Graduation thoughts (I)

So, graduation days are approaching in weeks. The fear of what’s next inevitably crawls into my mind as many start to ask, “what’s next?” As I begin to reflect on my four years of college, the question comes at a time when one could not be any more certain of his future going forward.

It’s not the first time I feel that way though. Alas, the same thought struck me during the end of middle school in Tenth grade. It feels quite different this time however. Something deep down tells me that being clueless about what’s next could actually be a good thing. After all, last time I knew for certain what I wanted to do – to be an investment banker for a few years then do my own thing – costed me three years of battling with our Engineering school’s admissions. At the moment, I just want to look back in the past year and reflect key events that were “the good, the bad, and the ugly” as I prepare to turn to the next page of my life.

Efficiency: from graduate school applications to technical projects both at work & school, I must say I’ve found my gift in completing challenges in a limited period of time. From taking the GREs to getting the rec letters in to cap off the applications took anywhere from 2-3 months tops. What needs to be improved however is knowing when and how to trigger that mentality. Sure, being productive in a certain job for long periods may improve one’s overall productivity, but if we are playing the long term game, who knows if that’s exactly the best thing to do? This may sound a little confusing at first, but let me explain what I mean.

In the study of Artificial Intelligence, the area of local search concerns itself with finding the global maximum which in most cases is masked by local maxima. In fact, using a classic search algorithm like hillclimbing can yield improvements in the short term, but it may very well take one to the local maximum closest by and just stop there. Think of the good old game of pinball we all used to love in arcades. You won’t be able to tell if the ball is falling to the winning slot until a series of unpredictable jumps. Notice how this draws a parallel to the real world – remember that our world is never static and no one is capable of predicting the future (or if you can, see Project Almanac for the drastic consequences). So we conclude that maximizing your productivity without sight of the mega jackpot can actually/potentially undercut one’s creativity, which is critical to long term adaptiveness and consequently success. The question here then becomes, when is the best time and how frequently should one toggle his or her less creative but more focused mentality? What is life’s equivalent of the “mega jackpot”? How does one even getting there without knowledge of it?

Following my journey of self-reflection, we’ll find answers in cross-disciplinary analysis of other factors of improvement in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

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