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What happened in 2022?

2022 was a year of major transition for me as I quit my job and struck out on my own.

Likely inspired my newly acquired “free agent” status, I conducted my first personal annual review.

Here’s what went down in 2022 (in no particular order):

🫀 health stuff

  • Tried the keto diet
  • Injured my leg
  • Got COVID

💼 career stuff

  • Quit my job
  • Launched a software startup

🧠 brain stuff

  • Started putting down books
  • Launched this blog
  • Coded up a storm

🕺 fun stuff

  • Visited 4 new countries, and Paris for the first time
  • Went to my first Indian wedding
  • Got a Turkish bath
  • Ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain

🧬 life stuff

  • Got super depressed
  • Started going to therapy

Yeah, a lot. Let’s dive in.

2022 Goal Review

I set and tracked annual goals for the first time this year. I limited big goals to one or two, and tacked on a few smaller ones.

Regardless of the outcomes, it was a productive exercise. These goals served as an effective audit of how I was spending my time day-to-day. “Will this task advance me toward one of my goals, or is it just busy work?”

Read 12 books. I discovered audiobooks and blew this one out of the water.

Re-read 2 books.

Launch personal blog. We know how that turned out!

Build an app that I or my friends use. Overly ambitious given the state of my coding skillset.

Launch a revenue-generating startup. Things take MUCH longer than expected.

Things I already knew, but “learned” through experience in 2022

When you experience a thing for the first time, even if you already knew it existed, it can give you a newfound appreciation for or understanding of that thing.

Reflecting on my year through this lens was a fun exercise. Here are the big ones from 2022:

Burnout is real

I’ve always considered relentless energy and motivation to be one of my greatest strengths. People talk about how motivation comes in waves, but until 2022, I can’t recall a time when my motivation ever really waned.

It was likely a combination of launching a startup, working a full-time job, learning to code, and just being in my early thirties that led me to burnout for the first time.

Burnout was something I had heard about but just assumed didn’t apply to me, so I never really thought about how to avoid or manage it.

Motivation that I heretofore took for granted kinda just evaporated in early 2022. I just sat there on the couch with no inspiration to get up and do anything.

Not great. Downright scary if I’m being honest.

The good news: it forced me to take a break and just relax.

Motivation returned after a few weeks, but the whole experience was unpleasant enough to teach me a few lessons:

  1. Trying to be productive all the time is counterproductive
  2. Breaks are vital
  3. Accomplishing a little bit each day is more sustainable and effective in the long run than trying to chain together massively productive long hour workdays

Note to self: be more mindful of these lessons in 2023. I’m clearly not an invincible 20 year old anymore! (hopefully I look back on these days as being an invincible 30 year old 😎)

Depression is real

I experienced depression for the first time this year.

Despite having a good life and a year full of many great experiences, a confluence of career and lifestyle developments sent me into a funk.

For most of the year, I was consistently unhappy in the absence of any positive exogenous stressors (going on a trip, spending time with friends/family). It was shocking to realize there were more bad days than good ones in 2022.

So many great things happened last year, but the lows often hurt more than the highs feel good, and the intensity of my depression still takes up a disproportionate amount of my memory of 2022.

Like burnout, I always knew that depression was a thing, but assumed it wouldn’t happen to me.

Experience made me appreciate it for what it is.

I finally started going to therapy (after MUCH persuasion from Sarah). It’s early days, but talking to someone who is just there to listen and react objectively seems to help, and I’m in a pretty good headspace going into 2023. Who woulda thunk!

Sales is hard

It is difficult to get people to give you their money. I could have told you that a year ago, but in 2022, I experienced it firsthand trying to win early customers for my business.

I’ve always considered myself a good salesperson since I have an innate ability to get other people excited about things, but 2022 was a reality check.

In a pure sales context, with no brand, product or reputation behind you, the bar is so much higher.

The atmosphere in the room shifts when the time comes for the prospect to actually part with their cash, or even just agree to something.

The creativity of excuses never ceased to amaze me.

Hiring is hard

After resigning at work, I was intimately involved in the process of hiring my replacement. This was much more difficult than I expected.

I spent the first decade of my career in finance, which involved many highly competitive interview processes. From where I was sitting, getting hired seemed like the real challenge, while employers appeared to have their pick of the lot.

It was eye opening to experience the pressure of finding the right candidate.

As a candidate, the consequences of not getting any individual job are inherently limited since you can always interview with another company. But hiring the wrong person can have an outsized negative impact on your business.

And if you do get it wrong, the problem cannot be resolved quickly. Consider how long it takes to conclude someone is not a good fit, run another search/interview process, and onboard the replacement.

Time is expensive.

Again, I could have told you this a year ago, but experiencing the higher stakes first hand really hit it home for me.

A few additional takeaways:

  1. The talent pool was worse than I expected. My finance interview processes always felt super competitive, with no shortage of uber-qualified candidates. But sitting on the other side of the table, I was disappointed by the majority of candidates we saw. When you’re interviewing for a job you want, it often feels like you’re going up against the crème de la crème. The reality is different. Yeah, you’re likely going up against some qualified candidates, but if you’re good, people will notice.

  2. I used to get annoyed when I didn’t receive feedback on why I didn’t advance to the next round of interviews. I now understand that it’s nearly impossible to let every candidate know why they didn’t move forward. This is due to both time constraints and passing on many candidates for something as simple as a poor case study submission early in the process. I still tried to pass along feedback to as many as I could.

  3. Hiring biases are real. I was hiring for a client-facing role where excellent verbal and written English is critical. Non-native English speakers (or those without excellent English) are at a disadvantage by default, regardless of how talented or hard-working they may be. This can come through during interviews and in written assessments, and is unfortunately difficult to mentally adjust for.

American Ninja Warrior is hard

I visited Tel Aviv last summer and stumbled upon a random ninja warrior park. I couldn’t resist and tried almost every obstacle. Impossible!

I knew it was hard, but experiencing it gave me new respect for those warriors.

Best books I read in 2022

Not part of my annual review, but I felt compelled to share these bangers.

  1. Burn Rate. This is a book about mental illness under the cover of the Bonobos origin story. I have a new appreciation for the implications of bipolar disorder. Easily the most fascinating book I read in 2022.

  2. Never Split The Difference. Recommended to me by a good friend as the “best negotiating book he’s ever read”. While this is the only negotiating book I’ve read, it was excellent… to be referenced for years to come. Written by the former head of hostage negotiation for the FBI, it is full of high stakes stories of real life negotiations and is incredibly practical. “How am I supposed to do that?!” (if you know, you know)

  3. How Music Got Free. A detailed account of the digital piracy revolution of the late 1990s and 2000s. A fun trip down memory lane to my days using Kazaa and LimeWire in middle school. Spyware, anyone?

  4. Who Is Michael Ovitz? The memoir of a Hollywood super-agent. Especially interesting if you’re into movies and entertainment.

  5. Tokyo Vice. Gripping tales from a American reporter covering the police beat in 1990s Japan. It’s an unbelievable story, and the author is an excellent storyteller. Be warned, it gets dark.

2023 Goal Setting

Working through my 2022 annual review inspired me to be even more deliberate about setting goals for 2023. Publishing them online seemed like a good way to hold myself accountable 💪.

I tried to set a few big goals that serve as milestones for achieving even bigger goals in the future. For each big goal, I also set a handful of “checkpoint goals” and put some systems in place to set myself up to hit them (e.g. 1 hour of coding, 4x per week). I also set some simple reading and writing goals just to keep me on course.

Here’s what I’m trying to nail in 2023:

🎯 Write 6 blog posts. 1 per quarter felt like too little, 1 per month felt like too much.

🎯 Read 13 new books.

🎯 Re-read 2 books.

🎯 Achieve full shoulder width body squat with heels on floor. My ankle mobility sucks. This will set the foundation to achieve more advanced fitness goals down the road (see below).

🎯 Build an app that solves a problem for me. I have a side project I’m working on. Stay tuned!

🎯 Get 10 paying customers for my startup. Big goal #1. 10 customers would represent proof-of-concept and significant revenue, but it’s not completely outlandish. This also sets me up to achieve big goal #2…

🎯 Raise money for my startup. Successfully raising in 2023 is a good barometer for our targeted level of growth and is required to scale into 2024 and beyond.

I piggy-backed off this annual goal-setting inspiration to set some longer term fitness goals too. There is no deadline on these, just guiding North Stars for what I’m working towards long term:

Goal Rationale
20 pull ups (dead hang) Upper body strength
Deadlift body weight 10 reps Total body strength
1 Nordic curl Posterior strength
Hang from a bar - 2 min Grip strength
Wall sit - 2 min Lower body strength
1 pistol squat each leg Lower body mobility
Overhead squat body weight 1 rep Total body strength/mobility
5 min cycle w/watt output at 1.5x body weight Cardiovascular fitness
VO2 max of 55 ml/kg/min Cardiovascular fitness
Broad jump my height laying down Lower body strength
Farmer’s carry body weight - 1 min Total body strength

I anticipate these taking several years to achieve at a pace that will avoid injury. Off we go.

A cool thing I discovered in 2022

I thought I’d leave you with this: Futureme. This website lets you send a letter to your future self (they email you the letter at a specified time in the future).

I wrote a letter to myself in five years and one to myself in 10 years. I plan to write one to my 80 year old self too. Pretty cool!

And there it is. A little late getting this one out, but we did it. I hope you found something useful or inspiring in this post.

Here are a few resources that I cherry picked from to structure my annual review. Check ‘em out if you’re interested in doing your own. Highly recommend.

Onward to a monster 2023!

Thanks to Sarah for reading a draft of this post.