2016 was a tumultuous year for the world, with Brexit and Trump’s rise to the presidency erupting a new normal, but amidst the chaos, 2016 turned out to be both exciting and calming for me. I grew to love DC, made a handful of new friends, visited Berlin, Yosemite, Hong Kong, and Bejing, and got into the habit of consistently reading. Of course, it wasn’t all perfect, but I’m appreciative the lessons I learned along the way and how all these experiences, both good and bad, have helped me develop clarity and resolve around how I want to grow in the future. Let’s start with 3 realizations:
- I’m a builder at heart, or at least that’s what all my mental signals are telling me right now. I need to have a hand in creating new value to really enjoy the work I do. In college, I studied computer science and quickly gravitated towards the technology industry instead of academia. I had my feet in both—almost, quite literally. While conducting research phishing detection research at University of Houston during summer 2013, I wrote code for the early FiscalNote prototype during evenings and attended a web development camp at Google. The excitement of having ownership over something that was built from nothing is unbeatable. In 2016, this was building the analytics stack at FiscalNote.
- Iterate yourself like a product. If you haven’t seen Henrik Kniberg’s illustration of how to develop a product, you should. It proposes that the way to build out an ambitious product vision is not by building interdependent pieces of the vision but by building the simplest, descoped version of that vision that gets the fundamental job done, in other words, a minimum viable product (MVP). From there you should keep adding features and improve the MVP until it fits the vision. In most cases, this is a great way to approach building things, and that goes towards ourselves too. You don’t go to the gym for the first time and try squatting 315 lbs and expect to squat that weight one day so long as you keep going back and attempting to squat that weight. You first train to squat 135 lbs, then 155lbs, and so forth. In other areas of life, it’s not so simple. If you want to run a successful company one day, what is the first step you should be taking? There are many correct answers and many paths, but I think it’s important to understand that it’s an iterative process that takes enormous patience and thought.
- Time is the most valuable resource. I’ve always known this, but it’s something that we all need constant reminders of. We all get the same amount of this resource and there’s no getting back what you’ve spent. Yet we spend so much of it on wasteful activities like consuming junk content and being lazy because those provide short-term gratification. One thing I did to optimize this for 2017 is moving closer to the office and areas of interest, which reduces travel time and gives me the flexibility to go back and forth from the office more easily which directly helps the efficient allocation of time.
2016 Goals Retrospective
From a binary perspective, I only hit 30% of my goals for 2016. Furthermore, I started off the year doing 5 of the 7 habits I wanted to acquire but ended the year with only 2 of 7. From a pure numbers perspective, those results are very bad. However, I made substantial progress on 4 of the goals I did not hit. For example, I was only 35 lbs away from my squat PR, having improved my squat by 65 lbs. I also built up a robust analytics stack at FiscalNote and helped start a team that focuses on corporate strategy and analytics, which isn’t exactly the growth leader role I was aiming for but also not completely missing the mark. That said, I’ll be making three changes to hit my 2017 goals:
- Time Allocation
I need to be more cognizant of diminishing returns on my time and evenly distribute it amongst various goals to get the biggest returns possible. I also need to pare down what I want to do well on and pace myself such that I consistently make incremental progress towards goals throughout the year instead of trying to tackle everything at once and consequently making little progress on everything. So without much further ado...
- Read 17 books by reading a book every three weeks.
- Build a useful web app by committing code to GitHub twice a month.
- Monetize my photography.
- Connect with 50 new people by talking with someone new every week.
- Become more informed about the world by reading important news.
- Be healthy and lean 155 lbs around 10% BF by training consistently 6 days/week, hitting my PR goals, and competing.
Sitting in my new apartment, already two months into 2017, I feel pretty good about the goals I’ve set for this year and where I want to be in 5 years. See you all in 10 months!