Posted on Fri 07 September 2018

Thanks for giving my thoughts a read — hopefully you get something out of this. If you don't know me, I just graduated from Stanford and I'm heading to MIT for my PhD, with the ultimate goal of starting my own biotech company afterwards. I wanted this first post to offer a bit of motivation about these goals, and why I'm on this path.

My senior year at Stanford, I spent a lot of time thinking about what my life philosophy is: that is, what drives meaning in my life, what guides my decisions, what the bigger picture is. Taking time to think about these abstract concepts was new to me at the time, but 2 experiences convinced me of their importance. The first, "Designing Your Life," a class I took that is modeled after the Bill Burnett and Dave Evans book. The second was Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, where he introduces the concept of Logotherapy — the belief that finding meaning in life is the most powerful driving force for humans. I believe this is true.

While I‘m not at the point of succinctly articulating everything that I believe in, here are 9 statements that sum me up pretty well. I try to motivate why I believe in each of these statements, but of course, I do not believe they apply to everyone. If you disagree, agree, or are confused by any of them, I’d love to chat about it.

  • 22 is too young to turn off my learning mindset
    • Many of you are probably experiencing this now, but once you graduate and get a normal job — or even a summer internship — your priorities change. Rather than spending time challenging yourself intellectually, you get home tired and want to binge TV, or go to happy hours and nice dinners. I call the school state a “learning mindset”: it pushed me to think in new ways and get to places I wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s not to say you’re not learning at all at a normal job; you are likely just learning a specific set of skills that is required for your role, but not necessarily applicable to many other things. Of course, starting your own company is an exception to this, but I think my argument holds for a lot of jobs. To me, this inevitable change of mindset is exactly why I decided to go to grad school. I’ll literally be getting paid, albeit a minimal amount, to think for 5 years. By doing research in a field you’re passionate about and want to work on in the long term, this time can be priceless. By no means do I think everyone should go to grad school, but I do think everyone should make an effort to keep this “learning mindset” for as long as possible; the longer you spend with that mindset, the bigger of an impact you will have.
  • I derive the most meaning from generating value
    • To me, this means I have to forge my own path by building something that is mine. I reached this conclusion after an internship experience at a big company where I felt like my contributions were meaningless. No doubt there are perks to working for well-funded companies, but to me, they’re not worth giving up the intellectual challenge and growth.
  • I’m upfront about everything
    • People appreciate truthfulness. Even if it’s something disappointing, I prefer to be honest rather than trying to spin it. I follow this because it’s the way I like to be treated, and most times, the best outcome is reached when all the cards are on the table.
  • “Don’t half-ass multiple things. Whole-ass one thing” - Ron Swanson
    • Ron’s quote says it all to me. I always try to dive deep and make meaningful contributions to few things rather than doing a little bit of many things. This is probably motivated by a trait I’ve seen at Stanford and in Silicon Valley (I'm no exception): there are so many exciting things happening around you, you get involved in all of them. At some point, you realize you’re in too deep and you can’t do everything you wanted. As I went through my time at Stanford, I started prioritizing my activities and spending more time doing the few things that I enjoyed the most.
  • Don’t be naïve but always see the good in people
    • I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt until they show me a reason not to. Obviously, trust your gut, but always remember to be optimistic.
  • Set specific goals (on a ~yearly timescale)
    • I’m always thinking about where I want to be, roughly, a year into the future. Once I pick 2 or 3 topics that I would enjoy, I write them down as actionable goals. From here, I make sure that what I’m doing on a daily basis is towards these goals. I’ve found that knowing why I’m doing something can make it much more enjoyable. Conversely, not being sure why you’re doing something can really bring you down. Some of my current goals are: 1) knowing what it takes to run a biotech startup, 2) learning to manage my finances, 3) starting to build an exciting network for Boston.
  • Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable — that’s how you build meaningful relationships
    • This goes hand-in-hand with my point about being upfront and choosing to see the good in people. While I don’t share too much of personal life on social media, I tend to be an open book in person. By doing so, I end up getting great advice I wouldn’t have thought of on myself.
  • Don’t eat the marshmallow, but don’t starve yourself
    • This is in reference to the famous Marshmallow study which observed that delayed gratification can be a proxy for eventual success. While I do agree with this idea most of the time, it’s important to not torture yourself about it. I try to never make large, stupid purchases (except crypto in 2017 lol), but I make sure to always enjoy the moment and treat myself.
  • Ignore societal norms on success
    • Without a doubt, this is the biggest lesson I learned at Stanford. Coming from public schooling my entire life, I feel that I was always trained to stay in the box. In and around Stanford, I saw for the first time people who were purely leading their lives by what they were passionate about. Instantly, I wanted to be one of those people, but trying to unteach yourself the 18-year old habit of not straying from the norm can be almost impossible. For me, what did it was attending as many talks as I could by people who were leading a non-traditional path. Listening to their stories over and over again truly bolstered within me the belief that you can do whatever the hell you feel like. Opportunities like these is what I will always be thankful for towards Stanford.

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