Midyear review & reset

The time has come for a mid-year review & reset. So what’s changed in the past 3 months? Other than this new haircut I’m sporting.

Passions & hobbies

I’ve been writing creating and thinking more. The number of articles, videos & newsletters published slowed to a combined 4 in 3 months. Rather disappointing if I was to purely base it on the initial 2021 plan but given how intentional the slow down was, I’m very comfortable with those numbers.

The issue that begun to arise as I started to publish content regularly is not dissimilar to the reasons I’ve stopped in the past — it became performative. I like to share as to provide true value to my imagined younger self but the content I share when I set strict publishing schedules tends to start leaning more towards entertainment than education. In and of itself entertainment is not bad but I don’t like it to be at the forefront of what I’m sharing. To counter this I’ve done 2 things:

I did a Youtube course by Matt D'Avella that was rooted in creating engaging content without sacrificing personal and creative integrity. I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to be a great video maker — scripting, editing, brainstorming, content planning — and I can’t wait to put it all into action.

I’ve been doing a rather simple yet powerful exercise: Homework for life. At the end of each day, I write down the story of my day in a few sentences. This has been helping me see the lessons from my everyday life which I’d like to share while helping me flex my gratitude muscle tenfold. If you’d like to learn more I’d recommend reading Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks, a masterful storyteller with many accolades.

My plans are to switch most of my YouTube content towards Video podcast territory, which will allow for higher information density and while allowing for moments of delight and entertainment. Given the expected additional effort making higher quality content, I’ll be switching to a 2-week upload schedule once I get started. However, the blog posts will be coming in regularly, same as the newsletters, as I’ve switched to a much more enjoyable and streamlined workflow powered by Ghost.

Career & freedoms

I’ve felt behind in my career for a long time. This has mostly been caused by how long it took me to finally settle into my engineering niche, mobile engineering, coupled with the lack of ability to perform the relevant tasks as part of my job. I’ve seen many people promoted above me, often for reasons I won’t dare mention as they risk ruining my mood, and wondered if I was going about my career the wrong way. I read a book in the midst of one such episode that no only gave me comfort but restored my confidence in myself and my chosen path, “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World”. Range answers an important question better than any book before, What’s the most effective path to success in any domain?

You’d assume the answer is deliberate practice from an early age and you wouldn’t be wrong, but you wouldn’t have the full answer. The complete answer is early sampling combined with eventual narrowed practice. To be truly good at something you need sustained practise, personal alignment & interest.

Early in my career I was a backend engineer as this came easily to me and it made me feel intelligent so I assumed it my path but I didn’t allow that to stop me from exploring the frontend, which lead me to realise how much I enjoyed building tools with people in mind, not just mathematical elegance, and so I became a full-stack engineer (backend + frontend). The further down this path I went I found out about mobile engineering, now I can build tools that people can have on them throughout the day, this again sparked my passion and I laboured to find ways to do more of it, even if it meant only as side projects.  As I began getting better and better at mobile development I was able to recruit it at my workplace and use my learning to inform other parts of my work at great value to myself and the team. The other side effect of having built up a wide array of skills was that I could make informed lateral leaps when making technical decisions, which proved very valuable while collaborating in larger teams. Another interest I was honing in parallel was leadership skills — how do you effectively lead a team and support a team?

I learned early on watching my friends found and fail at startups that the hardest thing most intelligent people fail at is working with others. As soon as I started investing in my communication and collaboration skills I saw how much better my teams performed and how close we all grew, so I stayed the course, reading every book, watching every talk. All these parallel branches finally began to converge in the past 3 months as I took on more and more team lead responsibilities. Creating alignment across teams, resolving conflicts, reasoning about the future of products and actioning those plans day in day out. I keep a folder on my desktop titled “Wins” and in the past 3 months, it has begun overflowing with success from work!

All this recent success required some compromise, namely; not working on any of my side projects, resulting in my $100 from the App Store goal becoming almost unreachable this year. This lack of focus in this area was also made possible by the market revelations I was able to make by consulting with Nick Sheriff, an App Store Optimisation expert, who saved me many months of blind effort. This goes to prove that Twitter still has some very cool corners filled with people doing their best to have a positive effect on the world.

Family & health

Given the time I’d spent with my wife in 2020, it came as a bit of a surprise to realise how little time we actually spent together. Being in the same area isn’t the same as being in the same space. Sure, we watched stuff in bed together, on different computers, holding hands and sharing the occasional kiss but as intimate as the time together was, it wasn’t quite time spent with each other, only time spent in proximity. This is something we’ve gone about resolving to great success. We now have movie nights, more dates outside, more undistracted conversations. People in a relationship often stop seeing each other before they stop seeing each other — we won’t be falling for that trap!

My mental health is at an all-time high! I am in a constant state of gratitude and serenity, a state I feared I’d never see again. It’s taken a shocking amount of effort to get to where I am today and I’m glad I stuck it out because it has grown my resilience and my belief in myself. I know one more that I can navigate any troubles imagined or otherwise.

I began the year weighing in at ~135KG and unfortunately, I find myself in the same spot as I write this. However, I’m more active and most importantly, I’ve found a new love and appreciation for my adult body. This is not to say I won’t be making any changes. This is to say that from here on I will be making changes from a place of love and appreciation, not a place of shame. I workout not from guilt but from the desire to honour my body. I eat well not because someone on YouTube inspired me to do so, but because it’s what my body deserves.

With my 29th birthday coming up, my last year in my 20s, I’ve decided to take on the #75Hard challenge — a less than fun 75-day slugfest! The rules are simple:

  1. Follow a diet: This can be any diet but no cheat meals or alcohol are allowed.
  2. Work out twice a day for at least 45 minutes: One of these workouts must be an outdoor session. This is going to be difficult in Cape Town winter weather, but that’s the point!
  3. Drink 4 litres of water per day: Another one made difficult by the winter but a crucial habit to uphold.
  4. Read 10 pages of nonfiction a day: This can be anything within the personal and/or professional development arena but it must be read, not listened to as an audiobook or a talk or video.
  5. Take progress photos every day: This is a small detail but that’s why it’s important. We often start faltering at our goals because we stop doing the small things, which allow us to stop doing the big things.

Failure to complete any item on the list results in restarting the challenge back at day 1 — brutal! I am going to complete it on the first try! Should be interesting.

On the surface, this looks like a physical challenge, yet another Instagram trend, but this is an exercise in building mental fortitude. What gets in our way is often our minds, not our bodies. When you are running and your quads and knees and back signal that you should stop, it’s just that, a signal, a suggestion. Your mind still gets to decide if that signal, that suggestion, is applied. I’ll be starting this challenge on the 19th of July and ending on the 2nd of October — care to join?

In the meantime I will be getting some rest —  We’re off to a farm this weekend for a well-deserved reset amidst the mountains. Catch you on the flippity flip!