I’m 20

Inspired by Scott H Young‘s series of posts on his birthday (latest one here), I’m going to write an update on what has happened in my life in the last year. Twenty years old seems to be as good a starting point as any, and it should be interesting to read these later to see how my life and views have changed.

For now, I’ll follow the same format as Scott: I’ll go over what has happened in my life this last year, plans for the future, and how my views on life have changed.

My Life Last Year

In one word: humbling. And if I could add another: rewarding.

In the past year, I failed two classes, dropped many more, failed at a side project, left another unfinished, had the resign from a solid opportunity due to burnout, and largely failed in my role as CEO of the Inventor’s Guild.

But. Also in the past year, I started training jiu-jitsu, which led to gains in my health and fitness, obtained a position at a Big-4 company, made leaps of progress in my personal life, and perhaps most importantly, become a better person.

I am not as good as I think I am. But I am getting better.

My Plans for Next Year

While I think that a year is too long a time frame to set any useful goals, I do think that having themes or areas of focus can be helpful.

Prioritize and Execute

Be more deliberate about what I am choosing to get done. Don’t say yes to everything that comes my way. Evaluate if it aligns with my existing priorities and if it is something that I can put 100% effort into. Be more realistic about my work capacity and don’t take on too much. Act in order of priority at all times. Do not procrastinate uselessly. Block out time on my calendar to do the most important things and when the time comes, DO THEM.

Think Big, Act Small

Recognize that life is long and that it is better to create behavior change slowly and effectively rather than quickly and ineffectively. Focus on ONE THING at a time until it is a habit. Then and only then move on to something else.

Self Compassion

Be nicer to myself. Improve my self talk. Know that no matter what happens, I am enough. I am not my job, nor my achievements, nor my thoughts or emotions.

Long Term Plans for the Future

I continue to believe that entrepreneurship is the highest leverage activity available for those who want to make a difference. In the past year, I do think that I have become more realistic regarding the difficulty of entrepreneurship and as a result, in the future, need to be more deliberate about developing the skills needed and if an opportunity does come my way, to evaluate if I have the skills to execute.

Starting to train BJJ gave me a purpose for my physical training and nutrition. I will continue to train BJJ as much as I can and as much as possible stick with my training and eating programs.

I want to invest more in both the relationships that I currently have as well as make an effort to creating new relationships, both personal and professional.

Changes in Outlook

This past year I’ve started to recognize the necessity of long term thinking. Having not lived for that long, it is hard to imagine what things will be like in 2x, 3x, even 4x the time that I’ve experienced so far. As I get older, I expect that this will come naturally, but for now I need to consciously include it in my thought processes.

I’ve also put more of an emphasis on people and fostering more and deeper relationships. This was probably due to the amazing people that have entered my life in the past year. Since realizing this, my happiness has increased markedly and I only expect that to continue.

After burning out, I guess it is inevitable to not recognize the importance of mental health. I need to always be wary of how I am feeling about what I am currently doing, where I am going, and my life in general. And to take breaks and vacations when necessary to be able to recover and come back ready to go.

This was a short post that I’m not sure will be of use to anyone else, but it should be interesting to be able to look at it years from now.

How I (Finally) Started a Journaling Habit

It seems that almost every site I follow recommends keeping a journal:

For the longest time (think: years), I’ve tried and failed to keep up a consistent journaling habit. But in the last 100 days, I’ve only missed two and by now it’s a solid habit that doesn’t take any willpower in the morning. In fact, it actually takes willpower not to do it.

So what finally did it?

Fountain pens and nice notebooks. Let me explain…

Journaling is one of those things where you don’t see much benefit from it until after you’ve consistently done it for a while. This makes it hard to fit into the cue-action-reward loop that is required for habit formation.

With meditation, my cue is sitting down at my desk after weighing in and the reward is the feeling of calm immediately proceeding it. With working out, my cue is a certain time every day and the reward is the endorphin rush and chocolate protein shake.

I had the cue worked out for journaling, but was never rewarding myself with anything. When I finally shelled out for a nice pen, ink, and paper (TWSBI Eco, Pilot Iroshizuku, and LEUCHTTURM1917 for you nerds out there :p), the act of writing itself was a pleasant experience and didn’t need an additional reward.

Aside: this is an example of friction and snowball mental models. Reducing friction lets the snowball start to roll down the hill to produce something exponentially greater than what you started with and the energy added.

This makes it much easier to get the action reinforced and once you add a bit of willpower to do it consistently for a bit… Voila! You have a habit!

Something else that helped me was the idea that you don’t need to follow any sort of type of journaling. Just start, experiment, and do what works for you. I tried quite a few that were so complicated that maintaining them took much more time than it was worth.

At first, you may think that you don’t have enough going on in your life to justify journaling, but believe me, once you start, you’ll want to write down everything.

For now, my journaling habit looks something like the following:

  • Immediately after waking: stream of consciousness, 1 page minimum
  • During the day: modified bullet journal to track habits, food, and condensed learnings as well as pending to-dos
  • After BJJ: freeform, anything I learned
  • Before going to bed: what went well and what didn’t

It’s the small things in life…

… that bring me the most joy.

The big things–my health, my career, and (especially) my love life–are never all going to be completely where I want them to be. I find that I can very easily brush away my successes and focus on where I am still failing.

But the small things–

the incredible design of a pen,

the subtle flavors in a cup of coffee,

the perfectly-timed bassline in a live DnB set,

the editing of a great book that is worth every penny,

the absolutely hilarious facial expressions in a comic strip,

–the tiny details that someone put countless hours of work in to make just perfect, these are the things that I find I can appreciate the most.