On Problem Solving and Not Giving Up

* This is a letter to my family.

I’m not sure if the internet we are using today in 2017 will still be the same by the time you are an adult, but because of the internet, you will be exposed to far more information and stimulants than a single person’s brain can process and handle. (Of course, let’s wait until some AI-leveraging tech for human brains get released!)

What this means is that you can get more distracted than focused, build a habit of consuming more while creating less, and critiquing more and acting less. You can spend your entire day on consuming content and talking about it, without actually making any impact or progress. Of course, a single line of comment on a popular news feed may have an impact — getting a few more likes for ego-boosting — but at the end of the day, the most precious resource you have is your energy, attention, and time, so make sure you save these for the important stuff.

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On Self-Esteem

* This is a letter to my family.

You should take care of your self-esteem. It is different from being merely confident. Self-esteem, backed by strong resilience, can take you far beyond what’s believed to be possible, over come difficult struggles in life, get through deep loneliness, find the right partners for your endeavors, avoid vanity social events, less influenced by external validations, and even rise from the ashes.

When you are running low on self-esteem, you will start acting the opposite of a good leader. You will blame things on other people or the environment. You will avoid conflict. You will seek attention. You will brag more. You will take shortcuts. You will deceive others and bend reality beyond what’s acceptible. You become more authoritative and look down on others. You will ultimately lose the respect of yourself and the others.

When you are yearning for more “Likes” on Facebook, seeking external validation and agreement from others to the extent that you are influenced by it more than it should, unless you are in the business of entertainment, be wary of these symptoms. You will need to replenish your self-esteem.

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On Life’s Framework

pruning

There are a few useful algorithms to help you make life’s decisions, especially around prioritization and pruning, and also the timing of it.

From my childhood days, my tendency was to make decisions quickly. I’ve never really felt much difficulty in picking my choices. It’s not because I was good at it, but probably due to a certain gene characteristics. These days, I try to estimate ‘when is the 30% stage of my information gathering before making the decision and acting on it?’ to use in my business decisions.

This is also a well-known problem in mathematics/computer science as ‘optimal stopping’ problem. A simple version of the answer is 37%. In regards to the number of options, tries, or the length of time, gather information (or explore) up to 37%, then select the best one that appears after that point. Then you will have about 37% chance of picking the best one. Of course, with different conditions (e.g. being able to revisit the choice), the % changes quite a bit, but the moral of the story is that there is only a limited time when you can gather information, and then you have to make a decision to get the highest chance to the optimum.

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The Accountability of a Leader

When I was young, I’ve fantasized about the Wall Street and its masculine bossy cultures. I’m not sure if I admired it, but it was fun to watch in the movies and I felt the catharsis of running a fast-paced organization full of workers doing homogeneous jobs, with the boss being the absolute best at it. Like those Chinese martial art movies where the teacher is the best martial artist in the country.

It became clear to me this was not always the case. In reality, the junior investment bankers stayed up late, crunched numbers, done researches and wrote reports, while their bosses went out to grab drinks and have fun. When the juniors got promoted, they too became like their bosses, reaping on high salary and bonuses while getting the new blood to serve them well. Deep inside, I’ve always felt this wasn’t really the kind of leader I respected nor wanted to become.

boss-vs-leader

When I worked for a tech company back in my early 20s, our team’s manager was an eccentric guy. He joked a lot, sounded silly from time to time, didn’t seem that intense or focused on work, felt like he was laid back most of the time.

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The Future of Life

I’ve been a strong advocate of the future of VR. Let’s assume we have a device that allows us to wear for a long period of time without motion sickness or sore-eyes, with full peripheral vision and good-enough input device to express ourselves virtually. It doesn’t have to provide full tactile feedback yet.

If we can do just two things: creating/adding value (what people call ‘work’) and having fun (what people call ‘consume’) in such VR-enabled world, it could disrupt a lot of industries and solve many of today’s problems as a side-effect.

Think about some of the high-level problems we face today: energy problems (mostly used by transportation and industrial usages), pollution and climate change, lack of adequate healthcare, unemployment, education inequality, diversity issues (racism, gender, etc.). If VR is done right, we can solve most of these problems pretty efficiently.

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Accelerating Self-growth

Ericsson’s work on deliberate practice has a meaningful implication on self-development. Becoming great at something takes more than mere hours spent on the task itself. Based on the work by Dr. Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory, intrapersonal intelligence helps with structuring one’s own deliberate practice programs.

Looking back at my pro-gaming days, I used to structure my practice into training different aspects of my play in a ‘divide and conquer’ manner — different trainings for each weapon, optimizing plays for a map’s each segments, map-wide navigational movements, vertical aiming, horizontal aiming, mouse analysis (spending over $10k in mouse collection!), system and key configurations, graphic settings, item regeneration timings, and the list goes on.

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Order and Chaos in a Company Culture

The society today upholds diversity as an absolute virtue. Diversity across educational backgrounds, race, ethnic group, gender, age is something we all pursue vigorously. It seems almost trivial to choose diversity over conformity or homogeneity in any discussion.

However, to put things into perspective, nature having evolved through millions, if not billions of years, may provide a slightly different view to this pro-diversity world. The balance and the timing of convergence and divergence play important roles in reaching the global optimum in any search space. The selection pressure from the environment acting as a converging force, offset by mutation from perturbation balancing as a diverging force are what make organisms so durable and adaptable to the ever-changing world we’re living in.

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CO2 Level and Unit Carbonomics

This scared me. I’m open to changes, but I also think a few million years of evolution has gotten human beings to be pretty good at surviving around the nature’s balancing point we have today.

We’ve been hearing about the rise of CO2 level for some time now, but I feel like we’ve actually gotten to a point where we may end up turning our planet into an inhabitable one. Living in the bay area, it’s hard to actually experience what it’s like to live in a harsh environment, but whenever I’m on a business trip to Korea/China, I definitely feel the air quality can and is killing lives already. The pollution is wide spread over a massive area and it’s very, very real.

Above and below photos of Seoul are only a few days apart. (September, 2016)

On a personal level, I’ve decided to become more electric (than fuel/coal powered) and donate more to the environmental conservation and climate changes (although I will continue to donate in education). I know what a bad environment looks like. I’ve lived there for many many years and it feels truly horrible not being able to see the stars in the sky or to simply walk around your house. You WILL miss this, something that we take for granted here in the U.S.

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New Jobs for VR Industry

I’m a big fan of VR. There’s a lot more things that need to be fixed before it becomes mainstream, but I can definitely see the value that will unlock for humankind in the distant future.

Here are few jobs I’d like to see for VR industry:

  • VR Schools/Teachers/Tutors: teachers that best leverage VR experience for learning
  • VR Trainers: a guided simulation of extreme sports, race cars, flight sims, martial arts for training
  • VR Real-Estate Agents: provides 3D tours of real-estates
  • VR Cafes: a place to hangout with friends supplemented with visual/aural experiences
  • VR Photographers: photographs nature and places in their real-scale through VR
  • VR Photo Studios: scans your face and body in 3D and give you a high-polygon model f yourself
  • VR Brands: creative products that you can harness in the VR that defies the limits of physics
  • VR Architects: 3D/nD space architects that also defies the limits of the real world
  • VR Pets: AI-powered pets that you can bring to any VR space
  • VR Artists: advanced form of media art that use spacial transitions

Can’t wait for the VR era to come. We’d still need to fix the display, audio, and input.

A Focused Culture

One thing I’ve noticed going through Y Combinator was how consistent were the messages repeated by the partners, the staffs, and the alumni network. As a startup founder, you should do two things: “write code and talk to users.” The more recent version is: “build product, talk to customers, and exercise” – which I think is a natural evolution, since YC funds a lot of non-software-only companies these days and the partners are getting a bit older. 😉

The entire message is around “Growth” and the way to get there is by writing code and talking to users. And stop doing anything else. Sounds simple, right?

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