Third places, appreciating platitudes, and pushin' P(ython)
Greetings from The Commons SF!
Remember the common room in your freshman year dorms? You’d just hang out there to do work or screw around and before you knew it, friends and acquaintances began appearing in your life.
The Commons SF is the adult version of that, just decorated better.
It’s an intended to be a third place, a kind of living room where you can just go to hang and meet cool people. They also have “Campus,” which is a set of classes and programs run by community members that facilitate learning and connection with people. Meditation, machine learning, urban sketching, foreign film watching, and more.
As a member, I’ve joined a few groups and have started spending more and more time here. Everyone is super welcoming and friendly. One person I met even offered to read my Tarot cards, which I loved. Turns out that I could benefit from more lightheartedness in my life. 100% accurate. I think these things really do work.
I’m excited to be a part of this community. I have good feelings about spending more and more time here, and I’m hoping it leads to more friendship and belonging in my life.
Getting the reps in
On this week’s edition of “Platitude that was meaningless when you heard it as a kid but now is an operating principle” I present to you: “Don’t give up.”
I was in the park yesterday playing soccer on my own. Practicing my left footed shots. A weakness that plagued my entire soccer career. As expected after all the time off, every shot was weak, off target, and horribly out of form. Sometimes I’d lose my balance and fall because my foot was swinging so wildly out of control. Sometimes I’d miss the ball completely and kick the turf instead of the ball, which was… excruciating… for my toes. A far cry for someone who used to play competitive soccer for ten years.
I started to get really frustrated. It wasn’t possible back then, when I practiced 2-4 times a week, why would it be possible now?
I was about to give up when I asked myself how many times I’d actually tried to kick the ball with my left foot. Actual numbers. Did some math, and between my two solo practice sessions this last month, I’d probably practiced my left-footed shot twenty to forty times.
Okay. How many times had the greats, or even just D1 players, practiced non-dominant footed shots? Thousands of times? Tens of thousands of times? Yes, I was on the soccer field, on my own. Yes, I had been practicing. And yes, I do have a decade of playing under my belt, deep in my muscle memory. But I wasn’t just falling short of the bare minimum of repetitions - orders of magnitude separated my effort from advanced players.
So I told myself: one hundred. Do one hundred shots with my left foot before I declare myself a failure and give up soccer forever. So I began. I’d place the ball in front of the goal, wind up, take a shitty left-footed shot, shag the ball, return to the same spot, and try again.
Somewhere around shot 17, something clicked. I still wasn’t hitting the ball well, but I was getting it off the ground with a decent velocity.
This was shot 28:
Wow. Now that’s improvement. Still not great. Floppy foot, bad placement, yada yada. But that could pass in a game. Could.
I didn’t make it to one hundred shots that day. I may have gotten to forty or so. But my lesson had been learned.
As I write this newsletter, I think: I’m a mediocre writer. Why are you even reading this crap? You probably have a higher opinion of my words than I do, but let’s say that’s true. I am a mediocre writer. Have I published one hundred newsletters? Nope. Not even close. This is #4 in this series. Very clearly delineated in the title.
Doesn’t matter what it is. Learning how to pitch a product. Talking to girls. Writing code. Creating my wardrobe. Playing the piano. It takes time and effort to get decent at things, especially if I don’t have prior experience.
A similar thing happened when I ran the half marathon back in December. I was 4.14 miles (I’ll never forget that number) in when I thought I had reached my limit. My legs were sweaty, knees weak, breathing was heavy (*record scratches*) and I was ready to give up and shuffle back home. I don’t know what it was, but something compelled me to keep going. I walked to a Boudin Bakery, got myself a bottle of water, and kept on going.
Turns out, I had another 9 miles in me. I was just a little dehydrated. So it goes.
The next time I want to give up, I’ll ask myself:
Have you done even one hundred high quality reps?
Are you at mile 13.1, or are you really just at mile 4.14?
Speaking of getting one hundred reps in, I built my first personal project in months.
Here’s a demo:
Okay fine, “project” may be a bit of a stretch. It’s just a simple script that calls OpenAI’s Completion endpoint. Less than fifty lines of code. Cute and simple.
I won’t be submitting this to any competitions or putting it on my resume. I just want to get back into the habit and groove. The act of writing magic spells that conjure all sorts of mystical powers that would be godlike just 50 years ago - even now, especially now, two years into my career as a product manager - still fills me with joy.