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Reflections for 2024

Life is going well, or so it seems on the surface. This is my senior year at UC Berkeley, and I am finishing up my majors in Computer Science, Economics, and Business Administration. Academically, I've pursued a heavy load of courses throughout my four years, applied to graduate schools with a 3.9 GPA, and sought internships and job applications with rich experience. At the same time, that has not landed me anywhere. Academically, I feel less and less engaged, like I am not learning as much anymore. I didn't get accepted into any of the eight graduate programs I applied to, and my job search has not yielded any offers, despite my persistent attempts throughout the last two years. The reality is disheartening, to say the least, and I am constantly trying to reconcile my past excellence with the disappointing results. It is demoralizing to keep pursuing important endeavors and experience seemingly endless stagnation. As I have added on responsibilities throughout my career at Berkeley, whether this is serving as a teaching assistant for computer science and economics classes (http://ta.jacobwu.org/), trying to create a startup that focuses on supporting learners and teams with AI-powered information management (http://aurary.com), or just being a member of a Christian church (http://a2fberkeley.org), all of those are laudable endeavors individually, but my diverse pursuits have led to an overworked, cranky, and disappointed me.


This has prompted me to reflect on my experiences and reorient myself in a way that leverages my background, experience, and aspirations meaningfully, while taking a forward-looking stance. Ray Dalio talks about the importance of radical openness and structured transparency. This is something I aim to do throughout my blog posts, as I hope by sharing my experience and reflections, I can inspire healthy debate and conversation to help people live with fewer regrets.


While this experience has been painful for me, I also recognize that it is our most challenging circumstances that can yield the greatest learning. I am grateful for this opportunity to reconsider my life priorities and what I have been missing in all of my pursuits: Discernment. I grew up in a family that struggled financially, so I try very hard to do well in school to honor how much my parents sacrificed for my education. As I pursued teaching opportunities, I have been focused on what the students wanted and needed, continuously innovating the curriculum and delivery to adapt to diverse learners' needs. As a member of our church, I have since considered ways I can more meaningfully serve others. This tendency to become a people pleaser and the desire to please everyone - paradoxically has made it hard for me to please anyone. "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Matthew 6:24) My failure to prioritize the most important engagements prevented me from achieving the results that I truly desired.


Throughout my struggles, I have erroneously sought after time management and productivity in the traditional sense. I wanted to maximize output and minimize input, but I neglected to measure my outputs in the correct order of importance. As a result, I found myself becoming distant from the people in my life, my heart growing cold, my mind occupied by anxiety and self-criticism. I would withdraw from community and indulge in video games and TikTok for hours on end, and justify those in a self-righteous defense of "productivity".


After a few months of living this way (ironically, I was living with people from our church, in a ministry house), I realized that this was unsustainable, and practically, quite foolish. Instead of reaching out to the support I needed, I rejected the very people and opportunities who could help me get out of this vicious cycle. So I decided my life needed to change.


Throughout my process of inquiry and self-discovery, I'm grateful for the many mentors who supported me: Ray Choi, Ethan Teo, Jenny Wu, and so many more. My gratitude also goes to the amazing sage who crafted meticulous learning resources tailored to support overcommitted folks like myself. I have been humbled by and reconciled with my constraints, recognizing that God had created men to be finite beings who simply can't achieve everything at once. Living in harmony with myself is the start of a newfound commitment to leading with values, integrity, and empathy.



Practically, I want to leverage the regret, pain, and challenge as opportunities for reflection, recommitment, and realignment. Therefore, I have made the following commitments:


  • To deeply reflect on what success means to me, and how I can live a life aligned to those values and principles I hold dear.

  • To say goodbye to my teaching responsibilities after the end of this semester - it has been a wonderful experience serving as a mentor for over 1000 students across computer science (CS 61A, B, C) and economics classes (Econ 100A, B), as well as developing autograders to provide immediate and personalized feedback for students. But this is a deep personal passion that I cannot see myself pursuing as a career, and the level of commitment required to teach well threatens to distract me from pursuing a fulfilling life, so I decided to transition away for now and pass along my resources to current and future GSIs who will no doubt continue to serve the students in incredible ways.

  • To commit to not work on the startup Aurary full time until and unless we have significant market validation and/or adequate funding.

  • To not consider graduate schools for at least five years, to better focus on my current engagements.


This leaves me with my two most important engagements:


  • Church

  • Job search


I look forward to how this strategic consolidation and recommitment will help me enhance my focus, relationships, and faith. I am grateful for all those who have supported me, as well as those who extended grace, patience, and generosity to me - I owe you my genuine gratitude. I think the best way to prepare for an uncertain future is to be cautiously optimistic - thoughtfully crafting contingency plans while fully devoted to pursuing job opportunities and eager to explore future possibilities.

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