And somehow we're done with 2011 already. Last year I made one goal (getting this site to the top 50k in Alexa), and I didn't make any effort whatsoever to reach it, so at this point I'm giving up on yearly goals. But I will say this-- if SETT isn't rocking and rolling by this time next year, I'd better be a famous rapper.
I may be blind towards the future but hindsight is 20/20, so I'm going to a quick summary of the year.
When asked where I live, I always respond that I'm in San Francisco for half of the year and out of the country for about a third. I never actually knew how accurate that was until an hour ago when I went through all of my credit card reciepts and Tripit account to make a detailed list of everywhere I was this year. It turns out I was right on the money. Here are some stats:
Cities visited: 42
New countries visited: 8 (Monaco, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Germany, Antigua, Barbados)
169 days in San Francisco (46%)
116 days out of the country (32%)
80 days in the country, out of San Francisco (22%)
31 days on a cruise ship (8%, overlaps with the above)
Overall, a pretty good year for travel. I did some good trips, saw some awesome new places (Berlin, Stockholm, Shanghai, and Iceland topping the list), and had adventures. At times it felt like I was rushing around a bit too much, but counter-intuitively, I got way more work done while traveling than when in SF.
During the first half of the year my work habits were subpar. The best way to explain is to say that I simply wasn't taking things seriously.
Some time during the year I experienced a mental shift, where all of a sudden it seemed idiotic to be wasting time with entertainment or useless crap when I have big goals that I'm not on track to reach. Let's say that there are four categories of things to do:
1. Things I want to do
2. Things I REALLY want to do
3. Things that are productive
4. Things that are REALLY productive
The first category is stuff like IM chatting with an acquaintance or watching TV or a movie or going to a party. The second category is stuff like camping in Japan or playing poker in the World Series.
The third category is stuff like redesigning my blog or making new business cards. The fourth category is things like building new features for SETT or writing blog posts.
I don't know what my time expenditure breakdown was before the shift, but afterwards I've almost completely cut out the first category. To a lesser extent, I've also cut out the third category. Now I spend about 20% of my time doing stuff I REALLY want to do, 65% on REALLY productive stuff, and the last 15% on the others.
Shifting so much of my attention and time towards REALLY productive stuff is by far the biggest change I made this year. My guess is that I used to spend about 15% of my time on this kind of work, based on feel as well as lines of code committed per week.
I did a lot of cool first things this year:
We technically started in December of last year, but everything substantial was built since then. SETT has taken more of my time and effort than anything else, and I'm more excited about it than anything else.
Learned to drive a motorcycle
I took my first motorcycle driving class on January 1, 2011, so I've been riding for just about a year (I didn't actually buy a motorcycle for a couple months). Biking has actually become a significant part of my life-- it's an enjoyable part of every day.
Flew a helicopter
I had always wanted to fly a helicopter, and finally got the chance to do it with a quick first lesson. Flying around is pretty easy; hovering is insanely difficult.
Played in the Word Series of Poker
Another long term dream was to play in the World Series of Poker. I played the $1500 buy-in Limit event and came in #100, one place above Jennifer Harman. Over the past year I've gone from being a losing poker player to a winning one, which is pretty cool.
Duing the portion of the year before I got serious about SETT, poker took up a lot of my time. It's nowhere near as important as SETT, but it's a really positive skill for the mind as well as the wallet.
Rapped for 1000+ people
In Mauerpark in Berlin, I had the chance to rap for over 1000 people in the Best Karaoke Ever. Video below.
Fed a baby leopard and pet a bunch of tigers
I really like animals, and while I was in Thailand this year I had the chance to get close to a bunch of them. I fed a baby leopard who sat in my lap, pet a bunch of tigers (and walked a small one), and swam with sharks.
Rode the fastest train in the world and a private jet for the first time
I'm a sucker for superlatives, especially when it comes to trains, it seems. I've now ridden the slowest train (although it's decommissioned now) as well as the fastest, which is the Mag-Lev in Shanghai.
Thanks to JetSuite, I got to ride in a private jet not once, but twice! And, inspired by Kanye, I wore my PJs in the PJ.
Spoke at SXSW
Thanks to Jason Boehle, I got to speak at SXSW in Austin this year. That was another item on my must-do-before-I-die list, so I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity. Even better than getting to speak was getting a really great reception from a standing-room-only audience.
What could be better
I'm really happy with and proud of the things I did this year, but I think I could have done a lot more, especially in the beginning of the year. Too much time was spent just loafing around in San Francisco.
My dating life this year was abyssmal. I broke up with a long term girlfriend in March and have barely dated since then. I'm happy that I put work over dating (or productivity over pleasure, speaking more abstractly), but there's time for both. In February I'll be going out for 30 days in a row, so this should be fixed soon enough.
If I was going to grade my year, I'd give it a B+, penalizing myself primarily for not hustling a bit more, especially in the beginning of the year. I think that the biggest thing I need to focus on is not becoming complacent. I'm happy and have everything I need, so sometimes I have to prod myself to fire on all cylinders and really hustle.
Right now I'm working really hard, have several really exciting trips floating around as possibilities, and will be getting back into the dating scene, so 2012 will be started with some good momentum. I hope you had a great 2011 and are also going to crush it in 2012.
I'm sitting by a crackling fire at my aunt and uncle's house in New Jersey and we're just a couple hours into the new year, which means that it's a perfect time to review the year and look forward.
If I were to title my year, I'd call it the year I got serious. Something interesting happened near the end of 2011-- I realized that I wasn't actually on track for a lot of my goals, that I was going to have to actually get serious about stuff, and that this seriousness had to come in the form of action, not talk. I ended 2011 with a few months of solid productivity under my belt, and a year-end post that optimistically predicted a productive year.
I'm happy to say that the productive year materialized, and that my focus on getting serious has intensified.
When I was young, maybe third grade or so, a psychologist did a study at my middle school. We answered some questions and were offered two choices: a small prize now or a large prize later. I took the small prize now. I think knew it was the wrong move at the time, but the pack of stickers on the table looked like a lot of fun. Later on the big prizes were given to the waiters in such a way that I was able to see what they got. Sure enough, their prizes were a lot better and my stickers were long gone.
I've been saying that college is obsolete for a very long time. I dropped out in 2000, because even back then I could see that it was a really poor value proposition. I didn't predict this because I'm some crazy genius, but because I'm willing to discard emotional attachment and stare plainly at the facts.
School is outrageously expensive, leaving graduates with a debt (or net expenditure) of tens of thousands of dollars-- sometimes even one or two hundred thousand. There are some things that are worth that amount of money, but for many people school isn't one of them. In fact, apart from very specific cases, I think that school is a bad thing, not worth doing even if it was free.
That's not to say that school has no benefits whatsoever. It does, and although I left with zero additional skills after my three semesters there, I had a good time and benefited from the social aspect. The problem is that you can't just compare college to doing nothing at all. You have to compare it to what you COULD have done.
Let's say that when you turn eighteen, it's a good idea to take four years to develop yourself. College is one way to do that. If we were to construct an alternative way to do that, what could it look like? One of the biggest weaknesses of school is how inflexible it is, so one of the greatest benefits of designing your own curriculum is that you could come up with one that uniquely suits you. That said, here's a plan that I think would benefit many people MORE than school would. Let's call it the Hustler's MBA.