2020 Year in Review

31 Dec 2020

I don't think this is what we thought when we were coming into 2020 exactly a year ago. I didn't know that I would've became the person I was today 365 days ago.

2020 has really been a rollar coaster to say the least! COVID, starting high school online, and everything being virtual is something we never thought about.

I was thinking about making a reflection in my December Newsletter but I felt like trying something new. So after *6* hours of HTML later, you're reading this exact text right now :)

I'm gonna break this letter into 3 main sections: Highlights of the Year, Biggest Learnings, and Goals for 2021. Anyway, let's get started!

Highlights of the Year

Developing Independence

My motivation always came from an external source. My whole life was made by other people, not myself. I was so obsessed with talking to other people and always getting their validation. I felt like other people mattered more than me.

COVID-19 and lockdown completely changed that. It taught me to be more independent and opened my eyes to things that matter and things that don't. Checking how many likes your post got doesn't matter. Opening your social media to check if your friends responded every hour doesn't matter. Heck, you now even know which friends are valuable to you and which ones are not!

The time covid has given me helped me reflect on my current state and what mattered to me. Family mattered a lot to me, but I never understood the value of it. It was only during covid did I understand what family meant to me. I realized that I didn't need to look all over the world to find the best friends. The best friends in the world lived in my own house and I'm extremely grateful for realizing that.

Knowing this has caused me to be a lot more independent. I don't worry about other people and their thoughts anymore, I'm starting to be happy with who I am and not have to constantly rely on other people for my own happiness and well being.

This has also helped me be a lot more productive. Not worrying about other people and having that validation to make me feel happier = more productive. I've been able to focus on my work a lot better and I've felt a lot happier.

My goal is to bring this independence mentality into 2021. I wanna make myself #1 and always focus on myself. I want to be grateful for what I have and for who I am. I want to know myself better and continue to follow my passion. I want to embrace failure and learn from it.

The Knowledge Society

I've waited for this program for about 2 years now. It started back in grade 7 when my friend Ankur Boyed told me about it. This experience sounded so surreal at that time. Safe to say that it's still the same today!

I submitted my application in early December of 2019. I patiently waited for 3 months to get a response. And I did! I got a yes, saying that I got accepted to the interview with co-founder Nadeem Nathoo. I still remember that day. It was probably one of the best days I ever had. Now that I think about it, it was just like another day but I relief I felt when I got accepted is something I'll never forget.

I did my interview with Nadeem. I thought I flopped it. I stuttered a lot. I gave really weird answers to the questions that he gave me. I lost a bit of hope, but I still had some confidence telling me that there's a chance that I still make it in.

I did get into TKS! I got my acceptance email around mid-April so glad to get a "pretty fast" response this time. I was really happy that I got in but at the same time, felt really really nervous. I felt pretty nervous since I couldn't believe that I'd be sitting with people who have spoken all over the world, met with Satya Nadella, Greg Brockman, and Naval.

I'm glad that this nervousness didn't take over me. If it did, I don't think I'd be the person I am today. Although I was nervous, my willingness to learn from these people kept me going. The people and the community here at TKS is insane. We literally have access to some of the world's future unicorns.

TKS has played a substantial role in my life. It's guided me to become the person who I am. It's because of this program that I was able to completely change my lifestyle and who I am. Pre-TKS, I never thought about waking up at 5:30 am or successful people. Goldmines like Paul Graham's blog and Naval's Twitter isn't something I would've found if I hadn't gone to TKS. I wouldn't have been able to learn about smart people if it weren't for TKS. I'm extremely grateful to have access to this program. There are millions of people who'd wish to be in the position that I am today. I can't take that for granted.

Biggest Learnings

School matters, but not as much as you think

School used to be my life. That's what I always did. I was taught to learn conventionally, by my parents and by my school. Go to school, study well, get a degree, and get a good job. My life should be lived within these 4 pillars.

I never learned how to think for myself or that there aren't enough people in the world working on smart problems. School doesn't teach us this. They teach us to be assembly line workers. Not saying but that's a bad thing, but what is life if everyone works on the same problems every day?

I only learned this during march break. I didn't understand the value of school if everyone does the same things every day. I want to be different, but how can you be different if you do the same things as everyone else?

So, that's how my AI journey began. I wanted to learn something new and AI seemed like the thing. It's my 7th month doing AI and it's safe to say that I'm now pretty legit at it 😎.

I've coded projects like detecting distracted driving, lane detection, predicting the age of people and their gender, classified clothes, and a lot more. Which other 13/14 yr old does that!?!?

Don't get me wrong though, school does have some value. You can meet some really smart people at school and it's your entry ticket to university. But don't make school your life. Find your passion and follow that. Because that's more important than any other school in this world.

This year, I don't want to make school my life. I want to follow my passion for autonomous vehicles while being able to get good grades. You should do the same. Have hobbies, have things that spark your curiosity. Don't let grades define you.

There isn't an answer for every single question that you have

Sometimes you gotta find the answer yourself. That's life. Even having access to world-class mentors won't give you the answers. Sometimes, you gotta figure things out on your own.

I joined TKS thinking that they're the ones who're gonna change my life and I should just sit back and relax and watch the change happen. That's utter bs.

If you wanna be successful, the only person that's gonna have to put in the work is yourself. TKS and all these other tools aren't going to change you; you gotta use them to change yourself and make yourself successful.

As I had calls throughout September and October, I constantly had questions. But I never thought about the potential answers for them. That's something Harrison told me and it's something that's really stuck with me.

If you're going to have calls with people, you're going to use time better. Instead of having the other person spend time explaining the answer to the question you already have the answer for, you can do something similar to a rapid-fire where you tell them your questions + answer and then they'll give a yes or no answer.

This results in more time for you to ask meaningful questions and questions that you don't have answers for. You'll leave a better impression by going out of your way for finding answers to the questions you already don't know about.

Whatever I said above doesn't just relate to calls. It can be applied everywhere. Whenever I code, I run into errors that aren't similar to the ones I find on stackoverflow. You need to collect data and be that needle that stitches them together. Other people will make minimal changes to it but the foundation's gonna come from you.

Goals for 2021

I'll be putting these in jot notes since it'll be easier to read!

Technical Goals

Personal Goals

Side Goals

2020 has really been a wild year. I'm extremely grateful for my family, The Knowledge Society, my mentors and my friends for all their support and encouragement. I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for you guys who always believed in me. Can't wait to see what 2021 has in store for all of us.

Cheers to an amazing 2021 🍻

- Sri Anumakonda