Project Tech Update #1


It’s been six weeks since I introduced Project Tech, and it’s time for an update! I had three goals last time:

  1. Complete the HTML, CSS, and JS lessons on Code Academy
  2. Complete Zed Shaw’s “Learn Python the Hard Way” Course
  3. Get started on building something

Here’s how I stacked up:

  1. Complete! I finished all the HTML, CSS, and JS lessons on Code Academy, two weeks before my self-imposed goal deadline by the end of July.
  2. Incomplete. LPTHW is a self-paced course comprised of 52-lessons. I’ve completed 18/52.
  3. Incomplete. I’ve considered some ideas, but ideas are meaningless until they’ve been executed on.


  • The more specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely (SMART) your goals are, the more likely they’ll be completed. Completing CA was certainly doable within the time allotted, but not for LPTHW. It’s far easier to slack off if the goals are less specific.
  • It’s better to try than to not try at all. I began this summer cultivating a habit of waking up an hour earlier than usual to work on Project Tech. After about six weeks, my habits lapsed. An additional hour of sleep won the battle. Rather than giving up though, I’ve continued plugging away whenever I can – usually on the weekends.
  • It’s easier to publicize ambitions than on what was actually accomplished. I’ve never really liked publicizing my endeavors, mostly because I disliked the pressure that comes from public accountability. Succeeding publicly is great, but failing publicly isn’t. However, through StartingBloc, I’m slowly warming up to the power of public accountability.

Goals for Next Month:

  • Finish up LPTHW by 9/30.
  • Submit an entry on Kaggle by 9/15.
  • Create a one-page brief of my idea by 8/31.
  • Complete each Machine Learning course assignment before the weekly Monday deadline.

Closing Thoughts:

The problem with having so many interests is that, at least for me, it’s difficult to prioritize. I recently signed up for Stanford’s 10-week Machine Learning course, and am trying to get started on submitting an entry for some competitions on Kaggle. Both of these activities are related to my interests in technology, but they’re taking away time from completing my Project Tech goals. I’ve always believed it’s a bad idea to bite off more than you can chew, but isn’t this how we learn what our limits are? I’d like to get your thoughts. How do you prioritize what you do, when there are so many interesting things to work on?

When Grades Don’t Matter


Today marked the end of my second week of language class at National Taiwan University. It feels weird being a student once again. I’ve studied abroad before in both Tokyo and Shanghai, but this time is different since the grades are just that – an indicator of progress. They’re not going to be transferred to my home uni or looked over by grad school admissions.

I chose to come to come to Taiwan for a number of reasons:

  • to learn traditional characters
  • to get a different perspective of cross-strait relations
  • to climb some mountains
  • to visit the beaches
  • to use the island as a base for traveling throughout Asia
  • to increase my fluency in speaking, listening, and reading Chinese

Given that the grades I receive are only self-serving, I’ve found it a little hard to not lose sight of my main goal. When I told my school’s program director of my short-term goals of passing the proficiency test, she pretty much laughed and told me that if that’s my goal, I really don’t need to be in Taiwan (or Mainland China) to pass the test. This was de-motivating to say the least, but only for a moment.

I considered dropping out, but realized, why quit so soon? Its been a personal-goal of mine to be fluent in another language. Why I chose to stick with Chinese, and not go for an easier language, I don’t know. I had come so far, how could I let a little blip ruin what I’ve planned? Improving language skills, like every other skill, really comes down to self-motivation. So to keep me motivated with my language study, I created a study-plan that I hope will help me get the most out of my stay here. Sure, it might not help me achieve my goal to be business proficient, but at least it’ll provide some structure to learning this incredibly hard language.