79: In search of my Infinite Mode ♾
This week I created an academic scraping tool that creates a list of emails for authors who have published on a particular topic. The motivation was that I’m reaching out to researchers in proteomics and transcriptomics, and it was taking time to go to each individual website or paper. However, I’m not sure I should have made it (I explain why below).
I’m planning to extend it to also return the contents and abstract of the paper. I’m writing a coding tutorial on Extracting Insights from Medical Research Papers using NLP, and it would be helpful to easily scrape academic papers on a particular subject to help finetune the large language models.
Solving the money problem
In the last few years, it’s felt increasingly important to me to “solve the money problem”.
I don’t want to sacrifice my overall happiness in exchange for money (by e.g. working a job I don’t like, or working more hours than I can be productive). So I’m searching for the classic “find a way to get paid for what you love, so you never work a day again”.
With the internet, where you can learn so much for free and reach potential customers, this feels an increasingly possible pursuit.
This week I read Paul Millerd’s blog post “Don’t Find A Niche, Find A Mode” and it resonated with me on this front:
The biggest reason “find a niche” fails is that… it ignores the reality that most people who do arrive at a state of niche-ness usually have one thing in common: they didn’t give up.
This is why a better strategy than finding a niche, especially early, is “find a mode.” Find a mode where you can continue to be excited about what you are doing. Find a mode where the friction to getting started declines over time. Find a mode where you are excited to keep going despite being ignored. Find a mode where you want to do something despite not having anything to show for it or in the worst case, despite criticism.
Gratitude for progress and the hedonic treadmill
Within the last year, I’ve entered the position where I can fully-sustain myself by freelancing on fun projects (supplemented with a few “passive income” sources like some popular blog posts and a book I wrote). I got to this position through 4+ years of building machine learning and programming skills.
I think I’m way closer to finding my mode. I’m absolutely stoked to be in this position, and would have been ecstatic if you had told me this a few years ago, when I was a disillusioned doctor in the NHS.
But sometimes I have to actively remind myself of it. It’s funny how quickly your mind can ‘reset’ after reaching goals.
Apparently this is called “the arrival fallacy” - that when we reach a certain milestone we think we’ll reach a state of lasting happiness. Ryan Holiday wrote:
“You know deep down that accomplishing things won’t make you happy, but I think I always fantasized that it would at least feel really good. I was so wrong. Hitting #1 for the first time as an author felt like…nothing. Being a ‘millionaire’…nothing. It’s a trick of evolution that drives us, and no one is immune from making this mistake.
I have a copy of this Marcus Aurelius quote above my sink, to try and remind myself:
“Don’t set your mind on things you don’t possess as if they were yours, but count the blessings you actually possess and think how much you would desire them if they weren’t already yours. But watch yourself, that you don’t value these things to the point of being troubled if you should lose them.”
Saying no to more
This week I felt pretty burnt out.
I’ve felt pretty high on life for the last month or so. I’ve been learning interesting things, meeting interesting people, spending time with my family, and playing around with the cool technical tools available to us today. It feels like an amazing time to be alive.
But I’ve also been letting myself take on too many projects. Each new avenue I’ve been exploring has given be ten new ideas of things I could build. I’ve said no to a lot, but also let more and more “things I could build” slide on to my plate. This is something I’ve been guilty of in the past, as I always want to do more.
The result is that I made a bit of progress on lots of projects, but didn’t really finish any of them.
I realised this this morning, and forced myself to cull a bunch of “nice-to-do” projects from my project list. If it didn’t clearly fit into my current thesis (of building scalable web products in public), it was gone.
I committed to shipping my AI-based language learning tool by the end of February, and making all else secondary in service of that goal. (Please keep me accountable!)
Not a ground-breaking revelation, but a helpful reminder nonetheless.
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👋 Hi, I'm Chris Lovejoy.
I'm a medical doctor 🩺 -> machine learning engineer 👨💻 -> start-up founder 💡
I'm on a mission to improve how we manage our health - and share my learnings and experiences here, on my personal website and on YouTube.
I also throw in my favourite things from the internet, and the occasional joke (humour is work-in-progress).
Loved this installment, as always !
Could relate a lot to making little progress on a lot of projects but not taking any to a logical conclusion. Dont beat yourself up too much about it . The trick is to recognize it & take remedial action.
Just curious what prompted you to make the language learning tool as its quite different from research paper summarization ?
Loved the quotes from Ryan Holiday & Marcus Aurelius !
Thank you for sharing Chris, it's great to hear how you've managed to find the perfect balance that suits you and works around your interests & loved ones, spoke to Stu Maitland who mentioned you were freelancing, I'm in a similar situation where I'm hoping to quite after FY1, where are you currently freelancing? Is it enough do you reckon?