Moving from novelty to mundaneness

Given the chance, it's perfectly normal for people to chase novelty out of the sense of curiosity. And given how most activities don't last very long, it's also perfectly sensible to try out different things for variety.

But looking at it another way, perhaps only activities that translate well into mundanity are the ones that are going to stick in the long term. The term 'mundanity' might be stretching it too much, but perhaps what I really meant are things that are still fun 10, 100 or 1,000 times later as we discover the variations within it.

Like, running is inherently a super repetitive exercise. But who you run with, where you run, how you run or the reason you're running itself make all the differences. They keep things fresh and allow one to continuously place one's foot forward without being burdened by the boredom.

Where mass times acceleration equal force

Newton's second law of motion is an interesting formula that seems to be applicable to how companies are operating

F = m * a

Simply put, given the bare bone formula there are 4 different combinations:

  • High mass, high acceleration
    • e.g. huge disruptive companies (1,000 x 10 = 10,000)
  • High mass, low acceleration,
    • e.g. huge conservative companies (1,000 x 1 = 1,000)
  • Low mass, high acceleration,
    • e.g. small growing companies (100 x 10 = 1,000)
  • Low mass, low acceleration,
    • e.g. small conservative companies (100 x 1 = 100)

As companies grow there is a positive correlation in how much resources they amass. There is an undeniable strength in number, but it also creates complexity that breeds processes and standardization. By default, an ever growing company will see an overall reduced velocity as they now have to solve growing internal problems that was once safe to ignore and external problems that multiply exponentially. The baseline of their impact will still be huge, but it's purely out of their mass alone.

Most companies that seek high returns will definitely aim to get themselves to the first model. But given varying circumstances in reality, different strategies have to be employed that utilize either mass or acceleration factors. If a company is helmed by people who are experienced or committed in handling the processes, an increase in mass is advisable. Vice versa, it might be more useful to focus on how fast the company can move when such veterans are nonexistent.

Question of the week 1: How does SpaceX retrieve their rockets?

I realized this recently, but rocket retrieval can be an entirely new industry on its own. Since a retrieval basically means all this processes have to be done perfectly for rockets to be usable again:

  1. Getting the first stage rocket safely back to earth
  2. Transporting them via seas
  3. Disassembling them on port
  4. Sending them all back to the hangar at different state
  5. Inspecting and cleaning the components
  6. Maintenance and putting back all the parts together
  7. Store the rocket till its next launch date
  8. Run a set of pre-launch tests

It's hard enough to get the rocket back down, it's an entirely different challenge to prepare it for another launch again.

Embracing uncertainty


Every time I see a time-lapse of an artwork it always amazes me how the outcome still resembles the starting idea the artist envisioned (e.g. "a horse"). But the creative liberty they took along the way creates something original instead. Personally, I was trapped with the approach that the most efficient way to do something would be to draw a straight line from the problem to the solution. I approached my career the same way, thinking that it will form a concrete steps (A-B-C).

But I am where I am today not through those carefully planned steps. My career took uneven path and curves that I couldn't have foreseen 5 years ago when I graduated. Many times, I'm not even sure how something would have turned out. It was an unreasonable and non-deterministic path. It's so foreign and probabilistic in nature that it's downright scary for somebody who originally wanted a calculated direct route.

Looking back at the artwork, perhaps that was all part of the messy middle in the process when the depiction of the horse was still unclear. My career was largely the result of taking chances outside the choices that are available to me. There were simply no options that I was willing to trade my flexibility for early in my career. But with more lines drawn, it slowly forms a boundary/shape that the artist is now comfortable with to guide the vision they have in mind to completion.

Stability and predictability are reassuring that they're the foundation of the peaceful society we live in now. But humanity only achieved it through a series of uncertainties and emerging choices.

Let this be a reminder for myself.

When the world turned into chaos, what did you not do?

It’s 2040 and a group of kids asked you to recount stories from when the world faced its biggest challenge ever 20 years ago. It was the modern dark period with history books being rewritten to include the massive number of people who died.

They pushed you for an answer: “What happened? Where were you?”

You survived. Or maybe you are crippled now, but kids ask the most straightforward questions.

"When the world turned into chaos, what did you not do?"

I'm afraid that my answer would amount to a mere “I didn’t do anything”.

“Were you all right?”

I was fine. I’m not entirely sure about other people, but there are many people who find it hard to survive.

"Did you do your part? What was your role?"

I’m not sure. I tried helping indirectly, but I don’t think it’s enough. I didn't do everything in my capacity to really think about it.

I sincerely wish I won’t disappoint myself when this conversation actually take place.