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  • noahchonlee

The Timeline of My Life

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

I'm still trying to make sense of it all.

Lil Noah thought he was so badass riding around with his bike helmet on backwards

Short Version

Age 10 - Began performing juggling shows professionally

Age 14 - Started researching genocides

Age 15 - Began attending university classes

Age 16 - Lost my religion

Age 17 - Began backpacking solo around the world

Age 18 - Found community at an orphanage in Ecuador

Age 19 - Joined and left a cult of fire spinners and lived with communities in the Amazon Jungle

Age 20 - Trained with the Marine Corps

Age 21 - Worked for an AI startup then founded a crowdfunding company

Age 0

Born on summer solstice 2001 in Buffalo New York as the last child and only son with four older sisters.

Age 10

My parents move the family into a fancier neighborhood in the suburbs where it seems to me that most of the neighbors never spend time with one another.

I begin performing professionally with my dad doing juggling shows just like he also started performing with my grandma at ten years old. My grandma was a mime and a fire-eater, and my dad has been a full-time professional juggler since his twenties. My mom helped take care of the kids.

Age 12

Having been homeschooled my whole life (mostly self-directed education), I now begin attending a twice a week study center called Rivendell that friends through some churches put together using Christian classical education curriculum taught by (mostly untrained) tutors who would facilitate conversations between students and assign readings, essays, presentations, and other homework.

I spend much of my time in my parents' house staring at the ceiling, transporting myself to other worlds and following the stories of many characters and wondering what I would do in a variety of scenarios.

Age 14

I visit the Dominican Republic on a mission's trip and perform my first solo show at an orphanage.

I begin spending my evenings researching genocides and the worst crimes of humanity while wishing I could do something about it.

I begin to feel unhappy with how little my American friends and family shared their time and money to charitable causes and begin to think of commercialism and individualism as the enemy of community and well-being.

I begin asking as wide a variety of people as possible the same question, "What do you wish you knew when you were my age?" I write their stories in my notebooks.

Around this age I begin bicycling to churches of every major Christian denomination (except for Eastern orthodox which I visited 6 years later)

I think at this age I switch my YouTube time to focus on educational channels. This likely more than anything else improved my education.

Age 15

I decide I want to explore as wide a spectrum of human experience possible.

I spend more time learning parkour and MMA with a friend.

We realize that a sister is suicidal and in the ensuing conversation amongst all the siblings I sob for the first time in my living memory and feel that our family has opened up to one another for the first time. We all share that we carry a sense of guilt that we hide behind closed doors.

I begin learning as many musical instruments as possible after already playing piano and drum kit for years. I begin making hundreds of videos of made-up (mostly garbage) tunes, and write songs. I discover this as one of my few means of emotional expression, and it is essential.

Around this age I drop out of Rivendell study center and ask professors at a local university if I may sit in on their classes, which they kindly welcome and even offer to grade any homework I feel like doing.

Age 16

I debate an elder in my church in weekly sessions about the temporal vs eternal hell theories and universalism.

I expand my temple visitations to every type of religious centre and ask religious leaders their thoughts on universalism.

I perform my first ever paid solo show at a Hindu Temple celebration.

I lose my religion and spend hours every day staring at the wall trying to think of a reason to live.

Age 17

I book the cheapest ticket I can find to East Asia using my savings I collected since I started working at age 10.

I begin backpacking, hostel hopping, street performing, and couch surfing solo across seven countries.

Along the way I compete in my third Brazilian jiu jitsu competition, train with an escrima master in the Philippines, and train with an Olympian Muay Thai fighter in Thailand.

I run out of cash in Hong Kong and spend a couple days without eating before street performing solo for the first time.

I think I'm going to die while swimming in the ocean during a typhoon.

Upon arriving to Korea, my sister and soon to be brother-in-law host me and my parents also fly in. They buy me food and I regain 20 pounds.

I continue my journey to other countries. My sense of derealization reaches an extreme level and I feel that I do not care if I live or die. I have amazing life experiences and travel with a beautiful two week long "girlfriend", but still feel like nothing matters. I decide that what I most need is a sense of community and belonging.

I return to the USA feeling utterly burnt out but fortunately my uncle, aunt, and their kids host me while I recover. I remember how great it is to be around family.

Age 18

I focus more on building up my own business Master Fool Productions and within one summer scale up from $150 gigs to being paid $1500 to give a one hour keynote with the help of referrals from my dad. Towards the end of the summer, we perform for a stadium of 12,000 people. I decide I've gone far enough in this career and begin researching cause areas to dedicate my time to.

I travel to Chile for an international circus festival and backpack across Latin America. Among the hippies who always share whatever small amount of food and money they have with an incredible sense of kindness, I find a my nihilism being replaced with hope.

I arrive at an orphanage in Ecuador where I teach the kids juggling and feel more at home than ever before.

I watch a YouTube video that I decide will be my de facto religion until I find a better one.

I return to the USA in order to focus more on a document database and data visualization platform I am building with a friend.

I feel intense after travel blues and spend the next few months at home outlining my Gravity Workflow System for annual, quarterly, monthly, and weekly reviews to ensure my project management aligns with my values.

I begin developing a theory of Pragmatic Mythicalism. This gives me an out switch to break out of my several year long mental loop asking if anything matters.

Age 19

I am inducted into a tribe of fire spinners at a flow arts festival after melting the skin off of my palms trying to juggle flaming metal poles.

Over the next few months we quadruple the group to almost one hundred people across several states.

I move into an apartment downtown with artist and fire spinning friends that I refer to as the Buffalo Flowjo. I finally feel that I have a crew in the USA where I belong. We perform together, travel together, and share the ups and downs of life. Everything is a mess, but no matter how bad things get, I prefer life now compared to when I felt that nothing mattered.

I begin breaking out of my shell of derealization and feel like a toddler figuring out how to deal with unrepressed emotions. Pain and sadness and happiness and joy all seem ravenously intense. Because I feel safe enough in this community to open up about negative emotions, I begin to feel panic attacks and intense social anxiety for the first times in my life and I try to figure out how to calm myself.

I learn fire eating.

I return to Ecuador to visit my friends multiple times a year and bring other friends with me, as well. My friend Francisco brings me to visit his relatives in the jungle where he grew up. We visit the Waorani people and am stunned by their hospitality and egalitarian society. We decide to return with solar power banks to as an alternative to their expensive and inefficient gas generators.

The next two weeks are the busiest of my life as I raise funds working two festivals with Slyboots African Drum and Dance Circus as a performer and teacher, perform/organize a few other separate fire spinning gigs including this music video, write out dozens of pages of realizations about my childhood, and simultaneously organize a nonprofit project coordinating multi country logistics to deliver the solar power banks.

While delivering the power banks, I and Francisco are sucked into a side adventure trying to meet a man who killed one of my childhood heroes.

I and a few others leave the increasingly cultish fire spinning tribe after the leader refused to make finances more transparent and have voting on who becomes a new member. The leader and some of the remaining members start piling on insults after they had initially told me that we were a family. I carry a newfound fear of rejection with me.

Every ivy league university I apply to rejects me. I apply to UC Berkeley late but for some reason they still accept me. The tuition is too expensive, but fortunately I won the NROTC Marine Corps scholarship as a backup plan to cover tuition.

I make a new friend in Denver and we decide to take an insane road trip to the west coast in our RV named Appa.

Age 20

I skip the first week of classes to attend Burning Man with some new friends.

I attend UC Berkeley studying sociology and train with the NROTC Marine Corps.

In order to pay for rent and support what I consider my found family in Ecuador, I stay in a hostel in San Francisco for the first semester in a 10 bed shared room that includes free breakfast. I make friends with the workers so I can eat breakfast early, fall back asleep, then eat again. I commute two hours on the train every day.

I arrive at my unit wearing colorful hippie clothes (the only clothes I have in my backpack) and my gunnery sergeant donates some kakhis and polos and shoes to me.

I also sell alpaca wool ponchos from Ecuador.

I move to Berkeley but crash on friend's couches to save on rent and simultaneously teach with Prescott Circus, work as a personal assistant for a Lawrence Lab researcher, and as an assistant for an OnlyFans star (who I teach my gravity workflow system to) in order to pay for the high cost of living while also supporting what I consider my found family in Ecuador. Meanwhile, I attend free fancy parties with technologists and CEOs.

Someone pays for my expenses to travel to a conference in the UK and I meet a superforecaster researcher in Oxford who bets me $1000 that I will not be able to build a bounty platform for public goods within a year. I accept the challenge.

Meanwhile, my adopted family in Ecuador are struggling financially in the midst of the pandemic and I learn they had been eating one meal a day for the last five days. Back in Berkeley, I break down sobbing to a friend who let me crash explaining that I always thought I would change the world, and now I'm worried I can't even prevent one family from going hungry.

I am sent to San Diego for a month to train with the Navy for three weeks and volunteer as platoon commander for Marine Corps week in Camp Pendleton. I and my fellow officers in training go underway on an SSGN and I am allowed to take the wheel and drive a nuclear submarine.

Age 21

I am scared to leave the military and university, but decide to do so due to ethical concerns with American foreign policy, a desire to not enter into student debt, the need to have the freedom to pursue the projects I believe align with my values, and to support my adopted family. I find myself with nothing but a backpack full of clothes, a box of juggling supplies, and an urgent need for entrepreneurship.

I pursue multiple job offers but am rejected. Then, the Berkeley Lawrence Labs researcher refers me to an OpenAI senior researcher who asked me about my time training with the Marines. He offers me a part time job at his brand new start up to build his team of data labelers for reinforcement learning with human feedback. He and the cofounder return a month later after an intense round of seed fundraising to discover I had built a functioning team of 30 people. They hire me full time as a level C employee making 6 figures as a freshman dropout.

I travel to Peru with a filmmaker friend of mine to support the Amazonian Ashaninka people's nonprofit initiatives and we interview leaders during a war in the 90s between the Ashaninka who fought with bows and terrorists who fought with guns.

I leave my AI job where I managed 70 people in part because clients thanked us for our AI automations allowing them to fire hundreds of employees.

A month after leaving my job, I arrive to Vitalik Buterin's two month long residency called Zuzalu in Montenegro and I decide to work as a founder on the crowdfunded prize platform for public goods

3 opmerkingen

Tomiwa Ademidun
Tomiwa Ademidun
25 apr. 2023

Amazing story Noah. So glad I've met you in Zuzalu. If you asked 5, 10, 15 year old Noah what the timeline of your life would be like and then you showed them this I wonder what they would say. Excited to see what your future timeline holds!


Alex Gilbert
Alex Gilbert
14 apr. 2023

Riveting. I want to see the update in 10 years. Hoping the best for you Noah

16 apr. 2023
Reageren op

Thank you Alex!!



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