Monday, September 20, 2010

advice to past self

A couple years ago, Bez (Google engineering director) made a comment that really stuck with me. He was deciding whether to take on a particular project at work, and he said, "I don't do anything half-assed. Either I don't do it at all, or I use my whole ass."

I think if I were able to give a single piece of advice to my 18-year-old self, it would be that.

If I were to follow my natural instincts, the amount of effort I put into a situation depends on how happy I am with it. There is a formula for that:
happiness = results - expectations

I've been most happy in situations when I came from worse environments. I loved Caltech wholeheartedly, partly because I felt like a fish out of water in high school in Las Vegas, and Caltech was such a welcome change. If I'd gone from an amazing high school, I probably would not love it as much.

Thus, it doesn't make sense to base your effort on happiness then, because you'd only end up putting in a lot of effort if you had a bad experience leading up to it which forced you to lower your expectations.

Once you decide to do something, even if you have a lot of doubts, you should just give it your all.


Jeremy said...

Happiness is giving it your best and being satisfied with the results.

ArC said...

There were people at Tech who came out of kickass magnet schools, I understand. Perhaps you should ask them what they thought of their transition to Tech?

Anonymous said...

Once something is above the threshold that you've decided to do it, you should put in as much effort if it barely crossed the decision threshold as if it was a slam-dunk decision.

I did not understand above scentense. Can you please explain in simple words?

Anonymous said...

i happened to chance upon your blog, and it seems that though you are no longer associated with either msft or goog, every alternate post of yours is about things you did there or some event that happened while you were there. Even the intro on ur blog post prominently mentions these past associations but not your current. Dont take it the wrong way, but it seems that your only identity in life was that you were involved with these orgs and you're still trying to "milk" these associations. What about your current workplace? what about your current identity? is there nothing interesting to write about? (this comment is applicable to the blog as a whole, not this particular post)

Niniane said...

Wow, I did not expect anyone to have this viewpoint. I just looked through my last dozen posts. Did any of them mention Microsoft? I don't see any. I do mention Google, usually in the context of people I met there who I still see (e.g. Omst).

I do write about Sunfire, but I don't write about my current software projects, because I'm not ready to talk about them yet.

It's true that I didn't update my blog byline in a while, so it doesn't mention my current projects. I'll do that.

Anyway, I don't want to milk my associations, so if a lot of people feel this way, I'm happy to omit mentioning Google (or Microsoft, which I don't think I do).

David said...

You were awesome to work with! Miss you around the Googleplex, but I know you'll do great in your current endeavor. You're a whole ass person :)

profligate pastry said...

A brick house, in other words? Mighty, mighty! :)

Anonymous said...

Your identity is always related to your past. Don't worry about your association with the past. You should "milk" all you can about your past. The past president of USA does (getting millions for speaking engagement.) It is stupid not to "milk" your past. So do you not mention your past in your CV ? You should not have become defensive based on others comment. Just do what you think is right.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's time to post another blog about how you hate Asian men.

Milkman said...

I posted the initial "milking" comment - and given that i'm just a random surfer, i have no way of knowing whether "a lot of readers would feel this way". But, kudos to you for the prompt response and action based on the comments of an anonymous reader -- have added the blog to my rss reader just for that!!

To the person who talked about mentioning past in CV -- here is what I saw on the blog byline (and on the home page): "hi, My name is X. I was formerly a mgr at X and before that at Y. Period." -- Not only is does this introduction beg the question (well, what about the present?!), it sounds suspiciously like someone past her prime, and clearly odd for coming from someone as young as the blog author. So I browsed through the posts and was surprised to find so many mentions of the past but not many of the current. (Looking at her response again, it does appear msft was not mentioned recently, but that wasnt the main point really - as i described above).

Meanwhile, now that i'm obliged to read your blog (:P), i need a pseudonym for future posts -- I'll go with "Milkman"!

best wishes,

Anonymous said...

Yes, Niniane loves showing off her relatively small achievements. She needs to learn some modesty.

EdT said...

You don't know me, but I've been occasionally following your writings since I followed your resume advice article years ago.
Here's my two cents:
I like your blog. Don't change a thing. Ignore people who argue with you just because they don't like the way you write your blog (as opposed to people who might argue that a point you make or a conclusion you draw is incorrect). Don't let the negative people make you enjoy writing your blog less, because that kind of thing sometimes makes blogs disappear. And even if you just made your blog private, that would essentially end the enjoyment for your lurkers.
Keep up the good work.