This Annual Review is for me. But I would like to share it with you. Each year I do an audit of my life, the mistakes, the lessons, and learnings. It’s a deeper look into my mind and life. Hopefully, theirs something you can take away and introduce into your own life or something to spark a deeper conversation with me.

Community

/dev/color

/dev/color NYC

/dev/color is a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower Black software engineers to help one another grow into industry leaders.

Shared culture. Shared experience. These are things I have taken for granted.

You never know when you’ll meet someone who becomes a bridge to something you didn’t know you needed.

I had the great fortune of meeting Alan who told me about a new community of black software engineers that was opening up a chapter in New York. It’s been almost 3 years since then and the /dev/color community has become the extended family I’ve been yearning for.

/dev/color Squad

  • Monthly in-person meetings of groups 6-8 people called squads.
  • Squads are grouped by experience level and similar aspirations.
  • Share updates on something great that happened in the last month, the lasting challenge faced, what are you looking forward to and what are you most concerned about in the next month.

The dev/color community spans New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Seattle. We are connected online via slack and once a year chapters from the current cities meet at an annual conference.

Our 2018 Squad.

I’ve served as a facilitator for the last 2 years and the community has deepened my sense of belonging and connection. I am becoming a better listener and leader through the shared stories, opportunities to support as well as developing the strength to ask and receive the help of others.

The /dev/color program was also key to helping me through a job transition period. Through a series of squad updates and a presentation on reworking my resume, my squad helped to increase the impact of the experiences and language used in my resume to get in front of more companies.

Conference Hosting

The /dev/color community provided me with a platform to express myself in a big way. I was chosen to co-host the /dev/color in Motion 2018 conference, with some extra convincing I was also allowed to be a speaker at a breakout session.

The conference brought together hundreds of Software Engineers, Directors, and VPs from companies like Facebook, Netflix, Slack, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple. During the conference, I would meet a smart and compassionate advocate for me as I pursued opportunities at my dream company.

Burning Man: Camp No Boundaries

No Boundaries 2018

If you witnessed Magic, would you keep it to yourself? Or would you want to show someone?

Burning Man to me is a Wonder Machine. You go there and experience otherworldly feelings of awe and adventure. It’s a Serendipity Machine that brings all sorts of surprises and excitement, birthing a new faith, in that the “Playa will Provide.” I go back each year for the art, deep connections and a reinvigorated sense of wonder and inspiration. It’s a recalibration ritual for my soul.

In 2018 it also happened to be the most challenging and painful one yet. Each year over 70,000 people travel to Burning Man in Nevada. Theme camps come together to build much of the experience of Burning Man.

I took on the responsibility of leading 37 people in a camp called No Boundaries. As a man drawn to challenge, I brought on 30 first-timers, an 81% first-timer ratio. I also tripled the scale of our infrastructure in the same year, while managing a logistics move from Las Vegas to Reno. It led to hundreds of hours invested in prep and learning and many sleepless nights.

I was significantly sleep deprived before the event even started which added to the challenge from the mission impossible early preparations I pulled off with a small team.

At the end of prep like a walking zombie, I boarded a private plane and dashed off from Las Vegas towards the desert in Reno with a mutually sleep-deprived pilot who asked me to bring him a red bull right before we took off hoping we wouldn’t prematurely burst in flames in the sky.

During the event, I was stuck in camp fulfilling my obligations for so long that much of my experience is describing the process and what it took to make the camp run.

One of the ten principles of burning man is gifting and my gift was to bring this amazing, grand experience and community to my fellow campmates.

It would be a three month period, in which I’ve worked almost harder than any full-time job I’ve been in within a similar time-frame. And so it begins.

Learning Building Skills

There are a small number of camp leads who operate one of the thousands to hundreds of camps that return each year and a special set of skills and heart is required to pull it off and return or even have the will to return again.

I challenged myself to learn logistical operations, mechanical engineering, plumbing, electrical engineering, carpentry, 3D rendering and how to be a better leader.

I scrambled to watch over 40+ hours of youtube tutorials to learn Sketchup which used to do the 3D modeling, designing all aspects of camp.

Next came the research to create an inventory list of parts I would need to survive. Much of the free-standing infrastructure I drew from hand to design the right orientation and combination of parts needed to house 30+ people and withstand 70+ mph winds and 90+ degree heat.

If a model didn’t exist for a part, I draw it from scratch, which meant eye-balling an image and drawing it in the 3D program SketchUp to scale.

Being in the desert for 8 days, with sweltering heat, dust storms, low humidity and dozens of hour of bike miles on end, one can get sweaty. A large portion of participants go to Burning Man surviving on wet wipes to stay clean. Our camp is better than that.

Instead, I wanted to learn how to build a shower, and thats what I did. I used my recently acquired 3D rendering skills to draw the shower and worked with a Vegas carpenter to build out the parts for the shower.

Re-connecting with childhood friend Francois

Francois is one my longest friendships and proved himself to be the most valuable contributing factor for the camp. We both went days without sleep before the event even started to make sure the logistics and everything was prepared. He made over 20 bikes for campers and helped build most of the core camp infrastructure.

There came a point of time when the Camp Lead responsibilities felt too much. I felt like I was in over my head and disappeared from the camp towards the tail-end of the week. I would stay out all day and through the night. I even had breakfast at another camp as I stayed awake to catch the sunrise. I hadn’t seen any of my camp mates in hours, I had escaped the cage, and self-inflicted imprisonment forced upon me by ambition and dream for the camp.

As I was trying to get lost, I serendipitously ran into my friend Francois.

We were conveniently located across from another camp whose gift was a gym. So we proceeded to workout.

Me & Francois

In the end we built the camp.

Rapid Decision Making

So many things didn’t go according to plan. From me missing my flight and delaying prep by half a day, significantly underestimating the logistics of unpacking and packing over 200 packages, to our truck getting into a car accident 10 minutes after we rented it and then one of our key trucks with most of our food getting stuck in a sandstorm in route to the event, delaying its arrival by 12 hours. The funny thing was that truck had all our meat and the meat eaters began to consume all the greens to the shocked eyes of the Vegans in camp.

With all the planning that went into this camp, many of those plans had to go throw out the window, like re-designing our camp layout on the fly because someone parked their tent and car right in the middle of open land.

Great No Boundaries Campmates

I’m incredibly grateful for the campmates who stepped up to adapt to the many unexpected events and the uneven work distribution. A lot of quick learning and ingenuitive thinking helped us to get most of the camp set up.

What didn’t go well

  • Communication breakdown: With everything in flux I was too busy executing instead of communicating and teaching. People were left not knowing how they could effectively contribute and also some knew the original plans, a change in plans hurt us because the end objective and purpose wasn’t effectively communicated so people could adapt.
  • One Man Bottleneck: I made myself a bottleneck by being the central source of knowledge. Certain tasks couldn’t be effectively delegated because I needed to be there to transfer knowledge, so processes throughout camp we slowed down until other people were able to observe and learn on the fly to move independently.
  • Complexity: My ambition and service-oriented nature introduced a lot of complexity into camp. We added a lot of new infrastructure without the guidance on how to build it or what the purpose of certain infrastructure was. Because we had a lot of first-timers, I went overboard with providing amenities and transport services to make their trip easier, which added to preparation labor from an organizer standpoint.

Closing the chapter of reflections
Another highlight memory was on a day of random wandering when I escaped from camp I stumbled into a guy who heard a rumor that at a specific time a number of Black Burners, a rare sight in that environment, would assemble.

Rumor spreads and eventually becomes truth. Both the plan and lack of planning self-actualized into reality. Like magnets, we attracted each other.

Going through photos and overhearing stories from my campmates has reignited me with joy and gratitude. I would have loved to spend more time with them individually. But I am so happy many of them have enjoyed their experience and have created many strong bonds, friendships, and memories at this years burn. The stories will live on and spread. Burning Man for the right individuals truly can be life-changing.

I got the Burn I didn’t know I needed. I’ve survived the Camp Lead baptism of fire. Best of all, I got to show some great people some Magic.

No Boundaries 2018 Campers

Personal Development Nerds – PDN

PDN 2018 Holiday Party

Personal Development Nerds has been a core part of my life since it was originally started in 2015 as a dinner series by my friend Sam shortly after we graduated college. The responsibility to run the group was passed onto to me, although I had reluctantly accepted after no one else volunteered at the time.

It’s been a wild ride over 3 years, and I’ve been learning about what it means to listen and lead. PDN has grown into a lively community and one in which I feel great pride and gratitude in the trust and responsibility I hold.

PDN is comprised on an online community of over 1.7k members and an in-person community that meets once a month. Our online conversations range from discussions about books, articles, fitness & diets, productivity tools to events in the city, roommates, jobs, and engaging debate with the intention to understand and learn more about ourselves and the world.

One of our earliest PDN Meetings when we started in 2015.

In an online environment where it’s becoming more difficult to have open civil discussion, PDN is a haven for many of us who don’t shy about intense and difficult conversations, because we each know we care deeply and want to understand.

Our live events include members from the community speaking about an area they’re passionate and knowledgable on, breakout interest based discussions, retreats, social events, co-working sessions, book clubs and a number of other organic community gatherings.

It hasn’t always been a smooth road. When you’re a personal development oriented community, people join at different stages of their life and in different mental state. Some drawn in by the appeal of a Tim Ferriss/Tony Robbins maximizer oriented approach to “hacking life”, some who have gone through abuse, pain, other drama or deep insecurities who might be looking to “fix” themselves or heal. Some who might have a darkness that they are trying to overcome and as a leader you have to bear all the messy, vulnerable and full spectrum raw human spirits that come into the community and at times it can either fill your with hope, and inspiration or erode one’s empathy and patience.

After leading for a number of years I needed to learn how to allow others to lead and take initiative in the community. I was proud to attract some amazing talent in my friends who joined to help co-organize many of the events we put on in 2018.

I still have a lot of work to do around communicating more, setting the strategy and vision as well as expectations for contributors and organizers within the community.

I want PDN to outlast me and thrive so I’m working on creating open frameworks for others to lead. Documenting processes, creating guidelines, teaching and stepping back when I need to.

The greatest leader is unseen and the followers say ‘we did this all ourselves’.

Hosting Gatherings

4th of July Party

Another year, meant another opportunity to spend time with close friends as well as creating environments to introduce my friends to each other.

After 10 years, of not celebrating my birthday, the major thing that helped me snap out of the isolation, wasn’t that I wanted to celebrate myself, it was that I would be able to get bring together friends some all corners of my life in a setting where they can have fun and deep conversations with each other. And every new birthday seeing those who were once strangers of each other, now close friends gives a spark a joy seeing the lighted candles sharing the flame of the power of relationships.

Me and my roommate Kean have hosted a number of events at our apartment, including movie nights.

Things I learned hosting:

  • Be patient if there is little interest. The size of the events you put on can evolve over time.
  • Give people enough notice time.
  • Reach out to people one on one.
  • Personal costs will be incurred. It may help to have a budget. (Talk about event budget)
  • Don’t take flaking personally and don’t be passive aggressive with flakers.
  • People can sense desperation, don’t create an environment where people come to your event out of pity.
  • Find ways for people to help, people want to help.
Me & Kean

Another thing I learned is that you don’t have to throw big events to host space for people. In fact, my good friend Kean, has hosted space for me on multiple occasions when I needed it the most. He’s been my best friend, a trusted companion, great listener and the source of 80% of my sporadic laughter. Days where I felt the shadow of depression leaning back into my spirit, Kean was there to listen to me and talk through everything and it made all the difference.

You don’t have to host events, or have many friends, as long as you have one good one, and you can hold space for them or allow someone to hold space for you, both your spirits will dance through the party of life.

Relationships

Mother

My Mother and I.

The bond I have with my mother mirrors the emotional connection twins seems to have. When I’m happy, she’s happy. When she’s tired, I’m tired without even exerting energy. When she’s sad, I’m sad. So she often hides her sadness from me. But I still know. Similar to how she knows. When I went through depression in 2015 she was the first to spot the signs. Mom always knows.

I learned how to smile from my mother. I’ve also learned how to hide my sadness in plain sight, like a game of hide-and-go-seek. Using my light held within the center of a storm of darkness, shining the way a lighthouse would attracting all sorts of people curious about a man beaming with hope.

In 2018, I felt a relapse approaching, a familiar darkness approaching. A huge heaviness that felt like I’ve been traveling for a while wondering when it was going to end.

I had realized I hadn’t spoken to my mother in a while and I visited her and saw the darkness realized.

She had a serious work injury and has been recovering for the last 2 years, without working. She’s gone back to school to switch careers from the medical field into business administration, all while taking care of my younger brother.

My mother is one of the hardest working people I know. Often, she tells me I need to rest my brain. I often want to tell her, she needs to rest her spirit. She gives up a lot of herself for others. I look in the mirror and realize I do the same.

Father

One of my father’s favorite memories that he shares of me is when I was 7 years old, he gave me $20 dollars so I could buy ice cream. During the warm summer weeks, Mister Softee trucks would pop into my view like streaming fireworks, lighting me up with excitement.

Staring at the money and slowly looking over the options for ice cream, I never seemed to know what I wanted. What I felt driven to do was share something with my friends and so each time he gave me money, I would buy ice cream for my friends. Instead of buying ice cream each week for myself, I would spend it all to share the moment with kids on my block.

My relationship with money and my father is similar to the seasonality of ice cream trucks. He wasn’t a consistent part of our life, sometimes present in special occasions, and his promises often melted away with time.

Still for much of my life holding a deep attachment to him, my focus on the brief periods of safety I felt when he was around him overshadowed his lack of support, presence and the burden, sacrifice and heavy price my mother made to raise me and my brother alone.

As I got older, my sibling and my father spent less time talking to each other. I’ve never been one to cut people off. When they reach out I answer. What was left, of my father and my connection was the child support he owed from his absence in our lives.

Over the years, the tension between me and my mother over the status of my father’s child support payments strained my relationship with her. Having my father owe support money still as I turned 27 in 2018, felt like a relic of the past I was bringing into the future with no sign of it being reconciled. I even had an argument with my mother about potentially paying what was left of the support on his behalf to ride myself of this strange shame I felt around it.

For years the occasional calls from my father would be a check-in to see if my mother was willing to drop the child support arrears in his name. Our calls never lasted longer than 3 mins on average. The shame and emotional strain I felt for years is still incalculable.

Clawing my way into college on the financial aid, through the higher education opportunity program, I had full transparency on the sheer amount of money owed through child support, and the miracles my mother was blessed with as the support debt was a key factor in the university granting my financial aid.

I wonder what would of happened if my younger brother wasn’t born which increased the dependents criteria and the child support owed wasn’t so excessive, I might not have been able to go to college on the financial aid, and we wouldn’t have been able to afford it.

In 2018 me and my mother had an emotional breakthrough and made the decision to release the past and the pain that came with it. An intent to waive the child support was made, and now the calls from my father a less frequent. I feel lighter.

For some reason though, when he calls I still answer, and I felt slightly safe. I’ve gone through the world seeing the light and darkness in others and myself. I guess, I appreciated that he always tried to hide that darkness from me.

Brother

I am my bothers keeper. For as long as I cam remember, the greatest source of emotional turbulence and uncertainty came from thinking about my brother’s safety and future.

My brother and I were both blessed with the knowledge of how to survive and that knowledge and identity around being survivors has left trauma’s we’re both still working through. We’re both also finding it has given us great strength and resilience.

The environment you’re born into has a significant influence on your character and future. One of the difficult things I’ve had to battle with is the image or a snapshot of the past I hold of a smart, small and soft young boy who needed to be protected. It is a snapshot I’ve held onto of my brother. I was scared that he would need to learn how to protect in himself in the environment we were born into. You don’t want the gentle to do battle with monsters, to defeat a monster you often become what you try to defeat.

I am fortunate that my mother has instilled strong lesson within us both. It’s the values we hold that keep our shadow at bay. When my brother disappeared for large parts of 2017, I was happy to get reunited with him again in 2018. For years, I tried to change him, because I felt the environment had changed him, pushing him away, he was just trying to survive the way he knew how.

I’ve been learning a lot about acceptance and gratitude. Learning not to blame others with few options. Understanding privilege, and how much we deny nature, underestimate environment, and cease nurturing when we don’t get own way.

We can find family in many places, even when it seems lost. We can call many places home. The unexpected things in life bring great opportunity and meaning.

It’s ok to let go and watch people grow from a far. It doesn’t mean we aren’t with them. Let them go so they can build their life too. It’s gonna be ok, you’re safe.

Our family was blessed with a gift.

My Brother’s Son.

Dating

Relationships are difficult. Friends, Family, Romantic a unifying theme seems to be communication, both from the need to listen and communicate how we feel about something sooner rather than later. As assuming what others are thinking and making something more complex, when coming from a place of trust, respect and open heart could make it far more simpler.

The last 4 years of missed relationship potential has can be summarized in my not following the simple advice of:

“If you love someone, tell them.”

The things we’re the most irrationally resistant to are sometimes the thing we secretly need but are afraid to accept.

I have a lot of fear around the word “love” and I have gone through some impressive mental and gymnastics to avoid it. Numbing. Detachment. Self-Reliance. Optionality. Self-Discipline. Control.

Sometimes it seems as if I’m more comfortable with negative emotions as opposed to positive ones. Part of it is a deep familiarity with pain. I quarantine myself and my heart.

Overcoming my fear of love, meant I first needed to have the courage to love myself and show more compassion towards myself in vulnerable moments. I can be my own worst drill sergeant at times and compound the pressure on myself when I’m already emotionally drained from family and career aspirations.

The feeling of low emotional availability has stunted the potential of certain relationships and attracted a few that haven’t created the most healthy relationship dynamic.

I acknowledge that I’m still a work in progress, and I see the tremendous growth I’ve had over the last couple of years in getting into a better space. I’m learning to not put false beliefs around limits of love and the energy I can share with others.

What I’ve Learned

  • Don’t make your potential partner your therapist, get a therapist.
  • Be mindful of what stage someone is in life with their long-term goals and dealbreakers.
  • Don’t focus on what your friends would think before the relationship has even developed.
  • Don’t let a focus on personal independence get in the way of empathy and understanding the other person.
  • Be cautious of implanting self-fulfilling prophecies into your own head, be present.
  • Your fears and insecurities are your responsibility, face them.
  • Focus on complimentary traits and shared values instead of thinking, this person is so different than me, of course they are.
  • Communicate in real time in the appropriate setting when something bothers you.

Pillar Habits

Reading

I read the fewest amount of books in the last 5 years of tracking at 40 books despite having more flexibility of time to read in 2018 than in prior years.

What I’ve learned is helpful for me to read consistently is to surround myself with books.

  • Keep books in my bedroom.
  • Have the Kindle app on my phone home screen.
  • Listen to audible while working out.
  • Have an idea of the books I want to read well in advance.
  • Read during commutes.
  • Read good books. Drop bad books.
  • Surround myself with more readers.

What am I working towards

Simplifying book data management by using Airtable

Currently I use Google Sheets & Trello to manage my reading data and reading workflow. Sheets is my primary record keeping outside of goodreads to keep track of information on past books I’ve read like author, isbn, pages, publication date and more. Consolidating this data makes it easier to publish to my books page. I use trello as my reading progress manager so I can read multiple books across different genres.

With airtable I can consolidate sheets and trello functionality spending less time managing books and more time reading them.

Pre-Selected Books

As time goes on I want to be increasingly intentional about the books I read. One of the potential sources for my reading queue is my Book Purgatory list, where book recommendations go to await judgement day. My list now currently exceeds over 900 books and I’ve been going through the process of prioritizing and removing books in the list.

With a curated list of potential books to read, I want to take it one step further and pre-select 60-70% of I want to read for the current year. This will help minimize procrastination and chance on deciding what to read next.

Fitness

I use Jefit to track my workouts. This includes creating programming on what to do, how many repetitions, how long to rest in between those repetitions and how much should I repeat those repetitions(sets).

The app then tracks the total time, rest time, wasted time which is the average time it took to do the workouts minus the rest time and some other useful metrics.

Workout Summary 2018

Weight Lifted Overtime 2018

The historical trend of the last three years has been that my workout ramps up in February through July, and seems to die down from August to October with a final push in November.

Workout time Breakdown 2018


Last 4 Years Workout trend

The bigger trend is that the total amount of time spent working out has decreased -23.05 % from 31 hours and 23 mins in 2015 to 24 hours and 3 mins in 2018.

One of my major fitness goals was to do at least 9,000 pull-ups in a single year. I never hit that goal each year I tried. But if you look at the chart I totaled over 11,000+ pull-ups over 3 years. That is a good example of how we often overestimate what we can do in 1 year and underestimate what we can do over many years.

Systems

Tracking

I spent a lot of time over the years setting up various tools, systems and tactics for managing time and outputs of work.

Here are some examples of where my systems failed me and what I’m doing to improve:

Pomodoro
I’ve used Pomotodo, which is an application based on the Pomodoro technique where you work in 25-minute sprints, with 5-minute breaks. The benefit of using this process is that you focus on one task at a time and take periodic breaks to rest your mind.

Some areas where this process failed me, is when I was taking breaks where the kind of work I was doing required states of concentration longer than 25 minutes, and I might take breaks which break my focus other than protecting it.

Jefit

Jefit is a fitness app, where you can build routines and keep track of your workouts, including, repetitions, sets and rest time. I like to think of it as a coach in your pocket, although I haven’t gotten all the benefits of a coach like encouraging you to do a little more than you think you can do.

By building my workouts in Jefit, I’ve had a tendency to only do the amounts I’ve programmed for myself and no more. I take just the rest, I need to take that I’ve defined in the application and no more, because if I take too much rest and don’t lift, it can be counted as wasted time in the application, even though I may need more rest and end up lifting less because I haven’t fully recovered.

Time Management

Tracking how I use my time online is a necessary part of my principal around living life intentionally, bringing awareness, values, intention and conviction to choosing how to live.

RescueTime is a tool that I have been using for the last 8 years to track my browsing habits online and mobile. I have data from the start of college when I started tracking and realized I was addicted to Massive Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) and decided to break the habit, to the rise of Social Media services and Netflix.

  • My total time online is 3,467 hours in 2018 a -21.88 % decrease from the 4,438 hours online in 2017.
  • In 2018 Social Networking services were 22% of my online time, the highest category percentage.
  • Twitter was my most used service with 233 hours over the year split between web: 176 hours and mobile: 57 hours.
  • Software Development time decreased by -71.21% from 1,063 hours to 306 hours as I took off 8 months from work (I’m a Software Engineer).
  • Time on my phone

Last 5 Years Productivity Trend

Using the last 5 years as a benchmark, my productivity pulse has been decreasing each year.

What I learned:

  • Going through the ritual of doing these annual reviews and tracking my metrics historically is a fine line between awareness with progress, and paralyzing anxiety with shame.
  • Understand each year captures a different context and each year isn’t cleanly comparable to the prior year in terms of productivity.
  • Focus on the categories I want to spend more time in as opposed to battling with the categories I want to reduce time in.
  • Figure out what a good year would look like given the context, constraints, and resources you have thus far; recalibrate this option as a relevant situation change occurs.
  • Focus on observations and not judgments.

Productivity Overtime by Category 2018

The Productivity Overtime by Category does a category breakdown showing the ratios of the categories per week overtime.

The seasonal trends were a spike in both Social Media & Communication and Scheduling apps and sites from mid-march to end of July. This lines up with a ramp up of Burning Man and Personal Development Nerds planning.

Browsing Patterns by Time of Day 2018

From the patterns by time of day Social Networking use remained consistent throughout the day, which explains why I felt so distracted and had a lot more difficulty focusing in 2018. In general, I’ve pinned down feelings of anxiety as a trigger point for going on social media, which I’ll have to explore more as I feel social media contributes to my anxiety.

Browsing Patterns by Time of Day 2017

The most powerful use of Browsing patterns by Time of Day is that it is a great tool to help you measure multi-tasking. When you have multiple bars of taller bars in the same block of time like in 2018, that means that I was multi-tasking across multiple categories in the same hour.

Compared to 2018, my 2017 browsing patterns were much more balanced out and showed a more natural containment of focus in separate chunks of time, with thinner category bars.

Time over Year by Category 2018

Time over Year by Category 2017

Career

Leaving Lifion

I left Lifion in early 2018 after close to 2 years as a Software Engineer working on a next generation Human Resources platform. Time and time again, I continue to be reminded about importance of teams and the people you meet in a company. I met some of my favorite people in my co-workers and learned how to be an effective software engineer and utility player who could dynamically adapt and learn where to fill in the gaps.

Fun-employment

After Lifion, I decided to take some time off from work and enjoyed almost 8. months of fun-employment. Days wandering through the park I was surprised to see the city so lively during all work hours.

It felt healing to wake up and go through the day with no agenda and allow my body and spirit to set the pace. The time off also enabled me to pull off a number of the community initiatives I focused on throughout the year.

If you have the means to, I highly recommend taking time off in between jobs and allow boredom and your curiosity to guide you, you’ll learn alot about yourself.

Podcasts

I want to share more of the lessons and skills I’ve learned and developed from some of the difficult and interesting experiences I’ve gone through.

I appeared on a couple podcasts in 2018 and you can listen to them here:

Optimizing Your Life | Craft of Charisma Podcast

Cut Your Learning Curve

Joining Google

Noogler Group

The first computer I received was a broken relic. I remember when the prospects of getting to and affording to go to high school were far out. In college, I learned how to teach myself. First learning Design, then transferring to the Business school, then teaching myself how to code.

Back in 2015 the company of my dreams had reached out to me. I ordered a whiteboard for my room as the industry does technical interviews for software engineers via writing out code on a whiteboard and studied for 4 months staying inside during most of summer.

Despite all the preparation I was rejected. Once you’re rejected from Google you can only interview once a year up to 4 times. The interview was incredibly challenging and lasted 5 hours. I wasn’t discouraged and instead treated Google as a high-caliber sparring partner and would accept interviews with them to prepare me for other companies who’ve interviews were like child’s play. I interviewed at Google again in 2016 & 2017 as was rejected each time.

Persistence and hustle is in my DNA so I never gave up. This would be the last time I could ever interview with the company and the stakes were even higher taking 8 months off from work with my finances running low and my family financial situation getting worse.

In hindsight, those rejections in the past were also a blessing for me, I go to work at small, medium and other large companies and learn how to develop with open source technology and how to work productivity in multiple varying environments.

With a new preparation approach, internal support and years of additional experience under my belt I passed the interview & hiring committee and accepted my offer as a Software Engineer at Google.

The experience, fresh eyes, and ambition that I will bring into my role at Google will be another path of growth and learning.

Thank you mom for everything you’ve done and sacrificed to help me become the man I am today.

Focus

Serendipity Engine

I want to create more opportunities for serendipity for myself and others. As I meet more people, I don’t only think about how I can build a connection with them, but how can I amplify their sense of connection across the people I know. Introductions and social gatherings are important to trigger serendipidous cycles and connecting people like a chain of batteries setting an engine into motion.

Bias towards Action

With thoughtfulness comes balance, and a conscious effort to not live in ones head for too long. Perfectionist tendencies bubble up in those with high standards and are critical of themselves and have a desire to give and put out their best. With that said the goal should be fluid expression and quick judgment, which means having a bias towards action. A bias towards action is becoming even more relevant for me as I’m gaining more leadership responsibilities.

Deepening Engineering Craft

I’ve gone beyond the short-term focus of quick projects or jobs. I’m now thinking in teams as developing my craft as a profession. When you respect the craft, the quality persists, despite the uncertainty, friction or emotional ups and downs you might face from a single project or role.

Producing Content

I want to share more with the world and be comfortable with voicing opinions and beliefs publically and broadly. Time will be prioritized for publishing more consistently on this site, re-launching a newsletter, and twitting significantly more.

Seeing Purpose

When I think about purpose, I’ve often thought about finding my purpose. Instead, I’ve had a change around my beliefs to instead aim to learning how to see purpose. There are many small and large moments in which we can find meaning and purpose that we overlook. That can come from lack of awareness around our needs, strengths or what makes us feel alive. If you’re walking around without a reference or hint of the purpose you’re looking for how will you know when you find it.

Better Defining and Communicating Wants and Needs

I’m in the process of re-introducing more structure back into my life where it counts and can have the most impact without the downsides of too much rigidity. I want to create a public rules list which documents the rules and values I live by. I’m working on getting better at asking for help and delegating. For my career, I’m communicating what I want out of work and the caliber of engineer I want to become. In relationships I’ll work on more fluid expression of myself and needs and acceptance with more conviction.

Ambition

Formless Ambition

I remember walking through a fall covered sidewalk, bearing the the fruit of leaves that looked lucky but yellow fruit with a strong smell from Ginkgo trees that lined the block, hungry and sliding on my way back home, trying to understand the world. When I realized my world encompassed a couple city blocks I knew I needed to see more.

During that walk, among many, like a meditation I would tell myself, I need to get better, I need to get smarter. A little boy, was forced to become a man. One of those walks home, I would come to learn we no longer lived there. After my father left us, juggling multiple jobs we were evicted and we would stay with a distant aunt.

I become radically self-reliant, quiet, calculated, observant. I would learn how to use tactics and strategy. While my brother fought physical battles, I fought and won the mental battles.

The root of my ambition is rooted in survival, acquiring safety for myself and my family. Over time as I learned more about the world, that ambition has become more formless.

I still tell myself, I need to get better, I need to get smarter. Only now I don’t know when to stop. My curiosity has continued to expand across dozens of domains and continues to grow. My impulse for optimization and personal control has become a compulsion.

The fear has morphed into something more formless as well. Still, I am proud of the person I am and the direction I am going. What I am unsure of is whose driving.

Prior Annual Reviews

There is only some much I can observe from my own perspective and speaking to myself about myself leads the risk of falling into an endless loop.
So I would love to hear from you If something in this review/reflection stood out or resonated with you.