On Problem Solving and Not Giving Up

* This is a letter to my family and kids.

I’m not sure if the internet we are using today in 2017 will still be the same by the time you are an adult, but because of the internet, you will be exposed to far more information and stimulants than a single person’s brain can process and handle. (Of course, let’s wait until some AI-leveraging tech for human brains get released!)

What this means is that you can get more distracted than focused, build a habit of consuming more while creating less, and critiquing more and acting less. You can spend your entire day on consuming content and talking about it, without actually making any impact or progress. Of course, a single line of comment on a popular news feed may have an impact — getting a few more likes for ego-boosting — but at the end of the day, the most precious resource you have is your energy, attention, and time, so make sure you save these for the important stuff.

You have to figure out where to spend your time, attention, and energy.

Of course, not everyone has to create something or add value. Not everyone has to be action-oriented or a leader. Not everyone has to have a dream or a goal.

But I wish you that you will have a meaningful dream in your life that makes you get up in the morning excited (maybe not every day, but most of the days!), a set of goals you’d like to achieve in your life time that is difficult but fun.

I wish you that you will act more to solve problems and create value, than chronically spending many hours a day consuming things that other people have created for you. It’s pretty great to feel that what you do can potentially make the world a slightly better place day by day, that what you do matters to people, and hopefully, the world.

So you have to build a discipline, a never-ending desire, to keep figuring out the important problems to solve, and acting on it. Honestly, I am not really sure since when I got this desire and habit to enjoy solving problems and creating things. Maybe it’s something my parents taught me early in my childhood, or maybe it’s just a mix of certain hormones in my head. I hope I will do a good job of helping you pick up some of these things while I’m alive, but hey, it’s your life.

By cherishing your curiosity and your sensitivity towards interesting problems, setting your mind to fixing an important problem, then executing relentlessly and regardless of all circumstances and hurdles, never giving up until you solve that problem, will probably make your life deeply fulfilling.

And if you happen to build some good rituals to reflect the positive changes that you created and be grateful for all the things that happened and all the amazing people you’ve met along the way, your life will not only be fulfilling, but happier throughout the journey.

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Don’t be a critique.

There will always be more people who will be critiquing all kinds of events that happen all around the world. You don’t have to be another. Focus on the important problems that mean something to people, and yourself. Then while most people will sit back in their chairs and leave comments on the issue, do something about it. Make sure you pick a problem that you are really passionate about and believe so much that you want to spend your precious time, energy, and attention on it.

Then keep doing it until you create the right solution to fixing that problem. Done? Move on to the next one. Don’t sit on the success that you’ve already achieved. It doesn’t matter, because there are more problems to solve out there. Rinse and repeat.

Don’t spend time on things that don’t actually mean deeply to you or the others.

A lot of things that you will hear and see will raise your emotions and pull you into futile adventures, so make sure you choose carefully which endeavor is worth spending your life on. Allocate and dedicate years, perhaps decades into solving those problems. But don’t dwell too long on picking a problem. Then you will become an observer and a critique quite soon.

Then persevere.

Don’t rationalize yourself into giving up prematurely. Nearly everyone makes this mistake, so be that 1-5% of people that don’t give up easily. Be that person that see things through. Even better, be that 0.1% of people that never ever give up and actually make it work. Be that ultimate person to work on it until it becomes a reality that everyone takes for granted.

Even if it’s not the right one, but make sure you see to the end of it and figure out what you’ve learned. Have a great closure. There is no such thing as a failure. Everything in life is just a journey and you move forward (until you die, I guess?)

You will get your next chance, and it will be a bigger one, once you complete the first one well. You will get better at picking and defining the right problems to go after.

And if you can really build this attitude, and experience the virtuous cycle of achieving some meaningful things, you won’t have any time, energy, and attention left to consume and deviate into other distractions. You will start making your life simpler, because this is the life you chose and believe in, so you want to dedicate your life on it. So focus on your commitments and focus on the problems. Keep your eyes on the ball like a dog chasing a tennis ball.

And if you persevere, that will make all the difference.

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