What should you be doing when you’re young? One resource that young people have over everyone else is time. Which means that whatever you do, do something that leverages time to your advantage.

One way to leverage is the snowball effect. The snowball effect is when you let a small snowball* roll down a mountain.The snowball gets bigger; slowly at first. But then it picks up on size which gives it more surface area. This in turn causes the ball to gain even more size. The gains compound into even bigger gains.

The younger you are, the higher you are on a mountain. Every day that passes, you get a little lower and in return makes the potential end result exponentially weaker. Every day that passes, you loosen your grip on the power of time. The sooner you begin to roll the snowball, the bigger it will be in the end.

What are snowballs though? Snowballs are skills that will stay relevant to you all your life. Everyone will have their own definition of a snowball. Writing, socializing, programming, playing the guitar, your athletic ability; these are all viable snowballs. But for everyone, it will be different. The only thing that anybody should be focusing on at a young age is which snowball they want to roll. The next thing they should do is to put razor focus onto it.

You can only focus on one ball at a time. If you switch your focus from a snowball, it doesn’t die, it just freezes in place until you put your focus back. So imagine you roll two balls down a mountain at the same time. You split the focus 50/50 and whenever you focus on one, the other is frozen in place. Compare the sizes at the end to someone who focused only on a single ball, and the difference will be tremendous. Much bigger than 2x the size, assuming the mountain is tall enough.

So choose your snowball wisely because if you keep changing your mind it will become weak in the end. But also choose quickly, you are getting lower on the mountain everyday. After you let go, keep putting your effort in. Allow the skill to flourish. Progress will probably look slow in the beginning, but just know that it’ll get bigger the longer you keep focusing. Just keep going until it gets fun to see how fast it’s growing.

*Snowballs probably don’t work this way in reality

Humans, Naturally

For the first nineteen years of my life I ate processed food almost every single day. From burgers to pho noodles to cereal to bread. Three months ago though, I made the decision to eat healthier. The topic of how to eat “healthy” is so debated that entire blogs are dedicated to it. I’ve whittled it down to the easiest saying : eat what our ancestors ate back in the days. People call it the “Paleo Diet”, but it’s really just eating what we were evolutionary evolved to eat. Within three months of adhering to this diet, I lost all of the pimples on my face, a surprising amount of body-fat, and I can even focus better on the current task at hand. And all of this came without any kind of calorie counting or restriction. I ate as much as I wanted whenever I felt like it (which was not often, due to foods being more satisfying). It just all felt so natural.

I’m not going to talk about eating habits though. What I realized is that living the way our ancestors did isn’t only better regarding how we eat, but it could be better on all the other aspects of our lives too. From the way we learn,  the way we work, to how we interact with each other.

Our ancestors didn’t learn in classrooms. They learned by doing. The elders guiding the younger ones as they hunted. They weren’t memorizing all kinds of random information. Let’s be straight honest, we all forget most of the stuff we learn in school. Why is that? Well, it’s because we weren’t programmed to learn that way. It sounds absolutely beautiful on paper, though. Sit down, listen to the teacher, take a test to make sure you learn, bada-bing bada-boom. We learn by doing, which is why you remember programming functions and syntax better when you try it, fail, then try again differently. You don’t remember it too well by reading a book.

Our ancestors didn’t have a 9-5 work schedule. They had tribes that were flexible, doing what was needed at the right times, not following a predetermined routine. Is that a reason why start-ups are more productive than companies? Because they are closer to their natural habitat? If you took a look at a start-up with 2-3 founders they probably behaved more like a small tribe than you think. Everyone having some sort of mutual respect for each other, working when they felt like working, constantly bouncing problems and ideas off of each other, and overcoming tough times together.  Just as someone learns better by doing and not memorizing, just as someone is better off health-wise eating what we were meant to eat instead of eating processed junk, maybe a company runs more efficiently if it acted more like a tribe instead of a machine-like group of people who essentially become cogs.

Since companies are getting smaller and smaller, a tribe-like group is becoming more possible. And the trend is starting to continue with start-ups offering unlimited vacation time off and a looser schedule. But it would be interesting to have a company try to follow the tribe guideline by allowing people to work anytime they wanted. This is already being done with companies allowing people to work from home, but then they lose out on being close to team members and the ability to constantly bounce ideas off each other. Another way could be by allowing employees full reign over when they get to show up at the office. This way people will only come in when it is optimal for the biological rhythm because not everyone works best during certain hours of the day.

Of course, this would require the company to only hire employees who 100% believe in their mission and are putting in the effort. Otherwise, people would just show up once in a while and mooch checks off the company. But this would be a win. Allow the employee to come in anytime they wanted, see how dedicated they are, remove the people who don’t really care (should be 10x easier to point these people out), and what you have left are the people who are only there because they want to be there. Another deciding factor is that the company would have to do this in a way where it is unassuming. If people knew that the company was measuring them by how often they come in, they would just show up as much as they think the company wants them to instead of showing up whenever they want to, defeating the purpose of a open schedule in the first place. All of this is up to the CEO to set the tone of the company, making sure that everyone knows that the company is there to meld into the lives of its employees instead of vice versa. If this is done correctly and is combined with ideas coming from everyone bouncing ideas off of each other and not from only the execs of the company, it would create the most optimal culture for a company to have.

The closer a group acts relative to the way human evolution dictates, the more efficient that group will be.


Walk Your Own Path

A cousin once told me a long time ago, “If I was your age I would be going for my passion and working my ass off”.

I always remembered this not because not for the meaning on the surface, but the meaning underneath. This statement allowed me to have a little glimpse of how my cousin viewed life. He’s older than me, but not that much older. He works a job that he hates. After this job he goes home to consume useless entertainment : tv, games, news disguised as productive information.

I slowly nodded my head in approval to try to get myself out of the conversation.

Maybe if I was a little braver I would’ve told him I think he’s full of it. What is stopping him from doing what he’s passionate about now? I don’t even know what he is passionate about and I’ve known him my whole life! His whole environment has made him a product of social conventions. Not doing what you like, but doing what everyone else thinks you should like. Not doing something too weird, because then people will think you are below them.

But I have no time to focus on his life. I, of all people, do not have the energy to worry about other peoples lives. I have my own life to fix. Once I looked at my own life, I realized I was in an extremely similar situation. I absolutely hate school. And yet, I mindlessly went to school just as my cousin mindlessly went to his job. I hate school so much I drank, partied, and even did drugs just to make it somewhat livable. I watched tv and web surfed for countless hours just as my cousin did, wasting hours away doing things that would not matter years from now… All those hours wasted…

I’m glad I didn’t say anything to my cousin because I had no right to.

So I stopped going to school. I stopped the drugs and the jägermeister. I stopped talking to people who were always pitying themselves, always blaming the world for their problems. I stopped throwing hours away to TV and reading irrelevant sites online. Hell, I even stopped eating fast food and began running and working out daily; it seems completely irrelevant, but I needed to build my self-discipline. I had to become extremely self-disciplined if I was to stop attending school;  temptations would be doubly tempting with all of my new found free-time.

While some families are having their first person to go to college, I am the first one not to go. Once my family found out about my decision, they were, unsurprisingly, unhappy about it. But so what? What if you went through your whole life making decisions everyone approved of? That life would not be your life, that would be the life your peers collectively approved of for you. I refuse to believe that that path is the best path for anybody to take.

Now What?

I scroll down my list of facebook friends and my list of friend statuses and I feel like we are living in different worlds. Every status about school, every picture about clubbing, every party that I miss reminds me of the difference between our paths. I’m not saying either path is the better path, that is completely up to the individual. I have been even more dedicated to programming than anything I did for school. I wasn’t working to impress an institution anymore, I was working for myself. And I believe anybody who works for themselves will always be more productive. It’s like if you take the mind of a fit person and put it inside the body of a person who doesn’t care about their health. I guarantee that the fit person will work his ass off to bring his physique back. Whereas the careless person doesn’t realize the position that he’s in right now. The only difference is how much they care. Care about your life. Realize that you can choose what you do.

Life isn’t easy right now. Some days I feel unsure, but those days don’t last long. The future is mysterious. But the only way to reach your potential is to do something you genuinely believe in. I think everyone would be surprised by what their potential truly is.

I love my cousin. He’s taught me a lot of things intentionally and unintentionally. I just don’t want to become like him. I want to choose my own path.

A lot of people right now are doing things they don’t want to do. If you don’t feel like the path you are walking on isn’t the right direction, take the one you feel is right. Even if that path has never been walked before. Hell, if you’re wrong, who cares. Just pick the next path and keep on walkin’. At least at the end of the day you chose where to go.


Didn’t Begin When I Was 12

I’m 18 years old. I started to really buckle down and learn programming 2 months ago. I feel I missed a huge opportunity because I didn’t start learning earlier in life. I was raised in a city that is far from all the start-up hype. None of my peers are even remotely interested in web-developing. And it’s not because I’ve been hanging with the wrong group either.

I have been interested in entrepreneurship for as long as I can remember though, with the mindset of finding co-founders that were technically proficient. This mindset came from lazy and naive parts of my thinking. Times are changing and I know that to have an impact on technology I have to acquire a deep knowledge of the web just to be relevant to my products and consumers.

Before I began to self-learn code, I kept reading about teenagers who have been programming on computers since they were 12. Or they have done something so amazing, they receive awards. And no doubt other non-technical teenagers like myself have also read about them too. This gave me a way of thinking that was negative and that I was too late. That my brain is too old to even absorb and process such a vast skill that is programming. A skill that could be interpreted in so many different ways and is not only about writing code.

But this thought is so ridiculous. I’m 18 years old. I started 2 months ago. There are many people who are in their 30′s right now trying to learn, and here I am feeling sorry for myself. This comes from the same vein of thoughts from my lazy and naive self, much like the thought that I could just find a technical co-founder and have an effect on people. And there is no doubt many other people out there in my same position.

Why We’re Going to be Alright

First, I don’t think programming is like a game of chess where if you started to study at the age of 18, you’re probably not going to become grand master. Or any kind of master really. Programming is much more in line with weight training (competition). Where the time you begin is only semi-relevant, but it is up to some kind of combination of natural ability and dedication and technique. With programming, I think it might be more weighted to dedication more than natural ability, although natural ability will have an effect on your ceiling-limit.

The people who began at a super early age started off having it as a hobby. Whenever they were bored they could fall back on coding for fun. Which then grew their interest in the subject (really important). But then comes middle school. And after that high school. Where most of the time you worry about the upcoming test or college admissions. For others, it will be that one girl or that upcoming party. They didn’t completely shun programming out of their life, but they didn’t have the time to nurture their knowledge either. Instead they left it as a hobby (still important).

People who start and are willing to devote a lot of time in it will be the ones who have the advantage. To be able to devote a lot of time, you have to have a lot of interest for the subject. Which is what I think the early learners have over everyone else. They have a genuine interest because they discovered it early and have been growing that interest ever since. But if you start wherever you are and are really passionate about it, then you aren’t really too far behind. This is what many people who are non-technical have to realize. If you are passionate about tech and love the fact that you are able to get inside your own world when you program, a world where the possibilities are endless and that you can create anything with your creativity as long as you pay the respect and time to learn the tools, then you should begin. No matter the age. The people with the least distractions, the most interest, and the most determined mind will be the ones who have talent. Not the ones who start the earliest (although the ones who start early are usually the ones with interest and happened to fall onto it).