Kat Huang Memoji of me making a peace sign

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My guiding principles

3 min read

Subject to change

Note: Last updated July 2020, most of this is not what resonates with me now (April 2021)


Embrace the present. You’ll never get it back again, and it’s the only area you can control for certain. Don’t look at the present as a means or stepping stone toward the future (e.g. working at a place you don’t like to “gain skills and network” before you begin your “real” career), but also make decisions that help your future self.

Invest in habits and systems for the direction you want to go in. This can matter more than setting good goals. James Clear points out that winners and losers have the same goals. Additionally, if a coach focused only on their team’s daily practices and ignored the goal of winning the championship, they’d still be on track to achieving the goal.

Optimize the default settings of your life so you don’t have to fight unnecessary uphill battles. Create shortcuts for things you want to do often, like putting weights and healthy snacks next to your desk.

Document often, whether the subjects are life experiences (through journaling) or code (through software documentation). Your brain has better things to do than try to remember tons of minute details, and it almost always helps others and your future self.

Be a good listener. When someone is speaking, don’t just think about how you’ll respond.

Clear thinking and clear writing support each other. If your thoughts are unclear, your writing will be too. At the same time, the writing process can help you clarify your thoughts.

Most things that seem significant in the moment won’t matter in the future.

There are many things not worth having an opinion about or getting upset about.

Most people overestimate what they can get done in 1 year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years.

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

How you think and talk to yourself about a situation has a huge impact. E.g. “I get to [do something]” instead “I have to [do something].”

Talent exists, but effort and consistency can surpass it.

Sometimes it’s just not the right time.

Good thoughts, good words, good deeds.

80/20 rule.

Be kind and compassionate, but know your worth and recognize when others are taking advantage of you (on purpose or not).

Say what you mean and mean what you say.


Providing value to others often results in benefiting yourself. When you send a cold email, the recipient is more likely to respond and engage if there’s value in doing so. Same for networking. When you make a product, if it solves a problem for you, it probably solves a problem that others face, and is thus more likely to be successful.

In today’s society, we have to over-compensate with creating to achieve a significant creating-consuming ratio. At the same time, we also need to consume thoughtfully and enough to create good content, especially when we’re starting out or in a learning-heavy phase, whether you’re writing novels or coming up with math theorems.

Currently, as of May 2020, I see the role of college in my life as providing:

  1. Resources that are difficult to get at other places or times in my life (sponsored travel, dozens of maker spaces and machine shops, enrollment at Harvard/MassArt/Wellesley)
  2. An opportunity to go for breadth and try out as many different, unique things as I want (fire spinning, interfaith dialogue, trashion show, pranks/hacks, among many others)
  3. Insurance. The way the world works, a CS-adjacent degree from MIT greatly increases one’s desirability as an employee. Combined with my existing privileges, it makes for a solid safety net.
  4. A social experience