some of the examples I mentioned above require a lot of luck, but most just require you shortening the deadline significantly and moving towards your goals.


My own answers to a exercise in the book:

Where am I going? What are you working toward?

I'm on my way to become an entrepreneur. This is fun, exciting, and will give me the FI lifestyle that I dream

Where is the destination your daily decisions will take you?


Right now I am solidifying my habits. I will be eating healthy, working out, a beast physically. I will have minimal waste of time. Financially independent and a good writer. An entrepreneur who has built and failed and multitudes of projects

How long before I get there?


I'm on a 12 project in 12 months plan. I can work from different places in the world almost immediately. I should be moving within 3 months.

How fast could you get there?


Right now 12 months, but that could be quicker if I found a slipstream.

Are there other paths that could get you there faster?


To reach monetary goals, a different style of slipstream, but working at a day job that is highly enjoyable and gives creativity and autonomy could get me there in a couple years. But as far as enjoyment, no, the other slipstreams don't quite feel as appealing.

What wormholes are within your reach?


Connecting with the right resources, working together with someone with solid startup experience.

How far into the future could you slip?


I'd probably be able to do away with the year and work on something immediately. It'd likely be more successful so I would be maybe a 10 years ahead.

If you were to get there tomorrow, where would you go next?


I'd work on certain "way I want to see the world" projects

Friday, February 9, 2018

Learn Language the Hard Way

I've been learning Mandarin over the past 6 months and just had a thought. All of the apps that I use to learn language make it incredibly easy to learn. My Pleco dictionary makes it so I can click on any word on a web page and it will lookup the definition instantly. My Du Reader app lets me read a story/article in minutes. If I don't know a word I just click on it and get the definition, even a recorded pronunciation. My AnkiDroid Flashcard app does "spaced repetition" and I can scroll through a deck of words on the fly. But I sometimes wonder if this convenience is making it HARDER to learn.

For non-millennials like myself, there was a time before cellphones. Our house had a single landline phone that was shared between the family. If you were upstairs you had to rush downstairs near the kitchen to pick up the phone. We had a post board where we stuck index cards listing various friends and remote family's phone numbers. But for your close friends you never needed it. Because you called them all the time and had it embedded in your brain. Millenials these days don't know any of their friends phone numbers. Even I don't know anyone's phone number anymore; although I can still recall some of my friend's old house numbers.  What changed? Well the technology of smartphones made it so that we don't even have to look at the phone number anymore. We aren't forced to engage with it. The technology makes it easy for us to forget.

For learning languages I feel the same sort of thing is happening. The fast repetition and lookup learning strategy of Duolingo, digital flash cards, and digital dictionaries cause us to not engage the same way as before. I think the theory is that it might be that it is too easy, causing our brain to not work as hard. And if our brain doesn't work as hard then that information doesn't get deeply stored. But I don't think its the apps fault, its how we use it. Quick (spaced) repetition has worked for me, but often times I find myself repeating the same words over and over again. Then I find it useful to switch to a deeper learning strategy that forces me to work and not be lazy. Like saying/writing the word out in a sentence, or doing  mental image associations. These are meant to engage the brain in different ways, possible making it harder, but making a deeper more lasting connection. At least in personal experience language learning seems almost like working out your body in that the harder you work, the more benefits you get. Or maybe generalized further: the more you put in, the more you get out.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Phone Home Screen and Habits



As James clear reminds us in this video, our environment effects our habits. He has an example of a group of scientists that just rearranged the setting of an office kitchen which accounted for a significant decrease in drinking soda. It turns out that the previous arrangement just offered more opportunities to drink soda. Many times the workers didn't actually want to drink soda, but they would grab one anyway since it was offered to them.

With all the talk about us getting distracted with our cellphones. How can we use this information for our benefit?


  • We could remove apps (such as social media) from the home screen so that it is offered less. If you really needed it you just need to swipe over and find the app but you'd be surprised.
  • We could put the apps that we want to use (language app, or writing app) on the home screen where we are more likely to see.
  • We can change settings on notifications (maybe app specific) so that we are less likely to get distracted.
  • If we are really serious we could uninstall time sink apps.
Anything else?