success in long-term learning: keen!=interest

For both my son and my own tech learning over the long term, “interest” is not necessarily the best word to capture the key factor.

I was not really interested in math (primary-secondary) or physics (secondary). In college, I tried to feel interested in electronics, analog IC design etc but unsuccessful. At that level, extrinsic motivation was the only “interest” and the real motivation in me. Till today I don’t know if I have found a real passion.

Therefore, the strongest period of my life to look at is not college but before college. Going through my pre-U schools, my killer strength was not so much “interest” but more like keenness — sharp, quick and deep, absorbency…

Fast forward to 2019, I continue to reap rewards due to the keenness — in terms of QQ and zbs tech learning. Today I have stronger absorbency than my peers, even though my memory, quick-n-deep, sharpness .. are no longer outstanding.

Throughout my life, Looking at yoga, karaoke, drawing, sprinting, debating, piano, .. if I’m below-average and clueless, then I don’t think I can maintain “interest”.

cod`drill:YOUR satisfactions@@ wipe_out [def2] #Rahul

Rahul used the word “satisfaction”. (Sometimes I call it “intrinsic motivation” or “joy”.) The satisfaction factor is crucial to absorbency. It enables Rahul to put in so many hours.

Q: What are my satisfactions i.e. intrinsic motivation?
A: discover my own solutions that are reasonably efficient even if not optimal. Almost never elegant and simple.

I don’t mind reading a classic solution in a Real (possibly online) publication but I hate to read solutions in forums as XR does. Those forum posts leads to wipe-out

  • completely wipe out that precious satisfaction.
  • positive feedback loop broken
  • self-esteem destroyed
  • self-mastery destroyed
  • sense of progress wiped out
  • sense of self-improvement wiped out
  • absorbency wiped out
  • I feel /diminished/ and worth-less.
  • i feel hopeless giving up

It’s possible that the forum posters also learned the solutions from publications. But I basically assume they are just so brainy.

camp_out]ff: %%coping strategy/strength

Exec summary: If I find myself engaged, I would want to spend extra quiet hours including weekends working in office and make progress on localSys. I would be able to apply myself and match my brain power against the accumulated brainpower baked into the local code base.

By “Camp-out” I mean all forms of extra time spent working in office. Camp-out is a concrete form of engagement. Usually the engaging period is a honeymoon but hopefully it can become a more sustained focus on localSys. If it does happen (I won’t push myself too hard…) I would hit better GTD, productivity, and earn some respect from some colleagues (not necessarily the boss).

More importantly, I would feel proud of myself and free of regret or guilt. See warning below.

Capture the mood. Eg: You get an engaging project that give you insight into portable GTD, tools, or localSys.

  • Xp: Qz — I did capture the mood a few (like 3+) times. I felt really good even though the camp-out didn’t “save me” in the end. Like U.S. presidential election, the “end” result depends on many many things so it’s unwise to use it as a big paint brush and wipe out all the effort.
  • Xp: Macq — I made big efforts to camp out to work on c++ build system and python. No regrets. The camp-out didn’t really build my foundation in localsys as the expectation was too high. No regrets!
  • xp: OC — I did a few times, mostly to learn c#. No regrets.

— Warning: camp-out may not earn me respect, GTD, enough localSys mileage. Ashish feels I would survive.

I feel I may still get PIP, but after such an all-out effort, I would be decisive to leave. Consider Qz and Macq.

— I see this as my competitive strength and an effective coping strategy.

I used to feel I’m kind of inadequate if I have to camp out and sacrifice family time just to keep my head above water. Wrong! Most of my peers simply don’t have the absorbency, and productive solitude to do this. Many can’t even imagine it.

I said my son may have more or less math abilities, but his effort (chiefly absorbency) is probably lower than his classmates. My daughter’s abilities is unknown, but her absorbency is better than her brother. Similarly, my absorbency is higher than my peers as demonstrated by camp-out.

— Initially, May need 6M-9M to get over the initial hump. I can even rent a temp home for 6M if I feel engaged. See kids only on weekends.

— As contractor I feel the motivation but zero pressure to camp out; As employee I feel pressure to camp out. Clearly I feel better as contractor.

— Q: In my experience, part of the camp-out hours are often spent on blogging (flight control) and morale-boosting workout. OK?

— Q: However, if code is too opaque, I won’t be able to figure things out 😦 What can I do?

— Q: What if I receive a PIP.. will I be able to persuade myself to camp out?
A: Yes. I did in GS, Qz and Macq. No honeymoon, but I have been able to overcome the huge negative energy, convert it partially to motivation and get myself to camp out and focus on GTD.

I like this imagery — I felt like a boxer on my back-foot, not hopeful but not pessimistic either.

— Q: If in the mood for localSys but need to sleep? Shall i go home?
A: don’t go home to sleep. Sleep in office. Go home to eat then come back to office.


%% absorbency: experiment/SDI imt speed-coding

When you find yourself in high-absorbency mood, favor (#1 most draining) speed-coding. See list of less-draining drills at the bottom.

I can read dry QQ topics for hours each day for many days, but tend to lose steam after coding for a few hours. Speed coding drill drains my “laser” energy faster than QQ reading/blogging/experiment. When my laser is weakened (by boredom), I must drill harder to go through the “brick walls”.

I guess many fellow programmers enjoy coding more than reading. I feel lucky that in my interviews, knowledge tests still outweigh coding test.

Q: What part of coding drill is worst on my absorbency?

A: speed coding implementation is worst. It drains my laser energy fastest. After coding for a few hours I always feel like a deflated balloon and discharged battery and and need a full day to recharge.

I think frustration is the key. Self-expectation (about progress and traction) and self-image create the frustration and the drain.

Instead of traction, I often feel stuck and overspent.

I feel disappointed with myself (Deepak self-identify as “annoyed”. )

Q: Can we stop comparing with others and just compare with our past? Doable sometimes. Consider Leetcode speed-coding contest #Rahul

— Just like yoga

  • if I work on easy problems I feel wasting my time
  • if I work on tough problems I feel painful, draining and want to give up. After the practice i need hours to recover.

Q: … So can we find easier coding drills that I could enjoy (as Rahul suggested)? Definitely not easy. I think the first difficult step is self-acceptance that I can’t improve much at this age.

Q (excellent question): What type of “coding” drill can I do for hours like reading/blogging?

  • pseudo-code algo on paper/whiteboard is lighter. No ECT so I am swift and efficient. Less draining/frustrating.
  • SDI is most fun, least boring, not draining/frustrating. I can spend hours on a SDI. I feel a bit of accu. More like QQ less like coding drill.
  • concurrency coding questions are less draining as other guys are not faster
  • c++/java language feature QQ experiments are more like QQ. I can spend hours on a QQ experiment. More interesting as there’s no time-line no benchmark no frustration. Also other guys are not stronger. I feel some accu exactly like reading on these me features
  • review of my previous code is much less draining (than writing new solutions) as there’s no time-line and code is already working
  • analyzing patterns and reusable techniques (very few) in past problems. Thick->thin is the holy grail. I work hard towards it.
  • reading syntax and ECT tips in books and my blog


##dry$valuable topics 4 high(absorbency)period #flight

This ranking was originally compiled for “in-flight edutainment”. Warning — If high churn, low accu, low traction, or short shelf life then the precious absorbency effort is wasted

See also the pastTechBet.xlsx listing 20+ tech topics and comparing their mkt-depth, demand-trend, churn-resistance … My conclusion from that analysis is — any non-trivial effort is either on a niche or a non-growing tech skill, with notable exceptions of coreJava+threading. All mainstream and churn-resistant skills need only trivial effort.

  1. coding drill — esp. the hot picks. Look at tag “top50”. Practice solving them again quickly.
    • 😦 low accu?
  2. java concurrency book by Lea. More valuable than c++ concurrency because java threading is a industry standard reference implementation and widely used.
  3. java tuning, effJava,
  4. c++ TMP?
    • 😦 seldom asked but might be asked more in high-end interviews. TMP is heavily used in real world libraries.
    • 😦 low traction as seldom used
  5. effModernC++
  6. linux kernel as halo?
    • 🙂 often needed in high-end interviews
    • 😦 low traction since I’m a few layers removed from the kernel internals
    • 😦 no orgro
  7. c++11 concurrency features?
    • 😦 low traction since seldom asked in-depth

## identify your superior-absorbency[def#3]domains #QQ,fasting

  1. When in sky-high absorbency, you should try and take on the _really_tough_.
  2. When in “good” absorbency, you should take on the medium tough jobs.

Before goggles, swimmers compete by increasing the amount of practice, which was limited by the capacity of their eyes to endure the “abuse” — I call it “capacity”, and sometimes “absorbency”, as defined in two blogposts ##absorbency[def#2]worn_out by endeavors #coding and My absorbency[def#1]

abstinence^hard-driving is another blogpost.

Myself as an illustration — Compared to my peers, I have superior Long-term absorbency/capacity for these *specific* challenges:

  • best eg: jogging, but not stretching. I have much higher capacity to cope with jogging then stretching. I don’t really need to capture the motivation for jogging.
  • I have higher capacity for push-up practice compared to chin-up practice.
  • eating raw veg (and fruits) but not celery or raw carrot
  • delaying meals but not reducing dinner

These long-term absorbency advantages are truly life-enhancing, to put it mildly…

At times, in these same domains I find my absorbency capacities falling very low. Completely normal. It’s a human condition.

— eg: xx theoretical QQ study : I have an absorbency advantage, more than in coding drill.

These are big, real competitions.

For many peers, when they find the fleeting motivation to study QQ, they should capture it. I don’t have to.

Ken Li said something like … If you enjoy tech and esp. dev work, then you have job security in tech sector till old age — I would say well into 60’s. I think he said that because there are so many tech jobs in U.S. not so demanding, where my absorbency advantage alone is more than sufficient to sustain a long career.

However, if the learning is unrelated to IV then my absorbency falls towards to absolute zero.

— eg: xx java QQ more than c++ QQ

I have much easier learning journey on java. More satisfying, more Aha. I feel more in control, and less “lost”. I see more logical connections. The fundamental designs make more sense to me.

q[visible progress]=Unreasonable expectations

See also my sample list in the sms twister blog visible progress # very rare therefore to be celebrated

Contrast with the views in [[reconciliation]]. Beware empty [g=] glorifications that don’t mean much when I look back 20Y later.

Every week, I actually make more progress than my fellow daddies with kids and commute etc. However, Once a while, in retrospect I would fall apart and cast serious doubt on (and belittle) my progress and point out the unfortunately invisible long-term effect.

I think many people implicitly follow a harsh and simplistic criteria like earning capacity, kids’ grades or absolute return, to dismiss and discredit all the “progresses”. This can become irrational, counterproductive, and /demotivating/ — engine loss of power. Such criteria are unfair to the self. If you are a teacher or coach, would you be so harsh on your student?

It can be a punishment, like a flogging whip.

Putting on a critical thinker’s hat, I feel that for most guys in my situation, it’s no mean achievements to maintain current condition and make small progress, with invisible long-term effect. Anything more is asking too much, and requires luck, talent, determination, contexx etc.

  • –ranked by …? I want to highlight the unsung heroes…
  • cholesterol, dental, belly and weight? maintaining is no mean achievement
  • loving relationship with wife? maintained, even strengthened
  • knowledge (and first hand experience) with diet, fitness, aging? building up slowly
  • more blood donation, done for my kids.
  • semi-retirement planning? improving through 5 discussions/year
  • more familiar with Bayonne residential market
  • relationship with in-laws? improved, as visible long term progress. More important — relationship with my own parents maintained
  • boy’s renzi and Chinese reading? improved slightly. Not really long term visible progress but at least he maintained
  • physical flexibility? maintained .. yes! Improvement? yes a bit of visible progress, with huge effortstamina? maintained … no mean achievement
  • [g] financial domain knowledge? I expanded to FX; market data; low-latency equity; FIX exchange trading…. Visible progress but shallow.
  • algo and coding test performance? I tend to belittle the improvement
  • bonding with kids? constantly building, deepening… Not by default, but by effort.
  • c++/c# conquered as a visible long term progress. Rather hard and long mileage, which probably means high entry barrier for the new entrants.
    • Probably more important — java skill level maintained.
  • credit score
  • financial assets (mostly holding well against inflation)? yes visible progress but I tend to belittle it. Building this portfolio actually required persistent effort, years of analysis, experiments, ..

My xx-absorbency[def#1]!=highest #don’t scold boy 耐得住寂寞

See also 耐得住寂寞,也是天分 #absorbency for students

Obviously 99% of us have limited technical talent like learning capacity, memory, problem solving speed .. but today I will focus on another factor “absorbency | 耐得住寂寞” – the capacity to endure repetitive practice, sustained focus, often in solitude, and build the /mileage/ required for mastery. No one has unlimited absorbency. Sooner or later we all reach saturation point, or “breaking point” (Liu Shuo).

Opening example — I often tell my friends “Study is not hard work for me.”

example — When I was trying rock climbing, my finger and forearm would get too tired for me to continue. On the other hand, as a teenager, I could do 600 sit-up in 10 minutes non-stop.

example — jogging and yoga turns out 2 b%%most heroic self-mastery

Absorbency is one of the top 5 most important technical talents, (possibly top 3), esp. in the long run.

Some fellow parents (like Li Yi) said the vast majority of primary school pupils are not very different in IQ. I would add that differences in absorbency is huge. I often feel my son is weaker on absorbency when practicing piano, Chinese handwriting and math. I think he is improving. His swimming practice has always been good. My daughter shows more absorbency for hand-writing, renzi, and piano.

Some individuals are not the brightest/fastest but can tolerate high amounts of practice and can become formidable like 郭靖, 小龙女, compared to 杨过.

Note the word “absorbency” is more precise than ‘effort’. Absorbency is more about capacity, less about attitude, motivation.

Let’s shift focus to my own technical absorbency. I want to point out I’m not the strongest so I should not blame my son.

  1. Coding drill – I can do more than most peers, but then some grads can solve more than 5 problems a day, and pass all Leetcode tests.
  2. Quant study – I did more than half my homework on my own. Some classmates were able to practice and study more.
  3. Getting a grasp on a big codebase – absorbency required, beside learning speed + memory.
  • eg flight — how much technical learning you get on a 15H long flight is a measure of your technical absorbency.
  • eg coding drill — Rahul, me and Abhinav each find joy in coding drill but many of my friends seem to focus on reading the ideas rather than practicing and solving problems independently. Focusing on the end result rather than the journey is no fun. The joy increases your absorbency
  • Positive feedback — is a key factor affecting absorbency. Coding practice and software programming offers immediate feedback.
  • self-doubt — I frequently (once a month?) question my endeavor (and the elusive strategic value) .. detrimental to absorbency. It’s already hard to absorb the practice even without these self-doubts.
    * yoga
    * risk analytics
    * socket

coding drill≈yoga + weight loss

I had a brief discussion with my friend Ashish.. Coding test improvement is similar to weight or flexibility improvement. I also tell my son about diet control. You probably can think of many other examples.

  • we don’t notice any improvement for a long time. Still, I believe the practice makes me better than before.
    • In the absence of visible progress, Optimism and Faith is important. A pessimist tends to give up before seeing ROTI
  • when we stop the exercise, we are likely to lose part of the effort and continue the downward spiral, esp. with flexibility. See coding drill: LASTING value4family wellbeing for10Y 
  • as we grow older, we feel we tend to lose the competition, even though there’s not enough evidence.
  • it can feel boring and repetitive
  • pair exercise is easier
    • Otherwise, promise a friend

susFocus^engage^absorbency^visPgress^traction #Clarified

I hope to differentiate these related terms, and reduce proliferation of tags

  • traction — is kind of vague and high-level, so no “t_traction”
  • traction — often describes learning curve breakthrough. Defined in [11]traction(def)^learning curve gradient #diminishing ROTI
  • visPgress — is more concrete and well-defined than “traction”
  • (dis)engaged — describes a mental state, like “absorbed”, “enchanted”
  • (dis)engaged — can be felt only from inside
  • t_distract — specific distractions, often short-term like kids, e-banking…
  • sustainedFocus — is often required to overcome tough learning obstacles
  • sustainedFocus — can be sustained by self-discipline (absorbency) whereas engaged is often due to luck and sustained interest.
  • sustainedFocus — is more a specific form of being “engaged”
  • sustainedFocus — is a longer phrase compared to the honeymoon of engagement
  • absorbency — is most specific
  • absorbency — describes the difficulty of staying engaged despite dry, repetitive, focused learning
  • t_focus@GTD tag and gzGTD category are broadly similar

Grandpa is a model of

  • engaged
  • sustainedFocus — but without too much self-discipline needed
  • absorbency

In comparison to grandpa,

  • I want to have more sustained focus
  • I want longer engagement, because I tend to lose interest too soon
  • I know my engagement lasts only hours, so I frequently feel a bold justification to capture the moment, perhaps at a financial cost
  • my absorbency capacity is not as good as I wish
  • i feel a real need to capture commute time
  • I need a job that gives me more personal time, even during work hours.
  • … I think these factors have profound consequences, such as my career decisions

What if I hadn’t worked this hard # kids

Over my 20Y career, I showed _some_ talent professionally.

In contrast, I showed significantly more talent in school. My massive study effort increased my abilities [1] to the extent that people don’t notice the difference between my talent vs abilities. Even my IQ score improved due to my intellectual curiosity and absorbency. If these efforts are considered a talent, then yes I have the talent of diligence.

[1] eg — Chinese composition, English grammar/vocabulary, many knowledge-intensive subjects

Q1: what if I had put in just an average amount of effort in school and at work? Some people (mostly guys I really don’t know well) seem to put in sporadic efforts that average out to be “just average” but still got into similar professional level like I did, or higher.
A: For my academic excellence, persistent effort was necessary.

A: I guess sporadic effort could be enough to reach my level of professional “success” for very bright and lucky people. I doubt any professional programmer got higher than mine without consistent effort for many years.

Professional success also depends on opportunity, on positioning and timing, on inter-personal skills and relationship skills, on judgment 判断力. None of these depends directly on consistent effort.

An example of positioning — my break into Wall St java market vs my peers who didn’t.

To analyze this question, I need to single out an under-appreciated talent — absorbency capacity i.e. 耐得住寂寞, where I score in the 97th percentile.

Q2: if my son only puts in sporadic and average efforts, could he end up losing the competitions?

addiction2low-level hacking:keep doing; no shame

Update: low-level hacking is generally easier in c++ than java.

When I become interested in a tech topic, I often throw cold water over my head — “This is such a /juvenile/, albeit productive and wholesome, hobby. Look at ex-classmates/colleagues so and so, with their business wing. They deal with business strategies. My tech stuff is so low-level and boring compared to what they deal with.”

Damaging, harmful, irrational, demoralizing SMS! Get Real, Man! Let’s assess our own situation

  • A) On one hand, I need to avoid spending too much time becoming expert in some low-leverage or high-churn technology (php? XML? ASP?).
  • B) On the other hand, the enthusiasm and keen interest is hard to get and extremely valuable. They could be the catalyst that grow my zbs and transform me into a veteran over a short few years. Even with this enthusiasm and depth of interest, such a quick ascent is not easy and not likely. Without them, it’s simply impossible.

Case: grandpa. His research domain(s) is considered unglamorous 冷门 but he is dedicated and passionate about it. He knows that in the same Academy of social sciences, economics, geopolitics and some other fields are more important. He often feels outside the spotlight (kind of sidelined but for valid reasons). That is a fact which had a huge impact on my own choice of specialization. But once he decided to dig in and invest his whole life, he needed to deal with that fact and not let it affect his motivation and self-image. As a senior leader of these unglamorous research communities, he has to motivate the younger researchers.

Case: Greg Racioppo, my recruiter, treats his work as his own business. The successful recruiters are often in the same business for many years and make a long term living and even create an impact for their employees (and people like me). They could easily feel “boring” compared to the clients or the candidates, but they don’t have to.

Case: PWM wealth advisors. They could feel “boring” compared to the filthy rich clients they deal with, but in reality, these advisors are more successful than 99% of the population.

Case: The ratio of support staff to traders is about 50:1, but I don’t feel “boring” because of them.

Case: Look at all the staff in a show, movie, supporting the stars.