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Values are the substance of who we are. They are what we are known for, even when no one realises it. Hopefully, they are what we know ourselves for too.
What are my values? There are three that stand out to me.
1. To be kind. This comes to mind first because it is what I admire most in others. Simple acts of kindness are far more memorable and meaningful than any achievement or material quality. There is just as much impact to be found in the regular, incremental and unglorified practice of being kind as there is in any business or research endeavour.
True kindness is more complicated than the heuristics we often measure it by. Growing up, I was taught to treat others the way I wished to be treated. I only recently realised that a literal interpretation of this isn't always enough. True kindness requires true empathy -- a willingness to see beyond one's individual perspective in order to appreciate the unique experiences and emotions of another. In the toughest of times, these can seem contradictory and sometimes even inconceivable to us. Thus, kindness is rooted in compromise, and to that end it can be surprisingly difficult to practice. To be kind - truly kind - is a challenge that I wish to achieve.
2. To be intentional. I want to live with purpose and direction. One thing that has worked well for me is my ability to set medium term (~5 years) goals that I commit myself to executing. This has so far allowed me to beat the constraints of my limited talent. I hope to continue doing this by setting ambitious goals that leverage my past experiences and current abilities. In doing so I hope that each chapter of my life will build on and surpass the last, and that none will drag on and meandre. If life is a mountain then I hope to climb, not wander.
Intentionality goes beyond the macroscope of goal planning -- I hope to be intentional in my day to day life as well. I often catch myself saying silly or poorly thought out things that I later regret. To this end, I aim to be more careful with my words. More generally, I aim to be conscious of my thoughts and actions, and to ensure that the things that I say and do are true to the person I want to be. When they aren't, I hope to have the strength to correct myself. This too is a constant and perhaps unending challenge.
3. To be open minded. The type of thinking that I look up to is defined by open mindedness. By this I mean two things: the pursuit of greater horizons, and the willingness to be wrong. To me, the former is almost an obligation. It is incredible that I am alive here and now -- had I been born any earlier, or to even slightly different parents, I would likely be a peasant in rural China. My privilege and opportunity is almost impossibly unlikely, and it is therefore my responsibility to make the most of it. To me, an important part of this is to explore new ideas, experience the world broadly and seek its deeper truths.
Doing this effectively necessitates an ability to acknowledge when I am wrong, and to adjust my perspectives when this is so. This I also admire most in others, especially in the sciences and the rare occasions that it can be found in politics. It is so inherently difficult to achieve because we are motivated to believe what we wish to be true rather than what actually is true, and because the truth itself often retains a degree of ambiguity. Yet it is usually there, as long as we are honest enough to see it, and it is to this intellectual standard that I wish to hold myself accountable to.
There are many other values that are also important to me, but it is these three that form my core tenets. I fall short of them more often than not, but I hope that writing them here will help me become the person that I hope to be.
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