Table of Contents
This time last year, I Tweeted out some goals for the New Year.
🗣️ Speak about CSS at a conference or school— (@xdesro) December 31, 2018
🎓 Take a class a month
📚 Read a book a month
✈️ Go back to SF, go back to Europe
💵 Save enough to buy a house
Bring it tf on, 2019. https://t.co/YnOTJRiG8e
I was determined and inspired by a strong career year, financial independence earned by selling my car, and the sense of indomitability and self-confidence that comes with healing after a breakup.
I set some goals that I felt were extremely achievable (like reading a book a month), and some that were much loftier (going to Europe, save enough to buy a house).
I missed the mark on nearly all of them.
Now, in the last few days of the year, I’d like to reflect on how and why I failed to meet these goals, and how I plan to estimate and execute better in 2020.
I slipped super hard on meeting my goals for last year, mostly because I wasn’t good at focusing and using my time usefully. I’m setting goals for 2020 that I feel are meaningful to me, achievable, and that I can be proud of by the end of the year.
I didn’t actually fumble 100% of my goals, so I’ll kick this off with a positive.
🌉 Return to San Francisco ✅
I spent a week or so in May in hotels in Japantown and the Financial District. My former employer sent me to attend the AwwwardsConf in—yes, indeed—
sunny foggy San Francisco.
At the time, I was up to my knees in the development of a design system and design operations processes for the team. Since most of the AwwwardsConference talks were about design systems,it was a fairly straightforward value prop, and let me knock one goal off the list.
The first half of my trip was for AwwwardsConf , where I had the pleasure and privilege of listening to talks by Omayeli Arenyeka, Alex Cornell, Claudio Guglieri and more. I made friends from Finland, DC and San Diego. I managed to get into an amazing workshop on machine learning led by Pedro Marques and Joël van Bodegraven. I could name drop all day (I won’t) but it was a really fantastic trip for making friends and networking. I already can’t wait to go back (or at least make it to another AwwwardsConf).
🗣️ Speaking at a conference/school ❌
If I’m being real, I just didn’t keep the fires stoked for this one.
I sent a talk proposal on making innovative CSS art using SVG filter primitives to CSSConf Budapest, but didn’t make the lineup, and didn’t really try after that. Speaking is a big time and labor investment upfront, and motivating myself to prioritize such an effort with potentially no payoff was a big challenge.
I’m bringing this goal back in 2020. I’ve met some new connections that can help me engineer better talk proposals, and because my urge to teach and share has persisted, I feel confident I can get this one across the line in 2020.
🎓 Take a class a month and 📚 Read a book a month ❌❌
Reading is super hard. I’m fully embarrassed to admit it, but I took the constant reading and analyzing cycle of academia for granted. It’s been a few years since I really invested in any long-form reading and I felt that in a big way. I was constantly distracted, usually by my phone, and often would realize I was just reading the words of the page individually instead of absorbing the information. It’s hard, and it’s hard to get better, and it’s hard to admit that I’m not really good at reading anymore.
I will bring a desire to constantly learn and consume literature or other long-form reading into the new year, but I will leave the quantifiable “1 book a month”, “1 class a month” goal behind until reading feels more natural.
🛩 Go back to Europe ❌
I didn’t make it — I was mostly focused on saving for a house and eating out all the time. It wasn’t a huge priority and I don’t feel bad about slipping. Just didn’t shake out!
I won’t add this one to the list again, mostly because it really just isn’t that meaningful to me that I make the trip, though if I did it’d be a free win: The Faculty crew and I are headed to Nottingham, UK (that’s still technically Europe these days, right?) in January 2020 for New Adventures conference. I’d love to make some friends while I’m out there, so reach out if I’ll see you there!
💵 Save enough to buy a house 🆗
This was either a win or not, depending on how you look at it.
In 2019, I got fully debt-free, cancelled the majority of my credit cards, shook myself loose of any loans I picked up erroneously in my slightly-earlier-twenties. That was a huge success. I still saved enough to buy a house, but probably not a house in Denver, where I’d like to be buying.
I’ve been hemorrhaging money renting here, year after year, and it only gets worse as the months pass and Denver becomes a more popular destination. I could look at buying somewhere more affordable, but when I set this goal, I had Denver in mind, so that’s why I’m not calling this a win just yet.
Overwhelmingly, I feel like 2019 was largely unfocused and middling. I have always felt compelled to do all kinds of things, but the aimless splashing around in learning Cinema4D, WebGL, Italian, whatever, hasn’t made me feel like more of a Renaissance person. I feel like I know a little about a lot, and unfortunately, that “little” tends to translate to “slightly-less-than-enough to be dangerous”.
It’s not all bad. I definitely let myself down, but in doing so I’ve gained a more careful understanding of some tenets I need to be stronger — that’s focus, deliberation, and meaningful action.
Scrolling through Twitter without purpose, shitposting in nigh-silent groupchats, watching mediocre content on Netflix — I’m doing a lot of things for no reason, and with no benefit to my sense of self.
Additionally, with goals like “save enough to buy a house”, it’s a little too wide-open and not specific enough to know whether I actually hit the mark or not, and leaving it up to a subjective do-I-feel-like-I-did-it means it becomes a matter of mood.
I want to forgive myself for a slow and unintentional year and set useful, achievable yet challenging and quantifiable goals for 2020.
Without further ado, here’s the plan for doing 2020 focused, deliberately, and mindfully:
- 🗣️ Speak about creative web at a conference or school
Like I said, still on the list. I’ve got some ideas for talks but I will spend intentional time to craft at least two fully-fleshed-out proposals I can send off to as many CFPs as possible.
- 💵 Save $60,000 for a down payment on a home
“Save enough to buy a house” part two, electric boogaloo. This is a very strict success metric and I’ll either hit it or I won’t.
- 🎓 Enroll in formal further education for computer science, mathematics, or creative computing.
When attempting to learn WebGL or invest more in creative technology, I find my lack of understanding of mathematical concepts as basic as geometry are a huge hindrance. I’ve tried to relearn these concepts (oh, if my high school self could see me now), but I feel that a formal re-education will be a lot more effective for my learning style, as well as providing professional development lift. Plus it’ll make my mom happy 😉.
An additional goal
This one isn’t really quantifiable, it’s just an ethical tenet I’d like to take on.
- 🥀 Minimize use of “gig economy”, hyper-convenience, and subscription services.
Companies like Lyft, Uber, Doordash, Instacart, etc, have all proven themselves uninterested in serving their labor force ethically, and there’s a full clip of additional reasons these companies don’t deserve my (your) patronage. Instead of rideshare, I’ll be riding my bike a lot more. I can get virtually everywhere and everything I could need within an hour ride of my apartment. Taking Lyfts and Doordashing are the result of a lack of intention, motivation, or preparation.
Second, Amazon is like…inarguably evil, so I’ll be doing my best to patronize local booksellers, craft stores, and so on, instead of defaulting to the path of least resistance.
Lastly, streaming video and other subscription services burn a hole in my pocket and encourage me to waste my time. As much as possible, I will choose buy-to-own products and non-subscription alternatives.
Thanks for taking the time to read. This was a slow year for me, but I still made some leaps and bounds and I’m eager to keep that momentum in 2020. I normally blog about creative web development, and share a lot of cool content on my Twitter. Say hi if you get the chance!