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Starting Many Things (jetholt.com)
82 points by Jetroid 29 days ago | hide | favorite | 31 comments

I can’t count the number of projects I’ve started (but not finished) in varying types of hobbies, including but not limited to card magic, music production, videography, creative writing, and of course software development.

Although I used to feel bad about all my “failed” projects, I have recently come to view them as all part of my growth. I tend to cycle between hobbies for whatever reason, and every time I come back to a hobby, I get a little better at it, and I think that’s what really matters in the end. Though I haven’t gone back to card magic in a while haha.

All the unfinished work begins to come together as a coherent whole, at some point. Concepts join, ideas merge, good parts stay and not so good parts fall off. Everything you've ever started is leading up to something. It'll come. You can't see it yet because it's something new. Something magnificent. Something worth all that effort. And when it does come, you will know. You will feel. And you will regret nothing.

Having an economics education, I like to think of this in simple economic terms: Everything has a production process, and during that process the unfinished goods are generally useless, or at least far less useful than the finished product. Economic development is, in some sense, the steady expansion of the scope and scale of production processes that society can engage in. I think the complexity of the modern economy along with globalization have drawn out the “production process” for building highly useful human beings as well. In any case, I guess my main point is that you have no idea how valuable your unique mix of skills will be until it is “complete”, and that may take decades, but the payoff for building that skill set can be orders of magnitude larger than a “normal” path.

Wow, that's fantastic, and so true.

Thanks for this.

This post appears to be part of an experiment in "micro posting":

> Usually, I try to aim for a certain standard of quality in my writing, and this can really hold me up from writing about something I want to write about.

> Sometimes it takes a week or more just to write one post. Yeah, perfection is killer.

> It gets worse when I add images, because I agonise over them.

> So I’m going to be writing more things to a lower quality. I’m calling these ‘Micro’ posts, and you can find a full list here: Micro.

> They will be just what I’m thinking about, or some small observations, or whatever. Generally without pictures, without proofreading, without rewording each sentence hundreds of times. Almost as if I have a typewriter and a stream of conciousness - no going back to make changes.


This idea also fits in with the topic at hand: starting many things. With a rapid-fire, just-get-it-out "micro" posting style, you can spend a little time considering far more ideas than you would have before.

The funny thing is that it would have never occurred to me that this particular post was written in this way because it seems very well conceived and organized.

That's a great perspective, thank you.

Funnily enough, I'd consider this post to be on the borderline between a micropost and a regular post.

Of all of my microposts, it's the one that I dedicated the most time to - though still much less than a post that would go on the homepage.

You've really hit the nail on the head though. By writing every day-ish, it lead me to start this post, which made me realise that I needed/wanted to dedicate a lot of time to to fully explain and say what was on my mind. (I reordered some of the paragraphs and added bits here and there, which I didn't do for most microposts to keep them 'micro')

By trying lots of posts, I found one that I wanted to go into detail with, which ultimately lead to it being the first post of mine to rank on the HN front page. Wow!

Like how Brian May, lead guitarist for Queen, became an astrophysicist. That’s completely different from what he became famous for, and it makes him unique and interesting to talk about. He isn’t “just another musician” any more.

This is actually the reverse of what happened. Brian May left a career in astrophysics to pursue Queen in 1974, once Queen started getting big. He was about 6 months away from defending his dissertation and earning his PhD. He re-enrolled in his PhD program in 2006, and earned his doctorate in 2007.

Doesn't detract from the author's point, however. Try a lot of stuff. You never know which bet will work out. Just so happened that, for Brian May, being a rock star panned out first!

Reading about Brian May reminded me of Richard Feynman - the Nobel Prize winning physicist who took on challenges in many different fields during his life: Computer Science, Chemistry, Biology, Drumming, Painting, Lock Picking, and Mayan Hieroglyphics!

Feynman only won the Nobel Prize in Physics. But he was able to reach a professional, or near professional level in all of those areas. "I got a kick out of succeeding at something I wasn't supposed to be able to do."

Guitarist, astrophysicist, and even a hardcore gardener!


I love gardening too, but I've never done anything that approaches the level of enthusiasm required to tear a butt muscle while gardening.

Dude's in a league of his own. XD

Great accomplishments often require certain sacrifices.

Two artists I grew up with were educated punk rockers.

Greg Graffin (lead of Bad Religion) has a PhD in Zoology from Cornell. Brian Dexter Holland (lead of the Offspring) just went back to finish his PhD in Molecular Biology from USC. (Like May, he left his academic pursuits when the band got big).

...and who could forget about Milo Aukerman, of Descendents fame?

I find in many respects I begin things not to aim for mastery but to scratch an itch. Some hobbies require deeper investment but ... I felt like making home made pasta at home last month, so I just did it. Scratched that itch and no desire to make pasta anytime soon.

Similar feeling to anything development related. I wanted to tinker with threejs. So I built a simple brick builder in it. Pushed the code to GitHub once I was happy and moved on.

This is the exact article I needed to read. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around leaving work and making the jump to follow my interests. I’m going to setup a website just like Pat. For example, I want to get my pilot’s license. Whenever I want to dedicate myself to something, it feels like I can’t, because 8hrs of my time are gone to work. It’s not that work is boring, just that other things might be more interesting, and I can’t seem to strike that balance.

> font-size: 1.4vw;

@op: this css rule currently makes it very hard to read the page on ultra-wide monitors - the font is very large and doesn't scale with browser zoom.

I'm aware. I made this website's CSS before I knew about how to do responsiveness properly. Almost everything is based on viewport widths in some way. It's a real mess and I simply haven't had the time / seen the value to change it. My tiny little site rarely gets any visitors worth talking about.

I'll try to do something about it soon. Thanks!

You can add a breakpoint for larger screens and override properties using vw units with rem units that work for large screens. That’s basically how I structure most stylesheets anyway, vw units work great as a base for small screens.

For what it's worth, my first impulse when I saw your blog was "Hey that's a neat styling. I like it."


I think the styling is fine, it's just how it copes with responsiveness.

Try opening it on your phone and flipping over to landscape, or on an ultrawide monitor, or even just resize your browser window to be really wide.

It's a mess, it makes me anxious every time I share something.

I know that I have to fix it for the edge cases but I kinda dread doing the work to do that, haha.

Definitely fair enough, hah. Thanks for the article!

Want to point out that starting something every other day is very different from starting many things. To build renowned things, knowledge has to (usually) compound over periods of time / focus. You can’t expect to build something overnight, achieve success and then hop on over to the next thing. That’s why we never really refer to any meaningful project as “finished” in that regard.

Change the font, if you expect someone to read your article.

> "This is my personality - ... - I really enjoy learning about new things".

This is me in a nutshell. I wondered, in my teens, why I was so drawn to music when I'd quit whatever instrument I was trying to learn. Turns out when I got a good understanding, that was the good thing, and practicing the same song enough times to get good at it was boring.

> but is playing with being a DJ on Twitch.

I think that's a really great thing about where we are right now... you can learn so much on the internet, and then try it out and see if it's for you, and get feedback. Nice!

Learning 12 skills in 12 months seems extreme to me, in particular, because a lot of skills take long to master. Instead, I prefer the "theme of a season" approach as espoused in this CGP Gray video:


I was aware of Exploration vs Exploitation in regards to A.I. but never really thought of it in regards to living someone's life, so thanks for that.

If I never did any exploration, then I would have only ever been a writer. I didn't decide to pursue computer science until after putting together a personal website and programming games on my calculator while bored in class.

And if I never explored, I wouldn't have had any career in video games. While it was how I initially started learning proper programming, I wasn't seriously considering that as a career for.

And if I never explored, I wouldn't have gotten into designing board games, which is basically just system design but a lot more fun.

And to get your games signed, you have to go to conventions and talk to publishers, so I got used to traveling and getting more into that too. At least before the pandemic.

Or learning languages, or playing tennis, or hiking, or learning musical instruments, or drawing, or making electronic music, or cooking, or photography.

And within those fields, without exploration, I wouldn't have gotten recognition for multiple different game designs, and I wouldn't be writing humorous fiction, and I wouldn't have come up with two new game designs (and a total overhaul for another design) that got me really excited.

College, at least in the US, seem almost designed to facilitate that exploration. The general education requirements let you have some exposure to other fields, and you can choose to further explore the field by taking more classes or even change your major if you wish. I think some people forget that it's important to do that after they finish college sometimes, and get stuck in a rut in life.

I am probably overdue for a new different hobby, myself. I did take an ESL tutoring course just before the pandemic, but the pandemic hit before I got assigned a student, so that's on hold. It was really interesting to discover how to teach someone that can't speak your language very well, though, and I think I can use those techniques for other things, like my game designs.

Probably my biggest problem is getting to a point where I can say something is finished and move on to the next thing. Because of my background in games, I want to make my game designs very polished, and get them developed by a publisher, and whatnot, but that process takes a lot of work and a lot of time to find a publisher for your designs.

Like I still only have one game signed, not even released, after 3 years of pitching, meanwhile I have about 60 playable prototypes, about 15 of those polished to the point where they almost could be finished products. Like I created art, wrote rules, sell sheets, videos, etc...not professional art, but some publishers have said "I would publish the game with that art" to a couple of the games, so apparently not terrible.

I might try going the Kickstarter or crowd-sale or route at some point, but that's a whole extra level of effort that I'm not sure I'm ready for.

Yes, when I got that lecture, it made me think about my own life and made me wonder if I was just 'exploiting a local maxima' or if I was really on the right path for optimality. I figured that it was almost certainly sub-optimal, but without having many thousands and thousands of retries like an agent, what can you do?

My path to where I am today also has many little 'chances' where my exploration lead my in a completely different path that I wouldn't have been on today.

Like when I was a young teenager, and discovered a forum about a video game that I liked. From there, I picked up video game level design because I was inspired by a couple of the posters. After a while of that, I discovered game scripting, which lead me to pick up programming. When I entered Sixth Form at school, I picked up Electronics on a whim and ended up realising that I really liked assembly language. Things grew from there until I got to where I am today.

Good Farmers are great examples of these people. Just because random things break (mechanical) that they need to fix. Build buildings, inventing creative solutions to problems, manage a business, sometimes a large family, and animal care too.

The odd thing is to choose a certain path in life because other people would be interested in reading about it.

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