How to not regret

I think we beat ourselves up too much when things go wrong. It’s not always because we’ve made a bad decision. Sometimes, good decisions can also lead to bad outcomes.

Perhaps the trick to not regretting anything is to realize that you don’t know the future, and everything becomes clear only in hindsight.

I was recently on a panel where we were asked about career decisions we regretted. I explained that I didn’t have any regrets. This wasn’t because I haven’t had decisions with bad outcomes. I have too many to count. Instead, it is because I know that I always made the best decision based on everything I knew then. And, now that I know better, I’ll do better in the future.

If you trust yourself to always make the best decision based on everything you know at that time, what is there to regret?

How to make (good) predictions

To make good predictions, just follow the steps below:

  1. Gather up relevant data and scrutinize them, separate the facts from the fiction or opinions.
  2. Based on all the facts you have, predict how things will continue.
  3. Look for all the hidden assumptions you’ve made but didn’t realize.
  4. Test the hidden assumptions one by one, what would happen if they were false, and how true or accurate are these assumptions?
  5. Refine your prediction with each step based on how well they fit the facts and assumptions.

That’s part one. Part two is to do the reverse and deconstruct other people’s predictions.

  1. Read well-constructed opinions or predictions from other people, preferably those you trust.
  2. Find out the reasoning behind their prediction, how did they arrive at their conclusion?
  3. Pay particular attention to the things not mentioned, the hidden assumptions, and the gaps in reasoning.
  4. Is their prediction logical or reasonable considering all the hidden assumptions made and facts considered?
  5. Did they base their prediction on all the relevant facts or just some of them? Were opinions used instead of facts?

The purpose of part two is to create a comparison and use it as learnings for what you did right and what you might’ve missed or need to work on. Part three is to wait and test your predictions.

You can also do this exercise as if you were in the past. While historical data does not guarantee the future will follow a similar trend, there is still a lot you can learn from the past.

Imagine yourself 5 or 10 years back in the past, considering only the facts known at that time, how would you predict the future to be like? Hindsight bias is particularly dangerous so consider trying this on a topic you’re not very familiar with. It also helps if you use a search engine that can filter out results after a certain year. Once you’re done, contrast your prediction with how the future (current present) has actually played out.

While it’s impossible to make 100% accurate predictions all the time, with enough practice, you can improve your critical thinking and predictive skills to be correct more often than not.

Deepfake, the world of AI-generated stuff

It’s probably only a matter of time before deepfake and all those AI-generated stuff take over the world.

We already have AI-generated faces, AI-generated voices, AI-generated text, AI-generated content, AI-generated music, AI-generated video, and so on and so forth. So what’s next?

Or rather, do you find all this scary? It’s a legitimate concern that we humans will have to face sooner rather than later. There might even come a day when what’s real and what’s fake becomes so intertwined that it’s impossible to tell.

So if you aren’t yet familiar with deepfake and all these AI-generated stuff, now might be a good time to start reading.


Five years down the line, on the 28th of September 2025, who will I have become?

It’s hard to fathom that on the 28th of September 2015, I was but a new fledgling, struggling to get up and walk on my own two feet. I don’t think the me back then would be pleased to see the me of today.

Perhaps I would’ve been disappointed. How fragile the ambitions I once had, torn apart like an old candy wrapper, unable to hold back the alluring sweetness of comfort, familiarity, and short-term gratification. Perhaps I would’ve been pleasantly surprised. How strange and unexpected my growth was, reaching new heights I never thought I’d be capable of achieving. Perhaps the past me wouldn’t have even recognized the me of today. 

In another five years time, what will I become next? Of all the things I want to experiment with, several keeps popping in and out of my mind. Yet, I’ve never once managed to summon the courage to try. Perhaps the me in the next five years would’ve finally succeeded in what I’ve been dreaming of. Or perhaps the me in the future would abandon such ambitions and pursue things I never would’ve imagined yet again, much like what I did five years ago, and five years before.

It is beautiful how time can shape us in ways we would’ve never imagined and I’m reminded yet again of a certain short story I wrote a while back titled, Traveling in the fourth dimension

Begin with the end in mind because all good things must come to an end

When we went to school as kids, we didn’t think we would one day graduate and leave. It just felt like such a long time, something so far in the distant future that it didn’t seem real.

But when we went to college or university, we knew things were different. We knew we would only be there for a few years and will soon graduate into full adulthood with a job and everything.

But after getting a job, we stopped thinking. Every day became the same mundane day trading hours for pennies. We either imagine ourselves keeping our jobs forever, or dream of quitting but never do.

When was the last time you think to yourself, I’m going to be doing this or working this job for the next 5 years and by the end of these 5 years, I want to have achieved these targets or goals. Afterward, I will move on to another job or role and tackle these different challenges.

So why are we surprised when 5 years later, nothing changed, nothing happened, and we’re still stuck at more or less where we were 5 years ago? I’m almost 5 years into my job and it’s sad to feel that way, especially when I could’ve done so much more.

I could still start now, and perhaps the lesson is to begin with the end in mind. All good (and bad) things must come to an end, have you thought about what kind of ending you would prefer? Or are you just blindly charging ahead, one day at a time, with no regard to how everything will play out in the end?

If I didn’t quit back then, where would I be now?

I first started playing the ukulele sometime in early 2016. Back then, I only knew the basic chords and could only do some basic strumming. Sadly, I stopped learning after a while and it became somewhat of an on/off thing where I would pick up my ukulele, play it for a bit, and never touch it again for months.

Recently, I started learning how to play the ukulele again and I found myself asking this simple question. What if I never stopped learning in 2016, where would I be now in 2020? How good would I have become?

When the going gets tough and I feel like giving up, I ask myself. Suppose I give up and stop learning now, would I prefer to repeat this whole cycle later in 2024 or something? Imagine myself in 2024, looking back at 2020, wondering what would’ve happened if I didn’t quit the ukulele in 2020 and continued learning this whole time. How great an ukulele player would my 2024 self be right now?

Four years seem like a long time, but does it matter? I’m going to spend that four years anyway, might as well spend it doing something useful like learning a new skill. By the end of the four years, would I prefer to still be the same person who’s only a beginner? Or would I prefer to be someone who can play at a decent or semi-advanced level?

Is there anything you would like to start learning now that would come in handy or be really useful in a few years? Why haven’t you started learning it yet?

Preparing for the inevitable

If I told you in January 2020 what April 2020 will look like, with its worldwide lockdowns and whatnot, you probably wouldn’t have believed me.

And if I then told you in April 2020 in the amidst of COVID-19 that there’s going to be a worldwide protest in May/June 2020 that’s so big, it will make COVID-19 seem like it never happened, you probably wouldn’t have believed me either.

So recently, Kurzgesagt just released a new video on solar storms and it made me pause and think for a bit. If someone were to tell me today (June 2020) that Earth will be hit by a massive solar storm or CME in, say August or September, would I have believed them?

We know that pandemics have happened in the past, same with mass protests, and we most definitely know solar flares and CMEs have hit Earth before. Yet, why are we still surprised when it happens? Why do we not anticipate the next unlikely event to happen sooner rather than later?

After the 2014 Ebola outbreak, Bill Gates has been talking about the next pandemic and how we’re not ready for it. In 2020, that next pandemic happened and we’re still not ready for it.

NPR Code Switch recently did a piece titled “A decade of watching black people die” and how systemic racism has been a problem since a long time ago and still remained unchanged today.

In July 2014, a cellphone video captured some of Eric Garner’s final words as New York City police officers sat on his head and pinned him to the ground on a sidewalk: “I can’t breathe.” On May 25 of this year, the same words were spoken by George Floyd, who pleaded for release as an officer knelt on his neck and pinned him to the ground on a Minneapolis street.

A decade of watching black people die

We already had plenty of alarms and warning signs about these things, but nothing changed. So what’s next? What other alarms and warning signs have we been avoiding and not doing anything about? Do you still believe they won’t be a problem in the coming months or years?

Take global warming, for example, we’ve already seen events like the 2019-2020 Australian bushfire which lasted until Feb/March 2020 that everyone seems to have forgotten about. What do you think could happen in the coming months or years with climate change if we didn’t do anything to reduce our CO2 emissions?

Unlikely events can strike at any moment. While the worst has yet to happen, we should be doing our best to prevent it from happening, especially when we have the data that it’s only a matter of time before it happens.

Ideals for the world

Ideals are just that, ideals. Concepts that you wished were widespread but would never come to be. The ideal doesn’t exist, it’s not real. Everyone has their own ideals and philosophies about the world, and everyone thinks theirs is right or the best.

My ideals for the world, a humane society where everyone is socially advance. No more pointless harm or exploitation for personal gains, no more discrimination, censorship, abuse, bullying, closed-minded thinking, distrust, hatred, us vs them thinking, theft or murder, and so on.

A world where everyone trusts and understands each other. A world without the “bad guys” or “incompetent” people in position of power. A world where everyone is able to think with empathy, compassion, and kindness. A world without borders where we are all citizens of the world with equal human rights.

But sadly, such ideals were probably never meant to be and we aren’t going to achieve world peace anytime soon. There will always be those who do things for their own personal benefit or those who find ways to abuse the system and profit from it.

Welcome to the real world.

Things are happening now!

We don’t live in an unchanging timeless world, for better or worse, our world is constantly changing. From the creation of human language to the industrial revolution, human history was full of changes. But from the industrial revolution to our current information age, the explosion in growth has been incredible.

What’s the difference between 2020 and 2000?

In 2020, we have (semi) self-driving cars, AIs like Siri or Alexa are everywhere and Google Duplex can even help you book appointments, we even have Amazon Go which is an automated convenience store where you can just grab what you want off the shelf and just go, the app will calculate your bill and automatically charge your Amazon account.

Compare that to 2000, the iPhone didn’t exist, Microsoft XP wasn’t even out yet, and most of the world are still on dial-up connection. Back then, companies like Facebook and Skype didn’t even exist yet and for those old enough to remember, it was around then that MSN messenger and Yahoo messenger were first introduced and the concept of instant messaging started getting mainstream.

That’s the gap between 2000 and 2020.

Lots of things are happening now! Both better and worse, the world is seeing a lot of changes. From the development of AI to the ever more pressing global warming crisis, now is time where everything happens and I find myself drawn to reading these in-the-moment articles of the changes we’re seeing. Don’t you just find it exciting?

P.S. Here’s an interesting read on the AI revolution.

Towards a new decade

We humans always have this soft spot for specific numbers we find meaningful. Midnight, 00:00, marks the beginning of a new day, January 1st, 01/01, marks the beginning of a new year, and next year, 2020, marks the beginning of a new decade.

Have you ever wondered who invented all this? This brilliant way of standardizing time so we all know when to excuse ourselves and start fresh on a new day/year/decade?

So you overslept and missed school today, big deal. You can always try again tomorrow, so go back to sleep. So you botched all your goals and accomplished nothing in particular this year, big deal. There’s always next year, so why not give up trying and start fresh with next year’s goals and resolutions?

And now, as we are approaching the start of a new decade, can’t you just feel the excitement in the air? Look back and reflect on what you’ve done or achieved in the past 10 years. How do you feel? Don’t you feel excited that you can start fresh again the next decade? Just think of what you can achieve in the next 10 years!

*       *       *

Chances are, if you give up today and use tomorrow as an excuse to start fresh, you will likely give up this year and use next year as an excuse to start fresh. But interestingly, when you look back at the past 10 years, you will probably be surprised by how much you’ve accomplished.

You might have graduated school, started working, got married, have kids, bought your own house, received a promotion, defeated a life-threatening disease, and so on. Because a decade is indeed a long time, and impressive as they may be, these are the things that will eventually happen to most people.

And regardless of how long a decade is, look what happened to the previous decade. Gone, just like that. When was 2010 and see how fast it flew by? Are you satisfied with your achievements to time taken ratio? It took you a decade and that’s all you managed? Why couldn’t you do it in 6 months instead?

*       *       *

Now that you’ve looked back at the past 10 years, what do you think will, or can, happen in the next 10 years? Bear in mind that you might not last that long, are you going to keep doing what you’ve been doing, or are you going to try something different next decade?