2016 In Review

It took me a couple of days to get going on this again this year. I think that might be a recurring thing year to year. I did manage to keep up on updating this blog with my goals updates better than I did in 2015. The quarterly (or so) updates seem like the thing. I took my foot off the gas on blogging this year for better or worse and so far I’m not sure what my plan is in that regard for 2017.

Warning: This is another personal, rambling, and generally unedited post. These posts are more for me than for the public. Feel free to skip this.

Yeah, I know most of this blog has ended up being personal. Oh well. These things happen.

Opening Thoughts

I’m trying to follow a similar structure to last year, which used a similar structure to the year before. Hopefully there’s some consistency here. Rereading 2015’s post it’s hard to believe that I just started at my current job in 2015. 2016 ran a lot faster than 2014 or 2015 did, probably because it was more consistent. I went the entire year without changing jobs or having empty points in the year. That’s the nice thing about full time employment vs. contacting I suppose. I’m not unhappy with how that job is going. I moved over into development – which took longer than it really should have – but I’m there now and that’s that.

I also ended up making an anime/manga club with another guy this year. We started it in September. It doesn’t take up a huge amount of my time, since we only meet twice a month, but it definitely takes up more time. Since I don’t do a huge amount of social stuff I don’t see this as a problem.

As goals go, this year didn’t go great. I made some progress on a handful of things, but honestly I was pulling myself in too many directions at the same time. There’s only so much time in the week. Let me lay out how I could go a week with barely any progress on goals (we’ll go Monday – Sunday). Monday I have a hard time getting going in the morning, so I work until like 6 or 7PM to make up for it. Then I have supper and do any errands I need to getting me to 8 or 9PM. I study Japanese for an hour or two, getting me to probably 10 or 11PM. Then I read for an hour or two getting me to where I should be going to sleep. But I want to get more done, so I usually stay up until probably 1 or 2 to get some progress done. Then I sleep for 6 hours at most. Repeat until Friday. Friday I tend not to get anything done in the evening then end up sleeping off most of the day on Saturday to catch up. This leaves maybe 4 or 5 hours during Saturday and probably about half of Sunday to get anything done. I’m not sure exactly what I can do to correct this. Rely more on stimulants? Try to sleep more during the week so I don’t lose Saturday? I’m not sure. It’s something I need to think about.

Anyway, I suppose it’s time to look at the “Final Update” for my goals this year.

2016 Goals Final Update

1. Lose 80 pounds
RESULT: FAIL. While I made some progress at the beginning of the year, that progress stalled out in the middle and reversed at the end. Clearly I need to make and stick to some more major lifestyle changes. Because what I’m doing when I go into default “no thinking” mode is causing damage. While I’d love to go on keto – since it works – the last time I did that I ended up getting a gout flareup. I’m trying not to talk about plans here though. The issue was a combination of fast food and pizza. Lazy food. Honestly, even in the middle of the year I recognized I didn’t even like eating this stuff but it was easy and fast and got me out of the house during the work day. That was the hardest part about cooking and eating at home – I didn’t get that breather from leaving the house for a bit.

2. Bike 100 miles in under 7 hours
RESULT: FAIL. I got back on a training schedule in Q3, but then lost momentum again in Q4. The main issue I ran into here is that the bike breaks regularly and some of the bolts are stripping. I need to stop sometimes every 20 minutes and tighten the bolts and screws even after changing them and adding loctite. I did manage to get the bike’s odometer over 1000 miles, so that’s cool. I’m going to see if I can replace the bigger bolt so there are fewer things in the way. The second problem is time. If I can find a way to double-up the tasks so it’s not a big time drain I think it’d be easier to keep at it. However, generally after an hour or so I’m not really able to think that hard. Anyway, didn’t do well on this, but it’s not really surprising since I lost focus on health as the year went on.

3. Study for and take the N4
RESULT: SUCCESS. I don’t have the results yet which is why I don’t put the results in this goal. However, I really wanted to pass. I don’t feel very confident in that. It was hard. I need to spend way more time on grammar. On a positive note this year a couple of important things happened. First, Kanji isn’t hard anymore. I’m not sure why or how to explain it but it’s not hard at all to learn Kanji anymore compared to how it used to be. Second, I truly believe that I’ve learned more Japanese in the last year than I had in my entire life prior. Fluency is the real goal here, with the JLPT just being a step ladder to get there and prove my competence. If I ended up failing, I’ll retake the N4. If I somehow passed we’ll see. Taking the N3 in 2017 might be too much too quickly. Either way I really need to focus on grammar.

4. Get a new technical certifications
RESULT: FAIL. I have no real excuse for how hard I fell on this one. TWO TIMES I was just about ready to take that AWS one. The 3x per year limit scared me off early on, and an “all in” focus on Japanese stopped me later in the year. Then picking up a Salesforce certification after that would have been pretty easy, getting me to the initial version of this goal. I’m actually kind of irked at myself for not following through with this one, since I really did almost all the work necessary. Gah. Oh well.

5. Write 30 posts on Not Final Code
RESULT: 6/30 – FAIL. Lost momentum on this early in the year. I put together a kickass post in the middle of the year, but then lost momentum again. I really do make the posts too ambitious. This drained a lot of time off of other tasks as well. This is all part of the “too many writing tasks” issue I had this year. If I’m going to do regular technical blogging, I need to find a more efficient process.

6. Win NaNoWriMo
RESULT: FAIL. Keeping on with my “every other year” record with NaNo I didn’t make it this year. NaNo would have taken about 30 hours of writing or so in addition to time spent going to write-ins and stuff like that. I was getting incredibly nervous about the upcoming JLPT. So I pulled the ripcord and decided not to do NaNo. The time I got back wasn’t really that big of a deal, it was the decreased stress from not having that one more thing to think about. I actually liked the story outline I’d come up with too. Sorry NaNo, next year.

7. Publish 3 novellas on Amazon
RESULT: FAIL. Too much writing. Not enough focus. I was really hoping 2016 would be the start of me getting some writing out there. Perfectionism is part of the problem here too. At least, for next year, I have some ideas about how to combat perfectionism (more than one pseudonym).

8. Review 2 technical books
RESULT: FAIL. This died with the blogging. Reviewing a technical book takes a lot of effort. I still like the idea of it, but it needs to be a part of regular blogging.

9. Have 500 Twitter followers across accounts
RESULT: SUCCESS 1321/500 (as of 1/4/17). This was far too easy. I got my main @MattEkenstedt account over this with about 2 months of minor effort. Maybe less.

10. Be mentored by 3 people more successful than me
RESULT: SUCCESS? Depending on how you measure this I was either successful or only made progress. Early in the year I had a phone call with Brian Brushwood where he basically told me I needed to focus better (and he was right – I should have focused in more than I did). That was the only actual “mentoring” call I had with anyone. However, I’ve had discussions with people more successful than me in a less formal way. So you could argue that those count. Either way, I’m calling this one a success, and it’s something I think I should try to incorporate more into my life if I can.

11. Make money from 2 more sources
RESULT: FAIL. I sort of bailed on this one as the year went on and my priorities changed. Honestly, switching to a dev job at work sort of killed my main motivation here. That’s not a bad thing, just a priority change.

12. Make $5000 in side income
RESULT: FAIL. See above. Basically this one depended on doing some side-contracting. When I was in support that might have made sense. When I’m in dev, it’s too dangerous and probably a conflict of interest. So I moved on. If I’m going to make side income it shouldn’t have anything to do with my job.

Bonus Goals

I actually accomplished one this year:
3. Have 1000 twitter followers across accounts. – My main Twitter accounts has 1321 followers as of 1/4/17.

2016 Events and Accomplishments

January – February – Did my first Twitter surge. Had a mentoring call with BB. Started Not Final Code.
March – Went to an Anime Party in NYC.
April – I can’t remember anything about April. Must have been uneventful.
May – Saw BABYMETAL at Northern Invasion (also: Korn, Disturbed, Rob Zombie, Shinedown, POD, and others).
July – Started working in Product Development.
June – August – Basically lost months from the outside-work-productivity sense. Some of that was work focus, some was just bad time management.
September – November – Just JLPT study mostly.
December – Took the JLPT N4.

Final Thoughts

This post might make 2016 look like a bad year, but it really wasn’t. I got a lot accomplished and made some good moves in my career and I’m generally happy with the direction of the year. These goals posts probably make things look dire. I’m not super happy with how much I accomplished on the side though that’s because motivations change over the year. I’ve heard some good arguments that you should have “systems and not goals” but I’ve also heard similar advice that goals should be “unattainably high” so that you get further than you would otherwise. I think I prefer that. Looking at the goals I had this year, none of them were really that big so they weren’t that motivating. Flying past my twitter follower count early in the year made it sort of boring.

Based on how 2016 went I need to spend some time taking a hard look at my writing. It always seemed to be the first thing cut and I didn’t produce much “shippable” writing. Do I double down and push through next year, or should I just straight up abandon it? I’m not sure. I love writing and building and telling stories, but to turn it into a business would take all my free time. To publish without turning it into a business just makes it an expensive hobby in time and money.

Hopefully I can turn out a 2017 goals post before the end of January. That first one will be basically a draft. A second goals post in February will be the real one. I need to stare at them for a while to really settle on them. I have been thinking about 2017 stuff here and there, and honestly I’m not sure where I want to focus. I do think at least one or two goals should be related to my job or career development. Also, I should keep a shorter list of goals with more direct focus.

Time to move on to 2017. This one is going to be huge.



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