Next Steps, 2019 Edition
People have been asking me what I’m doing with my life, what my next steps are, where I’m going to be living, what my goals are, when I’m getting married, how many grandkids I’m going to have…. I wish I could tell them - because I sure as hell don’t know. Life’s really unpredictable. What I do have instead is a rough outline of what I hope to achieve over the next decade or so. Subject to change as I learn more about myself and the world - this post will be continuously updated and I hope to re-visit it every year or so. In some ways this is what I’ve been doing for a while privately with my goals - but I figure it might be a good time to make it public to better connect with others who might be interested in working together without requiring a caffeinated in-person spiel from me every time.
A little background #
Born to loving immigrant parents from Belarus who raised me in Sacramento, California. Enjoyed and did well enough in school but was generally more interested in reading books and learning things my way. Learned piano, picked up video editing, dabbled in mechatronics, and played a whole lotta video games. After discovering programming through modding Minecraft I realized you can get paid to program computers. Started running and lifting, cleaned up my diet, and began to take in interest in the world at large. Began pursuing my Computer Science degree at Sierra College and found myself at a startup. Joined as a founding engineer, dropped out of school, moved to New York City (see my post on moving away for why you should consider it too) and helped take the company from two engineers and a prototype to fourteen employees, several products, and a solid business model. Gained a ton of experience but eventually felt my rate of growth slowing at the company and came to the conclusion I should move on - so I did. During my time in NYC I also learned a lot about myself and what’s important to me, made a bunch of amazing friends, traveled with some of them, and enjoyed the hell out of the city.
I’ve spent the past few months hacking, hiking, reading, writing, enjoying long conversations, and generally thinking about what I want to do with my life. It’s been a wonderful time as it’s lent me some clarity on what I’m looking for as far as next steps go. Please note that by no means do I see this as set in stone; I expect 80% of this plan to change. But better some plan than none at all.
End Goal #
If I could boil my current life ambition down to a single sentence it’s to successfully combine my interests and skills to leave this world a better place than I found it. While the lines between skills, hobbies, and interests seem to grow blurrier by the month, a rough list includes: learning, working with others, programming, building products, cognitive science, research and reading, writing, hiking, conversing with people, exploring physics, virtual and augmented reality, engineering, psychology, running, nature, and artificial intelligence. I’ve explored only the tips of most of these icebergs and have so much more to learn and build. Some of these are extremely broad and with time I hope to focus them down with time, but ultimately I’m in not in a rush to specialize.
What does a better world look like? We’re all familiar with dismissing the concept of a utopia - but it might be more achievable than we think. A lot in society is either broken, or really broken. In my opinion the top issues (not exhaustive) include: lack of access to clean water and healthcare, climate change, human rights violations and abuses, broken immigration systems, ineffective education, environmental destruction, a lack of trust and transparency in our political systems, inefficient knowledge discovery, lack of accessible therapy, and animal rights abuses. Don’t mistake me for a pessimist though - the past few centuries of progress have done an incredible amount to alleviate the pains and struggles present throughout most of humanity’s past. Life today for the average person is safer, easier, and more fulfilling than at any point in history. If I were born 100 years ago it’s unlikely I would’ve been able to even think about these problems let alone try to do my part to solve any of them but somehow I got lucky enough to be able to do both. A good friend put it well: society should be scored by the least fortunate in that society. By that metric we’ve got a long way to go.
Remainder of 2019 #
I’ll be spending the rest of the year in New York City focused primarily on side projects and experiments while doing contracting work to pay the bills.
Benefits: an incredible social network, access to world-class institutions, networking opportunities, a thriving culture with delicious food, general city life benefits.
Drawbacks: high burn rate, pollution, noise, distractions, and difficult access to nature.
Right Away (1-2 years, 2020-2021) #
For the next year or two, I’m looking for an environment to really focus on my self-education while continuing my side projects and exploration without the daily distractions of a nine-to-five or having to work enough to pay for a city apartment (and all the other expenses that come with living in a city). Ideally, it will have:
- A lower cost of living than NYC.
- Reliable internet access and an ergonomic workstation (a standing desk, multiple monitors, whiteboards, and a workspace that isn’t my kitchen counter).
- Very close access to nature for hiking, swimming, and long walks. Mountains, lakes, and coasts are all great. Seeing the stars at night is a plus.
- No requirement for a daily vehicle or commuting.
- A community of interesting, motivated people nearby working on similar problems for collaboration, advice, ideas, and support.
I don’t know where exactly this will be yet, but I’m excited to figure it out!
Soon (3-5 years, 2022-2025) #
I’d love to be on the founding team of a startup again after exploring some of my own ideas and taking them as far as possible. The startup should be focused on tackling a problem in one of the following areas:
- Better access to information and dissemination of knowledge
- Cleaner energy production, energy efficiency, carbon sequestration
- Improved education, re-training
- Lowering cost of access to space
I’m comfortable working on small, highly effective teams dealing with a lot of unknowns - a given at most startups. An engineer at heart, I find it easy to relate to people, customers and team members alike. A fulfilling day has me flitting between fixing bugs, writing documentation, debating a technical solution on a whiteboard, working with clients to understand and resolve their challenges, drafting plans for a upcoming feature and of course dealing with the myriad of other things that come up and need to solved.
Less Soon (5-10 years, 2025-2030) #
Eventually I intend to run something between an independent R&D lab and a startup: providing the resources, connections, and support to a group of people much smarter than I to explore and attack some of the problems listed above without the bureaucracy of large organizations, short-sightedness of corporations, or politics of educational institutions. A pipe dream? Perhaps. We’ll see. I have no illusions about the magnitude and depth of all of these problems - but I can’t sit around and do nothing.
Along the way I’d like to enjoy life, see a bit more of this planet, get married, maybe have kids, bike across the country, visit a bunch of national parks, and write a book or two.
If you have advice, questions, criticisms or offers of collaboration - you can reach me via the listed means on my About page. I genuinely do look forward to hearing from you.