How to Become a Learning Machine

Growing up, one of my biggest insecurities was feeling stupid. I felt like I didn’t understand concepts as fast as other people, and had to put in the double the effort until I finally understood something.

I remember in 9th grade when my friends seemed to instantly grasp what we learned in math and science class. I would go home and reteach myself the entire lesson through Khan Academy or websites I found through elaborate Google Searches.

Whether it was concepts in school or lessons on philosophy and business on the side. I would put in a ton of work behind the scenes until I was competent.

On the surface, it probably seemed to others that I got things right away or I was born really smart, but I knew it was a huge amount of effort that others never saw. (Side Note to Future Self: I’m really happy this was the case, knowing it was my effort and not my intelligence made me pretty hardworking.)

Driven by my insecurity of feeling stupid, I spent a ton of summer days and my free time reading, watching videos, or listening to podcasts about random stuff so I could feel smart. As a result, I absorbed knowledge whenever I had free time. Eventually, the insecurity left, but the habit of learning never ended up going away. This turned out pretty good for me.

Now I’m sort of known as the guy who has random knowledge and cool resources for any problem you could be facing. Just ask me a question and I’ll send an Evernote link with the answers I collected a few months back. What’s my secret ???? Oh, I just read a lot.

But it’s what I do after reading that’s kinda novel. I've created a system to turn myself into a “Learning Machine.”

The most important aspect to note is what works for me might now work for you, but here are a few methods/tips/tools:

Tips on Creating a Learning Machine

Before you follow any of these methods there are 3 key things to note:

1. Use methods that are easy for you to incorporate into your life or workflow.

  • Certain tools will be easier to fit in than others. The ones that stick are the ones that have the least friction → the ones with the least friction are the ones you’ll use most.

2. It’s really easy to collect knowledge but harder to actually utilize it.

  • Don’t fall in the trap of just consuming, take the time to always reflect, introspect, and create your own key takeaways/action items from what you read.
  • Pain/Experience + Thoughtful Reflection = Progress.

3. When you use a tool or system you need to fully trust it.

  • I know a ton of people who use tools like Evernote or Instapaper, but the tools never stick because they don’t fully trust it. Even after getting it they continue to store articles on other notes app, messages, or places like Slack and Gmail.
  • As a result, too many touchpoints get formed so consistent engagement gets hard. You should create a process where everything consolidates into the minimum amount of tools possible.

Methods, Approaches, & Tools

1. Write Down and Organize What You Learn. (Build A Second Brain)

I read a ton of random articles, listen to podcasts, and watch videos. I don’t always remember everything, it’s usually the major concepts that stick in my head. It’s also been pointed out to me that without habits or consistent intention, what I read is useless. So I try to create as many action items from readings as possible.

I have a specific group of notebooks in my Evernote called “Resources & Learnings” that is set up to have a section for Article Notes, Book Notes, Podcast Notes, and all major topics/subjects so I can I look back on them.

*Before you go switch to Evernote:* It’s important to note that tools are just tools. Most of them have the same functionality and are only marginally better than each other. Two of the core reasons I think people will decide to switch are because they think something is way better & because people are using something else. I fall victim to this all the time, I’ve been debating if it’s worth moving to Notion or Quip for my notes since I’ve been hearing amazing things.

My Method for Notetaking

To store all my notes I use a method called “Building A Second Brain” which is slightly altered for my personal preference. The course is costly but if you Google around you’ll find some guides that distill the main points.

When I write a note that resonates with me or has personal key takeaways, I put words at the top or tag it with the associated feeling. I view taking notes as storing information into a second brain or creating reference points for later utility, these notes should be easily searchable.

This makes it easier to find terms when I need them or recapture the emotion. I look at it as building a second brain with terms e.g. I listened to a podcast with Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson, which inspired me to work really hard and invoked the feeling of motivation. So at the top, I put motivation, hustle, relentlessness.

Then, when I’m not feeling motivated one day I’ll search all my notes for motivation, and read some that will spark action to work hard(like this one with the podcast).

I have a way of taking notes that I personally like, it’s a mix of action items, key takeaways, and random facts. Here’s an example of what my notes might look like:

2. Spatial Memory Retention

One method that’s been valuable for me is using a tool called Random Note (also from Building A Second Brain) to help with Spatial Memory Retention. In the most simple form, it’s when you read or learn something, to look back at it in increments in order to refresh your memory.

The script called Random Note goes through your Evernote and opens up a random note file for you to read. Depending on the day I’ll use it anywhere from minimum once up to 10 times. This sparks a lot of serendipity and gives me the opportunity to view old material to reflect or act on (hopefully).

If something is SUPER valuable, to the extent I felt it changed my life or an action item I really need to enforce. I’ll go into my calendar and set a reminder to look at it in 3 weeks, 8 weeks, and 24 weeks. If it’s something that needs to be enforced daily I’ll put in my daily habits to focus on it.

3. Newsletters from Publications & People

I subscribe to a ton of newsletters, not only from publications but many from individuals.

I really enjoy newsletters from people like Shane Parish and Nat Eliason. They always put in the coolest things they’ve learned, or articles that they read that are top quality. So you’re constantly getting content that others have filtered through and recommend.

Here are some of the newsletters I’m subscribed to:

  • The Hustle
  • Futurism
  • MIT Tech Review
  • Austin Kleon
  • Farnam Street
  • Raptitude
  • Peter Diamandis — Abundance Insider
  • The Quintessential Mind
  • David Perell
  • Nat Eliason
  • How it Actually Works

A ton more (For any person’s blog I find valuable, I’ll subscribe to get new articles and updates from them. This includes people like Naval, Sam Altman, and Andrew Chen)

4. Twitter

I’m on the fence about social media and still trying to decide my views. I’m stuck in between using it strictly for getting value or not using it at all. However, Twitter is the one exception right now. I find Twitter the ultimate tool for serendipity and learning random stuff.

To maximize seeing valuable stuff on my Twitter feed, I try to only follow people I think will provide unique insights and knowledge. (How do you find them? Follow me and follow everyone I follow… haha jk but seriously though  Or alternatively think of the most successful person you know and check out their following list)

Note: Twitter can be addicting as hell, even if you limit the scope of who you follow. I try to use Twitter for MAX 15 minutes a day, I use Screen Time on iPhone to make sure I don’t go over.

5. Instapaper

Instapaper is the tool that changes everyone’s life, especially if you find yourself reading a ton of articles online that eventually get lost. Anytime you find an article on mobile or on your web browser. Hit save to have it go to your Instapaper to read offline later.

Instead of uselessly checking Social Media, Instapaper is my go-to when I have pockets of 5–20 minutes or am in transition periods. It’s also the best way to store all the articles you’ll be finding with this system 

6. Using an E-Reader

I have a Kobo with a ton of books recommended by people I admire or who accomplished great things, anytime someone recommends me a book I put it in my long list called “Books to read”. (Note this is a huge dump I made for the article so excuse the mess)

If I go to bed and can’t sleep, I put my phone in airplane mode, and force myself to read as much as I can. Which results with me waking up with an E-Reader poking my ribs.

7. Podcasts

I listen to a ton of podcasts. The podcasts app is a goldmine of information into any topic you want to learn about. There are so many great podcasts out there, I recommend searching and finding a few that interests you if you don’t currently listen to any.

The biggest benefit I see to podcasts is that voice is really easy to consume. Whether you’re cooking, cleaning, or riding the bus you can connect a pair of headphones or speakers and start learning.

8. Learning on Mobile

One tactic that has worked for me to incorporate learning into my day, is on commutes only being able to use apps in a folder I have set called “Learning.”

Go on & Become A Learning Machine

There are a ton of different tips and methods in the article, but the goal shouldn’t be to jump right in and start doing everything all at once. Practice implementing each item one at a time to see what works and doesn’t work for you.

Learning is a marathon and not a sprint, and compounding is extremely important. I learnt this from Sam Altman:

Compound growth gets discussed as a financial concept, but it works in careers as well, and it is magic. A small productivity gain, compounded over 50 years, is worth a lot. So it’s worth figuring out how to optimize productivity. If you get 10% more done and 1% better every day compared to someone else, the compounded difference is massive.

A small step or implementation in increasing how much you learn today can dramatically affect what you know in the future.

Key Takeaways

Overall this system works for me because it’s ingrained into my daily life and I don’t need to use too much willpower to find new material to read. Ultimately, if you decide to create your own system I think the goal of your system should be:

  1. Create the habit of naturally running into an abundance of high-quality resources and content.
  2. Create touchpoints and workflows where you collect content, so you can easily consume it later.
  3. Create habits and where you consistently engage in these touchpoints to constantly be learning.

Personal Growth & Reflecting on 17

Earlier this month I hit the big 18. That’s right — I can legally go to jail for murder, but for some reason, the law still won’t trust me to touch a cup of vodka (makes sense 🤔). Turning 18 is weird, despite being called an adult by the law I still feel like I’m 12.

I don’t usually celebrate my birthday. To me, it’s just another day. A day that for some reason I get my phone blown up and receive more heartfelt messages than any other day of the year.

After celebrating turning 18 by getting minimum sleep and spending a lot of time with friends, I decided I’d take some time to reflect on my last 365 days, and plan how I’m going to take over the world in the next 365.

I think 17 was the most challenging but rewarding year of my life. I accomplished more this year than I did in the last 16 years combined. Not just externally but internally. I had a lot of firsts including first time on a plane (that I can remember), first time starting a legitimate business, first time speaking at a conference, first time getting a short term coffee addiction, and first time realizing how much I really suck (and realizing how far I have to go in life).

I thought this would be a good way to recap my year for friends, family, and all the people who ask me what I’m up to nowadays. To show them I’m making progress and also the lessons I’m learning.

Instead of just putting a long list of different items, I decided to reflect and put lessons for the biggest areas of my life. I’m really grateful for all the friends and mentors who helped me along the way.

For anyone who thinks the article is too long, here’s a TL;DR of all the big lessons 😉.

Lessons I learned this year (Article TL;DR):

  • The world doesn’t owe you shit.
  • Stop engaging in things that don’t give you value. You’re not obligated to finish anything.
  • The environment you put yourself in is the most important thing in life. Create yours so it positively affects you.
  • Money is a tool, not a goal or destination.
  • Love is NOT unconditional. (The only 2 people who will love you unconditionally are your parents…hopefully.)
  • Hold yourself to a really high standard. There are zero excuses for being a shitty person.
  • Be productive and not busy. → Busy != Productive.
  • Be internally driven, external motivation is bullshit and isn’t sustainable.
  • Stop caring about what others think. 90% of times others aren’t always right. Don’t “be yourself.” Instead, figure out who you want to be and let that become your North Star.
  • Roll up your sleeves and be prepared to get dirty. Put in the hours of work that other people aren’t willing to do. Everybody wants glory but nobody wants to be punched in the guts.
  • Introspection and thinking are really important tools. Improving through self-understanding is better than improving through force.
  • Most people are transactional and very superficial. A lot of people are obsessed with bullshit (stay away from these people).
  • Be less judgemental towards people, really focus on understanding where people come from and what their incentives would be. Everyone’s been through tough situations.
  • It’s way better to be positive than negative. Life is short, so why not focus on positivity?
  • Take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt, including mine.

Each lesson may be really short, but inside each sentence lies a ton of emotion and learnings.

This year was full of accomplishments and growth:

To kick off here’s my stats sheet 😤

  • Over 100% improvement from last year (not sure how accurate this one is might just be 1000% ) 😉
  • 10+ conferences attended (3 biggest ones being CES, MWC, and Elevate) 🎯
  • 5 conferences spoken at 🎤
  • 6 hackathons attended (also 6 sleepless nights of hacking) ⚙️
  • Over 75+ meetings and calls with awesome people 📞
  • 8 cities travelled (San Francisco, Vancouver, NYC, Seattle, Berlin, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Barcelona) 🛣
  • Over 20+ flights ✈️
  • 1 major company joined 📈
  • 1 successful side business started
  • 10+ books read 📖

Throughout the year I also learned A TON of major lessons that really changed my perspective on life and who I am.

Goals for myself in the next 365 days?

The simple answer is I don’t know. I used to plan yearly goals and tried to hit them, but then I realized yearly goals don’t work anymore. At this point in time, my life moves faster than I can aim for.

If I tried to guess where I’d be 6 months ago let alone 12 I would have failed dramatically. Instead of setting hard goals I want to reach in one year, I set broad areas I want to hit. This way if a spontaneous opportunity comes up I’m flexible enough to go for it.

At a high level this year I have a few goals:

  • Learn to be a world-class CEO and gain the skills needed to run a company: Understand what it takes to grow and scale a company, learn about hiring people/attracting talent, and gain really powerful decision-making abilities. Setting the foundations for starting my own company.
  • Build strong relationships with the people I care about: Find like-minded people who are fun to hang around, but are also super ambitious (someone who’d be a great Co-Founder). Spend more quality time with family and siblings, who I’m starting to see less as I get too busy.
  • Learn to be analytical and data-driven: Become someone who’s really great at identifying problems and opportunities. Quickly learn to solve problems by being able to spot things other people can’t even see.
  • Learn more about the world: Travel more and get to experience different cultures that open up my mind. Learn about technology and what fields are progressing really fast.
  • Focus on health: find time to engage in physical activity and eat healthily. I’ve started to learn how big a role health plays in every other aspect of life. If you’re not healthy it really messes up your productivity and your ability to do anything.

My Life Last Year vs Today

My Life Last Year?

A year ago today I was halfway through grade 11, really focused on learning as much as I could about this magical tech called blockchain. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life (besides becoming rich), debating where I wanted to go for post-secondary and what my plan for the future would be. I started having a lot of doubts about University, and if there would be value in it for me. I started seeing ways to reach the end goal of having a degree, without actually doing it. Other people called it trying to find shortcuts but I just saw it as a more optimal path. My biggest goal was making money, and the metric for success was how much money could I make.

My friend groups were a mix of different types of people. On one end of the spectrum, it was people who were all fun and had no goals in life. On the other end, it was the complete opposite, really smart and motivated people who had killer ambitions to make an impact on the world.

Mentally I didn’t have a fraction of the knowledge I have now (although I still thought I knew way more then I did). I would base a lot of my opinions on personal experience instead of facts. I didn’t have a high amount of self-awareness or understanding of why I would feel certain things.

My Life This Year!

This year my life is almost the complete opposite. I’m no longer in high school, I decided to do my last semester of school online while I work full time.

9 months ago I joined a small events startup as the 2nd employee when we were only based in Toronto. Since then I’ve helped scale the company to 20+ people, and 10+ cities around the world.

The company is called The Tech Society (we’re hiring 😉) and we do 150+ C-Suite/Executive only emerging tech conferences in 6 different branches.

Scaling the company has taught me a ton of valuable lessons and the hard knocks of entrepreneurship. The job has also allowed me to experience travelling the world and managing a team of people (some who are almost double my age).

Being a manager at a company is a lot different from working a job (take this with a grain of salt, my only other job has been as a Footlocker associate 😉), due to the realness of not having room to mess up for stupid reasons. Wasting time, underdelivering, and procrastination may be a problem when you’re working on something for yourself. However, when other people are depending on you to get shit done and people get a paycheck from your work, there’s an internal urgency of doing things right.

When I was younger I used to tell my brother I would never work a 9–5 job in my life because being a “slave to the system” sucked. Turns out I was right, I now work a 9–7 and sometimes 9–9 job. Why work for 40 hours a week when you can work 80 😤?

Making money is still a big goal but it’s also offset by the desire to learn and gain cool experiences. My friend group is almost 90% different. I’ve started to realize that a lot of people I thought I liked were only in my life due to being in my environment. I had to take a step and ask myself the question “Would I be friends with these people or care about them if I didn’t go to school with them?” And the answer often turned out to be a no.

This turned out to be an even more of an accurate test for extended family. Growing up I felt like the status quo opinion has been you have to respect and love everyone you’re related to regardless of the situation. I used to feel really guilty when I started working a lot and would skip on family events, but now I don’t. I strongly believe no one is entitled to your love or time, even if they do have the title of “family”.

I get a lot of hate for this opinion when talking to others, but looking at it objectively most of the people I’m related to are losers and a lot of social interactions I witnessed growing up have been toxic from gossiping to petty fights. So the question becomes “ Are these people genuinely awesome people, and would I spend time with or value them if I didn’t feel obligated?”

Mentally I’ve improved a lot, I’ve realized I’m not that knowledgeable. There’s an infinite amount of knowledge I’ll never know, and it’s better to say “I don’t know” then pretend like I have all the answers. I’ve become less immature, I still act like I’m a kid sometimes but the goal is to bring that amount down.

I spend a lot of time thinking and introspecting. I used to get really mad at myself for doing certain things, or not being productive. I thought forcing myself and developing “discipline” was the way to improve myself. However, I quickly realized the best way to improve is through self-understanding.

Say I wanted to finish my to-do list which was about 6 hours of work. But throughout the day I only managed to do 3 hours and started messing around. Before I would get mad and try to force myself to do it next time through discipline or will power. Now I just ask myself a lot of questions and think about why I didn’t get my work done. By asking myself questions to get to the root of the problem and finding what triggers make me act a certain way, I’m able to develop self-understanding to do better next time.

There’s a lot of areas of my life I’ve learned a lot about so I’ll go through the major ones:

Books

I’ve always loved reading and after started to read a book, I would force myself to finish it. Looking back this was kind of stupid, if a book wasn’t giving me value why would I keep reading it? I’ve learned that books should be consumed in moderation, and as you read the focus should be to implement thoughts to action.

I used to be a huge fan of reading books to learn, but now I realize formats like articles and podcasts are just as effective. The only time a book is really necessary is to continue reinforcing a lesson through different stories.

Books are a great way to supplement what you learn in real life and internalize experiences you haven’t had yourself.

I think Naval Ravikant puts this lesson best:

“I don’t actually read a lot of books. I pick up a lot of books and only get through a few, which form the foundation of my knowledge.”

For 2019 I have a few books on my reading list:

  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel
  • Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

Money

Money is a tool, not a goal or destination.

Drake has a quote I heard about 2 years ago:

“At 17, I wanted everything that was in store. At 23, I bought it all just to make sure.”

I used to think this quote was really cool and was what I would do when I got rich. But for me, it’s more like

“At 16 wanted everything that was in store. At 18, I realized I didn’t even want to buy stuff anymore.”

From learning to day trade Crypto to joining a company early, this year I suddenly had more money then I knew what to do with. However, instead of splurging and spending, I realized I didn’t really want to buy anything. (I wouldn’t say I didn’t spend a lot of money, but most of my money started going to experiences over material items.)

When I had no money I wanted to buy everything. Fancy clothes, shoes, expensive electronics, and crazy trips. I thought making a ton of money would make my life better in every way possible.

But now that I have money, I don’t really want anything that I don’t already have in my life. I realized most of the money I spent in the last few months was on two main things:

  1. For making my life better.
  2. For making other people’s lives better.

If it comes to buying clothes or a big-ticket item, I’ll probably decide I don’t really want it that much. However, if it’s something like food or something that makes my life better, I’ll buy it without a second thought.

A few days ago I was deciding if I wanted to buy a new Macbook since my current one was getting old, and instantly I thought no. The same day, I read an article that said using a sleep mask made someone’s life exponentially better. Without a second thought, I went on Amazon and ordered the most popular one.

A lot of people might say the only reason I bought a sleep mask quickly and not a laptop, is because of the dramatic difference in price. But if my MacBook was being unbearably slow and pissed me off to no ends. I’d go to the Apple store the next day to buy a new one.

I remember I used to be really cheap on things like getting an Uber or taking the GO Train. I’d rather waste 2 hours taking the bus then take the more efficient route and save time. Now it’s a no brainer on taking Ubers.

Productivity and Motivation

How to get stuff done without sacrificing your life.

From an early age, I was really focused on productivity and being efficient. I used to think everybody did this but realized it’s actually really rare to find somebody who’s consistently productive and intentional with how they set up their life.

I’ve tried a ton of different things to see what would work for me over the years. I’ve done tasks lists, To Do List software like Wunderlist, sticky notes, having everything in my calendar, and much more. A lot of it failed but this year I found a system that fits well and helps me accomplish a lot each month:

My system for being productive:

  • Keeping all major meetings, appointments, and important dates in a Calendar. I use Google Calendar.
  • Setting monthly and weekly goals, with key items I want to accomplish each week and OKRs.
  • Having one large note file with daily tasks breakdown for every day of the week. Below the day by day tasks, having each week of the month and a breakdown of major items to accomplish during that week. Finally having a separate note file that has a major month by month goals.
  • Spending Sunday’s planning my week for what I want to do get done each day. Also, spending the first Sunday of every month setting what I want to accomplish during the month.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading books and articles about productivity, as well as trying a ton of different systems. I’ve had 3 major takeaways:

1. What works for you will NOT work for everyone else, so no point in trying to copy full systems from other people.

2. The only way to find out what works for YOU to become productive is through experimentation and iteration.

3. What works to make you productive will change over time in your life. You’ll go through different systems and methods, you just need to be adaptable.

There are also a few things I’ve learned about myself around keeping motivated which I’m still trying to figure out.

I’ve learned I’m a really internally motivated person for a lot of reasons. I don’t need external people or have the need to watch motivational videos to get myself going. I can just do stuff. When other people ask me how or why it’s hard to explain.

I’ve never had room to mess up since I’ve always had people dependent on me, or I had to be responsible for myself in a lot of ways. I think the reason most people aren’t internally motivated is because of the lack of urgency or fire under their ass. I learned pretty early in life that the world didn’t owe me anything. If I wanted something I had to work for it since no one would hand it to me.

I don’t need to really think about or force myself to do something. If it’s a task I have to finish or something that I have time for I’ll manage to do it. I don’t suffer from procrastination (or at least that much anymore).

I’ve also learnt there’s no such thing as I don’t have time, it just means I’m not prioritizing it.

Busy != productive

One of the final big lessons I’ve learned around productivity is actually being productive and not busy.

A lot of people will put a ton of things to get done on their To Do list that don’t actually matter, so instead they become busy.

This happens to me sometimes, I end up doing a lot of “work” but then look back on the week and can’t see what I actually did. I’ve learned a way to stay productive and make progress is to set monthly goals.

Once the month is over, I look back to see if I got the main things I set out to do done. If I didn’t and there wasn’t a reasonable explanation or emergency, it means I was busy and not productive.

If there’s one lesson I could give to someone who doesn’t plan their time out or set goals.

If you think about life it’s incredibly short, time flies by really fast and before you know it, you’re old.

I’m always really shocked that some people don’t have a calendar or write out what they want to accomplish.

This is scary because it means if a person doesn’t plan, their living life without having intent. A lot of people have really ambitious dreams or at least goals they want to accomplish. But when you look at their day to day, since they don’t plan on what they want to do during the day. The day ends up being useless for what they want long term.

Since each day ends up being useless and doesn’t make progress for a goal they want to achieve. The days end up becoming weeks where nothing happens. These weeks end up becoming months, which turn into years. Before they know it, someone can go through life and never accomplish what they really wanted.

So the lesson: Set goals and have intent with how you spend your days.

High school

Most people in high school are lost and everyone likes to pretend.

Over the last 2 years, I’ve gotten to experience what it’s like being a normal kid in high school but also have the chance to do things aren’t so being a normal high school kid.

Being out of school now but every so often going back to see what old friends are up to is a really interesting experience. Funny to see how even just a year ago I was in this bubble and involved in many of these things.

Looking back on high school and observing what I see people do now, I’ve learned a few lessons:

  • People in high school talk and sound like idiots, I still cringe looking back on some of the slang I would use.
  • Most people in high school really prioritize and sometimes even glorify drinking and partying. But if you look at it objectively, it really sucks and isn’t that fun. People often put on a show on social media of having a really crazy time, but if you’re actually there you know how boring it really is.
  • A really interesting concept is fake friends, people will have fake friends in high school. They’ll pretend to like someone, and then 5 minutes later will talk about them behind their back. This actually makes up a really high percentage of high school friendships.
  • Most people in high school are superficial and everyone puts on a mask. Everyone likes to pretend they’re happy and put on a facade on social media. This results in everyone having FOMO and thinking other people’s lives are way cooler they really are.

If I could give anyone in high school three lessons here’s what they would be:

  • It’s a scam but try to maximize your experience out of it. Talk to the weird kids and the outcasts, find out who you really are and try to find like-minded people. If you’re lucky it might turn out you’re pretty weird and an outcast yourself.
  • Figure out what you want, and not just what you think you want. Don’t succumb to peer pressure and think what others want is what you want. Most kids are just pretending too.
  • Treat high school as you would a day job, go have fun and get your work done. But try to find hobbies and passions you enjoy outside of just school work.

Friends, Family, & Unconditional Love

No one in the world will ever love you unconditionally (except maybe your parents).

I’ve learned that having really great friends who make you a better person is something everyone should focus on finding.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

If you have a shitty group of friends either two things will happen. You’ll gradually become more like them, or somehow you’ll manage to motivate all of them into becoming more like you. The first is more likely. If you can change one thing in your life, change the people you call friends and your life will change dramatically.

Family is also really important, in some ways more important than having friends. Friendships are really amazing and some will change you as a person, however, they are not unconditional.

People love to talk about love being unconditional, but I’ve realized unconditional love is really rare and only possible in a few scenarios.

I could do something really messed up and my friends might never talk to me again. But no matter what I do my parents love for me will never die.

The only people I can really imagine ever loving with no strings attached are my future son or daughter. A bond between a parent and their kid is a really special connection and hard to mirror.

Even after learning this lesson, I’m still not the best at spending time with my family. So as I get older it’s something I’m really focusing on getting better at.

With all that being said, I was fortunate enough to have two parents who love me to no ends. It’s a sad truth, but a lot of people don’t have really functional families. If I was in that situation my first priority would be my exit plan to living by myself.

Self Improvement & Introspection

Introspection is better than force, it’s also one of the keys to self-awareness.

I’ve started to realize as I get older, I need to hold myself at a higher standard. I still feel like I’m 12, and often act like I’m 12. Personally, I feel like I’m a pretty positive person but when I really reflected on it I’ve started to realize I’m pretty negative. So I started focusing on being less negative and being better to people since there is no excuse for being a shitty person

I used to be really negative, get angry for no reason, felt a lot of hatred and resentment towards a lot of people, and then not understand why I felt a certain way. I always felt like there was just so much going through my head and I couldn’t explain it.

I still do some of these things but I’ve realized introspection and just thinking turned out to be a huge problem solver. I now spend a minimum of 30 minutes a day just reflecting and thinking. I love it. It gives me a sense of clarity and I’ve started to understand why I’m a certain way.

If certain things make me a shitty person, I can now recognize why it makes me a shitty person and takes actions to become a little better each day.

I’ve also learned not to fall victim to my environment. There were a lot of parts of me I would just accept as being who I am since I grew up a certain way. One lesson I learned and a huge reminder I need to tell myself when I think a certain way is:

I have the complete freedom and independence to decide who I want to be.

Adult Life

Turning 18 really hits you in multiple ways. At first, it seems really cool that you can now do a lot of things you couldn’t before. But then you realize that since you’re 18 you can’t mess around anymore. I’m legally an adult and can go to jail.

If I was to punch someone randomly in the face for no reason I might be able to get away with it for being a minor. Now if I do it chances are I’ll go to jail for assault.

This really reaffirms the lesson of holding myself to a high standard.

The advice I would give to My Younger Self

  • Don’t just “be yourself” that’s stupid. Figure out who you want to be and maximize your ability to get there.
  • Don’t be afraid to show who you really are. Focus on your personal growth and goals, the right people will come to you and you’ll find them along the way.
  • Be polarizing and be your own person. Develop personal interests and hobbies, don’t be a “nothing person.” Nobody remembers the person who was in the middle of the spectrum.
  • The parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, teachers who used to stuff advice in your face and tell you how to live life. Yeah, you were right and they were wrong. Although they can’t see it yet and still think you’re a failure, just keep grinding in silence. When you finally make it, still be nice to them because that’s the great person you are. Sometimes it’s best to follow your own path, just do so by making smart choices.
  • Take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt…No matter who they are.
  • Take photos and document your journey, you’re going to regret each time you do interesting things and not have a way to recount it! TAKE MORE PHOTOS!

The last 17 years of my life have been one hell of a ride and I think I’m finally starting to gain momentum. I’m really looking forward to accomplishing more at 18 then I have any other year, along with crushing adulthood.

If there’s one lesson that I’ve been learning over the last few weeks, it’s that the people who change the world are the ones who are stupid enough to think they can.

So for the rest of my adult life, I hope to stay naive and stupid enough to believe I’m going to do something big. (who knows I might just do it).

The Man who Taught me the Real Meaning of Altruism

I’ve always thought “altruism” was bullshit.

I mean just look at the very definition of what it stands for. Almost every piece of it goes against human nature.

Altruism: The belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.

To me this concept never made any sense, how could someone really be an altruist. Maybe a person can have selfless concern for others so they help people out, but at the end of the day aren’t they just doing it to make themselves feel good? Where’s the altruism in that.

I remember reflecting on this concept a ton in the last few months, thinking about what gives someone the ability to truly care for others. I’ve been doing this because one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that emotion drives everything!

Everyone from Elon Musk to Peter Diamandis, people who are solving some of the world’s most difficult problems are all emotionally driven to do so. They’ve found attachment into what they want to achieve, and have committed to making sure it becomes a reality.

I love Elon Musk because of his ability to give zero shits and do what he wants.

Wants a colony on Mars? — Goes and creates Space X.

Hates climate change and humanities reliance on oil? — Goes and creates Tesla.

So if I couldn’t get myself to really care about people, especially strangers and people I hadn’t even met yet. Then I’d never have the ability to do something impactful, or solve a problem that really hurts people (because why would I care).

It wasn’t until the day I learned about Sebastian Thrun, that my heart grew three sizes bigger.

The amount of time I spend reading and fantasizing about entrepreneurs is insane. Growing up I read biographies written by Walter Isaacson to give me deep insights into what some really successful people were like.

My desire to learn about entrepreneurship was so large, I wanted to learn whatever I possibly could (I was reading Paul Graham’s essays as awestruck 13-year-old thinking I’ve discovered a secret gold mine).

Every few weeks I think I’ve learned about every entrepreneur, ever.

But then every few weeks I surprise myself. Out of nowhere, I hear about someone who completely blows my mind.

When I first read about Sebastian Thrun, I was like “Oh cool, Sebastian the Co-Founder of Udacity.” But after 2 hours of researching that thought quickly turned into “GOD DAMN, SEBASTIAN THE CO-FOUNDER OF UDACITY!” (My inner fangirl came out… believe me when I say that doesn’t happen often.)

Sebastian Thrun is a boss, he’s one of those individuals you can’t help but be impressed by. His willingness to set his personal desires aside for a greater, you could say “altruistic” good is something that really inspired me.

Since learning about Sebastian Thrun I’ve started introspecting on what really matters, and what my ambitions should be. His story has made me rethink what taking a big risk for something really important means.

I’ve learned that ambition is so much deeper than the length of the number in your bank account or a prestigious title you hold. It’s what drives you to wake up every day and work hard. Ambition is about impact and making a difference, something that gives you a greater purpose.

I still don’t have ambition figured out, but I do know if you’re not aspiring to change the world. Keep working on your ambition.

I remember for the longest time, my biggest goal in life was to make $1 Million dollars. Recently I’ve gotten myself into the position that I’m on track to do so.

When I finally got to this point, I was sad because I felt the same. No dramatic increase in happiness. No big change in emotion. Just static.

For a long time that was all I thought about, and now that I had it. It didn’t make a difference. So now when planning my long term goals, one thing I really prioritize is what kind of impact will I make.

The Story of a Man who Lives to Solve Problems

Imagine waking up only to hear that someone you loved was killed in a car accident? How would you react?

Maybe you’d cry. Maybe you’d pretend everything was okay until you had an emotional breakdown. Maybe you’d even go on a depressed shopping spree to mask the pain you were feeling.

For Sebastian Thrun it was different. When his best friend died from a car crash at age 18, it changed his life. He really questioned why we let humans be the ones in charge of driving vehicles.

Why? Because the amount of human error in the world is insane. And when humans are given giant hunks of metal that can be controlled to go over 200 Km per hour, the result is never good.

1.35 million people die due to car crashes every year, and the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5–29 years is road traffic injuries.

So to change this, Sebastian Thrun did what made the most sense. He decided to create a car that drives itself… If you didn’t catch that, let me say it again. THIS GUY CREATED A FUCKING CAR THAT DRIVES ITSELF!

At each step of Sebastian Thrun’s life, he was always wired to think logically and go towards whatever made the most sense. Even when he was making a crazy amount of impact like building self-driving cars. When something came along that he thought could be bigger, he went for it.

3 Lessons to Learn from the Founder of Udacity … and the creator of the self-driving car.

Lesson #1: Always strive for the greatest amount of impact.

Just because you’re doing something important, it doesn’t mean it’s the best thing you could be doing.

From any perspective, Sebastian Thrun looked like he was changing the world. After having his best friend die to a car crash at 18, he was passionate about creating self-driving cars. So while a professor of Robotics and AI at Stanford University he lead a team to win the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2005.

This was the first time EVER, that someone was able to program a car to navigate a course by itself in the desert. This huge win caught the eye of Larry Page (one of the co-founders of Google)! As a result, Sebastian Thrun’s team was brought into Google to pioneer self-driving cars.

“Larry came to the race itself and … came disguised with, like, a hat and sunglasses so he wouldn’t be bothered by everybody. But … he had a keen interest in this. Larry has been a believer in this technology for much longer than I even knew. And so was Sergey (Brin). And they really want to understand what’s going on,”

Sebastian became the founder of a secret lab called Google X, a facility literally designed to think of ideas that could change the world. He ran the lab for 2 years until he saw Sal Khan (Founder of Khan Academy) speak about transforming education. Sebastian was convinced he could do something even bigger.

It occurred to me, I could be at Google and build a self-driving car, or I can teach 10,000 students how to build self-driving cars.

Why be the one building self-driving cars, when he could empower 1000s of others to do the same? So he left to go build Udacity.

I’ve always been told to find something you love, and focus on doing that thing forever. Now I’m wondering… well, that’s kind of stupid.

Sebastian was living his dream, from the age of 18 he was driven with the goal to create self-driving cars. Although he was happy doing it and getting all the glory for doing so, he wanted to enable others instead. Why? For the sole reason, it would lead to more impact.

That’s the equivalent of having all the ideas and skills for creating a billion-dollar company, but instead going on to teach 100s of kids to do it instead. (Actually, that sounds like two people I know)

Everyone I know when placed in this situation would rather have the glory for themselves, it takes a really selfless person to be able to say “This might lead to more impact” and go do it instead.

Lesson learned, be like Sebastian.

When life gives you lemons, somehow find diamonds and give those to everyone instead.

Lesson #2: Be prepared to give it all away to do something you care about.

To do great things you need to make sacrifices.

Sebastian Thrun had it all he was a Professor at Stanford (with Tenure), was running a secret R&D lab for one of the biggest companies on the planet, was in the media at least 2 times a week, and his life was to think of crazy ideas that could shake the world. BUT he gave that up so he could create some company to educate people.

That’s Alien language to me. One time my friend was short 10 cents for a McDonalds Junior Chicken, and I wasn’t even willing to give him that. Let alone leave one of the coolest positions on earth so I could be broke… *cough* I mean start a company.

I could be running possibly the coolest lab on the planet… and here I am, giving up 97 percent of my salary. — Sebastian on Leaving Google X

Today Udacity has over 4 million students and has helped many of them get jobs at top tech companies doing something they love. None of that would have been possible if Sebastian hadn’t left his job.

I think too many people in life become complacent, once they get to a certain level of achievement they plateau. The issue is not many people are willing to leave a comfortable lifestyle, even if it means doing something consequential.

Key Takeaway: Sometimes if you have a goal that’s big enough, you have to be willing to sacrifice everything to make it a reality. Who knows you might end up succeeding.

“I have this dream that if we can make education globally, universally available… then we can completely transform the world.”

Lesson #3: Be the inventor of change you want to see.

Don’t wait for others to create something, if you want to see something happen then DO IT. There’s a lot of opportunity for innovation in so many aspects of everyday life.

When asked “What’s your favourite Science Fiction Movie?” Sebastian said

“I don’t watch science fiction. I make ‘em.”

Which is true. He pioneered self-driving cars, something that people for decades had said was impossible. Today you can see the fruits of his labour driving around Phoenix, Arizona with Google launching their self-driving taxi fleet.

“To get ideas I just look at what bothers me. Why am I stuck in traffic every day? Why did my sister die of breast cancer if it can easily be diagnosed? All these problems have solutions. There’s a lot of opportunity for innovation in so many aspects of everyday life.” — Sebastian Thrun

Sebastian believes in creating the future. Whether that's cars that drive themselves, democratized education for everyone in the world, or flying taxis.

So if you have a big vision, don’t wait around. Get off your ass and work for it.

Most important of all don’t forget to give back.

What’s the point of climbing the mountain if you can’t admire all the people you helped and the world you saved at the top?

I take all day to climb mountains and then spend about 10 minutes at the top admiring the view.