I wish you plant a tree in 2023
"Tree philosophy" and 5 things I made happen last year
I didn’t feel like writing a yearly reflection in December. I felt like not much had happened in 2022, like I’d spent a lot of time just thinking, consuming, writing. I just wanted to break that trend.
Today I think that there might be something worse than a year not lived the way you wanted to: a year not remembered.
I just chatting with a friend and mentor, Steven ten, about creating meaning in life. This reminded me of evolution: how each living thing is just a stepping stone to better genes, how the general trend of progress in life is always positive, how each unit is equally important because no matter how hard you try, death always averages the outcome.
A thousand years from now, your death won’t matter anymore. Only the actions you took while being alive could stand after you; the only way, for now, of achieving true immortality might be to plant a tree under whose shade you don’t expect to sit, as Nelson Henderson would say.
That, Sofi, is what I wish for yourself in 2023: to plant a tree. Know that these take years to grow and you’ll need to water them, make sure they grow straight from the beginning, keep them away from toxic microbes, etc. You can grow multiple trees over your lifetime, you can plant one with a thick trunk and many branches, you can do whatever you want to do. It would be nice though, if you just build yourself, create value for others, and ignore the rest.
Now here’s to the previous ‘living things’ that were stepping stones, those trees you planted last year that you’ll now evolve from—just a fancy way to introduce what I made happen in 2022:
From 5K, to 10 K in under 30 minutes, to a 15 K just because I wanted to, to a 20 K which was hard as hell, to a 21 K that I can now name a half-marathon. Countless sunrises and sunsets, listening to music to let go of anxiety, running at 5 am when there was nobody out there, running with friends, running inside an inactive volcano, running 2245 meters below your usual height. It’s been fun.
I like to think that being an athlete is more like a collection of mindsets that anyone can adopt regardless of their preference for sports. I like the analogy that TKS uses of olympic-level training for other areas of life—we should all be athletes in a certain way.
2. Becoming best friends with a friend
Not much to share here, other than I spent a wonderful last semester of high school making music and philosophizing with someone who I would’ve never imagined would become the best friend I’ve ever had.
It’s funny how, despite never having been so close before the pandemic, and having been completely apart for years, we both went through so similar mental states and arrived at such similar conclusions.
Lalo is the kind of friend who, despite having spent only four months together, I will forever remember as a “soul brother”. I’m infinitely thankful for having crossed roads and wish him all the happiness and love now that he’s studying music in London.
Lesson: authenticity and open-mindedness are indeed the best way to make meaningful friendships.
3. Falling out of love with failing
If there’s one trend you can see in my personal essays from the past 2 years, it’s a mediocre kind of pride on “trying and failing but not failing to try”. It’s as if, instead of the hero’s journey I was going through the villains journey, because villains always fail. While it takes courage to acknowledge failure, let alone share it with others, it’s not losers who build the future.
It’s confusing. I was trying hard and wanted to succeed (especially with cotton and UC Berkeley). But wanting is far from enough to get what you want, especially when you’re ambitious. I was being delusional, perhaps arrogant, by thinking that I could do this with little help and training, that things would magically happen simply because I was trying and wanting.
How I’m fixing it: 1) answer “what will make this successful?” and “what will make this fail?”. Analyze all the factors involved in success/failure and make sure to solve those ahead of time; 2) tell myself better stories, for the quality of your thoughts is the quality of your experience—thanks to my grandfather Al for this feedback. I’m setting up myself for success in 2023.
4. Attending 4 conferences around the world
First one was in Synbiobeta Oakland—great time meeting lots of “twitter frens” in person, making a cool video, visiting the Genesis House and UC Berkeley and of course, listening to some synbio talks…
After that I attended the Villars Symposium in Switzerland, where I got to listen what WEF people, Oxford researchers, and other experts have to say about transitioning to a net-zero economy. Best part was actually spending time with friends from TKS :)
Then came Future Forum in SF. I was exposed to a large community of Effective Altruists (EAs), incredible researchers from Harvard-MIT, people doing AI alignment research, and chatted about self-love with my friend Sigil Wen :)
Last one was “the largest entrepreneurship festival in Latam” and boy it was large. I visited Monterrey, got to know the campus, checked out what startups bioengineers are building in Mexico, and what hundreds of young Mexican entrepreneurs are doing.
Takeaways? I’m not in a phase in my life in which conferences are going to move the needle unless I’m a speaker. My social battery runs out after 1.5 days, reaching out to people online is 10x more effective and nothing said at conferences will be new or unfindable online. I might be wrong though…
5. Lol, I started an online store 😂
Don’t ask too much!! I just wanted to prove myself I could make money and execute on the stupidest idea possible… while wasting some time obsessing over design and using Midjourney. I guess that at least I now know how to use Shopify and Facebook ads—I’ll keep running the store for some time, just in case anyone wants to buy my sh*t haha.
Now seriously, there’s a greater insight in this section. Apparently the demand for marketing/writing in biotech orgs is higher than I thought. While many consumer companies use online ads, it looks like the target market of many biotechs is “smart people” who read Substack and listen to podcasts.
This year I 10xed my writing. Huge thanks to Eliott Harfouche for being the first person to believe in my potential to write biotech essays, for giving me excellent reading recommendations and feedback. Still much to improve but hey… I’ve found a better way to capitalize on my knowledge and skills, YAY!
I think I have all the baking soda. I just need to start well… baking. I’ve thought about trying less hard. I especially want to train myself to have a more immediate bias towards action by writing less and building more. This is becoming increasingly tricky with the new “part-time job” I’ve found as a “writer” but hey: think less, do more, be more realistic. I’ll figure it out, let’s go.