The blog of DAVID KOUŘIL

In between

These days have been weird.

After the deadline I’m not sure what to do with myself. I’ve wrapped up some missing implementation but honestly I had a hard time getting myself to do it. On the positive note, however, I found out that I really love to blast out some music into my headphones and just dive into the code.

I have to admit that I’m feeling a bit burned out. For me, and this is really just a personal feeling, scientific paper is not the most fulfilling output of my hard work. Somehow I have a problem to attach myself to it. Maybe that’s because I’m still not too good at it and I’m not exactly sure how it all ends up together. Submitting a paper is then a very anticlimactic event.

Also, any time I submit a paper, I have a really hard time afterwards. I don’t want to think about the paper I just submitted and I also don’t really want to even think about the next one. Because what I only see now, are the tough times. I’m just gonna wait for the review scores and then see what’s next. I guess you could say that I’m really experiencing the after-deadline “depression” and I feel really uninspired and unmotivated.

On top of that, after a long time, I got sick. Although it’s not like I was absolutely out of order, I just really wasn’t feeling well. Gabi said that maybe it was a case of spring fatigue. I’m feeling a lot better now, hopefully I can resume a normal regime next week.

This time period feels like “in between” to me not only because it’s between the paper submission and when I’ll know the results. It’s also because we are leaving for a big USA trip in approximately two weeks. Now that I wrote it down it makes me nervous. There’s still a lot to plan but I’m pretty excited. We haven’t been on a vacation last summer (which I guess wasn’t the smartest thing to do—you need to rest properly!) so I’m very much looking forward to being away.

I need to get my thoughts in order. I need to get away from the usual routine to gain perspective, figure out where I’m going and re-evaluate. I’m sure it’s gonna be an adventure and I want to enjoy it fully with Gabi. The only thing we need to be careful, is to not stress ourselves. We are both recovering worriers, we want to have everything planned and worry about things that can go wrong. This trip is not going to be perfectly planned like that and I want to accept that. I want to enjoy the moment, solve problems on the fly, and just chill out.

Finishing times

This Monday, 2am, I had a second paper deadline in my PhD studies. It for was the same venue as last year, IEEE Vis.

Last year I was totally clueless, had really no idea how to do it and my co-authors really helped out. It got accepted (and even received an honourable mention) and I’ve learned a lot from the process. I guess it’s true that when you’re thrown into the water and have to figure out how to swim, you learn the most.

This year, I’ve tried to apply what I’ve learned, but there’s no denying that it was still stressful times. Now that this is over, everything seems to be great. Weather is amazing (it was winter and all of a sudden it’s an awesome spring). I have time to do what I want. It’s amazing how much you appreciate free time after you’ve had to work on something for most of the day and week. I’m sure I’ll slip back into wasting it at least a bit but for now that’s something I’m trying to treasure.

I knew that I just have to submit because I need to get this done, get this off my table for a while. We are planning to go on a big USA trip in May and it’s very convenient if my paper is in review at that time. I will actually get the notification while still there.

Of course, even though I’ve finished this thing, there’s again more stuff to do coming up. So I’m trying to still enjoy this moment before moving onto the next thing.

Now that it’s been already few days, it’s starting to sink in. It has been one of the two primary goals that I had for 2019. It has been something in the works for a few months. And now it’s just done. No matter what the outcome will be, I’ve done my part for the moment. It’s very easy to just go over whatever you’ve been through, whatever you’ve “achieved” and not even pause for a bit to realize how big of a deal it is. Like now with the deadline, it has been on my mind for at least half a year, and I’ve been working on it intensely for several months. But the moment I get it finished, it’s like all this pressure has never been there, like there was no deadline. I feel like there are at least two lessons in this: a) how all the (usual) struggling is momentary, and b) how I need to more realize all the things I’ve already been through and successfully survived.

I’m really excited about future now. There’s just so much that can happen in one year, or even few months, and I have no idea where it’s all going to take us.

Right now I’m getting back to my routine, going to the gym, trying to eat a bit healthier, sleep and relax enough.

And most importantly, we can (finally) start planning our US trip properly.

Reconnecting

Two things I consider wins already in the new year.

First, I completely stopped biting my nails. Second, I started reconnecting with some old friends.

I’m bad at keeping in touch with people. It’s understandable, as you go through life, the paths you take diverge. It’s easer to stay close with your best friend from elementary school if you stay in or around your hometown. But I’m just not that type of person. I wanted to go out and experience the world. I went to university and then moved to a different country, and the people I meet every day have changed significantly.

I like this, I really like going away and be in different, new environments. I love meeting people with different backgrounds, different personalities and learning from them.

But I’m starting to truly realize, how important it is to have old friends. You need these people in your life, people that have seen you grow up, seen you be a totally lame person, been with you through some embarrassing events. Because those are the people that are close to you, they really know where you came from and who you are.

You have a connection with them through the way you’ve grown up.

And the connections that you make with other people are the most important thing in life.

It again reminds me a passage from Wear Sunscreen (something I still come back for life advice):

“Understand that friends come and go, but with the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get the more you need the people you knew when you were young.”

Focus and Discipline

Scratch all that I wrote before, the two main things I want to really work on and improve are focus and discipline. Although that basically encompasses all that I said before.

Discipline

I wouldn’t say I’m an undisciplined person but there’s still a lot to improve. My problem is that there is a disconnection between my dreams and my actions. I have big ambitions but my day-to-day structure is not mirroring that. It could be a big problem in the future, when I realize that I haven’t accomplished what I set out to. In my eyes, discipline is what powers each day.

When it comes to discipline, the start of the year looks great. I am waking up early, going to the gym, working on myself. I have a deadline coming up so I need to stay sharp.

This is what I’m currently sticking to:

  • gym 6 times a week (Mon-Sat, Sun is rest day)
  • go hard at gym, not give myself excuses, do extra reps, extra exercises
  • no youtube on weekdays
  • phasing out facebook (not logged in since Dec 31)
  • no reddit or instagram when at work, putting my phone away

I’ve been experimenting with social media usage in the past, for various reasons trying to quit. I think having literacy in social media is going to be a very valuable skill in the future. It’s not that they are bad, the thing is that you need to know how to use them and when they could be dangerous to you.

For me I know that looking at instagram and reddit can hijack my own values, interests, and motivations. Ultimately, my goal is to find truly my own motivations, things that drive me. I want it to come from my own core, not that I saw somebody somewhere and I want to be like them.

Focus

But being disciplined is just one side of the coin. Even if you make yourself sit down to work, if you don’t focus then it’s for nothing.

Recently I’ve learned something game-changing to me. I think that in the past I’ve misunderstood the pomodoro technique. Everywhere you find written that you’re supposed to work for 25 minutes and then take a break. But it somehow didn’t really work for me, I was always hesitating to start the second work session, and in general this tempo didn’t fit.

But then I learned about a different way to look at it. The key is to go for the flow state, and that takes some time to get into. What I’ve also learned is that it takes around 25 mins to even get into this state. So basically I’ve been stopping at the point where it’s just about to start getting productive.

But you can use the pomodoro as a starter, to get you going. The key is not to stop at the crucial moment. Since finding out about this, I’ve been experimenting with longer work sessions and it’s been working so much better so far.

What I still need to figure out is how to properly prioritize. Interestingly, this hasn’t been a problem for me so much up till now. I had just mostly one big thing in front of me. But recently I’ve been taking on more and more stuff, taking more responsibilities and working with more people. I need to learn how to give priority to activities that really make me progress, as opposed to just doing work for others.

Small Life Update

I could write a lot about the importance of time and its value. It was worrying that I didn’t have anything on my hand for a while, I don’t like having to grab my phone every time I want to see what time it is (it’s especially annoying when cooking).

I’m glad that I figured out my watch situation. Since the fitbit I got from Gabi for Christmas 2017 broke, and we got the money back, I was thinking what should I get as a replacement. I really wanted to have something tough, something I can wear all the time without worrying that it’s gonna break. Which is basically the definition of g-shock.

So far I’m extremely happy with it.

And what I’m even more happy about is that it’s basically a Christmas gift from Gabi 🙂

Let yourself forget things

I’ve been addicted to writing things down for years. Whenever I have an idea for a project or a thought that I find worth keeping, I try to write it down in some form as soon as possible. I’m so afraid that something is going to slip through, that I’m gonna lose the thought. Any small idea has to be documented.

This also applies to books, movies and other influences. Sometimes I dream about having every book I’ve ever read noted down, with my takeaways, ratings, basically go full-on Derek Sivers. I wish to have all the things that inspire me or speak to me in some way in a list, for me to come back to and remember right away.

Lately I’m reversing on this.

I don’t want to be doing stuff just to have another record in a database. I don’t want to read 52 books in a year just to be able to say that I read one book a week. I want to just enjoy all these things, other people’s ideas and opinions expressed through books, movies, or songs.

That’s why I’m giving up documenting and tracking everything in my life recently. I let the “brilliant” moments of inspiration go.

The things that are supposed to stick with me in the end will. The ideas that are worth remembering will keep coming back.

Or so I hope.

Too many interests

These photos are from Saturday evening, when we went on a walk around the city. I wanted to test out my new lens that I got on Friday, and we couldn’t get ourselves out of the house before it was almost dark. 

Vienna right now has a really interesting atmosphere, it is not quite the usual Christmas-markety winter mood, but it’s almost that. I actually kinda like it, I guess I need changing seasons because of the different feelings they bring.

I often think about the stuff that I’m putting my time into. I’d say that I’m somebody that has many interests. I like coding, I like to draw and paint, I like reading and writing. At some point in my life I was really into music, I practiced playing guitar a lot.

I’m drawn to all of those things, but somehow the fact that I can’t commit to single one of those is bothering me. The impression, that I have from all the people that inspire me, is that you find one thing in your life that you fall in love with and then channel all your creativity through that medium. Sometimes I have a feeling that I still haven’t found mine.

Other times I feel blessed. I’m lucky that so many stories and thoughts speak to me. You can’t choose what you get drawn to, you can’t decide what you find meaning in.

So I just remind myself to be patient, follow the passions, put in the work, and wait for the moment when it all comes together.

Aiming to be the 40-year-old that doesn’t know what he wants to do in his life

I don’t know if you’ve seen or heard this piece before:

It was originally written as an essay by Mary Schmich and then made into a song by Baz Luhrmann. I’ve heard it first in the form of this song when I was writing my bachelor thesis. I put it in my spotify playlist and I regularly bump into it when I’m listening to this playlist on shuffle. I always take something different from it, depending on what problems I’m having or what I’m thinking about at that moment.

Last time it was this part:

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Lately I’ve had the problem that I’m again being attracted by different things and I have a hard time choosing what to focus on. The things is—I’ve been led to believe that I need to choose one thing, give my whole life into it, and then maybe I have some small chance of being successful. That’s a very frustrating thought because I have quite a number of things I’d like to do.

This time however I’m starting to get comfortable with that. I’m not gonna be known as a prodigy, a 14yo kid who makes an iphone app, sells out concert halls, or writes a book. I’m an almost 26-year-old guy, my may-be-a-prodigy years are over. But I still can (and should) be me.

And therefore I’m aiming to be the 40-year-old who still can’t decide what he wants to do in his life. I want to explore everything I want. I most probably won’t be successful at it. But if there’s one thing I’ve found out already, it’s that you don’t have to be world-class at something to enjoy doing it.

The value of sheltering yourself

I think I need to cut myself off from a certain type of social media. Maybe it’s going to be enough to just do it mentally…let me explain.

I’ve got projects to do. Personal, side projects. Things that I’ve come up with to learn stuff. They are not the best ideas in the world. They will not make a hole in a world. But it’s still important to finish them. I don’t want to be a quitter. I want to be a doer. And you can’t be a doer without finishing what you’ve started.

I have a bad habit of going on twitter and looking at the stuff other people make. Sometimes it’s good to get inspired like that. But most of the time it just makes you look at what you’re working on and get bored of it. Maybe you’ve had an idea that you liked at the beginning but, now that you’ve spent some time on it, it’s not so new/exciting/easy-to-do.

Or in my case, I’m worried that I’m learning the wrong thing. The way technology world works is that it’s constantly changing, programming languages are going in and out of style. Everybody makes you feel that you’re doing it wrong if you’re not using the same programming language, framework, or paradigm they are using. It makes sense—everybody wants to be on the wave of what’s popular.

It makes sense to just ignore that. There’s no way of predicting future. You just need to get your head down and finish your things. You will learn something even if you work on the wrong project, using the wrong stuff. The important thing is that you’ll learn something. And finish something.

Overcomming the “yeah, but…” attitude

I have no idea if “yeah, but…” attitude is a real thing. Maybe it is, maybe not, maybe under some other name. For me, it’s that feeling when you see someone’s result and immediately start thinking about the “buts”.

Like when some 18 y.o. kid on youtube puts out a video of him traveling around the world, with footage from drones and stuff, and you immediately think: “yeah cool, but he’s got to have filthy rich parents”. Or when you see somebody’s drawing and think to yourself: “yeah that’s cool, but what is art even good for?”

Maybe I’m the only one who’s like that. Maybe I’m the only mean, jealous, and envious asshole. But I don’t think so. I’m Czech and I believe that most of the people in Czech republic are like that. It’s in our nature to be haters. It’s a defense mechanism and it’s contagious.

I want to overcome that. I’m making a conscious effort to not be that guy. Someone else’s win is not necessarily my loss. I am trying to appreciate people doing stuff, working. Sure, there are people who are chasing after the low-hanging fruit. Following the trends. Faking it. And that’s alright. These people will probably not win in the long game. And even if they do…who cares?

I will always appreciate people who work on their things. I am attracted to people with skill. People who are confident in their abilities. And I’m working on being one of them.