A Few Things From 2022

Not quite a year in review, but close.

In December 2021, I did my first-ever Year in Review. Nothing fancy, really - I simply went through my journal, looked back at some of the highs and lows of the year, found a few of them intriguing and insightful, and that was that. (Right, I also sketched my 2021 Monthly Mood Chart. What a rollercoaster!)

A few weeks later, I compiled my first-ever Annual Goals. It was a long list of wants, needs, wouldbeneats, and pipe dreams, and I abandoned it by summer as I got distracted by a project that cropped up. Still, I ended up hitting ~11% of my goals for 2022, and kinda-sorta partially getting ~31% more. Not great, not terrible, and it was a valuable experience of getting longer-term thoughts out of my head and onto paper.

Ultimately, 2022 turned out to be a shitty year for the world, with the war and the skyrocketing costs of everything. But it was an alright year for me personally, and a lot more mindful and introspective than any of the previous years: my journal for 2022 is at ~210,000 words compared to ~80,000 in 2021 and just 50,000 in 2020. This allowed for a much more in-depth Year in Review for 2022, and while the review itself is classified, I felt like sharing some of the last year's things that I found intriguing, interesting, insightful, exciting, or otherwise notable.

Behold, my 2022 highlights - things I did, thought, wrote, read, or found curious!

Highlights

These are some of the things I've done or experienced last year that defined it.

  • Starting this website. I had a personal website over a decade ago but eventually merged it into my business site. And since I outlived my business (which is great - I enjoy being alive more than I enjoy being in business), I ended up without my own online home. Starting this website was easily one of my best decisions of 2022 (alright, technically I launched it around Christmas 2021, but who cares?).
  • Writing and publishing regularly. I tried to get into a writing routine a couple times in the past, but it never quite worked out. Last year I decided to give it another shot and ended up with a streak of 129 consecutive days of writing and 18 weeks (!) of publishing here twice a week. I broke both streaks and came down with writer's block in summer, but it doesn't matter - regular writing and publishing was immensely valuable. I'll be back!
  • Finally figuring out Twitter (and learning to be "more myself" online). It took me over a decade and multiple attempts to finally figure out how Twitter works. Or, rather, to learn to be myself and use Twitter to have fun, share my knowledge, and make friends. We're now in a completely different Twitter era, so I'm glad I had a chance to briefly enjoy the OG one.
  • Getting a swimming coach to improve my technique. I hated swimming lessons as a kid and never learned to swim properly. Around 25, I taught myself to swim and found it fun, but my technique was still off, which made it more tiring. Last year, I embraced deliberate practice, found a swimming coach, and spent 4 months practicing three times per week. This not only made me a far better swimmer and earned me two Olympic golds (ok fine, it was actually a local amateur competition, and I was the only one in my age group - doesn't matter!), but also changed the way I look at self-improvement. It reinforced my belief in applying deliberate practice to other aspects of my life.
  • Discovering solarpunk. It's a movement around the idea of a sustainable nature- and community-oriented future that I stumbled upon in early 2022. I got immediately hooked not just on the concept itself, but also the art and music around it. I spent the next few months listening to solarpunk playlists (they're great for focus - here's mine!) and toying with the idea of getting involved in projects related to sustainability, renewables, and climate change mitigation. That didn't go anywhere last year, but it's still on my mind for 2023.
  • First time in the US. I grew up on American culture, but had never been to the US until last summer. It was an exciting experience that felt a bit like home I'd never been to.
  • Microdosing. I briefly experimented with psychedelics in my 20s and found them intriguing, but moved on once I got my curiosity satisfied. Last fall, I revisited psychedelics to see if microdosing can help me deal with some of my challenges around focus, energy, direction, and motivation. It worked surprisingly well! More to come.

And a few smaller highlights:

  • Generative AI is magic. Midjourney might be my favorite tool of 2022, ChatGPT is fun, and this AI-assisted music video always gets my spirits up.
  • Hiring a photographer for fun. I've been thinking about doing random high-quality photoshoots just for fun. Tried it last year. Totally worth it!
  • TikTok as exposure therapy. I hate myself on video, so I started recording random TikTok videos to get used to it last December. More on that later.
  • The joy of driving beater cars. It took my car shop months to rebuild my 2000 Toyota Celica, so I bought a 2002 Hyundai Coupe to drive in the meantime. Incredibly cheap, fun, rusty, and prone to breaking down in the middle of the road. Exciting and anxiety-inducing. Still totally worth it!
  • Discovering Readwise Reader. For years I struggled with following blogs I enjoy without turning my inbox into a mess of newsletters, but somehow never looked into "read it later" apps. The Reader is an absolute game changer.

Reflections

These are some of the thoughts I've had last year that I found noteworthy.

  • Still grateful for my journal. I started journaling daily in 2019 and still consider it one of the most transformative decisions in my life, mentally-speaking. And it keeps giving! Last fall I felt kinda down. Not a big deal, I thought, late summers and autumns always make me sad. It wasn't until October that I reviewed my 2020/2021 journal entries and realized 2022 was WAY worse. The previous falls hadn't been nearly as bad as I had remembered! I made a few interventions and got my mental state back on track. If it wasn't for the journal, it would've taken me way longer to realize something was off.
  • Bullet lists of thoughts (and stuff). Last year, I tweaked my journaling routine and started summarizing my thoughts for the day, week, and month. Now whenever I look back at a certain period in life I get a snapshot of whatever I had going through my head that I thought was noteworthy. Makes reviews that much easier.
  • Inducing Right Side Energy, or forced mindset change. I've been contemplating my defaults lately - the things my brain does when I'm not paying attention. Some of them are kinda annoying, like complacency, overthinking, passiveness, and distractibility. However, I noticed I can oftentimes easily snap out of them as long as I'm mindful and aware it's happening. It only takes a tiny mental nudge, "hey, you're doing it again - snap out of it!", and the result is massive as it can instantly reverse my disposition, which affects everything else I do - the way I talk to people, do things, think, behave. It's so valuable I've made practicing it one of my themes for 2023.
  • Mental grouping of activities. My brain tends to group my activities into a few distinct categories: productive work ("getting important things done"), socializing ("nurturing my relationships"), organizational work ("life maintenance and chores"), procrastinating ("wasting time"), and occasionally "having fun" (which my brain often considers procrastination). Some of the best days I've had were either 100% productive (workaholism, love it), or "diversely good" - a mix of productive, organizational, and social. As soon as my "productive work" drops below a certain threshold, I start to feel bad about wasting time. Sometimes my brain treats socializing as a (semi-)productive activity, but procrastination has to stay around zero. For a few weeks I even tracked and tallied up my time per category to calculate my productivity score, but it got overwhelming quickly so the result was inconclusive.
  • Two types of procrastination. Major procrastination, when I'm incapable of doing anything productive whatsoever, or minor procrastination, when I know I only need a small nudge to get back on track.
  • Focus is everything. I still can't believe how much more I can accomplish when I'm in a state of flow. A few hours of deep focus often let me achieve far more than I would in a few days or even weeks of feeling distracted. Yet focus is hard to capture, and sometimes life feels like bouncing back and forth between "I'm focused and it's GREAT" and "I'm distractible and it's TERRIBLE".
  • Routines vs creativity. Generally I need to be routine-driven and organized to get things done. But once in a while I catch myself feeling like a robot following an algorithm with zero capacity for original thinking. Then, I need something to shake things up. To take my mind outside the box. Novelty often helps. Doing things I don't usually do. Something different, exciting. I noticed playing horror games does this to me (Cry of Fear is good!). I rarely do it (novelty) and it's intense (excitement), so it gives my brain a refreshing jolt.
  • Morning routines are non-negotiable. I've been experimenting with morning routines for years, and I always return to a few basic things: not touching my phone first thing in the morning, a few minutes of mindfulness, a few minutes of exercise, quick journaling, and staying away from social media as long as possible (and ideally staying away from news and passive entertainment altogether). My levels of energy, focus, and optimism are markedly different when I stick to my morning routines versus when I don't.
  • Socializing vs productivity. I enjoy socializing, but it becomes an issue when it starts affecting my productivity/procrastination levels. Combining socializing with productivity and nuking procrastination altogether sounds great, but it rarely works this way since socializing tends to put me into a procrastinative mood. Pretty sure I'd make for a great socialite, though - that's where socializing IS productivity! Maybe I should work on that in 2023.
  • Empathetic vs mimic vs pushover. Considerate vs conformist. Humble vs insecure. Empathy is one of my strengths, I easily find common language with people. I'm considerate, understanding, thoughtful, attentive by default. Yes, so humble, too. But just like too many routines, I feel like there can be too much empathy and consideration. Sometimes I start to adopt the vibe and even the personality of someone I'm with. If they're moody, I become moody. If they're annoyed, I become annoyed. There are days when my empathy makes me feel like a pushover. There are days when being humble makes me start doubting my own beliefs even in the areas I'm confident in.
  • Consuming > Сreating pieces >> creating wholes. Going from consuming to creating is relatively easy. Writing a blog post or a series of posts isn't too hard. It's harder to go from creating individual "things" to creating full-blown "products". A blog post > a series of articles > a course > a book. A video > a series of videos > a popular YouTube channel. Thing to product gap.
  • Complacency kills. Some (most?) of the best things that ever happened to me happened when I pushed through complacency and comfort, when I wasn't satisfied with what I had, and kept going. And most of the opportunities I missed had to do with complacency and not pushing hard enough. "It's good enough" is a useful tool against perfectionism, but it has its drawbacks. Don't treat stepping stones as pedestals.
  • The urge to stop sucks. The voice in your head telling you to stop or take a break right when you need to apply a little more pressure to overcome a minor hurdle and get to the next level.
  • Having a tribe feels good. I'm not into cults, but I get where they come from. I had a few different online "tribes" back in school, eventually learned to bring different friends together, and always had a group of people I can call "my people" ever since. There are tribes of friends, colleagues, Twitter followers, online communities. Tribes create belonging and serendipity. I love the idea of having my people in this world who will be part of my life no matter what (or will at least let me know that I've become an asshole and that they don't want to have anything to do with me anymore if that ever happens).
  • Having things ahead of me is great. The possibility to look forward towards a brighter future, indefinitely. My "might do" lists are massive, and I don't put dates on them. When I say "great idea, let's do it" and "would be awesome", I genuinely look forward to it, but I don't need it to happen soon. It can happen tomorrow, or it can happen 5 years from now. Some people hate this, and I've been told many times by friends that I don't stick to my promises and that it's frustrating. But I don't see these things as promises - I see them as possibilities. Promises have dates and terms. Possibilities are ephemeral.
  • Nostalgia sucks. It reminds me of the passage of time and my own mortality, and I don't like to be reminded of these things. Nostalgia briefly stops me from looking toward a bright future and forces me to look back into the past. And no matter how bright that past has been, there's no going back. I'm grateful for it, but I don't like to reminisce.
  • Sometimes life feels particularly good. I live for those moments when it feels like all things in life come together: when I have a clear direction, am feeling optimistic, things are going my way, the weather's great (spring!), upbeat music playing in my ears. These moments don't happen often, but when they do, it's the best feeling.
  • Vague tasks suck. Tasks with no right or wrong way of doing them, and no clear outcome. Tasks that can be approached from multiple directions. Sometimes finding the right approach and ensuring you're on the right track takes more effort than the task itself.
  • Productive + slow. I'm trying to combine productivity with slowing down. If I don't slow down, I inevitably burn out or stray off course and end up in the wrong place. But I like speed so much!
  • Being slightly famous feels cool. I enjoyed the feeling of getting to the Hacker News front page with my Twitter article and seeing it mentioned by the people I look up to.
  • Being dependent on praise is annoying. And counterproductive. Learn to separate praise from constructive feedback, which can often sound very similar.
  • Being capable of being highly extroverted. Ties into my idea of having the skills necessary to achieve greatness, but not pursuing greatness at all costs.
  • Visualizing next steps + long-term goals at the same time helps keep my motivation levels up when I'm stuck with a particularly boring or challenging task. It works a lot better than trying to focus on either of them separately.
  • Knowing your path in life is one of the most powerful things ever, but can also feel limiting. Not knowing it is frustrating, but can also feel liberating.
  • Depression, apathy, and whatever interferes with your ability to be excited and feel the desire to do things is the worst. Having to constantly invent new ways of making yourself excited is tiresome.
  • Minor inconveniences and unexpected problems that are normally easy to deal with feel like a massive burden, stressor, and energy drain when you don't have the capacity to deal with them due to other ongoing issues.
  • Being a creator requires conviction. It's not just about what you know, it's about how confident you are about what you know, and about being able to share it with those around you.
  • You also need conviction to live a meaningful life. Having the right beliefs is one thing, being capable of publicly defending them is another.
  • Fuck war and those who incite it.

Writing

These are some of my favorite articles that I wrote last year.

On writing:

  • So Why Do I Write? I tried to figure out why I feel like writing when there's no apparent immediate reward.
  • Your Writing is Good Enough. I made the point against perfectionism in writing and shared my approach to publishing incomplete articles as a remedy.
  • My Writer's Block. What does it feel like to suddenly be unable to write at all after having done it daily for months?

On personal and professional:

  • Why Notes, Why Diary? My personal story of how taking notes and journaling helped me get my life back on track after having it collapse a couple years ago.
  • My Diary in a Nutshell. A very brief look at my journaling process. It's simple, really! Simple, but life-saving.
  • My Budgeting Story. Learning how to budget and discovering YNAB was a major step towards getting my financial life in order after having gone broke.
  • My Product Management Backstory. I wrote a bunch of product articles last year, but this one's about me going from a developer to entrepreneur to PM and beyond. Can't stop me!
  • Reconcile Your Personal-Professional Divide. A while ago I learned to be myself both personally and professionally instead of trying to keep those personalities separate.

On productivity, procrastination, and what excites me:

On Twitter:

  • How to Twitter: The Martin Way. It took me multiple attempts, a decade of time, and learning to be myself before I figured out how to be on Twitter.
  • Getting Twitter: A Follow-Up. And since we're now in a new era of Twitter, I published a follow-up on my "How to Twitter" article towards the end of 2022.

And just a few more:

  • Taking Notes from Audiobooks and Podcasts. My struggle with taking notes from audiobooks and podcasts (and a few approaches that work for me).
  • Personal Website 4.0. The story behind my new personal website (this one) and everything that came before it. Why have a personal website in the first place?
  • I Kicked My Calorie Counting Habit. Last year, I briefly experimented with calorie counting using MyFitnessPal. It was pretty fun while it lasted.
  • Grinding Coffee Mindfully. I've been a fan of pre-ground unfiltered pour-over coffee for decades, but a friend of mine convinced me to get a coffee grinder. I now grind my own coffee as sort of a mindfulness practice.
  • A European in the US of A. Visiting the US for the first time in life!

Reading

These are some of the articles I've read and enjoyed last year.

On business and technology:

  • The story of VaccinateCA. There are issues with technological solutionism and government inefficiencies, but I just love this story of a bunch of geeks coming together to humbly build a highly efficient low-tech life-saving tool.
  • Indistinguishable from Magic. An important role of technology is to help people experience magic. Yet all magic eventually becomes mundanity.
  • Find a good party. Being in a good market with your product is like being at a good party where the room buzzes with energy. Bad markets feel like bad parties, and there's no reason for you to stay.
  • It doesn’t fucking matter. Your business isn't failing because of your logo, your invoicing software, or the wrong CRM. Your product just isn't good enough.
  • Techno-optimism for 2022. We are at the dawn of several technological revolutions at once. The 2020s are going to be a cool decade.
  • Optimism. Optimism isn't a belief that everything's great, and always will be. It's the belief that we'll figure it out, no matter how much effort it takes.
  • How we fixed the ozone layer. The depleted ozone layer was a massive issue for humanity, until it wasn't. We all came together to fix it. We should do it more.
  • The Fall of Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley used to be the cradle of creativity in technology, but it has long since become the opposite of it. How did it happen?

On ambition and thinking bigger:

  • Be less scared of overconfidence. The drawbacks of being overconfident are more obvious immediately, the drawbacks of being underconfident are less obvious in the short term, but more substantial in the long run.
  • The optionality fallacy: how to build an antifragile life. It's easy to fall into the habit of acquiring safety nets in life and stop chasing your dream.
  • Shamelessness as a strategy. It's becoming more dominant today since the reward for it is higher and the punishment less effective than it used to be.
  • If you aren’t getting rejected on a daily basis, your goals aren’t ambitious enough. Your payoff for doing things is often a max function, not an average. So, it makes sense to keep trying as hard as possible and getting rejected.
  • Taking Social Initiative. People don't take social initiative enough by default. You can and should be more socially active.
  • Do We Know What We Want? Figuring out what we really want is hard, so we often let others decide this for us. Knowing your own path and having the conviction to stick to it in the face of adversity or temptation is impressive.
  • Mimetic traps. Convictions inherited from our peers that don't make sense for us, but that are hard to drop. Ask yourself "why does what I'm doing matter?" and try to answer it honestly. If you can't, you're probably wasting your time.
  • Desperation. Imagine only you had the ability to save the earth from an alien invasion, and you'd have to pull off the impossible to do it. Would you do it?
  • We have lost the meaning of the word “ambition”. Choosing to work in consulting is a decision not to think about how you could make the world a better place. It's a decision to work on solving other people's problems.
  • Crazy New Ideas. New ideas are feeble when they first appear. Practice looking at what ideas look like when they're born, reading about how they came to be, and getting into the heads of people who had them.
  • In defense of thinking bigger. In business, it's easy to fall into the habit of thinking small. We underestimate our potential, and could easily do many times more than we believe.
  • Increasing the Difficulty. A lot of our work satisfaction and professional growth comes from our ability to manufacture just the right amount of challenge.
  • Big Goals. If you're confident about hitting your reasonable goals, then hitting them will likely not cause you to grow very much. What goals can you set to change your life in an interesting way?
  • Why We're Doomed: Our Delusional Faith in Incremental Change. Nobody gets fired for agreeing to do more of what's failed in the past, because it's easier than risking big. The faith in incremental change guarantees systemic failure.

On living a better life:

On creativity, curiosity, and thinking different:

On productivity, doing things, and getting things done:

  • The Art of the Finish: How to Go From Busy to Accomplished. Productivity without completion is busyness. Focus on finishing things.
  • The most productive week of my life. Master the art of finishing to really get things done.
  • Focus to Win. Focusing isn't just saying no to things that don't matter to pursue things that do. It's saying no to things that you truly believe do matter to be able to pursue something that matters even more.
  • Some reasons to work on productivity and velocity. Working on the right thing is important, but improving your velocity will also make you better at it.
  • Deliberate Once. Deliberate once, then don't deliberate again and focus on doing the thing until you get new information.
  • Getting things done. A great collection of tips for getting things done.
  • Want to do something? Do It. You can do anything you want. But if you try and fail, it's on you - not on anything or anyone else. Liberating and terrifying.
  • Nobody Cares. When you find yourself engaging in too much self-censorship, remember this liberating fact: nobody really cares.
  • Failing with Abandon. To fail doesn't mean to quit. You're allowed to say "dang!" and continue working towards hitting your target.
  • Do The Thing You Want To Do. Do what you want to do instead of polishing the auxiliary skills. The best way to succeed in business is to be in business.
  • Obvious advice. You absolutely really totally should do the obvious things before going ahead with any plan.

On writing and publishing online:

Closing thoughts

Wow, this turned out way longer than I had planned!

I guess 2022 really was an eventful year. It's really easy to lose track of time and feel like your life boils down to a few highlights per year with mundanity and rut in-between. My journal keeps reminding me of what my life really feels like, and it's usually a lot more than just a few paragraph summary my brain thinks it is. And for that I'm eternally grateful.

If you've found any of this valuable, let me know. This year, I plan to double down on some of the things that worked great for me in 2022, ditch the ones that didn't, and see if I can shorten the feedback loop to get better faster.

Here's to a mindful 2023!