​What kind of man?

Are you one who takes on challenges or one who says no?

Be both. Have the bravery to take on challenges and have the intellect to deny an unnecessary one.

It takes a brave man to take on the unknown.

But it takes a smart man to avoid what he does not need to take on.

Looking up

One way to feel insignificant is to look up at the stars.

To realise how much is out there and how little you are in comparison to the rest of the universe.

What you do today likely has zero influence on the billions of galaxies out there.

That’s the grim version.

Now flip it.

You’re made of the same atoms as the most distant stars.

Once a great big ball of heat which exploded and spread its energy.

Then somehow little pieces of this and that started to come together.

All of a sudden you appeared. Out of all of the possible combinations. You.

The you who can look back at the stars and reflect on being part of it. Part of it all.

You’re not lost. You’re here.

Now that’s significant.

Look up.



Your biggest competition

Before the internet your competition was what you saw in the mirror as well as everyone else trying to do similar things to you. 

Now the internet is here your biggest competition is only what you see in the mirror.

The barrier to entry to create the things you’ve wanted to create is lower than ever.

And the best thing? 

There’s no criteria except one. Quality.

Make things you’re proud of. That’s enough.

The only competition you have to worry about is you. Stop holding yourself back. 

No one can out you, you. 

Fresh out of ideas

Sometimes you’ll be into something. And you’ll have no ideas.

None at all.

You’ll be working on what you need to work on but the thoughts aren’t flowing and you’re stuck at a crossroads and you want to figure it out but you can’t so you keep going and then there’s nothing and keep going and then still nothing.

What do you do?

You could keep going. Sometimes good code takes 100 lines of bad code.

Sometimes one good page takes 9 pages of bad writing.

Or you could take a break.

Sometimes 1 hour of good work takes 15-minutes of sitting down looking at nothing. Staring into the sky. Letting your thoughts come together.

If man could sit in a room and think for 20-minutes without doing anything else, no twitching, no looking at a phone, no watching TV, you know the rest, many more problems would be solved.

Anger is fear clothed

Angry at someone else?

Is it because you’re scared of losing them?

Or you’re afraid they’re better than you at something else?

Maybe your point of view differs from theirs but you haven’t had the courage to express it.

Anger arises from an underlying fear. Realise this and instead of being angry you can use the energy to figure the fear out.

I read a Buddhist saying once.

“Anger is a hot coal you hold in your hand while waiting to throw it at someone else.”

Better to use the coal to cook a meal for yourself. Or better yet, for the both of you.

Moon in the sky

I walk outside, toothbrush buzzing

It's electric so it runs out every few days or so

Then I charge it and brush my teeth

The grass is a little wet from the evening dew

There's been rain lately so it's soft under foot

It feels good

real good

My teeth feel cleaner too

If you've got an electric toothbrush

You've got nothing to complain about

I look up at the moon and keep brushing

It's bright and full

Looking back down at me

only me

It's not only me but it seems like it

I want my teeth to be bright and clean like the moon

The sky is clear but my mind is full

Full of the buzzing of the toothbrush

My eyes dissolve into the sound

I adjust my pants and look into the yard

The timer will go off soon

I look back up and the moon is still there

One of those sights you could never get tired of

That girl you see from time to time

Beauty, real beauty

Just like the moon

The timer goes off

I rinse my mouth out and go to bed

Moon on my mind

Time and leverage

Trading time for money makes it hard to build real wealth.

To build real wealth, you need leverage.

What does this look like?

Working on your own you only have the earning potential of yourself.

Running a business of 10 people you have the earning potential of 10 people.

Creating scalable assets increases this earning potential exponentially.

Code and media are borderless scalable assets. They are the leverage behind the newly rich.

It's how you see startups of four people build things which millions of people use.

It's how 1 person YouTube channels have millions of subscribers.

Scalable assets work for you whilst you sleep.

The best thing?

Building these types of assets also makes it far easier to bring value to others on a global scale.

Why did you do that?

When we don’t know why we do something, we make something up.

There's a good reason and a real reason for everything.

My good reason for going to the biology classes I was failing at university was to learn things to help with my degree.

My real reason for going to class was to see girls. Mostly one girl.

The class didn't really matter. As long as I got to see her.

Think about it. When the last time someone asked you why you're doing something or why you did something, what answer did you give?

Was it the real reason or the good reason?

You don't have to share your real reason publicly. But it's important to think about.

Why?

Because if you want to make real change happen, you have to appeal to people's real reason for doing things.

You could build something for the good reason and no one would be interested.

This kind of design thinking is hard but worth it.

Why do people spend $2000 on an iPhone when a $200 phone does 90% of the job?

The good reason is their old iPhone was getting slow.

The real reason is having the latest iPhone sends a message to others. 'Hey, I'm one of those people who can afford the latest iPhone and I keep up with the trends.'

It becomes a status game.

And the thing is, if you were to question most people about these kinds of things, they wouldn't know why they're doing it.

Remember?

When we don’t know why we do something, we make something up.

The next time you're ask why you do something, think about why you said what you did. Was it a good reason? Or the real reason?

How do non-technical people learn machine learning?

I drove forward.

The parking inspector starting speaking.

Do you have a valid Queensland drivers licence?

I answered.

Yes.

He kept going.

Well, you shouldn’t because you should know you can’t park in bus stops.

The Uber app guided me to pick up riders. I followed the app without paying attention to the signs. I was more focused on picking them up and getting them out of there. It was 2 am.

The fine came through. $250. I worked for free that night.

I paid it.

Then thought to myself.

I’m not driving Uber anymore.

Two weeks later I got offered an internship as a machine learning engineer.

9-months before that I started my own AI Masters Degree.

Before that, I graduated with a Food Science and Nutrition Degree. Non-technical as it gets.

Where do you start?

A) Delete non-technical from your vocabulary

Words have power. Real power.

They’re magic. It’s why when you list out the letters of a word it’s called spelling.

People isolate themselves with their words.

Some say play to your strengths, others say work on your weaknesses. Both good advice. Which one should you listen to?

As soon as you start saying you’re non-technical, you’re non-technical.

I was speaking to someone the other night.

I used to think my main strength was talking to people.

I told him.

I’ll never be the best engineer.

He snapped back.

Not with that attitude.

It changed me. I’m not trying to be the best engineer but referring to myself as never being the best was limiting my ability to grow.

I’m getting better. Much better. Why?

Because I told myself so.

You can too.

Belief is 50% of anything.

B) Use the placebo effect to your advantage

Here’s another.

Have you heard of the placebo effect?

It’s one of the most dominant forces in science. But it’s not limited to researchers in lab coats. You can use it too.

Example.

People who thought they were taking good medicine (but were actually only taking a placebo, or a sugar pill) got healthier.

What?

Why?

Because they thought they were taking the good medicine and the cosmic forces between the mind, body and universe set them on the track to better health.

I’ve simplified it and used cosmic forces on purpose. Because this effect is still unknown other than describing it as a belief which led to improvement.

What can you do?

The same thing. Take a placebo pill of learning machine learning.

Write it down.

This will be hard for me but I can learn it.

Again.

This will be hard for me but I can learn it.

All useful skills are hard to learn.

C) Get some coding foundations

The first two are most important. The rest snowballs as you go.

Someone commented on my LinkedIn the other night.

One of my favourite sayings from my professor was, "in theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are completely different".

Good advice.

Could you learn to swim without ever touching the water?

If you want to get into machine learning, learn to code, it’s hard to begin with but you get better.

Practice a little every day. And if you miss a day, no problem, continue the next day.

It’s like how your 3-year-old self would’ve learned to talk.

In the beginning, you could only get a few sounds out. A few years later, you can have whole conversations.

Learning to code is the same. It starts out as a foreign language. But then as you learn more, you can start to string things together.

My brother is an accountant. He’s starting to learn machine learning. I recommended he start with Python on DataCamp. Python code reads similar to how you would read words. Plus, DataCamp teaches code from 0 to full-blown machine learning. He's been loving it.

D) Build a framework

Once you’ve been through a few DataCamp courses or learned some Python in general, start to piece together where you want to head next.

This is hard.

Because in the beginning it’s hard to know where you want to go and there’s a bunch of stuff out there.

So you’ve got two problems. Not knowing where to go and having too many things to choose from.

If you know you want to learn more machine learning, why not put together your own path?

What could this look like?

  1. 3–4 months of DataCamp

  2. 3–4 months of Coursera courses

  3. 3–4 months going through the fast.ai curriculum

Do you have to use these?

No.

I only recommend them because I’ve been through them as a part of my AI Masters Degree. The best advice comes from mentors who are 1–3 years ahead of you. Short enough to still remember the specifics and long enough to have made some mistakes.

Will it be easy?

No.

All useful skills are hard to learn.

Day by day you may not feel like you’re learning much. But by the end of the year (3 blocks of 4 months) you’ll be a machine learning practitioner.

E) You don’t need math*

*to get started.

When you look at machine learning resources, many of them have a bunch of math requirements.

Math isn’t taught well in schools so it scares people.

Like code, mathematics is another language. Mathematics is the language of nature.

If the math prerequisites of some of the courses you’ve been looking at are holding you back, you can get started without it.

The Python coding frameworks such as TensorFlow, PyTorch, NumPy and sklearn, abstract away the need to fully understand the math (don’t worry if you don’t know what these are you’ll find them later).

As you go forward and get better at the code, your project may demand knowledge of the math involved. Learn it then.

F) It’s always day one

Am I the best machine learning engineer?

No.

But two years ago I was asking myself the question, how I do learn machine learning with no technical skills?

The answer was simple, start learning the technical skills and don’t stop, but there were details.

Details like above.

Driving Uber on the weekends allowed me to pay for the courses I was doing to learn machine learning.

Getting a fine for picking up people in the wrong spot helped me make the decision to back myself.

A year into being a machine learning engineer and I’m more technical than when I started but there’s plenty more to learn.

What did people do before alarms?

I have no idea how long alarm clocks have been around.

But what did people do before them?

If they had to be up early in the morning, what was the solution?

They probably wouldn’t stay up late.

They’d get to bed early and wake up with the sun.

Now the alarm clock helps us get out of bed at the right time. The buzzer goes off. You start slapping around and eventually turn it off.

I feel better in the morning without an alarm clock. I’m not against them, it is how it is.

The body knows how much sleep it needs.

There’s a lot of hype around sacrificing sleep to work more.

I’m not buying it. I’m sleeping when I need to sleep.

When I’m well rested, my work is better. My relationships are better. My health is better.

Sleep is the force-multiplier of life.

Tomorrow I’ve turned my alarm off.

I’m going to bed earlier instead.

Good night.

Make good art

Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech should be compulsory watching for all.

Whenever I'm stuck on something. Whenever I'm feeling unmotivated. Whenever I'm down.

It's because I've forgot to look at the world through the eyes of an artist.

Gaiman’s answer?

Make good art.

Make more good art.

"But I'm not good at art."

Says who?

Your art is your art.

If I'm trying to figure something out, I write about it. 500 words in and the thoughts start to come together.

Writing is easy because of how accessible it is for everyone. If you're reading this, you can write something like this. It doesn't have to be public but putting your thoughts on paper will help connect the dots.

And if writing isn't your thing, art comes in many forms.

You can draw.

You can dance.

You can move.

You can cook.

You can code.

Anything which involves making something.

Ignoring your inner artist is going to war with yourself.

Keep making.

30-minutes is all it takes

I watched a great short video tonight by Asad on Twitter.

You can go and watch it, otherwise I’ll summarise it here.

The main point was concentration.

Being able to focus on 1 thing for a minimum of 30-minutes puts you in front of a lot of other people.

Technology has damaged the attention spans of many.

Not everyone of course but the results are obvious. When was the last time you walked down the street or sat at a restaurant and didn’t see anyone with their head buried in their phone?

Being able to concentrate is always going to be a valuable skill.

What can you do?

Start with 30-minutes. Set a timer. Work on something hard. Work on something boring. Keep your phone in another room.

As you get better, increase the timer.

These tricks all help me work on my concentration. I’m still working on it.

Technology is supposed to enable life, not control it.

How to be right by following what's wrong

There’s someone you know. Someone you don’t enjoy spending time with or wouldn’t want to spend time with.

Maybe it’s your boss.

Maybe it’s an old friend stuck in the past.

Maybe it’s someone you see on the news (I hope not since you avoid the news at all cost).

Too often some get held up trying to figure out what’s right.

You can get around this by avoiding what’s wrong instead.

Take the traits of the people who you don’t see as good people and do the opposite.

The same could be done for creating.

For working on a business.

Instead of waiting for the right idea (it hardly ever shows up), don’t do the wrong ones.