Category Archives: yearly

Turning 31

What a year! Life just keeps getting better and better.

2013-09-26 Goals for 31 #plans #year

2013-09-26 Goals for 31 #plans #year

I like looking forward by looking back: imagining myself in the future and seeing what changed. Last August, I wrote: “When I look back at this year on the eve of turning 31, I’d like to say…” So here’s how all that worked out.

I’ve learned and shared a lot. This next year will probably be a year of intense learning in terms of life and work and Making Things Happen. As tempting as it always is to go full speed ahead, I think the result will be even better if I slow down and take notes along the way.

I slowed down in terms of work, scaling back my consulting hours to about two days a week and using the freed-up time for reading, cooking, spending time with family, and working on other projects/experiments like Emacs and sketchnoting. That worked out really well.

I’ve gotten very good at making decisions under lots of uncertainty. The outcomes might not always be good, but at least the processes will be well-reasoned and I’ll have notes to help me (and other people) learn more.

I’m comfortable taking on bigger and bigger challenges. I’m comfortable with research and can generally find some background information quickly. I have fun sketching out different scenarios and finding my way. This is working nicely too.

I’ve expanded my freedom and abilities in this 5-year experiment. I’ve focused on building up skills, knowledge, and relationships out of curiosity (“What if?” “How can we make this better?”) instead of fear (“Will I be able to hit the ground running if I decide to go back to the workforce?”). I find creative ways to deal with constraints, and those ideas help others. Writing, drawing, and coding continue to be a large part of my life.

I added a few useful business-related skills and improved a number of my existing skills. Yay! This is definitely fun, and I’m looking forward to figuring out what the next year will bring.

I’ve gotten better at asking questions. This is tough, because I tend to want to dig into things myself, Google+books+experiments give me so much information, and advice can get a little weird if you don’t take it. Maybe if I start asking people questions through this blog, I might elicit interesting perspectives or encourage people to teach something (especially if they don’t have blogs of their own).

Philosophy turned out to be a good addition to the things I’m learning and thinking about. By immersing myself in the conversations of book authors throughout the ages, I can learn from all these very smart people who have thought about things. =)

I live a simple and frugal life. Lifestyle inflation is the enemy. If I can keep my wants and needs the same–-or even reduce them–-then that helps us be even more free.

My base expenses were actually a little bit lower than they were the previous year. Neat! The stock market has been doing pretty well (aside from the current dip), and I’ve been saving most of the income from consulting too. I’m going to figure out dividends next year, so then I’ll be able to move more money from savings into investments.

Where did the year go?

August 2013 Lots of drawing, making sketchnote lessons
September Emacs, writing, sketchnotes, learning tips
October More drawing, reflecting on my experiment
November Google Helpouts, Emacs chats
December Trip to the Philippines!
January Lots of learning tips
February Writing about blogging; making that no-excuses guide to blogging
March Frugal Fire podcast experiment
April More Emacs Chats and Frugal Fire podcasts; Raspberry Pi
May Even more Emacs Chats
June Read Lisp, Tweak Emacs
July Philosophy

So, how am I different from the person I was last year?

  • I’m healthier. I like these new exercise habits (running to build up endurance, the Hacker’s Diet exercise ladder for very gradually building up strength). We’ve been eating even better too.
  • I did a lot of cool front-end work on my consulting engagement. I picked up new skill: Jive app/add-on development. Improved existing skills, too: Javascript, analytics, etc.
  • I spent a lot less time working, networking, and socializing (reduced by 263, 333, and 324 hours respectively!), and more time working on Emacs, gardening, reading, and sleeping. I spent about as much time writing as I did last year. I shifted most of my socialization to Hacklab, since I like the way it fits me.
  • I had good experiments with self-publishing. I published my 2013 collection of sketchnotes, a no-excuses guide to blogging and a beginner’s guide to learning Emacs Lisp. I checked out Createspace for making a print version of my sketchnotes collection, and that actually worked out nicely. I did the Emacs Lisp guide as an e-mail course, too.
  • I drew more. I thought I drew less, but actually, my time records and my files say that I drew a lot more. It just didn’t feel that way because I’ve been writing so many text-based blog posts lately. (Hah! Recency bias.)
  • I learned more about podcasting by doing short series of shows with live sketchnotes, followed up with transcripts (Emacs Chats, Helpers Help Out, Frugal Fire Show). I might not get into it long-term, but it was interesting to try out.
  • I’m more comfortable with talking to people and helping them online. I experimented with the Google Helpouts platform, helping people learn more about note-taking, learning, building on introvert strengths, and Emacs. That worked out well (tons of 5-star reviews!), although I scaled my availability down so that I could focus on other things.
  • I’m more comfortable with philosophy, and with the humanities in general. I’ve been reading a lot lately, and I find philosophy to be useful and interesting. I’m getting better at not worrying about things and at writing about what I’m thinking. Yay!
  • I’m more involved in family life. I spend more time on family-related things, and I’ve been helping W- more too.
  • I’ve learned a little more about gardening. Watering regularly makes a difference, but I’m still constrained by environmental factors.

Next year, I’ll turn 32. (Nice round number!) When I do my annual review then, what would I like to be able to say about life as a 31-year-old?

  • I have excellent health-related habits I have the strength, flexibility, and endurance to do what I want to do.
  • Our home life is wonderful. We enjoy yummy food, good projects, a tidy house, simple lives, great relationships, and other things.
  • I helped my consulting client make successful transitions. Upgrades, training, time away… I did my work well, and they’re in a great position to continue doing awesome things in the future.
  • I’ve broadened my business a little bit more. I might go deeper into writing/drawing/publishing, or I might look into product development. This reduces the risk of being classified as a personal services business, and it may lead to other interesting skills and opportunities. In terms of development, I like web-based stuff more than mobile, so maybe I’ll focus on that.

Life is good. Looking forward to seeing how this year turns out!

Reflection: Two years into my 5-year experiment

“Monotony collapses time; novelty expands it,” writes Joshua Foer in Moonwalking with Einstein. It feels like more than two years since the start of my 5-year experiment with semi-retirement, which is what I jokingly called this adventure into a self-directed life. So far, amazing. This year, I focused less on consulting and event sketchnoting, and I focused more on creating my own content. More than 500 sketches and three mini-eBooks later, I feel happy about this decision, and I’m curious about where else it can lead.

I’ve also been ramping up my delegation and systematization. Since I’m still doing a bit of consulting here and there, I think that these processes will help me get even better at making and sharing things even if my attention is divided–and that can come in handy later on. Let’s see how it goes.

2014-02-16 Two years into my 5-year experiment #experiment #review

2014-02-16 Two years into my 5-year experiment #experiment #review

I’d done a pre-mortem of possibilities for failure back in 2012, but I don’t think I wrote about the success criteria or vision. (That’s odd!) Somewhat belated, but here it is. This experiment is shaping up to be about whether I’ve got what’s needed for a good self-directed life. I think success for this experiment would be:

  • exploring uncommon questions and ideas
  • having a happy life at home
  • helping lots of people grow
  • having sold plans and a great foundation for next steps
2014-02-16 Goals and success criteria for my 5-year experiment #experiment #success

2014-02-16 Goals and success criteria for my 5-year experiment #experiment #success

So, how was this year different from last year? What might next year be like? What would wild success at the end be like?

2014-02-16 More detailed evaluation of 5-year experiment so far #experiment #review #evaluation

2014-02-16 More detailed evaluation of 5-year experiment so far #experiment #review #evaluation

The first year was about getting the hang of paperwork and consulting. This second year was about coming into my own. Next year will be a good year for growth and resilience, I think. If I can continue on that path, I think it’ll be interesting.

Year in review: 2013

I was half-tempted not to write this. Many people are coming out with their annual reviews and the usual flood of New Years Resolutions – why add another? I do another yearly review around my birthday anyway, which is a milestone that makes more sense to me. Someday I’ll figure out whether it makes sense to do multiple yearly reviews or just keep one, but in the meantime, I might as well. =) Besides, it’s easier to make a summary while you still remember.

Click on the image for a larger version:

2014-01-01 2013 in review

At the beginning of the year, I focused on consulting and sketchnoting. It was a lot of fun sketching different events. Then I experimented with focusing on my own content. That turned out to be lots of fun, so I shifted towards doing more of that while keeping consulting. Our month-long trip to the Philippines was a lot of fun too. It was great to spend all that time with family and friends.

By the numbers:

image

Hmm… My routines don’t change much, aside from the swapping between business and discretionary time. That’s great! It means I can plan for roughly 8.5 – 9 hours of sleep a night and roughly 10 – 10.5 hours of time each day that I can use for business or discretionary activities, or almost 72 hours a week. Somehow it balances out almost perfectly evenly over the long run.

The most popular blog posts I published in 2013 were almost all related to Emacs, except for two visual posts and another tech post:

  1. How to Learn Emacs: A Hand-drawn One-pager for Beginners / A visual tutorial
  2. How to present using Org-mode in Emacs
  3. Emacs Conference 2013 Sketchnotes (also, PDF!)
  4. How to learn Emacs keyboard shortcuts (a visual tutorial for newbies)
  5. Emacs: How I organize my Org files
  6. Sketchnotes: Building my visual vocabulary
  7. Visual book review: The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything… Fast (Josh Kaufman)
  8. How I use Emacs Org Mode for my weekly reviews
  9. Disabling touch on Windows 8 on a Lenovo X220 tablet
  10. Emacs Chat: Carsten Dominik

Overall, there were 210k unique visitors over the year, and more than half a million page views… Boggle. Although the tech-related posts are the most popular on my blog, I like writing about a variety of topics, so I’m going to let my curiosity take us where it will.

If you’re curious, here’s last year’s summary:

I thought I’d focus on regular exercise, healthy eating, business growth, great relationships, and continued happiness. Yay to all of the above! And onward…

Next year, I want to work on a smooth transition for my consulting project, and do even more drawing and writing on my own. I’m looking forward to sharing tips, answering questions, and learning from other people. Google Helpouts, podcasts, online hangouts, blog comments, and e-mail will help me collect questions and come up with thoughts, and I’ll draw and write and record what I’m learning along the way. Here we go!

Year in review: Life as a 29-year-old

imageThe interesting thing about blogging is that you have a public record of how your life matches or diverges from the goals that you set. Here’s what I wrote at the beginning of my 29th year, imagining what I’d like to be true on the eve of my thirtieth birthday. I’ve included updates below each item.

I have even more wonderful relationships with family and friends.
I’m a little more distant than I used to be. Early retirement and a growing dislike of travel have certainly put a crimp in visits home. I’m also reluctant to make schedule commitments, although maybe that will relax in a few years. That said, Hacklab turned out to be a totally awesome choice and I’m glad I’m hanging out there.
I regularly stay in touch, and have good notes on what people are interested in and are up to.
I tend to respond when people reach out to me, although I don’t feel guilty about not reaching out first.
I survived my first business tax return, yay! I’m now investing in building skills while giving back to the community, eventually turning that into income from mobile apps, illustration/animation, and other ways to create value.
I did my own taxes, and I only had to amend my returns twice. Winking smile I’m looking forward to my second fiscal year end, which is coming soon! I ended up shelving mobile apps, but illustration, sketchnoting, and writing look like great ways to create engaging content.
I’ve got lots of sketchnotes of meetups, books, and product reviews. I’ve organized them into a blog and an e-book. My sketchnotes have colour and depth and interesting layouts. =) I help people find out about useful stuff and good get-togethers.
I published a collection of my 2012 sketchnotes on a free/pay-what-you-want basis, and people have actually bought it (for more than I would’ve asked for, yay!). I still don’t do fancy things with colour, depth, or layout, but I’m okay with that. =) Instead, I’ve been focusing on building resources to help people learn.
I’ve updated my Stories from my Twenties e-book with what I’ve learned from my 29th year, and I’ve shared the updates with the people who bought the book and sent me their receipts.
Done! See sachachua.com/blog/twenties . If I haven’t sent you the update because I misplaced your receipt or you didn’t send it to me, e-mail me and I’ll send you the new one.
I’ve gone through Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata, and I understand it. =) I’m also picking up Cantonese.
No progress on either Latin or Cantonese, although I’ve been learning Japanese instead.
I’ve been having fun gardening. We’re growing more greens and have actually gotten into the habit of eating them. (I know!)
Cherry tomatoes and blueberries, mostly. =) I’m growing some more lettuce, although haven’t gotten around to making salad with them yet!
My finances are on track for my 5-year experiment; this might even be extended at least a few more years.
Yup! Business was unexpectedly good, and my expenses have stayed within my budgeting parameters.
I’m ready to rock my thirties!
Looks like it!

What were the highlights this year?

  • August: Switched to a phone with a data plan, which actually does make a difference in my looking-up-stuff-and-finding-my-way-around capabilities.
  • September: Attended Quantified Self conference in the US. Spent time with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law.
  • October: Filed corporate taxes!
  • November: Lots of sketchnoting.
  • December: Came up with a name and logo for my company: Experivis.
  • January: Sketched different business ideas.
  • February: Played with more sketchnoting and art.
  • March: Went to the Emacs conference in London.
  • April: Sketched more conferences.
  • May: Posted “How to Learn Emacs.”
  • June: Experimented with Google Hangouts, started working on Quantified Awesome some more, helped work on the patio.
  • July: Made some resources for learning more about sketchnoting; lots of coding and consulting. Oh, and I fixed a rice cooker! =D

Hmm. All this time I’ve been feeling conflicted because I just want to stay home and not travel. It turns out I’d travelled twice in the past year, which could be why I’ve got a slowly-rebuilding travel budget (… and the high fees for replacing a lost passport certainly didn’t help!). Righto. Funny, the things you forget when you’re looking at life day to day.

So, how am I different from the person I was last year?

  • I draw more for myself than for events or presentations. I make little guides like “How to Learn Emacs” or the tutorials I’ve been putting together for sketchnotes. It can be more fun and less frustrating than working on other people’s content, although working on other people’s content is simpler. I like drawing stuff for my own explanations, and I look forward to doing more of that next year. On a related note:
  • I’m more hesitant to make commitments. Scheduling appointments with people? Maaaybe. Committing to professional gigs months in advance? Not if I can find someone else to refer the work to. Committing to cook next week’s open house meal at HackLab? No, although I’m happy to assist. I’ll accept the occasional invitation to sketchnote a pro-bono event, but I make it clear that I might not go depending on whatever comes up. =) It’s partly due to semi-retirement (I’m starting to get addicted to this ability to follow my interest!) and partly because of some other things I want to plan around. I anticipate being even more commitment-avoidant in the near future. Which is all right – people managed to hang out in college and other unstructured environments before, so we can probably figure out how to do so now.
  • I write longer posts more frequently, and I illustrate them. I decided to take all of August off from consulting (month-long staycation for my birthday gift to me!). I’m not using the time for more event sketchnoting or business experiments. Instead, I’ve been using it to write and learn, which is fantastic – more time to think and research. Since I’m still keeping a one-post-a-day-unless-I-get-super-excited-and-want-to-publish-something-NOW limit, this means I’ve written practically all of this month already, and I’ve been shuffling posts around to see what I can postpone to September. It’s fun to doodle on my blog posts, too.
  • I spend more time with W- or with the HackLab people than with other friends. I naturally spend lots of time with W-, and I try to make it out to HackLab once or twice a week. I see HackLab people more often than I see my other friends. I have to admit: it’s temptingly easier to hang out with people who are used to hanging out with each other. I don’t have to set up individual plans or worry about holding up my end of the conversation. The drop-in structure of HackLab means I don’t have to commit to being there at a specific time – I can just show up (usually after checking the door bot) and see who’s around.
  • I live an even simpler life. We’ve given away things that we haven’t been using. We’ve passed up movie theatres in favour of watching DVDs from the library. We repair things as much as possible instead of throwing them away.

Hmm. Let me think about what I’d like my thirties to be like. This is pretty cool, actually, because “thirties” has slightly more credibility (if slightly less gee-whiz potential) than “twenties” does, so I should use it well. Sure, I probably won’t make it to a list of “30 under 30” within the next couple of days, but that’s all right. (They don’t really make lists like “90 over 90”, do they, although they should…)

When I look back at this year on the eve of turning 31, I’d like to say:

  • I’ve learned and shared a lot. This next year will probably be a year of intense learning in terms of life and work and Making Things Happen. As tempting as it always is to go full speed ahead, I think the result will be even better if I slow down and take notes along the way.
  • I’ve gotten very good at making decisions under lots of uncertainty. The outcomes might not always be good, but at least the processes will be well-reasoned and I’ll have notes to help me (and other people) learn more.
  • I’ve expanded my freedom and abilities in this 5-year experiment. I’ve focused on building up skills, knowledge, and relationships out of curiosity (“What if?” “How can we make this better?”) instead of fear (“Will I be able to hit the ground running if I decide to go back to the workforce?”). I find creative ways to deal with constraints, and those ideas help others. Writing, drawing, and coding continue to be a large part of my life.
  • I’ve gotten better at asking questions. This is tough, because I tend to want to dig into things myself, Google+books+experiments give me so much information, and advice can get a little weird if you don’t take it. Maybe if I start asking people questions through this blog, I might elicit interesting perspectives or encourage people to teach something (especially if they don’t have blogs of their own).
  • I live a simple and frugal life. Lifestyle inflation is the enemy. If I can keep my wants and needs the same–or even reduce them–then that helps us be even more free.
  • I think this will be a lot of fun. =)

2012 as a sketch

Here’s how I’d like to remember 2012. =) (See also this quick month-by-month summary)

2012 summary

For comparison, here’s the sketch and summary from 2011.

2011-review.png

2011-review.png

Year in review: 2012

I’d sketch this, but Adobe Illustrator CS6 keeps crashing on me and I’m tired of fighting with my computer today. Next time!

This year was about experiments. After building up my “opportunity fund,” I turned over my projects at IBM and left to start a 5-year experiment exploring what you can learn and build if you have the time and space to do so. I want to learn how to build businesses, and I want to share what I’m learning along the way.

Here’s how the year went!

January: Set things in motion for my next experiment by sending in my notice at IBM. Mapped out what I had learned. Started transitioning projects. Favourite post: Getting ready for my next experiment.

February: Made the leap! Set up a business mailbox, incorporated, and registered for HST. Favourite post: Thinking about how to experiment with business and what I might want to do

March: My first full month as a business owner! I immediately had consulting clients, which helped me hit the ground running. I drew a lot, too. (Monthly review) Favourite post: What I want from visual notetaking; imagining wild success

April: It was a lot of fun enjoying the benefits of a flexible schedule, paricularly in terms of biking. I also spent some time building my writing and drawing skills. (Monthly review)Favourite post: Why I’m temporarily unhireable

May: More client work than I expected! Sketched lots of presentations and events, too. Biked all month. Switched from community-supported agriculture to buying our own vegetables again. (Monthly review) Favourite post: Thinking about the next mini-experiment

June: Experimented with digital self-publishing by putting together a PDF of my favourite blog posts over the past ten years. (Monthly review) Favourite post: Experiment! Stories from My Twenties PDF

July: Lots of gardening and biking. Bought an Android tablet. Went strawberry-picking with the Hattoris! (Monthly review) Favourite post: Trusting myself with making time

August: Celebrated my 29th birthday! Bought a new phone, switched to a data plan. Hosted a get-together. Wrapped up consulting in preparation for a temporary break. (Monthly review) Favourite post: Thinking about what wild success at 29 looks like

September: Went to Palo Alto for the Quantified Self conference. Spent time with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law. Went to Disneyland with them! (Monthly review) Favourite post: Weekly review: Week ending September 21, 2012

October: Back to consulting. September 30 was my fiscal year end, so I spent time figuring out my books and filing taxes. Lots and lots of sketchnotes from conferences, too. (Monthly review) Favourite post: Celebrating my fiscal year end; planning how to improve

November: Gave another presentation. Started helping out with Awesome Foundation Toronto. More sketchnotes from conferences and events! (Monthly review) Favourite post: Made my largest sketchnote ever! Painting the MaRS Lean Startup Day banner

December: Took another break from consulting in order to focus on building the business. Worked on laying the groundwork for marketing and sales. Came up with a name for my company: Experivis! Favourite post: Imagining sketchnotes as a business

PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR

I want to really dig into this idea of building conference/presentation sketchnotes as a business. It’s a good way to learn sales and marketing skills.

Life-wise, I’m looking forward to making exercise part of my routines, and to spending more time with W-. The biggest thing I have to learn, I think, is to keep moving forward even though the temptation is to get stuck in limbo; to somehow have a multiplicity of plans layered onto different possibilities, and to keep myself fueled and excited by them.