2020 Annual Review
There’s a mistake I’m trying to avoid:
“Taking a track without thinking really hard about where it’s going.”
This annual review is to help me think really hard on:
- The track I’m currently on
- Where the track is headed
Here’s a 30-second timeline on how my 2020 went:
- January 6: Began cloud consulting internship for 4 months
- January 8: Started 2 Cents Podcast with my co-host Sarika (follow her fashion blog @sari_wears)
- March 16–23: Poured all my money into the stock market declines
- April 11: Wrote medium blogs every other day out of boredom. My top 4 blogs (here, here, here, or here)
- May 1: Extended my co-op 4 more months. Got staffed on client projects forcing me to learn on the job
- June 27: Built an email list of 30 people and launched a weekly newsletter on my thoughts
- August 1: Negotiated a part-time employment contract so I could simultaneously take fall courses
- August 18-September 1: Travelled across Canada with my pals Levi, Bersi, Morty (@mortesa_k), Cyrus (@coldcyrus), and Cassandra
- September 22: Sold half my stock portfolio from 4 years of investing
- September 24: Got rid of Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat on my birthday
- November 1: Moved houses
2020 was eventful despite lockdowns making things uneventful). I needed two cameras to capture it all:
Rushil’s 2 Cents With 2 Cameras
The review will have four parts:
- What didn’t work
- What worked
- What I plan to build
What Didn’t Work
Here are some mistakes I’ve made this year so you don’t have to:
Focusing On Catching, Rather Than Throwing
- I launched a weekly newsletter from scratch — about investing, stocks, Bitcoin, finance, and other things
- The progress of my email list and newsletter open rates — made me want quicker growth
- I didn’t pay attention to process as a result
- The same can be said for my investing portfolio — I paid attention to my returns rather than researching new investments
“But if we learn a lesson from jugglers, we realize that the hard part isn’t catching, it’s throwing”
“Learn to throw, to initiate, to do with care and you’ll need to spend far less time worrying about catching in the first place.”
Let’s start with what happens when you juggle:
You grab 3 balls. The first ball is thrown (which is easy) and the second follows (not as well). By the time you try catching the second ball, you have to lunge for it. This makes you out of position for ball number 3.
The result: you drop the ball.
I spent too much time worrying about progress (focussing on catching) rather than process (throwing).
Doing above makes you believe that you’re falling behind, which makes you take more risk to manipulate results. The unintended side-effect: having a never ending goalpost.
One step towards the goal pushes your goalpost two steps ahead.
Fix for 2021:
Being good at throwing so that the catching can take care of itself.
I’ll work towards upping the quality of my newsletters while becoming competent with my investments. The growth should take care of itself.
After all, happiness = results — expectations.
Watching A Movie’s Length Of TikToks
- I’m a lazy person
- I don’t have a schedule because I enjoy randomness in my day (which explains why I’m struggling in school)
- TikTok was the perfect thing for me to procrastinate
- I deleted TikTok to save more time
- Instagram and Snapchat were deleted too for extra measure
Off the grid since September, the only way to reach me was by email, phone, or Twitter. After all that, I still ended up wasting time.
I thought getting rid of social media would stop time-wasting. It didnt. I just replaced the void through movies, shows, Twitter, or staring at the wall.
An uncluttered schedule makes you a happier person, but it encourages time-wasting. It didn’t work for me.
Fix for 2021:
“Granny’s Rule”, otherwise known as Charlie Munger’s rule:
Eat your carrots before you get your cookies.
Set tasks, get those done, eat your cookies then.
Not Acknowledging Opportunity Cost
- My year mostly involved working as a cloud consultant and building an email list
- I didn’t set time to focus on studying
- That’s also why I’m struggling with my courses
Here’s opportunity cost defined:
By reading this sentence, you are choosing not to read something else. Everything we do is like this.
My internship led to developing interests outside of school. I didn’t pay attention in school as a result. That was the cost of opportunity.
By spending time learning about cloud development, writing newsletters, and investing, I sacrificed time for studying. Of course, that’s no excuse, but it shows where my head is at for academics. Nevertheless, just like the shit in your intestines, I have to get through it.
“I don’t know when, but I’ll graduate eventually.”
That’s my usual response when people ask when I’ll finish university. Parents included. Global pandemics are a good excuse to take time off school, but I better spend more time studying in 2021.
A lesson to be learned:
Not acknowledging opportunity cost will cost you.
Fix for 2021:
Know what you’re sacrificing when you’re putting effort into something. After all, thinking about the track you’re on is what this review is all about.
Here are some heuristics that helped me this year.
Doing A Job You’re Not Qualified For
- I interned as a cloud developer for most of this year — despite dropping out of computer science three years ago
- I learned how to code on the job and got paid while doing it
- The skills I’ve learned in 2020 have made me “more employable” than most graduates — without having to make a LinkedIn (thankfully)
Don’t let credentials hold you back from doing what you want. They don’t matter as much as you think.
Know how > know what.
I was competent in basic coding and interviewed my way through the rest. After that, it was a matter of learning on the job.
Credentials come second to whether you’re qualified or not. Competence requires practice, not studying.
I had zero understanding of what Microsoft Azure, Dynamics365, and PowerApps were a year ago. I’m now studying to get certified as an Azure developer. I got qualified by doing the work first — then getting credentialed as a result. Not the other way around.
It’s not the only way, but that’s the point. There are many routes to take. Do what makes sense to you. This just happened to work out for me.
Risking Your Money To Be Competent (and make more money)
- March of 2020 was the luckiest time to be a student with lots of cash
- We witnessed economic crashes like 1987 and 2008 — in real-time
- I invested all my money into the stock market declines
- The investments helped me understand nuances of risk, luck, and finance — better than any textbook could
I major in IT and Business. I’ve learned more about business from investing than any course I’ve taken in school. That’s what it means to have skin in the game.
Skin in the game is — taking risks, being accountable for them, and deserving the rewards or punishments that come from it.
The ex-trader who coined the term, Nassim Taleb describes it better:
“If you are an investor in a company, doing ultra boring things like reading the footnotes of a financial statement (where the real information is to be found) becomes, well, almost not boring.”
I spent my summer doing ultra boring things like researching stock-market movements, economic functions, and what good businesses are. The risk of losing money made it far from boring.
It forced me to improve my decision-making and made me a better investor. More money was made because of my skin in the game.
Here’s why I invest:
As a young guy or gal, you want to be as leveraged as possible. Without leverage, your inputs match your outputs. You don’t want that. It’s slow, boring, and requires too much effort to get big results.
We need our outputs to outweigh our inputs.
That’s why I invest. To own assets that get me leverage — so I can work less; while earning more.
Find Something You Like To Do
- A lot of my 2020 was spent on writing
- I initially wrote Medium blogs from lockdown-boredom
- I decided to own my distribution — so I built an email list of 30 subscribers and launched a weekly newsletter called Rushil’s 2 Cents
- Above all, I write to think in public
Here are my thoughts (made public) on why I write.
We’re stuck in the industrial age ideals for work. Like cogs in a clock, we willingly shape ourselves to fit into our circumstances. Then we dutifully turn until our time runs out.
A way to escape those ideals is to do creative work.
I got this idea from my photography pals:
They’ve produced a portfolio of aesthetic pictures and published them on the internet. They didn’t need or ask for anyone’s permission.
It started out as a hobby, but has evolved into a serious craft; doing work for its own sake. After all, that’s what art is.
The internet has made it possible to achieve more — while working less. Pre-internet, you couldn’t communicate with 1,000 people unless you had a popular radio show or media outlet. We’re now able to reach millions within seconds.
This is otherwise known as Aggregation Theory. A new way to understand how businesses have evolved alongside the internet.
Naturally, I plan to follow the aggregation framework to start a business of my own. The only problem is:
I have no idea what business to build.
Here’s what I’ve figured out though:
You don’t need an idea to build a business — you need an audience.
- Through written content, I can establish a reputation — while attracting an audience
- The subscriber pals will guide me on what to build
- The published work will create a portfolio that will compound
- The compounding result will earn my credibility
- It’s permissionless, has zero cost (aside from time), and scalable because it’s digital
Voila, that’s what Aggregation Theory is:
You have a direct relationship with your users with zero marginal cost for serving them. There is abundant supply because of its digital nature.
Of course, establishing credibility is difficult. The trick is to find something you’re good at. Then spend thousands of hours iterating until you’re great. Do this under your own name so you’re accountable for the risks alongside the rewards (have skin in the game).
What I Plan
Now that I know what worked and what didn’t — here’s the track for 2021:
2,000 Email Subscriber Pals:
This my top goal for 2021. I discovered that email lists are important. Here’s why:
- Email is a direct-distribution channel
- My email-list is a repository for promoting my work and receiving direct feedback for it
- It scales the number of people you can keep in touch with by an order of magnitude
- Emails have been around longer than any social media — it won’t be dead anytime soon
- With one email per week, I can share my thoughts and scale them to people who care most about what I’m working on
Having an email-list was my most prioritized asset for 2020. I’ll be experimenting more in 2021 to grow my subscriber pals to 2,000.
Antifragile Investing Portfolio:
My current investing strategy:
- Have half my portfolio in low-risk assets, which I plan to hold for a 5-year window (index funds, ETFs, and value stocks)
- Balance the other half into risky positions, which I’ll sell within the year or so (growth stocks, SPACs, or private equities I can get my hands on)
The main goal is simple: I want investments that are worth more than I’m paying for.
- The long-term goal: compound my low-risk assets. Difficult but doable — if I remain patient and don’t interrupt unnecessarily.
- The short-term aim: gain non-linear returns from risky bets. Difficult but doable — if I can widen my circle of competence.
The overall plan, and perhaps the most difficult is to: make my portfolio antifragile.
For those who don’t know the concept of antifragility, picture a hydra:
The hydra gets stronger the more heads are chopped off. That’s antifragile. Something that thrives from disorder.
Having a portfolio that grows when exposed to volatility, randomness, risk, and uncertainty is what I want to build in 2021.
It won’t be easy, but it never is. Anyone who thinks it’s easy: is stupid.
Microsoft Azure Developing Certification
Cloud development is something I want to be good at. If my future plans don’t work out, consulting is my backup so I don’t end up broke.
Understanding cloud is a useful skill as the demand for serverless technology increases. Of course, Azure and AWS are two different things, but the concepts they implement are the same. Learning Azure fundamentals will help me grasp the first-priciples for cloud development.
Getting Through School
I didn’t pay much attention to school in 2020, the least I can do is have a better focus moving forward. Online classes are bullshit and I hate having to willingly pay for bullshit. Either way, I’ll make time for it this year.
Setting Up A Website
With the amount of writing I’ve done so far, it’d be a good idea to showcase it on a website. It’ll be a place to archive my newsletters and publish essays (such as this). The body of work will be my resume, which will build my credibility.
The site will be the bedrock to productize myself and create a brand. It’s also my way of avoiding making a LinkedIn account.
The internet has made it possible to gain leverage. I’m a lazy person, so I appreciate the ability to do more while working less. If you made it this far, you’re clearly not a lazy person. Pat yourself on the back.
If I were to summarize my plan (and advice) in two words for 2021:
The heuristic from 2020 will carry over to the new year. Whether it’s to my family, pals, acquaintances, audience, or strangers, I want to be useful. Only then can my 2 cents be worth something.