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!