I am a beginner

So I have noticed this trend that some people have an over bloated image of me as the arduino, programming whiz kid. It’s about time, I burst that bubble.

So yes, I an very interested in the maker movement. Yes, I code. Yes, these things make me excited but passion doesnt equate to expertise. Sure, I have made progress. I have learnt a lot and I’m still in the trenches, learning but it doesn’t make me some expert.
Every day, I become even more aware of how much I’m still yet to know. Sometimes, it’s depressing but I remember I need to also celebrate the little succeses. Successes like getting my led to blink, getting my raspberry pi. The road is long. They said code was easy, tech is easy. It isn’t. Nothing of serious worth is easy. It takes time and whole “lotta” effort.
What I have exhibited in raw passion but passion isn’t enough. I have come to grips with this last year. Passion doesn’t translate into meaningful well-informed action.
My goal has always been to inspire. To share stuff because It is so awesome that everyone has to read it! I want to get the word out but I’m still a beginner like you. Don’t get intimidated (yet, 🙂 ). Get yo ass to work too.

I am not satisified with the little I know. I want to attain Mastery. I crave it! I mastered maths once (to some level 🙂 ) and I know the high that mastery gives, the feeling of power, of control. Im a long way from that. I am like a year or two into the 10 years that is oft said is required to be really good. Maybe even one effective year, given some of the obstacles I have had.
The important thing is to start. Follow your passion. Become a master.

Book Review : The Knowledge, How to rebuild our world from scratch

I loved this book! This was the book I had been yearning for ever since I read Robinson Crusoe and the Swiss Family Robinson. I am intensely curious and I have wondered how we got to have so much technology. I want something that could provide some blueprints as to how we got here and how we could recreate it all. If I was marooned on an island , would I be able to survive. To create my own tech?

Truth is, there is soooo much knowledge involved, it is neigh impossible for any material or body to contain it all. This book gives the example that even for something as basic as the pencil, there is no one who understands all the processes involved – how to get wood, how to get graphite, where to get graphite, what woods are best for pencils? There are lots of minute details.

This book starts with the question – how could you recreate civilization if suddenly a large swathe of humankind is whipped out by disease? And answers this question. In doing so, one gains an insight into what is critical to our civilization as we know it. It was this particular knowledge I was after.

It is starts with :

Agriculture – if one is to survive one has to learn how to grow food again. There are so many details and this book makes me appreciate agriculture once more.

Food and clothing – how do we prepare food and begin to make clothes?

Substances – I didn’t realize how important chemistry is! It is important. Absolutely critical!

Materials – how do we create materials like concrete needed for making shelter?

Medicine – what are the keys to good health so we don’t die out? How do we learn anatomy again and perhaps begin to do surgery again?

Power – how do we harness energy resources and create an electrical grid?

Transport – we might have to go back to using animals for transport until we have precise enough machinery to make vehicles.

Communication – how to we begin to make paper and books once again? How do we make radios?

Advanced chemistry – lots of industrial chemistry stuff here.

Time and place – how do we tell the time, mechanical clocks, sundials, hour glass. How do we use the stars to tell the seasons and the date? How do we tell where we are ? How do we navigate the world?
What is the greatest invention? What is that invention that ensures we keep making new discoveries? It is the scientific method!
This book was great as a primer to these topics. It doesnt have all the details and it cannot but I am left with an appreciation of how far we have come from being hunter-gatherers . I strongly recommend!

Book Review : The Innovator’s Dilemma

This book sets out to explain why some great, well-managed companies fail. The focus is on how technology disrupts companies. Why did Kodak die? Why did Nokia fail? It doesnt address these particular examples but the explanations apply to them.
When it comes to tech, after the initial breakthrough, companies move into the a cycle of improvements of the initial tech. It becomes a sustaining technology and good management practices like listening to customers work well. Over time, as the company matures, it moves to a higher margin market so it can make more profit and please shareholders. All these pressures, mean the focus is on using all the companies resources to sustain the growth.
At the some point, however, a new disrupting technology can enter the market left behind by the ” big companies” that have moved on to higher margin markets. ( think Apple, going for the high-end market and by so doing, enabling Samsung to rise via the low tech segment). Initially, this disruption tech doesn’t compete favorably with the existing tech and so the companies/startups have to look for a different market that appreciates the tech. They tolerate low margins and are flexible enough to make profits from nothing. Eventually, they get good enough they start competing with the original companies for the high-end market too.
So that’s the summary of the process.
The book then tries to explain what companies can tackle this problem and remain relevant. One option is to spin off a different company that works on the disruptive tech. Why spin-off? Because the values and structures of the original company don’t let disruptive tech grow. The mentality in mature companies is to focus on guaranteed returns. This inhibits the development of disruptive technology

These are my highlights, there is more in the book. I definitely recommend to anyone interested in starting up companies or is already managing a company.

2015 Review

My 2015 was great. It has been fast but I was able to do so much more than in previous years because of the right conditions (not having school work and having a less demanding job.) I did a lot of self-learning this year in particular, Linux (finished the Edx course), Git (finished the Udacity one), Python (Python projects), C (Head first C) and C++, in addition to learning about algorithms and data structures in general. I still need to practise all these things I have learnt . I have had a lot of practise using python on projecteuler.net (currently number 2 in Nigeria, err, I look for hints when I am really stuck) and on hackerrank (overtook Franklin to become number 1 in Nigeria on the Project Euler contest,yay!, though sometimes, I get disillusioned with the value of these recreational contest asides practising a particular programming language). I also got to work on delivering a product at work. I learnt to read other people’s code and make changes. It was great moving from acquiring skills to actually using them in some meaningful way.

I have been motivated by the idea of Mastery as explained in Robert Greene’s book, Mastery. I want to be a master and to this end, I have completed over 40 books (technical and non-technical) this year, in addition to shadowing Eli Bendersky (going through his blog and taking note of books to read. We have similar interests. Embedded systems in particular) Notable amongst the books I read were — Where Ideas come from, Blink, The Knowledge : How to build our world from scratch, The Second Machine Age, Mastery, Surely You are Joking , Mr.Feynman, The Idea Factory. These books have transformed my mind, some have challenged my assumptions and some have reinforced my hunches. It is important to not just read but to think about things. I have done my best to do that this year.

I finished school this year, I didn’t feel so happy about it, just relieved it is over and glad that I could now focus on my own learning. NYSC began this year too and I am just waiting for it to finish.

I want to say a big thank you to the members of my inner circle and my parents. You guys have been awesome this year. Thanks for advice. Thanks for listening to me rant. Thanks for keeping up with me when I was naughty. I love you guys (and girls, well guys is unisex for me) Thanks to those that tried to reach out, to old friends that still bothered to call and keep in touch. I am grateful. It might not seem like it but I try not to forget these little gestures. They mean a lot.

On the emotional front, I have had learning experiences, I have had to grow, to become more resilient and I am happy I didn’t slump into depressive episodes. It takes lot more to get me down. I am proud of that. I have had a couple of disappointments, not getting to go for Maker Faire Shenzhen being a notable one but I’m glad I have learnt from all these things.

Some thoughts

  1. You cannot give what you don’t have. For me, it has been mostly in the context of learning. I do a lot of sharing of tech stuff and I have some reputation but I have had that desire to do more than just sharing and getting excited. I know I need to work on myself before I can start teaching people. I know if I lead the way and I succeed, it is much more easier to convince people that it’s the right way.
  2. Closely related with 1 is Talk is cheap. I am all too aware of the emptiness of reading without accompanying action. Getting excited about Quadcopters for example, but not thinking of how build one. And it has been a major driver in my self learning (Linux, C, C++) . I see myself as an engineer, so I want to create new thing not just follow instruction on some online tutorial. It is about demanding more.
  3. Academic achievements aren’t enough. I read a couple of stories this year of Nigerians breaking academic records and doing well. I have become disillusioned with these things. I am not saying it is bad but that we need to ask for more than just a first class. We need more results, more things that make a difference in people’s lives or make people aspire to something. Those are the kinds of things to really go gaga about.
  4. Curiosity is very important. I have reignited my curiosity for a lot of subject areas. From Economics to Politics to Physics to Computers. I realize I can not gain mastery over all these areas but they fascinate me quite a lot. I think we really need to work hard to imbibe this kind of curiosity in our kids today. Too many don’t see the beauty in the things they study and that’s vital if they are to persist and eventually make contributions to knowledge. It is important to go for in-depth knowledge. It is important to wonder about things
  5. Pity parties and Social media. I have become disillusioned with social media and the how a lot of things are just a fad or a “trending topic”. Lots of emotions, but not as much concrete action. I have come to realize it is more important to think in terms of what is the way forward. What can I do about this bad thing rather than it is so bad , ad nauseum. Bombs are blowing people up but beyond crying are you actually donating your money to those affected or volunteering your time? I think those are the things that really count in the end. Also, relating with social media is the realization that too many people don’t fact check things they read, especially incredible news. Too few people check for background information and even the media is at fault.
  6. I have learnt to pick my battles. There is no point getting worked up about everything. There are limited resources and it is better spent praising or doing what you like rather than complaining about what you don’t

All in all, I’m happy with myself. I have failed myself a couple of times but I choose to dwell on the positives. I know 2016 has to be better. I want to have tangible projects to show for all my hardwork. I know in the end, I will be fine. I am on the road to Mastery.

First appeared on here