I don’t update my blog as frequently as I used to and likely for good reason; who really cares about the particulars of my work?
Nonetheless, it’s good on occasion to write down my thoughts, lessons, and other fun stories, if for no other purpose than to not forget what I have learned later on in life.
So what did I learn in these past months? Let’s observe, chronologically.
May of 2014 was an interesting month. At its beginning I was granted a fellowship; one I had applied for a few months prior.
In summary, the fellowship is a $100,000 grant to be paid over the course of two years, to young entrepreneurs and researchers whom chose to leave university and pursue a project of their choosing. The project I had applied with was the one I had set on the back burner whilst organizing The Construct @ RIT; a challenge to build high power, portable radio-graphic imaging devices (x-ray machines).
Immediately upon news of its receipt, I handed The Construct off to my co-founder, and got to work.
Not knowing where to begin, I started drawing an engineering flowchart, describing how I would best engineer the device I intended to build. I figured this was necessary given the scale of the project, and the experience I’ve had with other projects passed; where I’d often be inquiring within myself throughout the design process, “what needs to be done next?”
For about two weeks, things were fine. I would wake up, begin drawing designs in onenote, go to classes, then return thereafter to the sketches at hand. Following encouragement from friends I decided that my work was not moving fast enough, and so I began to work at night, also. This is when my life started to lose a little bit of sanity; as time advanced, I became more and more consumed with my work, and less and less concerned with anything but.
“This is it!” I began to tell myself. “This is my opportunity, let’s not blow it!
Within 3 weeks, I was running on pure adrenaline (epinephrine), to such an extent that food was not even on my mind. In one months’ time, I had written a 277 page book that included;
- An introduction.
- A comic series of my life story, to introduce myself to people reading the script.
- A gift to a person whose charisma inspired me to apply for that fellowship.
- A thesis statement on disruptive innovation, and how it has historically happened.
- A business plan of sorts.
- Designs for a software tool to help organize data within the business.
- A list of people I’d like to gain help from.
- A product (the x-ray machine).
- An invention / engineering solution which would allow me to build the aforementioned in a way no other could.
- Documentation of the working prototype I had assembled in high school.
- A 70 page engineering flowchart.
- A conclusion.
277 pages. In one months’ time.
Following the book’s completion, I bought a trailer, filled it with my things, and high tailed it to California.
By this point I had lost 30 pounds, was sleeping only 4 hours a night, and was completely unaware that what I was doing did not matter to anyone else but myself. Nothing I did seemed to exhaust me, and nothing I did appeared rational to anyone else watching. This of course, scared all of my friends whom are used to seeing a highly intelligent, calculating, tactful and quiet Adam. Yet, I heard almost nothing but encouragement throughout the whole process, which did not help make my situation better.
In June I had arrived in California, and boy, did I make one hell of an impression to my new roommates there.
Is he psychotic? What he’s doing is amazing, but rash!
At this point I was still high on endogenous hormones, and once I had settled down I got right to work again. Within one more month, I had accomplished;
- A patent for a new x-ray tube, with beautiful artwork.
- Pages upon pages of product designs, describing exactly what it was I wanted to engineer.
- A firm opinion established among my new friends, that “Adam is a crazy fuck”
Honestly I don’t remember a whole lot from this month, other than that I was continually making decisions upon almost pure emotion, and pumping out designs like mad. In many ways, I had even forgotten how to socially interact with the people around me, and further I could not seem to understand why I was making these mistakes.
June, though incredibly productive, did not bode well for my relations with those around me; both with roommates and investors. Along with my health, my emotional stability had all but vanished, and in summary I had become an engineering machine, and nothing more than that as a person.
July started off much like June; I was still actively working on artwork, a product pitch, schematics, plans, and doing so at an alarming rate. I continued to make rash decisions, but about midway through the month I began to start recognizing these mistakes, and I began learning from them.
At the end of this month I had a second book compiled; one that was still unprofessional but a bit more sane, and much more focused than my last. Now mind you, I was still living in a fog, but my sleep schedule began returning to normal, and my work began to slow down. My new friends in the bay area had started to recognize that no, I am not in fact psychotic, but perhaps just a bit rash in my decision making. Unfortunately for me, the San Francisco start-up community is one full of confirmation bias and it’s difficult I’ve learned, to recognize your mistakes when you have many people around you, cheering on your advancement.
Then, I made the mistake of giving that book to some investors in my still highly-adrenalized state, unable to recognize its apparent “childishness”.
I had filled the book with comics.
All I can do at this point in time is look upon the work and laugh. I had over these two months made significant advancements to the state of the x-ray industry, advancements that if carried out in practice could very well be worth many dollars to General Electric / Siemens / Phillips, et cetera. Of course, these are just words; bold claims until I do in fact follow through with the work described therein.
My equivalent to the “Apple I”
My goal in August was to do just that; to follow through with the work I had planned to do. That was the plan, but what happened in reality was a bit different. After failing to receive the money I needed to move forward, I decided to just… take a weeks’ break. The first I had taken in months.
Four days into it, all I could do was sleep. And sleep. And sleep some more. Sleep, then wake up with near-zero energy, and zero motivation to do anything but rest. Soon, my imaginary world came crashing down, a weeks’ worth of depression set in, and I decided to put the project on hold until I could figure out what the hell was wrong with my decision making.
As one would have it, nothing I could have ever noticed. I had been living in ”fight or flight” mode for months, and giving myself that short break was the simple trigger I needed to get my homeostasis back in order. In the final third of August, my moods returned to the rock-solid stability I had prior to April, my mind cleared and I began to recognize all of the stupid decisions I made during my 3 month “superhuman journey”.
Granted, the energy and motivation I need to move forward still has not fully returned, but, it is coming back slowly as I continue to obtain proper amounts of rest, relaxation, and food.
Adrenaline is an interesting drug. I look now in amazement upon all of the creative, brilliant work I had been able to accomplish this past summer, and look back in horror but with equal amazement, at the foolish social decisions I made during that same time. I look to the future now with hope and a sense of direction, and I live in the present with happiness, contentment, and a firm understanding that life should not be rushed, and taken instead one day at a time.
It is not useful to feel like you are under timed pressure in this world when you are in reality, not. I state this because fundamentally humans don’t seem to work well under such pressure, real or imagined. Stress hormones and neurotransmitters get released which cloud our decision making and render us completely incapable of understanding not only our own mistakes, but incapable also, of experiencing the present sense of happiness and contentment that modern life in western society allows. We become moody creatures, and lose touch with the rational minds that makes us the amazing monkeys we are.
Look around you; are you under attack? Are you cold? Are you hungry? Are you any way, in danger of dying?
If not, then be thankful. You are better off than the majority of life on this planet, and any discontentment you may feel is likely existent only within your mind.
All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a corrupted mind,
And suffering follows
As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.
All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a peaceful mind,
And happiness follows
Like a never-departing shadow.