Saturday, July 22, 2023. On this day, my countdown begins. The moment the clock strikes midnight, I will have 2000 days remaining until I am 30 years old. To preface this article, I carry no special level of mystique around turning 30. I don't judge it to be the end of my youth. I don't consider myself a failure if I still have unachieved goals at that point in time. This date is simply a milestone for me to plan around.
At some point I need to start taking actions to prepare myself for the rest of my life. This 2000 day checkpoint is the perfect time to situate myself and ensure I am on the right track. Around day 2050 I asked myself, "what central theme will carry me through this next period of my life?" That is, a sort of mantra to ground myself with. Having recently fallen victim to the SF/YC hustle culture mentality, my first thoughts were primarily achievement based. X-dollars or having had some grand successful exit. In some way this is reasonable - my influence for considering 2000 days to be a significant figure comes from the former YC CEO and current OpenAI CEO, Sam Altman.
I thought to myself, "if Sam was able to build out OpenAI in ~2000 days, surely that is a reasonable timeline for planning my life!" And I consider this fair - even if I may not be founding the next Google anytime soon.
After hours of contemplation and careful consideration, I have decided that the central theme for my life going forward is control. Control over my work, control over my personal life, control over myself. To condense: control over my time. While this conclusion may seem trite, I still would like to present my arguments for why I arrived at "control" as my central theme.
Convergence #1: Control from Money
The most obvious goal in life is the accumulation of wealth. It's concrete, clearly crucial for so many positive life outcomes, and a symbol of status in and of itself. I completely (aesthetically) respect anyone who chooses to optimize their life around net worth. But I asked myself, "why would I want to have a lot of money?"
For me, the reason I want money is so I no longer feel like my life is default-dead (to borrow a term from the VC world). I just want to have the option to quit working at the drop of a pen and know that no matter what happens, I won't be destitute for 5+ years.
As an aside, I understand that this is achievable right now through mechanisms of couch-surfing, and frugal living. So perhaps a more accurate desire would be to sustain my current lifestyle for 5+ years without holding a full-time job.
To follow up, I can ask why I want to have this exit option available to myself. Why, if I have no desires to lead a life of leisure, would I want to needlessly accumulate assets to facilitate exactly that? The answer is a simple and relatable one - the things I want to devote my time and passion to does not necessarily intersect with what will make me money. I want the freedom to pursue any and all work I find myself passionate about. In a word, ikigai.
In conclusion, I want capital so I can have control over my working hours.
Convergence #2: Control from Power
In a Machiavellian sense, the only way to do good in the world is to maintain your power. In my situation, that means to acquire power in the first place. For the purpose of brevity, I'll avoid going into what I consider to be good, or how I conceptualize myself affecting good in the world with this power, but I need to accumulate it nonetheless.
Fundamentally, power is itself the representation of control over one's environment. Power is having the ability to manipulate the world around you as you see fit. It's the same gift in a different package. Therefore, power is control.
Convergence #3: Control from Time
One of the most important things to me in life is free time. I am willing to make quite a few, at times strange, tradeoffs to keep my free time to myself. I subvert any non-essential responsibility just to have an extra moment available to spend how I wish. An example of the extremity of this responsibility skirting is the decrepit state of my car. I willfully make the choice every day to leave my muffler handing to the ground simply to save myself the time to write articles about it.
In a way, my centralizing life theme until this point has been optimizing for control over my time. It follows that "control" in the abstract is simply a generalization of this obsession for the more specific control over my time.
Bringing Them Together
In these three points, it is clear to me that both my central requirement as well as characteristic outcome of a "good" life is to have control, in every sense of the word. If I am to do what I want to do in life, I must have control over every aspect of my life. Control over working time, control over free time, and the power to make the most of them both. And it's through this series of considerations that I have committed "control" to controlling my own life.
Steps to Find Control in My Life
It's all fine and dandy to understand what I want out of life, but of equal importance to understanding your goal is to understand how best to achieve this goal. How will I find control in my life?
Work to Free One's Self from Work
Right now, my greatest lever for control of my life is through the very place I have the least control - my workplace. While there is satisfaction in a job-well-done, the real motivators to achieve in my workplace are:
- Financial rewards (through promotions) for work well done
- Training for the next step in my life
The workplace provides you the ideal opportunity to hone your craft and I recognize the privileged position I am in where my job is the same sort of work that I am passionate about outside of work. For individuals who are not so fortunate, I have no advice and no qualifications to give advice on the subject of finding this intersection. In a way, I relate, since the actual programming I want to do is often completely unrelated to the work I do in my day job. However, I truly appreciate the fact that I do have this overlap in my life.
Through my work, I can earn money to free myself from it, while simultaneously training myself for the work that lies ahead.
The Accumulation of Power and Influence
This is such an abstract concept to me. How does one develop a plan to approach the problem of influence? In my life, I've already made a few half-hearted attempts at accumulating influence. Whether this be through YouTube, Twitter, or self-aggrandizing blog posts. I know that there is something fundamentally wrong in my approach to building a following, but I haven't yet identified what that might be. My primary hypothesis is consistency. The popular YouTube personality, Mr. Beast, attributes his success to the consistency that he uploaded videos. While it might make you laugh to see me cite Mr. Beast of all people as a figure of inspiration for power, I urge you to reconsider and look at what he has accomplished from posting "silly" videos.
A recent essay from Paul Graham contains similar themes to Mr. Beast's advice.
I can look to these two influential figures as sources of inspiration for producing work consistently. That really seems to be the secret.
Taking Back Time
In the great dividing of the day, 8h for work, 8h for rest, and 8h for play, I need to make the most of my play. Unfortunately, I know that claiming time for my future self is taking time away from myself now. Dedicating a least an hour a day of my free time to personal work is completely in line with the mantras of consistency from before, setting me up for success in the future. I've done a good job about being studious about dedicating additional time in my life for this work, but what I have a lack-luster grade in is my true free time.
True free time, or the periods in my day in which I do nothing are often ill-spent. I've managed to eliminate most unfulfilling free-hours (YouTube, TikTok) from my life and partially replaced them with more fulfilling (Athletics, Reading) hours. But I can continue to do better. I assure you that this is not supposed to be an argument of satisfaction through suffering argument - rather, I know that I feel better in the moment and at the end of the day when engaging with aesthetic free-time activities. Writing is one of them too. Being able to look back on something you did for fun that produced tangible artifacts (a more cultivated physique, an educated mind, a record of past thoughts) brings immense satisfaction in comparison to the empty tasks.
I know that I can enjoy my time more than I do now. And I am committed to living my life to the fullest, ensuring that I am fully rejuvenated when it comes time to work.
This writeup is primarily an open flow from my mind onto the page, but I feel satisfied to have finally documented my thoughts on my life and where it is going. I know that I am doing good work on myself both personally and professionally and I know many of the steps I need to take to claim more control for myself in my life.
I'm going to do everything I can over the next 2012 days to ensure that I am happy, healthy, and hard working.