Becoming a Magician

Inspired by this piece, Becoming a Magician

I started at the University of Waterloo initially enrolled into Civil Engineering back in 2015. Back then, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But I remember volunteering for my first hackathon. There, I met and talked with engineers and hackers working at these cool companies and building whatever they could imagine. To me, they were magicians.

And that, in fact, is my definition of magic — competence so much more advanced than yours with such alien mental models that you cannot predict the outcomes of the model at all.

Fast forward seven years, and I’ve got years of experience in the tech industry, a fulfilling role, a body of work I’m proud of, and the internal confidence to back it. If I talked to my first year self, I’d be unrecognizable. Whatever fantasy my first year self had, I met and surpassed those expectations. And that’s pretty cool.

One of my heuristics for growth is to seek out the magicians, and find the magic. Often without noticing, your progress in aspects of life or all of it unconsciously becomes linear. You made a certain amount of money last year, so you aim to make some reasonable’ proportion more this year. But you are largely using the same tools to get 2x as you used to get x, and so you end up with diminishing marginal returns as you wring the remaining juice out of the initial strategy. The describe the version of you that seems impossible right now’ trick I described above is largely an attempt to bypass that part of my brain that dismisses the work of magicians as crazy and starts allowing it to make the necessary shifts required to become the kind of magician I am envisioning…

Meeting magicians is the first step to becoming one — when you are attempting to learn implicit knowledge that by definition you don’t understand, it is important to have a bunch of examples in front of you to feed your brain’s pattern-recognition systems. This will start to change your worldview without the controlling you’ explicitly approving or denying every new belief or framework. Magicians or their work often seem to have a subconscious glow that I am drawn to, particularly if they use a type of magic that I recognise is on my critical path and thus something I’m currently seeking. Concrete steps I take to find them include asking my most interesting friends to introduce me to their most interesting friends, going down similar rabbit holes with the bibliographies of books that excite me, and generally living in explore’ mode at various points in life, while recognising that not every avenue will lead to a jackpot.

As I’m in a critical juncture: about to graduate university, work full time at a company, and move to a new city, the next challenge is creating a new fantasy to describe a version of myself that feels impossible. And then orient myself until that becomes true.

Here’s to creating more magic and finding more magicians.

March 14, 2022

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