“Investing in knowledge, growth and personal development is the best investment you can make.”
Looking back, I feel that in 2013 I tried hard to start following this statement very closely. I had pretty good success in some of those and failed terribly in some. So before I start a new year I thought that it would be good to evaluate those and see where I stand. I am doing this mostly because writing this forced me to think about what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong.
I feel at this point of my life personal development is probably the best favor I can do to my future self (but as economics taught me, hyperbolic discounting makes things hard!). Last year was the start of my lifelong journey to becoming more healthy, dressing better, and last but not least, making meaningful connections with people.
Becoming More Healthy:
Last year, I joined a few clubs. I tried cricket, frisbee, and cycling. For many good reasons I decided to stick with cycling and I train with the cycling club regularly now. It is probably worth a separate post to talk about my cycling experience, but in a nutshell,I biked about 1000 miles last semester and can climb the hilly areas near Lexington, Waltham etc pretty easily. Also now I have my professional biking gears and a beautiful Specialized Allez Sports bike! So riding this spring semester is going to be more fun.
Although playing a sports is a lot of fun, the main motivation I had was becoming healthy. Speaking of that, I reduced my BMI from 26.5 to 24.2. So basically went from slightly overweight to healthy range, which is definitely an achievement I am proud of. In terms of weight I lost 18 pounds and I weight 159 now (and I was 177). This was a result of both eating healthy and having an active lifestyle. Anyway, I feel the following photo will be able to show how much that means in terms of better physique!
(From left to right: 2012, April 2013, December 2013)
If I want to be even half-decent at biking, I know that I need to lose a few more pounds and get stronger glut and quad muscles. This will make sure I have a good power/weight ratio and make me able to climb and ride better. In fact, I have been working on it this winter and I think it is achievable!
Making Meaningful Connections:
One of the best things that Harvard (or any other big-name-institute) offers is the the chance to mingle with extremely smart people of your age. Although I have been trying to make my network, I feel the most important thing is not just making connections, the most important thing is making meaningful connections. By that I mean you can know 1000 people by name, but it is not probably useful unless you are close to them and the best connections are built through years of friendship and doing activities with them.
I feel I have failed pretty miserably last semester in this field. Although I was not anti-social (in fact I might have been slightly above the mean in terms of being social), but I feel I did not spend time doing what matters– making meaningful connections. I think I will try hard this year to achieve this goal.
Also if it is worth mentioning, I messed up pretty bad with a close friend. But you know, we live to learn and thankfully we are still good friends.
Although the previous photo would probably serve as a testament to my conscious effort, I thought I should still make a point! One thing I am particularly proud of is that at least I tried quite a bit of dressing-styles and learned a fair amount about those– I tried from hip to prep and currently leaning more towards the prep style!
Speaking of dressing I feel the left and right photo are the global minima and maxima of my dressup fanciness (taken in 2011 and 2013 respectively). However, I don’t plan to dress 24/7 like that anytime soon and I feel I have a lot of room to improve in this section in 2014! However, at least, I now I wear the clothes that actually fit me–I think that is one of the biggest improvements you can make in terms of dress-up.
From my day 1 at Harvard I tried to optimize for learning. When people ask me why I take 5 courses I generally give them this response. I don’t have a perfect GPA, and not that I cared too much about it. Rather I spent my time exploring different fields (maths, economics, physics, CS, history, philosophy, music, photography and so on) and trying those (and often failing) made me learn a lot about these disciplines.
This general philosophy about learning aside, I feel one thing I achieved solidly in 2013 is that I learned python really well and achieved mastery in several important python libraries like numpy, scipy, mathplotlib, pandas, scikit etc. Moreover, though my academic courses I learned about parallel computing on CPU and GPU, computer vision, robotics, and data science.
On the flip side, I failed to finish any substantial ML book. As a part of last year’s resolution, I wanted to learn more about machine learning, but I guess getting lotteried out of CS 281 (grad machine learning), I did not have enough time or motivation to brave through a book.
Another concept I learned outside classrooms and used quite a bit was thinking probabilistically. I got this idea from my blockmate and close friend Andrew. So at a concrete level the idea is that no matter how much you study you can not predict the outcome of a test, so is it not worth studying more? So probabilistic thinking tells you that you should study more because by studying more you can reasonably increase the expected grade. So this kind of probabilistic thinking helps you to optimize based on the probability.
One thing that I wanted, but did not get time to do was doing research and making important academia connections with that. However, I feel I did read many papers and did research based final projects for some of my grad course and also for the recommendation system algorithm I designed over the summer working as a data scientist intern made me do a decent amount of research on the recommendation systems. That being said, I feel at least for signaling purpose, I need to do research with a professor this year.
I personally believe that growth is a function of knowledge, hard work, and personal improvements. So instead of making the most bucks, or getting the most prestigious things, I feel I am better off spending my time on learning and personal improvement for the next few years. Although I am still yet to figure out what I am exactly doing with my life, I feel having a sense that I would take learning over anything makes it not so hard.
2013 was the start of a journey to consciously find a better self of me and to make personal improvements. So I believe it is important that I thank all of my friends and good-wishers who helped me, inspired me, or often pushed me to get working on these. I believe I can say without bragging that if you look hard enough you can find your role model in your classmates at Harvard no matter whatever you want to be good at. I am thankful to have so many amazing people around me whom I call friends. Just can’t wait to start my adventures in another new year!
Oh, and before I end, 3 random, seemingly trivial, but important life-lessons I learned:
- Sriracha makes everything better!
- American Crew forming cream makes your hair look the best!
- When in doubt doing machine learning, use k-means clustering and/or Support Vector Machine (of course, after linear regression!).
Happy new year!