For me, writing is a way of organizing my thoughts; blogging has long served as a sort of “public journal.” In 2010, after graduating from USC, I started a blog called Life by Experimentation and was surprised when it began to get quoted and republished in much more widely-distributed blogs.
That first blog was, as the name would suggest, an experiment. I was trying to figure out who I wanted to be. After coming to California at 18, having first been born there yet raised in Michigan (around family and now-close friends) it felt like something of a second homecoming. The work ethic and values of people on this coast made sense to me. But when I graduated college I was hungry to see more of the world.
Travel & Early Work
I was fortunate, more so than anyone really deserves. I developed iPhone apps very early on during college and had an immediate way to sustain my lifestyle after graduation. As a computer programmer who could comfortably work on backend and front-end code, I was able to do contract-based projects from the road and earn a stable income.
I lived this life from 2011-2013. Already, in 2007-2008, I had lived abroad in China whilst helping to run an English teaching company. In the early-2010s, I reprised this traveling role to spend time in many European and South American countries.
The Life by Experimentation blog became a way for me to share my attempts to learn foreign languages, survive cheaply on the road, and otherwise have fun. It was my engineering/analytical mind, turned towards self-optimization. I really enjoyed writing it, and slowly the reader numbers began to creep up.
During college, I had studied Computer Science, Video Game Design, and a touch of Neuroscience. The Game Design bit, or “Interactive Media” as we called it, was the most interesting. It’s many young boys’ dream to become a professional game designer, of course. But it was more than that. We focused on topics like storytelling, psychology, and a myriad of others. We worked hand-in-hand with other students on the “art-track” of the same degree pattern. Truly, this experience opened my eyes to a love of learning for the sake of crafting.
As a member of the USC Entrepeneur’s Club, I was exposed early on to projects like “TOMS shoes” and the idea of conscious capitalism. At the time, I was too deep in personal debt to be able to pursue what I really wanted to do: creating video games with a positive social impact (esp., teaching skills or immedately useful abilities). After some more random work, twists of fate drew me into the vortex that is Silicon Valley…
San Francisco & Later Work
I can’t even begin to describe how much I’ve learned in this great city on the bay. Controversies aside, the people here are some of the most considerate and unique individuals I have ever met.
When I first stepped foot in Airbnb HQ back in early 2013, I felt like it was a company I understood. The founders, the employees, everybody at 99 Rhode Island all seemed to embody the “be a host” principle they would come to espouse. Over four years later, I’m still proud to be a part of this team.
Today, I work as an Engineering Manager on backend infrastructure projects (especially pertaining to APIs and email/push/SMS notifications). If that means nothing to you: I try to make sure data gets too and from Airbnb users quickly and securely.
Writing & Education
That blog I started back in 2010? Life by Experimentation eventually morphed into SkillCookbook.com as I tried to turn it into a useful resource for visitors interested in improving themselves and acquiring new skills more effectively.
The information on SkillCookbook is a compilation of the different science that impacts effective learning, product reviews of learning tools, and some resources I have created myself. I still add or revise articles as needed, but have largely exhausted the general-purpose knowledge I can share. New developments in the field of education and relevant neuroscience are not fast-developing.
I maintain a passion for helping others learn more effectively, though, and have been looking for a new means by which to fulfill this life goal. Another such attempt at this goal was publishing a book, The Joy of Craft (a bucket list item of mine) as a summary of the multitude of science I had read on motivation, happiness and creativity.
Today & This Blog
Since the conversion of Life by Experimentation into SkillCookbook, I feel like I’ve lost my creative outlet in which to express myself. At the same time, there are certain things I think are useful to share.
You’ll find this blog is broadly categorized into discoveries, stories, and opinions. These are loose descriptions, effectively amounting to “how-to articles and lessons learned,” “a public journal and photo diary,” and “miscellaneous thoughts which have no better home” respectively.
If that sounds a bit scattered… 🤷♂️sorry. I hope you get something out of it, because I’ve certainly gotten something out of writing it.
– Zane Claes