I'm sitting by a crackling fire at my aunt and uncle's house in New Jersey and we're just a couple hours into the new year, which means that it's a perfect time to review the year and look forward.
If I were to title my year, I'd call it the year I got serious. Something interesting happened near the end of 2011-- I realized that I wasn't actually on track for a lot of my goals, that I was going to have to actually get serious about stuff, and that this seriousness had to come in the form of action, not talk. I ended 2011 with a few months of solid productivity under my belt, and a year-end post that optimistically predicted a productive year.
I'm happy to say that the productive year materialized, and that my focus on getting serious has intensified.
When I was young, maybe third grade or so, a psychologist did a study at my middle school. We answered some questions and were offered two choices: a small prize now or a large prize later. I took the small prize now. I think knew it was the wrong move at the time, but the pack of stickers on the table looked like a lot of fun. Later on the big prizes were given to the waiters in such a way that I was able to see what they got. Sure enough, their prizes were a lot better and my stickers were long gone.
I think in 2012 I transitioned into the kind of person who would wait for the big prize. I didn't just work very hard and effectively, I gave up small prizes in pursuit of larger ones down the road. I eat the same thing every single day, I work every day for almost the whole day, I read every day, I plan every day, I log key personal stats every day. I eat only two meals per day and shower every other day to spend more time working. I study Japanese (or Chinese) every day, I write every day, and I post to my blog twice a week.
My adherence to all of these things is probably 95% in San Francisco. When I travel it's a lot worse-- I tend to skip logging things and writing. Partly for that reason, I traveled a lot less this year. I didn't calculate exact stats, but I didn't leave the country until the fall, and only spent 40 days out of the country, compared to 116 last year. All three of the international trips I took were last minute awesome deals-- by August I had accepted the fact that I would probably finish the year without brushing the dust off my passport, so the trips were a nice surprise.
In short, I spent my year in San Francisco, I built discipline, and I worked. Most days were satisfying but uneventful, but there were some highlights worth mentioning:
SETT Went Live
I announced SETT shortly before 2012, and launched it on my blog in March. This took a lot of work from both myself and Todd, and I'm extremely happy with the results. Since switching, my blog's daily traffic has doubled (compared to a <5% increase the 8 months prior), subscribers have gone up by almost 1000 (compared to flatlining the previous eight months), I've gotten to know my readers much better, and my comments have doubled. In short-- SETT works, and it has made blogging a lot of fun again.
There's been a lot of progress since SETT launched, and we're launching to the public within the next few weeks. This new year is exciting for me because it will be the year that makes or breaks SETT. I don't expect my work to be done by the end of the year, but we'll have paying customers and lots of data, which should equate to a much clearer picture of where we stand.
Finally Went to Alaska
Alaska was the last state that I really wanted to go to. I haven't been to all fifty, and I still have a few states I'd like to check out, but Alaska was at the top of the list. My friends and I did an 800 mile motorcycle trip there, which you can read about here.
Visited Macchu Picchu
There weren't all that many huge must-sees on my travel list anymore, but Macchu Picchu was a big one. I couldn't even tell you why I "needed" to go there, but I can say that I had a really good experience in Peru and Macchu Picchu itself was even better than I expected. I also got to speak a ton of Spanish, and made some solid gains there. Peru story is here.
Quality Time in China
Prior to this year I'd spent only three days in China, and none of those days were contiguous. I made the most of them, visiting the Great Wall and Forbidden City, drinking tea in Shanghai's oldest tea house and eating Peking duck in Beijing, but those trips were a nutty form of tourism more than anything else. This year I went for three weeks, finally hiked Hua Shan and spent some time getting to know Shanghai. I didn't make much progress on my Chinese in Shanghai, but on my side trips to Xi'an and Wuyi I spoke a ton and felt like I "leveled up".
Did Some Crazy RV Projects
I'm going to stop saying that I'm done with RV projects, since we all know it's an unintentional lie every time, but I tackled a few of them this year that I thought were beyond even my concept of practicality. I put in a gold tin ceiling, built a zebrawood desk, put in a projector with a 50 inch scren and converted the bed to a moderately authentic Japanese tea room. Latest video is here.
Had Another Winning Poker Year
I yielded most of my poker time to work, but I did manage to get in 157 hours of play and I made a bit over $4000 at it. More than anything, I'm happy to at least keep my skills sharp and get a better understanding of the game. I might do the World Series again this year, but probably won't have tho chance to play much more than I did last year.
Learned Violin and Piano
I bought a violin and learned how to play a couple very very basic songs on it. I'll never perform, but I really enjoy taking quick five minute breaks from work to play the violin and clear my head. I also spent a bit of time watching YouTube and learning how to play the beginning of Moonlight Sonata on piano. I'd like to learn the whole thing but don't want to spend the time and don't have a piano. I include these things not because they're a big deal to anyone else, but because it's the first time in a long time that I've put any effort into anything musical/artistic.
Stepped up my Blogging
In June I started writing every single day and posting twice a week, a schedule I've kept to for the past six months. I feel like I've put out some of my best writing ever, and I had a few "hits", including the Hustler's MBA, which made it to BoingBoing, Hacker News, and a bunch of other smaller sites. Ironically, I didn't think it was one of my better posts.
I read around 50 books this year. Some of them were awesome, some were terrible (never trust Amazon editor picks), but overall this must have been one of my highest ROI activities. I feel like I learned a ton, both direct learning from nonfiction books and indirect understanding of story structure from fiction books. I may log the books I read this year, and I bet I can hit 75-100 books.
Thoughts on Next Year
Work Work Work
I'm not sure it's physically possible to work more than I worked this year, but I'm going to take a shot at it. I still think I have a lot of room for improvement in fixing some of my processes, too. In particular, I don't have a systematic and efficient workflow for dealing with email or blog comments. Despite working hard for approximately 350 days this year, I still have a lot of energy for it and am looking forward to more.
I plan on putting zero effort into dating until 2015. I'm not going to be a total robot about it (if I happen to meet someone awesome, I'll follow through), but I'll spend no time or effort trying to meet anyone. Given that most of my life occurs within the chassis of my RV, that will probably equate to zero dating.
I did two months of going out every day to meet girls this year, and the three things I learned from it were: 1) It's still just a skill and still just takes some time and experience to get good at 2) I'm rustier than I thought and would probably need 6-8 months to really get in top shape and 3) It's still extremely difficult to find someone I actually want to date. I just have zero motivation to date anyone I don't think is truly exceptional, and finding those girls is really tough. I'm probably pickier than I ought to be, but I'm happy that way.
I stopped watching movies in theaters a couple months ago because I realized that I'm terrible at picking movies I liked. I end up seeing 5-8 movies I don't like for every movie I do like, causing me to waste a lot of time on sub par entertainment. I think I only saw 3-4 movies in theaters last year, and I don't remember any of them being good.
I will watch movies occasionally that I download, because I can work/clean through them and stop them when I don't like them (which happens 50%+ of the time). I've probably liked 95% of documentaries I've seen, so I'll continue to watch those, and I will make an exception for the Arrested Development movie that's coming out later this year.
At this time next year I'll think about whether I felt like I missed out on anything and reassess (I already skipped seeing Les Miserables with my family, and it's my favorite musical).
Finish Another Book
I like writing books and I really like having a published body of work, so I'll knock out another book this year. I have a fiction book about 1/3 of the way done, and I should really write a book that covers my ideas on work, procrastination, habits, outlook, etc. (sort of like how Sebastian did Ikigai). I may do both books, but I'll commit to doing at least one of them.
Dick Talens, who founded the sweet site Fitocracy, offered to train me. I'm going to take him up on it and stick to his advice at least until I go to Japan in April. I'll definitely post results here.
Probably Not Much Travel
I'll be doing an awesome trip to Japan in April with a bunch of friends, but I don't have anything else on the radar. I wouldn't be surprised if I did a cruise or a couple other trips, but I doubt I'll be out of the country for more than a couple months. One thing that I really noticed this year was that I focus too much on the cost of the plane ticket and sort of ignore all the incidental costs of traveling. I'll be paying more attention to that this year.
I pushed ahead pretty well in Spanish and Chinese this year, but did very little with Japanese, maybe even regressing. I'm committing to learning the 2000 most common Japanese words this year, and may switch back to Chinese once I return from Japan. Taiwan has been bubbling to the top of my travel list, so I may spend some time there and study some Chinese while I have the opportunity.
I went to four art museums this year, saw a ballet, three operas, a cello concert, at least one musical (I really think it's two, but I forget what the other one was), and visited four beautiful nature areas. I also saw a few cirque shows and hiked around San Francisco and stuff like that. Once a week I try to experience a masterpiece of some sort because I find they inspire me in an emotional way that very little else does, and they tend to be high quality entertainment.
Happy New Year
My cousin today told me that I was the least festive person she knows. It's probably true-- other than getting to see my family at Christmas, my feeling towards holidays ranges from active contempt (Halloween, Easter, Birthdays) to indifference (Thanksgiving, July 4th).
New Years has no particular meaning to me, since starting a year on January first is completely arbitrary, and measuring your life in year increments is almost as arbitrary, but it does provide a convenient time to reflect on a past chunk of time and make adjustments for the future. In other words-- I hope your life has been going well, and that it continues to do so, whether you use this time to reflect and plan or not.
Photo is a glass sculpture at the MFA in Boston. It sort of looks like fireworks. Or leaves. Like turning a new leaf because it's the new year. Nailed this one.
I've done a really bad job telling all of my friends that I'm in New York... so if you're my friend and you're in New York and I forgot to tell you: Hey! I'm in New York!
I'm curious what your two meals every day are? I've been trying to figure out a simple meal plan that is much like yours, where I can eat the same thing everyday, one or two meals a day, and have it be healthy.
I'd second this request
From a strictly nutritional standpoint simply dividing what you would normally eat over the course of the day into 2 meas, as opposed to the regular three or four will effectively have the same nutritional value. One way to program your body to do this is through intermittent fasting, which is basicaly only eating during a 8 hour window each day. Leangains.com is an excellent resource for this.
No dating until 2015?? You aren't getting any younger Tynan! lol.....That look's like an insanely busy 2012, I would even recommend cutting some stuff out. Cut the books down to one a month, and focus on your businesses. 2013 could be a big year!
Lastly! (I thought I'd just do this separately because the content of this comment is wholly separate from the others.) I actually read your blogs pretty frequently and have always appreciated the content, partly because it ISN'T as polished as some other blogs, where they seem to have The Right Answer. You're figuring it out and I love that there seems to be so much room for error, for a completely different implementation of how you think you would best be living your life. But with this blog post - not even so much the No Middle post - I felt a little uncomfortable. The combination - not that one or the other is bad in themselves - of your focus on work and the toning down of travel somehow irked me and I couldn't really figure out why. I pushed it aside and went back to my own life to figure it out while showering or discussing philosophy with friends some other time. But I came upon this documentary called Happy on Netflix, which was an afterthought of doing some mindless chores. However, I became more and more fixated on the screen and I'm less than halfway through and I had to pause the movie to post the recommendation to you. I absolutely never post on forums, other people's blogs, etc., and I don't even reasonably expect you to read this short book of a comment, let alone watch the documentary, but I felt compelled to bring it to your attention. I think it brings up points about happiness and priorities that are slowly draining from all the of the blogs I read, and might give you another perspective from left field that will either have a profound effect on your priorities or reaffirm your resolutions. I hope you put it high up on your Must Watch list. Either way, I feel better now, and will go back to my movie.
Have you read The Four Hour Chef? In it he has a one page poster of the 1900 or so most popular Japanese characters.
I love this post for the potential it shows we all have, and how much change can be packed into one year. Thanks for the inspiration, Tynan.
What "key personal stats" do you log daily?
Have you read any books on Conversation Skills that you would recommend? (you didn't mention that here, but you have in other recent posts...)
Do you take notes on the books you read ala Derek Sivers? (http://sivers.org/book)
Related to writing fiction, you might find a book called "Story" pretty interesting. It's aimed at script writing, but it's universal to all storytelling. (http://www.amazon.com/Story-Substance-Structure-Principles-Screenwriting/dp/0060391685/)
Tynan, I've followed you mostly from a distance since 'The Game' days. I must say you're an inspiration for me to keep up my own effort at working diligently, steady, and often hard. Please keep this blog going because I know I can come here and get a swift kick in the ass. If you're ever in Austin and want to make a granite mosaic, shout at me, I love to teach others.
Tynan, this morning I stumbled upon your blog from a few years ago while searching for info on small RV's. I skipped about 3 years worth of content and went from the beginning to the end. I think it’s humorous you started out talking about how RV life freed you from wasting time buying armoires… and you end up in this post talking about the time you invested in building a zebrawood desk, something that sounds suspiciously like an armoire wasting event of 3 years ago. I guess what I’m trying to say is “never say never” it will come back to haunt you. But, the little I did read of your life makes me believe you are an intelligent, dedicated seeker of knowledge and balance in your life. The world needs more like you.
I clicked post just now on the first comment to check out if you had another feature. So sorry about how there isn't a flow, but I was right, and you're missing an edit comment feature. Would be much appreciated. That, or I don't know where it is, which is also a problem. Another feature is that even though I'm registered and apparently logged in, it still looks as though I'm a guest in the avatar to my right and I did a lot of bumbling and experimenting before realizing that I wasn't just being logged out. Another is that another picture that is similar in size and format to the one I'm using now was just not accepted. Perhaps because it was captured by PhotoBooth for Macs? I can't think of anything else that differentiates it. Also, I cannot understand why the setting of a password is only optional when registering but it's necessary to log in. Is it so that you can do a one time posting of a comment? Perhaps there's a reason, perhaps the implementation of a design is just lacking, but either way, it's something to be addressed.
And somehow we're done with 2011 already. Last year I made one goal (getting this site to the top 50k in Alexa), and I didn't make any effort whatsoever to reach it, so at this point I'm giving up on yearly goals. But I will say this-- if SETT isn't rocking and rolling by this time next year, I'd better be a famous rapper.
I may be blind towards the future but hindsight is 20/20, so I'm going to a quick summary of the year.
This time last year I was writing an article a day, and kept it up for 4 months before I let it fade away. But I was writing on one topic, and targeting a specific audience. I couldn't sustain it. This year, I'm doing it again. I seem to be writing an article a day - or more - and I'm writing on multiple topics, and I'm writing for me.
I'm not targeting a specific audience, I'm just writing what I feel like writing, when I feel like writing it.
Right now I'm in the toilet. Hey, some people read books, I just happen to be writing.
Don't worry, I'll wash my hands.
This feels a lot more comfortable for me. The writing, I mean.