Meta – open sourcing my personal development

Meta (from the Greek preposition and prefix meta- (μετά-) meaning “after”, or “beyond”) is a prefix used in English to indicate a concept which is an abstraction from another concept..

Meta is also a notion in Computer Science meaning to be self referential, so in our human terms it would translate to thinking / pondering about the self.

After spending quite a few hours reading different books and curating bits of personal development material, I wanted to open source some of my thoughts, to help others and also to get feedback.

This is a continual process, so will be updating this blog post if any new relevant information comes to mind / paper. Hopefully this should provide a general framework to better living.

The 5 health framework

Splitting up our being into 5 different units that can be addressed individually – and referring to them as health factors, is what 5 healths is all about.

The five healths (Spiritual, Mental, Emotional, Physical & Financial) should be looked after on a daily basis, ignoring any would give an imbalance in lifestyle. The five healths vary to some degree (person to person – based on goals).

I’m just going to provide the core of the framework below with brief descriptions, and extensions can be added to each.

1) Spiritual

Spiritual health focusses on self harmony. Aside from religion, looking at these 5 pillars of spiritual health should provide a sound mind:

  • Respect: Treating everyone equally and cognisant of their feelings.
  • Honesty: Being open with your actions and intentions.
  • Integrity: Having high moral values.
  • Generosity: Having an open heart when giving.
  • Humility: Viewing your accomplishments as a result of other people / circumstances rather than solely your own actions.

In addition include your personal belief system / religion you follow here. (e.g. Buddhism)

2) Mental

Mental health is all to do with the mind, your learnings and findings. Different aspects to focus on are:

  • Education (Primary, Secondary, University education)
  • General knowledge
  • Reading books / articles
  • Taking courses of interest
  • Sharpening the mind

3) Emotional

Emotional health is about our connections to other people in our lives. Different aspects of emotional health include:

  • Relationships with family
  • Relationships with partner / significant other
  • Relationships with friends
  • Relationships with community / world
  • Finding mentors to help achieve our goals
  • Networking in relevant circles

4) Physical

This refers to our body, three main factors that should be looked at are:

  • Sleep (Quality, Quantity and Timing!)
  • Exercise (Cardio / Muscular)
  • Diet

(Add more based on your physical goals – such as sport or having a lean diet)

5) Finance / Career

This health covers how you generate income to survive, as money forms the basis of how modern economies function. Different aspects to look at include:

  • Job
  • Own business
  • Investments and Assets
  • Savings

 

To make this framework effective one should add targets to each one of the healths. For example in my physical health I can say that I want to sleep 8 hours a day and fall asleep before midnight each night.

Targets / goals should follow the SMART system, so:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time bound

I’ve attached a summarised form of the 5 healths here as a print out. I personally have it above my desk so that I can glance at it atleast once a day. I hope you find this framework as effective as I do!

Happy living :)

5 health framework

In any moment of time, is what you are currently doing the best thing for your short and/or long term goals? That is the question we should be asking ourselves…

News, news, news

One of the best essays I read last year was a case on why you shouldn’t read the news.

It’s amazing how much more productive you become when you aren’t constantly trying to fill voids of time with consumption of news, articles and tweets  You instead become a producer rather than consumer.

Ofcourse it’s not that ideal to be completely oblivious to the the world around us, but a good rule of thumb is that if there is something important happening, you’ll hear about it somehow :)

The shortened version of the essay (by Rolf Dobelli) is here:

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/apr/12/news-is-bad-rolf-dobelli

3 things I learnt from not reading a book

I’ve been wanting to read a ‘A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose‘ by Eckhart Tolle, as people have said amazing things about it for a while now.

Someone once told me their takeaway from the book (thanks Babs) in 3 points and the advice has helped me in my day-to-day.

1) Be free of judgement of others
You don’t know what situation or circumstances the other person is going through, there’s no point in drawing brash conclusions, chances are you were probably in the gutter at some point. They could probably use a friend who smiles, encourages and listens to their problems. Be that person. :)

Note: Having opinions is fine, otherwise life is boring. However there is a subtle difference between opinions and judgement.

2) Be free of materialism
Things shouldn’t define you, soon you’ll no longer exist and the only things that will matter are your relationships with people around you and your legacy.

3) Be non-resistant
The only constant we can depend on in life is change, there’s no point in resisting it, embrace it and leverage that change for the better. You’ll look back at that inflection point in a few years and it won’t matter anymore!

One day, I’ll get around to reading the book….

Maximum continous sequence profit

An interesting concept in Finance and Computer Science is if we have some historical data about the price of a security and we want to see the maximum profit we can make. (Assumption: we can only carry out one buy and one sell action)

Let’s assume that time is represented by natural numbers as opposed to timestamps. With this, we can represent the prices as an array and the index of the array representing the timestamp value (the lower values being earlier prices).

So given the array: [4.5, 6.0, 4.2, 4.4, 7.0, 3.2] the maximum profit we can make is 7.0 – 4.2 = 2.8

The solution may seem tricky as there are local sub-array problems that need to be solved, for example if we have gone through the first four elements of the array above, we can’t really say anything about the profit until we see more elements of the array.

The solution that I came up with had two variables and keeps track of the current maximum profit by continuous calculation and the minimum price value. This concept surprisingly leads to an elegant solution.

My solution (implemented in Python) is below, it’s got a complexity of O(n) – there has to be at least one element in the array.


def max_profit(array):
  profit = 0
  min = array[0]
  for i in array:
    if i < min:
      min = i
    if (i - min > profit):
      profit = (i - min)
  return profit

Summer 2012 – Silicon Valley

A little over a year ago, I came back from an amazing summer at Silicon Valley in California. Here’s a small guide / story for anyone thinking about going out there to work, or if you’re just curious about my experience there.

Motivation

As part of my degree requirements at Imperial College London, we were made to apply for 6 month placements in the industry. I had interned at Goldman Sachs in London, so I was looking for a different experience to the conventional finance route that the City of London offered.
After relentlessly preparing for interviews by going through algorithm and data structure questions I got into a few companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York.

My first choice however was Palantir Technologies, where I was offered a place as a Forward Deployed Engineering Intern for their Metropolis platform. There were around 4 non-US interns and they sponsored our visas for the internships as well.

Palantir Technologies

We build software that allows organizations to make sense of massive amounts of disparate data

The company is based in downtown Palo Alto and the office I was working out of was the ex-Facebook headquarters, 156 University Avenue. For interns they provided free housing 5 mins from the office, bicycles and intern specific nights as well as the conventional perks for full time employees including free breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Palantir is one of the most relevant companies in the information age where we have terabytes of data floating around and no one has the tools to make sense of it. This is especially the case for large organizations.

Apart from all the fun and games, I was given a fair amount of responsibility during my summer projects. There was pretty much an open door policy at the company and I often found myself talking to interns, full time employees and directors late into the night about life, philosophy and code.

Fun, games and Silicon Valley

One of my friends (Rafal) from university was interning at ClassDojo on California Avenue and we often found ourselves going to Stanford over weekends where you can pretty much go around the whole campus and read under the beautiful lawns.

Once term time started I would often go to Stanford events where one of my Kenyan friends, Elahe was studying.

Cycling around Palo Alto is the best way to get around as everything is so close.

When you get bored of suburban Palo Alto, San Francisco is a stone throw away. The Caltrain goes into the heart of the SOMA district.

For our main Palantir intern event the company hired out the Exploratorium in San Francisco and had a party at Peter Thiel’s house (founder of Palantir and early stage investor in Facebook).

I also got the opportunity to visit the Dropbox HQ where some family friends are working.

Weekend getaways

Weekends were also spent traveling to attractions near and around California.

A few of my friends were interning at Amazon (Seattle, Washington) and we spent a weekend there which is ~2 hour plane ride away.  One evening we ended up at a beautiful restaurant called Ray’s Boathouse, which I would highly recommend.

Another weekend was spent in Los Angeles.

We had hired a car on these trips and didn’t have an issue with non-US driving licences. However, one thing to be wary about is that if you are under 25 then you have to pay a premium. They often require a credit card as well.

Rafal and I also drove to Yosemite despite the Hantavirus scare at the time.  We climbed up to Vernal Falls and were brave enough to take a plunge in the ice-cold water.

Freezing water!

Freezing water!

My last week of the internship was spent working out of the Palantir New York office in Manhattan, where I was staying in the vibrant Meatpacking district.

Interning for a company in the Valley is something that I would definitely recommend if you are student or have recently graduated.

Get in touch if you have any questions!