Kapil Dutta

Kapil Dutta

A Year of Failures, Perseverance and Progress

I was not planning to do this. Not because I do not have anything worth sharing, but because I am not entirely proud of the year I have had. To me, it has fallen short of what it could have been. But my good friend, Ramana, wrote his own year in review and encouraged me to do the same - and if anyone can make me do things against my will, it is him, so here I am :D

This post will also give you an insight into the life of an adult with ADHD. My life is always turbulent, there are many things happening all the time in many different directions. I am often starting something new, and never finishing them. I am the living example of a "Jack of All Trades, Master of None" type person. This has been my life for many many years, and I have been working hard through it all this time.

Every year for me is a struggle against myself. I fight with myself just to do things that I really want to do, that I know how to do, and that I can absolutely do. Every single day for me is like this. My mind works very fast, I get excited very easily, I am impulsive, spontanious, and while this can result in a very fun and interesting ride, it also causes a lot of problems.

I develop n number of ideas, intentions for things I want to do, and the thinking activity alone stimulates my brain so much that I struggle to stop fantasizing. It is a massive struggle for me to get outside my head and do things in the real world. It's like my brain is a Ferrari, but with poor breaks, racing across an ice floor.

So, now coming back to my year in review. 2023. I am going to break this down into different segments and arcs of my life, instead of sharing events in a linear chronological order. Let's start with the sad and painful.

Health (Accident, Bipolar, Dengue, Bell's Palsy)

I broke both my hands

My year started with both my hands locked inside casts, trying to heal from a terrible facture from an ugly bike accident I had back in 2022 December. I had to get surgery done on both my hands, had a Titanium plate inserted on my left, and too small rods on my right. I still suffer from the pain of this facture and the recovery. I did not do sufficient physiotherapy (I would simply forget to do it most of the time).

It's much better now, both my hands are fully functional, but I still need to continue doing physiotherapy to improve the strength and movement of my hands.

My mood likes to swing - life is a roller-coaster ride

I have been experiencing mood swings for many years, and I have always assumed that they are the consequence of my ADHD brain. There are days when I go from extremely high mental states, hyper optimism to suddenly feeling depressed, fallen into a bottomless pit of darkness. My moods swings within few hours to few days to few months. Nothing is ever static for me, and yet somehow I manage to keep functioning as if everything is normal.

No one in my personal life actually discovers that anything too strange is going on with me, because I have learnt to mask the chaos inside me and present a much more simpler version of myself to the world.

Earlier in the year, after a lot of such mood swings, I went to the doctor. They tested me for ADHD again, and it was obvious I had it. They then also tested me for bipolar disorder, and it seems like I am somewhere on the spectrum of it, perhaps either a mild bipolar condition or cyclothymia, where your moods swing in a cyclic nature. This can be a precursor to major bipolar disorder as well.

I tried the medication, but eventually decided to just stick to the fundamentals of routine, diet, workouts, meditation etc and building stability in my life.

A single mosquito changed my life

Few months ago, in September, I suddenly fell sick. I assumed it was gonna be just another flu, but the strength of my body kept deteriorating very rapidly. I was soon hospitalized within a few hours, and was diagnosed with Dengue Fever.

The next one week was a torture for me. I couldn't move my body much, I was fragile, I could not eat anything, I could not even drink water easily. My brain felt very foggy, I had anxiety attacks, my hands would go numb, head would go dizzy.

Within 5 days, my blood platelet count had dropped from 2,50,000 to 10,000. It was scary. We had to rush around looking for platelet donors. But after receiving 2 units of it, I started getting much better and was discharged soon.

I had weakness for a while, but my health has returned to normal since then.

Half my face got paralyzed

The most absurd thing happened most recently, just 2 weeks ago. I woke up one morning with sharp pain in my left ear. Over the next two days, I noticed strange problems, such as a weird metalic taste in my mouth, both my eyes not being in sync with each other, and soon I realized that I was not able to move the left side of my mouth. I was not able to spit or drink water.

It was clear that I was experiencing some neurological condition. My guess was a stroke or seizure. I immediately went to the Doctor next morning, and he diagnosed me with Bell's Palsy. According to him, the cold temperature triggered it and caused the 7th Cranial Nerve around my left ear to become inflamed, resulting in the partial paralysis on the left side of my face.

I immediately started on medication, and have been doing much better since. It is expected to take another 2-3 weeks for it to fully recover.

Career (New role, new side projects)

SDE > Enterprise Sales Manager > Technical Solution Consultant

I have been at my current company for 2 1/2 years now. I joined here as a SDE, working with React on some frontend projects. But within a year of joining, I transitioned into the business team. For the first few months of this transition, I was working on our GTM strategy for our product, interacting and managing clients, and doing more product related activities.

I then started directly working on Sales activities, reaching out to companies, pitching them our product, giving them demos, addressing any queries and concerns they had etc. Initially, I had no plans of moving into such a sales role, but my technical knowledge combined with my strong soft skills made my company realize that I can be very valuable on the client side.

After returning from my accident, I was fully immersed into this new role. I had to apply a lot of my technical knowledge as an engineer in my interactions with the clients. I also had to do a lot of cost analysis and cost cutting activities for our product and team.

One my my major accomplishments in this role was leading and closing the deal for a project with one of the largest enterprises in India (cannot name them). This was an important deal because, it lead to an even bigger project worth almost 2Cr INR few months later.

But I was not satisfied. I was good at Sales, I could engage with anyone on anything at any time. I was great at thinking on my feet. I could easily breakdown complex technical concepts into simple English. But I was not passionate about the BD work. I did enjoy closing deals, solutioning etc. My goal was to work in a Technical Product Manager role.

And after discussing with my leadership team, they had made the decision to transition me into the PM role. However, I first had to perform as a "Technical Solution Consultant" where my focus would be more on assisting our sales team in closing deals, with my technical knowledge.

The transition into the Product Manager role has not happened yet, so I am still working in this capacity as a Technical Solution Consultant. Essentially, I would engage with clients, breakdown their requirements and create a detailed technical solution proposal for them and discuss the execution with them and the team.

My side projects - Pingu, FI/10, Moody, Wordplex, Coderplex.dev, Plexbox, InfiPlex

As I mentioned at the start of the post, my brain loves generating ideas. I often start new things rather than finish them. Here's a list of projects I had started this year, but never properly developed and finished them :

  • Pingu :

I wanted to learn Rust and also test the power of ChatGPT, and I decided to build a simple reverse proxy from scratch using Rust. I was able to get this done very quickly actually, while building the middleware with Flask and the frontend with React.

Link : Pingu - Source Code

  • FI/10 :

I came up with this idea for a program / group of relatively young talented people who can all work together to build side projects and build passive income for ourselves. The ultimate goal being of course our individual Financial Independence - which I had calculated to be around 5Cr-10Cr per person in the team minimum, accounting for the inflation.

I named this project FI/10. The 10 stands for 10 years, meaning the goal would be for us to achieve this outcome within a timeline of next 10 years.

I got a few people to join the group, and we started working on few projects together. I was leading each of the following projects, as they were my ideas. But none of the below mentioned projects had developed into anything meaningful, simply because of my lack of focus and commitment to any single one of them.

Link : FI/10

  • Moody :

I wanted to learn Flutter, and build mobile apps. I decided to build a very simple app that let you swipe in any direction and change the color on your screen. I worked with ChatGPT to build this, and had the app ready within just a couple of hours. I had never developed any Android apps before this, and now I had one that I could run on my phone.

I then iterated and kept building more on the app. I wanted to introduce animations and interactions. I wanted the screen to have bubbles of colors that burst when you tap in that area or when they collide with each other.

I kept brainstorming, and this idea turned into the concept of "Mood Enhancement App" where you would have multiple screen, each dedicated to a different mood, and you could swipe between screens to experience various "stimulus" that can trigger that mood for you - such as happy, inspired, creative etc, using colors, audio, video effects etc.

I never built it further than this. The basic version is still available on Play Store for you to download.

Link : Get Moody App

  • Wordplex

I started this project few years ago, but it never even reached an MVP stage. The idea was to build a content publishing platform, a more modern WordPress like software, if you will, and to build tools for publishing and readership around it, including a lot of cool monetization tools.

I intend to work on this project at some point in the future. Maybe this year.

Link : WordPlex App

  • Coderplex Dev Community

Even though I had shut down the Coderplex Community couple of years ago, I was still part of the organizing team of couple of developer communities in the city - CNCF Hyderabad and AWS Hyderabad.

After attending a couple of meetups earlier this year by them and also the meetups organized by Swecha, I decided to restart the Coderplex Dev Community, but this time just focus on building a small whatsapp group with people who have been the most active and personally in touch with me.

I started the group, we reached around 80+ people, all software professionals and few students, and we engage on interesting topics - everything related to software, tech, learning, open source and helping each other in our career.

My intention was to also rebuild the website and develop few community features, such as a social feed for learning updates, guides for self-learning different topics, etc. But this initiative never went anywhere.

Website : Coderplex Dev Community

  • Plexbox

The most important project that I started this year was Plexbox. The idea for this project developed in multiple stages for me, starting with a simple web page builder that let's you click anywhere on the canvas and you get a dropdown of elements at that position to pick from and insert into the canvas, which you can then edit as you like. I always wanted to use functionality like this to build pages, instead of using drag-and-drop tools. I wanted to interact and draw directly onto the canvas, instead of picking tools from the sidebar.

This idea evolved a lot more in my mind since that point. I had made plans for features such as generating high quality functional code from your designs, instead of just creating a Div Soup (which is what it currently does), using LLMs like GPT.

Another version of this idea would evolve into a full fledged no-code builder that you can use to create and publish websites, apps, games, anything really.

There are many more interesting features that are planned out for this project. I pulled together a team of people and we worked on it for a few months, but over time, the energy and focus fizzled out, as everyone got more busy with their own lives and careers.

Link : Plexbox App

  • InfiPlex

I had the idea for building a software freelancer platform / agency for many years, even before I started building the Coderplex Community.

The idea was simple : build a network of high quality software engineers and other specialized talent as freelancers working with us, offer services to companies worldwide, charge the freelancer rate + our commision, take care of the legal contracts, management, sourcing, branding, marketing, etc etc as the middleman.

This idea is similar to what Toptal and similar businesses do, but we would be based in India and focus on talent from India.

We could also build teams of people that can work together and offer their services to companies worldwide. Everyone can work remote, it can be part time or full time.

Few months ago, I tried to put this idea into action by launching InfiPlex. I was even able to build a small network of freelancers from across domains through my personal contacts as well, but I just never took any actions beyond this point.

Link : InfiPlex Website

Learning new things - design, cooking

What about the design?

I always had a good design intuition, but I never trained myself to develop the skills to create designs for my websites and apps. I wanted to change that this year. I enrolled into a course on SkillShare to learn Figma, and went through most of the important lessons and followed the exercises as well.

I can say that I am competent enough to get started and create something ok by myself at this point, although there is significant amount of more learning that I still need to do in this area.

Cooking is a form of art

I have always loved cooking. After I moved into my own place, I was cooking for myself for a while, but then I got lazy and would just order food from outside on a regular basis.

In the last few months, this has changed. I now regularly cook food, and I absolutely love it. I have learnt new recipes, and I am never scared to experiment and create something new by just following my creative intuition.

A Tsunami of Books

In the middle of the year, I got hyper-obsessed about books, especially spirituality related books. I bought a lot of them, and also bought and gifted a lot of them to my family members.

  • I studied the Bhagavad Gita, start to end, just the verses (not the translations), in one single sitting one evening.
  • I started reading the book on Vipassana Meditation again and finished it this time.
  • I restarted the book "What The Buddha taught" more than once, and was able to finish it.
  • I bought couple of books on Product Management, and finished one of them.
  • I started and abandoned at least 40+ books across the whole year. I have bookmarks randomly placed across them, and I still just pick them up and read them from whenever I left off.

Maybe I will write another post listing every book I bought and read in 2023, and summarize it to the best of my ability.

A Ride to Remember

I bought my bike (Honda Hiness CB350) back in August of 2022. I was planning to go long rides outside the city, to other states, since that day. But due to my own circumstances and also procrastination, I was not able to do it in 2022 and also most of 2023.

But I was finally able to spontaneously plan and go on a ride to Vizag with my friend on our bikes. It was a beautiful experience, riding across the highway, experiencing all of that nature in person, far away from the cities.

I plan to go on many more rides this year.

New Beginnings - A New Chapter in my Life

The last couple of months of the year have been pivotal to me, mainly because of how the Plexbox project had evolved over time and what that taught me about myself.

Although I had started the project myself and built the initial version, I stepped away from the code and let the team continue building it. But when the progress started getting too slow, I decided to get more involved in the development again. During this time, while doing a lot of refactoring of the codebase, I dealth with a lot of mental struggle and realized that there are way too many gaps in my fundamental understanding of development and just CS in general.

This prompted me to write the article "Coding is actually hard" back in Nov, 2023, which got a lot of attention on HackerNews. But I was not proud of this article either. I was frustrated with how little progress I had made in all these years of my life. I have never truly done anything that hard, I would always skip the hard stuff and go for what my mind would find easy - writing, speaking, engaging with people, reading books (but never finishing them), starting new projects, solving problems in my head etc.

I had turned into a person who would talk a lot and do very little. I would always sound smart to the people around me, but never be able to do anything that was actually hard and worth significant value. I aboustely hate being such a person.

I have always functioned on my impulsivity, the sudden dopamine boost I get from something novel. I have never successfully been able to consistently fight though something that doesn't immediately reward my brain and takes time and rigorous effort. This has resulted in leaving a lot of gaps in my fundamental knowledge - everything from basics of Mathematics to fundamentals of Computer Science.

I recognize now that no matter how much progress I make in my life and my career, I will never be abel to transform into the person I want to become unless I overcome these relatively hard challenges. And so, I have started over again from the basics.

  • I started going through my high school math text books, teaching myself how to solve Quadratic Equations. I struggled a lot initially but it's starting to make sense now.
  • I started CS50 again, for the 10th time. I wanted to finish it this time by the end of December 2023, but I still have not been able to do that. I intend to finish it this month.
  • I started and re-started SICP, until the concepts made intuitive sense to me. I intend to finish the 1st chapter, along with all the exercises, by the end of this month. I am finding it fun and interesting to learn and program in Scheme, to think purely in a functional way of solving problems.
  • I started learning Vim keybindings and Emacs a bit as well. Just to feel more efficient while I am writing code.
  • I started going through the Rust Book and learning the basics of the language again. I discovered an Open Source project - Steel, which is a Rust based Scheme interpreter. I made a small contribution to this project that has been merged. This was officially my first open source contribution to another project that was not owned and managed by me, although I had to take good amount of help from ChatGPT.
  • I also have become involved with the Mattermost project, and made two PR's in the past month, one of which has just been merged. This was mostly thanks to my friend Zubair, who is one of the core members at Mattermost.

After years of advocating and evangelizing for open source, it feels good to finally make an actual contribution - to do what I speak.

This was my year in review. Now let's get started with 2024. This year, for me personally, has to be a year of finishing things, rather than just starting them. I want to move out of the dimension of thought and move into the dimension of action. I want to live in the world of actions.

I encourage you to also write your own year in review, if not for others, but just for your own self-reflection of everything you have been through and everything you have accomplished.