2014: Building Infrastructure

January 1, 2015

{% previous 2013-in-review %}


With 2014 now safely over, we may now gossip rudely behind its back. This post is to serve as a postmortem on the year, to collect as much data about it, review what went well, and see what we can do better for next time.

While 2013 was a year of collecting low-hanging fruit, for me, 2014 was instead a year of infrastructure-building. I spent the last 365 days focusing on three pillars: collecting knowledge, excelling in school, and building my career.

On the knowledge front, I wanted to read 10 textbooks, after accidentally reading one last year and realizing it was by far the best way of getting up to speed in a subject. Depending on what you count as being a “textbook”, I read somewhere between 8 and 12, on subjects including writing, business and negotiation, cognitive psychology, and a wide range of mathematics (probability theory, set theory, category theory and game theory). The focus here was on learning material I expected to be useful over the course of the next three years. I consider this pillar to be a success.

Excelling in school, however, did not go very well, as it was perhaps poorly thought out. I had precommitted (a $200 payment in escrow to a friend should I fail) to getting an average grade of >85% (an increase of about 12%) over my penultimate school term. My motivation for this was the belief that high grades would reflect a strong understanding of the course material. I found the actual mechanics of receiving high-grades to be relatively easy, but had to slowly watch as my motivation slipped away; many of my courses didn’t strike me as being worthwhile of which to have a strong understanding. Overall, I achieved around 81% – still a significant improvement – but still ended up paying the escrow.

My plans for the career pillar were to build lots of industry contacts, to have high impact during my internships, and to land an awesome full-time job for after graduation. The motivation for this pillar, of course, was that 2014 was my last full year to concentrate on optimizing for a career before actually jumping into one. I was looking for something interesting (to avoid burnout) and highly lucrative (to donate). I can’t talk about my impact for legal reasons, but I can say it was at least three orders of magnitude larger than I would have ever dreamed. I’m in the final stages of landing a job, so it’s a little too soon to talk about that, but everything is looking really promising and my expected salary skyrocketed by about 130% from what I would have predicted last year. I consider this pillar to be hugely successful.

Also, for some reason, during my new year planning for 2014 I decided I was going to put out a rap CD. This didn’t happen. I can’t really remember why I thought this would be a worthwhile use of my time, but I’m including it for completeness.

A big highlight of the year was a ten-week excursion to eastern Europe during what should have been an internship. I didn’t find any jobs that I wanted in a location that I wanted which would teach me things I wanted to know, so I decided to better spend the time traveling. This was the best decision I’ve ever made, and I learned more about myself in those ten weeks than I did in all of 2012. I have lots more to say on my eurotrip, but it’s relatively off-topic for the purposes of this post.

Looking Forward

My plan for 2015 is to focus on consolidating power. I want to use the next year to implement one new habit every two weeks, ranging from productivity strategies, to mnemonics, covering better nutrition, exercise and meditation in between. The plan is to write a blog post every two weeks with a review of the new habit, and how well my previous habits have been holding up. My first habit will be installation of a better quantified self system: figuring out all of the analytics below was significantly harder than it should have been. I think this is an especially good way to start, since it will help track progress in future habits. I will write more on this in two weeks.


Additionally, I spent the last week of 2014 collecting as many analytics on the year as I could. I’m presenting them here as a part of my new transparency initiative, and because I find them interesting as hell. There is way more information here than you want to know about me, and not all of it is flattering. Proceed carefully =) Most of these numbers are lower-bound estimates, given that I didn’t have a proper system to quantify any of it until very recently. If you’re a science teacher, don’t spend too much time dwelling on the significant digits; I didn’t.


Sex partners: 6+2
People kissed: 14
People dated: 8
Tinder matches: 179
Tinder dates: 2
People who saw me naked: 24


Salary: +28,800
Bitcoin profits: +11,976
Total income: +43,537

Alcohol: -625
Clothing: -556
Groceries: -1,090
Restaraunts: -4,042
Flights: -2,927
Europe Trip: -7,739
Tuition: -14,328
Lost bets: -200
Donations: -13,050 (45% of salary)
Total costs: -82,675

Net income: -26,162


Friends made: 171
Friends lost: 274
Net friends: -103
Messages sent: 76,014
Messages received: 67,769
Words sent: 404,911 (avg: 5.3/msg)
Words received: 432,005 (avg: 6.4/msg)


Flights: 26
Distance (plane): 42,480km
Distance (train): 2,030km
Distance (bus)2: 2,863km
Distance (car): 2,081km
Distance (ferry): 600km
Distance (total): 49,651km


Productive hours: 1,109 (avg: 3.0h/day, 19.0% of waking life)
Source control commits: 439
Lines of code written: 19,635 (avg: 53.8/day, 44.7/commit)
Keystrokes: 350,2813
Clicks: 34,835
API calls to generate analytics: 6,612


Total blog posts: 21
Words published (blogs): 37,634 (avg: 103/day, 1792/post)
Words published (books): 8,025
Words published (total): 45,659 (avg: 125/day)


Songs played: 24,927 (avg: 68.3/day)
Books read: 36
Average book rating: 3.1
Total insights from books: 1,440 (avg: 40/book)
Youtube videos watched: 2,463
Total time watching youtube: 557.8h (avg: 1.5/day, 13.6m/video)


Beers4: 316 (avg: 2.6/day)
Liquor: 97 (avg: 0.81/day)


Some numbers here are particularly surprising to me, namely how much I spent on restaurants, how long I spent watching TV, and just how many facebook messages I send. Additionally, I had no idea just how negative my net income was.

Some recommendations to future-me: start a budget. My current spending strategy is “does this save me more time than it would cost?”, and if so, I buy it. From a theoretical point of view, this is a good strategy, but it optimizes only locally; for example, cooking in large batches would have been a better solution than always eating out.

Also, I spent how much time watching TV last year?? There are huge wins to be had here simply by replacing that with something even a little productive (I generally don’t find TV to be all that refreshing in terms of the maxima of activity-space).

Notably missing from these numbers are email statistics (gmail’s API was far too frustrating for me to care enough to collect them), how much coffee I drink (way too much), how much water I drink (far too little), what I’m spending my productive time doing, what types of music I’m listening to, and actual sexual encounters. I’d like to do some statistics on the data to see what is correlated, to make better optimizations next year.


All in all, it’s been a pretty amazing year. It’s not as radically different from last as 2013 was from 2012, but that’s to be expected when 2013 was focused on finding low-hanging fruit. Subjectively I would rank 2014 as marginally better from 2013, and as my best year to date. Let’s hope this trend continues next year too!

  1. Using Facebook as a proxy for my social life.↩︎

  2. This excludes getting around cities internally, because I didn’t track that and estimating it would be too difficult.↩︎

  3. These numbers are impossibly wrong; the software tracking them is rarely ever running. I find this amazing because these numbers are still REALLY BIG.↩︎

  4. I only began tracking this metric in late August, but these numbers are not representative of the year as a whole. Backpacking in Europe was a major benefactor.↩︎