Here’s a look at how 2021 went for me. Thank you to James Clear for the inspiration. Read some of my previous Years in Review:
1. What went well?
I grew Edge, developed the company brand, and co-founded a second startup (Infinity AI)!
In 2019 I founded Edge Analytics, an AI consulting company. This past year, we hired five new people on the team, organized a summer and winter company retreat, and hosted multiple game nights and continuous learning events.
One of the things we especially wanted to focus on was building Edge’s brand (I wrote in last year’s YiR: “We built an incredible company in 2020… However, we have not done a good job sharing with the world what we do”). We achieved this goal by publishing 15 blog posts, 3 newsletters, and over 100 social media posts.
As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to build a company. My passion is creating things and I always saw building a company as the ultimate form of creation. Once I finally “did it” and built Edge, it was a nice surprise that doing so was even more fulfilling than I had expected.
The only missing piece for me at Edge – a consulting company – was the fact that we were not building our own scalable product. I knew that I wanted to build a product company at some point, and it turned out that 2021 was the right time.
I co-founded Infinity AI and raised our seed round at the end of 2021. Our mission at Infinity AI is to build tools that accelerate progress in machine learning (ML). Building Infinity AI will be my top focus in 2022.
I created good memories.
From attending the F1 Race with a group of friends in Austin, to a last minute (literally booked the day before) vacation to Barcelona, to dinners with dear friends in NYC, to a family sailboat trip in Mexico, I created many more memories in 2021 than in 2020. Although I “saw” a bunch of friends via zoom in 2020, the whole year blurred together in my mind. The additional sense memory from physically doing things with people in 2021 demarcated the year much better in my mind.
I want to continue to ask myself: how can I use money to create lifelong memories with the people I love? It’s not necessary that making memories costs money, but it’s good to eliminate money as an excuse.
I spent time where I wanted to spend time.
One of my goals last year was to delegate things in order to free up my time. Between hiring a housekeeper, an executive assistant (who spans personal and professional), and a Head of Finance for Edge, I succeeded in spending time on what I want and on what I am best at. I did very little administratively for Edge and barely any chores at home, which was a big win for me.
I exercised for more days and more total hours.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much exercise I did in 2021! I was focused on doing more days of exercise (even if only 10 min) and, in the process, ended up doing 40% more hours than in 2020 (61 versus 44 hours; 163 versus 96 days). Exercising daily definitely makes me more effective at my work.
2. What didn’t go well?
I should have avoided some bad decisions.
Although there might not be a “right answer” in every situation, I believe that there is always a better and a worse decision. Making good decisions matters, especially when you’re running a company. I made a few bad decisions this year and certainly paid for them dearly and painfully. I’m not ready to share the details publicly but the key learning lesson was: Always put the right People in the right Role at the right Time. Remember the PRT.
I should have gotten out of the house more.
I have spent the vast majority of the past year in my small, gloomy home office at my suburban house. This is not the life I want to be living and it needs to change.
It is always extremely motivating to stay with friends in different cities and work remotely, but I only did this 2.5 months of the year. The other 9.5 months I was working from home because I never put enough energy into finding a good office space in SF.
In 2022 I want to share a physical office space with other incredible people. I be surrounded by smart, motivated people building cool companies. I want to meet amazing people in the hallways. I want an inspiring and motivating physical HQ for Infinity AI.
Having an office versus working from home is analogous to the “door open” versus “door closed” observation that Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman made about his colleagues:
“I noticed the following facts about people who work with the door open or the door closed. I notice that if you have the door to your office closed, you get more work done today and tomorrow, and you are more productive than most. But 10 years later somehow you don’t know quite know what problems are worth working on… He who works with the door open gets all kinds of interruptions, but he also occasionally gets clues as to what the world is and what might be important… There is a pretty good correlation between those who work with the doors open and those who ultimately do important things, although people who work with doors closed often work harder. Somehow they seem to work on slightly the wrong thing – not much, but enough that they miss fame.”
– Prof. Richard Feynman, “You and Your Research” essay
I want to work on important things. I want to build an indispensable company for the world. In 2022, I’ll work on creating an environment that invites the serendipity and connection that Feynman talks about.
PS – In the spirit of inviting more “serendipity and connection,” please reach out if anything in this blog or my website as a whole has sparked your interest! I love meeting new people and spend a lot of my time doing so (email@example.com). Definitely reach out if you’re in the ML space or interested in making the leap from academia to startups.
3. What am I working towards?
Building Infinity AI.
This is my top priority. Everything I do this year will be centered around building traction and momentum for Infinity AI (my new startup). We enable engineers to build better ML models faster using synthetic training data. Our synthetic data product sits at a really cool intersection of ML, graphics, and distributed systems (PS – We’re hiring!).
Writing is the best way for me to think. I want to write as many days as possible this year. Publishing public blogs like this one is great, but more importantly, I primarily want to write for myself.
Trying to get my jaw issues in a better state.
I was diagnosed with idiopathic condylar resorption (ICR) last year, which means that my body is eating away at my jaw joint. A lot of the bone in my mandibular condyle (the connection point between the jaw and the skull) has already disappeared and so my jaw has shifted up in the socket and led to a severe open bite (no wonder I’ve had TMJ pain for years…).
I went to a couple of orthodontic appointments last year and a couple of TMJ specialist appointments, but didn’t really start any treatments. It’s such a time consuming endeavor to be a patient, especially for chronic and/or rare conditions where doctors don’t know what to do. My goal this year is to invest moderate time and effort into improving my TMJ issues so that I can hopefully avoid jaw surgery down the line.
If you are a radiologist who can help me interpret my medical scans, or a clinician with expertise in this space, let me know!
2021 in Numbers: Summary of the Things I Track2
|25 days in person with my mom
23 days in person with my dad
19 phone conversations (10hrs)
|34 days in person with my mom
14 days in person with my dad
26 phone conversations (20 hrs)
|16 days in person with my mom and dad
53 phone conversations (31 hrs)
Note: Started recording calls <20min
|64 days in person with mom and dad
27 phone conversations (14 hrs)
|86 days of doing something with friends
~75 different friends
The friend I saw/talked to the most: 17 days, second most: 7 days
|119 days of doing something with friends
~125 different friends
The friend I saw/talked to the most: 24 days, second most: 19 days
|120 days of doing something with friends
~ 90 different friends
The friends I saw the most: 23 days. Non-family friend: 15 days
142 days of doing something with friends
~109 different friends
|44 days (top types of exercise were yoga: 21, lifting: 14, cycling: 10)
|56 days (top types of exercise were yoga: 34, running: 8)
Approx. 57 hrs of exercise
|96 days (52 yoga workouts, 39 HIIT workouts, 6 ballet classes)
44.5 hrs of exercise
|163 days of exercise (76 yoga, 63 HIIT, 9 ballet)
61.5 hrs + 2 cycling days (90 miles)
Favorite: Never Split the Difference
Favorite: The Beginning of Infinity
|Arts (music, dance, theatre)
|Didn’t track, but very few
International: 0 days
14 days in Texas (stay with family)
9 days in Massachusetts (finally moved out)
4 days in Florida
3 days in Nevada
18 days in different cities in CA
(The Tomato Method, Cycling in the Alps Vlog, MIT Image Awards Vlog, Bad Idea #134, Lack of Feedback Loops in Medicine, But People Will Never Forget)
2 I wrote a blog post about my system for tracking habits and creating these summary tables.