Consistent Incremental Progress

I recently read an essay about how the tech industry has been increasingly focused on moonshots, or trying to improve efficiency or usability or revenue “10x”.  Most executives shoot for 10% increases per year, so it sounds fantastic to chase these crazy big leaps. This, however, dilutes the pool of success and kind of takes away the gravity of anything smaller.  A 3x improvement on any process is still rather amazing. We shouldn’t stop trying to do moonshots, but we should primarily focus on “roofshots”, or 1.5x – 2x improvements.

By the numbers, say a moonshot takes 10 years to achieve (8 in the case of the original moonshot – sending a person to the moon!) and a roofshot takes 2 years to get 1.5x.  Then by a compounding interest type equation, we can see that in 5 two-year increments, we can get 7.593x improvement. This is nothing to sneeze at and it makes progress more visible sooner (which is a huge deal if you’re improving quality of life over a long period of time for a large group of people).

Consistent incremental progress is, most of the time, just as good as occasional massive advancement.  So, in the spirit of New Year’s Eve and all associated traditions, I’ve chosen to rethink how I go about the new year.  The main problem that I have with New Year’s Resolutions (and I think most people’s problem) is that they go for an entire year.  I respect the people who do have the willpower to make massive scale life changes for that duration of time, but for everyone else, maybe we can apply the roofshot doctrine here.  Pick a skill or goal that you don’t have that can be learned or accomplished in under a month.

Here are some ideas:

  • Coding: Learn the basics of programming or pick up a new language/toolkit (see below)
  • Digital Modeling: Use free and easy software like TinkerCAD and learn how to 3d model
  • Second(+) Language: There are free phone apps like DuoLingo to make this easy
  • Read more: Fiction, nonfiction, just pick a topic and go! (Free digital library link here)
    • (They also have audio books with text-to-speech for commuters)
  • Work out x times a week: pick something small and realistic.  Increase it over time.

Whether it be coding, digital modeling, learning the basics of a second (or higher) language, writing poetry or prose, just pick something that you’ve always wanted to learn.  My goal is to read more, specifically in the fields of cybersecurity, software engineering, and finance. I’ll be working over the next few days to compile a list of videos and reading material and then every day I’ll pick one or two and read em off.

Once you’ve picked a skill, practice it for like 15 minutes a day or a few hours on the weekends.  Make one new 3d model per day. Write a new program or debug one of your old ones every afternoon. Set yourself some reminders on your calendar or (corporate shill alert:), ask your Google Assistant to remind you after work every day:


Remind me to read something new at 4:15 pm every day (Reminder Saved)

It doesn’t have to take up a ton of time out of your life, but if you do something every day for a month you’ll make a surprising amount of progress.  30 days is almost halfway to becoming a habit.  If you like the skill, keep at it – you’re almost there.  If not, pick up another one – at least you learned something.  

Also, if you have any interesting reads on the topics of cybersecurity, SWE, or finance – send them to me!


Sub-Post: Coding Intro

If you’re looking to learn coding as your skill of choice, check out https://automatetheboringstuff.com/

This site was one of the first references I used to teach myself programming back in high school, and it’s been consistently updated and developed since.  It teaches you practical Python programming with videos and examples all for free. There’s an option to buy the print book or access to a udemy course, but all of the material is available on that site as well.  

If you finish or get bored of this book, there’s plenty more material offered for free around the web to anyone who wants to learn.  Once you know one language and the basic concepts of programming, it’s easy to switch to another language.  Enjoy!

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