Looking Back on 2017

As an engineer I spend a lot of time thinking about problems, their solutions, and how to implement the many solutions that I’d brainstormed. I’ll spend hours and hours just thinking. The problem is, all this thinking is spent on my business. I don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about my life, it’s problems, and solutions.

I want to change that and it’s something I’ve been slowly working on. I’m making more time to consider the various issues, and blessings, in my life and how I can work with them to continually move forward.

About two years ago I started writing in a journal. I try to write in it daily and except for a three month hiatus somewhere in there, I mostly do. What I decided to do was go through and quickly read the previous years entries and try to recap what I struggled with or what was important to me in 2017.

Obviously some things are a little too personal to post on my public blog. I guess I’m not that brave. But there are still some things I’d like to put into the world. Mostly for accountability.

Here goes…

My Daughters

2017 was a year of transition for myself, my two daughters, and their mother. This is because both of the girls made big jumps in their life.

My oldest daughter went off to college on the east coast. My youngest started high school.

Having my kid across the country was really hard for me at first. I tried really hard not to cry when leaving her. I did a better job than her mother did. She’s now a full semester in and is thriving. She loves college, the city of Boston, and the freedom she has. Since a kid she always wanted to go to college on the east coast. I never did figure out why.

Maybe she just wanted the adventure. She’s always been the academic type and hard working. Good fit over there I suppose. I left her there as an awkward and somewhat shy young woman. When I go visit her, and she’s in her element, she’s confident, head strong, and talkative. What a change and it’s only been one semester. I’m excited for her and her future.

My youngest starting high school isn’t much of a transition. It’s the same school she’s attended for the last 2 years. The school goes 7th through 12th grade so she already has her social circle in tact.

She get’s to play varsity soccer now which is a nice fun break for her. Both of my girls have played club soccer in top leagues their entire lives so being able to have fun with the sport in high school is good for them. Unlike most other big sports, high school soccer is not really a big deal in the states. The high pressure, serious play is all done with their club teams.

Work

Business was good in 2017. I honestly can’t complain. Overall our revenues were down slightly but we also turned down a few projects. We’ve been trying to be more selective in not just the clients we accept but also the type of projects. More and more we’re looking for long term retainer type agreements because it helps us plan for the year. Also, no need to live and die by the next sale.

We also had our very first experience with a project “going bad.” This was the first, and only time, in the history of Netlandish that we’ve had a client leave before the project was completed and they left unhappy. The reasons are many, and it was just a cocktail of things that led to it, but in the end, I take full responsibility. I didn’t like the feeling of not just failing, but failing a client.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this project and what went wrong. Long after they left I worked with a group of similar business owners I’m a member of to help me work through how I could have handled things differently. In the end there was an exercise I tried that was motivated by a separate exercise I was doing as part of the AltMBA program I was in the middle of (more on that below). I plan to write about that in the future so I won’t go into detail here but I’ll say it definitely helped me clear things up and realize that no matter what, the onus fell on me.

After leaving, the client and I came to an understanding and things are great between us, we just weren’t suited to work together. I wish them all the success in the world.

We’ve also invested heavily into internal products. One will be launching to the public this year.

We did launch a small project last year called StickerSnaps. Honestly, the timing was all wrong because of my schedule and we put it out about 6 months after planned. The basic idea is to purchase stickers of your Snapchat snap code, customized how you want, for use in marketing, promotion, etc. With our launching way behind schedule and Instagram stealing the thunder from Snapchat, well… Fail whale.

The hard part about building products is that client work takes precedence so we work on our products in our “free” time. Gotta pay the bills I suppose.

Going Vegan

Stop rolling your eyes. Yes I decided to switch to a plant based diet around July of 2017. I’m a little over 6 months in as I write this and I feel fantastic.

Why did I do it? Well, there are many reasons. Mostly my oldest has been vegan for some time now and she convinced me to try it a couple of years ago. I loved the way I felt when I tried it back then. I even had an experience where, after just 2.5 weeks of not eating dairy, in a pinch I had to eat some cheese (I was too hungry to turn the pizza away). I got so sick from that dairy I thought I was going to have to go to the hospital. Keep in mind I was in very rural Nicaragua at the time.

I felt like someone shoved a basketball into my stomach and it was about to burst. Since that day I’ve not eaten any dairy except for cheese on the occasional In-N-Out burger.

The reason I quit plant based eating when I tried the first time was I was steadily losing strength and energy in the gym.

I love to lift weights and I focus more on compound exercises. The staples of my workouts are squats, bench press, deadlift, pull ups, military presses, and barbell rows. All of which are heavy (for me) sets of 5.

I hadn’t planned or researched properly. I literally watched some documentaries on a Sunday night with my daughter and Monday morning I was vegan. Zero preparation. Of course I was going to fail.

Fast forward two years and I’d been researching off and on about example meal plans for plant based athletes. Especially power lifters and olympic lifters. The more I learned the more I realized what I had done wrong before.

So for the last 6 months I’ve only eaten plant based foods. My strength has not only increased dramatically but my recovery times are insanely fast. I have a bad back and it was always in pain and stiff. All of that is gone. Even if I do something stupid and tweak my back, usually because I lose focus during a heavy squat or deadlift, I’m back in action a week later. Probably sooner but I rest up just in case.

Previously, I would be out for 6–8 weeks sometimes. That’s not an exaggeration. On top of it I feel great. My head is clearer, my energy levels are up and I feel almost “light” if that makes sense. Even though my body weight is about the same. I like to call myself, “fat fit”. I’m chubby but can easily hold my own in a hard gym session.

I’ve been asked by a few people about the type of meals I eat. I plan to write another post about this in the future because it’s a lot of information. I’ll also point to who my motivations are and people I look to for guidance. There are far more plant based athletes at the highest levels of all sports than we realize. Including power and olympic lifters.

I’m often asked if I miss meat. Honestly, not really. There are 2 cravings I’ve yet to kick. They are In-N-Out double doubles and tacos. Those are the only two things I really miss. And I have three In-N-Out’s within a mile or so of my house. So it’s thrown in my face all the time.

Still, I’ve not (knowingly) had any animal products in over 6 months and I have no plans of ever going back. Fingers crossed.

Travel

My goal was to travel to, and work from, at least 5 different countries outside of the USA in 2017. I made it to 8 different countries. In all I made it to Nicaragua (3 times), Morocco, Portugal, Spain, France, Holland, Germany and Italy.

Part of that was because I spent 5 weeks hopping through Europe with my daughters. This was sort of a graduation and going away gift for my oldest daughter. We’d never been to Europe and I knew that no matter what happens, things will never quite be the same again with the three of us. So this was a very special trip for me and I hope for them too.

The best part about the Europe trip was that the time difference was perfect. I could spend the day sight seeing and doing fun activities with the girls and start working in the evening, which was the same time I’d be normally starting my work day anyway back in California. I’d work until the early morning, sleep in a bit, and do the same thing all over again. Because of this I didn’t have to miss a single day of work. I did take a day or two here and there but I basically worked a normal schedule the entire trip.

AltMBA

Seth Godin created a course called the AltMBA. I took the course and completed it with class number 11. I didn’t really know what to expect from it. I knew some people who had taken it and they recommended it to me. It was pricey but I decided to take the plunge and give it a shot.

The work load seemed over bearing from the outside. And it was, for the first week or so. Then the work load became easier to manage and you start to realize the class is really more about creative thinking and output. The goal isn’t to put out your best work quickly. It’s about putting out work period, after some thought has been given to the project.

If I could sum up the AltMBA in 3 words it would be: Just Ship It.

The best part of the class for me was the community and interacting with all these different minds from all walks of life. From house wives to corporate executives. I really got the most value from these interactions. However the lesson of “Just Ship It” is also invaluable and something I struggle with still (thus the lack of writing on this very website.)

Books

I had the goal of reading 20 new books in 2017 and I failed pretty miserably. I got through 12.5 books. I say .5 because I was half way through Sapians when the year ended, though I’ve now finished it. So I wasn’t a very good reader last year. I hope to change that!

You can see all the books I read on my GoodReads 2017 challenge page.

I also re-read a few books that I usually try to read every year but I don’t count them in my challenge because the goal was to read 20 new books.

My favorite read of 2017 was Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The book is a moving and bone chilling look at race relations in the United Sates but told through the lens of a loving father writing a letter to his son. I can’t recommend this enough.

A Look Into 2018

Honestly I haven’t given a ton of thought about goals in 2018. I don’t do the whole “resolutions” thing because I don’t know what will actually change. I’m more of the type of person that has to think about change, and slowly warm to it, before nudging myself into the new behavior. I’m sort of OCD. Move my coffee maker, even an inch, and I’ll notice and move it back. Yea, I’m one of those. So I have to slowly set new routines for them to stick.

Daughters

Mostly just continue to be the best dad ever. Say what you want about me, I know I’m a pretty awesome dad.

I want to spend more quality time with my girls. Especially since my oldest is away now. As they get older I find that our time together is more “adult”, which pains me. I’m a big goof ball and while I always annoyed them with my antics, it’s obvious they’re tolerating it less and less. Of course, this is also a good thing. I no longer shy away from rated R movies with them or feel uncomfortable discussing adult topics.

The other side is I often ask for their honest opinion on certain topics that I think would have been slightly out of their grasp previously. Especially with my oldest daughter.

I spent a lot of their childhood working. All the time. I was only a teenager when my first was born so I didn’t have a choice. I often feel like maybe I missed more of their younger years than I should have, even though I always made it to every soccer game, parent teacher conference, back to school night, or other events.

I can never get those years back but I hope to make up some of that time as adults with them. Adventures are in our future for sure!

Work

I mostly only want to sign new retainer clients. This is because it helps with scheduling, budgeting, forecasting, etc. Also they’re “long term” in that we require a minimum of a 3 month commitment. It helps us see where we are now and where we’ll be in the coming months.

We will also use more time on our product development. Another major goal is to offset our consulting income with product sales. We already have a few that sell but we don’t have a real sales process, or team for that matter, to handle this. Not that we need a team necessarily but definitely a process. The team will come as the need arises.

I should set a specific goal with how much revenue I’d like to offset with product sales. I think that will motivate and hold me accountable to it. I will think about a number and update this post in the coming weeks.

Travel

I’m actually in the middle of a month long trip that will take me through Cuba, Colombia and Nicaragua. So re-using the same 5 country goal as last year feels like cheating. I’m gonna shoot for working from 7 different countries in 2018. It’s hard to do this with work, daughters in school, etc. but I think I can figure it out. Here’s to trying!

Reading

Shooting for 20 new books to be read in 2018. I want to add more fiction to my reading to help me keep pushing forward. And I’m not the type of person who can read two or more books at the same time. I need to focus on one book to really absorb it.

I have a new 2018 Good Reads challenge up so you can follow along if you’d like.

Conferences

I love attending tech conferences. Mostly though for the community of like minded people. I usually don’t get a ton out of the talks. I also like to volunteer time to help new programmers, etc.

One goal I didn’t reach last year was attending a non tech conference. I’d like to do that this year. The problem is, choosing that or a trip to another country, the trip will almost always win out. Maybe I just need to find the right conference. If you have any recommendations please send them to me.

Diet

I have no plans of changing away from my plant based diet. I think I will try to slowly move into a strict whole foods plant based diet. Just see how it goes. May be hard to give up some things (ie, plant based protein powders) but it’s mostly psychological. Also it requires a ton of prep time for cooking and I’m not very good at that. Meal prepping that is.

Wake Up Time

This is a funny one because this has never really been an issue for me. Maybe I’m just getting older but I’ve been waking up later and later. Which means my mornings become chaotic instead of calm. If I wake up an hour later than I want, then I have to rush to write in my journal, eat, get to the gym, etc.

I’ve already been conditioning myself to get back to a 5am wake up time. I’m already nearly there. However, I know this current trip will throw a monkey wrench in it. But I’ll be ready to get back to normal when I return.

Finally… The End.

I sat down to write this in 30 minutes or less. I’m now about 3 hours and 3000 words in. I guess I need to write more to help offset my long windedness. If you made it this far then I owe you a beer!

X

OVER 3000 READERS
MUST BE WRONG...

But in case they're not, enter your email address
and I'll send you my best stuff. No BS or gimmicks.