Day 10,021

Today wasn’t particularly eventful. I started on one of the courses required for MIT’s bootcamp next month and did some planning for the trip, but nothing interesting to point out.

What I do want to point out though is that I am unsatisfied with how I am working these days. I am taking a lot of ownership at work and my strength in critical thinking and questioning the work we do has become more and more visible these days, both to me and my coworkers. However, I find that my work efficiency can be improved. I spend a lot of time juggling between different tasks and taking unnecessary breaks.

I previously experimented with setting clear weekly goals in my personal life and that worked out amazingly well. I want to revive that again both at work as well as personal life. For now, I did make very clear plans for work tomorrow. More planning, both personally and professionally, to come this weekend.

Day 10,020: The Flowtoys Jam

This evening I went to flowtoys, a company selling props/toys for flow art. I got exposed to flow art through Omar Shaker, and the fire jam I wrote about a few weeks ago was an inspiration for me to look into the dragon staff.

I did train a couple of times with my PVC Dragon staff, but today was my chance to try out a real dragon staff and see how that feels. The short answer is, it was incredible.

I jammed with the dragon staff for two hours. I got my chi roll nailed down, and I finally got to a state that I’d refer to as the “flow” state. Movements were smooth and swift, and in that state I feel very present, very calm, very relaxed, and living the best of the moment. It’s the combination of the flow, the music, and the presence all add up to a very meditative state. I can totally see this as an effective way to meditate.

Here’s a snippet of what I’ve been doing at the jam:

Dmitry was helpful enough to give me feedback, and I managed to bring Nick Pisarro from work as well (it’s his birthday!)

Day 10,020: More Action

Today at the Twitter revenue all-hands meeting I heard Wade Chambers, our VP of Engineering, say:

“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than think your way into a new way of acting.”

He said it very casually, but it was a statement that really resonated with me and I want to reflect on that here.

First, I traced back this quote. It goes back to Jerry Sternin in his book “The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems”.

I mentioned in several posts before that my top priority lately is establishing a vision for myself, perhaps in a similar way to what Dobromir did where he wrote down life goals that he wants to achieve as far out into the future as 2030.

While I have been reflecting on that, my process was still quite passive. I am, essentially, thinking my way into a new way of acting. What I really need is to act my way into a new way of thinking.

In hindsight, I started doing some of that already, but I need to do more. The biohacking I did in NYC and a lot of the side projects I have been doing, while mostly for leisure, can be considered a way of acting.

Getting into MIT’s entrepreneurship bootcamp is a big step in that direction as well. I took action by reaching out to them, I have action items now to study four MOOCs in the next month before flying out to the bootcamp in Australia. And, I am hoping that the bootcamp itself inspires more action.

Action, guided by a little bit of reflection, is what I need. Let’s do more of that, please.

Admitted to MIT’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp

I had an interview today with Rodrigo Macias for the possibility of joining the MIT Entrepreneurship Bootcamp happening in Brisbane this year. Rodrigo was a great interviewer to speak with. I was delighted when he told me that he would make a recommendation for me to get accepted into the bootcamp. And, indeed, later in the afternoon I received the acceptance letter from MIT!

To get the most out of this experience, this bootcamp is going to be a lot of work and I expect sleepless nights ahead. I already have three MOOCs that I need to finish before the bootcamp starts in a month’s time. It’s a lot of work, but I look forward to being stretched!

I was unfortunately not offered a scholarship, but they brought that to my attention in a very skillful way:

We considered your application for a scholarship. Each year a limited number of applicants are shortlisted for scholarships based on merit. Unfortunately we will not be able to offer you a scholarship to attend the MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. Past scholarship recipients include  a researcher who developed a cancer diagnostic lab on a chip, a co-­founder who sought to reduce preventable deaths by creating the country’s first blood supply chain information system, an engineer who wanted to bring clean water to every home in developing countries.

Yes, them highlighting the bar for who’s eligible for a scholarship at least puts into perspective that I am clearly not in the same league as those people – at least for now.

Day 10,017 and 10,018

The past two days weren’t particularly eventful, and that bothers me. Nonetheless, here is a quick rundown of what’s been going on.

I did more training on the dragon staff. I got a lot more comfortable doing forward rolls and also started picking up the chi roll and reverse rolls, but they still need more work to be clean. Here’s a snippet of the latest practice round:

I went to Cat Club for an 80s party. My couchsurfer Johanna and I went to and 80s party. It was fun! I didn’t know most of the songs, but they were surely entertaining. It made me realize that I need to go to more parties. I have been seldom going to parties lately, especially those with this special vibe where it feels easy to talk and mingle with people.

Johanna introduced me to the strudel. Johanna was sweet enough to be the chef today and introduced me to an Austrian dessert: The Strudel (yes, I am capitalizing the name to make it sound cool)

Had lunch with Mohamed Mawla in the Mission. We also walked around to see some of the graffiti alleys in the district. It’s been a really long time since I walked through these.

Did a major inbox cleanup.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow I have an interview for MIT’s entrepreneurship bootcamp. I hope it goes well!

Day 10,016: The Forest and the Flat Tire

It’s getting late, but today has been an enjoyable one. This weekend I have a couchsurfer, Johanna, who is super sweet. We were just hanging out right now in the kitchen enjoying some drinks and painting under black light.

Today I gathered Omar Fahmy, Abdelrahman Ghania, and Johanna to go out for a trip. We ended up going to Henry Cowell State Park. It’s one of the Redwood Forests that I really enjoy. I’ve been there once before last July and had a great time.

We got there rather late, but that’s because I accidentally hit the pavement at a parking garage and had a flat time. It was an interesting experience getting it fixed. Luckily there was a garage nearby that helped us fix it.

I’ll keep this post brief since I am quite tired. A more productive day to come tomorrow.

Day 10,014: The PVC Dragon Staff

Today I decided to start pursuing my interest in the dragon staff. I got interested in the dragon staff ever since I joined that fire jam in Oakland a couple of weeks ago.

In case you don’t know what a dragon staff is, here’s a little video to show you what it’s all about:

A dragon staff though isn’t cheap. Dragon staffs can range up to $450 if you want a high quality one. I decided, instead of putting a lot of money up front on something I may potentially not like, to build a low-fidelity dragon staff and practice with it to see if it’s something I’d want to invest more in.

I ended up building my dragon staff out of PVC pipes from a local hardware store. It might not look sexy, but, hey, check out how much it cost me:

That’s right. It cost me $12 to build my dragon staff. And here it is:

I know it’s not the most sexy, but I can decorate so I don’t look like a plumber when I am walking around with it. I’ll be using it for a bit and, if I like it, I’ll invest in a nicer staff. I started learning today with some good progress! Here’s the forward roll that I just learned:

Day 10,013: Parkinson’s Law and Following Up

It’s now 3am and I am exhausted. I spent the last seven hours preparing a pitch deck as part of my application for the MIT Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, and it feels great to be done!

I wanted to highlight two learning from applying to the bootcamp so far:

1. Always follow up. I only knew of MIT’s bootcamp five days before the deadline and I scrambled an application together within four hours. Three weeks went by and I heard nothing. I assumed I got rejected, but then I thought, why not follow up with them and check on the status of my application. I did, and I was delighted with their response:

Back in business! This is why I spent this evening working on the pitch deck, and it was a very challenging yet enlightening thought process. This takes me to the second learning that I want to talk about.

2. Parkinson’s Law: This week was a clear example to me of Parkinson’s law in action. When I had one night to assemble a pitch deck, I did more progress on market and product research than the last three months combined. I now have a name for the product, a clear definition of the problem I am trying to solve, and I even pivoted on my approach of the product after some thinking and product research.

Spending a week with MIT at their bootcamp would be highly valuable for me, but it seems like, even in the case where it doesn’t work out, that I have already gained a lot out of it.

As an aside, I need to think of more ways to enforce Parkinson’s law in my life. I need pressure!

Day 10,011

Yesterday I had lunch with Sanjay. Sanjay, like Dobromir, is an engineer at TellApart/Twitter whom I highly regard and look up to as a mentor in various ways. Sanjay is one of the earliest employees at TellApart, and I met him back in 2011 when I first did my TellApart internship.

Sanjay is an example to me of how you can be a very impactful engineer, highly respected, and incredibly polite all at the same time.

The bulk of our conversation revolved around the revenue organization at Twitter and how we can help making it more efficient. On that note, we talked about the concept of multipliers and diminishers, a concept that I remember Wade referring to on several occasions.

He had a couple of book recommendations for me:

I admit I need to be more disciplined about my reading. I read through a lot of books, but it’s mostly undirected and I seldom finish them.

On another note, today I had a great workout. Rowing for 30 minutes, a 4-minute plank, and swimming for 20 minutes. I felt fabulous afterwards. I usually workout in the morning before work, but I will now experiment changing that.

Instead of working out -> work -> spend evening at events/side projects, I’ll instead work on side projects in the morning -> work -> work out + events/social life in the evening. I think that approach would work better for me.

Still no notable progress from that day on establishing a vision. However, yesterday I had this thought that the act of merely thinking may be insufficient. Instead, I am thinking of adopting what I call the “mindset of shippability”. I need to have clear deliverables for whatever I am thinking/doing.

Day 10,010

I know, I didn’t write yesterday. But, that was for good reason which I won’t be discussing publicly.

I spent the bulk of today and yesterday at the Developer Week 2017 Hackathon. This is the first hackathon I participate in in a while. I didn’t particularly go for the prizes, but rather to practice my discipline. I feel like focus is one of my weaknesses and a hackathon is a good way for me to practicing focusing on a single problem and producing results in a short period of time.

The hack I did was for the Sensel Morph trackpad. The challenge was to use it for authentication. I tried several approaches, but the one that ended up working was having the user overlay their fingertips on the trackpad. I can then look at the x and y coordinates of the fingertips to see if they match an authenticated user.

Here’s how it looks like in action:

And here is the source code: https://github.com/ielashi/sensel-auth

And now time for some مسقعة. Excuse me.