Get quiet

When you're out running, it's not until you pass the first hurdle you start to enjoy it.

Then as the strides get more comfortable, the mind gets quiet. Each leg going in front of the other. You don't have to keep thinking about running.

When the sports star gets interviewed after a big game, the reporter asks, 'How did you do it?'

'I don't know, I just let it happen.'

When they threw the best pass of the game, it's unlikely they were thinking about that thing Peter did to them 10-years ago. They probably weren't even thinking about the pass. Their mind was quiet.

Great thoughts come to a clear mind. But a clear mind doesn't mean an unprepared mind.

Do the preparation you need. And when it comes to show time, get quiet. Let it happen.

You still control these things

My Godfather, Damo and I went to lunch at the LinkedIn New York City offices. He worked for LinkedIn two years ago and still had plenty of friends there.

I knew people loved him but I didn't realise how much.

'OMG Damien!'

'Damo, how are you!'

'Damien's back!!!'

These are the type of reactions we got walking through the offices.

It was like the second coming of Jesus. The whole floor was lit up.

Everyone welcomed us with open arms.

It was inspiring.

People forget specifics but they'll never forget how you make them feel.

Even if you work for someone else. You're still in charge of:

  • How much effort you put into your work

  • How you treat other people

  • How you treat yourself

  • Why you do what you do

When it comes to this list, you're your own boss.

PS if you've ever wondered what lunch at a global tech company is like, I shot some footage while we were there. And since the LinkedIn offices are in the Empire State Building, we checked out the view from the 86th floor too.

What to write when you don't know what to write

‘What are you working on?’

‘App constraints for my app.’

‘What do you have to do for that?’

‘It’s pretty hard, you have to make your app fit every single iPhone.’

I was talking to my brother about what he’d been up to.

‘Did you post what you’re up to on LinkedIn?’

‘I don’t know what to write.’

‘Write what you told me.’


‘Pretend like I asked you, “What are you working on?”, and write that.’


When you’re stuck trying to write something. Think about how you would say it to someone if they asked you about it.

Then write down how you would’ve answered.

If the words aren’t appearing on the page, think, how would they come out of your mouth?

Write like you speak.

Salt and pepper shakers

How many times have you used salt and pepper shakers?

They work perfectly practically every time. You don't have to worry about whether salt or pepper is going to come out. You shake it and it does.

When I was 10 we went on a school camp. Everyone was around the table able to eat the camp food. Then my friend Kaushal grabbed the salt shaker to use on his meal.

The lid wasn't on properly and the salt went all over his meal. Too much.

15 years later and I can still remember his face when he tipped a full salt shaker onto his plate.

I used salt and pepper shakers today and I can barely remember it.

We take perfect processes for granted. All the things that happen without us noticing.

And people often strive to make their work perfect. But they forget, it's the less perfect stories that are remembered most.

Make sure you get addicted to the right things

Once they form, addictions never go away.

They're like energy in the universe. It can't be destroyed or created, it can only change form.

Reformed alcoholics find God.

Smokers find sugar.

People who've had them ambitions taken away find small incremental hits of dopamine from a screen.

The heartbroken find extreme fitness challenges.

Gamers find content creation.

Some addictions are worse than others. You're smart enough to figure out which ones you should avoid.

Human beings weren't made to sit around all day. The time has to be passed somehow.

Choose what you get addicted to wisely.

How to explore your first Kaggle competition dataset and make a submission

The first time doing something is always the hardest.

People had asked me in the past, 'Have you entered Kaggle competitions?'

'Not yet.'

Until the other day. I made my first official submission.

I'd dabbled before. Looked around at the website. Read some posts. But never properly downloaded the data and went through it.


Fear. Fear of looking at the data and having no idea what to do. And then feeling bad for not knowing anything.

But after a while, I realised that's not a helpful way to think.

I downloaded the Titanic dataset. The one that says 'Start here!' when you visit the competitions page.

A few months into learning machine learning, I wouldn't have been able to explore the dataset.

I learned by starting at the top of the mountain instead of climbing up from the bottom. I started with deep learning instead of practising how to explore a dataset from scratch.

But that's okay. The same principle would apply if you start exploring a dataset from scratch. Once the datasets got bigger, and you wanted your models to be better, you'd have to learn deep learning eventually.

Working through the Titanic data take me a few hours. Then another few hours to tidy up the code. The first run through of any data exploration should always be a little messy. After all, you're trying to build an intuition of the data as quick as possible.

Then came submission time. My best model got a score of just under 76%. Yours will too if you follow through the steps in the notebook on my GitHub.

I made the notebook accessible so you can follow it through and make your very own first Kaggle submission.

There are a few challenges and extensions too if you want to improve on my score. I encourage you to see how you go with these. They might improve the model, they might not.

If you do beat my score, let me know. I'd love to hear about what you did.

Want a coding buddy? When I finished my first submission, I livestreamed myself going step by step through the code. I did my best to explain each step without going into every little detail (otherwise the video would've been 6-hours long instead of 2).

I'll be writing a more in-depth post on the what and why behind the things I did in the notebook. Stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, go and beat my score!

You can find the full code and data on my GitHub.

How to get someone on your side

Ask for their advice.

If it's good, put it into practice and show them the results.

Remember though, advice from someone may also be them trying to live their life through you. It's okay not to take it. Thank them anyway, most of the time it's with the best of intentions.

But if you do put it into practice and it works, follow up. The follow up is often a forgotten step. I write these posts to remind myself of these things.

Imagine this.

You told someone to try doing X.

They went and did X and it worked for them.

And then they came back and told you they did X and said 'thank you for telling me X.'

How would you feel?

The next time they decided to take on a challenge, you'd be on their side.

The only thing holding you back

Is the fear of the unknown.

The unknown outcome, the unknown of what people will think, the unknown of whether it’ll be worth it.

The amateur never learns to control these feelings.

The professional learns to use them. Learns to use them to his advantage.

The professional knows they never go away. So instead of kicking them out and being angry, he invites them to dance.

When a new challenge arrives. The professional says, 'hello there.'

He knows it's going to be hard work. He gets his hands dirty.

And he reminds himself of the choice he made. The choice to spend time doing things that matter, known outcome or not. Because the most important things the professional does might not work.

A new way to get started with Deep Reinforcement Learning

Every time I read an OpenAI blog post I'm inspired.

I'm inspired by the artwork, I'm inspired by the quality of work, I'm inspired by the communication skills.

They work on hard problems. Get great results. And show them off to the world in a way easily accessible to the world.

So when their post came out about Spinning Up, a free resource for learning Deep Reinforcement Learning (RL), I wasn't surprised. Not surprised by the fact I loved the artwork, by simple and effective communication in the blog post and the world class quality of the learning materials.

Seriously. This is something I'd put on my wall (stay tuned, this might happen).

 I’d love whoever designs OpenAI’s graphics to come and paint my room. Source:  OpenAI Blog .

I’d love whoever designs OpenAI’s graphics to come and paint my room. Source: OpenAI Blog.

More to the point, if you're interested in Deep RL, you should leave here and check out Spinning Up.

If you're not interested, it's worth knowing a little about it anyway.

Deep RL involves the training of an agent in an environment to learn something about the world.

This is best explained with an example.

Deep RL was the technique DeepMind used to build Alpha Zero. The best Go player in the world.

In Alpha Zero's case, it (the agent) learned to play Go by continually playing itself. It got to a superhuman level exceptionally fast because it was able to play many simulated games of Go (the environment) against itself at once.

The deep part comes from using many versions of itself to learn. So really, there were multiple agents (different versions of Alpha Zero, converging into one) and multiple environments (many different games of Go).

How about another example?

Let's say you're a doctor who wants to try a new treatment on your patients. But you're hesitant because you're not sure how it will go.

So you decide to wait for more trials to take place.

But trials are lengthy, expensive and potentially harmful to those involved.

What if you could simulate a treatment (the agent) and test it on many different simulated patients with characteristics similar to yours (the environment) and see what the outcomes were?

Using the knowledge you gather, you could potentially find an ideal treatment for each individual patient.

This example simplifies the process dramatically but the principles of Deep RL are there.

The beautiful thing is, Deep RL could potentially be harnessed for any problem where many different scenarios need to be accounted for.

Say you wanted to improve traffic lights to find a more ideal schedule, Deep RL could be used to test many different car arrivals (the environment) and many different light configurations (the agents) with the goal of maximising efficiency.

The scenarios are endless.

I know there's a way to somehow use Deep RL for health. But I don't know how (yet).

To help figure this out, I'm incorporating the Spinning Up materials into my curriculum for 2019. I can't wait.

And of course, I'll be sharing what I learn.

If you're interested in getting started with Deep RL, there are a few resources you might want to check out:

There's also a workshop OpenAI are hosting on February 2 at their San Francisco HQ for those who have tinkered with machine learning and are wanting to learn more about Deep RL. I applied and you can too (applications close December 8).

'What's the one thing you'd do over again?'

I get asked often what's the one machine learning course I'd take over again.

'What's the one fitness habit you'd do again?'

'What’s the one thing I can do….?'

There is no one thing.

Even if there was, there would be no point doing it because everyone else would be doing it.

You're capable of making the change you want to see in the world.

Whatever it is. Bettering yourself, learning a new skill, travelling to that place.

The only real gatekeeper is the one in your head. The one who decides to listen to the naysayers.

But the catch is, you're also your biggest naysayer.

Now you know this. You don't have to be. Not anymore.

The one thing I'd do over again is starting sooner. Starting my own learning journey. Starting my own creative studio. Starting to share my work. All sooner.

How to Win Survivor — The Ultimate Strategy (and tips for being more confident and charismatic)

 ‘You’re just a bunch of fun aren’t you,’ she said.

‘Yeah, you’re right.’

‘I’m going to put you through to the next round,’ she was smiling, ‘you should hear back in a couple of days.’

I was applying for Survivor.

We had a Skype interview. The video quality was bad but she was beautiful.

Skype calls are like blind dates. I only talked to her via email beforehand. So I had no idea what she looked like.

Then we were dialing in. I had a pile of notes next to me. My brother and I had spent an hour or so practicing potential questions.

This was a big moment. We watched Survivor as kids, now I had the chance to be on it. A real life TV show. This was my chance!

The call connected.

‘Hello, can you hear me?’

‘Hi there, I can hear you.’

‘Oh wait, I can’t hear you, let me fix something.’

She fixed it.

‘There we go are you there?’

‘I’m here, nice to meet you,’ I smiled.

‘Okay, Daniel right?’

I forget her name.


‘Let’s do this.’

We got into it. And then the inevitable question was there.

‘Why should we choose you to be on Survivor?’

This one always comes up.

‘Why should we pick you for this job?’

Or even if it doesn’t, it comes up in other forms. When you’re a date, the other person is trying to figure out if you’re worth another date. But instead of asking ‘why should I keep seeing you?’, they ask questions like ‘are you religious?’

I told her why I should be on the show.

The same thing I told my brother when we practiced.

‘I should be on Survivor because no one else will play the game like me.’

Crap. Everyone would’ve said that.

‘How will you play the game differently?’

She was good.

‘Driving Uber I meet a new customer every 10-minutes. Working at Apple, I talked to a new person every 15-minutes.’

I went on.

‘To provide a quality service to someone, you have to figure out their needs. You have to understand them. That’s what I’m good at.’

‘I see.’

‘So no matter who’s there, I know I can get close to them, lead from the front and at the same time know when it’s time to sit back,’ I was rolling with it, ‘I call it the co-pilot strategy.’

She loved that.

‘The co-pilot strategy?’

I have no idea where this came from. An unexplainable force.

‘The co-pilot has enough control but isn’t the main guy. When it comes time to vote someone out, it’s often the one who stands out too much, the pilot.’

‘Oh I see, you’ll stay high enough in the tribe, but not too high to stand out.’

We kept talking. The conversation was supposed to go for 20-minutes. But we ended up going for an hour or so.

By the end of it I was in love. Or was it lust? I get the two mixed up.

She put me through to the next round. An in person group interview.

We had to attempt the same challenges as we would if we got on the show. My team won all the challenges.

After the group interview I saw a girl looking at Physics books at the bookstore. I stopped her on the way out.

‘Were you looking at Physics books?’

‘Yeah, I was.’

So how do you be so charismatic and confident you get through to the second stage of Survivor?


A) Practice

If you know the questions are coming, practice them.

This goes for any kind of scenario. Got to give a talk? Practice it. Going for a job interview? ‘Why should we hire you?’.

I practiced the exact questions she asked with my brother before the interview. I had a head start.


B) Get good at something

Being confident is being good at something.

If you’ve got some skills, own them. So you hear someone is looking for a few art designs, and you can draw. ‘Hey I can draw up a few things for you.’ Will it work all the time? Probably not. But at least you put it out there.

I’d been practicing understanding people for the past four years driving Uber and working at Apple. And I was good at it. So I told her. It’s easy to be charismatic about something you’re good at.


C) Practice again

This one is important enough to list twice. You don’t get good at something without practice. And practice usually involves being bad at something for a period of time.

It’s normal to lack confidence when you first start. But over time, your skills will improve and your confidence will begin to grow.


D) Tune the voice in your head to suit the conversation

There’s always that voice. The one telling you you should say something. Or telling you to go and talk to that girl. It won’t always be the right words. But the nervous energy will be there. Shape the energy to match the scenario.

I had no idea where the co-pilot strategy came from. The nervous energy must’ve sent it out. So I ran with it. And the subconscious took over.

There’s no way to get this to happen except to keep showing up. And learn how to use the energy when it arrives.

In the meantime, better to practice what you need to say or the skill you’re working on.

I think I would’ve won Survivor if I got on.

If you manage to get on, use the co-pilot strategy. Tell me how it goes.


Health like a Physicist

Health sciences are too often reactive practices.

They could probably improve with some first principles thinking.

Like our Physicist friends do.

Take a rocket ship, how well would it fly if a Physicist forgot about incorporating gravity into the design?

“But that would be silly, they’d never forget gravity!”

You’re right.

A launch wouldn’t be very impressive if they did.

Just as gravity is a pillar force in getting rockets off the ground, if you want to improve or maintain your health, there are pillar forces you should pay attention to.

A rocket needs good fuel. So does your body. Whole foods, mostly plants, not too much.

A rocket that doesn’t move isn’t very helpful. Neither is a body that hasn’t moved in a while. Bend so you don’t break, every day.

And a rocket can’t (yet) operate at full capacity mission after mission without rest and repair. Neither can you function without adequate sleep and recovery. Quantity, 9-7 hours and quality, dark room, no caffeine after within 8-hours of sleep.

Food, movement, sleep. If a Physicist designed a healthcare protocol for themselves, these would be as important as gravity is for rocket design.

 Just like gravity is crucial to rocket design, food, movement and sleep are crucial to health.

Just like gravity is crucial to rocket design, food, movement and sleep are crucial to health.

Confidence comes in many forms

What’s your name?


Hey Sara, I’m Charlie. I’m your ward doctor.

Sara didn’t say anything.

You know why you’re here right?


We’re gonna work together on this. You’re going to get better. Is it okay if I ask you some questions?


When did you first notice something was wrong?

Every day for the past 8-years.

When did you get pregnant?

Two years ago.

Do you know who the father is?


Were you using whilst you were pregnant?

I don’t know.

How did you get here?

I brought myself in.


Sara didn’t respond. She was facing the other way.


Sara, it’s okay if you don’t want to talk, I can come back tomorrow.

Sara turned around.

My daughter doesn’t deserve a mother like me.

What kind of mother does she deserve?

I don’t know.

Well, you’ve made the right choice being here.

Sara looked at Charlie. She had tears in her eyes but her lips formed a nervous smile.

It’s easy to be confident when things are going well.

You’ve got a good job, a happy relationship, buying food isn’t a problem.

But what about when things aren’t going so well?

A confident person doesn’t always mean the well-dressed guy walking into the room with his head held high.

It’s also the person who hasn’t been through the best of circumstances but still takes it upon themselves to make a change.

Sara decided to make a change.