2014 Annual Review
The purpose of this annual review is for me to reflect on the year by asking these three questions:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go so well this year?
- What am I working toward?
Some of the major themes this year were:
Balance, Vulnerability, Consistency, and Focus.
My ambition has driven me to test many of my limits, but in some areas, I have been too intense and narrow; I should find a better balance. The big lesson for me this year is that is ok to be vulnerable. I don’t have to be so strict and defensive, and I should allow myself to be more open, invest more time in others and take more risks. You’re often stronger than you think and can recover from many situations mentally, emotionally and physically. Consistency and focus can lead to immense personal and professional growth, so foster positive habits and stick with them.
“We become what we repeatedly do.”
― Sean Covey
What Went Well this year?
I was surprised to find that 2014 has been the most productive year for me, even though at first it didn’t feel like it because of the amount of stress I went through. Writing up this annual review helps me appreciate all the work I put in, as I’m often way too hard on myself.
I put together a battle plan based on my 2013 data, and I was able to break down the unproductive areas I needed to reduce. I significantly reduced entertainment and social media and invested that time into research, programming and other skill-development.
If you’re interested in the productivity tracking application RescueTime, you can sign up here. I rate rescuetime as the most important service I use online, and the pro-version is well worth the money.
I want to become the strongest version of myself, both physically and mentally. Fitness isn’t necessarily a goal for me; it is now part of my identity. I want to be the guy who never misses a workout. Improving my body has increased my discipline, confidence and improved mental capacity as I am able to focus more with a healthier body.
As part of that process, I train three days a week, and I haven’t missed a workout the entire year. My total streak is now over 450+ days of consistency in the gym. Read more about my Data-Driven Gainz.
Rediscovering my passion for reading was one of the greatest things for my personal development. The objective for this goal was to get a quota of at least one hour worth of reading every day, I usually put in three hours on weekends. I increased my books read 46% from 41 last year to 60 books this year. By using a reading system, I was able to maintain and direct my reading momentum, discipline and drive don’t come with the system I should mention.
I created a three-level budgeting system which intelligently automates my budgeting, allowing me to worry less about tracking money and focus more on skill set development. There’s only so much money you can save, focus on increasing earning potential. I also realized that it was best to focus on paying off my student loans instead of investing early. The average annual market return is around 7%. So if you have loans with a similar or higher interest rate, your investment profits won’t be able to cover the interests that accumulate on your loan. Pay off high-interest debts first, and then invest.
To be an autodidact is to teach yourself on subjects of your own interests and in your own time, and then to apply the knowledge of those subjects to yourself and to others in order to foster a deeper conceptual understanding of the world.
-Dylan Dohner, THEMILLENNIALNEWSPAPER
Now is one of the most fruitful times in history for life-long learners who have access to endless amounts of information on the web. I created a number of personal curriculums for myself this year in addition to leveraging sites like Coursera and Khan Academy to continue learning. All one needs is the purpose, time and discipline to learn.
What didn’t go so well this year?
The amount of effort, sacrifice, and time put into accomplishing some of my highlights of the year came at a cost to other areas in my life.
Repeats this year are family and relationships.
After college, I became a little too familiar and comfortable with being away from the extended family for long periods of time. Now that I’ve graduated and working full-time, my ambitions continue to come at conflict with this area of my life that I should prioritize more and invest in.
I put some effort towards opening up this year, after a number of years of closing off myself to deep and meaningful commitments and relationships. Some of my workaholic ways made it difficult for me to want to invest more time to make a relationship work. I went through a number of heartbreaks, gave out some and had some good times. Since I do a lot of pre-planning and use a number of systems and processes for my habits and goals I was able to withstand the storm of love as I focused more on execution and not on what to do during times of emotional turbulence. I’m still learning to find a balance and scale back things.
I wasn’t able to maintain my habit of making at least one blog post every month. My daily writing habit was also very difficult to maintain, although I occasionally did continue keep my personal journal up to date.
Similar to writing I wasn’t able to maintain the habit of drawing consistency, and I feel off entirely by around May. I did get through some basics of drawing will help me get back on track when I have more bandwidth. Drawing can be considered a global skill, like reading, which is a skill made up of components of sub-skills learned in a particular order step by step. For drawing the sub-skills are:
- The perception of edges
- The perception of spaces
- The perception of relationships (perspective and proportion)
- The perspective of lights and shadows
- The perspective of the gestalt (seeing the whole and its parts)
A lot of theory and not enough application:
I haven’t done a good job of implementing some of the skills I’ve learned. In addition, I’ve picked up too many skills and didn’t improve my depth of knowledge in a core set of skills. I became more aware of that near the middle of the year and started focusing on practicality and building more.
What am I working toward?
I will work on most of the areas I had listed in things that didn’t work this year.
I underestimated how important nutrition is to fitness. I was able to avoid eating junk food or other poor quality for food for the majority of the year, that helped to keep my body fat low. However, I wasn’t eating enough good foods and taking in sufficient calories, macro and vital micronutrients to promote growth, fully utilizing all the effort I put in the gym this year.
Significantly Reducing News Consumption:
I need to reduce the amount of information I take in; news is a big area to cut out (Online and Offline). Much of the news is irrelevant, misleading, repetitive and is a major time and energy drainer. It’s like a 24-hour soap opera, that preys on your emotions. The news often focuses on bad situations, human fear, and divisiveness. So many things are out of our control, and we shouldn’t feel guilty about not knowing. Instead, focus on the things within your control, which are more productive and positive towards your life.
News is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feed us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright colored candies for the mind.
Reading More Fiction:
97% of books I read this year were non-fiction. I love reading non-fiction, and I can usually power my way through big dull books if it’s in a relevant skill area. I often read to develop a particular skill or learn more about the world and not for entertainment. Still, there is great value in reading the right fiction books, and I need to make a better effort to find those (Recommend some in the comments below as well). Some lessons in life are best explained through fiction because there is more flexibility in the environment and characters.
I would like to start working on side projects that could potentially bring in some residual income. Most of my hobby development experience has been around productivity, so I will probably target that area for mobile on the Android platform.
Gymnastics will give me a much wider degree of control of my body and improve some of my functional strength. I have already incorporated Olympic lifting and some yoga; gymnastics will add another dimension to my quest to become a stronger version of myself.
My mentors have been invaluable in my personal and professional life, and I think everyone should try to find a good mentor. I believe that wisdom can come from anyone and everywhere and the it isn’t only a characteristic of just the old. Young people can be mentors and trusted advisors to each other and other people. I want to make myself more available to help mentor others.
Time and time again, I realize how important focus is and it partially the reason I was able to become so consistent in most of my top habits this year. However, I still have a ton of things I need to improve upon and simplify. I came across the idea of essentialism, in its core it is a discipline and systematic approach for determining where our highest points of contribution lies and then relentlessly focusing on those things that matter the most. By removing the things that don’t matter and prioritizing, we can find more value by doing less and still have more impact.
Thanks for reading my review. I invite you to create your own annual review as well. If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to contact me or comment.
What were some of your greatest lessons in 2014? Comment done below.