In a few days, 2018 will come to a close and we will roll into another year. Therefore, I thought it would be a good chance to join a few other posts I have seen that are reflecting on the past year and planning for what is ahead.
This year has been one to remember both personally and professionally. I would be lying if I said it was a smooth ride, it was anything but. However, it was a year that I am proud to have in the books. Here are a few highlights I pulled out to share and reflect on.
The Highlight Reel
At the start of every year, I tend to write down 4-5 different goals I want to accomplish. They often range from totally possible to stretch goals. I like this mix because it allows me to have a blend of winnable moments and moments that I have to extend myself.
As an example, a totally possible goal I had last year was to speak French every day. I accomplished this goal without a lot of effort because I have been learning French for about 4 years now and my partner and I speak French at home.
Whereas a stretch goal I had for myself was to turn my side projects into profitable businesses that produce $50,000 in revenue. I came far short of that goal but still managed to profit more than I ever have before with my projects.
Those goals have pretty clear metrics or timelines associated with them. But not all of my goals from last year fit into that mold.
Taking more risks was my third goal as 2018 kicked off.
This is the goal I am the proudest of because as I reflect back on the year I can say that I allowed myself the space to accomplish this goal. As a software developer and entrepreneur, this goal didn't come easily to me. It required a lot of leaps of faith at times and being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
As I reflect on this goal, in particular, there are three things that I don't think would have happened in 2018 if I didn't keep this in the back of my mind.
- I would have never left the stability of a job I was at for 6+ years to explore new adventures. In the early spring, I left the company I had been at for a large chunk of my professional career. I needed to do something different, experience new technologies, cultures, communication styles, and see if my skills carry over to other companies.
- I would have never learned to exercise the right to leave something you don't enjoy. After leaving that company I went and tried out consulting at a larger company. I learned pretty quickly that wasn't the change I was looking for and I didn't enjoy it all that much. But because I allowed myself the space to take more risks, I tried it out, found out it wasn't for me and left it without hesitation.
- I would have never tried focusing on my entrepreneur projects full time. After the new job didn't work out I gave myself a few months to focus on my own projects for a little while. This was an itch I have had for quite some time so it was nice to take some time out to scratch it. To see what my world would be like if that is what I did full time. In the end, I learned that I enjoy my side projects being on the side for now.
Reflecting back on the past year I can say that I accomplished my goal of taking more risks. Did they all go as I had planned? Definitely not, but I also learned very valuable lessons from each of them.
It's very hard on a day to day basis for us to recognize how far we have come. I am guilty of this in my personal and professional life. So I'm gonna take a moment to look at what I accomplished this year. This isn't to brag or show my achievements off, it's to remind myself that I did a lot this year that I should be proud of.
- I released my first book, Learn AWS By Using It and got it listed on Amazon. Writing, editing, and releasing a book is not a simple feat. It was a ton of work, but it has also been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.
- I created my first newsletter, Learn By Doing and grew the subscribers to ~1,500 people. Learning to automate all of the things that weren't related to the actual curation was a huge reason this became manageable.
- I spoke French every day for an entire year. This is a personal goal of mine as I have been learning French for about 4 years now.
- I launched my second product of the year a few months ago, Parler.io. It's still early days for this automated text to speech service, but I have some big ideas for this in 2019.
- I bought my first house 🏠. Words can not describe how stressful this process can be, but it's been awesome having house projects instead of computer projects for a change.
- I found the job I was looking for as a Software Engineer at Thorn. What I learned earlier in the year is that I wanted my work to have an impact on the world. Thorn builds technology to defend children from sexual abuse. I am proud to stand with a team of incredibly smart people to support a cause that deserves to have a light shined on it every day until this issue is obliterated.
To be perfectly honest, I don't have my goals figured out for 2019 yet. They are still undecided at this point, they might change, they might get written down or they might not.
What I do know is that you don't need to start a new year to have new goals or to take a moment to reflect on where you are. Every day is an opportunity for that.
This is the biggest realization as I close out 2018 and look to 2019. Life, like software development, is a series of iterations and pivots that we shouldn't be afraid to make. A yearly check-in is great to evaluate things, but if something doesn't feel right it's ok to pivot and do something else.
Stuck in a job you don't like? Make a change. You might need to sit down and make a plan first, but once you have one, execute on it.
Have an idea that you think others would benefit from? Don't talk yourself out of it. Build a wireframe, a POC, or just ask questions on Twitter to gather feedback from others. If the feedback is generally positive move on to the next iteration. Side benefit: executing on these ideas is also a great way to learn new technical, marketing, and sales skills.
The takeaway here is that nothing in our day to day is static. It's dynamic just as much as the code we write every day. Goals give us structure, but the structure is more like play-doh than concrete.