30 years old

Painting of Jacob wrestling with the angel in black and white by Gustave Doré
Gustave Doré, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (1855)

I remember sitting in the car on the way to drop my brother to preschool.

Being 9 years old and telling my mum how excited I was to turn ten.

Double digits!

I feel the same way about 29 to 30.

I hardly even got used to saying I’m 29.

Now I’ve got to practice saying I’m 30.

But getting older is fun.

You get to experience similar experiences with different points of view.

The only danger is getting stuck in one.

Then things become dull.

An older family friend asked me the other day when do you turn 30, I said this weekend, I’m getting older.

And she laughed.

You’re still a baby!

I’m not a fan of avoiding your age. Or aging in general.

There’s a grace in accepting how old you are.

How does it feel?


Old enough to attend funerals of mentors, see long-time relationships end, hold friends’ kids and think about my own, start being told to worry about health insurance, think about what interest rates are doing.

Christ, is this what responsibility feels like?

Young enough to be nervous about creating something new (a secret: I like that feeling, it’s far better than doing something you don’t want to do) or AI taking over the world (though what isn’t taking over the world?).


Keep the fear in front of you.

Because life would be bland without some kind of fight to waste energy on.

After all, ghosts are only scary when they’re in the closet.

Thirties feel like the decade where fun and freedom become a choice rather than the default.

Another tightrope of life.

Anyway, every year I start a new note and write things down for fun.

Musings on the world and random quotes from people and books I pretend are mine.

This year is my seventh year of doing so (see 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29).

Let’s begin.

Learning and teaching

  • Once I’ve taught the student that she needs to teach herself, and she begins to do just that, then I believe I’ve accomplished what I’ve set out to accomplish.
  • The less the process is about you, the more effective you’ll be and the happier you’ll be.
  • Experience knowledge is far different from theory knowledge. Skin in the game. Has the teacher done the thing? I want to learn from someone who’s done what I want to do. Apprenticeship style. Trusting my instincts to adapt, mixing evolution and education.
  • From a pure output perspective, inspiring creativity is often more important than practicing it.

Decision making

  • If you think humans are rational about their biggest decisions and priorities, then your navigation system for life is off course.
  • As you get older rationality seems more important to decision making because it’s one of the last features to develop. A child learns humour and dancing and music far earlier than rationality. Perhaps there’s a reason.
  • The answer to a hell of a lot of questions is: it depends. And in turn, a very large number of questions should be answered with: I don’t know. I need more information. Let me find out.
  • On control: The more you relinquish power and trust others, the more powerful you become. Instead of having to lay awake at night trying to control everything, you do it beautifully by trusting the job to everyone else. "Do you have the power to let power go?" - Kanye West, Power
  • You’re able to decide and control things more harmoniously if you delegate authority. Trusting others to do work for you. The same basic structure of living organisms. One cell could not possibly take on all the roles in the body. So what does it do? It delegates authority. One system handing off control to another. Such a process has the backing of evolution. Giving self to other and trusting. You may make a mistake or take a bad gamble. But over time, it is the mistakes that contribute to the progress.
  • Doing the opposite of the rules is still following the rules. That’s not spontaneity. It’s confirmation in reverse.
  • Never underestimate the value of curation. Taking a large group of things and condensing them into a smaller group of things. Curation is art.

Being, nature, religion and spirituality

  • In Hebrew mythology, there’s a concept that every man possesses a yetzer hara. The capacity to betray God, an evil impulse, a wayward spirit, a level of irreducible rascality. I like that concept. Everyone should have a level of irreducible rascality inside them. And of course, like all fundamentals, there is the opposite, yetzer hatov, a good impulse.
  • A reason for mystery: Once everything is under your control, it’s a bore from beginning to end. Imagine trying to play a board game where you knew the outcomes. Fun to trick your friends for a few turns but once they catch on, you'll have no one to play with.
  • Paradox as it may seem, we find life meaningful only when we have seen that it is without purpose. And know the “mystery of the universe” only when we are convinced that we know nothing about it at all.
  • I spoke to an old man, he seemed to be enlightened. It felt like he was hovering two inches off the ground. Naturally, I asked about his secrets. He told me, I got to sleep without dreams and wake up without worries.
  • If you see a ghost, don’t run away from it. Walk straight into it. For fear is a hole in your brain's map of the universe. Don't run from it, you might fall in. Instead, explore the new territory.
  • Embrace your weirdness. If someone was the average of your friends, you’d probably find them boring. It’s the extreme traits that make you (and others) interesting.
  • Your feelings and emotions are you. The more you avoid them, the more you split yourself down the middle. “I shouldn’t feel this way” is a thought which disagrees with evolution. Feelings and emotions evolved to be signals of information. You’re not compelled to act on emotion or feelings but you should never deny them. Unacknowledged hatred leads to violence.
  • In the garden, I’m Taoist, at rest, I’m Buddhist, at parties, I’m Hindu, at work, I’m Christian, for my family, I’m Jewish.
  • The garden is my therapist. Building a garden in the backyard has been one of my favourite activities this past year. Last week, I harvested a lettuce and used it for family dinner. Next week is potatoes.
Man standing holding a lettuce on a patch of grass next to a vegetable garden
Moving into the house, there was a strip of bushes out the back. I spent the last year or so transforming them into a vegetable garden. There's a few fruit trees too. Last week I harvested a big cos lettuce and used it for family dinner. The garlic is growing strong too.
  • The most valuable human trait: The ability to come off it. To have a laugh. The joker, the jester, the comic, the cure for seriousness. People who can make a fantastic case for something but you tell by the sparkle in their eye they’re not serious. Have a certain rigidity about you, yes, no need to be a pushover. But always know when to come off it. How many arguments must you win (the true purpose of an argument is never to win)? We’re a mixture of carbon and water with a soul. Isn’t that funny? And one day none of our bodies will be here and depending on your beliefs your soul might swirl around in the ether forever but hell (pardon the pun), it might not. That’s enough to make me cry. But I don’t. I laugh instead.

Life and death

  • Death isn’t the opposite of life. It’s the opposite of birth.
  • Who said you have to die to go to heaven?
  • Zhuang Zhou (Chuang Tzu) on death and funerals:

Chuang Tzu's disciples were worried about their master's death and his funeral plans.

“I regard the heaven and earth as my coffin and outer coffin, the sun and moon as a pair of jade gifts and the constellations as my burial jewels. And the whole creation shall come to my funeral. Will it not be a grand funeral? What more should I want?”

“We’re afraid that vultures and crows will come and eat our master,” said the disciples.

“Above the ground, I shall be eaten by the vultures and underground, I shall be eaten by the ants. Why rob one to give it to the other? Why are you so partial to the ants?”

Mine: I've eaten enough animals, it's time for me to return the favour.

From The Wisdom of Laotse by Lin Yutang.

Career and work

  • Asymmetry of jobs and technology: it’s much easier to imagine someone losing their job to a new technology than it is to imagine many people gaining jobs that haven’t been invented yet. 70% of the things I do day to day either didn’t exist 10 years ago or weren’t possible in such a way.
  • The doorman fallacy (against automation): An automatic door does not replace a doorman. With a doorman, you get relationships with the regulars (possibly one of the best sources of revenue), you get security, you get fun (if they’re a character and most doormen are), you get human. With an automatic door, you save the wage of a doorman and in return you get… an automatic door.
  • Career advice: Don’t try to be the best, be the only (similar to the Blue Ocean Strategy of product creation). A la, become so good they can't ignore you (a dry book but valuable title).
  • Continually ask what do I want to learn? And follow the answers until they line up with what you’re doing.

Product creation and marketing

  • Build marketing into the product.
  • Blue Ocean Strategy: Eliminate competition by being your authentic self. Create the product only you could create.
  • Decide where you will not compete (e.g. Tesla on door panels and gaps fitting, the initial doors on Tesla’s first cars famously didn't fit very well, but they improved through iteration). And when you will compete (e.g. Tesla creating the best electric car). No competition is the best competition.
  • The only thing you can control is your iteration speed, how fast can you come out with new and improved versions?
  • If anyone questions the value of marketing, tell them to consider this: No one would’ve heard of Jesus if it wasn’t for the letters of St. Paul.
  • More restaurants should open up with a specific focus on doing one thing really well. For example, a restaurant called “Toasties” that only does incredible toasted sandwiches. A brain trick happens when somewhere does only one or two things, the tendency is to think they’re really good at those things.
  • Reverse marketing: “No phones allowed.” Vs. “Please remember to turn your phone back on when you leave the restaurant.” One’s a demand, the other creates a culture.

Art and creating

  • "Don’t blend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly." – Anne Rice
  • Serendipity maxing: There’s a certain amount of activity you do and things you create not because you know why but because you know if you didn’t do it it would prevent you from getting lucky. For example, going to a party might turn out to be lame but there's also a chance you might meet your future wife.
  • In a similar vein, you can create situations that maximise the chance that you get lucky but you cannot determine the moment luck occurs. As in, you often won't know which deal will lead to the lucky break or which artwork will take off or when you might meet the love of your life on a walk. You can forever plant seeds but there's never a guarantee of fruit.
  • Much of waiting to get a lucky idea looks like laziness. You could write an entire hit song in 20 minutes. And then tell people, I wrote this song in 20 minutes. But you forget that you spent your whole life preparing for those 20 minutes.
  • Many decide to do what is logical rather than what is creative because if you fail at the logical thing, no one will criticise you. However, failing at the logical thing also means you’ve created nothing new.


  • The value of empty space: A man walks upon the ground by stepping on it but it is only through the ground he does not step upon (the distance between the steps) that he is able to reach a great distance. Further, it is because of the things you do not do in other directions that you are able to make ground in one direction.
  • The comfort of unawareness: If a belt fits well, you are unaware of it. Well-fitting shoes make you forget about your feet. Thoughtfully designed technology disappears.
  • Absolutely everything is a system of now you see it now you don’t. A symphony is notes punctuated by silence. That’s why children (and fun adults) love playing peekaboo. The universal game.

Psychology tricks

  • Placebo yourself. It works even if you know it's a placebo.
  • Doing things: If you want a clean house, invite people over. If you want to read books, start a book club. If you want to learn how to cook, host a dinner party. Never underestimate the power of a forcing function. Humans are by default much better at adapting to a condition (cleaning the house because people are coming over) than purely completing tasks (cleaning the house).
  • Removing friction can often be far more important than adding fuel. Got relationship troubles? Fix the negative before adding positives (improval via removal, and yes I know improval is a made up word but it sounds more poetic than remove to improve). No point in lavish gifts and dates if you haven’t discovered and discussed the source of the issue.
  • A possible way to improve transport: Make trains fun, not faster. What takes more effort? The physics of making trains 2x faster or the psychology of making them 2x funner? This kind of thinking can be applied everywhere.

General Musings

  • Houses and dwellings: The best thing you can have in a house is one really big room.
  • Plastic doesn’t belong in the kitchen. How many drinks taste 20-30% better out of glass than plastic cups?
  • Make the space between the kitchen and living room almost nil. The smell of cooking is half the taste. I smelt bacon at a cafe this morning and that was the best part of breakfast.
  • Lots of time spent worrying about how to live life, not enough time spent living it.
  • Never complain about something you don’t have that you’ve never directly asked for.
  • Trick plays make headlines. But the real trick is process over time.
  • Every attempted escape from sexuality transforms itself into prurience (excessive interest in sexual matters). The same goes for avoidances. The more you avoid, the more it grows.
  • Almost all attitudes are role playing. Anyone who becomes conscious of role-playing will discover just about all of his attitudes are roles. This might leave someone who is trying to behave genuinely or honestly at a loss. Until you realise that’s a role to play too.
  • Gravity’s Rainbow: A natural arc of truth. Arriving just where you need to be at any given moment. Treat every moment like this, regardless if it feels like it or not. It’s fun.
  • Conversation challenge: How long can you go without asking what do you do?
  • Everything is sales. Selling your product, selling your services, selling your personality to a potential mate, selling your skills to a potential employer, selling the story arc of your life to yourself. Everything is sales.
  • On gift giving: One way to look at gift giving is to think what would the person like? The other is what would I like to give this person? The first is logical, the second is creative curation. Part of the gift (perhaps the most important) is injecting your personality into it.
  • Some of the smartest people I know think themselves out of existence. Thinking overwhelms doing. Education prevails evolution. How much thought does a potato put into growing? I don’t know. But it does it. By making as many small actions as possible.
  • Often the best advice you can give someone is none at all. And instead just listen wholeheartedly to their problems.
  • Honest hours: There are many things in life which simply require many honest hours. Building a skill, getting fit (staying fit is easier), creating art, fostering relationships. A simple question, how many honest hours did I put into this?


The following is a list of books I’ve enjoyed diving in and out of over the past year.

Rather than a long list I've been rereading and re-exploring books I've enjoyed in the past.

And instead of completing books, I just read until I get bored and then move on to the next. After all, the point of a good library is as a reference.

Excited for the next year

Let’s talk goals for the next year.

A few simple things.

I’d like to have children within the next 5 or so years.

So, I’d like to become better at communicating with my partner on what parental and family values we’d like to create together.

Economically, it’d be good to bank a few million cash.


Build and sell a Pokédex for food with my brother (Nutrify). Teach 1 million people machine learning.

Regardless, for that amount of cash, it must be a business of some sort.

The alternative is, to keep my expenses low and lifestyle options high.

If I haven’t taken care of my shit, how can I take care of someone else’s?

And what about fun?

Business is fun.

And I like cooking.

So I’ll cook and share simple recipes. And grow the garden and make dishes with the produce. In a few years I’d like a nice big piece of land bearing ingredients for feasts.

Finally, creating and health as default.

Lift weights, eat well, move often, write words, write poetry, shoot videos, make deals, take long walks, listen, laugh, love love love.

Standard practice.

Third decade’s the charm.