2014 Year In Review

January 2, 2015 Will Lam

 

2014 year in review

You can check out my 2012 and 2013 year in reviews as well.

If I were to encapsulate this year in a sentence or two – I’d sum it up as it being a mixed bag. Lots of progress and major strides in some areas that I’m grateful for and excited to share, and rather underwhelming in other areas.

Let’s start with the underwhelming parts of 2014 as it is something I’m not going to write too in depth about for now. In terms of professional pursuits, things didn’t quite align themselves as I originally planned to be. It’s consumed me for nearly half the year, and yes I’m being deliberately vague, but I’ll soon reveal some cool stuff around the corner for me in the coming weeks, which will make sense when I unveil it then.

The things I learned this past year

Sequence is as powerful as routine and habits

CoachMe_Goals

For a while, when I lived close to work and my commute was all but 15 minutes, for a period of 3 months or so, I felt like I was finally firing on all cylinders in almost all areas of my life.

I noticed after tracking my things that I wanted to make progress in on Lift (recently re-branded to Coach.me), sequence of certain habits made for a powerful combination and built up the momentum that carried me throughout the day.  This would amount to be an “ideal day” as I had prescribed for myself.  Simply put, the sequence or order of the habits in which they were carried out played just as an important role compared to the individual habits themselves.

Simply put, the sequence or order of the habits in which they were carried out played just as an important role compared to the individual habits themselves.

This started by going to bed early. And by early it was before 12. The earlier I went to bed, the better my day went. This was because I woke up earlier and had the chance to focus on setting out my day. Be it writing, creating content, reflecting on what my day would look like – it was a piece of the day that I could selfishly call my own. I would own that early part of the morning and it would set the tone for the rest of the day.

I made sure to set everything up in my Lift app, and the momentum it afforded me carried me throughout the day to knock off things that I wanted to accomplish on a daily basis. Be it learning to code, exercise, starting the day as a producer vs a consumer and so on. And it worked. Now that moved up to North York instead of being in Leslieville, it’s going to take a bit of getting used to, but I’m sure I’ll get back into that flow, which is slowly settling in.

Help popping up in the places you least expect to

I’ve forged a few new relationships that have unravelling in rather cool ways. Be it professionally or personally, I’m glad to met those few people who I admire and respect deeply – namely, Matt, Brandon, Kevin, Francois, Hana, and Alexa. All of you guys are awesome and I’m grateful to have met you or gotten to know you even better this past year!

Friendships

alexas going away party

In terms of friendships, I’ve noticed that there are even fewer friends in my circle this past year, but the existing ones I have in my life have deepened and become more meaningful. I hope that add as much value to your lives as you do mine.

As for attrition in some friendships, I’m not surprised that some bonds have weakened and have pretty much fallen off the radar, some not by my lack of effort and some are. That’s okay, maybe those who stumbled upon this already know who you are. I still care and appreciate you being a part of my life.

Humility

While some of the things where I wanted to make big splashes in didn’t work out as planned, it’s made me more humble and understanding that I should shed any expectation or ego when it comes to what I want out of life. For better or worse, I’ll never shed a beginner’s mind when it comes to certain facets of my life. I’ll always give out more in terms of time and help to those I feel who are worthy of my time understanding that I’ll probably get back much less in return. That’s okay. I’ll just continue doing what I’m doing and getting better over time.

Doing things the slow and hard way

With content that’s spreading through the internet involving clever life hacks allowing for instant gratification (Do X thing in Y less amount of time). It’s glamorized and there’s always that next shiny life hacker article that you read learning about, but ultimately unfulfilling.

I’m really understanding the appreciation the long and hard process of learning and attempting to master something. This of course entails doing things over long periods of time, going for depth, rather than breadth and just really immersing yourself in an area of focus. Manifestations of this in my own life are the pursuits of writing, olympic lifting (CrossFit et al), and learning to code. All very hard, challenging in their own ways and oh so fun.

Asking for what you want

The quote “life will pay whatever price you ask of it”, rings true for me. I’ve usually shied away at the prospect of asking for I’m worth and understanding the marketplace dynamics. I’ll be cognizant of this going forward in the future.

Areas of Improvement

Learning to code

didja know app

After my post, I’ve attempted to ship one thing a week publicly – this has mostly been done with my writing and my Bootstrapper’s Weekly Digest which kept me accountable. Ideally, I’d like to do that with code, and contribute to an open source project, but it’ll have to be my own projects that I’ll be uploading to Github in the new year.

I took a part time Ruby on Rails course at BrainStation and learned a ton in terms of the problem solving mindset and tenacity it takes to become a developer – thank you so much to Jasdeep and Mandeep for being such awesome instructors and being infinitely patient with me and the rest of the class. Thank you to Jay, Duncan and Apoorv for making BrainStation a reality and giving us fledgling developers, product managers and technologists an avenue to learn to code without having to leave our jobs.

While I’ve been keeping my Ruby and Ruby on Rails knowledge up to date my Code School and Ruby Weekly subscriptions so I don’t forget what I learned at Brainstation. It’s taken a backseat to something I find more pressing at the time when it comes to learning to code for the sake of being a better product manager – the gap in my skill set involving mobile, which leads me to learning Swift for iOS.

So far I finished the Build a simple iPhone app in Swift from Treehouse, which will lead to review on its on in the future, I’m able to somewhat navigate around Xcode. I have a few simple ideas that I’d like to turn into mobile products for 2015.

Fitness

I’ve been on and off doing Olympic weightlifting in 2014, mostly due to work and moving out of Leslieville and away from my beloved gyms CrossFit Toronto and Fortis Fitness that were literally a block away from each other. While I haven’t been consistent in Oly lifting training, I’ve still managed to make it work by getting a squat stand, bumper plates and other strength and conditioning toys to continually work on my strength training while doing Wendler’s 5-3-1 program. I’m on my second cycle now and I’m looking forward to wrapping it up when I join a new gym in the new year.

Eventually I’d like to compete in something, whether it’s an Oly lifting meet or a CrossFit competition – that’s something that would be pretty cool to actively participate in as a contestant rather than being a volunteer.

Finances

It’s been a hectic year, but I’ve been plowing a good chunk of my full-time income to paying off my student debt. I’m a few months a way and I’m getting more and more excited to put this part of my life behind me and move onto putting my money towards better uses outside of paying down debts. I’ll have to educate myself more about my own finances and put it work and strategically investing in business opportunities in the future.

Appearances

While I don’t think I dress horribly, I think I’ve gotten a bit lazy when it comes to choosing what I wear to work.  T-shirt in jeans is cool, but doing it too often wearing the “startup uniform” of a startup t-shirt that I support and jeans, along with my pair of tigers and a hoodie were becoming a bit too common.

It’s true that when you dress better, you feel better, more confident and people’s perceptions about you change as well. I’d like to change that for 2015 for dressing better than I ever have to create an impression that I’m serious about how I depict myself and I have the skill to back it up professionally.  Allocating a certain amount of my budget will play a role in this as well.

Travel

I visited two places I’ve never been to this past year, Las Vegas and San Francisco, which were both a ton of fun thanks to UP Global paying for the trip for the Startup Weekend / Startup Digest global meet up. While it wasn’t off of North America, it was largely a function of not having the finances to be able to freely travel. I’m pretty sure 2015 has some awesome travel destinations for me in store and I’m looking forward to it.

Writing

Last but not least has been my strides in becoming a better and more consistent writer. As it stands, I’ve published posts on my blog, taken part of a 30 day writing challenge and published guest posts for CrossFit Toronto, which I’m all very proud of this. Writing about what I’m learning and experiencing has been an invaluable process in forcing me to recollect what I’ve learned and write about it in a way that’s easy to understand for my audience, those in online marketing, product management and those learning to code.

Writing has forced me to be more concise and succinct (yes, I’m still a bit long winded, but I’m sure I’m getting better.. I think?), and it’s led me to interacting with folks that I never dreamed of interacting with all due to this little old blog! It’s led me to other consulting and business opportunities and brought me some pretty awesome opportunities so far. I’m going to continue making this blog a focal point in my life as I reflect and share what I’m learning, in hopes that others might find what I’m learning and writing about useful as well.

Hope your 2014 was an awesome year for you and 2015 treats you even better. What was it like for you? Would love to know in the comments! Onward and upward!

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