Most importantly, transitioning into "Level 3" of the architecture hierarchy -- Codes and Systems.
I've noticed that CEO's on social media have been posting a lot of commentary about their "reflections", during this time of quarantine. Indeed, it does feel like everyone has been taking a much-needed "pause" from normal life -- and that of a booming, supposedly forever expanding economy. No more intense hustling, no more to-go meals, no more mindless bar hopping and speed dating. There's been an immense amount of introspection and self reflection -- about one's own life, but also that of society.
I think the saddest thing about quarantines, or recessions in general, is that it makes you realize how GOOD we had it before --- that in fact, the past decade or so had been a relatively peaceful, abundant time, even amid rising inequality. Problems that seemed so prescient before -- bigger salaries, better jobs, better vacations, better bodies, et cetera -- don't seem to hold up against the problems of today -- how to pay the bills, get enough food, and stay healthy. It seems more like a global call to return to fundamentals, both for the self and for the economy at large. What is truly important, to you and your community? What makes you feel alive?
For me, I've been having much better conversations with friends and family, even my roommates. I've enjoyed eating food a lot more, especially the taste of essential goods like rice and carrots. A lot of stresses and anxieties that seemed so important, barely a year ago, are suddenly meaningless. Since moving to New York, and experiencing the life and society here, I've noticed there's a lot of stuff out there I don't really much care about.
Over the past two years, I've had to get a lot of emotional and mental clutter out of my system. I had to run off to China, to figure things out. I had to "conquer New York", whatever that means. I had to finish my exams, if only to close my architecture education, and to live up to Cornell's expectations, which will honestly be never met, at least in the way Cornell wants its students to. I had to be left alone, I had to learn how to manage people, I had to learn how to survive corporations. The biggest lessons, by far, are how to be a better person, and how to be a more competent person.
The biggest single driver of my career, by far, is the opportunity to do better and more coherent work. That is my guiding light, and it's been the one thing that keeps me going. What I've learned in New York is that "doing better work" means also improving my soft skills, in addition to constantly learning about difficult technical skills. This means taking calculated risks. This means doing the difficult things. This means working a lot and constantly learning new things, because there's no such thing as "cruising" on past success. This means constant self reflection. Whenever I say, or think, that my work is not important, I am lying to myself.
If there's always a better way to do something, then there is always work. There is always something to investigate, to design, to propose, to launch, to defend, to deal with BS for. With this principle in mind, I will never be unemployed. I will never be non-essential.
My secondary motivation is the opportunity to spend time, and work with, friends. My friends make me better, and they are a big part of my life. I will never let any relationship get in the way of that. When everything else has failed, you have nothing to lean back on, besides your friends. Building projects and companies are really fun, but it seems to be hollow without friends and family. I need to spend more time cultivating these relationships, no matter where I am, no matter how busy I am.
My third motivation, or realization, is that, at the very core, I am OK with my place as long as the first two motivations are met. I don't have many possessions, and I have no strong desire to "win" the economy. What I do have a strong desire for is to do better work, wherever that takes me, and no matter how long it will take. I hope this ultimately results in economic success, but looking at the odds I can't promise that for myself. I would probably be better off aiming for a future where I do better work, and this leads me to have better relationships. And that's what I will do.
People over Money, because when push comes to shove, money can't save you, but people will not only save, but love, you.