The purpose of this annual review is for me to reflect on the year by asking these five questions:
This Annual Review is for me. But I would like to share it with you. I want to grow into a more open and transparent person, so in this review, I will share the highs, the lows and all the growth and pain that comes with it.
Camping I'm taking more spontaneous walks through various parks, doing more hikes as well as camping to escape the "concrete fatigue" I'm likely to get from being around buildings for too long. My friend Sam and I planned a camping to the Catskill Mountains with three other friends which turned out to be quite the adventure. From road trip stories of the bears we might encounter, and making sure we didn't accidentally bring any picnic baskets with us, to imagining a world where man and bear could get along, we were venturing into the unknown. Our first problem would arise when mother nature welcomed us with pouring rain right as we got our equipment setup but it would be another three hours of torture before we could get our fire started as both our firewood and firestarters became wet in the rain. Despite the struggles of being cold, wet, hungry and not having a fire to make food, we all worked together and got the fire started before it was too dark to see our own hands or any oncoming bears. [
Being immersed in nature is such a tranquil feeling that heals the mind, body, and spirit. Experiencing it, building it and sharing shelter with friends is even better. [ Sam, Me, Kean, Quinn, Conrad[/caption]
Roommates After me and my friend, Conrad decided to move to different locations in 2016, I took on a short-term lease in a 3BR with strangers. We got along well, but we had few deep interactions with each other just doing our own thing. My room also felt more like an office more than a place to relax and I didn't have much sunlight coming in. I made the decision to find a new place and David, who I met through my Personal Development Community was also open to looking for a place, so we started the hunt together. I liked the area still, so we narrowed the search to Williamsburg and I put together an apartment hunting system in trello to lessen the pain of NYC apartment hunting. [ Our 4th roommate David was away organizing an annual in memory of his father who had passed away from Cancer and we used the housewarming party as a platform to help raise money in support of cancer research.
Software engineers are uniquely positioned to improve the world—one programmer can design products that change millions of lives. Black software engineers have historically faced challenges in reaching their full potential. We ensure Black engineers fulfill the promise of their talents, transform the industry, and use their resulting skills and position to give back to their communities. — /dev/color
I'm proud to be part of the /dev/color community and grow with my squad. As a facilitator, my responsibilities were helping to organize and guide the monthly meetings discussing various career goals, personal, and professional aspirations and struggles to provide support, accountability, and perspective to further enable each other's career growth. Feeling people that can directly relate to your experience is a gift and you feel a sense of relief that there are others who understand and can communicate in a way of empathy and guidance from direct experience of how they've overcome their situations. In the latter half of the year, I got asked on three days notice to help facilitate a women's Black Software Engineering dinner. It would be the day before my trip to burning man and in my head I rationalizing that it made better sense for a woman to facilitate. They did not have anyone else to lead, and the dinner might have been at risk of being canceled. I learned that some of the women were experienced engineers but the other half was just starting out and trying to get into the field. I remember the sacrifices other people made for me and decided to say yes.
I ended up missing my flight to burning man but luckily caught another one a few hours later through a connection, and it was well worth the risk to help provide a platform for these women to connect, and help navigate the technical landscape to advance their careers. Burning Man
Burning Man is not a festival. Burning Man is a community. A temporary city. A global cultural movement based on 10 practical principles. — First Timer's Guide, burningman.org
My excitement after the first year I went to burning man was so high that I booked my plane ticket for the second trip nine months in advance. What brought me back to burning man was the desire to both disconnect and connect. I went through a digital detox and a routine detox. I reconnected with my values and personal mission. I adventured and connected with so many wonderful souls. For my second year, I was brought on as a camp co-organizer to help Jesse, the camp lead. In the month's leading up to the event, Jesse and I worked together to brainstorm how would make the camp better and improve our systems. We would have a camp of 27 people, our own small village, among the thousands of people attending Burning Man in Black Rock City. Running a camp is a TON of work, to say the least. But working with Jesse is a highlight experience for me. We have great synergy and a lot of respect for each other. We went to work on planning the camp blueprint and creating a camp runbook to help organize the process. [ What this command will do is:
When I’m finished reading a book and have written a review I can type a command
$ book save “Sapiens” What this command will do is:
To help with adding data more quickly to my blog, I created a custom Wordpress plugin to import book metadata which is generated with this command:
$ book export “Sapiens”
Birthday It’s been over a decade since I “celebrated” my birthday. Growing up my mother kept a tradition where she would read a prayer of gratitude to me or my younger brother on our birthdays from a little blue index card kept by her dresser. She would then say, “You’ve lived to see another year, be grateful.” There were no big celebrations or parties. I was the quiet kid, with few friends, didn’t think to ask them to come to a party. During the age when kids usually care about birthdays was when my family began to go into financial trouble, my father abandoned the family and my mom was left to raise me and my younger brother. Priorities changed. Life went from living to surviving. I didn’t fully understand the money situation. My birthday was coming up soon and I asked for a birthday cake. An angry and frustrated expression arose on my mother’s face, “I don’t have it. Do you want milk or do you want a cake?” Confused by the question, I said cake. Early in the following morning, I awoke to my little brother crying. He was hungry. There was barely any cereal left, and there was no milk. I opened the fridge and saw a box, I didn’t have to open it to see the marks of frosting coming from the edges. Nothing else was in the fridge. I got my cake. I looked at my mom back then and I understood the question. The bluntness of that experience has shaped my psychology around lavish celebrations and focusing on what’s important. I would also learn more about being resourceful from observing my mother's many tricks. She went into the bare pantry and took out a can of condensed milk and mixed it with water to use with our cereal as we would eventually continue to run out of food in the future, but we survived. More change was on the horizon in the coming years and my personality became more closed off as I protected myself from the chaos around me. I became extremely introverted and didn't really have a community around me. I was very lonely for a very long time. I remember spending many birthdays alone by myself. Ironically, it was that same strong familiarity with being sad, alone and disconnected that has given me insights into seeing the loneliness and need to connect with other people. I understand what it feels like and I wanted to help reduce that feeling in other people, so I have invested significantly in cultivating communities over the last couple years. You don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow, and life is such a precious gift. I've been learning how to be comfortable with celebrating and I wanted to break free of the scars of my past and grow as a person. When I reframed celebration on behalf of other people and not just for me it was easier for me to let go and allow the courage to celebrate. I'm happy seeing other people happy and after a decade of not celebrating I had a lot of catching up to do, so you can bet when my birthday came around this time, I FREAKIN CELEBRATED! 🎉🎉🎉 What would unfold would be a super week of celebration
I’ve also realized that my primary motivation to travel isn’t so much the scenery or buildings, but people. While in London, I got to meet a lot of interesting people, catch up friends and spend time with a really amazing person.
Germany While in London, on the night before my flight to Germany, I met up with my best friend Conrad who had a layover in London for a reunion with his other friends while we shared memories and would soon meet up in Germany on separate flights the next day. I would get to explore the city of Berlin during the holidays, meet his parents and some other friends in the country. Unfortunately, when preparing to depart from the London airport, I was unable to check-in as my passport did not have enough expiration buffer, expiring in less 3 months and they required 6. I did not get a ticket refund and had to cut my trip short and go back to NY. It was a disappointing way to end out the year but I intend to attempt to visit again another time, hopefully in 2018. Spending My spending increased by around 30% for the year as I wasn't as disciplined as I usually am with my budgeting. The amount spent on Uber and Lyft keep increased year by year as well as money spent shopping. Although my income continues to rise year by year, my expenses should not necessarily rise with it. I will work on better reigning this in for 2018. Habits In 2017, most of my pillar habits started to break apart. A combination of significant emotional turbulence and lack of structure opened up room for procrastination and rationalizing away certain habits with the illusion of time scarcity. The breakdown of habit consistency led to more personal frustrations and lower energy throughout the year. Productivity My overall productivity score has been negatively decreasing for the last three years. Increased social media use has added significantly to that despite activity placing restrictions on my use. In addition to decreased time spent researching and writing. Total time logged in 2017 was 4,438h 59m compared to 3,367h 56min 2016, a 24% increasein time online. I was shocked when I found this out and would like to significantly decrease that. Being a software engineer added a lot to that total, as I track work time and out of work time, but it shouldn't have been such an increase compared to prior years where I was actively coding as well.
Design & Composition
Reference & Learning
4, 438h 59m
Time spent researching and learning was sadly my lowest percentage of time spent in the last year, and that directly impacts my skill development and ability to execute on new opportunities. [ Fitness My fitness routine broke down towards the end of the year and I ended up taking off 4 months from the gym, partly due to emotional turbulence and time constraints. It is my longest gap of time not working out in the last 3 years. Another pattern I uncovered was that my weight lifted has significantly decreased from my high of 4,315,799 lbs in 2015 to 1,813,473.5 lbs in 2017, a 57.9% decrease.
96h 11m 05s
51h 10m 34s
75h 12m 15s
31h 23m 54s
20h 14m 39s
34h 03m 26s
7h 33m 42s
03h 07m 19s
06h 05m 43s
37h 07m 06s
16h 22m 41s
Ever quarter I readjust my training program using data from the prior months and figuring out what I need to hit certain milestones in the future. Regardless from the fitness planning, schedule planning is extremely important and I wasn't able to adapt my schedule to changes in the latter half of the year, which broke my workout consistency and lead to months out of the gym. [ This has affected most of my prior relationships and I have been consciously working towards being more open and expressive in this area.
Words have a lot of power. Over the years I’ve developed a feeling and resonance when speaking certain words. I’ve also realized how much they shape the way we think and see the world. There are certain words which I removed from my vocabulary so I can reduce certain negative thought patterns, cultivate a more empathetic and understanding behavior and remove words that add doubt or self-damage. Busy - I want to be intentional about the work I do and have control and direction towards the way I allocate my time. In addition, I don’t want to communicate wide unavailability but a sense of priority and purpose. I do not want to be a slave to my calendar and I do not want to be part of the rat race. The language I use towards work and commitments should communicate a sense of purpose and not a sense of imprisonment. F*ck - Although, I grew up in a household where cursing was not allowed, my choice for removing it from my vocabulary was more because in prior uses it’s usually related to anger and I feel like it’s a very reactionary word. I am working towards cultivating a more tranquil inner state and using that word does not help in that area. I also want to be intention with the words I use and this one usually arises on reflex, without presence and attention. Can’t - Often times we prematurely limit ourselves and outside possibilities. I want to keep my mind open to possibilities and operate in a more optimistic light, guided by potential and probabilities instead of certainty. Weird — I want to be emphatic towards various interests/passions, ideas, styles, and behaviors, removing non-inclusive and potentially alienating language. Lazy - Instead of applying this to my own or someone else character, I want to reframe this in terms of one’s motivation, incentives or desire to not waste energy. You can be in a very unmotivated state, and instead of feeling guilt, you can begin to question the source. How can you take small steps towards action? How can you step can and work smarter and understand the why behind what you do? How can you be more compassionate towards yourself and take the rest you need and work to your potential or as an expression of your true nature. Hate — Something I promised myself when I was younger, thinking about the future and what I would need to do to get out of my circumstances is that I would not carry hate in my heart. It is too heavy a burden and will spread like wildfire. I would need to travel light, and be adaptable and open, so that word and feeling have no space for the capacity of connections with others I want to hold. Over the past 10 years, I have been able to eliminate and or reduce the following:
Youtube I made the decision to fully block youtube on my computer to reclaim more time. I can still access it on my phone, but I don't use my phone that much for that purpose.
Blocking youtube on my computer, led to a 42% decrease in total time for the year. [
Think on paper I fall into mental loops where my thoughts become too tangled for clear thinking. Getting out of my head and onto paper is a great medium that allows my thoughts to be more spaced out and organized. Now I start traveling with a small notebook wherever I go and I have multiple notebooks placed throughout my room for when I want to capture something or ease the pressure off my mind. Minimize Assumptions Second to emotionally driven decisions, being quick to make assumptions is what leads to the most mistakes for me or misunderstandings when I'm dealing with another person. Our brains are wired to take shortcuts and assumptions allow us to get to a conclusion quickly on limited information. In a number of situations though we have more time to make a decision and shouldn’t jump into judgment. Pause, listen, ask the right questions and do the proper research. Context-Specific Information
All Models Are Wrong, Some Are Useful
It is very rare you find a theory, mental model and principle that can be applied in all situations. Often time these concepts are created based on accessible information at that time, and as more information becomes available these ideas can be disproven and refined over time. It’s still up to use to continually learn and unlearn, asking the right questions and seeing where our current knowledge applies and the context we’re operating in. Certain categories of knowledge are more robust than others like Mathematics, Physics, Statistics and some others more fragile like Social Sciences, Psychology, Economics. The more robust concepts we acquire are like foods very long shelf-life or imperishable, and the fragile models should be treated like milk. Be sure to check the expiration date of what you know. Risks of Living in the Future Living in the future too long can be used as a crutch to escape reality; avoid that. Although a lot can be learned from the past, don’t dwell on it for too long, as it can easily turn into regret. Although looking to the future can inspire hope and help guide present decisions, it can easily turn into fantasies devoid of action or anxieties surrounding the unknown. Be anchored in the present, it’s the realest thing there is.
More Quality Time with my Mother and Brother It's a shame when we're more serious with scheduled meetings on our calendar with strangers than we are with setting aside time to spend with our own family. I've been guilty of this, but it's hard to separate the importance of a schedule in the professional world, with constantly changing obligations. I felt slightly guilty proposing the idea to my mother when I asked her to schedule some time on my calendar. But her reaction was more of joy surprisingly that we would be spending time with each other intentionally. No matter how busy I get, we have to set aside at least 4 hours of 1 on 1 time every 3 months, with additional rules of no phones allowed, and we must be present with each other. Activities where we are not focused on each other but some other medium like going to the movies does not count towards time spent together. As we get older we're on the tail-end of not only our life but the time we spend with our parents. Make time for them. Personal Network My personal network has grown significantly over the last couple years. With that has been a flood of various invites and potential social obligations. I’ve invested a lot in community and collaboration, but it’s reaching a point where I don’t have enough energy and time to re-prioritize my personal routines. I also have been spread too thin to invest in building depth in my existing relationships. I will be introducing more structure to better manage new connections and allow more time to cultivate existing relationships. I will also be de-prioritizing large group events and scaling down to one-on-one or small sub 4-person gatherings with close friends. Notes General note taking will be a big priority for me. I find that writing helps me to clear my thoughts and helps me better aggregate my learnings over time. I have been reducing my friction towards writing by creating more scheduling around dedicated writing time and using the write tools for the kind of mental state I’m in and the type of writing I plan to do. I use Evernote as my primary note taking and research tool. I use iA Writer for basic flow of thoughts as it has a simpler interface and a typewriter mode where I can focus on one sentence at a time. For long-form content I am using Scrivener and for Journal entries I am using Day One. With all that said, my most important note-taking tool update has been going back to the basics and taking more notes with pen and paper. I’ve noticed it’s giving more freedom and flexibility to write throughout the day, more opportunity to doodle, and has actually increased the use of the above tools as I have more draft ideas generated on paper that I want to polish up. Fitness I rebuilt my fitness program from the ground up to better incorporate my personal preferences, strengths, and areas for improvement. The main areas are:
I’ve found a lot of success in higher frequency training, so I’m maintaining the 4-day a week schedule for strength training. I currently use dynamic scheduling, so I don’t have fixed days. I look forward at my calendar and schedule my workouts based on my availability. During busy weeks, I sometimes have to schedule in super days which usually fall on a weekend, where I workout in the morning, rest for a couple hours and workout again in the evening. My flexibility is starting to become a weakness and limiting my growth, so I’ve prioritized daily specialized range of motion training and I'm using a program called RomWod, which is a Range of Motion Workout of the Day program. It’s geared towards more athletic training and more pragmatic for me compared to doing yoga. RomWod has a wide collection of videos to watch and releases one new video a day. [ High-Intensity Interval training or HIIT is an effective way to burn fat fast in a shorter amount of time. It’s a more engaging form of cardio for me that I can incorporate into this year’s program. I’m using a Tabata timer for battle ropes, cycling and rowing for HIIT training. Meditation I’m working towards building a stronger meditation practice. In the past, I’ve primarily done solo unguided meditations focused on breathing. I am experimenting with more guided meditations, using the app, Calm and I will be exploring other types of meditation like walking, dance and sound meditations. What helped me to reframe my experience around meditation was to understand that the act of meditation is not for relaxation purposes, and it is an intentional practice around mindfulness and building awareness. Depending on your prior experiences and psychology, the act of meditation can actually be perceived painful, feeling the friction of the mind and attention wanting to consume some medium or digging up thoughts of the past or future. Cultivating a practice of around meditation helps to keep me grounded in the present, and trains me to observe and respond as needed instead of being in a reactionary state. It trains me to learn how to be aware of my emotions, but not try to hold onto them as they are ever fleeting. Nutrition Last year I worked with a nutritionist to get a snapshot and do a deep dive on my nutritional state and found it to be enlightening to uncover some deficiencies and put together a meal plan to work towards enhancing my health. I want to make this a more consistent routine doing comprehensive checkups every 4-6 months. As my fitness programs shifts into gear this year, I need to eat at least 3.6k calories per day and will be working on a nutritional program to make sure those are good calories. In addition, I’ve noticed that my nutrition has been a strong factor in my quality of sleep and will be working had to balance that out. Writing Emotional Journal — When I was younger as a way to better understand my emotions, I was the author of my own little emotional dictionary, where I actively translated how I felt and perceived certain emotions. I forget which elementary school teacher helped to inspire this, but thank you. Empathy Journal — As an exercise to better understand other people’s story and improve my listening ability, for a portion of journal entries instead of writing about myself or how my day went, I write about a conversation or other interaction I had with someone else trying to capture their story, ambition and expressions. Newsletter — I’ve had decent engagement with my Monday Morning Musings on Facebook where I share ideas, quotes, questions, statements or symbols I am deeply thinking about. Over the years I’ve built a habit and skill around curation and I feel like a consistent newsletter would be a great place to share some of my best findings and thoughts. Blog — I want to blog more consistently to help my ideas scale more, and be battle tested from reader engagement and feedback. Specific recurring writing days will help me produce more drafts, in addition to taking notes and journaling more consistently to better organize experiences and lessons. I am a fan of the short concise posts of Seth Godin and Derek Sivers and want to produce more focused one topic sub 500 word posts, which will give me space to produce more in-depth long-form content in parallel. Twitter — I want to produce more content on twitter instead of just consume. A good tip I heard mentioned is to tweet as if you’re making notes to yourself, these would be oriented towards lessons learned. I’m also a fan of tweet storms, a barrage of sequential tightly packed ideas in tweet form. I want to write more tweet storms of my own this year. I want to experiment with summarizing books in tweet storms, or various mental models etc. 100 Things Every 2 years I write a list of 100 Things that make me happy. I just realized I skipped writing the list last year, but have written one in 2013 and 2015. I don’t look at the prior list while I write the new one, so I have a fresh list of the things that I truly resonate with repeating in the following years. The year after I write the list, the focus isn’t to just do those things, I focus on reducing the activities or people that don’t align with those things, to allow for happiness to naturally fill the gaps. In addition, I am also writing a list of 100 Things I Want to Accomplish. These can either be in the next year, 5 years, 10 years or in my lifetime. They also don’t have to be solely professional, they can be emotions I want to feel more consistently, experiences, partnerships, things I want to create etc. The Manual When I was battling depression in 2016, I took notes of my experience so I could better reflect on that emotional state when I reached a more stable point mentally. During that experience, what surprised me the most was the rate at which I was essentially “losing myself”, forgetting what happiness felt like, forgetting what made me happy, losing the mental tactics I had put together over the years in times of intense emotional turbulence. Similar to how you can buy a product and get a manual or set of instructions on how to operate it or be told to refer to the manual. I am doing a multi-year product, writing a book to myself, code-named “The Manual” which will be a culmination of the lessons, desires, passion, experiences and other learnings around my personal evolution and journey. The Manual is what I will reference in times of need when I feel lost or need to remember who I was, who I am, and the person I’m trying to become.
Thank you for taking the time to read my annual review. This has been my most challenging review to write thus far but I'm glad I got it out. If anything resonated with you feel free to comment or message me. You can read the prior years reviews here.