Thiago Hirai


Hey! How are you doing?

Pretty good, man. How have you been since leaving Facebook?!

i've been doing great. i think this is the first time since high school that i had several months off. alessandra and i travelled and spent a bunch of quality time together. i feel refreshed.

Whoa. That's great to hear. What did you do??

we spent a month in hawaii and two months in europe - bavaria, lago di como, lisbon, granada, mallorca, barcelona (primavera sound), athens and chania

in the beginning i tried to write some code; i released a very simple, 10 lines of code app while still in hawaii. sometime around then i realized i was neither being productive nor relaxing, and decided to just relax. I also challenged myself to meditate every day for 100 consecutive days

What was the app you released?

so, i love xkcd. there was a comic where he argues that when choosing passwords, picking random words is much better than picking random characters:

so i just wrote that. it's truly the simplest thing i could think of that could be accepted.

i just wanted to see how hard it would be to submit an app on my own. it's not very hard. i actually nerded out a bit on the deployment stuff - i can release updates from the command line. i just hate dealing with the manual steps, so i found stuff to automate that.

That's actually really cool.

and then, obviously, never updated my app.



Honestly, the thought of doing nothing and just "vacationing" for an extended period of time is kind of terrifying to me

I feel like I'd have to keep myself busy somehow

yeah, for a while that's how i felt

and then i let it go.

it's ok if you don't do anything 'productive'. if you drop the judgment, you'll realize that you're always doing *something*

you may be sleeping or watching the ocean or playing a game - that still counts as doing something.

I guess it comes from a weird sense of justifying your time on earth, you know?


did i tell you about my actor/observer split?


so, i've been thinking about that. about the human experience. and one thing i noticed is that you can split that experience in two aspects.

the actor aspect is the one everyone thinks about when they're talking about others. it's the thing that makes you go and say "i am a designer" or "i need to be busy" or "do this, do that"

and we obviously have a role to play there. i completely understand the need to act, to go out there and give back, make things better.

but i think there's another role, which is different. there's this quote - i don't remember by whom - saying that we *are* the universe observing itself.

this is what i call the observer aspect. we're literally the only part of the universe that we know that can observe it. and we have all these senses and all this mental capacity that we waste. we ignore most things.

i can have an entire meal without even noticing its flavor. i ignore most sunsets. i like water, but if it rains on me i let that make me angry.

there's so much beauty in the world that just passes by.

so i think that observing things is heavily underestimated

To what end, though? To inform your role as an 'actor'?

what is the purpose of a tree?

to convert CO2 into Oxygen?

that's a thing it does. is that its purpose?

my point is that you can simply be, for no purpose other than being

and there's something not only natural, but also noble about that role.

you've been granted existence and conscience and perception. even if you don't move, you continue to *be*. just like the tree, but better.

but it's precisely because you're "better" than a tree that one feels the responsibility to 'act'

i don't disagree. but i think you also have a responsibility to *see*.

you are the universe watching itself.

ah, the two roles are not mutually exclusive?

no, not at all. it's just that one of them - the observer role - is not a thing we consider much. i didn't, at least.

i think this becomes a lot more clear when you experience the present moment.

it's a weird thing. all your memories are in the past, all your plans are for the future.

in the present there doesn't seem to be much. it's just a point in a line.

but it's very rich. at any given moment, the amount of reality around you is enormous. there are sounds and colors and smells and thoughts. everything is happening.

but if you're trying to be an actor all the time, i think you miss a bunch of that

the other thing about trying to be an actor is that a lot of the time we're busy for no good reason

Do you think that magnifies every feeling or does it diminish them because there is so much more to consider?

i don't know - for me it magnifies them.

the thing is that, when you try to just observe, you're freeing up your mind from this mode where it's trying to do something

i think it's easy to get caught up on some cycles

you worry about one thing, and then about the next, and you're always thinking, not really going anywhere but really busy in your mind

if you just look for a minute and accept things as they are, all of a sudden you find a lot of space in your mind

I've been trying to practice something like that with my relationships. I've been trying to 'fix' less and just accept people as they are

yeah, that's great!

It's so hard though! Lol

if you fight it, even if you're just fighting it in your head, it's going to be hard

but if you think about the mechanics of acceptance, those are really easy

you literally just need to watch and do nothing

of all possible reactions, that should be the lowest energy one, no?

haha, not for me

inaction is sometimes incredibly hard for me

especially when I apply a sense of righteousness to a situation (often)

sure. but at that point you're already doing something. you're applying some judgment.

imagine you're in a videogame and you get to control gabe's head

when anything happens, you can make him angry, or make him analyze the situation, or whatever

if you were a lazy player, gabe would just not react, right?

that's what i mean by lowest energy

and one thing that i've been finding through meditation is that the brain works somewhat like that

there's a supervisor system, which is the thing we associate with self, that sort of oversees thoughts and can nudge things in one direction or another

that supervisor system isn't angry or judgmental or whatever. it's just there.

the trouble we run into is that we let certain thoughts and patterns become so dominant that we lose sight of the supervisor thing

we start to believe that the patterns *are* us

have you seen mr. robot?

Only part of the first season.. Idk why I never finished it actually

there's one scene where he talks to himself. and he seems to be talking to his conscience, and the dialog goes along the lines of 'hello', 'i didn't know you were still there'

i think that's a very real thing. it's just there. your *self* just sits there

but there are many other voices in the brain

and if we're not careful, they become so loud that you just don't get to perceive the self

you become trapped, lost in thought or emotion

I have definitely felt that very acutely

I find myself playing a 'role' so much that it becomes me

or who I think I am

and every so often I snap out of it and realize "oh right, I'm just pretending to be this, it's not really who I am"

right. and i think even worse than that, sometimes you don't realize

say, you're hungry, and you become a bit angry, and you snap out at someone because of that

you had no intention whatsoever of doing that. you even think it's wrong to do so

but still that voice sort of overpowers "you"

so meditation has helped me to gain a bit more insight into how my brain works. and sometimes i can just breathe and find my 'self' again and let it take control

How did you get into meditation?

i think it was pretty random

in college i got this book, 'the art of happiness' by the dalai lama

it's not very profound, but i liked some of his philosophy. so i had a lingering interest in buddhist philosophy, but never really pursued it

much later, when i was already living in seattle, i heard there was this buddhist meditation class

so i went there to check it out. did a few guided sessions

and it was really powerful. i was very intrigued by how breathing would immediately affect me.

but i didn't pursue it at the time

a couple of years later we found another meditation group, close to our home. so my wife and i went for some more classes. the people there were a bit dogmatic in their practice, so we also stopped following them. but we learned that meditation would help us feel better.

then, last year in london was very stressful, i'm sure you remember.

haha, I remember

we were going through all this churn and i was having a hard time just keeping it together. so i started meditating most mornings to see if it would help

it did help a bit, but not enough, i guess. i really had to step out of that environment

but after that i wanted to try meditation in a more positive environment, just to see what i would learn

and i think that's been really good. it's very surprising how little effort we put in training our minds

we train specific skills, but we never look at the basics

you never think about thinking!

so, we'll see. my goal is to incorporate meditation in my daily routine. just like brushing my teeth

I should brush my teeth more often...

you definitely should!

i never met my father's mother, but my family says she had a little buddha shrine in her house, and *every* single morning she would wake up and go there to pray

i don't pray, i'm not religious. but there's something about that ritual that is really inspiring.

so i wouldn't mind if one day people said, yeah, thiago would wake up *every* day to sit and meditate for a few minutes.

hehe, I'll ask Siri to remind me to say that in 20 years

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Thiago Hirai


Thiago is a software engineer who has worked at companies like Facebook and Microsoft. While at Facebook, Thiago built the first version of Messenger's VOIP and worked on a variety of products that aimed to help people share their lives with those they care about.

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