2019 was a tough year for me, but it’s hard for me to point a finger at any single cause or even piece of evidence of this claim. My wonderful family has been a cornerstone of my life and this was my favorite year with our daughter Ada so far (she turned 3 in 2019). I’ve been successful at work and grew my team to 35 people. We had a few small setbacks this year but were still surrounded by family and friends and were able to enjoy two wonderful family trips to attend weddings in Hawaii and Seattle.
I think for me it felt like I got into too much of a routine and didn’t really break out of it enough. The strongest driving force for me is to make things: programs, games, artwork, films, food. My next biggest driver is to experience the creative works of others, particularly books and films which challenge my viewpoint. My third driver is to get out into the natural world and do intensive backpacking and hiking. I don’t think I satisfied any of these three impulses in 2019.
In 2020, I see the opportunity to celebrate and recognize all of the things going well in my life, but to improve my understanding of what I find fulfilling and spend more time making things and expanding my point of view. I believe that examining the past year and how I did against my expectations is a key part of this iterative process, so I’d like to cover how I scored my goals for the past year and how that feeds into my plans for the next.
Two years ago I started setting personal OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). I wrote about the 2017 results here and decided to carry the practice forward into 2018. I wanted to recap how things have gone and how I’m thinking about this experiment going into 2019.
I am aware that this is a bit of a ridiculous exercise. My answer to “do you have any New Year’s Resolutions in 2018?” was “well it’s like 13 metrics-driven resolutions spread across three main themes”. Most people probably wouldn’t find value in this kind of system, and I think it would be fair to criticize me for taking this approach to achieve goals like “happiness”. I probably overdid it this year by trying to do too much. I felt stressed out about making progress on these goals and that led me to be very protective about my free time. I was probably a worse husband, father, son, and friend this year. At the same time, it’s hard to say that I wasn’t aware that this was the deal I was making. I wanted to push myself to do more, and to have more to show for it. I’m proud of what I was able to achieve in 2018, but there was a cost too.
I tried something new in 2017, which was to make a set of personal OKRs to fulfill throughout the year. OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are typically used as a planning framework by companies (both Google and Twitter implement them) but I had never tried to structure personal goals in this way. I’m not sure it’s a general approach I’d recommend for anyone else, but I like the idea of taking a set of abstract goals and trying deconstruct them into measureable tasks.
I respect the effects of small adjustments to habits compounded over time. New Year resolutions have been effective ways for me to implement such changes. In 2014 I started making one-second-per-day videos (and have done so in 2014, 2015, and 2016 so far!). In 2015 I started regular Rosetta Stone lessons to learn Mandarin. In 2016 I tracked my weight and food every day with the intent of losing 30 lbs by the time my daughter was born. In 2017 I wanted to be healthier, happier, grow intellectually, and create things. I’m writing this as a postmortem on the process, and an accounting for how I think it went.
Now that 2013 is pulling to a close I feel the pull that anyone who has ever set pen to paper (metaphorically, in this case) feels now - the thick, crushing desire to “bang out” a top 10 Greatest Hits list before retreating sleepily back into the embrace of a thick holiday sweater for a few weeks’ hibernation. I had a great time in 2013 - got SUPER married to the love of my life, participated in Twitter’s IPO and then moved into a fulltime Software Engineer role while finishing a set of Stanford graduate CS courses. Busy year.
Twitter, naturally, was a common theme. It’s where I participated in and documented many of the significant parts of my year. Of course, many of my friends don’t use or even understand the service, so to them I’ve dropped off the face of the planet. Inspired by the great 2013.twitter.com retrospective, I thought I’d put together some of my notable moments into a smörgåsbord for those friends to feast upon.