Blogging

The past 1.5 years of blogging has brought me immense joy and several lessons. It’s great to have an outlet for your own creativity and something to work on outside of the daily office hours. Like I confided to a good friend of mine: it made me feel alive at times. Small as it is, this little project of mine has made my life better and taught me the lessons, including the following:

It takes planning and effort to do the leg work

A research-oriented piece obviously demands a lot of reading, note-taking, planning, quoting, data-retrieving, data-processing, data visualization and writing such as this piece on Delta’s partnership or this on Delta’s effort to deliver stellar customer experience. Content that deals with a company’s financials requires a painstaking retrieval of data from the company’s financial statements. Some firms do a better job than others in releasing numbers in a user-friendly manner. Nonetheless, it is an ordeal to retrieve data and store it properly. Below is my Google drive that stores financial data of a few companies.

It’s tricky to overcome the “this is nothing special. Many talked about it already” mindset

“Why should I write about this? What would make what I have to say unique?”. Those are the questions I sometimes asked myself. The doubt delayed and at times killed the writing completely. I was trying to look for something unique or at least not talked about enough. The task is not easy. The Internet brings down barriers to information and allows everyone to voice his or her opinion. Unexplored topics come in short supply. Fortunately, I came to a realization that there are hundreds of books about just a certain subject, whether it is Civil War, World War II or Winston Churchill. I can build on top of the ones that came before me and add my own voice and perspective. It made the whole process easier. Plus, if you don’t have to write for a living, remember the whole thing is for yourself first.

It helps to identify sources of interesting and reliable information

It helps tremendously to get inspiration online. In addition to my friends and news outlets such as Hacker News, Wall Street Journal and companies’ SEC filings, Twitter has been a great source of ideas and materials. As long as you identify a few great Twitter users as inspiration, the platform is a gold mine for folks that cherish personal development. Some of my fav folks to follow include Horace Deliu, Modest Proposal, Neil Cybart and Ben Evans.

It is hard work to deliver great content consistently

Writing is already hard. Writing well is harder. Writing well consistently is much harder. There are days when the creativity juice abandons me. There are days when I don’t have any idea to write about. Plus, other commitments in life can stand in your way. To be able to write well consistently requires constant reading, constant exploration, insights, if possible, and a lot of hard work ranging from preparation, processing, visualization and the writing itself. Since I started to blog more often, I have had a whole new level of respect to folks that make a living out of writing. Not only do they have to do the hard work, but they also must overcome sporadic writer blocks and lethargy to honor the commitment to subscribers.

I still have a lot to learn about writing and delivering great content. I am willing to do the work and looking forward to continuing to do so in the future.

Random late night thoughts of a 29-year-old

Struggling to sleep early and tired of reading, I thought about jotting down some opinions that I hold personally. And while I am at it, why not getting on the bandwagon of having as many thoughts as your age? Since I am 29 now, here are 29 thoughts on various topics that I have. I am not trying to give out hot takes. I am just bored and need to honor my commitment of regular writing

  1. The ability to focus and be consistent is among the greatest competitive advantages that one can have, especially in this age of technology
  2. We used to have more happiness with fewer materials in the past than now when we have so much more, but arguably much less happiness
  3. Slaves in the past had to exchange labor and hours for food, shelter and money. We now have to work for hours for food, shelter and money. What’s the difference? Only when we can survive without having to work will we stop being a modern slave. Know why we feel good during holidays and weekends? Because we are free
  4. There are a few universal truths. Besides that, no one really knows anything for a certainty. If you really think about it, many things fall into the “there is a fine thin line” category. They can always go either way
  5. Travel. Don’t just go to Paris or London. Go to Africa. Go to the poor neighborhoods without water in India. Go to areas in Vietnam where folks live under $2/day. You’d feel a whole lot better about your life
  6. Most people advertise their yearn for the truth, yet the majority don’t really want it
  7. To be impartial and free of bias, news outlets must stop featuring Opinions pieces and using words to stir emotions. Otherwise, they are just glorified biased blogs
  8. Mastering languages and knowing exactly which words to use and when is magically powerful. Only a few can
  9. The best way to keep yourself humble is to ask: if you were that good, why would you still be where you are now? Without a fat bank account, a household name, a hot spouse, a large villa and freedom to do what you want? See, easy to keep your feet on the ground
  10. Many hail and call for decentralization. If it were all well and good, what have we had for the past thousands of years? We must have done something right to be where we are now
  11. It’s easier now than ever to acquire a skill, but it’s also more challenging than ever to be competitive. For the exact same reason
  12. Folks who tweet “Unpopular thought/opinion/take” or whatever along that line care more about appearing contrarian than the message itself. Why? Which one comes first? The message or the “unpopular take” phrase?
  13. To be contrarian, first you have to be right and then you have to be different from everyone else. Usually, the determination is external. It’s strange to see many who self-proclaim to be contrarian
  14. Blue Ocean strategy is simply about finding your competitive advantage. As long as you find your edge, you’ll have already ended up in a blue ocean instead of a red one anyway
  15. The more diverse a society is, the less effective democracy is, compared to its theory
  16. It’s utterly unfair to force consumers to give out tips as part of workers’ compensation. Which part of handing a muffin over the counter deserves a tip?
  17. The more we own, the more responsibilities we bear. Be it a house, a kid, a company, a car. It’s queer to see many who yearn to be free strive to own so much
  18. The core concept of “American Dreams” isn’t exclusive to America. It was there long before America was born and will be after. The outrageous successes stemming from this country, technologies and special circumstances help populate the term “American Dreams”
  19. Don’t feel bad if you forget most of the books you read. We all do
  20. Given the chances, we will be happier if we feel we contribute to a community, if we belong to somewhere
  21. When I was young, I dreamed that my name would go on to be in a history book. I was silly. What’s good of all legacies if we are 6 feet underground and all left of us is dust?
  22. Gerrymandering, electoral college and lobbying make America’s claim of democracy overrated
  23. If you are famous, some people will defend your transgressions, even the most outrageous ones. Not so when you are a nobody. Humans are weird
  24. It’s utterly remarkable that humans physically inferior to other animals “rule” the planet. We can’t hold breath under water as long as other sea animals. We are essentially snails compared to horses or cheetahs. In terms of agility and quickness, we are nothing compared to monkeys. Yet, here we are
  25. Marriage is a form of increasing “switching costs”. People divorce all the time. Some end up in a nasty fashion even. If two people are committed enough, what’s the point of having to go through all the legalities and expenses related to weddings? Even a marriage can make folks think twice about a break-up, like any other switching costs, it doesn’t guarantee to work all the time
  26. Everyone lies. In some circumstances. In some fashion
  27. Equivalent to winning a lottery: being born healthy and full, getting along with your parents, finding great and honest friends, knowing what you want to do early, being born in one of the developed countries
  28. Humans are our worst enemies. Scientists didn’t invent dynamite or nuclear to kill in mass. Despite the advances, many die from not being able to afford insulin. Boeing risks a score of lives just to make money
  29. News outlets would save a lot of money by not having journalists in athletes’ faces EVERY day asking, in a lot of cases, very stupid questions. What’s really the odd of their saying something exclusive and worthwhile that wouldn’t be covered by other media?

Why I blog

One of my goals in 2019 is to write often and specifically, have at least 200 published blog posts when the year closes its curtains. So far I have been on track to meet the target. As I look back at the last 8 months of consistent blogging, this endeavor has brought to me so much more than I anticipated.

Last August, I started this blog as a medium to practice what I learned, share my opinion in my own way to give back, create a healthy habit and build up my self-confidence. Fast forward to now:

  1. I have learned a lot more along the way. To really write about something, first I need to know what I am going to write about. I read more quarterly/annual reports, earning call transcripts, industry reports, long blog posts, you know, the boring stuff to many of my peers. I listen to more podcasts, interviews. I read more books. I analyze reported numbers by companies more. And it leads to a lot learning; which fits the name of this blog.
  2. I enjoy the process. Writing is such a pleasant experience to me nowadays that I often really look forward to it as a highlight of my day, especially when I have a long day at work. Anne Lamott said it best: “Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”
  3. I feel much more confident about blogging now than when I first started. Not because I am an expert now. I still have a long way to go. But I believe it is because of the practice. Blogging often helps me reduce my self-doubt and shyness bit by bit and gives my confidence a little boost. Even though the progress is nothing earth-shattering, as long as I don’t stand still, I am happy.
  4. I came to realization that this blog gradually is becoming a collection of my notes, a bookmarking tool, a mind-refresher. Sometimes, I come back to remind myself of some highlights in a book I read, of some code I wrote and of something that I jogged down. Instead of carrying an actual notebook which would be challenging to categorize and search, I know where to find what I need with just a few key strokes.

I came across a post by M.G. Siegler that really hit home to me:

Imagine the humiliation of putting yourself out there and zero people caring because zero people saw it. I know a lot of people feel this way when they start doing something with regard to content on the internet — I applied it to blogging, but I imagine it’s the exact same story with recording videos for YouTube, starting a podcast, etc. Just keep at it.

This is, of course, easier said than done. It takes time to do anything, no matter the type of content you’re focused on. The good news is that even if the audience doesn’t show up at first, the work pays off in other ways. Namely, you’ll get better at what you’re doing.

I look back at some of my early blog posts and cringe. They were awful. I was foolish. But I kept going and the posts got less awful and less foolish (this statement is subject to review in another decade). I honestly think the worst thing that could have happened was getting a large audience from day one. I wouldn’t have been ready for it (even if I thought I was).

And so again, the advice is simply to keep at it. Even if the next post gets zero readers too. And the next one. Eventually, zero turns to one and then one to two and then you’re off to the races.

M.G. Siegler

I know the feeling of having zero people view what you wrote all too well. Part of it is I don’t advertise it. I put a link to my blog on my Instagram profile, LinkedIn profile and in my resume. That’s it. I don’t actively post on Facebook or tweet about it whenever I publish. I am doing this for me first and foremost, not to be validated by others. Plus, I know I am not ready. Even though this blog has gained traction in the last few months , I am still on my way from zero to one. Good news is that I am willing to keep at it.

100th post in 2018

I don’t remember the exact time, but somewhere in the summer, I decided to put effort into this blog and resolve to have at least 100 posts at the end of 2018. At the time, I had around 20 something posts already. Not a tall order. Not an ambitious goal. But a goal to work on, to look forward to.

Fast forward, a few days from when the sun will finally set on 2018, I achieved the goal set a few months ago. But it’s just the start of a very long road. I set my sight on publishing 200 more posts in 2019 and more in the future.

The primary metric is the number of published posts, not the number of followers or likes. The purpose of this blog is an outlet of my expression, whether it is a coding tip, a book I enjoyed, something that happened in my life or an opinion on a topic. My goal is to get out of my shell more as well as to create a rewarding long-term habit. I have enjoyed the journey of getting to 100 posts as much as the feeling coming from reaching the milestone itself. Hence, I really look forward to writing more next year and beyond.

Finally, as 2019 is just around the corner, I wish everyone a great holiday break, fully charged before taking on the new challenges in 2019. In a non-stop world we are living in, it’s more important to have a slow period of time such as this time of the year.