2020 – celebrating humanity

we should start by acknowledging this year was tougher than most due to the COVID-19 pandemic. at a macro level, millions died – unemployment spiked – many events were canceled – lockdowns rippled throughout the world. everyone was forced to react daily to an unwelcoming reality. we got new words like “doomscrolling” and “Zooming” and “TikTok dance.”

i feel very fortunate for…

  • my cushy job… big tech was an industry that boomed rather than suffered due to the virus.
  • access to health care… i managed to test multiple times this year which opened up opportunities for travel and socializing.
  • none of my family or close friends caught the virus… people listened to the science and honored our social contracts.

here’s my abbreviated timeline:

  • Jan – Throwback ultimate frisbee tournament with BU alumni
  • Feb – housewarming party
  • Mar – got 4 chickens; the always-on Zoom call begins
  • Apr – ??? (lol, lost month due to lockdowns)
  • May – Power Hour Zoom with BU; Simone’s going-away party; Shawn’s going-away party
  • Jun – sister and her boyfriend joins my house quaranteam; BLM protests; KartRider crew starts up
  • Jul – camping trip in Montana with Fan, Minaqa, Jarod
  • Aug – hiked the Enchantments; traded MINI Cooper for Tesla Model Y; Kartik & Grumbles visited; evicted this scammer/squatter from my Bellevue apt; formed an investment LLC with the siblings
  • Sep – lakehouse in Maine; got 4 parakeets
  • Oct – Jarod, Shawn, Kyle visited for Halloween
  • Nov – studied for and failed Google interview
  • Dec – Boston to visit friends and family; got an iPhone

Some reflections:

  • Being judgmental and inflexible will generate unhappiness in your life. I realized how much my non-acceptance of situations and people led me to spiral into bitterness. It starts in the trivial things – like being annoyed that Fan didn’t clean up the kitchen – to consequential things like my coworkers not supporting my ideas. I watched this video on Taoism which really resonated: the faster/harder you try to move in water, the more effort you must exert; if you move slowly, you will still make change but with less effort. If we think about the “river of life,” the obvious suggestion is that you should go with the flow as much as possible. To force myself to be more adaptive and expand my perspective, I switched from Android to iPhone (after like a decade of Android). I learned to appreciate both platforms and can switch between the 2 easily now.
  • You have so much more potential than you think. Even with my growth mindset, I had settled into my rhythm as a software engineer. I was reading books but I had stopped pushing my intellectual limits. When a Google recruiter came calling, my ambition received a shock and I started trying hard again. (For those not in the know, Google is more prestigious and pays more than Microsoft.) In prep for the interview, I studied computer science (data structures, algorithms, and system design) for a month. The dedication to a singular pursuit was both frustrating and refreshing. I didn’t get the job but I did better than I expected. The experience reminded me that many paths are open to us if we keep our eyes open and are willing to put in the work. Special thanks to Fan, Brendan, and Shuang who supported me during this attempt.
  • In difficult times, you know who your true friends are. The people that reach out without an agenda. The people you spend hours on Zoom with. The people who patiently listen to your rants and explain why you shouldn’t act on whatever whim is on your mind at the moment. The people that are willing to take risks with you.
  • Leadership is about who cares the most. The leader of a team or group doesn’t have to be the “strongest” or “smartest.” Usually, it’s the person who most wants the team to be successful. Creating the correct culture is paramount for team cohesion, which then fuels collaboration and innovation. A popular phrase is “servant leader” – and I believe in that ideal. It’s fairly obvious to spot shitty leadership but less so competent leadership. When a team is working well, look closer to find out why. Who’s putting forth the cultural ideals? Who is starting the tough conversations? Who is ensuring every team member feels respected, included, and valued?

finally, here are some books i really enjoyed this year:

  • Vicki Robin – Your Money or Your Life
  • Kendi X. Ibram – How to be antiracist
  • Isabel Wilkerson – Caste
  • Tim Snyder – On Tyranny
  • Cal Newport – So Good They Can’t Ignore You

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