Welcome to Front of Mind a conversational style series by Tyler Lastovich. (You may be recieving this from previously subscribing through Substack)
When working in emerging sectors projects tend to find you. There is a positively inundating amount of potential in this world. And most of it is just sitting there waiting for someone to capture it. Depending on your personality type and skill set, this can lead to just doing nothing. For others, this spawns uncountable side projects never to be finished (stares accusingly into mirror). The products you use daily fit into that narrow niche in-between. Those are the special projects that crossed the chasm and made it into reality. Highlighting the process of jumping that gap is why this new series exists. I hope it serves as a living record of how to turn single points into arrows.
After many years of building and planning, one thing is abundantly clear. It has been impossible for me to stick with writing. I am too much of a perfectionist to just put things out there. This has been a mild detriment so far but will be much worse in the increasingly visible and connected future. So let’s keep this simple. Live-time thoughts. Simple drawn graphics. (If I open Figma I will be there for an hour). No specific cadence, no hard topic rules.
There will be 2 types of content here:
Discussions of interesting, future-y topics (AI, incentive systems, investing, Web3, +) Working in public posts. (Thinking out loud as I iteratively build a series of complex products.)
Backing up a bit, a quick about me: I am a computer engineer turned ‘narrow’ generalist. I started off my career working in supercomputing at Cray, then moved on to found a few startups. After a while, I realized the vc-style track was not really ideal for me. My focus is now solely on building independent projects through my own product studio. This summary glosses over a lot, but that isn’t too important, simply put, I have spent time working on most aspects of building niche tech companies. From software architecture to marketing and launch. For the last few years, I have primarily been involved with machine learning. Specifically, I have worked on generative applications using GANs (for Generated Photos) and NLP (upcoming projects!). Today, the majority of my efforts revolve around combining systems to build products for knowledge management. Think investment research enhanced by AI. Arrows of Progress
No modern project exists in isolation. Each is part of a complex web, intersecting with multiple requirements, technology concepts, and scope concerns. Anyone interested in the next ‘new’ thing has to make choices on where to place bets, with either their time or money. Being early, but not too early, to a major trend can make life as a founder dramatically easier. This applies to so many choices from picking a web framework to alternative fundraising options.
I find that most people can only successfully be on the cutting edge of a few trends at a time. This means choosing which trends to pay attention to becomes quite important. If you can find topics that truly interest you, then engaged learning comes naturally. It is easy to underestimate the time required for researching, designing, and operating. Anything that makes this process less of a slog is a win and decreases the likelihood of burning out.
Over time your interests should naturally point you in the path of least resistance. Every new concept you explore pushes you further and helps you paint a clearer picture of what is either missing today, or what will become the next thing tomorrow. Single actions turn into patterns, which later form arrows of visible progress.
Personally, my interests have settled into a mashup of deep tech and thought tech. What are my arrows?
- Machine Learning (narrow AI)
- BCI & Mental health technology
- Memory and recall
- Seeking personal leverage
Investing & trading
- Knowledge systems
Curation and content surfacing
- Incentive alignment
- Alternative Education
- Bringing Black Mirror into reality
- Design & generative media
- Identity & personality
If that list seems more like a lack of specialty, you are completely right. Each bullet could easily be the focus of someone’s full career. So why not specialize further? It is widely understood that being a specialist makes it easier to get a job, earn a higher salary, and advance along a career path. But personally, I just can’t keep the spark of learning alive when focusing on one task. Diving head-first into something brand new is a true joy. As long as all the arrows are heading in the same direction (up) it will all work out. Maybe not quite as fast as I had hoped a decade ago, but I don’t lose sleep over it. There is something special about being able to understand multiple systems and figure out new, interesting ways they can be combined. Selfishly this means that I want to know how to do everything, even though this is completely irrational.
Some days I will be learning to implement a search engine. Others will be spent making pretty graphics in Figma. Data pipelines, automation, visualization, web dev, ML training, copywriting, marketing, and SEO are all fair game. Such is the hectic life of a generalist.
Sadly that means I start many more projects than I will ever finish. Viewed from the outside this can be aggravating. Sorry in advance, but hopefully it makes for an interesting read. :)
Coming up next: pieces on Web3/DAOs and applying leverage.