In 2014: Reflection, Consistency, and Balls

There's a blog out there in the wild vastness of the Internet with the tagline, "I have a black belt in feelings." (It's hilarious and entertaining but entirely tangential to the point of this post; go poke around after you finish here.)

That is not me. My general mechanisms to deal with feelings involve avoidance, denial, and distraction.

With all that's happened in 2013, though — work stuff, house stuff, and what seems like an endless series of Big Life Change for close friends — I wanted to find a way to coerce myself into doing a bit more thinking. About myself. And those pesky, dreaded feelings.

I respond best when presented with concrete goals. My only real resolution for 2013 was to read a book a week (is it a total cop-out to form resolutions around things that you already like doing?), and the numerical solidity of the resolution made it easy to gauge my progress throughout the year.

Here's my attempt to trace out my resolutions for 2014:

Reflection

Things like meditation and blogging have always appealed to me in theory, as a way for me to get my head out of the weeds and look at the bigger picture. Like hovercrafts and drunk texting, they've thus far fallen on the "more awesome in theory than practice" side of personal habits to enforce.

We're here to try and change that.

Goal for 2014: Write a blog post once+ per month.

I won't set a limit on the required length or the set of topics, but the intention should be to think and reflect: so, hopefully, fewer random coding snippets and more prose.

Given the amount of content we all consume each week/month/year (novels, nonfiction, New Yorker/Atlantic articles, Hacker News linkbait…), I just need to remember that my writing isn't intended to contribute to some grand corpus of information on the Internet. It's for me to:

  • have a reason to sit around and think serious thoughts about myself
  • practice turning those thoughts into a reasonably structured chunk of text
  • be comfortable with publishing (and maybe publicizing) said long-form thoughts

Basically, if I can make time to spend 15 minutes reading Wikipedia articles about cheese, I can find the time once a month to do the opposite (writing about … not cheese).

So with expectations set low and numbers locked in, we can move on to:

Consistency

I'm very seriously looking forward to the day when we're all allowed to upload our brains onto the Internet and unplug our bodies (which can then be mulched to extract whatever energy / carbon possible, to power whatever machines are necessary to make this all happen). Required reading: They're Made out of Meat

Until this happens (and I can stop getting sick, damn this bag of cells), there's a part of me that knows I should take care of the meat I have. Up until last year, I'd never consistently exercised for more than two months at a time — and last year I only made it about four.

Goal for 2014: Exercise six+ times per month

It's been too easy to brush off exercise in favor of work "because it's crazy," or "there're so many more important things to do," but, self, it's barely more than once a week.

Let's recap:

the type of future-human we want to be

One more item I'll throw in here, in the spirit of this section being a grab-bag of "things that seem like resolutions that I've probably just been bad at keeping in the past":

Goal for 2014: Touch side projects once+ per month

I have a live app that needs to be iOS 7-ified, an Android port in the works, and a personal toy I've been working on and off (and rewriting) since 2009. I've already started blocking off time in my calendar every few weeks to ensure these don't fall off my radar — the problem is never really lack of interest or lack of time but lack of preallocated time.

Balls

This brings me (not particularly gracefully) to my last "theme word" for 2014: balls. As an engineer, a case could be made to either argue that I should have balls by nature ("Prototypes! MVPs! Let's see if it blows up!"), or that I don't ("Hypotheses! Controls! Testing!").

I think that the most consistent negative factor in my growth/adventuring is myself: I get in my own way. I don't follow through (enough) on wishful thinking, I don't volunteer myself (enough) for ambitious situations, I simply don't consider (enough) things to be possible.

So in 2014 I want to have bigger balls.

Abstractly, I want to stop disqualifying myself and learn to let others do it for me. I want to learn to have (or fake!) the same sort of self-delusional confidence that is lionized in the Valley. Concretely, I will:

Goal for 2014: Give six+ talks (any size, any audience)

Goal for 2014: Submit proposals to four+ conferences

I came across a post on self-improvement a few years ago now, and something about the matter-of-factness of the steps toward the author's goals intrigued me. I gave two talks in 2013: one at GlueCon and one at Parse Developer Day. One was in front of a friendly audience (Parse Developer Day), and one was a total unknown.

Someone wiser than I wrote recently about using talk proposals not as a descriptor of what you know or have learned in the past, but as a reason to gather new interesting information to share in the future. I like this idea.

In any case, I'm mildly drunk off my success with my 2012 and 2013 resolutions ("stop ruining plots for myself by reading too much Wikipedia", and "read 1 book/week," respectively), and think that this is all achievable. We'll see!

Thanks to Kevin for the idea of "theme words." I've got a ways to go before I can distill my thoughts into a single word, so for now we have three.

Let me know what you think on Twitter.