I know many people are cursing 2020 and are glad that it’s over, but the older I get the more I realize that any time is good time, and that what we do with what we’re given is more important than what we are given. So I’ll just come out and say it: 2020 was an amazing year, and while it was obviously significantly worse in many ways, it was still overall the best year of my life.
Last year I wrote that it felt like such a dense year, with almost every day being packed and accounted for. This year was mostly the opposite, with long stretches of empty time with not only nothing to do, but very little I could do.
While I wouldn’t want every year to be this way, it was really refreshing to have such a big change and to take on the challenge of adapting to it.
As usual, here are the highlights of my year:
Japan Apartment Completes The Empire
As you may already know, I buy properties with my friends to use as home bases around the world. I knew for years that Japan would be the last feather in the cap, but it was by far the most challenging one to find.
The main issue is that there is no one obvious best area of Tokyo, and you have to really sort by commute time to places you like to go, which ends up being a tedious process.
We ended up getting a tiny but awesome little apartment in Nakano. It’s really a best-case scenario of amazing location, great views, and a nice adaptable space. I visited it once to get the keys and once again as the last trip I got to take before COVID forced a lockdown.
Besides the excitement of having a cool place to stay in Tokyo forever, it feels great to close the chapter on looking for properties to buy.
(Todd doing tea ceremony in Hilo pre-covid)
I made a lot of progress in tea ceremony classes and while I am still a beginner in absolute terms, I do feel like I’m starting to “get it”. It’s the sort of thing where I’m sure you look back every year and can’t believe the dumb mistakes you were making back then.
It’s been fun to dig deeper into an esoteric topic with no practical value other than the learning and practice itself. It feels a little bit like social meditation where you get to drink delicious tea.
(me at the Louvre)
I had at least five cruises planned this year and only got to do one. But… it was still an awesome cruise through the Middle East on one of my favorite ships (Jewel of the Seas). I scuba dove in Oman, visited the Louvre in Dubai, and ate a record 16 lobster tails in one sitting. I also remember doing a ton of work, but I can’t remember exactly what I worked on.
The cruise was intended to be one of many, but managing to do one cruise before COVID struck now feels like such a treat. I think there’s a decent chance I won’t get to cruise at all during 2021, though I hope I’m wrong.
(I designed and 3D printed a lit for this chaire, a tea container used in tea ceremony)
I had always wanted to buy a 3D printer and learn how to use it, and COVID gave me a perfect opportunity. The technology isn’t quite mainstream yet, but it feels completely magical to imagine an object and then be able to make it real within an hour or two. I go through phases, but very routinely use it make little jigs and parts for different projects. Last week I wanted some hooks to hang robes near the hot tub, so I just printed a couple out and they were ready before I went for a soak.
Health + Fitness
My general rule is that I’m 100% strict when I’m home and eat what I want, within reason, while traveling. Well… I’d been doing a lot of traveling. The heaviest I allow myself to get is 165, and that’s where I was when I began to quarantine. For most of quarantine (until I moved) I hit a really strict diet and workout regimine and got down to 150lb and 13.5% body fat from 165 and 17%. 150 is the lowest I like to be, so I’ll be ready for some buffets once I can cruise again.
I don’t really care much where I am between 150-165, but I really enjoyed turning on the discipline and seeing the results.
I also bought a sauna and hot tub off craigslist and have probably done one or both of them about 50% of the nights I’m in Vegas. I’m skeptical of the health benefit claims, but maybe there’s something to it.
As I was thinking about what I really enjoyed this year, coaching came to mind. I always enjoy it, but I think it was extra enjoyable this year since it was so easy to schedule. A bunch of my clients had huge wins and breakthroughs and it has been a lot of fun to be part of that journey.
The biggest challenge was that many people want to work on social group stuff and I don’t feel like we were able to get the kind of results we could have gotten without a lockdown.
Clearing Backlog (email spam, moved sett, etc)
I had a HUGE amount of random tasks, mostly tech stuff, that I was deferring because it was never urgent enough. A perfect example is moving the Sett server to my own server from AWS. It only took a few days, but it was a few days of complete focus and dealing with dozens of unexpected roadblocks. I had been dreading this for years and just kept putting it off because the extra $100 a month charge didn’t matter that much and I had more interesting work to do.
After doing it I realized that I had wasted almost $10k on these charges!
That was the worst example, but there were a lot of other little ones like moving newsletters in-house, writing some analytics software for my services, cleaning up a bunch of cruisesheet stuff, fixing my spam filter, etc. Now all of these things are done and while the impacts are relatively minor, they add up and I feel great having no deferred maintenance.
For the first time ever I understood the point of building a portfolio and investing.
I won’t rehash it all here, but I feel like my understanding of personal finance is finally complete and my system for managing my finances is exponentially better than in previous years. Most of the satisfaction here is in finally understanding how everything fits together, not so much that I think I’m going to have wildly different results.
In a non pandemic year I don’t think VR would make the list, but it ended up being a surprisingly satisfying way to connect with friends. Even though I was at home the whole time, I feel like I’ve been in all sorts of virtual worlds, mini golf courses, and escape games with my friends. The technology has now gotten to the point where experiencing VR is accessible and worth it for most people.
I can’t remember the last time I played a game, but I’ve played almost 700 games of Population: One, almost all of them with two friends on my team. The game looked so stupid to me, but it ended up being really interesting and a great way to spend an hour chatting with friends, flying around with them, and trying to strategize against other teams. I suspect that once I can travel and see my friends in real life I’ll play a lot less, but for now I really enjoy the time spent in VR.
Vegas / Moving
My only actual stated goal last year was to spend more time in Vegas. I’m not sure I had this much time in mind, but I certainly got my Vegas time in. I used to say that if I had to live in only one city and never travel I wouldn’t choose Vegas, but I think at this point I probably would. We’ve found even more to love about the city, and I appreciate it’s strengths even more than I did before.
The one weakness in my Vegas life which COVID exposed was the lack of outdoor space at home. At one point Lake Mead was closed, Red Rock was closed, and the ski mountain, Lee Canyon, was closed. Those are my three go-tos for outdoor recreation in Vegas and I started to feel pretty confined being in an apartment all day. We even looked up a random hike to do off a highway somewhere and it, too, was closed.
Our new house has a pool, a big patio, and a good sized yard, tons of big windows, and it makes a huge difference. I love having some space to just walk around, hear birds, and get some fresh air.
The house also has hundreds of unfinished projects (this week I’m setting up a hardcore video camera system, refinishing and installing a cool old wooden door, and building a mount for the projector screen). I had run out of projects to do at our apartments, so it’s nice to work with my hands again.
As you might guess from my history with properties, another couple of friends have already bought a house down the street and at least one other friend is actively searching. It’s nice to have the space and facilities to have each other over to cook meals, swim, sauna / hot tub, or just drink tea for hours.
A Big Secret Project
Early in quarantine I grabbed the bull by the horns and started a big secret project that had been sitting on my todo list forever because I just wanted it to exist. Unfortunately I got to about 95% by the time we bought the house, and have made no progress since then. The main problem is that I do projects because I want to use them, not so much because I want to make money, and it’s now useful enough for me to use but not polished enough to sell.
I generally force myself to finish what I start, and I already have another project I want to do, so I think I’ll finish this one within some number of months.
It’s hard to set goals for 2021 because so much of the year will be dictated by circumstance, but next year I want to…
…get the house fully remodeled and set up, which I think will happen no matter what.
…do more Superhuman events and will plan them as soon as it seems responsible to do so.
…launch the secret project and announce the next one as well (it’s catered towards blog readers, so I’ll make sure there’s enough interest)
…make up for lost time and spend more time with friends and family I wasn’t able to see this year.
I don’t have a lot of goals these days because I am completely happy with my life and don’t really need anything else. Most of the things that I hope for are good things I want to happen to other people in my life.
I hope that you had the best year you possibly could in 2020 and that 2021 is even better. More than most years I think it will be interesting to look back on this post next year. If you want to send me your yearly summary and goals, my email is my name at my name dot com. I’ll read them all and try to reply!
Top photo is part of the tea room at Yakumo Saryo in Tokyo. It’s one of my top 3 tea houses in the world.