31 December 2018

Looking back at 2018, I’m stunned how much it had to offer. I spent most of it on a sabbatical, and working on startup projects. Here are some highlights.

This might seem like bragging. I realize it’s rare to have it so good, and for many people it’s not the case. I’d like to look at everything I got and experienced this year through the lens of gratefulness.

I’ve worked a lot in the preceding years to be able to afford this, yet, I am incredibly lucky. So many things could have gone wrong and prevented me from enjoying one of the best years of my life. I’m grateful they didn’t.

First highlight, I learned a lot.

Some of the technical skills I learned are hands-on deep learning, web development with React/Django/Graphql, serverless computing with Lambda and Typescript.

I got better in some “soft skills” - public speaking, nonverbal communication, negotiation, persuasion, active listening.

I learned that the most important and most effective soft skills are to care about the other person, and to be open an honest. To take the long term view. Win-win!

I learned a few things just for fun. I dove into various aspects of blockchains and mechanism design such as Arrow’s impossibility theorem. I fulfilled a long time desire to learn about quantum computing and mechanics and to understand Shor’s factoring algorithm.

I baked bread and experimented a lot. Some of it turned out so amazing, I was told it was Tartine-level quality. That made me feel proud.

Second, I worked on my personal development.

I published 19 blog post and wrote one short fiction story I haven’t published. Writing is a way for me to process life. I’m looking forward to do more writing every year.

I quit caffeine on March 14 - it was one of the hardest things I accomplished and I felt a significant boost of energy after that. The withdrawal was a bitch.

I made exercising an almost daily habit. I was active before, but not daily. I started slow, just ten push ups a day, and every month I added more - squats, stretches, bends and twists. Later on I got back to lifting weights.

I kept training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Martial arts have given me so much. The more I train, the more interesting and fun it gets.

I took a nearly two month break from alcohol. I have done one month break for the previous ten years, but this year I increased the duration. I’m proud of my current relationship with alcohol.

I meditated. I clocked more than 2000 minutes on Headspace, and more untracked.

I did a 30 day no complaint fast. I couldn’t complain about something without suggesting how it would be fixed. It’s amazing how this rewired my brain.

I’m currently working towards a 30 day no excuse - where I have to say what I would change to succeed. This has been even more powerful rewiring.

I started FINALLY breathing through the nose. It’s surprisingly simple to achieve. I used SomniFix mouth tape at night, and after about a month of that I’m breathing through the nose nearly 100% of the time.

Third, I got to travel plenty and do fun things :D

I went to Rwanda, Tanzania, Morocco again, Northern Spain and the Pyrinees, Colorado, Bulgaria, and I got to go around California a bit - from Mount Shasta to LA.

I also got to race a Ferrari and ride a Jetski. Can’t complain.

I went home and got to hug my parents and brothers. ❤️

Fourth, I got to spend time with close friends and make new ones

I went to my friend’s wedding. I hosted friends for Fourth of July, Friendsgiving, and Christmas, and enjoyed cooking for them.

I met, brainstormed, collaborated and worked with amazing and inspiring people. If you were one of them - thank you ❤️.

I got to meet in person many of my closest friends, and with others I did video calls. That makes me happy looking back.

I also got to interact with several dogs and occasionally take care of them, and they brought me a lot of joy. ❤️

Fifth, I read books and listened to audio books.

I counted ~16 books I read and 6 audio books. I didn’t count how many podcasts I listened to, but many of them discussed books as well. I read a partial draft of a book that I enjoyed.

To highlight my favorite books - “Never split the difference” and “Without you, there is no us”. I was also moved by “Flowers for Algernon” and “Essays after Eighty”.

Sixth, I worked on a variety of projects.

I started a company, called AskAround, which would unlock the world’s information and failed. I was naive and impatient and that caused me and my cofounder to split.

I pivoted to building a crowdsourced research assistant, renamed to ImmerseMe and build a working service. I eventually pivoted out of it again.

I consulted one company in the NLP and voice space for a month, but ultimately found another cofounder and started working on a new startup.

Meanwhile my wife started build an airplane so I also started helping with that from time to time.

My workout habit turned out contagious, and several friends started joining me in lifting weights three times a week. I enjoy leading the group, designing the program, and it keeps me accountable in my own training. Gainz!

Last but not least, I got to spend a lot of quality time with my wife.

She’s my closest person and I cherish how our relationship has grown through the years, and how we share our path in life. ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

It was not all butterflies and rainbows in 2018

I struggled with a bunch of things. Among them addiction to social media and youtube, procrastination, and building a sense of personal motivation.

Without external structure to impose deadlines and incentives on me, felt lost and often devolved into hours of binge watching Youtube. One of my main 2018 takeaways is the intrinsic motivation and discipline that I’ve been slowly building.

Still a long way to go. I didn’t know what to do with my life. I still don’t. At least I have a direction. And I feel a strong desire to live and see everything life has to offer. I’m thankful for 2018.

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