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What I'm Thinking About, Working On, and Learning in 2021

I turned 24 this past Thursday. I always become introspective around my birthday. Particularly reflecting on what I want to pursue for the coming year. It serves as a nice spring cleaning check-up for my New Years resolutions before heading into Q2.

I thought this post would be a great brain dump to discuss what I'm thinking about, working on, and learning in 2021. That way I can revisit it throughout the year and track my progress.

Shipping an MVP for Blynd

Something that came to mind while reflecting is that I have never shipped a side project. My idea to build Blynd, a food ordering platform where the customer does not know what the restaurant is serving, has been in the works for awhile. In fact, this is my third time trying to build it. However, this time around, I'm going to build it the "right way". That means I'll define a clear value proposition using the Lean Startup Framework and follow a playbook for shipping side projects.

“Any year that passes in which you don’t destroy one of your best loved ideas is a wasted year.” — Charlie Munger

Blynd is a food ordering platform that removes decision fatigue. Here's how it works: Restaurants will serve one dish at a time. This is their "Blynd Special". It is unknown to customers and can change at any time. Customers can plunge into food serendipity by ordering anywhere from favorite local restaurant, try out a new spot in their neighborhood, or take a chance on a place they’ve never heard of.

The idea for Blynd started as a way to enable customers to stop scrolling through DoorDash or UberEats for the Nth time and order moderately-priced food from their favorite restaurants. As the pandemic raged however, it became clear to me that restaurants needed an additional revenue stream in order to thrive. Blynd solves this. Blynd enables restaurants to sell inexpensive, delicious, and transportable dishes at high volume. When a restaurant is able to sell simple, easy to make, and identical food scale, they can do more revenue than on a busy Friday night. Alinea, a world-renown, Michelin-star restaurant did its best day of revenue ever during the pandemic, serving takeout meals at volume.

Blynd also gives restaurants a built-in development kitchen. A way to try out something the chef wants to put on the menu, but wants to test it out first. It gives both customers and restaurants a unique way to connect with one another. Additionally, a restaurant can offload excess inventory by constructing an elevated dish out of what they have available. The ad-hoc nature of the platform truly sparks joy to online food ordering.

The Blind concept is borrowed from my favorite breakfast spot in Madison called Short Stack Eatery. Short Stack does the entire experience right. From serving simple, fresh and local breakfast to supporting the local community. They serve as a guide for other businesses to support and contribute to a food system centered around sustainability. They're women-owned, rule-breakers, and flat-out inspiring.

short stack blind special Short Stack's Blind Special
short stack yelp review My Yelp review of Short Stack (with a response from one of the founders!)

As illustrated by the above, I'm a big fan of this restaurant. I want to leverage technology to deliver a serendipitous and elevated dining experience like I've had at Short Stack, at scale.

I’m excited for what this project has in store for me. I consider myself a foodie and after not realizing much value in becoming Yelp Elite in 2020, I wanted to engage with the foodie community in my own way. Since, this is my first legitimate attempt at becoming a founder, I’m sure I’ll pick up a number of new skills along the way including sales and marketing. On the programming side, Blynd is a Django progressive web application.

Focusing on Design

Reflecting on my career thus far, I’ve focused my efforts primarily on the backend or server-side of the application stack. This means that I’ve concentrated more on the functionality of an application than its user interface (UI) or experience (UX). While this is not inherently a bad thing, I think becoming self-sufficient in both designing and implementing UIs will propel my growth as an engineer.

“I don’t consider myself a designer. I consider myself a developer who can design…I create designs so that people are interested in my code.” — Sarah Drasner

The tools that I’ll be focusing my efforts on are:

  • Figma: Figma appears to be the design tool of choice across the industry and there’s a thriving community and plugin ecosystem.
  • React: I use React at my full-time job and know how to use it, but want to become proficient as it is a powerful way to build UIs.
  • TailwindCSS: Tailwind is a CSS framework that uses utility classes to compose interface styles. I like it a lot, they have a great developer team, and built beautiful custom styled components with TailwindUI.
  • SwiftUI: SwiftUI is a framework for creating interactive user interfaces for iOS and MacOS. Mobile is the next natural step for me from web and being engrossed in the Apple ecosystem makes it a perfect choice.

Learning this many technologies is a large undertaking. I'm trying to developing a craftsmanship mentality with my career. For me, this means being consistent, having good attention to detail, and improving every day.

A specific project I'll be taking on is redesigning my personal site using Figma and Tailwind.

Health Framework

Throughout the last few years and especially after graduating college, I’ve thought a lot about my health. More specifically, about healthspan, or how well I live. These days, many are more focused on longevity or how long one lives. I’m less concerned with life extension because of my genetic history. I do, however think there are a lot of simple interventions we can implement that have an outsized impact on how well we live. Consequently, these changes will also positively affect how long we live as well.

The way I'm currently thinking about health is through 5 pillars.

  1. Sleep

I track my sleep with an Oura ring. After doing so for two years, specific practices I implement to optimize my sleep are:

  • Getting 8 hours of sleep per night
  • Trying to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
  • Daily sunlight exposure
  • Being conscious of coffee and alcohol consumption
  1. Nutrition

Dr. Peter Attia has a nutritional framework that specifies three levers we can pull:

  • Time restriction: restricting when you eat
  • Dietary restriction: restricting what you eat (avoiding carbs, sugar, etc.)
  • Caloric restriction: restricting how much you eat

"Always pull one, sometimes pull two, occasionally pull three – never pull none." — Peter Attia

Another space I’m excited about is metabolic fitness and gut health. A company that is doing great work here is Levels. Levels allows you to monitor your blood glucose in real time using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). The goal of using a CGM is to give you a direct view into how your food and lifestyle affect your blood sugar so you can personalize your diet and optimize your metabolic health.

Specific practices I've found most effective is

  • Eating unprocessed, whole foods.
    • This includes whole food forms of beans, tofu, chickpeas, green leafy vegetables (spinach, lettuce, collards, kale, chard), eggs, blueberries, blackberries, garlic, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, peppers, avocados, fish, lean red meat, chicken, oils, olives, chia seeds, and apple cider vinegar.
  • Avoiding bad ones including vegetable oils and added sugars.
  • Logging meals, tracking macros (calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, sugars).
  1. Exercise
  • Stability
  • Strength
  • Aerobic Efficiency
  • Anerobic Performance

Weekly exercise routine:

  • 3-4 hours of zone 2 cardio (45 minutes minimum per session)
  • 3-5 bouts of strength training
  • 1-2 sessions of zone 5 cardio
  • Daily stability work, having one day dedicated specifically to stability
  • Low-level physical activity throughout the day

I've been a big fan of Peloton. I use the bike for my Zone II and Zone V training as well as their strength, yoga, barre, and pilates classes to create a holistic exercise routine.

  1. Emotional health
  • Mindfulness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Relationships
  • Digital wellbeing

Practices:

  • Meditation with Waking Up
  • Breath work with Peloton and Oak
  • Digital wellness and minding my content diet with Opal
  • Personalized soundscapes to focus, relax, and sleep with Endel
  1. Exogenous molecules

While I believe the first four are fundamental, supplements can fill in gaps in our diet or genes.

Some supplements I've experimented with are:

I have also been experimenting with qualitative factors of my overall health. Oura provides a number of different tags that allow me to explore how my habits, behaviors, and choices affect my sleep and overall wellness.

Financial Machine

Similar to compiling a health framework, I've also spent time creating a framework to build wealth. In my opinion, sound financial footing is knowing where your money is currently, where it's going, and where you want to be.

Pillars of Investing

  • Diversification
  • Minimize taxes
  • Minimize fees

Practices:

  • Avoiding credit card debt
  • Building credit
  • Having a high savings rate
  • Keeping a 3-6 month emergency fund
  • Max contributions to IRA (backdoor Roth conversion)
  • Max contributions to Roth 401(k)
  • Max contributions to HSA
  • Dollar cost average into Wealthfront investment account
  • Buy cryptocurrency and lend it out

Tools:

  • Wealthfront: Low-cost, diversified index fund investment solution that also lowers my tax bill as well as automated financial services solution.
  • Copilot: The most polished and functional budgeting app on the market.
  • Vanguard: The founder of Vanguard, Jack C. Bogle, is credited with creating the first index fund. Vanguard offers best-in-class low-cost index funds.
  • Cash App: A beautifully-designed interface for investing in fractional shares of companies without the casino-feel of Robinhood.
  • Coinbase: The most trusted cryptocurrency platform and how I got my start in crypto.
  • BlockFi: The future of finance. Earning interest on cryptocurrency . Also coming out with a credit card that earns unlimited 1.5% back in Bitcoin.
  • Gemini: Simple and elegant way to buy, sell and earn on almost all my cryptocurrency balances.

Check out this flowchart that illustrates how money should be optimally prioritized.

Quantified Self

While reflecting on my health framework and financial system, I often think about how we can have the most optimal system or plan, but if not followed it is fundamentally meaningless.

It's important to not only have a good routine, but to follow it as well as reflect on adherence/performance. That said, I'm working to compile a quantified self setup where I can pull in my health and financial data. With that data, I want to publish monthly reflections in a sort of "letter to shareholders" post. For this, I'm looking at doing data analysis and reporting with Python and Jupyter notebooks along with building out a public dashboard with ag-grid, GraphQL and React.

Leveling-up skills

Some other skills I'm trying to improve on this year are:

  • Cooking
  • Golf
    • Golf is a great low-impact and social sport that I did a lot as a kid, but am getting back into as an adult.
  • Tennis
    • Similar to golf, tennis is a great game to learn and play due to its great exercise and social nature.
  • Chess
    • Like everyone else, I was inspired to pick chess back up again after watching The Queen's Gambit. I bought Gary Kasparaov's Masterclass course awhile back, but haven't finished it yet.

Engaging with online communities and creating content

I've become obsessed with The Great Online Game. I think people still underestimate the power of the internet and online communities in general. With the world much more remote than before, nearly everyone is reachable through a DM or cold email.

The world becomes more open as you follow your curisities curious, share, and help others. Part of this is creating and adding authentic value to the community. For me, this is through code, writing and engaging with others in my online communities on Twitter.

In my opinion, Twitter is really the greatest online conversation tool. It allows you to connect online with real intellectuals and create your own interest network. Not only that, but engaging on Twitter helps shape the ideas and discourse of our generation.

Over the course of the year, I want to develop and hone my online creator skills. This includes media creation (in the form of photos, videos, podcasts as well as writing).

Some of my interestes/communities you can find me in:

  • Foodie
  • Health
  • Finance
    • Traditional finance
    • Decentralized finance
    • Personal finance
  • Creator economy
  • Gen Z
  • Technology
  • Reading
  • League of Legends
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Coffee
  • Wine
  • Cooking
  • Design
  • Journaling
  • Writing
  • Podcasts
  • Skincare
  • Investing
  • Startups
  • Cycling
  • Lifting
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Crypto
  • Budgeting
  • Investing
  • Stocks
  • Travel Hacks
  • Mental Health
  • Python
  • React
  • SwiftUI
  • TV
    • Rick and Morty
    • Marvel
    • The Bachelor/Bachelorette
    • Saturday Night Live
  • Music
    • Kanye West
    • Rihanna
    • Lorde
    • Dua Lipa
    • Travis Scott
    • Drake
    • Lil Wayne
    • Billie Eilish
  • Comedy
    • Bo Burnham
    • Dave Chappelle