Today, I spent about an hour reading Tim Urban’s take on why Elon Musk is able to do what he’s doing, in the article, The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce, on Wait But Why.

I love the way Tim described a human’s software — our beliefs and thinking processes — and how Elon uses his software like a scientist. (I’m biased since I’m a fan of Elon and the things he’s creating.)

Most human’s software

Human Software Partial

 

The overlap between what we want and what is possible (in terms of the world’s condition and our abilities) is where our possible goals are. We pick one or several goals and think of a strategy to achieve those goals.

Elon’s software

Human Software

Here’s how Elon uses his software like a scientist:

  • (Orange) By taking actions, he gets results and feedback, which allow him to adjust his strategy accordingly.
  • (Blue) By reflecting, he changes what he wants.
  • (Yellow) By learning new things and keeping up with a changing world, he improves his understanding of what’s possible.
  • (Red) As his goals changes with these feedback loops, he makes big life changes such as dropping out of Stanford to start an internet company.

Looking at the diagram above and reflecting on my life, I see several areas for improvement:

  1. Have a better understanding of my Want
  2. Learn faster to expand my Reality
  3. Get better at choosing my goals
  4. Act and reflect often to gain experience faster

Remember to remember

To end the article, Tim gave a great advice:

If we want to improve ourselves and move our way closer to the chef side of the spectrum, we have to remember to remember. We have to remember that we have software, not just hardware. We have to remember that reasoning is a skill and like any skill, you get better at it if you work on it. And we have to remember the cook/chef distinction, so we can notice when we’re being like one or the other.

(The cook/chef distinction is an analogy Tim used to explain the difference between how Elon thinks and how most people think. In his analogy, a chef is someone who invents recipes while a cook is someone who follows recipes.)

Remembering to remember is something I’m still working on. It’s great learning about such a framework but it only becomes useful when I remember to think and act according to the framework. I’m hoping that writing this post will help me remember this human software framework better and help me remember to be more mindful about the way I think and act.

What do you think about this human software framework? How do you make decisions in your life?

Image credit: Unsplash and Wait But Why


Vacation: A Way to Reflect on My Life from a Different Perspective

I’m writing this blog post on my way back to Singapore from the U.K. For the last two weeks, I was lucky to have travelled with my fiancé. We hiked in the Faroe Islands, caught up with close university friends in England, and explored Scotland.

The main purpose of this vacation is to spend some time with my fiancé, who’s in a medical school now. But the vacation also had a great, unintended benefit.

Being away from home and not following my usual routine, I had the opportunity to reflect on my life from a different perspective. It was like stepping outside of my life and re-examining my life from a third person’s perspective.

Vacation and reflection

Thinking back, I had a similar experience during my Taiwan vacation last December. I took a break from my triathlon training during the vacation, and I felt happier. I realised that I gradually lost interest in triathlon and the sessions were starting to feel like a chore. I made the decision to stop the coached program after the vacation and exercised only when I felt like it. Eventually, I started to enjoy swimming, cycling, and running again.

This time, my main reflection is on my attitude towards my personal development goals and side projects. In short, I felt I’m too easy on myself when I don’t achieve my goals.

Several things helped make reflecting easy and valuable.

1. Having a different routine (Or not having a routine)

My days during this break was starkly different from my usual routine.
I slept in instead of starting my day early with a workout. I was open to being more spontaneous about making plans for the day, and I gave myself a break from work. This was refreshing, and it offered me the opportunity to step outside and reflect on the things I had been doing, from a different perspective.

Is there anything I miss from my usual routine? Is there anything I’m glad I don’t have to do now? Is there anything I like about the “new” routine?

2. Being (mostly) disconnected

We didn’t have internet access during the first few days of the vacation while we were on the Faroe Islands. That was great because it helped me disconnect from the internet, social media, and work right from the start of the vacation.

I rarely felt the urge to check social media or my email inboxes which gave me pockets of time to reflect on the things in my life.

Hiking in the Faroe Islands

3. Reading self-help books

During the vacation, I read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Chris Hadfield. (Both are great books I would recommend.)

Reading Flow prompted me to think about my life in terms of the concepts mentioned in the book while reading An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth inspired me to want to improve my lifestyle and habits.

4. Wanting to write a blog post

As I know I think best when I write, I decided to write a blog post of one takeaway from the vacation at the end of the vacation. At first, I wasn’t sure what to write about. So I chatted with my fiancé about our takeaways from the vacation and wrote down whatever that came to mind.

This blog post covers only a tiny part of my reflections but the process of chatting with my fiancé and writing this blog post helped me consolidate my thoughts.

I felt great being able to reflect this way — to reflect without the daily rush of life and from a perspective different from usual. I have been taking such one to two-week vacations about every six months (with shorter breaks in between), and it feels like a good frequency for recharging mentally and reflecting on my life. So I might continue to take such breaks every six months.

How often do you take long breaks? What do you usually do during your breaks?


After much deliberation, I have decided to build my own website, alfredlua.com.

This blog has been running on WordPress.org for the last three years, and managing it has been easy. The free WordPress theme made the blog look great without much work from me. Publishing an article or adding a new page is as simple as clicking a button. I could focus on just writing my articles. (Awesome work, Automattic!)

But as I want to learn designing and coding, I have decided to build my website from scratch. I’m sure it will be challenging but I don’t want it to stress me out. This will be a side project that I’ll work on whenever I feel like it. No deadlines. No “I’ll spend an hour a day on this project”.

Today, I bought Sketch and tried to design my website’s home page. I wanted to play around with the design before diving into the code. Here are a few observations from creating my first design:

  • Designing is hard. Even though I had a rough design in mind, my first design looks way uglier than I expected. Haha. (See the image below.)
  • It’s easy to keep wanting to spend more time improving a design but actually not doing much. Maybe a break will be helpful.
  • It’s helpful to watch someone else design. I picked up several tips from this video (e.g. creating a Styles artboard, using rulers and layout, naming and grouping layers, etc.)
  • Creating something (even though it might be ugly) is fun and satisfying.

First design for my website

I might play around with the design a little more before writing the code as I’m not too satisfied with this design. Do you have any suggestions or advice?

I’ll be sharing my progress here until I build a basic blog for the website. I’ll be tweeting about my progress, too. Till next time!