No to everything else

You’ll get those times where you know what you have to do.

You know exactly what you have to do and you know you’re going to do it.

Those are the times you’ll have to say no.

No to everything else.

Even if it looks good. Even if it sounds good.

If it’s not what you know you need to do.

Say no.

If you’re making art, aim for 3-stars

Everyone knows the star rating system. It works for hotels. You know there’s going to be a big difference between 3-star and 5-star.

It works well on hotels because everyone has a similar taste in quality. It’s easy to tell a below average bathroom from an above average bathroom.

Star ratings also work well on every day products. If you’re supposed to use it every day, you want it to be 5-stars.

Uber drivers have to have their profile reviewed if their average star rating falls below 4.7-stars. I know this because I drove Uber for a year. And every time I didn’t get 5-stars, I played back every trip I did the day before wondering who it was.

But when it comes to works of art. 3-stars is the best rating.

Why?

Because unless everyone decides to rate an artists work 3-stars, it means there’s a healthy amount of 1-star and 5-star ratings.

This means some didn’t like enough or hated it enough to leave a 1-star rating.

And it also means there were as many rating 5-stars and would probably give it 6-stars if it was an option.

The best art is polarising. It divides the audience. Some love it, some hate it. Some aren’t sure whether they love or hate it.

If you want to please everyone, you’re better off making a really good everyday product. Something like a doormat. It’s really hard to make a poor doormat. You’ll get plenty of 5-star ratings.

But if you want to make art. Real art. Go for 3-stars.

Everything becomes a language

You don’t remember it but when you started to talk, you weren’t very good.

Years of struggling to make different sounds, struggling to tie them together.

Getting a word was hard let alone a full sentence or conversation.

Now you don’t have to think about it. You can sit back and talk with a friend for hours. Breeze back and forth between different topics. Raise your voice, lower it, speak sarcastically, speak seriously.

It’s the same with learning anything else.

In the beginning, you’ll suck. You won’t be able to string a single word together. The sounds will be weird. But eventually, you’ll get your first word. And you should be proud of yourself. Then the next and then the next.

If it’s machine learning, maybe you don’t know a single line of Python code. Then you manage to write a function on your own. It’s only 3-lines long but it’s still your own.

If it’s sharing your work online, your first few blog posts will be terrible. But as you keep going you’ll start to learn how to connect the words on the page the same way they’re connected in your head. The same way you’d like other people to hear them.

If it’s learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, your first few sessions will feel strange. What are these new movements? All the hip shrimping and keeping the elbows by your side how do you get your legs there?

Keep practicing, keep learning and eventually you’ll be working on machine learning projects which felt impossible before, people will want to read your blog posts because you’ve figured out what you want to say and you’ll be showing others the basic Jiu Jitsu moves because now they’re like brushing your teeth.

It pays to remind yourself, learning something new requires you to be bad in the beginning. Once upon a time, you couldn’t talk. Now you can.

The best thing?

No one really ever masters anything. Whatever craft you choose, there’s always more, more ways to become fluent. And that’s exciting.

Sunday's are for reflecting

I’ve got a tradition I like to do every Sunday.

I sit down with my journal and write about the week gone by and think about the one upcoming.

I start with the question.

What are three things which went well this week?

I start with this because it’s easy to think about what went wrong.

More often than not, things go better than you think. Did you spend time with loved ones? Did you learn something? Did you laugh? If not, these are things you could put down for the next question.

What are one to three things which could be improved for next week? How?

The word improved is important. It indicates there’s space for doing better (there always is).

And only knowing what could be improved isn’t enough, how could it be improved?

Sometimes the answer isn’t clear yet. But it’s helpful to think and write about. Most of the time I get lost in thoughts but found in the words.

After I answer those questions, I start to think if what I’ve put down lines up with where I want to be in 3-5 years. The next few lines are me having a conversation with myself trying to figure out if I’m being honest.

Am I working on the things I want to be working on?

If not, how could I change it?

Am I enjoying what I’m doing? If not, why? Is the lack of enjoyment short-term or long-term?

These questions are open-ended. Sometimes I write half a page of nothing.

I always feel better afterwards.

What would the leader do?

Show up.

That’s the first thing.

Then what?

A leader asks questions. Listens and asks. They figure out what’s wrong. You can’t fix anything if you don’t know what’s wrong.

If someone has a complaint, the leader doesn’t dismiss it, they listen and they decide.

Their job isn’t always to have answers. They know their team is smart enough to formulate their own. The leader knows if they show up, their team will too.

They know it isn’t perfect. You know it isn’t perfect. But people are drawn to someone who believes even when they know the situation isn’t ideal.

Everyone has the responsibility of being a leader at some point.

Leading a team.

Leading a family.

Leading themselves.

It pays to remind yourself, you have the opportunity to lead if you want to.

It’s there any time you want.

All you have to do is

Show up.

The simplest reason is usually correct

When you’re trying to explain something or give reasons for doing something, it can be tempting to offer elaborate explanations.

But the message gets lost with every layer of complexity.

The way around it is to remind yourself of Occam’s Razor.

Occam’s Razor is the concept of the simplest reason usually being the correct one. When too many things have to agree for your explanation to be true, people are going to have a hard time believing it.

And it’s not only for explanations. You can use for goals too.

If you want to write a book, write a book.

If you want to learn machine learning, learn machine learning.

If you want to become a chef, cook.

If you want to start a business, start a business.

If you want to make $1 million, make $1 million. It’s the same as making a sandwich.

Don’t over complicate the message. If the change you’re trying to make is too hard to explain, it’ll be too hard to make.

And if you give yourself too many reasons for not doing something, you’ll start to believe them.

This is all we need

Sam and I were sitting at the lights. Tired and and covered in sweat.

The light went green. I kicked the clutch out and we drove off.

The supermarket was across the road, I pointed at it. Spoke.

This is all we need.

Sam spoke.

What?

We can fight each other at Jiu Jitsu, buy food over here, walk along the waterfront, spend time with the family. What else do we need?

Yeah I get you.

As long as we’ve got enough money for food we’ll be good. We can use the internet to make and create whatever we want. We can use it to make money.

We pulled up. Went in, bought some things for dinner, came home and cooked them.

Everyone sat around the table. Eating quieting, then speaking, then eating.

Mum spoke.

That was a good dinner.

She was right.

My Advice: Build Guts

It can seem like the right thing to do. Give someone a step-by-step program to doing something.

Giving actionable advice seems generous in the short-term. And it is. You’ve done the thinking for the person. You’ve taken the steps.

But if you’ve done the thinking for them, has it really helped them?

And if you’re asking for advice, it can be tempting to ask what to do if this happens, what to do if that happens. However, asking for the thing to do too often and you’ll lose your ability to think.

All of a sudden you’ll be taking people’s advice as orders.

”I have to do X because someone else said Y.”

You’re smarter than that. You know yourself better than anyone. You know you don’t have to believe everything you hear.

Listen to the best advice from others but have the guts to remix it with your own.

Have the guts to create your own style.

Having guts always works out.

My favourite data science and machine learning books

At all times you should be reading a book which is too hard for you to read.

These books either have or still do fulfil that criteria for me.

They’re the foundation upon which I’ve built my knowledge of machine learning and data science. I’ll continue to read and reread these for years to come.

And if you’re learning machine learning or data science, they’re worth your time.

If I’m learning something new, I’ll usually find a good book on the topic and read it end-to-end. I’ll then follow up on the parts that stick. These books have plenty of parts which have stuck.

Books are listed in order of approachability (roughly), if you have 0 experience in machine learning or data science, start from the top, if you’ve got Python and math down pat, go from the bottom.

Machine Learning for Humans by Vishal Maini and Samer Sabri

A primer on machine learning you can read in a day. Available  free online .

A primer on machine learning you can read in a day. Available free online.

This book started as a series on Medium. The authors wanted to explain all they knew about machine learning in a readable and approachable way. And they’ve done just that.

If you want a zero-to-one resource you can use to build an understanding of some of the most important machine learning concepts, but you haven’t encountered machine learning before, this book is for you. Even if you’re already a machine learning practitioner, this book is worth reading. It’ll give you inspiration for sharing your work in way which is approachable for others.

Read for free online.

Python for Data Analysis by Wes McKinney

Data science begins with data analysis.

Data science begins with data analysis.

Start learning data science or machine learning and you’re going to be using Pandas (a Python library for data analysis). The best thing about this book is it’s written by the creator of Pandas so you know you’re learning from the best.

As a machine learning engineer, I spent most of my time using Pandas to manipulate data to get it ready for machine learning models.

This book will show you how to use Pandas to analyse your data, clean it, change it and most of all, use it for data science and machine learning.

As a data scientist or machine learning practitioner, you can never have enough Pandas knowledge.

Buy on Amazon.

Hands-on Machine Learning with Scikit-Learn and TensorFlow by Aurelien Geron

A must have on the desk of any machine learner.

A must have on the desk of any machine learner.

If you’re getting into machine learning and you want a one-stop practical resource, this is it. It’ll take you through two powerful machine learning libraries, Scikit-Learn and TenorFlow and teach you machine learning concepts through coded examples.

Each concept has code to go along with it. So you could read this book, get an understanding of what machine learning is capable of, then adjust the code examples to your own problems.

Buy on Amazon.

Grokking Deep Learning by Andrew Trask

Grok: Understanding (something) intuitively.

Grok: Understanding (something) intuitively.

I started learning deep learning via Udacity’s Deep Learning Nanodegree. Andrew Trask was of one of the teachers. He’s now a researcher at DeepMind.

Back then, there was only a few of chapters released. I sat on my couch flicking through page by page, learning how to build a neural network from scratch with NumPy (a Python numerical library).

I was hooked on the descriptive analogies he used to describe machine learning concepts.

“Deep learning hyperparameters can be tuned like the dials on your oven.”

I devoured each new chapter as it came out.

But now you don’t have to wait, the full book is ready.

This book is a chance to learn deep learning from the ground-up and with hands-on examples from one of the best practitioners in the field.

Buy on Amazon.

Buy/peek-inside on Manning.

The 100-Page Machine Learning Book by Andriy Burkov

This is the book I wish I had when I started learning machine learning.

This is the book I wish I had when I started learning machine learning.

The start here and continue here of machine learning. That’s what I called it my book review. After reading Machine Learning for Humans, if you’re hungry to get deeper on what makes machine learning algorithms tick, this is the book for you.

My favourite part is it covers problems in machine learning and gives you solutions, as well as the rational behind those solutions. All within 100-pages.

You could read this in a day if you want. But you don’t need to. Take your time. Learning anything new takes time. Especially machine learning.

If the 100-pages aren’t enough, there’s QR codes scattered throughout with extra-curriculum curated by the author.

Buy on Amazon.

Read for free on the book’s website.

The Deep Learning Book by Ian Goodfellow, Yoshua Bengio and Aaron Courville

The ground truth of deep learning.

The ground truth of deep learning.

This is the newest edition to my collection. I bought the hard copy. It’s the book which fulfils the criteria at the start of the article.

I’m most excited for the math sections at the start. I’ve been a code-first learner. Hence the order of these books. But deep learning and machine learning are based on applied math. The code and frameworks might change over time but the math doesn’t change. Linear algebra is always going to be linear algebra.

The Deep Learning Book is written by three titans of the deep learning world. Goodfellow is the inventor of GANs, Bengio is one of the original discovers of deep learning and Courville’s academic works have been cited nearly 50,000 times.

This book dives deep on all of the deep learning concepts you should know about (not a pun).

Buy on Amazon.

Read for free online.

Remember, machine learning is broad. Use these books as a foundation to base your knowledge on and improve it by getting your hands dirty.

Knowledge which isn’t applied is wasted. There’s no better way to learn than to make mistakes.

Keep learning.

Your Biggest Roadblock

Is you.

There are good limits. The limits you describe to yourself and the ones others approve of when you tell them.

”I can’t do this because I don’t have enough time.”

And then there are real limits.

”I can’t do this because I’ve got to look after my father.”

Relationships with loved ones and health issues are the only real limits.

Everything else can be boiled down to one thing.

You.

Not enough time is the excuse the poor decision maker uses.

Not enough resources is the excuse the poor man makes instead of making do or changing perspective. You don’t have to be wealthy to be rich.

Look in the mirror, that’s your biggest roadblock. Look in your eyes. Who’s holding you back?

Be honest.

If it’s a close loved one. Tell them what you’re feeling. “I need to do this because it’s the thing in my gut and my soul and my brain that feels right.”

They’ll get behind you. And if they don’t, that’s a relationship you’ll have to reconsider. Or ignore them and do the thing you want to do anyway.

I’m coming off the end of a 4-day fast. If you had told me a year ago, I’d go 4-days without eating a single calorie, I’d laugh at you.

The only thing holding me back was my anticipation of what could wrong. Rather than believing in what could go right.

It turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. This is how the story goes. The hard parts are the ones you remember.

Most of life is getting out of your own way.

Inspiration is fleeting, act upon it immediately

When you have an idea, a burning idea, it won’t remain burning for long.

Act on it immediately. The sooner the better. All flames eventually extinguish.

If you can’t act on it straight away, write it down. Put it on your whiteboard. Set a reminder in your phone about it.

If the flame hangs around after a day, it’s a good idea, if it hangs around after a month, it’s a great idea.

How many great ideas have you let go because you didn’t act?

If you only had 2-hours per day, what would you work on?

If a doctor said you’d die if you didn’t cut your working hours back to 2-hours per day, what would you change?

Not a fan of doctors?

What if there was a gun to head, only allowing you to work for 2-hours per day, what would you change?

If you’ve read The Four-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris, you’re familiar with this concept, if not, it’s worth thinking about.

What are the actions you could take to produce the most results?

What are the actions which are filling up the to do list with no real benefits other than being extra check boxes on the end of the list?

I’m high on openness (shiny object syndrome) so it’s easy for me to add extra things to the list. But the reality is, there’s only enough time to do a few things well.

Earlier in the year, I was diagnosed with Ross River Fever. The symptoms are chronic fatigue and achy joints. There’s no cure, it apparently goes away with time, 6-9 months according to my research. I asked the doctor, what’s the protocol?

“Rest.”

I told him what I do. Work full-time (at the time), run my business on the weekends/evenings, exercise and move every day.

“That’s too much.”

He was right. I had to rest. My joints were sore and I’d get home at 5 pm and collapse in an unexplained heap. The diagnosis was a blessing in disguise. A hint from the universe I had to cut some things out.

I’m slowly getting better at it. The disciplined pursuit of less.

The 2-hour concept is something I’ve kept in mind the last few days.

Asking myself, “If I could only work on one thing, what would it be?”

It’s a hard question but it’s worth answering.

Why?

Because in order to do a few things well, you have to only do a few things.

It's not what you eat but how often

I’m 24-hours into a 3-day fast. When I want to learn about something, I dive into it. Today was reading all about fasting and blood glucose levels.

I had listened to Dr. Jason Fung on a podcast and read some of his articles in the past on fasting so I dug them back up. Doing so led me down the rabbit hole, I went through almost of all his work on Medium. There were many highlights.

One of the biggest ones was what you eat may not matter as much as how often you eat.

Dr. Fung is a big advocate for treating patients with metabolic diseases with extended periods of fasting.

I don’t know enough about the biochemistry of how things work to explain why (Dr. Fung has plenty of work on this). But read the snippet below.

Outtake from  Does Fasting Burn Muscle?  by Dr Jason Fung.

Outtake from Does Fasting Burn Muscle? by Dr Jason Fung.

Think about it. If all diseases related to age end up being diseases of excess, is food part of that excess?

The body has two states, fed and fasted. In the fed state, the body releases takes in glucose and amino acids to the liver and releases insulin to tell the rest of the body to start storying extra energy, either as glucose in the muscles or as fat (for later).

Having a hormone which leads to fat gain is good. 10,000 years ago, food may have been in short supply when we needed it, so storing some of the excess food we gathered/hunted would make sense.

In the fasted state, less insulin is secreted as the body starts to move from using glucose as the primary energy source to fat as the primary energy source.

So what?

Eating too often leads to being in a fed state too often. Being in a fed state too often means more insulin is released than required, means more glucose is stored as fat and the body is in a continual state of excess.

The fix?

Reduce how often you eat.

Reducing how often you eat through extended fasting or time restricted feeding (eating for 8-hours per day and fasting the other 16) allows the body to clear itself of excess, thus, potentially leading to longer term health benefits.

I’m going to continue digging more into the benefits of fasting as well as ways to measure them. Currently, I’m tracking my blood glucose levels via blood glucose monitors. I’ll write more about this in a few days.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in health, do yourself a favour and check out Jason’s work. If it doesn’t benefit you directly, it’ll probably be worth sharing with someone you know.

Please note: I’m not a doctor. I’m only curious to how the body works and to try and understand it better, I’m sharing what I’ve learned. Do your research before you try anything new.


Habits are good

Habits allow you to background process what’s going on. So your frontal lobe can do more challenging tasks.

A new activity will require commitment at first but once it becomes a habit, it’s easier to do the activity than to not do it.

Exercising and moving may be hard at first but it’s what the body was designed to do. We’re creatures of movement.

Studying something may be a challenge at first because you don’t know anything about it. Then you learn the foundations and they become subconscious.

It’s worth remembering bad habits are as detrimental as good habits are beneficial.

Most of us know the things we shouldn’t be doing. If the things we shouldn’t be doing have become habits, they’ll be hard to break. But it’ll be worth it.

The longer a habit goes on, the harder it becomes to change.

A helpful way to spend an hour would be to write down a list of your habits. Good and bad.

Then figure out which ones should stay around and which ones could be improved.

If you want to do something more often, make it a habit.

You’ll read different timelines for creating them, 21 days, 66 days, 100 days. The number isn’t as important as the measure of time. Daily is a good measure. It’s harder to forget than weekly or monthly.

You’ll be surprised what can be achieved over a decade from a handful of good habits performed every day.