2021 Resolutions

This is my first blog post. I thought I would write about my New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Be more goal-directed/intentional in my activities
  2. Publish my master’s thesis
  3. Read a personal book per season
  4. Write one blog post per month
  5. Establish an online presence
  6. Heal my knee!
  7. Take a bold summer trip
  8. Write and record four complete songs

1. Be more goal-directed/intentional in my activities

Guitar is one of my hobbies. I do it for fun, for its own sake. How this works is that every so often I’ll pick up my guitar and just play a few random notes or chords. I’ll play a song here or there that I learned in the past, or pick a random song to learn real quick, or play one of my chord progressions I’d like to eventually turn into a song, in hopes that playing it will inspire me to develop it further.

In carrying out my guitar hobby this way, I am not being goal-oriented or intentional. I simply do whatever I feel like doing.

I’m doing guitar for fun, so that’s fine, right? It’s not bad. But I could be having even more fun by being goal-directed and intentional in this activity. For guitar, this means practicing with a goal of getting better at guitar, with a view towards what is best about it to me: playing and creating beautiful songs.

This is similar to my friend Aamod, who resolved to get better at video games — he plays video games for fun, but he was dissatisfied with simply playing for fun. Smash is a lot more fun if you’re better at it. What’s more, improving one’s skill is immensely rewarding along the way — just ask skateboarders!

By following my goal-setting self instead of the random currents of my whimsy when practicing, I’m happier — both at the end of the individual practice session and in the long term.

“Reason over whimsy” — OK, this is a pretty mundane realization. Everybody has those things they think they should start doing, but never really do. That’s what resolutions are all about — providing a guiding beacon to direct one’s activities.

There are plenty of things I could work on under this umbrella — things I know are good for me but I struggle to do. To start, I am focusing on the easiest ones — those I’m closest to doing properly already by whim. Guitar practice is one example. Lifting according to a proper schedule is another. Eating dinner at a consistent time each day. These are all almost laughably doable. To accomplish them, I just need to keep in mind this resolution, make daily and weekly goals, and check on my work. Once I establish these habits, I can move on to others.

If I become too goal-oriented, and lose all spontaneity in my life, I’ll be sure to refocus towards some sort of mean. For now, it’s better to focus solely on one extreme, since that’s where the uphill battle lies. Maybe in a future blog post I will analyze situations where I am overrational, and ought to trust my intuition/whims more.

With that foundation, the rest of my resolutions fall into place.

2. Publish my master’s thesis

The work I have done with my group on ARC is very promising. If I am able to turn my ideas into code and experiments, I will have very good research that could be a top-notch publication. I get scared of big, competitive external goals like publications, college apps, summer internships. Usually I’d rather hide under a rock and do research for its own intrinsic sake. But we’re here to contribute to the world (and to get published). My resolution is to focus on publishing as a goal, and do my work under this guiding principle. It feels grimy to focus on publishing like this, but having an external goal like this will be good for me. Just like guitar practice, this is a resolution to be more goal-oriented in my research.

3. Read one personal book per season

I’ve been reading a decent amount, with all of the book clubs I’ve been in. I’d like to read a personal book though — no book clubs depending on me to finish it. Simple enough. Accomplishing this would be very satisfying.

4. Write one blog post per month

I want to get better at writing, and having an outlet for my ideas will help me make my ideas concrete. With the way the spirit of 2021 has developed so far in my life, having a blog feels more natural than ever.

5. Establish an online presence

This resolution has a few parts. First, I would like to make a website for myself for academic purposes. Second, I would like to become active on social media: to use Facebook for Facebook things, Instagram for Instagram things, Twitter for Twitter things, and even to post more often to Youtube. How’s that for an unconventional resolution: use social media more. There are a couple reasons for this. First, it is nice to stay in touch with people. Second, as Francois Chollet said in his interview with Lex Fridman, we are what we add to the world’s collective culture, knowledge, and experience. Being active on social media, like having a blog and doing research, contributes to the world in a way which is rewarding. Third, I currently am not active at all, which is due more to cowardice than anything else.

6. Heal my knee

I love this resolution because I love working on it. I have so much self-confidence in my ability to come back from this injury, and its nature means that every week I improve. I am excited to get back to biking and eventually running. The joys of being young and healthy and having a future!

That’s the good side of things. The bad side is that now that it’s been nine (nine!) weeks since my surgery, and my recovery has started to level off. I no longer easily make progress each week. Exercises are much less fun to do when one’s improvement is no longer tangible. It will take determination and careful following of prescriptions to continue making efficient progress. This resolution may be easier than others to carry out, but it presents just as much of a challenge to accomplish as any other.

7. Take a bold summer trip

This is one of those plans whose idea I get really excited about, but whose execution I put off until suddenly the window of opportunity has slipped away. I am making it a resolution in hopes that I don’t pass the opportunity by. Some possibilities for the trip are:

  • Going backpacking with the Comet
  • Going surfing somewhere
  • Going mountain bike backpacking somewhere
  • All of the above

Who I will go with is the big question. I could go on my own, but it would be better to go with others. I should start asking around.

8. Write and record four complete songs

This resolution was inspired by JD and his resolution to join a band. I’ve been songwriting haphazardly for over a year now, but am terrible about doing anything to completion. I don’t think the songs will be any good, but I have a lot of ideas floating around that I should finish. Think about my TI-84 programs: I had a million of those ideas floating around back in the day, but it’s really the big projects I completed which I can look back and be proud of today. Likewise with Vorpal and pretty much every other hobby I’ve ever had.

How about that?

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