Category Archives: yearly

Life as a 31-year-old

I used to host get-togethers as a way of thanking friends, catching up with folks, and seeing what interesting conversations come out of mixing people together. I was always stressed out right up to when people started arriving and mingling, though. It turns out that it’s totally all right to celebrate one’s birthday however you want. For W- and me, quiet days at home win out over noisy celebrations. =) Besides, I’m still in hermit mode these days.

I like looking back at the past year. I’m always surprised by the things that managed to fit in a single year. Was that memory really that recent? Has it really been that long since that other memory? Here are a few of those highlights for me:

2015-08-11b Life as a 31-year-old -- index card #review #yearly

  • Business
    • Helping my client through a major upgrade
    • Enjoying an intense and wonderful sprint of prototyping for a high-profile event
    • Having fun at an internal hackathon
    • Improving my skills: Javascript, SQL (SQL Server and PostgreSQL), Tableau
    • Filing quick method HST on my own
    • Managing my own health plan
  • Connecting
    • Hacklab’s move from Kensington Market to Queen Street West – kitting out the kitchen so that it’s a pleasure to cook in, and spending hours cooking at open houses
    • Spending more time at Hacklab
    • Talking about talking
    • Becoming closer to friends and talking about deeper topics
    • Figuring out the space I need, too
  • Hobbies and interests
    • Picking up sewing again
    • Combining sewing with laser cutting, whee: post
    • Reading lots of science fiction
    • Reflecting on philosophy, leisure, applying Stoicism, and so on
    • Digging into coding and visualizations, especially for my future self
    • Helping the Emacs community through hangouts and posts
  • Family and life
    • Working on projects around the house and other things
    • Reaching personal milestones (10 years in Canada, among other things)
    • Becoming a Canadian citizen (no longer worrying about getting stuck on the wrong side of a border!)
    • Making my peace with fuzzy brain and other things

There’s been a lot of wrapping things up this year, closing long-running open loops. It feels good to reap the benefits of things planned and started by long-ago selves. I wonder what I can prepare for my future self. I think philosophy and reading will be handy, and maybe the skills and tools I build. Who knows, maybe sewing will be useful too. We’ll see!

Last year, I wrote that when I do my “Life as a 31-year-old” review, I’d like to be able to say that:

  • I have excellent health-related habits: I enjoyed the biking while it lasted. For now, this is temporarily limited to walking. Oh well!
  • Our home life is wonderful: So much for yummy food, but yay for projects, decluttering, simple lives, great relationships, and so on.
  • I helped my consulting client make successful transitions: Yup!
  • I’ve broadened my business a little bit more. I’ve made it smaller, actually, but I’m happy with the outcome and with my reasons for doing so.

Here are some other differences:

  • Compared to 30-year-old me, I’ve been both a lot more social (November to April or so) and a lot less social (these past few months). Hermit mode is surprisingly comfortable.
  • I’ve dialed consulting back to one day a week, although I’ve also worked more intensely when needed. My current life is very relaxed and laid-back.
  • Enough of a stock market downturn to make it onto my radar. Still not panicking, though, which is a good sign. Seems to be recovering. I’m in it for the long haul, anyway.
  • I really like this practice of drawing digital index cards to record my day and build up thoughts. They’re more granular and manageable than the 8.5×11″ sheets I used to draw.
  • I used to draw with more colours. I’ve been mostly black-and-white these days, but I think I’ll get back to colours when I start feeling more playful about thinking.
  • I learned how to play first-person shooter games. They’re actually quite fun. W- and I have been playing Borderlands 2.
  • I’m more comfortable with fuzziness and uncertainty and experimentation (yay philosophy), which could be good for growing older and taking on more challenges. Life so far is already enough, and anything more than this is a bonus. I wonder: what’s beyond getting things done?
  • I’ve gotten to the point of being able to wear something I made every day, if I want to. I don’t always do so, but I like having the option. It was surprisingly easy and a good opportunity to geek out more. =)

A snapshot of everyday life, so that I can remember what it was like at this time:

I’m home most of the time, although sometimes I go for a walk to the supermarket or the library. It’s a little frustrating feeling fuzzy or bleah, but at the same time, it’s good philosophy practice. It’s hard to write, but if I keep collecting fragments of thoughts, I know they’ll add up. Voluntary discomfort, momentary annoyances, and all that. With any luck, I’ll probably shift out of hermit mode sometime over the next few weeks. In the meantime, W- and I play Borderlands 2 in the evening. It’s fun coordinating our attacks and swapping loot.

The blueberries and the strawberries in our garden have been extra-yummy this summer. Yay! The drip irrigation system that W- and I put in has been paying off, too. The garden’s a lot more lively now than it was last year.

I have no idea what next year will be like, but I look forward to handling it with equanimity.

If you’re curious, here are some other yearly reviews I’ve written (both birthday-related and calendar-related). It’s fun having an archive. =)

2014 in review

First, a list of posts I particularly want to remember from this year. If any of them sound interesting, feel free to check them out – I’d love to hear what you think.

Second, a snapshot of everyday life, so that I can remember what it was like at this time. My routines haven’t changed much since last year, except perhaps that I spend more time writing, cooking, and snuggling with W- and the cats. I try to drop by my consulting client on Thursdays, having successfully off-loaded most of my responsibilities to the team members I’ve trained. I go to Hacklab most Tuesdays to help cook a free vegan dinner for the open house; it’s enjoyable cooking practice, and sometimes I get interesting conversations out of it. W- has taken on a bigger role at work, but that still gives us plenty of time for family projects (we’re working on the basement at the moment). J- often has friends over to study and hang out, so we keep the house stocked with a variety of snacks.

Some memories from this year:

  • We took our cat Leia for a lion cut to deal with some of the mats in her fur. It was very amusing.
  • I started keeping a more deliberate private journal using Org Mode and Evernote. It’s a good complement to blog posts.
  • Mixed results in the garden, but we were pleasantly surprised by getting one zucchini, two bitter melons, and two winter melons out of it. We’ll keep trying.
  • I became a Canadian citizen! I’ve been remiss about actually applying for the passport, though. I’ll get that sorted out soon.

2014-12-25 2014 Review

Third, overall themes:

In 2013, I resolved to spend more time focusing on my own things instead of giving in to the pull of consulting. So in 2014, I collected more resources into e-books (and even one print book). I experimented with writing a four-part course. I took a Coursera class on analyzing data with R. I played around with Emacs and wrote blog posts for hours.

And yet my data tells me I actually spent more time working on other people’s projects. It went from 9% of my time in 2013 to 12% of my time in 2014, which works out to about six additional hours extra per week. This is coincidentally the same number of hours I reduced my socializing by, although a chunk of that can be explained by shifting socializing to Hacklab (which I track under Business – Connect).

The special project I did in September really changed the balance (27.5% of my time in that month!), as did the fact that I didn’t take any month-long breaks. Even hermit-mode November involved working from home 6% of the time (~10 hours a week).

It’s funny how perception doesn’t match data. Despite the extra time spent consulting, I felt a lot more self-directed this year – maybe because I produced more tangible stuff, and my tasks were more aligned with each other. But I’m drifting off course from becoming my own main client, and I want to adjust that heading in 2015.

Category 2014 % ~h/wk 2013 % ~h/wk change in h/wk
Business – Earn 12.4 21 9.1 15 6
Personal care 14.6 25 12.7 21 4
Discretionary – Productive 7.8 13 6.7 11 2
Sleep (~ 8.9h per day) 36.4 61 36.7 62 -1
Business – Connect 4.2 7 4.4 7 0
Business – Build 7.0 12 7.5 13 -1
Unpaid work (chores, etc.) 7.0 12 7.8 13 -1
Discretionary – Play 5.0 8 5.2 9 -1
Discretionary – Family 4.0 7 5.5 9 -2
Discretionary – Social 1.2 2 4.9 8 -6

Data collected using Quantified Awesome – compare 2014 and 2013

In terms of technical skills, I picked up more experience in:

  • Tableau: I learned how to take advantage of custom SQL and filter actions, and I became more comfortable with calculated fields, parameters, and filters.
  • Javascript: I got better at writing short Javascript functions and testing them. The new API for the social platform I work with on my consulting gig allowed me to build all sorts of nifty new tools. I’ve also been helping another developer pick up skills.
  • NodeJS and AngularJS: I built a prototype survey tool that also automated other things we wanted to do during a special event.
  • Rails 4: I finally upgraded quantifiedawesome.com to Rails 4.

Also, Emacs Chats and Emacs Hangouts have been awesomely fun and inspiring. Can’t wait to set up more of them!

In terms of writing, I got better at working with outlines as a way to organize my thoughts within each blog post. I’m still working on getting the hang of outlines to help me organize my thoughts across multiple blog-post-sized chunks, but the basic Emacs Lisp course was a good start. I also started building up an Emacs Org to EPUB/MOBI/PDF workflow for quick publishing and updating, so that I can can get more e-books up on Gumroad. Because I offer these resources on a free/pay-what-you-want basis, every time someone does buy it, I’m delighted to have that opportunity to connect.

My 2013 review included a number of themes:

  • Smooth consulting transitions: We’re on the way there, I think. I’ve been training one of the team members to cover the work I used to do, which is great.
  • More initiative-taking: Yes, especially in terms of professional development and publishing. I’m getting better at figuring out what I would like to learn and how to try things out.
  • Cardio and strength exercise habits: W- shared the Couch-to-5K program he picked up at work. We’d gotten all the way through it together (even though I covered much less distance than he did), but then I had to drop the habit because of other considerations. I’d also started the Exercise Ladder, but it got hit by the same restrictions. We’ll see how next year turns out! It’s good to know that I can do it and enjoy it, and I’m looking forward to starting even if I have to start from scratch.
  • Intentional interaction: I love spending time with W-. I’ve also been spending more time connecting with people in person at Hacklab open houses (at which folks are welcome to visit me, too, so it’s a great way to have low-commitment conversations). I feel great about my online conversations, too; there’s resonance there.On the flipside, I spent less time setting up get-togethers in person or treating people to lunch. I didn’t bother with a birthday party for the second year in a row; I realized I enjoy the peace and quiet.

    I’ve been pulling myself in, focusing on a small core. Still, compared to last year, this year’s interactions feel more natural and more relaxed for me. Perhaps I’m more selfish and withdrawn than the ideal, but I’ll grow at my own pace. I’m probably going to stay similarly reserved in 2015 to give myself space to explore things, but I’ll reconsider this in 2016.

  • Simple living: Wow, Epictetus, dude. You do make it easier to separate what’s important and what’s just nice to have. Aristotle has a lot to say about the good life, and Seneca has something to say about the short life. Good stuff.This year, I let go of quite a few anxieties, attachments, previously-unexamined commitments, and desires. I am getting a little attached to flexibility, though, so that’s something I may want to experiment with.
  • More harvesting and sharing: That worked out well. I’m excited about writing bigger chunks with outlines and using my publishing workflow to package even more useful resources. This will be fun.

It’s been a good year for the stock market, although all of that is still paper gains for me since I haven’t sold any stocks and all my dividends are reinvested. We had some pretty large expenses (in line with our priorities, at least) that required me to dip into my savings. I issued my first dividends last year, so if things work out the way I expect them to at tax-time, planning should be smoother.

Here’s a more detailed time breakdown of some things I care about:

Activity 2014 % 2013 % Change in hours/year
Emacs 1.8 1.1 61
Drawing 2.6 2.2 35
Writing 3.2 3.0 18

Hmm. I didn’t spend that much more time, but it feels a little awesomer this year; the posts grew into more conversations with people, and I learned more from those. Maybe it’s that test-driven learning thing. What you learn becomes more real to you and more useful to others when you create something from it, so it can make sense to aim for creating something from the beginning.

I’m getting a little clearer about what I want to do with my writing, drawing, and Emacs-tweaking:

  • Learn more stuff myself: Because this is fun and it tickles my brain
  • Delight and inspire people with the cool stuff out there. (Selfish reason: I get to learn, too!)
  • Connect with people: something about resonance and swapping notes and casting a little light on different roads…

Experiment update: 2015 will be the fourth year of my five-year experiment. Boggle! When I thought about what five years looked like in 2012, it felt like such a big space – more than university, more than the time I spent at IBM.

  • The first year, I learned how to experiment with business models, hitting the ground running with consulting.
  • The second year, I focused on consulting and event sketchnoting.
  • The third year (2014), I scaled down consulting so that I could learn more about creating.

2014 was the year that people’s generosity showed me that I really like writing as a way of creating value. There were countless conversations and even the occasional purchase of free/pay-what-you-want (PWYW) resources. I liked waking up in the morning to a notification that someone had decided to express their appreciation and invest in me (and themselves!). I liked the responses to my thank-you notes, the questions and suggestions and ideas. It was more of a gentle thrum rather than the highs and lows of programming, but I liked it.

If my life can continue to fit within investments and savings and little streams of income, I’d like to keep doing this. It’s not going to be an extravagant life, but there’s room for what’s important. So the fourth year, 2015, will be a good opportunity to explore sharing further. Can I keep this going through the extra uncertainty we might be dealing with next year? Can I create and receive value with this commitment to openness instead of following the trend toward exclusive courses and premium content? Can I build resources that will save or improve 10-100 hours of people’s lives so that they’re willing to give me the equivalent of a few of their hours to make this even better?

In 2015, I’m looking forward to:

  • Improving my technical skills:
    • Getting even more deeply into Emacs and taking advantage of the many useful packages that are available
    • Writing shorter, better-tested code in Javascript and Rails
  • Writing with even more resonance and helpfulness: digging deeper into the things I’m learning and sharing them with other people in ways that help and engage
  • Successfully taking on more uncertainty with even better safety nets and equanimity

It’ll be fun. =) Thanks for great year!

Previous reviews:

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. =)