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2018 In Review & Thoughts on 2019

I find a lot of value in other people’s reviews of their years. It’s the time of year to be contemplative and reflective on the last 12 months, so here we are.

Note to reader: I’m posting this in May, 2019. I wrote it in late December, 2018, didn’t get around to finishing it up and publishing until… today. I actually like this phenomena, as I can now see goals I’ve had for 2019, and now that we’re almost half-way through 2019, I can see what I’ve accomplished. I’ll in-line a few other comments where appropriate

I’ve done annual reviews a few times now:

I wish I had 2012-2014 reviews, but never wrote them. Therefore, I will write one for 2018 (and future years, most likely).

Annual Review Process

Hacker News surfaced this post a few days ago. I like the format:

  • Look through your calendar, week by week, over the last year
  • Find the things that you found most valuable, and most disliked
  • Figure out how to do more of the things you found valuable/enjoyable/meaningful, and less of the things you disliked or found least valuable.

So, this in mind, my last year falls into a few broad categories:

  • Relationships/friendships/community
  • Rock climbing
  • Software development
  • Reading
  • Travel (which dovetails into the first two categories)

Travel

Travel is a big category. I spent ~146 nights sleeping somewhere besides our apartment. Usually (109 nights) I was with Kristi somewhere, and at least fifteen of these nights were “just” dog sitting together around Denver.

Six weeks of this time was spent somewhere outside of the USA, and the rest of that time was domestic travel.

The trips ranged from over three-and-a-half weeks long, to short over-nights.

This is the first time I counted up all the days of travel. I’m floored. This is an insane amount of privilege and opportunity. It’s also exhausting.

The travel was almost exclusively a mix of time with friends and family, and rock climbing.

For example, Kristi and I spent ten days at my parent’s house for Thanksgiving, and another ten days at her parents house for Christmas. A few weeks visiting family in the spring. About 35 of these travel days were on dedicated climbing trips.

I’m writing this on a plane, appropriately enough. I want to travel substantially less in 2019 than I have in 2018, with a higher percentage of that travel being oriented towards climbing trips.

Relationships/friendships/community

One of the most important things to Kristi and I are our families and friendships. We’ve invested in these relationships heavily over the last year, and in each other.

The other domain I “invest” in is burgeoning software developers as they are getting established in the software development industry. These are Turing students, and not-Turing students. It’s rewarding, as, despite how low the formal barriers to entry are for the industry, it’s still hard to navigate from “not a developer” to “gainfully employed software developer”.

Investing in others in this domain has been a theme for a while, and I’d like to keep it going. I’m not so motivated by investing 💰 in things in general, but investing in people is indeed one of the most interesting uses of time.

This “investing in people” is interesting because if I can help someone navigate that transition, though, the benefits are significant. It’s pleasant getting treated well, and not risking physical or emotional health in a job. I enjoy discussing job hunting, being effective - and demonstrating that effectiveness - in a job, and salary negotiation. These topics are relevant to many my peers, so I enjoy trying to be useful to others in that way.

Kristi and I changed churches this year, as well. It was a weighty decision, and one we made slowly and carefully, but ultimately was the right decision. Our new church home is fantastic, and we’re glad we made the change.

Note from mid-2019: Kristi and I continue to be strong advocates of therapy and counseling. Our marriage is important to us, and money spent on this domain continues to be some of the best money we’ve ever spent. I won’t say “everyone should go to counseling!”, because that is an overly broad statement, but it’s only a little overly-broad. If one has a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of counseling, consider how you think of professional athletes paying someone for their coaching services. It’s not only not-strange, it would be irresponsible for that athlete to not engage in that coaches’ services. You can pay a “coach” to help you improve your significant relationships in your life. It’s money well spent. More thoughts on this topic

Climbing

I’ve continued to improve as a climber. It’s slow work, and I don’t begrudge the pace of improving, but I do have a constant worry in the back of my mind that I could be training more effectively, or I have a giant hole in my knowledge about climbing, and it’s crippling me and I don’t even know it.

I’ve not sent more than a handful of 5.13s, but I have come very close (falling-off-last-move-close) on five or six. I am aware that there’s a gulf between “almost sending” and “sending”, but I was able to quickly piece together and give valid send attempts on many hard climbs this year.

I have been targeting the 12+ grade (12c, 12d) and did quite a few one-day sends of climbs at this grade. I’ve sent routes I’m pleased with in Rifle, Shelf Road, various European locations, and more. I have not tried many 5.13s, but I think I ought to be trying more.

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I don’t think that there is a superior way to get better at bouldering than trying and climbing really hard boulders in a variety of styles, while engaging in a minimal amount of supplemental physical training. I struggle to respond when people ask for training advice, but don’t want to hear that answer. If an individual likes climbing and someone suggests that the way forward is to mostly climb, you’d think that person would be excited, not resistant. The only thing I can think of that would cause that type of reaction is that the person is not satisfied with the rate of their improvement and is hoping that there is something else they can do to get better faster...Maybe there is? Maybe it’s not worth rushing? Maybe not rushing it is actually the way to speed it up? Maybe it’s more important how you do a thing than what the thing is exactly? I don’t really know. What I do know, is that I f#@%ing love to rock climb. 🤷‍♂️ I’d like to fall just a tiny bit less though. I think. #trying 🔜🇨🇭

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Note from mid-2019: I’ve been working with coaches this year to be strategic in how I improve my climbing. I’m working at getting stronger, duh, but also being a bit smarter when climbing, too. Early results are promising, more to come soon.

Software Development

This particular item has been a long time coming. I’m no longer a freshly-minted, wet-behind-the-ears software developer. I’ve got a history of looking at problems and working towards solutions, then implementing those solutions.

I’ve paid off technical debt, built new features, explored wildly unfamiliar pieces of technology and infrastructure, and taken production down less than once (but more than zero times. It was technically a delay in background job processing in the EU region. (Don’t leave an indexed column without an index at any point in the migration, kids!)

I feel comfortable and effective in my role, even as I continue to learn many, many new things.

For 2019, I’ve got a few talks scheduled at local meetups, and some other projects in the works. I spend great time and effort on this particular component of my life, but I am generally at peace, and don’t feel particular anxiety towards it.

Note from mid-2019: I gave two talks in the first half of 2019. It was a quite educational process.

Reading

I read 81 books last year. Here’s the list.

They were a mix of fiction and non-fiction, and as usual, delivered great value to me. It could be a bit excessive, the number that I’ve read, but I don’t think it’s detracted from other, more important uses of my time.

Spanish

I spent about two months pushing hard into furthering my Spanish. A few weeks in Spain was fantastic motivation and practice. But, as usual, when I got back state-side, the motivation for furthering my knowledge waned. Thanks to Anki, I’ve kept my head-knowledge, but it’s practice speaking that is the most effective.

I’m generally disappointed with where my language learning efforts stand.

Note from mid-2019: so far this year I’ve spent another two weeks or so in Spanish-speaking countries. I very much want to attain conversational fluency, and there will be much more to come on this topic soon. This note was added while in Quito, Ecuador. The motivation is high, which is temporary, I know.

Side Projects

I started 0 side-projects this year. It was actually a bit refreshing, as in the past, side-projects would lead to me feeling guilty about not pushing them along or doing more. So, formally not having side-projects (besides learning Spanish) is restful.

I’m content with this.

Writing

This thing I’m doing here has been quite valuable to me. Technical and non-technical posts deliver value to me, and are easy to link to and share for others.

I never regret writing something and publishing it, and I’d like to find more of a groove for this going forward.

Lessons learned

Climbing is good for my soul.

I’m married to an incredible woman.

The most valuable things take sustained, focused work over non-trivial time horizons.

In important domains, get professional insights. Read books, and if the advice/next steps are particularly difficult to implement, pay someone for help.

I will continue to invest in 1:1 time with experts in domains like: programming & software development, marriage & relationships, climbing and other forms of physical training, etc.

That’s it for 2018. I look forward to the rest of 2019.

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