I've been doing public, annual reviews for over a decade. First on my old tech blog (2011, 2012) and then on my fitness side project (2015, 2016, 2019, 2020). While it hasn't been super consistent, with half the years missing, I do enjoy the process of reviewing and I find it beneficial. So here's another one, looking back at 2022.
Inspired by James Clear, I'll break this annual review down to answer four questions:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go so well this year?
- What did I learn?
- What am I working toward?
1) What went well this year?
Let's start with the good stuff. Here are some of the highlights from the past year.
I started working as an engineering manager. In January I got promoted to Head of Software Engineering and took on the responsibility of managing our developers, overseeing our technology, and improving how we develop software. It's been an interesting transition but I love my new job! (Admittedly, my awesome team makes it seem unfairly easy.)
I started new open-source projects. Not having any time to code at work drove me to spend time during evenings and weekends working on a long-time dream project of mine: a MUD client! As a spin-off, I also released my first Go library and began work on a new version of my old MUD community site.
I upgraded my data analysis. In my quest to add one new, major technology to my toolbox every year, this time I took on Observable and their Plot library. Even as a long-time power user and die-hard fan of spreadsheets, this blew everything I previously knew out of the water.
I hit my reading goal (with a margin). For the seventh(!) year in a row, I set myself a Goodreads reading challenge for 2022. It was ambitious, with 0.75 books per week * 52 weeks per year = 39 books to complete. (Although I do think number of books is a stupid measurement.) Some days ago, I finished The Metamorphosis and thus hit 41 books!
I took up writing again. After putting my side project on hold at the turn of the year, I haven't really had somewhere to publish anything. That changed on November 21st when I gave myself the birthday present of starting Seastone.io as a new blog for things related to my job as an engineering manager.
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I bought my first car. At the ripe age of 36, I got my driver's license in May 2021. With the excellent public transportation in Stockholm (which is rated #3 in the world) I've never really seen the use of driving. Until I got kids with extracurricular activities… So this year I finally got my first car – a Kia Niro EV 2022!
2) What didn't go so well this year?
It's not all rainbows and sunshine, though. Here are some things that didn't work out that well this year.
My lifting progress halted. Due to surgery, sick kids, and lots of work, I haven't been able to maintain any momentum in my training for more than a few weeks at a time. As a result, this is probably the first year in a long time where I'm weaker than the year before.
I had to pause my side business. Realizing there's simply not enough time nor headspace to do everything I want, I chose to prioritize my IT career and family. Thus I had to put my online coaching business on hold and resign as a CrossFit coach.
I spent money too haphazardly. I have very specific financial goals and, in order to reach them, I can't rely only on income and investments but I also have to make sure my spending is intentional. This could have been a lot better.
I hardly philosophized at all. Normally I read about philosophy every second or third non-fiction book and I try to journal frequently as a way of introspection. In 2022 I failed both intentions.
Maybe it wasn't entirely nil, however, since I did read quite a few novels that could qualify under the philosophy umbrella. As one of the authors I read put it:
"A novel is never anything but a philosophy expressed in images. And in a good novel the philosophy has disappeared into the images."
– Albert Camus
Also, in the end, time is a finite resource and one will never be able to do everything one would like to. In the words of one of my favorite philosophers:
"You’re leaving no duty undone, for there’s no fixed number of duties laid down which you’re supposed to complete."
3) What have I learned?
Imagine a year without learning anything new about the world or yourself. What a waste of twelve months! But information is one thing – synthesizing that into knowledge is another and that's what this section is about.
I'm naturally T-shaped. Also known as a generalizing specialist or wildcard person, this means I have one or a few specializations in which I'm an expert and a multitude of areas where I know enough to be dangerous. I love working on both width and depth, not on the exclusion but the synergy of each other.
The more I do, the less I get done. It's a learning that I have to go through the pains of re-acquiring every now and again. While it stems from a will to make great changes and improve everything, I have to remind myself to complete what I'm doing before taking on something new, lest I leave a trail of well-meaning but utterly incomplete initiatives.
Everything is impermanent. It can sometimes be impossible, when you're in the middle of it, to even imagine leaving behind a certain city, job, relationship, project, etc. Yet, once removed, its absence often matters surprisingly little, which I learned again with the pausation of Athlegan. It's empowering to know that anything can be discarded and, thus, whatever kept is preciously intentional.
Trust but verify. Whether it's my spouse, siblings or other relatives, colleagues, or even neighbors, I rely on many other people for huge parts of my life. Just like I have systems and processes in place to cover for my own human flaws, so must I anticipate others' shortcomings, if something is important to me.
"It doesn't matter whose fault it is that something is broken, if it's your responsibility to fix it."
– Will Smith
4) What am I working toward?
With this retrospection complete, it's time to put it to use by looking forward and planning how to make the next year even better than the past.
I will compete at least once. This will help me get my weekly training in and hopefully see me hit some PBs during 2023. I'm eyeing the Starke Viking strongman competition but I might also do another powerlifting meet.
I will release Nogfx v1.0. I don't want to lose hands-on touch with tech. Aiming to ship the first stable version of my open-source MUD client will hopefully force me to put in the regular coding work needed to stay sharp and up to date.
I will read 26 books. This is less than the previous year but I want to make room for larger works and also give myself more time to properly process each one.
I will publish a monthly post. Starting Seastone.io has already reinvigorated me and I fully intend to keep a regular writing practice, to share my thoughts on life in IT and what I learn as an engineering manager.
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