The purpose of this annual review is for me to reflect on the year by asking these five questions:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go so well this year?
- What am I reducing or eliminating?
- What did I learn?
- What am I working toward?
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.
What went well this year?
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.
We went on a 13-mile hike to the top of the mountain and although my legs felt like a baby giraffe learning how to walk afterward, it was well worth it to see the beauty of the hills and mountain and ocean of green from the top of the fire tower with some great friends.
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.
My friend Kean, who I was potentially going to live with the year prior became available and joined in, in addition to his girlfriend Noemy, who I met beforehand and got along with well. We eventually found an amazing place and I closed the deal in less than 12 hours.
Living with Kean, Noemy, and David I would rank as one of my top 5 decisions in 2017. I love this crew so much and they have become another family for me. We’re all trying to better ourselves and support one another. Even though we have seperate journeys, we all have strong value alignment.
Coming out of 2016 into 2017 I was in a very lonely place for me and they all have filled the home with so much joy and connection. On any given night you’ll hear laughter and stories. When it’s quieter we’re either co-working, sharing ideas, focusing on our own projects or in some deep conversation.
In prior years, I have never had a housewarming or house party. Some places we’rent worth or it, it didn’t really feel like home. This year we threw a big house party, a first for many of us, and filled our place with energy and love. It turned out to be a legendary party and a lot of connections were made.
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 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.
We needed to figure out the right materials to order and create an inventory management system for the purchase, delivery and build side. Jeese was adept at figuring out the wind directions so we could lay out our camp in a way that would minimize the blunt force of dust storms.
We expanded our shade structure this year and doubled the size of our kitchen. Diesel generators powered our camp and we have an electric grid network of extension cords that fed into the tents and common areas. We had a carpenter create a modular shower that we built in the desert supported by an electric water pump which also powered our kitchen sinks.
We created a campsite to disseminate information and automated our camp due payment process as well as our application process. For newcomers, we have a well-curated shopping list and a webinar to answer questions and help prepare them to have a smooth, safe and enjoyable burning man experience.
Burning Man is a magical event. I can’t think of too many events that could replicate it. My favorite aspects of it, are the widespread collection of art and expression all over the desert. The theme camps that offer specialized experiences to the community. The serendipity, warmth, and depth of most interactions with people you have there. In addition, the environment, culture, and principles create a space to be your most authenticate self.
I found myself gravitating towards a lot of body movement camps, involving dance, yoga, aerial and gymnastics.
I shared a lot of great memories with many of my No Boundaries camp mates and look forward to another year at the burn.
If you’re interested in burning man or possibly join the camp, you can reach out to me as I’ll be scouting for additional campmates for Burning Man 2018. You can also check out my 2016 or 2017 Burning Man Photo Journal to see some highlight moments.
Community — Personal Development Nerds (PDN)
I am truly grateful to be apart of such an inspiring community and have the opportunity to lead Personal Development Nerds, which is almost 3 years old now, run by me and my friend Sam. The community has grown to over 1,000 members, organically through word of mouth and referrals.
I met some of my best friends through the community, as well as my current roommates who I’ve grown a deep connection with. Many people have shared how PDN has impacted their life for the better and I’ve seen business partnerships formed, relationships, masterminds, and best-friends who’ve found each other through PDN.
We have events once a month throughout the city, in addition to retreats and other sub-groups and events. It feels like a meeting of the Avengers when PDN comes together as we’ve somehow found a way to draw so many driven, authentic, passionate and skills individuals.
We’re continuing to grow and the community continues to evolve, I look forward to what 2018 brings.
Book Automation Tool
I took time to analyze some of my workflows that I could possibly automate and saw an opportunity to make my book data collection and review process more streamlined. I created a command-line program to automate my interactions with Goodreads, Amazon, Trello, and Google Sheets for maintaining my books.
I can now type in a command into the terminal like:
$ book add “Sapiens” -t next -g reading -e
What this command will do is:
- Collect book data from Amazon and Goodreads
- Create a Trello card with the book’s information, to organize track the books I read in parallel and my reading progress
- Update the book’s status on Goodreads to “Currently Reading”
- Create a new Evernote in my “Books” Notebook and add the book to it with a set template to take notes and write my review
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:
- Collect data from Amazon, Goodreads, and Trello
- Add a row to Google Sheets where I track
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”
Completing the book automation work in 2017 significantly helped to streamline getting my reviews onto my site and I estimate that I’ll have over 200 books listed on the site by end of 2018. Check out the books page to see my book reviews.
Promotion to Senior Software Engineer
When you put the work in, progress is inevitable and I am proud to have been promoted to Senior Software Engineer, especially while being in a company with many brilliant engineers. When I first joined the team, I went through imposter syndrome, something I’ve consistently experienced as I’ve pushed the boundaries of my skills and worked with even more talented people over time. This isn’t something to feel ashamed of, it’s a sign of opportunity and an internal call to action to find support and resources to learn.
When I joined I quickly went to work and more deeply understanding the product, and actively looked for opportunities to apply my strengths. Soon I realized that I could apply my strengths best by focusing on helping the team work better, applying what I’ve learned about efficiency and productivity to improve the team workflow, build automation tools and promote a culture around documentation and sharing knowledge.
What also helped to add impact was my strong understanding of both the technical and business requirements behind many features we were building that helped me communicate to my teammates who were sometimes hesitant to work on certain features, and on the other side communicate to product why it was important to prioritize working on certain technical initiatives that on the surface didn’t seem like it would help the product offering, but on a deeper level would enable to team to develop faster.
Growing up rarely speaking to anyone to speaking in front of hundreds of people, I’d say I’ve had a lot of personal growth around public speaking. I did on average a talk a month for the year around technology, personal development, mental toughness, as well as being a moderator and facilitator for forum oriented events.
I’ve worked on better internalizing concepts and ideas so I can give more dynamic off-script talks and I also try from a place of empathy. My focus over the years on curation has helped me to hone on the most important themes to communicate. The result has been for every one of my talks for 2017, I was invited to speak, based on a recommendation, referral, or in a number of cases someone in the audience who organizes an event and connected with me after an event to speak at their upcoming event.
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
- Pre-Birthday Dinner
- Birthday Brunch
- Chill Birthday Get-Together
- Birthday Dinner
- Archery Tag
- Black Ops Laser Tag
I had a lot of fun with my friends and look forward to celebrating next year.
I hosted my first Thanksgiving, which was also a “Friendsgiving”, inviting friends who chose not to or were unable to travel for the holidays. Thanksgiving with my own family has been challenging as my family is very fragmented, with around five separate Thanksgiving dinners going on.
It was a powerful year cultivating friendship and community, so spending thanksgiving with friends turned out to be the option where I would be the happiest, with the added bonus of being drama free.
I rarely cook for other people, so of course a risky but huge opportunity for growth would be hosting Thanksgiving at my place and being head chef, being in service of others. This turned out to be quite the test, mentally going from amateur league doing prep meals in practice mode to super bowl of food Thanksgiving only hours away.
I rush ordered tables and other dining material, and researched recipes only hours before the big day and began cooking at noon.
I did a sanity check call with my mom an hour into cooking, where she gave me some tips and but with a worried voice, talked me out of cooking turkey as I didn’t prepare it days before. I quickly pivoted to Ham and whipped up all the other primary and side dishes and some friends came by a couple hours before dinner to assist.
A couple guests brought food to fill in the gaps and everything turned out well. It was a wonderful night filled with laughter and deep conversations. My primary metric for the quality of food, was inducing the “Itis” and I’m proud to say I knocked a couple people out.
I took my first trip to London and had a good time. My friend Paru gave me a bunch of great tips to travel around in limited time and one of the earlier things I did was to take the Red Bus Tour to drive around the while city and scout out places I wanted to visit later. It was interesting to see so much of the cities’ history and culture.
I spent some time at the Bank of England reflecting on the history of money, stores of value and the financiers of the world, pondering about the future while holding it in my hand. Cryptoassets will lead to a whole new frontier of empowering technologies. A shift in power is around the corner. The seed of an idea for an alternative system has been planted in the minds of many.
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.
What didn’t go so well this year?
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.
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.
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.
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 56m in 2016, a 24% increase in 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.
|Productivity Score||Design & Composition||Software Development||Social Networking||Reference & Learning||Communication||Business|
|2017||4, 438h 59m||62||5%||26%||16%||9%||11%||14%|
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.
Productive hours seem to dip down in the last 5 months of the year. This is a pattern I’ve noticed over the last 3 years that not only affects productivity but the consistency of my habits as well. Distracting hours seem to remain at a steady rate and then increases in the middle of the year.
Another pattern I noticed was that the less time I log for specific day the higher the rate of distracting time spent. That usually means, if it’s a day I’m resting which is good, I might be only logging time from my phone, most likely on social media, or watching some form of entertainment to wind down.
Social Media time increased significantly, with 447 hrs spent in 2016 to 683.45 hrs spent in 2017 a 43% increase. Most of that time came from Twitter, Instagram, and messenger. Social media use increased a lot in the second half of the year.
Time spent researching decreased from 430 hrs in 2016 to 389 hrs and 50mins in 2017 a 9% decrease.
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.
|Session Length||96h 11m 05s||51h 10m 34s||75h 12m 15s|
|Actual Workout||31h 23m 54s||20h 14m 39s||34h 03m 26s|
|Wasted Time||7h 33m 42s||03h 07m 19s||06h 05m 43s|
|Rest Timer||37h 07m 06s||16h 22m 41s||22h 53m|
|Weight Lifted||4,315,799 lbs||1,549,179 lbs||1,813,473.5 lbs|
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.
I usually workout for around 30-45 minutes during sessions, decreasing my rest time to increase the intensity of a workout. An interesting pattern from the data is that despite the total number of exercises done being around the same, I took significantly more rest during workouts in 2015, than 2017 and the extra rest might have added to me being able to lift heavier more consistently.
When it came to my training breakdown, I trained my back the most followed by shoulders. Time spent on upper and lower legs was lower than I would have liked, as squats are a weakness I’ll be targeting more in 2018.
The quality and number of books I read in 2017 decreased as I wasn’t as disciplined with prioritizing reading time. I read 60 books in 2017, missing my reading target of 70 books.
When I set a goal or target, it’s often difficult to hit but well within my reach if I execute properly. I did not execute on my reading, and in return added a lot of stress on myself as I crammed a lot of reading in later in the year, and read shorter books in the latter half to try to get my count up, which is unacceptable. I track pages read per year, in addition to books read to ensure that the pages read doesn’t decrease.
Not only did my reading decrease, so did my writing which took a more significant dive. I published fewer blog posts, book reviews, book notes, general notes and journal entries. Overall time on Design and Writing decreased 49.5% in 2017.
Part of the reasons why writing fell through I feel is because I didn’t have a set structure or schedule for writing, only a structure around the things I could write and means of storing and distributing writing.
Craft & Passion
The Craftsman mindset focuses on what you can offer the world, the passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you. It takes time to develop a craft that you’re good at and find what you can offer something to the world with. I feel that taking the path of craft is a more reliable way of getting to passion than believing you’re born with some innate passion that you just have to discover without building towards it. So you need strength in your craft and passion for it.
Where you direct your craft can be misplaced from misaligned motivations, values, incentives and purpose of the work you do. I’ve had a lot of friction around this area and think a lot about the purpose of the craft and for whom is it for. A lot of stress in the past few years has come from misalignment of craft and passion and I’m still figuring this out.
My grandfather on my father’s side of the family passed away in 2017. I’ve only met him a handful of times and didn’t have the opportunity to get to know him or build a connection with him. I heard the tearful news from my father and more news started to trickle in from my older siblings.
My personal sadness mostly arose from the fact that I didn’t feel too sad about the news. Despite being tied by blood, and being important to others, it felt like a stranger to me. I reflected a lot about death and relationships and the pain that other people feel for lost loved ones, and realize home much the pain can be a reflection of the depth of their love.
Going into 2017, I made the decision to focus more on my career as family issues outside of my control were causing me too much pain. I also needed to reconnect with myself and passions as I sacrificed too much of my own happiness to do things that were strategically important for the family.
A couple months went by and I hadn’t seen my mother. I visited her and knew immediately something was off. In that gap of time, she was facing a lot of challenges by herself, recovering from surgery, feeling lonely and having financial trouble.
We spoke for about an hour and she broke down crying, revealing that she is battling depression and feeling lost in life. I felt a shock of guilt, that quickly turned to a feeling of compassion as I embraced my mom. We both agreed that we need to keep being strong for each other. Laughing through the tears we also agreed that we both can’t be depressed at the same time. One of us at least has to be clear of mind to jokingly ask the other what are you so sad about.
I’ve thought a lot recently about the option of getting a house that we could all live in. That would surely relieve a lot of pressure. It would be a big commitment, but deep down I’ve felt it wouldn’t be a decision I would be happy with at this stage in my life. I grew up in a place where the world seemed to be the hood I lived in. I didn’t think I would get the chance to leave home and see outside of the bird cage that is poverty. I left home, to go after the opportunities to help my family and having space has improved our relationship getting closer to each other’s hearts over time, despite the distance.
I went from a year of taking my 8-year old little brother mish on a grand new adventure each month in 2016, to rarely seeing him in 2017. I am very disappointed that I allowed excess obligations and external responsibilities to get in the way of us spending time with each other. I wonder a lot about what’s on his mind.
Having lived through poverty at his age, and the number of sacrifices me and my other brother made, I don’t want him to have to make the same sacrifices and miss out on just worrying about being a kid. My other younger brother and I had to grow up far too soon for our age.
I remember the joy of first getting to be an older brother. Only three years apart we would share similar interests and play together. We shared the same friends and even shared the same bed throughout our childhood. He was my best friend.
As kids we couldn’t choose the environment we grew up in, my mother did her best to shield us, but life got harder and harder and the older we got the more me and my brother grew apart. The pressure affected us in different ways. Education was my mother’s top priority. It was the only way we could ensure a better future, and obtaining scholarships was a must.
My younger brother was pretty much a genius throughout school. I was very quiet and had a difficult time learning. He was smart enough to follow me to my summer classes, three grade levels above his current coursework when my grades were subpar and I needed to make them up. Most of my weaknesses were his strengths. He is extremely personable, seemed to have a photographic memory and is a great problem solver. His level of empathy and ability to connect with people was what I admired the most. I look up to him a lot and what some friends would recognize as some of my strong traits were inspired by him.
In the area we lived you need to be careful with who you interact with. I saw the chaos around me and closed myself off, escaping into my mind. My brother is a people person and couldn’t. He eventually associated with the wrong crowds and a couple unfortunate decisions and circumstances greatly alerted his path. I’ve been trying to be there for him throughout these difficult periods to offer support, guidance, and mentorship which he has continued to reject.
Over the years my family has contrasted my successes with his failures and he’s grown to be distrusting of me. This has pained me deeply and I’ve tried to communicate my intentions and openness to help him has greater autonomy in his life be his own man. Last year was a battle of trying to get to him and as it continues the deteriorating relationship with my brother has been one of the heaviest burdens I carry.
In mid-2017, after living with my mother for years, he abruptly left without telling my mother or me, only telling our youngest brother that he won’t be able to play with him for a while and he disappeared. I tried contacting him and all his numbers were changed and he wouldn’t respond to email. I was even more worried when I noticed that his google activity showed last active 2 months ago. My brother was lost and his friends didn’t know where he was. I felt extreme anxiety, fear, and sadness as thoughts of the worst scenario came to mind.
I had some commitments in the Bronx and decided I would also take time to further investigate where my brother was, and discovered he was still alive and found the address of his job. I went there and saw him. Surprised to see me, he said that he’s busy and can’t speak. Overflow with emotions I waited for an hour and a half in the lobby. When he was let out of work he still did not want to speak with me, so I followed him to his car.
I tried to figure out what was wrong. I was surprised to hear him say he didn’t trust me. I wasn’t there for him when he needed me and I didn’t help him financially and he felt pressure to resort to other ways of getting money.
Memories began to flashback, and I remembered the hundreds of hours I poured into PC games escaping reality, using a single computer we had which I didn’t let him use, so he went outside to find people to hang with and it wasn’t always the right crowd. I remember taking my mother’s side in a number of arguments and criticizing him. I remembered the cash piling up during my candy man era where I was selling candy in school and I never shared any of my profits with my brother. He would eventually get kicked out of high school for stealing someone’s phone as he couldn’t afford one. Back then I was engulfed in the scarcity mindset and I did not open up and share with him as much, food, time, money, nor emotions. I was very selfish. I remember trying force my values and beliefs onto him as his life turned astray and I would attach conditions attached to my offers of getting him out of trouble.
Realizing all of this before and after I burst into tears. Barely being able to speak, I tried to communicate how much I loved him and was sorry. I’ve been keenly aware of my flaws and have always been working to change. I do not blame myself and did not want to be absorbed by regret. That was a past me, a kid surviving, engulfed in scarcity. But that was the snapshot my brother had of me and held onto. Vice Versa, I have seen his dark side, but I am keenly aware that is not him, he is much more than that. That’s how I approach most relationships with people now accepting both the darkness and lightness and choosing the light.
He was not ready to fully accept me at that moment and I had to give him his space. I wiped away my tears and had to mentally prepare myself, as only 30 minutes after our emotional I was scheduled and expected to show up as a Mentor at a mentor/mentee kickoff event, entrusted to help guide another young soul.
It takes awareness, acceptance and time to overcome pain, insecurities and unfilled needs. I spent a lot of time reflecting on relationships and patterns of behavior or lack of expression. Again the answer was found in the past through childhood.
Not having a strong father figure, my mom took on the role of both mother and father. It takes a very strong woman to raise two children by herself and my mom had to sacrifice a lot to make it work. She worked two jobs to juggle the bills, but the biggest sacrifice of all was a personality change in which her compassion and outward love began to fade as a result of stress, anger and a need to discipline. She became a tiger mom, whose focus became survival success for her children.
There were fewer hugs, fewer kisses, the warmth vanished, but slight memories remained. I knew it existed but I didn’t have it anymore.
Losing touch was a debt that was hard to repay. My little brother would self-sooth himself by carrying a small pillow with him wherever he went until it looked like an aged cotton scarf, which he would still snuggle. I didn’t know how to self-soothe and would escape the loneliness by escaping into my head when the body would have brought me closer.
As we got into our teen years following my mother on the street, we were like mommy’s little soldiers. We were also exposed to some aggressive parts of culture as my mother was frequently catcalled. We would give off little glares but some guys didn’t care. I remember seeing other crude pickup attempts and the general mistreatment of women. I told myself, I would never be like any of those guys and have invested a lot in my character and treating women with respect.
Unintentionally, with the loss of a strong father figure, and not having enough examples when I was young of male figures expressing themselves towards women in a pure romantic and vulnerable way, I became unexpressive in this area.
I became a very disciplined individual and it took some time for me to develop more interpersonal skills and my need for touch had been repressed. I somehow lost the ability to express this need for touch. Most interactions that involved touch always had a hint of hesitation.
My close friends or even in past relationships wouldn’t even pick up on how much I resonated with touch as a major love language because of my inability to communicate the need or express it to reciprocate.
This has affected most of my prior relationships and I have been consciously working towards being more open and expressive in this area.
What am I reducing or eliminating?
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:
- Alcohol (Never drank)
- Fast Food (Significantly reduced since 2008)
- Console Games (Stopped playing in 2009)
- TV (Stopped watching in 2010)
- Soda (Significantly reduced since 2010 [est. 1 bottle per 3 months])
- PC Games (Stopped playing in 2010)
- News (Reduced consumption year by year since 2011)
- Youtube (Reduced consumption, with blocking software since 2012)
- Netflix (Stopped in 2014)
- Coffee ( Have not drunk since 2015)
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.
I’ve found that listening to too much music could potentially get stuck in certain emotional states and I should reduce it a little with other alternatives.
I want to listen to more podcasts and my favorite podcast service pocketcasts had a desktop app out in beta that operates and has a similar UI to the Spotify desktop app. My listening habit has been easily transferable to this service.
A big shocker for me was that time spent on Twitter increased by over 300% I have been very torn on this finding as twitter has been the best educational tool for me in 2017. Twitter was HUGE for getting cryptocurrency news early which led to one of my best investment decisions in recent years. I also follow a lot of different industry sources and received high-quality resources and lessons.
The problem arises that I mostly consume on twitter but don’t produce as much on it. I want to reduce my overall time on twitter slightly but increase the amount I produce there.
Although I’m happy my sleep duration average for the year which was 7hrs and 16mins. I still woke up much later than I would like, as I operated under a night-owl schedule. A nighttime schedule has proven to be not productive for me in the long-run and I will be working on building better systems and habits to wake up around 6 a.m. Waking up earlier will help me gain more control of the day by having the space and time for my morning routines and early energy igniters to start the day off stronger.
What did I learn?
- Express your love language and discover your partners and communicate in there own.
- Don’t fall in love with potential.
- Prioritize effective and consitent communication.
- Prioritize mutual respect.
- Do periodic health checks in the relationship.
- Listen and ask about your partner’s needs and boundaries.
- Have fun.
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.
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.
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.
What am I working towards?
- Invite other people into my life and make them feel needed.
- Spend more time listening, rather than teaching.
- Ask more questions.
- Communicate that people can open up to me on a more emotional level, not just for rational problem-solving.
- Be more open to receiving instead of just giving.
- Be more open to spontaneous adventures.
- Express more physical communication.
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.
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.
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.
I rebuilt my fitness program from the ground up to better incorporate my personal preferences, strengths, and areas for improvement. The main areas are:
- Strength Training
- Range of Motion Training
- High-Intensity Interval training
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.