2019 Annual Review

Building on last year’s review, welcome to this year’s edition of putting life under a microscope.

To borrow a phrase from Maria Popova, I prefer resolutions in reverse. Studying the past year to determine how I want to move forward.

2019 was easily the best year of my life. Not because it was easy or particularly pleasurable, but because of the transformation and growth that happened.

Before we begin, a quick editor’s note: Most of my review is private, this post is just sharing what might be useful to others. But it’s still written for myself as the primary audience. I’d be happy to discuss any of these in private in more detail. Hat tip to Tim Ferriss, Shane Parrish, James Clear, David Perell, and my one-year-ago self for the inspiration.

What went well

  • I quit my job, sold my shares in the company, took a 6-week sabbatical, and then joined NREL. Navigating this transition, from the moment I decided to do it until day 1 at my new job, embodied the full spectrum of human emotion. I learned to fully trust myself and go on my own path, perhaps for the first time in my life. Enough said.
  • I will cherish my vacation time—from Costa Rica, to Bryce Canyon, to Zion, to Joshua Tree, to Telluride, to Winter Park, to Portland, to Blanca Peak, to running in the Ragnar Colorado race, to taking a sabbatical—for many years to come. Here’s a shot from Costa Rica:
  • I started a weekly newsletter and started writing for a professional audience. There are 100 subscribers in just a few weeks, and the feedback has been encouraging.

What could have gone better

  • After reading A Second Mountain by David Brooks, I felt a few big holes in my life: philanthropy and community. I set goals to dive into both last year and did neither.
  • While I read some great books, I didn’t read as much as in the past. Some of this was intentional as I transitioned to writing more by setting a limit on input to prioritize output.
  • With so much focus on my career, I put less energy into relationships. While I made some great new friends and had some quality time with many loved ones, I can and want to do better.

What I learned

  • In 2018, I got divorced, and the beginning of 2019 was focused on completion of the past and that phase of my life from 2007 to 2018. Grief works in mysterious and actually wonderful ways, and I learned how to work with it, walk with it, and show it to the exit.
  • I took a wonderful online writing course called Write of Passage. The highlights were:
    • A system in Evernote for storing and interacting with what you read
    • The concept of a personal monopoly: a unique intersection of your knowledge, personality, and skills that nobody else can compete with.
    • Creating a writing process with a bias towards publishing
  • I spent a lot of time in therapy continuing my journey of becoming the best partner I can be to my girlfriend. One lesson I’ll share is the skill of supporting someone in their goals but letting them take their own path, whether you agree with it or not.
  • I’m not living quite as deliberately as I’d like to. I’m always busy and I no longer see that as a good thing. We wear “busy” like a badge of honor in our culture, and I no longer buy into it. I can improve upon this by recognizing the trade-offs of saying yes. As a wise friend says, it takes a lot of no’s to get to the real yes.
  • I learned to cultivate house plants and promptly filled my apartment with them, learned to snowboard, and learned to bake sourdough bread.
My first sourdough loaf

Best books

I read 20ish books this year, which was a light year, but here are my favorites:

  • #1: Reboot by Jerry Colona
  • Close 2nd: The Second Mountain by David Brooks
  • AIQ by James Scott and Nick Polson
  • Simple Habits for Complex Times by Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (wonderful road trip book!)
  • Creative Calling by Chase Jarvis

2020 R-Factor

Instead of setting goals, I prefer to think big about the future by asking Dan Sullivan’s R-Factor question. Slightly modified for this purpose, it goes like this:

If I’m sitting here writing this 1 year from today, looking back at 2020, what has to happen for me to be happy with my progress?

  • I grew the nexus newsletter to 1000 subscribers and created a membership tier for engaged readers
  • I wrote 100,000 words, including 4 long-form essays of at least 10,000 words
  • I bought a home or chose to rent somewhere closer to the mountains and the office
  • I read 24 books
  • I started donating 1% of my income
  • I went to Europe for the first time
  • I started a relationship book club with Al and invited other couples
  • Each month, I studied The Splendor of Recognition with Mitch
  • I learned to say no

See you next year.