A

2020-in-Review: Accidental Gap Year

Who takes a gap year and not travel? Apparently this crazy guy ?

I remember wrapping up my last consultancy project in October'19, thinking I will take some time off, play games and chill out for a while before getting back into the game. I have taken such breaks (few weeks to few months at times) a few times in my career where I get to slow down, learn new things and re-assess my direction. Little did I know, what lies ahead of me.

take a knee

Pre-2020 Context

I took an entire month to play PUBG PC in November'19, being competitive and earning a rep in the Indian community, something that I have been doing for the entire year of 2019. Really, I was playing FPS games as a full-time PRO gamer except I wasn't streaming or trying to make it as a professional gamer. I was just being me, even in downtime, I am always competitive. It's just first nature to me. Who else commits a year or so to things to get really good at it? I have always been fortunate enough to do that.

Journey started in December'19 when I started to read about how money, stock market & economy works. Even though we all use money everyday, we understand it very little. And why does some people get to move Billions or Trillions of dollars, what's going on there? That was my primed entry to the rabbit hole. Luckily, I was well-equipped for the journey that was about to begin. I, unknowingly, started as a full-time researcher, just to learn. Without any worries of keeping food on the table, tapping into the savings reserves, I was more than ready.

January

I realised literally everything is approachable, when you start with fundamentals, asking the right questions. There is nothing more to it. Nothing is complicated or impossible, its just a journey that you must go through, figure things out, verify what's needed and keep on building your understanding block by block.

I came to know how Stock market is just a legalised version of gambling, wrapped in fancy paper to look as "investment" to the masses, where their wealth is stolen by people who understand the game better than everyone else. Gambling otherwise is illegal (speaking for India here), otherwise how would you maintain the monopoly? Banning doesn't work, not really. Be it drugs or gambling. As long as there is demand for anything, it will continue to exist. Someone will always be willing to serve that demand & make money.

This was a huge eye-opener for me, as we all are invested into some investment scheme or the other. And as it turns out, it's a rigged financial system. How was this allowed? Only, if they wanted it to exist. Who doesn't like making money? It's a vehicle for freedom. Those who understand this, are better off joining them and making money, instead of blowing the whistle on it. Why? Because people don't listen.

It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled - Mark Twain

February

We all keep our money in banks, but how do the banks work? Isn't that the single most important thing we should know because we trust them to hold our money. Turns out, when you deposit money into a bank, its not your money anymore. You have loaned it out to them. They just have an obligation to pay you back with interest, which is what you earn in your savings account. Ever thought why would a custodian pay you money for security, a service that they provide to you to do your job. Shouldn't they be charging you for the services they render?

Internally, it's a lot worse. They loan out money they don't even have, effectively creating money. Because money is nothing but a giant ledger of who owes how much to whom. And when they fail as a business because of a bad loan, which is a risk they took, the cost of failure is passed on to customers again, by creating more money which leads to reduced purchasing power of the money you possess. How is this anything but criminal? How did we let it get this bad? Some history lessons were next.

Barter -> Commodity money -> Precious metal money -> Paper money (redeemable) -> Fiat money (shit)

Honestly, I can't summarise all that learning in a small post, but the essence is that with time, advancement happens and those who understand these shifts can create systems that favour them & bring in huge returns. Sometimes the balance is titled so much in somebody's control that they get the power of governing people despite our constitutional / human rights.

March

C0VlD news was spreading and I knew it to be the reason to bring in changes that people will accept out of fear. Why has no nation considered it as a possible biological attack and investigated it publicly? Why does a certain organisation dictate the policies that need to be followed everywhere without any internal audit of any kind? Truth has been hijacked.

Another event that locally developed was Yes Bank got into trouble and RBI (central bank of India) had to issue a moratorium to stop withdrawals from the bank. And essentially, all my funds & my parents' funds were locked. Just like that. Recent learnings became too real, too fast. But I knew, a nation can't afford to let their 4th biggest bank go bust without risking a bank run on all banks. And really what's the risk with bank runs if their operations are legit? After all, everyone is just trying to withdraw the money they have deposited. What's wrong in that? Food for Thought

I predicted lockdowns were incoming and positioned myself for a smooth ride out. I got all family members to stock supplies for the next month or so. And when lockdown was announced, the first prediction based on my learnings came to be true & my belief system only grew stronger, like the resonant sound of a tuning fork.

April

Why do people in power (legally) get to do so much? Because they control the money supply and they can simply print more when needed, indirectly taxing everyone's purchasing power. The real solution can only be hard money, which can't be created or produced out of thin air, like Gold. Our money, that used to be linked with equivalent Gold reserves, is a thing of past. So essentially savings require an instrument which is capable of being a good candidate of saving one's purchasing power. And Bitcoin stands out solid in being that candidate. So, I started to finally look into what makes Bitcoin a serious candidate. Reading everything that I could find and building my understanding from fundamentals.

May

Being a programmer, I was in a unique position to really understand Bitcoin and be sure its not just another scam designed to take people's money. Architecture isn't that difficult either, it just combines a few technological concepts we already knew together. It was the first truly decentralised monetary system, that nobody could control to do whatever. How it manages to do that, is really remarkable.

Bitcoin stands to prove to be the greatest equalizer and brings back the power back to the people. So many problems of our world, and many of the "advertised" world problems are just designed to exist but when controlling elites lose that power, the world will head towards equilibrium, like anything else in this world. You have to keep deploying the force to keep something tilted. Leaving it, brings it back to its stable position eventually. I dived deep into the mechanics of how it functions and can stand to be a solid candidate, even transcending gold, the hardest money we had known until Bitcoin came around. And writing this today, in January 2021, only shows how much it has grown and I am currently writing a book on Bitcoin, among others to come in 2021.

June

Being digital money, it's easy to steal & hard to protect. So in order to safeguard it, we need to know when the computing devices we have can't be trusted. Its so easy to get your computer infected with malware, if you don't know what you are doing. Not even experts can protect their systems with full certainty. We can only strive for better and better security. 99.99% is better than 99.9% and so on. During the swing of lockdowns, it's not easy to just order a hardware wallet and even if you could, those devices simply can't be trusted completely, without verifying it. Some can't even be verified to be what they claim to be. So, are you really ready to bet on your life savings with anything but the highest grade of security that you can afford? Also, it should be possible to just put together a simple wallet using hardware parts as the main security offered by Bitcoin comes from the power of mathematics and not computer security alone.

Raspberry Pi Hardware Wallet

So, I started out to build an open source hardware wallet out of Raspberry Pi, that offers greatest security with highest convenience possible & see how far I could stretch it to be a trustless system. I started doing this entirely on live streams. First stream was on June 14, 2020.

July

Kept at it, learning more about the Bitcoin internals & cryptography in general. Rabbit holes kept on inviting me and I kept on diving into them to seek answers of the questions that would come to my mind. I had found my ikigai, something that I love to do, I am good at, pays me well & does good in the world.

Ikigai venn diagram

I literally had to study about making my own custom OS that would run in an immutable fashion. Boots up and then disconnects from storage, just processing what its asked for before forgetting everything when switched off. Completely disconnected from any other device on a hardware that doesn't even have the hardware for wireless communication (wifi, bluetooth). Studying against different types of Proof Of Concept (POC) Air gap attacks, I was creating something that could change the level of security any common man could afford for their life savings. It was hard, but very fulfilling at the same time.

August

80% of the work being done, I was looking towards mid month to finish the first release of the project to the community & looking at, I felt great to progress insanely in just 2 months. I felt ready to change the world and challenge Elon Musk on innovating and building solutions to real problems in the world. Came to the trickiest portion of the project - signing an actual transaction and I wasn't able to wrap my head around it at all. Things started to delay bit by bit, extending the timeline week by week, so I allowed myself more time, and set the mid of next month as the date for the finish line, while I kept on learning it and figure out how transaction signing works. Enough persistence moves mountains, and I knew this from my experience of conscious growth in the past 13 yrs ago.

September

Came next month, with some progress but meanwhile I discovered another project, which has done the same thing but miles ahead of me in terms of feature set ready to be used today. Was a little disappointed to begin with, but after talking with them, I realised I can still do it. After all, this is what I will use for myself anyway, and not another system that I haven't personally verified. All seem to be right & on track in life.

What I didn't realize was how hard I was working non-stop on this quest of figuring this world out, its issues and to build one of the solutions needed in the world to put up a fight against the true evils of the world. I forgot to slow down & like any engine that has been kept on full steam for months, there came the momentum crash. I got burnt out. Burnt out so bad, that I didn't even know burning out this bad was even possible. Polarity of the confidence that went a steep climb came crashing down and took me on an emotional rollercoaster. Not to mention the reality of the world, how evil corporations and certain elites are, has snatched away the concept of happy life as we know it. Anxiety took over. I struggled bad, but I knew I would bounce back. I have been derailed but not for forever. But a crash has its recovery cost in terms of time anyway.

October

Feeling better, onto the path of recovery and finally figuring out the transaction signing bit, after even producing the sample code to correctly sign a transaction, I never put that piece back into the project and the project is still unfinished. I felt like this to be a pattern in me, where I build cool things but either never advertise them or never come close to finishing it & launching it when I have finally figured out all the challenging bits involved. Almost like a demon inside me that feeds on challenges but as soon as its done feeding, it doesn't care to let me finish the project. Looking back at side projects, I realised this is the demon that I am supposed to fight if I am to grow past it.

Combined with a bad attempt of trading in the markets, my productivity took another dive as I was stuck watching charts all day long. Even at night, I would wake up to check the price before going back to sleep. The worst was a period of 3 days, when I felt so exhausted that I just thought I would never do this again. The cost of mental peace is too much for any monetary gains you can possibly hope for.

Often you have to walk the path to realize why wiser people advice you to avoid it. I thought I knew better and could manage, but all markets are always designed to take your money by playing you on a psychological level. Unless you care to understand trading on a professional level, don't bother. I made the mistake of diving into something I don't fully understand, hoping to ride the wave but ended up derailing myself from the tracks of productivity.

November

By now, I have recovered completely more or less, but being able to see the world on such a macro-scale that I can see how the world changes and how big businesses are built as per the future, was magical. A magic that I was hoping to find for a very long time. The initial spark of which was ignited by Vice's video The Third Industrial Revolution". I know enough now, calling current times as "Informational Age" is more accurate.

The next immediate challenge was to pick a fight, as in pick a business to build right now, like today. Even though fortunate enough to find my ikigai, I had tens of ideas that I could work towards, start generating some cash flow which would in turn sustain while I build the big business for future.

Paralysed by choices, starting one thing today and then starting another thing tomorrow before finishing the first theme turned out to be a recurring theme in me again. In my pursuit of being effective with my time, I was caught up in a whirlpool where I would change my mind constantly, forgetting the mind castle I would build one day, only to build another one tomorrow.

Completing one full year of not doing any consultancy work at all and just researching & learning was worth it, but the pressure of drawing from savings reserves felt wrong by now. I needed to start bringing in some money, so that the short term isn't compromised for the long term.

December

Discussing plans with a friend, he suggested to just take the least frictional path of money instead of the most effective path optimised for long term to get out of this rut. And it made sense. Sometimes building something for the short term, even though seems to be ineffective at first, but can help you stay focussed on your long term goal, is a clear win.

We are humans, our minds is like a citadel & depending on what scenario of life is playing out, you may not be at the best position to make use of whatever you have at your disposal. I realised this, and picked up one of my currently running side project to transform it into a paying tool & be done with that experiment, before figuring out the next least frictional path.

Losing battles against this demon, only made me understand him better. I let it ate many days of December as well, but I have learnt to not over-stress anything & be more with friends & family as I get a chance because I must find my harmony to be everywhere at the same time, by getting really good at serialising tasks for completion. Multi-tasking is a fool's tool.

Realising your demons that you have to fight or leave with in harmony can be a super freeing thing. And now I have set out my working schedule as a weekly bar that I got to hit.

40 hrs of focus work in a week. Any overhead or errands or non-productive work stays out of this 40 hrs focussed work. And as long as I can continue to protect these 40 hrs of my time every week, everything shall be fine. Its almost always the inaction that causes anxiousness or doubt. So, my belief system currently stands towards protecting my time & just building things in focussed time slots.

Here's how it's strictly planned:

  • 10 hrs = Consultancy work [To bring in immediate money]
  • 10 hrs = Write books [To share what I know]
  • 15 hrs = Build Micro SAAS
  • 5 hrs = Write blog posts [like this]

I will continue to evolve my systems around how I function the best. As always, following me on Twitter is a good choice to keep up with what I am upto.

Happy new year! Hope this year brings you more happiness & joy than ever <3