Here we go
2022 is here! 2021 was amazing. I wrote about it, believe it or not. It turned out not at all how I expected, but I loved every second. It also made me think a bit more about 2022 and this whole goal-writing process. As per longwinded tradition, this will not simply be a bulleted list. There is a list, but before we get to that, let me tell you about my favorite Christmas present.
I gave each of my kids a copy of a small journal. I picked out a whole bunch of my favorite quotes - because I’m a quote maniac, and yes they were all completely age inappropriate - I sprinkled in some pictures of family and friends and also added some quotes of my own. It was really fun to make but I wasn’t sure it would be a hit. But it was, which was even cooler. They draw in it a lot, my wife enjoyed reading through what I chose to include, and, at some point, the kids might even read a couple of things from it too. I did include some Albus Dumbledore quotes, after all.
When I went back and looked through the notebook, there was very clearly a theme. The theme is germane to my 2022 goals. Here’s a couple of the quotes that I can’t stop thinking about.
“You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” - James Clear
“Only the disciplined ones are free in life. If you are undisciplined you are a slave to your emotions and your passions.” - Eliud Kipchoge
“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” - Gustave Flaubert
“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.” - Steven Pressfield
These point to something I want my children to understand deeply as they get older, and something that I very clearly want for my soon-to-be 42 year old self. Life is going well. Hard work has paid off and fortune has been favorable. The people in my life love easily and are loved. The everyday routine is full of positive stresses and positive outcomes. But there’s still a deep internal longing for something more. It’s not that anything’s missing, it’s that I as an individual could grow. There are certain things I want to look back on as a 90 year old and think fondly about that aren’t there yet, like a published book or two, additional businesses, and some signs of well-honed physical craftsmanship (read: furniture). These sorts of goals have been in my head for years, they haven’t really changed too much. The environment, the people, and the talent in my pool of resources are not the problem. It’s the systems in place that need some polishing.
So with that as a crazy start, here’s some 2022 system goals:
The more I ask this question of people I admire, the more positive feedback this idea receives. People that get a lot of shit done get up early to do it. This is a system they have in place to get up before the rest of the house or the world gets going so they can have their primary work in hand already. Doing this regularly cuts out junk time and allows you to focus on productive or formative time. 6am, at least 5 days a week. I’d love to move this earlier, but 6 feels right for me and my life.
I want to have the rest of my day planned out too. My days often have a lot of variance based on roles and responsibilities, and I’ve been able to make that work for a long time based on my ability both to adapt and be flexible and to context switch rapidly. But it’s time to codify a more regular rhythm so that I can give myself time to do deep work (like writing). I think this will be better for my family too. The goal is keeping a regular daily schedule - hopefully writing output and family time are byproducts of this.
Write 5 Days A Week
It doesn’t matter what. Or how much. What matters is the habit of sitting down and typing something out. Hopefully at some point it will turn into something more substantive. But first, I need to give it some space to grow into.
Workout 5 Days A Week
It doesn’t matter what. Or how much. Some days might just be a 30+ min walk. I love working out, but this is one of the first things that always falls by the wayside when life is busy or there’s too much schedule variance. Both my body and my brain are more healthy and energetic when I’m working out regularly. And as I get older, this just gets more and more important.
In order to keep these systems going, I will be keeping a daily calendar to record wakeup times, workout days, and writing days.
Let’s talk about food for a minute again. I always have some goal of getting in better shape or being better about my diet, which oscillates between “eh” and “ohmygodwheredthatwholepizzago”. Just to say something out loud here: I’m a stress eater. I’d love to be one of those people that can’t eat when they’re stressed, but I’m not. I devour food when I’m stressed. Instead of making some unrealistic goals here, I’d like to put forth some systems for managing this:
- Skip a meal when possible. For now, this will mean a very light lunch (a banana and whole grain bar before working out). In the future, this will mean skipping breakfast.
- If there isn’t anything good to eat, then just eat nothing. Stop going into convenience stores.
- Alcohol only on the weekends unless it’s an occasion. Because pandemic.
- Cook and eat dinners with the family during the week.
Yes I will keep reading. Yes I will keep track. Yes it will be around 50 books again. This is a system that feels mature.
Systematize The Workshop
I’ve grown to really love making something with my hands. It came directly from my love of making things out of code. Which, according to a friend, looked like this:
The problem right now is that my workshop looks like this all the time:
I need to systematize this sucker. What’s that mean? I have a list!
- Build a mitre saw station with storage
- Finish french cleat wall and bins
- Tear down existing shelves for more space
- Build movable wood storage rack
- Hand plane and sharpening station
- Small bin storage solution (screws, nails, etc)
- Floor solution
- Dust collection
- Dust collection
- Dust collection!
My dust and hose game is poor. A dust deputy works for smaller stuff but having it hooked up to the planar doesn’t work. To make the workshop a long term healthy place to hang out for me and my kids (who love helping), the dust needs to be well contained. Priority numero uno.
I have a lot of ideas and a lot to say about all sorts of issues. I hold back a lot too, and there’s a few reasons for this. For one, I strongly believe in listening and asking questions as much as possible. It’s a great way to learn from others and it’s one of the biggest missing pieces many people have in being a good conversationalist. I also have trouble thinking things out as I say them, so I rely on having the time and space to write them out.
But I’ve come to think I undervalue the other side of it. People are genuinely interested in what I have to say (gasp!) and when I’m sometimes too guarded or hold back some of my ideas, I get this little razor cut of disappointment. Like they know I’m not really sharing myself. And that’s not fair either.
Fortunately, I have a great model for this. My wife and I often have long and wild conversations about all sorts of crazy topics and, every once in awhile, she’ll say “people would be so surprised to hear you talk for so long”, or something like that. I’m not guarded with her at all and I don’t hold back. I need to pull that out and apply it more widely.
There’s some great words for this. My favorites: I want to be a better interlocutor and raconteur.
Foment Disagreement And Discussion
Along with more and better conversation, I want to have more positive and constructive disagreements. Especially in today’s polarized public world, it’s really important to recognize the difference between a debate (where two sides try to win an argument) and a dialectic (where people try to seek the truth). A dialectic is most useful when people come from different perspectives because everyone will end up learning something and coming that much closer to a complete understanding.
I’ve started to think that disagreement among friends is a more valuable thing than we all think. It ends up being true that you’re usually friends with people that mostly agree with you on things, and so the disagreements can be uncomfortable. But maybe that’s where you can learn the most from each other. Some of my best friends and my wife and I agree about 90% on the subject of media exposure (books, TVs, movies) and children’s maturity . But on the last 10% we really disagree. I think that’s good and constructive and a great learning experience for both sides.
We should talk about those sorts of things - earnestly - more.
Grace In Under 5 Minutes
Ok, I needed to have one direct physical fitness goal. This one is a hybrid between aerobics and strength, stolen from Crossfit. It’s 30 reps of Clean and Jerk with 135 lbs for men (95 for women) for time. The name is Grace. 7 or 8 years ago I could do it in about 5 minutes. I should be able to do that again.
Evaluate Risks And Take Them
One of the chief takeaways I have from the pandemic is understanding the importance of evaluating risks and responding in kind. This is the chief value in learning the game of poker. Each hand represents a risk that you take action on (a bet) and you have a real world feedback mechanism wherein the risks may be rewarded appropriately or not (bad luck). Last year, the idea of evaluating risk in my goals list corresponded to “optionality”. I took at least one big bet in 2021. This year I plan to take one or two more. I don’t have something concrete here yet, but I’m actively working to identify bets and pursue them.
Start, Then Learn
Let’s see what 2022 brings!!
You don’t learn, then start. You start, then learn. - Sahil Lavingia