It's been one hell of a ride.
Pair programming with Kamal and Kevin Francis. Learned more in 2 months than an entire year of following books and tutorials.
Startup Weekend Singapore. Came in 2nd place.
Built and shipped two apps in a month with Richerd. Scored tons of press and a YC interview (which we blew).
Mentored in both Startup Weekend Cambodia and Founder Institute Singapore. Fulfilling.
Spent 2 months in Canada. One of the most eye-opening experience in my life.
Delivered my first TEDx talk. 18 hours later, completed my first full marathon.
I will always remember year 2012 as the year of unexpected. Most of which that happened, happened on a whim or last minute decision.
Bring on 2013.
My ankles hurted. I didn't think I could run anymore. There was still 15km to go.
"Bad idea running a marathon after all these years of playing basketball," I thought to myself, trying to relate my pain to years of pounding my ankles on the court. "If it wasn't that, I would have been way ahead already." Thoughts like that made me felt good for a while.
Then I looked around. I saw a few runners stretching at the side of the road, probably due to leg cramps. Some runners were hobbling. Some were literally dragging their feet. Some runners ran really hard, and stopped, and ran hard again.
From the look of their face, if there was one similarity among them, it's pain.
Suddenly, my pain wasn't so "special" anymore. We were all on equal ground. We were all on the same boat. This realization kept me going at my hardest until the end. I repeated these words at least a couple hundred times during the last few miles of the race:
“We are all in pain. So keep going.”
Running towards sunrise. (photo credit: my wife, who despite having sprained her ankle, still managed to finish the race and took some nice photos like this during her run)
I vividly remembered the excitement I felt when I heard the buzzing sound of my dial-up modem, when I hopped onto IRC, when I knew I could search for anything on this search engine called Altavista.
Getting on the internet was the highlight of my day.
These days, when I wasn't working, my attention span hopped between checking email, Twitter, Hacker News, and some of my favorite websites. Sometimes, I could find something interesting. But most of the time, it was almost always the same thing.
I felt like the guy who buys lottery everyday, hoping to win big. He always end up disappointed, and suddenly he won something small when he about to give up. With his hope reignited, he continues to buy lottery again. Until it became a habit.
Like him, I was seeking for an instant gratification that almost never happens. And it's slowly costing my life.
So I blocked these websites. But I knew it wasn't enough. I started training for marathon. I did CrossFit and Yoga when I needed a break from work. I started playing basketball three times a week. I met up with friends to have long lunch or dinner. I spent more time with my family. I travelled. I read (just finished "Liar's Poker") and wrote more (this article was written offline).
It felt incredible. My focus and productivity improved. I enjoyed my work more. I slept better. More importantly, I enjoyed every single one of those activities way more than the internet.
Now, whenever I feel bored (which rarely happens), the first thing I do is to close the lid of my laptop and get out. Even when I wasn't doing anything, I was content with just a cup of tea, sitting and looking at the sea, and not wondering about what's on the Hacker News front page.
And I love it.
I love hackathon: teaming up with other programmers, trying out new things, building and shipping side-project in the sleepless and caffeine-filled weekend. It's fun and I used to do it once every couple of months.
But approaching my 30s, I have a different thought.
See, here's my typical hackathon now. The first 5-8 hours were good. Excitement set in. I found somebody to team up with, worked on couple of ideas and started building stuff. Hours later, I started to feel tired and I somehow couldn't get this new thing to work. "Not a big deal", I told yourself and drank a Red Bull. I kept munching on the chips on the table and felt I was on the right path to get this to work. I eventually solved it, only after another couple of hours. By that time, fatique set in and I really felt like going home and have a good night sleep. But I didn't want to let your fellow hackers down, and I really needed to ship this. So I drank a couple more Red Bulls and kept going...
The whole weekend turned out to be more painful than fun. I felt horrible (especially if I didn't manage to finish). And what's worse? It took days to recover.
Hence, I would like to make a modest proposal -- a healthier hackathon!
- Make the stretch longer. Let's say, three days, from Friday evening to Sunday night, so there would still be time if the participants slept through the night.
- Heathy food choices. Instead of snacks and junk food, go with lotsa fruits and vegetables. Replace the Red Bulls and Cokes with Green Tea, or even Matcha.
- Have exercise break. Do short runs, or workout sessions.
Wouldn't that be great? Hackathon like this would rejuvenating instead of draining the energy. It would be the perfect weekend retreat.
But, I don't think this would become a reality. Hackathon has been around for ages and it's unlikely to change. Besides, most people think hackers are superhuman and they shouldn't need to sleep.
And for me? I guess I'm too old for this shit.
So I was talking to this 11-year-old kid. We were doing some shootaround at a basketball court and I don't exactly remember what leads to the below conversations...
ME: "So you play video games?"
KID: "I love playing video games."
ME: "What's your favorite console? Xbox 360?"
KID: "I don't like Xbox 360."
ME: "Why? Even with kinect and all the cool stuff?"
KID: (shaking his head)
ME: "What about PS3?"
KID: "I don't like PS3."
ME: "Oh, so you must be into Wii?"
KID: "Wii is not fun."
ME: "Geeze. Then what is it that you like?"