We have all successfully completed another revolution around the Sun. The days are getting longer again. And that means it’s a great time to reflect back on the year that was 2022. For me, in many ways, the end of the beginning. What do I mean by that? We’ll get there. First, some highlights from the last 12 months, then a review of my 2022 goals and three words, at the end you’ll find some of the best books I read this year. Along the way I’ll explain my current perspective on beginnings, endings, and what comes next.
In my 2021 wrap up post, I added some highlights from the year to the end. Re-reading that post now, it feels like I buried the lead a bit. Tacking on some of the most important bits down where, let’s face it, not everyone will even read to. So, this year, I’m flipping it over and starting with some of my favorite moments from our most recent revolution:
- The year started with a blow out; Eva and I got to party in Denver with some of our best friends from NYE into New Year’s day.
- I’m pretty sure we both got COVID at the club, but it was worth it!
- I got to snowboard on my birthday again this year; another pack of amazing CO friends joined us in Pagosa Springs to ride Wolf Creek for a week and it was amazing!
- I attended two NANOG meetings; the first, in Minneapolis in November was small and intimate and the second, in Hollywood in October was big and dynamic
- I spent a couple weeks in USVI; our friends Grizz, Shawna, and Tristan hosted us in Saint Thomas at the beginning of March – and we ended up starting a company together!
- We got all the paperwork done and dove head first into building FullCtl; a joint venture between 20C and GTS focused on building network automation (NetDevOps) tools
- I attended Security Field Day 7 as a delegate; and we enjoyed a great weekend in San Francisco after the event!
- I spent a month and a half in SE Asia; across May and June Eva and I staid in Bali for about 5 weeks and then in Singapore for another week or so
- We used miles to fly there and back in business class (first time for me) on Singapore airlines!
- While in Bali, we celebrated one year of being fully self-employed by staying that weekend at “the world’s best resort;” Capella Ubud
- I spent time with my family in CO; across July and August we visited my mom, sister, and sons, spending summer birthdays together
- Tubing and water skiing on Horsetooth Reservoir was a highlight, as was solving the mystery at Convergence Station
- I ran a half marathon; three of us IX-Denver board members met up in Oregon to run the Bridge of the Gods – and I hit a PR time at 1:56:32, finishing 14th for my age group
- Eva and I spent a few days in Portland exploring as well.
- I launched a podcast with Zoë Rose; The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast tells IT pro’s origin stories (yes, like super heros) to inform and inspire all of us!
- We lived in Los Angeles for a month; it started by celebrating Eva’s birthday, and included attending NANOG, with tons of sand and sun to fill in the weeks
- We got to see some amazing friends from NYC who live in LA now!
- I spent Thanksgiving in CO with family; we staid in a Cabin in the CO Rockies and had a blast!
- I was elected to the OIX Board of Directors; my term will start next year
- The OIX AGM in Dallas was a great meeting with lots of great colleagues
- I took the last two weeks of the year off (for the first time in my life)
- And got lots of work done around the house and in the garage!
Whew, what a year, huh? It’s been fun – and a lot of work too. Did all those hours pay off? We’ll take a look at how I did against my personal goals to find out. But first; I’ll review my three words for 2022.
My Three Words – 2022 Reflection
This year I chose Community, Creativity, and Compoundivity as my three words to focus my activity and keep me on track throughout the year. And I think those words helped drive some of my greatest progress in 2022.
I chose community in part as a continuation and escalation of “relationship” from 2021. More than a continuation, however, this was an expansion and an escalation. As I said back in January: “Rather than simply seeking to build relationships for myself, I will also focus on forming, growing, and contributing to community. This is at once an extension of my focus on relationship, and also something quite different.”
The biggest single outcome of this focus on community is my new podcast. I’ve had the idea rolling around in my head for some time now. I even had the domain name registered and waiting for me to do something about it. The waiting was ended in a conversation during #XFD7 when Zoë Rose mentioned that she was interested in hosting a podcast. I said; “me too!” And the rest is now history.
What does a podcast created by a couple nerds have to do with community though? Well, the concept is much more than “just” a podcast. For it to work, the Imposter Syndrome Network must be a community. And The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast is just one part of that community. The basic idea is that the network is a group of folks (a community) who either work in technology (specifically information technology and digital infrastructure) or want to work in tech who support each other throughout our individual journey’s. We give and get advice, mentorship, and sponsorship through this community in order to make all of us, and therefor our industry, stronger. Officially, “The Imposter Syndrome Network (ISN) is a community of professionals who come together to share information and advice about jobs, roles, careers, and the journeys we all take throughout our lives as the designers, builders, fixers, investigators, explainers, and protectors of the world’s technology.” If you are interested in participating, join the LinkedIn group and/or drop me a DM on your favorite platform.
The ISN podcast supports that community by “[shining] a light on the myriad ways people can apply their passion for technology and to encourage others to pursue their own tech-related passions, no matter what.” In other words, Zoë and I interview folks who work in technology about their experiences so far, and what they’ve learned from them. We talk about the day to day of various different roles across technology, to expose listeners to the wide variety of tech careers. And we dive into mistakes. missteps, and missed opportunities so that we can all learn together. Both from those experiences but also about them, and the fact that we all have them. Throughout it all we pay special attention to the “imposter syndrome” that is so common among knowledge workers. Normalizing these feelings of inadequacy and providing tools to harness or get past those feelings. While also highlighting mismanagement and other systemic challenges that can make them worse.
I would love for you to give the podcast a listen, to join us in whatever way makes sense for you, and to share the community with anyone who you think could benefit.
My second word for 2022 was creativity, the ability to create. Like community, this isn’t something that was totally new to me in 2022, and it is a concept with far reaching effects. So much of my work is creative that it is sometimes hard to separate creativity out into its own topic. From the work I do leading and guiding a team of fantastic research analysts at GigaOm, to the (spoken and written) content I create for so many other clients, the networks I design and deploy, what I write on Medium, and on to the businesses and non-profit organizations I found, build, and grow. It’s all creative at heart.
So, what did this increased focus on creativity, uh, create? Two main things. First, I realized and/or acknowledged just how deep my love of creativity goes. Others have told me this before, and now I think I finally get the extent and the power of it: I’m a zero to one person. I’m best when I am building something new, from the ground up. I am great at the process that starts with figuring out how to do it, and ends with showing someone else how to take over. I’m a trail blazer, a map maker, an adventurer, and a neophile. I’m not the person you call to run the day to day operations the same way for the next 10 years. There is a ton of value in that, it’s just not me.
I’m the person you call when no one else knows how to do it and you need to make it happen in a scalable and sustainable way that will last for years or decades to come. I’m a problem solver, a troubleshooter, a hacker, and a tinkerer. Once I’ve built it or rebuilt it and have it running, I’m ready for the next challenge. I want someone else to take over, following and tweaking my plans and processes for as long as possible. There is great power in knowing and admitting that. Now I am free to pursue ventures that play to that strength of mine, and to avoid those that would snag on the inherent weaknesses.
Second, I learned many new techniques for liberating and protecting creative energy this past year. Things like saying no and time boxing. What I’m calling time boxing has been HUGE. I may however be using a slightly different definition than most, so let me describe what I’m doing and how it has changed my life. For me, a big part of this is unitasking. Unitasking is the opposite of multitasking. This is important because multitasking is actually a myth. When you think you are “multitasking” you are never actually doing two (or more) things at once. You are actually switching back and forth between all those tasks. And that has a cost. In my experience, a very large cost. Especially when we are doing deep, creative or analytical work. Unitasking reduces the cost of task switching to the absolute minimum possible by not trying to do more than one thing at the same time.
Hence, my time boxing strategy and tactics – I box time for specific tasks in order to eliminate distractions while I complete things one by one. It works. Not only have I increased my productivity incrementally with these techniques, I’ve decreased my stress exponentially. My blocking is now part of my general approach to scheduling anything. I designated that Tuesday’s and Thursday’s are “manager” days – aka meeting days. That means that I only schedule meetings on these two days of the week. I have also designated Monday’s, Wednesday’s, and Friday’s as “maker” days – aka be creative and get shit done days. Then within each day, I block out time each week for specific projects or tasks (including a specific time to read and reply to email). As often as possible I try to leave Wednesday’s for a single, big, burly creative project – so that I can work until I finish (or run out of steam) without any pressure from other activities or demands.
It is so amazing to really focus on one thing at a time – I highly encourage everyone to try it. You’ll be surprised how accommodating most folks are if you simply hold the line. Make it a non-negotiable and explain why.
The third and final word I chose to focus on in 2022 was one I made up: Compoundivity. It’s the ability to compound. And as far wiser beings than myself have often pointed out; compound growth is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. Having spent the past year focused on this concept, I can say that I am even more of a believer than ever before. Many people may equate compound effects with finance. And, of course, they can be found there. However, I believe very strongly that there are many kinds of investment, and that most of them have nothing to do with money.
Learning is an investment that compounds. Exercise is another. Relationships and communities provide compounding results when you regularly invest in them. The best way to harness the power of compounding is through habit. Start with a list of what’s most important to you. Then determine the best ways to invest in each of those items or areas, etc. And finally, build those investments into habits (or automatons). For example, I have created a daily ritual that I call “the 6 R’s” and it includes:
- Run (and workout)
- Read (physical and audio books)
- Rest (meditate)
- wRite (journal daily, blog weekly)
- Relax (creatively)
- Reflect (gratitude journal before bed)
Each of those items is an investment in something I want to grow, and when done daily they provide compound returns in each area. You can read a bunch more about this idea in an essay over on Medium. For now just know that this works! =)
Okay, you’ve stuck with me this far. Let’s now take a quick peek at how I did against my 2022 goals. This section is mostly copied over from my 2022 goals post, with the sub-bullets added (and bolded) to report on how I did.
The most important thing I can do is to keep my mind, body, heart, and soul healthy and working in concert.
Run 1,000+ miles (1,600+ km)
Read 50+ books
- Almost! I finished 48 books in 2022, and have three more still in progress
Meditate 300+ times
- No. Only 213 – I intend to make this more of a priority in 2023
- No. Only 213 – I intend to make this more of a priority in 2023
- Take 3 trips over 3 weeks long (nomad, not vacation)
- Almost! I worked from Texas, USVI, Bali, Singapore, Colorado, Portland, and LA this year; with two trips being over 3 weeks long
Business and Productivity
I must create value in order to fuel my current lifestyle and my family’s future.
Publish 100+ works (blogs, talks, podcasts, papers)
- No. I did publish 60 though
Write at least 6 chapters for my first book as blog posts
- No. I did write 3 though, all published in Modern Autodidactism
Launch the first suite of FullCtl SaaS products
- No. We do have two MVP products ready to launch though and we built out an entire IBN solution for our first client
- Establish operational procedures at GigaOm that lead to increased production velocity and quality
- Yes! I took on a virtual COO role and helped get GigaOm over an operational hurdle with new people and processes
Setting up the future with income and investing. I redact the specific numbers because I think that they’re none of your damn business. But I do think it’s worth sharing generally how I am approaching achievement in this area of life.
Generate $X+ in passive MRR by EoY (my primary business objective is to free more of my time to pursue personal passion)
- No! This is my biggest failure of 2022, I did not add any meaningful recurring revenue, and in fact lost some
- Contribute $Y to retirement accounts for 2022 (it lowers our tax burden and sets us up to “retire” at some point)
- Yes! We contributed our full goal amount
- Earn over $Z top line revenue (yes, it’s a glamour number, but it’s a fun number and does show growth of our business
- Yes! And this one is crazy to me, can’t believe I hit it
- Buy at least one rental property (I’m convinced that real estate is the most accessible method for working class families to build inter-generational wealth)
- No. Due in large part to the drop in MRR going into 2023, we decided to sit on our cash and wait to invest it
The End of The Beginning
So, what did I mean about this being the end of the beginning. Well, I feel that I’ve successfully shifted my perspective. I feel comfortable calling myself an entrepreneur. And for me that’s a big deal. It’s something I’ve wanted to be since my first job building an ISP network back at the turn of the century. And it’s something I have, in many ways, been training myself for over those couple of decades. It’s also something I’ve been doing all along.
When I was a kid, 40 was a big faraway number. My younger self’s bucket list was “stuff I’ll do by 40.” And over time, one of the things I added to that list was to retire. Retire at 40? It sounds less crazy these days than it used to, but still a tall order. Unless you redefine what you mean by retire. At the time I was a NOC engineer, working crazy on-call hours upgrading and troubleshooting big, important networks. If you’ve never been woken up at 3am to figure out why 911 isn’t working in a major city, you haven’t lived. Or at least, you haven’t lived the life I wanted to retire from within 20 years or less.
Although I am not ready to fully stop working, for a large number of reasons, I am ready for my second act. Over the past few years I’ve been making that transition. And now, I feel that I’ve arrived. I run my own business, am involved in starting several others, and get paid mostly to learn and think. Oh, and no one ever wakes me up at 3am anymore. In fact, I can now set my phone to do not disturb (DND) mode every night without any worries at all. These past several years have been a new beginning, and now the transition is over and it’s time to get to work!
Some Great Books
Never fear, I would never leave you hanging. By popular demand, here are a handful of the best books I read in 2022. These are the ones that I recommend everyone read:
And, if you want, you can see all the books I read in 2022.
How did your 2022 pan out? Drop a comment below, or shoot me a message somewhere. Let’s work together to make 2023 the best year yet!