I don’t like making New Year’s resolutions. I prefer to continually set and work towards goals so that I’m always improving myself in some way. Therefore, I feel like making special goals just for the new year is redundant. I also find it difficult to accurately scope new years resolutions– what kind of goals should I set to last me exactly a year? Still, my process has its own set of flaws. I have a lot of goals that pile up over time and, since this is a pretty freeform approach to goal setting and I’m pretty fickle, I have too much flexibility to jump between and abandon my goals at any moment. So, after being inspired by this Hacker News thread, I’ve decided to write down some general themes that I’m going to focus on in the coming year.

Play more

In college, I’ve spent who knows how much time learning algorithms and operating systems and have done more technical interview practice problems than I care to count. The learning I’ve done in college has been immensely valuable and has benefitted me greatly. Still, I feel that the learning I did back in high school, when I treated programming as more of a hobby than a core career skill, was more joyous and rewarding. Back then I learned things because I was curious and because it was fun, not because I thought it would maximize my chances in the job market. High school was when I first learned JavaScript, Python web development, and how to use the shell. It was when I tricked out my developer environment with custom color schemes for my text editors and Oh my Zsh. It was when I learned the skills covered in the Missing Semester.

In the past couple of years, I’ve been focusing so much on school, clubs, and looking for internships that I’ve stagnated in other dimensions that I care about. I haven’t worked on side projects since 2018, nor have I written a real blog post since December 20171. To put it bluntly, 2019 was a pretty dry year for me in terms of creativity.

This year, I’m going to play more. I’m going to work on side projects and write blog posts. I’m going to learn, pursue ideas, and build things just for the hell of it2, not just because it makes sense from a short term, career cost-benefit analysis. I’m going to accept that what I build will probably be mediocre on the off chance that I build something really awesome. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up on the front page of HN again3.

Things are looking good on this front so far! I’m working on a small project with a friend and spent a good amount of time tinkering with this blog. Let’s hope I keep it up.

Stay honest

I’m going to continue to be honest with myself and others. This includes holding myself accountable when I mess up or don’t stick to my goals (and I surely will at some point) and ensuring that I remain introspective and humble. It also includes thinking deeply about what my values are and how well my actions align with those values.

The reason why I’m going to focus on this, even though it seems commonsensical, is because I don’t want to stop growing. It’s way more emotionally convenient to think that you’re doing well (even if you could be doing better) and not work as hard as you should be. Lying to yourself can only hurt you and stall your growth.

Being honest with others is just as important as being honest with yourself. Honesty is just better, both morally and pragmatically. It’s the right thing to do and involves less work and mental overhead than spinning up lies that you have to keep track of. It also helps keep yourself accountable because it’s easier to be honest with yourself when you’re honest with others.

Write more

Writing is thinking (at least, that’s what a lot of people seem to say). This is a cliche, but most cliches are cliches because they are true. Writing helps me formulate my thoughts more rigorously by making me explicitly articulate my assumptions and reasoning. The pursuit of good writing style also forces me to distill my thoughts into their simplest form and eliminate repetition and redundancy.

Going forward, I plan on writing more, both here and on Twitter. This blog will serve as a somewhat permanent and authoritative record of my thoughts, musings, and creations. I hope that writing will help me both refine and reaffirm4 my thoughts and opinions and serve as a sort of meditative activity that will make me a clearer and broader thinker.

Conclusion

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that is your own self.” - Aldous Huxley

The most important thing I’ve learned in college is that the best bet you can make is on yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will? 2020 has been great so far. Let’s hope that the rest of it is filled with more growth, learning, and happiness.


  1. As We May Think doesn’t count because it was an adapted school reading response. 

  2. In other words, I’ll aim to have a bias for action – more of a “screw it, let’s do it” mentality.

    “If I had to condense the power of the marginal into one sentence it would be: just try hacking something together. That phrase draws in most threads I’ve mentioned here. Hacking something together means deciding what to do as you’re doing it, not a subordinate executing the vision of his boss. It implies the result won’t be pretty, because it will be made quickly out of inadequate materials. It may work, but it won’t be the sort of thing the eminent would want to put their name on. Something hacked together means something that barely solves the problem, or maybe doesn’t solve the problem at all, but another you discovered en route. But that’s ok, because the main value of that initial version is not the thing itself, but what it leads to. Insiders who daren’t walk through the mud in their nice clothes will never make it to the solid ground on the other side.” - Paul Graham 

  3. Last (and first) time: this 2017 HN Post that I’m very proud of. 

  4. I want to have stronger opinions, loosely held. In other words, I want my opinions to be strengthened by evidence and data, but I also want to be willing to change said opinions if I encounter new data that invalidates them.