Every year, the Mars Curiosity rover plays itself happy birthday on the Martian plain, just inside the Gale Crater.
This little machine, 47 million miles away from home, sings itself a little tune as it dances over the rocks of an alien world.
To think that somewhere in the software of this complex piece of hardware, blasted on top of a rocket like a bullet into the void, someone had the wherewithal, the foresight to imbue a bit of humanity into the ether.
The point of life is to resist chaos. The constant headwind of entropy. To make something stick because all you have at the end are your memories. The years start coming and they don’t stop coming.
Looking back on 26, a lot has happened.
…and now I’m packing up and moving out of Big Blue and about to head to the “moon” living on the side of a volcano in Hawaii with 5 other scientists studying technologies that would enable life in space.
This year has been a whirlwind, although in the past few months I’ve had a chance to slow down and breathe. It’s been odd — these past four years have been non-stop. To be able to pause, to form routines and habits, to not be traveling constantly means I’ve had a chance to step back and appreciate how good things are. I’ve had a chance to figure out what really matters.
I’ll be heading off to “the moon” soon as part of a mission at HI-SEAS. This is the start of a new series of adventures. I have big plans for this year. Six months ago I wrote a bit about the lessons I learned. My birthday is always around the time when I start applying those lessons to major goals for the next year. Here they are:
- Write and publish a book by your 10,000th day. This has been on my list for a long time. I’ve started a number of stories ranging from a handbook in bootstrapping a biotech company, a catalog of my grandfather’s journey escaping the Holocaust, short stories, and a sci-fi saga, but the only thing I’ve ever published is a shitty chapbook of poetry. I think the main barrier has been consistency. It’s hard to build habits when you’re in a survivalist mentality. The creative drive has always been strong in me, it’s just hard to get started and harder to continue when distractions come in the form of having to thrash about to just keep my head above water. Being stable in San Pedro, with a steady schedule and income with Spira, along with limited travel has meant that this is a period of the most consistency I’ve had for the past 4 years. I LOVE IT. It means that I can work on personal projects, take time to finally heal from past traumas through introspection, and begin to build a foundation for future growth. I’m excited to explore that through a book, with the aim to just consistently write daily.
- Build a new community that supports 5 entrepreneurs. When I moved down to San Pedro, it was because I was seeking community. As a newcomer to LA, I was looking for a group of folks in which there was a constant stream of activities, work, exploration and growth. After starting my first entrepreneur house, Big Blue, down here, I’ll be attempting to find another house and do a similar thing. If you’re an entrepreneur, scientist, hacker or artist in the LA area and want to live cheap with a bunch of other creatives, let me know. We’re also setting up cheap office and lab space down here so you should have access to virtually any tool to get yourself up-and-running.
- Write up and share a full scientific report. Speaking of laboratory space, I’ve been itching to get back into the lab and do some hands-on work. This past year has been a lot of business development growth and I really miss the late nights in the lab working on inventing new and exciting tech. I’m craving putting together some synbio educational courses, particularly around engineering flavor/aroma pathways in conjunction with the Institute for Art and Olfaction (IAO), as well as some basic lab protocols just to document what we’ve been doing at Spira in working with algae. I’m excited to kick off that science and share it openly during my moon mission.
- Make and publish 10 videos on your YouTube channel. To double-down on my scientific practice, as well as just expanding upon video as a creative medium, I’ve gotten a GoPro knockoff, and will be filming some vlog-style and more creative pieces. Living in LA, I often bump elbows with people in the film industry so it’ll be fun to go from writing a script to shooting, editing and releasing videos.
- Teach 1 full class on a topic you love. Teaching is the most effective way of learning. I got the itch to start teaching through the IAO, and I’ve been looking for other ways to continue teaching what I know about business, biotech and more either as a consistent mentor (one of my goals last year), or as a professor. The video content will go a long way to helping support this goal of education.
- Write 5 songs and perform them in front of an audience. This past year I got a chance to get back in the studio with my band Half-Bad. The band couldn’t find consistent time to practice and fell apart, but that experience, coupled with my roommate Jesse blowing up through his music (JForte on Spotify, check him out) , has inspired me to start writing and producing some songs to turn into an LP. These might lead into music video ideas and more. Having a studio a few blocks from us in San Pedro as well as being friends with the founders of a record label helps!
- Train 30 mins daily for physical challenges. I’ve noticed I’m not at my best when I don’t have consistent exercise in my life. Being 1 mile from the beach/water has made it so that anytime I feel the urge to run to the ocean and jump in, I can. Sadly, this past year I didn’t get much of a chance to do so. This training will become more of a priority, with a specific chunk of time set aside because I’ll be attempting some physical challenges this year. I’m looking for some adventure/accountability buddies so let me know if you’re interested in pushing the limits of human biology.
- Eat vegan. I’m finally at the point where it’s easy to eat vegetarian, and so it’s time to transition into eating vegan. I think with consistent meal planning, a steady routine and paycheck it’ll be easier to get good nutrition which will lead to an overall more effective Elliot. I’m ready to give up cheese (especially with my slight lactose intolerance), and I won’t look back. Beyond this new eating habit, I’ll be attempting to figure out the best meal process for me. It’s going to be a balance of quick lunches and more elaborate dinners, with either a light breakfast or none altogether because of intermittent fasting.
- Journal daily (morning and/or evening). Along with exercise and positive eating habits, I’ve found journaling has increased my overall satisfaction and happiness levels. I could simply write just a single word, it’s more a matter of getting into the habit of forcing myself to write daily at a certain time in a certain way. The documentation and reflection will be incredibly helpful in planning out ideas and managing relationships.
- Connect deeper into existing relationships through reaching out daily. Over time, especially during the pandemic, I’ve realized family + friends matter the most to me. I want to find ways to connect more deeply in the relationships I have. What that means is that I’ll be attempting to reach out to old contacts to rekindle those relationships as a means of doubling-down on the previous connections I have.
- Do something that scares you daily. Fear is an insane motivator. It is the mindkiller. Past fear and pain is success. Related to connecting to past contacts is creating new relationships. I used to go up to people and ask them for things as part of my rejection therapy. I aim to do a similar thing this year as a means of reaching new contacts and ensuring I succeed at my goals.
- Build an audience of 10,000. Los Angeles is a funny place. You end up realizing that it really takes a village to do anything and that the people with the built-in attention from followers of their brand enable them to achieve amazing goals. Building an audience is the start of that process and you do that by creating consistently good work and sharing it with your community.
- Achieve consistent profitability with Spira to pull a steady paycheck of $2500+. Spira just hit ramen-profitability (YEAH TEAM) and so I want to set us up in a stable way to support all the members of the team. The tiny bit of financial stability ensures I can go after my goals and begin to plan for the future without fear of survival. In addition, profitability means that Spira has hit product-market fit and is in the perfect position to raise money to start expanding. I’m excited to see what this year has in store for us.
This year I’ll experience my 10,000th day on Earth on January 9th during the Second Annual Nicholas Cage film festival. I’m excited that I’m building friendships and traditions where I am, it means that I’m finally feeling like I’ve found a home.
The adventures I have had in the past 27 years have been astounding. I’ve gone further and seen more things than most humans, and I am incredibly grateful to be spinning around on this blue-green rock hurtling through space, not singing happy birthday alone, but instead shouting at the top of my lungs, laughing and wild with friends at the edge of LA.