Goal Reviews: Q3 ’12


Can’t believe it’s already autumn! A new season means it’s time for another update on how I’m progressing along my goals for the year. This whole experiment in publicly sharing my goals has taught me several things: focus on a tackling a few rather than many goals, consistency is better than extended periods of non-action, and goals should be clearly defined. I’ll likely expand on my learnings in a year-end wrap up. For now, it’s back to another quarter of getting things done.

In Progress

Learn to code

When I made this commitment, my goals were pretty vague. Now that I’ve worked on (sporadically) learning to code, I’ve realized one thing: learning to code (like learning anything else) is an ongoing process. It will never end. With coding, the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know, and the more daunting the task of creating something seems to be. Regardless, here is where I stack up on my coding goals:

  1. Finish up LPTHW – done. Currently working through the exercises on Google’s Python Course.
  2. Create a PRD – working on it.
  3. Submit an entry on Kaggle & Complete each Machine Learning assignment – on back burner. Shortly after working on the intro competition on Kaggle and the first assignment for the ML course, I realized my Python skills were nowhere near functional to do these.

Run a half-marathon

In July I made a bet with myself: if I trained for a whole month, I’d pay the ~$100 for the Philly Half. Three weeks after starting, I stopped. By Labor Day, it had been over a month since I last ran. Considering that running a half was a goal I’ve had since 2011, I found this behavior unacceptable. Time to stop procrastinating. After logging on to register, to my luck, the race had just sold out earlier that day! Since a couple of my friends were planning to run the race this year, I was a bit bummed that I couldn’t join them. Despite this, I’ve finally registered for a race. I’ll be running the Gar Williams Half Marathon. Now that I’m registered, there’s no turning back!

Past the TOCFL Master or HSK Level 5 

I haven’t opened my Chinese books in several months. However, I’ve just registered for the HSK 4 Test in November. Hope I can squeeze some time in to refresh my memory and actually start studying for this!

Blog at least once a week

I averaged about two per month this summer. Check.

Go to mass once a month

So far so good. Haven’t gone this month, but plan to next week!


  • Get into grad school
  • Get a policy or IR-related job, preferably in DC.

No Longer a Goal

  • Get published in an academic journal

Goal Reviews: Q2 ’12


It’s the end of another quarter. This was where I was 3 months ago. Time for an update on how I’m stacking up against my goals for the year:


  • Get into graduate school. Mission Completed in Q1. This time three months ago, I had already received offers of admission, but struggled on deciding where to attend and whether this Fall was the right time to go back to school. After a lot of thought, I decided to defer my admission to the Elliott School until Fall 2013. Given my new circumstances however, I’m now considering postponing returning to school for another year or two.
  • Get published in an academic journal. Mission Aborted. As this relates to grad school, this goal is now firmly on the backburner for the year.
  • Pass the TOCFL Master or HSK Level 5. Mission Incomplete. I was supposed to take the HSK Level 4 in April in NYC, but in a rush to catch my bus from DC, I forgot to bring along a required form of identification in order to take the test: my passport. I was a little annoyed by my mistake, but was passed has passed. The next available test date is in late October. However, despite my initial desires to get certified for my proficiency in Mandarin, this goal is also now on the backburner, mainly because of again, changed circumstances.
  • Get a policy or IR-related job or internship, preferably in DC. Mission Accomplished! During the past quarter this goal was priority #1. I poured all my efforts in finding a job that resonated with my interests in policy. Last month I succeeded in achieving this goal, and now work as a Research Assistant at APCO. Although the firm isn’t a think tank or institute, many of the issues – reputation management, issues management, brand management – our clients face are heavily influenced by policy. The position nicely blends my interests in policy, my background in economics, and my prior experience as a researcher.


  • Learn to code. Mission In Progress. I made significant headway on this goal during the past quarter. I completed most of the HTML/CSS track on CodeAcademy, and am halfway through the Javascript track. I think my success on this front stems in part due to creating a plan of action. I’ll share more on this in another post.
  • Run a half-marathon. Mission In Progress. I haven’t registered for anything yet, but it looks like I’ll be doing the Philadelphia Half-Marathon. Several friends and my cube-mate are already registered for the run, and I’ve begun training with others for another run (which I’ve yet to register for) in September. In order for me to stay the course, I plan on creating a plan of action to ensure I follow through on this goal.
  • Blog at least once a week. Mission Failed. Since heading back to work, my blog posts have been less frequent. I’ll need to figure out how to carve out more time for this.
  • Go to mass at least once a month. Mission Accomplished. Still chugging along on this one!

Closing Thoughts:
It’s really hard to focus on multiple goals. I’ve worked on specifically adding more time to my day by getting up at 630am on weekdays to work on programming before work. Beyond that, I’m struggling with other ways to add more time to work towards my goals. As I look to Q3, I’ll need to start proactively eliminating some goals while relentlessly driving harder on the ones I find worthwhile.

Reducing Hopelessness


Here’s an idea that I’ve been chewing on lately: reducing hopelessness. What do I mean by this crazy, seemingly idealistic concept? Before I go into the details, a little detour into the topic of poverty reduction is in order.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve thought a lot about the thesis of Jeff Sach’s, The End of Poverty. He argues that although poverty still exists, through further effort, extreme poverty can be eliminated within our lifetime. Since reading his book, I’ve also read other aid-related books: Bill Easterly’s, The White Man’s Burden, and Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s, Poor Economics.

Although I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of development economics, one emerging theme that I’m realizing is this: a lot has already been done to eliminate poverty. Until the Marshall Plan, the concept of aid did not exist. Today, thousands of professionals at a variety of institutions (IGOs, NGOs, nonprofits, agencies, etc.) are working daily towards ending poverty. Not to mention the academics who’ve studied and have raised countless perspectives on how to correctly end poverty.

Now, reducing hopelessness.

First, what do I mean by reducing hopelessness? By hopelessness, I’m referring specifically to two related things: depression and suicide. My concern is on how to address these two issues.

Second, where did this idea come from? Reading Kay Redfield Jameson’s Night Falls Fast made me realize that, in comparison to poverty reduction, there’s been much less discussion and action taken towards addressing mental illness and suicide prevention. Sure, the topic might be taboo, but why? Depression and suicide should not be simply swept under the rug.

Third, why does it matter? Though the magnitude might not be as huge as compared to extreme poverty, the facts concerning mental illness and suicide prevention are just as grave: every 17 minutes someone commits suicide. 1 in 10 Americans have experienced some form of mental illness. At the turn of the last century, poverty was a fact of life. Poverty was a huge problem, but given the global scope of the issue, addressing it seemed virtually impossible. Through advocacy and action, the world has taken significant steps to eliminating poverty.

If the world has done so much towards reducing poverty, why can’t the same be done with reducing hopelessness? It’s just as important of a problem, and affects many people, both in the developed and developing world.

Goal Reviews: Q1 ’12


It’s been only 72 hours or so since I’ve been back in DC. What an amazing weekend! So great to catch up with so many peeps, and to meet a few new folks as well! This chapter of my life has just begun, and it’s already gotten off to a great start.

As I consider what I’ll be doing during my period of “funemployment” back in DC, I think now would be a great time to take a look at how I’m stacking up to my goals for the year:

  • Get into graduate school. Mission Accomplished. Got into both schools I had applied to, but unfortunately received no financial aid from either school. I have until May 1st to decide, and am really in limbo with this decision at the moment. I still have a boatload of undergraduate student loans to pay off. Even if I deferred till Fall 2013, I’d be looking at cumulative undergrad/grad school loans in the six figures. Not too interested in having that hanging over my head for the next decade of my life.
  • Get published in an academic journal. I don’t even have a topic in mind. Also, as this relates to grad school, if I decide not to attend, this goal is also longshot.
  • Pass the TOCFL Master or HSK Level 5 (Advanced). The HSK is offered monthly, and I’m taking the HSK Level 4 (Intermediate with Honors) next month. I’ve always struggled to maintain my language goals, and I figured it might be better to take baby steps in order to achieve a much larger goal. To this end, I’m registered to take the HSK Level 4 (Intermediate with Honors) next month. My performance on that test will help me determine what I’ll need to focus on in preparation for HSK Level 5. Ultimately, my goal is to obtain some Chinese language certification by year-end.
  • Get a policy or IR-related job or internship, preferably in DC. Still working on this, though given my current situation I’m more open-minded to positions in other fields (i.e. consulting).
  • Learn to code. Completed the first few lessons of Code Academy, but stopped during the Chinese New Year break. I think I need to find a more tangible goal, such as certification, to keep me motivated on this one.
  • Run a half-marathon. Haven’t registered for one, nor have I gotten back into the running habit since my return. Currently, I’m thinking a better alternative would be to start small and build up: First run a 5k, then 10k, 15k, and ideally a half-marathon by year-end.
  • Blog at least once a week. Fail. Didn’t post anything last week, though had two posts the week prior. Time to get back on the train!

And that’s that. Going through this list has reminded me of what I should be focusing on. Hopefully I’ll have made more progress on all fronts by the end of Q2. Wish me luck!