Bye 2022. Hello 2023.

This year was intense. Perhaps the most intense one in quite a while.

I’ve been gradually developing the habit of reflecting as months and years pass by. In my 20s, I used to think that celebrating birthdays or New Year is pointless. After all, what’s so special about Earth completing one revolution around its star?

Now in my 30s, I know that actually years are all we got. As I see my parents aging and grandparents not being around anymore, the relentless march of time is quite noticeable. I now fully understand that it’ll all be over and even though I can’t lock time in a bottle, I can at least bow and acknowledge as it departs.

So, this is my way of paying respect to 2022. (In case it is of interest, here’s how my 2021 went and my reflection on the entire decade before that.)

Books I read in 2022

I read 19 books this year. (Well, the figure is 20 as there’s one book on wellness coaching which was more like a textbook).

Last year, I had read 28 books, so I’m a bit down on my velocity as I’m no longer focused on maximizing the number of books I read. It’s surprising how little do we remember from the books anyway. What do you remember about the book you read a year back?

So, I’m increasingly focused on reading selectively and trying to internalize important insights from my readings by making extensive notes that I end up publishing here on my blog or on my knowledge garden.

Activities that got slowed down in 2022

My podcast Bold Conjectures got significantly slowed down during the latter part of the year. I have not recorded any new episodes lately. Similarly, my activity on Twitter has come down. This is because other priorities took precedence.

I realized what’s important for me is the following (in order of precedence):

  1. Health and happiness
  2. Family, friends and relationships
  3. Work focused on reducing suffering
  4. Side-projects (like my podcast, etc.)
  5. Social media (twitter, etc.)

This made me push everything else down in priority and helped me focus on..

Getting fitter and healthier in 2022

Fitter

I finally got my act together this year and shed excessive weight through intermittent fasting, and started building muscle by working out 3x / week.

I lost about 23% of my body weight from my peak

I was always the guy who was obsessed about ideas. So, it’s surprising that the thought of caring for my body never even crossed my mind. I attribute this to the power of social norms. Everyone around me had been similarly sized to me, so I thought that was the norm to desire (while people who’re fit are the weird ones).

But gradually ideas did confront me and a couple of years back I started with yoga. Then I started lifting weights. Those were good but not transformational as I still wasn’t eating healthy. This year, thanks to the books on nutrition I read, I started eating well too. And that changed everything for me!

Of course, now I know that losing weight starts in the kitchen and not in the gym. But it was a late realization.

Healthier

I didn’t just get fit. I got healthier, too.

How my health markers changed this year

I had read so much about how exercise impacts the body, but seeing it in action has now made me a lifelong believer in the importance of physical activity + eating minimally processed food.

Friday night parties at our beautiful home

Aakanksha pushed us to move our asses from Pune to Bengaluru late last year. Ever since the move, our social circle has expanded 10x. In Bangalore, Aakanksha has her friends from her former school (NID) while I have my startup friends here. (Bangalore, in general, has a higher density of interesting people). This meant that, compared to previous years, each weekend has been full of activity. So much so that, now, I’ve started craving solitude. You can’t have it all, can you?

Nevertheless, I’m thrilled because humans thrive on social relationships and the arrival of many new folks into my social circle has noticeably increased the quality of our life. It’s hard to make new friends as we grow, so I’m truly grateful for what has happened. The credit for this goes to Aakanksha, as she’s been a fantastic planner of our Friday parties.

The tradition of host people at our place on weekends started a bit randomly. Some of Aakanksha’s college seniors were catching up at a bar and couldn’t find a reservation. So, we asked them to come over.

We enjoyed it so much that we asked ourselves: why aren’t we doing it more often? More, we did then!

Aakanksha has made our home breathtakingly beautiful, and I’ve stocked our bar with all kinds of spirits. So, the joy of being around loving people around continues to increase every weekend.

A new startup: Nintee

In 2018, I changed my role from CEO to Chairman at Wingify. Ever since then, until this year, I was on a (sort of) sabbatical. I learned new things nonstop, started this blog, started a podcast, wrote a book, launched grants to young people, and started a book club.

I have had a lot of fun doing these projects and continue to pursue them. But increasingly my focus is biased towards actions that have potential to reduce suffering in the world. The clarity on primacy of reducing suffering got developed when I interviewed David Pearce for my podcast.

I followed it up by exploring what morality means to me and penning down my moral code. It became apparent to me that I enjoy solving problems and out of all the problems, perhaps reducing suffering in the world is the most important one.

The big question is how to reduce suffering. The bigger question still is what can I do to maximize my impact on suffering reduction. Towards that end, I ended up exploring various problems:

  • Reducing animal suffering by creating plant-based or lab-grown alternatives. Decided against it because of multiple factors (most of which are coming out as true with the struggles plant-based meat industry has been facing lately).
  • Fixing pain through direct interfaces with the brain. Decided against it because of multiple factors.
  • Drug discovery using AI. Realized that getting new drugs in the market is so improbable that most people end up spending their entire careers without seeing fruits of their labor.

In fact, earlier this year, I had even hired a junior scientist and took up lab space to work on synthetic biology. I wanted to create animal-derived enzymes synthetically. Made a bunch of bacteria that glowed under fluorescent light, but then shut it down.

It worked! Bacterial colonies with green fluorescent protein.

While all of these science-first problems were exciting on their own, the nagging feeling of they not being a good fit for me remained. I thrive on short-feedback cycles and research is quite the opposite. Moreover, I have no advantage over others in these hard-science problems.

It’s also hard to create moats in deep-tech, so raising funding is always hard, and converting them into a business even harder. I concluded that startups should not be in the business of inventing technology, but rather should focus on commercializing already invented technology.

Finally, after all these explorations, I landed onto digital health and decided to build a startup on it. I would use my comparative advantage of building digital products to reduce suffering in the world by helping people get healthier through behavioral change. I’ve named it Nintee, after the Mesopotamian goddess of healing Ninti.

Unlike Wingify that’s 100% bootstrapped, I’ve raised seed funding for my new gig. I could have funded it myself, but I want the additional accountability for making rapid progress that comes with taking other people’s money.

Getting my hands (physically) dirty

I continued my 2021 streak of building things with my hands. This year, I did a few projects that involved being away from digital screens.

A crystal

Astrophotography of the moon

A spectrometer

Here’s how I built it

A cup

Hello 2023

This coming year, I have several things in mind as a (rough) direction:

  • Build a consumer brand for Nintee. My new startup is consumer-focused, and the pilots I’ve been doing show that the solution works well for losing weight and building healthy habits. Now I need to crack the other piece of the puzzle: distribution. There are several ways of doing so, but I want to take a crack at building a consumer brand.
  • Be even more physically active by learning a martial art. I want to continue my weight lifting regime of thrice a week, but add to it two days of martial arts.
  • Get outside my head a little more. Have several things in mind: learn Bhangra, get a tattoo, and craft a new gin.
  • Publish my book. I’m nearly done by Mental Models for Startup Founders, and now I’d like to see it published as a physical book.
  • Resume podcast and build on philanthropic efforts. I want to create a process for my podcast and build on escape velocity grants.
  • Actively drive Wingify’s strategy and culture. I’ve been more hands-off with Wingify than I need to be. We have a great team there, but I think I can bring a much needed outside-in perspective to the company around how our strategy and culture is shaping up.

That’s it for 2022 reflection, which has ended up being longer than I anticipated.

But the year ended up being shorter than I had hoped for.


Have any comments? Email me.