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Elbaum's World 93: Work, Discovery and Curiosity 💭

published3 months ago
4 min read


Work, Discovery and Curiosity 💭

Hey there, it's been a while. I skipped last month's newsletter with the intention of having more self-employment updates to share this month. I still don't have as many updates as I wanted, and I'm a few days late writing this month too, so sue me. Wait, that already happened this year...

Anyway, I came across a fascinating profile I wanted to share with you that has several intersections with what I've been writing about here for the past couple years.

The article concerns June Huh, who was awarded the Fields Medal this year. The Fields is like the Nobel Prize for math, but they only give it out once every four years to mathematicians under 40. Needless to say, winning this award puts you at the top of an already competitive and prestigious field.

Gratefully, the piece goes into detail about Huh's day-to-day routine and how he works. The details that grabbed my attention most were Huh's process for deciding what to work on, his energy and motivation, and the amount of time he spends working. Here are a few representative quotes:

On his workday:

On any given day, Huh does about three hours of focused work. He might think about a math problem, or prepare to lecture a classroom of students, or schedule doctor’s appointments for his two sons. “Then I’m exhausted,” he said. “Doing something that’s valuable, meaningful, creative” — or a task that he doesn’t particularly want to do, like scheduling those appointments — “takes away a lot of your energy.”

On his process:

To hear him tell it, he doesn’t usually have much control over what he decides to focus on in those three hours. For a few months in the spring of 2019, all he did was read. He felt an urge to revisit books he’d first encountered when he was younger — including Meditations by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and several novels by the German author Hermann Hesse — so that’s what he did. “Which means I didn’t do any work,” Huh said. “So that’s kind of a problem.” (He’s since made peace with this constraint, though. “I used to try to resist … but I finally learned to give up to those temptations.” As a consequence, “I became better and better at ignoring deadlines.”)

On learning:

School was excruciating for him. He loved to learn but couldn’t focus or absorb anything in a classroom setting. Instead, he preferred to read on his own — in elementary school, he devoured all 10 volumes of an encyclopedia about living things — and to explore a mountain near his family’s apartment. He quickly became familiar with every corner of it, but he still managed to get lost, one time even ending up in an area that was restricted due to the possible presence of land mines.

Above all, the quality of Huh's working life that stood out most was his emphasis on letting himself be carried along by his own interests. I think following your curiosity (along with not working for longer than you have productive energy) is something worth pursuing. To quote the article, Huh's path "was characterized by much wandering and a series of small miracles." I aspire to the same thing.

I highly recommend the full article, even if the quotes I pulled don't particularly resonate with you – Huh is a fascinating guy. With that, here this month's updates on my various self-employment projects:

Continued freelance work

This is the main reason I don't have more to share in the way of updates. At least that's what I'm telling myself. I've been doing 20-30 hours per week of billable work with my main freelance client, and I'm not sure if the contract will extend after it expires in the next few weeks. I've always struggled to work on my own stuff when the majority of my time is taken up by other work. I think this is a mental block, though, and I'm trying to get past it.

4,000 YouTube subscribers

The channel continues to grow at a rate of ~450 subscribers per month. The Pareto principle is alive and well in the channel, with 6 or so videos accounting for the majority of the growth. YouTube hasn't been a focus for the past couple months, but I'm encouraged by this progress.

Launched a website

I mentioned last time that I had a couple of niche websites in the works. I launched one (it's in the male skincare and grooming space), but it's still pretty bare-bones. I need to write a few more articles and polish the site up, but I'll share it with you next time.

Attempted acquisitions

I've spend a fair bit of time trolling Flippa and MicroAcquire looking for sites and apps to buy. Most are either sketchy or too expensive. I've been close on a few but haven't pulled the trigger yet. I'll continue to update as I move along with this one.


Pete's Picks ✅

  1. What I'm Watching: My wife and I randomly started watching Drive to Survive recently. We'd heard good things about it, and we struggle to enjoy the same TV so we figured why not make it "our show." All to say: I'm late on the bandwagon, but I think I've been bitten by the F1 bug. Also, the series is excellent. Highly recommend checking it out if you could be interested in high-performance sporting subcultures.
  2. What I'm Listening To: You know I love true crime, so when I heard about Persona: The French Deception, I had to tune in. The show details the birth and variations of a scam called the "President's Scam," which targets people in middle-management of companies and organizations. I witnessed a few President's Scam attempts at my last job – people would get emails from someone pretending to be the CEO, who wanted an urgent task done (which is usually wiring money). In any case, the show is a fascinating look into conmen and human psychology – five stars from me.

Some Recent Videos 🎥

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Cheers,

Peter