The first 10 versions

A helpful operating assumption – the first 10 versions of the system we design will not work.

Our exercise plan will require many tweaks before it becomes part of how we operate.

Our travel/packing checklist will take multiple iterations before it becomes comprehensive.

Eating better will be much harder on Jan 25th vs. Jan 3. That’s because our well intentioned plans will have over-estimated how much time we’ll have to prepare meals.

That recurring meeting we really need to be highly effective won’t be. Not at first.

The good news is that very few things in this life need to go perfect on first try. Mistakes are normal. Iterations are part of the game.

We need to iterate on our systems just as we iterate on life.

Make the most of today. Then, reflect, learn, and do better tomorrow.

The Ather Scooter

We were visiting India recently and saw a good friend who bought an electric scooter. The scooter looked smart and had a whole host of nice features.

But what struck me was the conversation about why their family chose to do this.

The scooter costs 50% more than gas/petrol alternatives. However, it more than pays for itself on a day-to-day basis thanks to the relative cost of electricity.

Ather Energy, the company producing these bikes, is understandably experiencing explosive growth. As they grow, they’ll continue to invest in charging points around the city – making the ownership experience better and better.

This is the sort of conversation that gets me very excited. We’re moving very quickly from buying electric vehicles to accelerate a decarbonized future to buying them because they make economic sense. We’re seeing this play out quickly all over the world.

Here’s a chart from The Financial Times (hits a paywall) on total cost of ownership of EVs in Europe. Aside from a few exceptions, EVs are already either cheaper or comparable. This trend is only going to accelerate.

And that’s setting aside the driving experience. We first leased an EV 4 years ago and then replaced it by buying another last year. And our experience is like that of most EV owners – we will never go back.

Electric cars are better in every way – they accelerate better, they get better over time with software upgrades, and enable automatic driver-based customization that makes the overall experience. VC Fred Wilson said it eloquently in his post“Is it a computer or a car?”

Maybe a month later, the Tesla arrived and I drove it into the parking garage to show the garage attendant how to drive and charge the car. He sat behind the wheel while I described the features of the car and when I was done he said to me “Mr. Wilson, they have combined an iPhone with a car!

I love that story because never a truer word has been spoken.

I was thinking about that when I was recently describing how my new Rivian Truck handles off-road driving. It isn’t four-wheel drive, it isn’t all-wheel drive, it is any-wheel drive. There are four electric motors, one on each wheel, and depending on how the truck is performing, different amounts of power are delivered to each and every wheel. The software determines which wheels need what power and supplies it to that wheel in real-time.

Is the Tesla a car or a computer? Neither and a bit of both. Is the Rivian a truck or a computer? Neither and a bit of both.

When you rethink a system, like a car or a truck, as a computer first and foremost, amazing things become possible. Like over-the-air software upgrades which continue to add new features to our Tesla eight years after I drove it into the parking garage for the first time.

We have seen this story play out across many devices in our lives; phones, TVs, watches, thermostats, smoke alarms, light switches, etc, etc. It is an enormous shift in how things are designed and made and it is playing out right in front of us.

EVs are a big part of the story around the transformation of our energy grid. As more of the grid gets powered by renewables in the next decade, they help us deliver a double whammy – by moving our transportation energy needs away from Carbon along with our daily energy needs.

Seeing Ather Energy’s scooters in Chennai got me very excited. I am rooting for their success.


The joy we experience is directly proportional to our ability to habitually pay attention to the wonderful things in our day-to-day experiences that go unnoticed when they’re working.

Habitually learning to appreciate a functioning body alone gets us a quarter of the way there.

10 questions – Annual Reflection 2022

The 10 question annual reflection is a longstanding ALearningaDay tradition. I recommend doing it in 3 steps:

i) Carve out an hour in the coming days to “look back and look forward.” It helps to do this in a quiet place with no distractions or interruptions.

ii) Work with a list of 10 questions that make you think. For a starter list, I’ve shared the 10 questions I asked myself below (also available to print as a doc or PDF by downloading from this folder).

iii) Archive your questions and notes for next year. Check in with them over the course of the year and read them before you start next year’s reflection. Looking at what was top-of-mind a few years later is also guaranteed to make you grin. :-)

10 Questions – Annual Reflection 2022

1. What are the top 2 themes/memories/moments I will remember 2022 for? 

2. What were the 2 biggest lessons I learnt in 2022?

3. We learn from a mix of 3 sources – i) taking action and reflecting on our experiences, ii) people, and iii) books/courses or synthesized information. What did my mix look like in 2022? What would I do differently in 2023? 

i) Action + reflection:

ii) People:

iii) Books/synthesized info:

4. Looking back at how I spent my time in 2022, what were the top 2-3 themes/buckets x processes/outcomes I prioritized (Examples: Career – prioritized ABC project or getting a raise, Health – prioritized more outdoor exercise or losing 10 pounds)? Did what I prioritize align with what I intended to prioritize/were there any surprises? 

5. What are the top 2 themes/buckets x processes/outcomes I intend to prioritize in 2023? 

6. What do I most need to learn in 2023 and how do I plan to do this? 

7. What are habits/checkpoints I have in place to recommit to my priorities? (E.g. weekly/monthly check in)

8. What have I got planned in 2023 to prioritize renewal and memorable experiences (e.g. holiday plans, weekend activities, hobbies)?

9. Health, money, and relationships are foundational to the quality of our lives on this planet. What are my guiding principles or habits as I think of these dimensions in 2023?




10. Do I have a personal philosophy, a set of principles or virtues that I want to live my life by? If not, would I consider putting together a first version?

And, if I do have them, what have I learnt about them in my attempts to live them? Do I plan to evolve them in 2023?


  • “What I value” can be a way of stating our personal philosophy/principle. 
  • Virtues are values we actually embody. Inspired by the code of the Samurais, the difference is what we believe (values) vs. what we do (virtues).
  • Our values become virtues when living them costs us money, time, or something valuable]

Strokes of luck

We were recipients of a large stroke of good luck recently.

We did nothing to deserve it. We made a potentially damaging mistake and were lucky to not face bad consequences.

I thought I’d write about it because we remember strokes of bad luck a lot more than we remember strokes of good luck.

Bad news sticks and sells easily.

Good news and experiences, on the other hand, don’t.

Unless we make the effort.

Fire alarm batteries

Fire alarm batteries make a loud beeping sound when they’re low.

I don’t know what it is about the batteries of my fire alarm – but these beeps exclusively happen in the middle of the night.

These beeps are impossible to ignore. So, the only way out is to wake up, figure out the source of the sound (this can be surprisingly challenging in the middle of the night), drag a chair for elevation, and take the battery out.

I can choose to be upset or annoyed. It won’t change the facts. The battery still needs to be replaced.

I can also choose to just chuckle at my luck. And just try to get back to sleep.

Either way, the nature of the job doesn’t change. It isn’t good or bad – the only difference is my attitude toward it.

Like most things in this life.

Much ado

My wife shared a thread on Nextdoor from someone who’d driven past a dead boar on the side of the highway. In her post, she wondered why the boar hadn’t been moved.

That post got a lot of engagement. A couple of others confirmed the dead boar sighting. Many lamented the state of local government – this wouldn’t have happened in their day. And so on.

Until one woman who went close to the alleged boar, took a few pictures, and shared that everyone was commenting about a few sacks of leaves shaped like a boar.

Much ado about nothing.

A good reminder to understand the full picture before weighing in with our opinions. And to not make mountains out of molehills.

What makes life meaningful?

Pew Research shared a fascinating study across 17 nations on the topic – what makes life meaningful?

Family, careers/occupation, and material well-being rounded up the top 3 with friends and health following close behind.

The differences between countries were very interesting as well. Family, however, continued to be nearly always on top.

Interestingly, Americans were, by a distance, more likely to mention religion/faith as a top source of meaning.

There were many other fascinating insights. For example, younger people were more likely to rank friends as the highest source of meaning. Women were slightly more likely than men to mention families. Those who are well off are more likely to mention material well-being. And those who identified on the left of the political spectrum were more likely to mention nature vs. religion for those on the right.

If there’s one takeaway from all of this, it is that there is no single source of meaning for everyone. We derive meaning from different sources in different amounts.

And as with everything else in this life, it helps to take the time to figure out what works for us.