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2022 in Review
22 things I wish I knew earlier
Ah, yes, the bittersweet end of the year. Although the passage of time is sad, I enjoy reflecting on the last twelve months and charting my plan for the next. I learned a lot in 2022, and here are 22 learnings you might find helpful:
1. Set an alarm for bedtime to get 7+ hours of sleep
I read Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep in January and wish I’d read it three Januarys ago. I’ll summarize the numerous learnings in two pithy quotes. 1) “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.” 2) “When sleep is abundant, minds flourish. When it is deficient, they don’t.”
2. Don’t procrastinate on your interests
I moved to Washington State four years ago to be near mountains but procrastinated on skiing for three years. I wanted to learn digital drawing but procrastinated buying equipment for five years. I wanted to get better at rock climbing but didn’t commit to a gym membership for ten years. This year, I leaned into skiing, digital drawing, and rock climbing and enjoyed life much more. There’s never a perfect time to pursue your interests, so the best time is now.
3. Be your own medical advocate
I underwent laser-eye surgery this summer to eliminate my need for contact lenses but had an implication that resulted in irreparable bleary night vision. I could have avoided this risk by doing more research before the procedure, but I assumed medical professionals would act in my best interest.
4. Build a second brain
I read Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain to learn about Zettelkasten notetaking. I wish I had done this in college, so I could have recorded various ideas and learnings as I encountered them. Download Obsidian—an open-source, markdown-style notetaking app—to get started.
5. Organize files in the PARA structure
Use four primary folders to organize your files: 1-Projects, 2-Areas, 3-Resources, and 4-Archives. It’s helped me find what I need when I need it.
6. Use every vacation day
Since joining the workforce seven years ago, I’d been frugal with vacation days—usually taking fewer than my allotment. You’ll never get those days back, so use them all.
7. Be impatient with inputs and patient with outputs
Be impatient with things you can control (i.e., writing a draft, exercising, executing your part of a project) but patient with stuff you can’t control (i.e., getting published, seeing performance improvements).
8. Running a marathon is a beautiful experience
I ran my first marathon this summer and learned a lot: You must work backward from a race date to plan your training, be disciplined with workouts, create space for rest & recovery, and push through walls. And the race itself is oddly communal, even among strangers.
9. Stay in zone two for endurance sports
With distance running, mountaineering, hiking, biking, or any other endurance sport: Maintain an 80-85% effort so you’ll work hard at a sustainable pace.
10. If the world doesn’t have what you need, create it
Several websites contain information about climbing the U.S. state highpoints, but none had what I wanted—a mobile-friendly UI that aggregated everything required to summit a highpoint. So, I built the Highpoint Guide—a fun project that brushed off my dormant web dev skills and provided value to the highpointing community.
11. You’re not special
Once you accept that, you can acknowledge your shortcomings and work to become exceptional.
12. You achieve more when you’re not attached to achievement
I began bouldering a few times a week for fun and accidentally learned a lesson about Zen. I had no attachment to completing routes and found that I was developing skills and completing more challenging problems. Don’t get attached to outcomes but learn to love the process. Paradoxically, you’ll achieve more the less you think about achieving.
13. It’s okay to be an ambivert
I used to hesitantly identify as an introvert because I reliably felt recharged after spending time alone. This year I learned that I deeply crave regular social interaction and get energy from the right people in the right context. I think most people need both introversion and extroversion to feel emotionally whole. My mood works like this:
14. Biking to work is a triple win
I began bike commuting this year, and the habit transformed going to work—a bad experience—into a fun experience. I got 1) fresh air & exercise, 2) mood boosts from endorphins, and 3) free transportation. Plus, having to deal with some physical “pain” (sore legs, rain, cold wind) put my work “pain” into perspective. Meetings became more interesting than stressful.
15. Things can be both bad and better
I couldn’t put down Hans Rosling’s Factfulness—an accessible text about using accurate data and frameworks to inform your worldview. My biggest takeaways: Things can be both bad and better. Poverty still exists (bad), but extreme poverty rates are rapidly declining (better).
16. Don’t adopt orphan numbers
With metrics, always look for a pair to compare: Actuals vs. target, before vs. after, and sample vs. total. Don’t trust any orphan number.
17. Asynchronous language learning is insufficient but effective
I completed 539 consecutive days of Spanish on Duolingo. When I visited small towns in Mexico this fall, I was disappointed by my lack of fluency. But I was proud that I could converse with locals and complete simple interactions. Even though I spoke slowly and made errors, locals seemed to appreciate the effort.
18. Moderation is harder but often better than abstinence
I’ve struggled with doom-scrolling Twitter, so I deleted it from my phone to practice abstinence. But I began to miss the benefits—news updates, threads about topics I care about, and posts from friends—and returned to moderation: A fifteen-minute daily limit. It’s hard to be satisfied with the small portion, but I feel this approach is better than abstinence.
19. Never compromise your values without satisfying a higher value
A month ago, a group of people mocked a person we all knew. Although I didn’t instigate it, I remained silent and laughed along, which directly contradicted one of my core values: kindness. For three nights, I lost sleep over this, riddled with shame and guilt over my complacency. During those sleepless nights, I learned that going against one of your values is seldom worth it. Sometimes we experience moral quandaries in which we must choose one value over another. But if you’re not acting in the interest of a higher value, don’t compromise your virtues.
20. Drink a glass of water each morning
You get dehydrated at night, especially if you’re a lowly mouth-breather like me. I started mixing vitamin C supplements or electrolytes into a glass of water each morning, and I’ve felt considerably less sick than I have in prior years.
21. Writing in public is worth the risk
I changed my newsletter's format, frequency, art style, and branding several times this year. I lost a few subscribers with each change but gained more in the end.
22. Write for yourself, then for others
Although I want to serve others with my writing, I find it easier to write for myself first. Maybe others are less selfish than me, but I need to please myself before I can be more ruthless in my edits. The first draft is for you; the second draft is for others
What did you learn this year?
Happy New Year!
I launched a new app! If you’re struggling to work off holiday meals and can’t access your usual workout equipment while traveling, use Bodyweight Fit. The app generates a bodyweight routine based on your ability, time available, and location—even a cramped guest room.