2023 year in a review!

Journey Through 2023: PhD Milestones, Finance, Books, and Chess Adventures!

2023 year in a review!
Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

We are near the end of the year. Just like last year, I had many goals this year, and it is time to evaluate them. In this post, I go through all the major goals I set at the beginning of the year and analyze where I did well and where I fell short. 

Major unplanned events that may have affected other goals

An unfortunate event for this year was getting a divorce. Honestly, it was hard to manage emotions during this period. I ended up taking a break from everything (blogs, chess, reading books, creating videos on MIP solver papers, etc) for a month during my home visit. Thankfully, many good things also happened, keeping my motivation from falling. I am content with my overall performance this year.  

A good thing happened this year that was also not part of my goals but rather an ambition since I started my PhD. I wanted to win an award during my PhD, and this year, I won a computation competition on mixed integer programming. It gave a significant boost to my research career. It will help me with job applications next year as well. This win also motivated me to start the MIP Solver reading club on YouTube. 

PhD goals

My PhD is going quite well. I had specific learning-related goals. That includes learning to write review responses, find journals for publishing, and improve my writing. These goals don’t have any end, but I have improved in all of those and am pretty happy with my current levels, except for writing. The last paper I submitted received major revision from the reviewers just because of poor writing. Yes, they liked the ideas, experiments, and results as well, but they did not like the way I presented them in the paper, which suggests a need to improve my writing. Andrea (one of my PhD advisors) said it is normal and writing is hard, especially at the beginning of the career. 

I had the goal of reading at least 10 papers this year. Again, not an impressive goal. I added it to ensure that I don’t completely stop reading papers. This was easy to achieve. Driven by the motivation to publish videos on the reading club on YouTube, I have read 13 papers and reviewed 2 papers for two journals this year.

There was a goal of taking a deep learning course. By mid-year, I realized it was not critically needed, so it kept getting deprioritized. Instead, I ended up doing some extra work on my PhD projects and almost finished writing the first draft of my thesis!!

Post PhD life

The goal here was to evaluate different jobs by looking at their requirements and what kind of work they involve on a daily basis. A book titled ‘80,000 hours’ gave me a framework to evaluate jobs and my preferences. I was inclined toward jobs in academia at the beginning of the year. Still, based on the information I received and some self-reflection, I am no longer inclined toward them. I am kind of happy to detect a significant change in my thinking. It is like a sign of growth, saying I am not rigid with my thoughts.

They offer a lesser salary in exchange for ‘pseudo freedom.’ I noticed that while people are technically free to choose their projects, they end up working on something they are not really excited about. That happens because of the employer’s expectations around grants and the number of published papers in a year. My idea of ‘free’ research involves me taking up projects I am genuinely excited about and publishing only when I am truly proud of the ideas and results. I don’t see that happening in academia a lot. So, not super excited, but I may still apply to some academic positions next year.

At the beginning of the year, I had a goal of publishing a complete course on either integer programming or machine learning. That did not happen. Around mid-year, I realized that even if I wanted a job in academia, I didn’t need to show evidence of teaching an entire course. Anyway, I started teaching a course on Modern Portfolio Theory on my YouTube channel. That’s because I mainly wanted to share what I learned this year on this topic. This is not a proper course because I am not designing assignments or quizzes for it. But it is still fun; hopefully, someone will find it helpful.


The goal was to play 50 slow games. I ended up playing 35. I learned many endgames through a book and an online course. I took two major breaks during my home visits. Even though I am back in Montreal, the second break is still going on. I haven’t played since October. 

At this point, my rating on chess.com has crossed 1550. At this point, improving in terms of rating is getting quite challenging. It involves learning a lot of theory, which is less fun now. Playing chess was helping me gain skills that are transferable to other areas of my life: analysis, calculations, patience, etc. Learning and remembering theoretical openings do not help me in that direction. I may restart playing chess next year, but just for fun.  


The goal was to read 10 new books and 5 old books (books I have read before). I ended up reading 13 new books and one old book. I am not reading old books a lot. Besides, the goal here needs to be revised for the following year. I should not have a goal on the ‘number of books’ I read. It encourages me to pick up smaller books and finish them, even if I don’t find any value. Instead, maybe a goal on how frequently I read is a better way to go next year. I have incorporated some ‘no screen hours’ after dinner on weekdays, which I consistently follow. Most of these no-screen hours are spent reading books. I also tried audiobooks last week, and it was pretty good. I finish a book much faster when listening to an audiobook. 


The goal for this year was to earn 800 CAD per month in passive income. Thanks to the courses I took and higher interest rates, I am near 750-780 CAD. Although, it is not entirely passive. I do have to spend some time adjusting my positions each week. I expect the interest rates to drop in the coming years, so I will have to make more changes when that happens. Hopefully, next year, I will have a proper job, which will increase my income as well, allowing me to invest more.


The goals here were simple: do some form of exercise each day and eat less sugar. Compared to last year, I exercised more and consumed significantly less sugar. I am quite happy with my performance here.


This year, I wanted to write blogs casually. The goal was to write 20 blogs in this year. Counting this one, I am at 19. I like it this way. I write only when I feel like sharing something, which is more fun. Thanks to the readers for encouraging me. I hope some of my blogs provided value in your life!

My favorites

Video: A year is longer from outside the earth (Veritasium)

Quote: "The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach." ~ BENJAMIN MAYS, retrieved from The millionaire fastlane by M. J. DeMarco