Personal bio: How I think about science, family, health, hobbies, etc...
You can read highlights about my professional career over on LinkedIn, but this page - for those curious - explains who I am personally and how I think about the world. While I write mostly about startups, blockchains, health science, and software development, occasionally topics come up that require diving into non-technical disciplines. Here, I’ll explain some background about how I approach those topics.
The Eight Buckets
Readers that have been following me for a while might remember this post on life coaching I wrote back in 2016. There, I discussed the following framework for how to plan and prioritize time:
Thus, it seems fitting to use this framework to dive into my bio:
Fundamentally, I am a scientist who recognizes that current evidence mysteriously points to our universe having a beginning - from nothing - about 13.8 billion years ago. To me, this is awesome and faith-inspiring. (I once gave a talk to 1k+ people on the interplay between faith and science, borrowing heavily from Plantinga’s book, Where the Conflict Really Lies).
While there are at least 4 fundamental forces/fields that hold everything in the universe together, I’m more than willing to engage the “God” topic - even theistically - as it weaves into our current understanding of science and the mysteries therein. In fact, I’m very comfortable recognizing that the more we learn about science and run toward a mathematical theory of everything, the more we learn about the nature of the force(s) that created our universe, cooled it down, brought about self-replicating molecules, etc.
Practically - and likely because I was born in the USA - I grew up with a foundation of basic Judeo-Christian ethics. After a stint of atheism (stemming from learning about genetic variation and natural selection), I came to realize that the specific, unique, and often-missed flavor of Grace-based ethics from historical Christianity, in particular, composed a compelling foundation upon which to build a life. These ethics - I believe - form a sturdy worldview that can uphold science, compassion, curiosity, and empathy for fellow human beings.
While Christianity has a profound “branding” problem in the modern age, what I mean by Grace-based ethics are the set of principles regarding “dying to oneself” to benefit others (i.e. the phrase “following Jesus to the cross”). To me, these principles form the foundation by which I think about my relationships (marriage, parenting, friends, colleagues, etc…) and inform the rest of the “buckets” that I’ll discuss below.
My wife (Sarah) and I met in college, got married in 2004, honeymooned for a couple weeks in Australia (what an amazing place!), then moved to Switzerland where I spent the next few years in Zurich at the ETH for grad school. Our first son (Charlie) was born toward the end of our adventures there and we moved back to Seattle, where our daughter (Bekah) and youngest son (Joey) were born.
Being a husband/life-partner - and a dad - is a great honor; one that I take seriously. I recognize, however, that I have a long way to go to overcome deficiencies that likely stem from my own childhood experiences. I’m an ENTJ and a seven on the Enneagram (for those who know what those mean, you probably know more about me now than I know myself. :) )
Importantly, my worldview drives the basis for investing in my relationships with my wife and kids (i.e. grace, science, compassion, curiosity, and empathy) and I do my best to extend this ethic to my extended family, friends, colleagues, customers, and people who read/watch/listen and respond to my work.
Having spent the better part of a decade in a bioengineering lab, I developed the tools necessary to read primarily literature and biochemical pathway charts, in order to better understand what’s going on in our bodies (at least, from our current scientific understanding).
Starting in the early 2000s, I’ve conducted a long series of “N=1” experiments (often called “biohacking”) to learn how I personally respond to food, drink, sleep, exercise, travel, hobbies, stress, and adventures.
In the 2010s, I wrote up a series of articles that you can find on my health science page, notably:
- The Science Behind Fat Metabolism
- Summarizing the science behind ketogenic (low-carb) diets
- The 43+ health benefits of ketogenic dieting (in addition to weight loss)
- The science of salt and electrolytes (are we consuming enough?)
- The Science of Healthy Fats
And this 5-part series on fat loss, muscle gain, sleep, flexibility, and hydration.
Long story short, everyone needs to learn how insulin works and how various food/drinks affect their bodies with regard to inflammation and glucose control. It’s pretty clear that a low (or low-ish) carbohydrate diet with plenty of protein + omega 3s/9s - with regular periods of both fasting and time-window eating, combined with strength training, flexibility, cardio, and high-intensity interval training (and no caffeine/sugar/alcohol) - is the “healthiest” way to life.
Many of my N=1 experiments have been an attempt to rebel, so to speak, and figure out how to still eat carbs and drink alcohol while still maximizing sleep and workout performance. Follow along and subscribe to my health science topic to be notified when I post new content about this.
One of the most influential books I read when I was young was Rich Dad, Poor Dad, where I learned about the difference between financial assets and liabilities. Coming into my teenage years and 20s, I sought to do everything I could to acquire/build assets and limit my purchase of (and exposure to) liabilities. This simple heuristic proved helpful, especially when luck came (and continues to occasionally come) my way.
You can read the details over on LinkedIn, but - in short - learning how to code changed my life. I took my scientific training and applied it to building, optimizing, and selling digital products/services/companies. This led me on a path where I get to work with early stage founders and enterprise innovation departments to build, grow, and invest in new products. I’m able to do this as a partner of an operator-investor group I helped create called Prota.
While for most of my life I over-extended myself and volunteered in too many different places, these days most of my effects are mainly focused on one organization: REST (Real Escape from the Sex Trade).
When I first learned about the horrors of this modern form of slavery in the 2000s, I was absoutely sicked and heartbroken. There are people out there that target, entice, enslave, and buy/sell humans on the streets in every major city in the USA. Seattle - given its geographic positioning - is especially bad.
Thankfully, there are organizations like REST out there that work to help rescue and restore people - including those who traffick other humans - out of “the life”. With an emergency receiving center and restorative housing programs, REST works closely with law enforcement to bring about freedom, safely, and hope for those who have experienced the sex trade in one form or another.
I’d encourage you to visit iwantrest.com to learn more and get involved. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to chat more about it.
More than just going on “vacation” to some place for fun and escaping reality, to me - and for many around the world - a “holiday” is an opportunity to reflect on life and reprioritize my time and efforts around these “eight buckets”. This can be done from anywhere quiet and peaceful, which usually takes work to find and make happen.
Ok, to put my life-coach hat on for a moment, only after getting the above seven buckets in order does it make sense to devote time to hobbies (although it’s great to weave them in if they can help support your relationships, health, etc.). If we don’t get our above priorities in order, then hobbies simply aren’t as fun.
In no particular order (and besides reading and doing generally outdoorsy stuff) I specifically enjoy fly fishing, skiing, snowboarding, tennis, golf, and kiteboarding. I grew up with three older brothers that got me into all sorts of sports, and I enjoy doing other things than my main hobbies when I can (e.g. mountain biking), but with limited time - and the unique conditions needed for all my main hobbies (except an indoor tennis court, which unfortunately I don’t live near) - it takes a fair amount of effort/timing/luck to make them happen.
That being said, if you’ve read this far and ever find yourself in WA state and a couple hours outside Seattle on the east side of the mountains, hit me up!
Author’s note: thanks for reading. I owe much to others before me who have shared details about their lives and interests, so I’m hoping I can “pay it forward”, so to speak. For example, whoever wrote a post in the early 2000s about database-driven programming with PHP (an article I can no longer find, unfortunately), changed my life. I’d love to find that post and buy the author dinner, at least. :) Anyway, head over to my subscribe page and sign up for topics that interest you, and I hope to hear from you over social (I’m @wclittle in most places), email (email@example.com), or future comment threads we’ll have on this site. Thanks!