2017. Year in review.
At some non-specific point in the past few years I acknowledged that my greatest enjoyments and biggest successes come from trusting my gut.
I spent a lot of 2017 thinking about things and reading about things. Introspecting. Not in a meditation/mindfulness kind of way but rather in a 'just paying more attention' kind of way.
Have you ever noticed that if you are happy it makes other people happy. Then it goes full circle. Pretending you are happy works too. Being hyperbolically happy works too and is hilariously fun.
There were some great experiences in 2017, and some major f*ck ups but all in all I think that 2017 was generally a success. In fact I think 2017 continues a trend over the past decade of each year being better than the last.
I thought I could just copy the format of the 2016 year in review for this post. Turns out I did not do one
Interestingly, prior to writing this post I stumbled upon an old cache of blog posts (of some sort) from my university days. I added them under the old tag. I read through them all and some of them were really powerful. I never appreciated how interesting it can be to look back on things that happened 5/6/7 years ago. How things have changed. It also provides good context against which to consider 2017.
This post like the rest of this blog lacks any kind of format. It is essentially my diary. It is public on the off chance you find anything contained within to be interesting.
At the end of 2017 I feel like I have come to the end of the 'Beginners Adulting' text book and have finished 'Advanced Life Experiences'. Whilst obviously I was legally an adult five years ago I feel like the marginal gains in maturity over each of the five following years have been massive.
It intrigues me no end how things are so relative. Things that I considered insanely important/worrying/tough 5 years ago seem to me now almost ridiculous. In the same vein I now appreciate more that you can not appreciate what other people go through for these same very reasons. If you have not gone through the same sequence of events you can't appreciate experiences in context.
This year my grandfather passed away. I got a call from my aunt the day before we were all due to go on holiday. You know when you know..? I never pick up the phone at my parents house. After all, I then just have to take a message. This time I did. 6th sense? My shocked aunt on the phone was reluctant to say anything. I knew. I will never be able to explain that feeling. It bemuses me thinking about it now.
When it Chiang Mai, Thailand I bought a postcard to send to my grandfather. He was the one person I called regularly on my travels because he was genuinely interested in everything I was doing. My parents are busy people and aside from knowing that I am alive are happy to just catch up when I get back. I knew that he would appreciate the card immensely. I never sent it.
Never delay things.
My grandfather was a very important part of my life. He was a voice of reason. Someone who would take my side when I was right.
The week before he passed I accompanied him to watch my younger brother in a concert. He was generous, kind, and hilarious. I will always miss my grandfather.
Business wise things have gone well. In 2017 I sold one domain name. Double Negative do not own that many domain names any more. Sadly I did not buy enough a decade ago.
The intention of setting up Double Negative was to develop a consistent income stream producing business building cool web based products. In 2017 I continued to try and build products related to things that interest me that are (of course) marketable to a large audience. I have yet to hit the moneyload but get to spend every day (I choose) working on things that genuinly interest me.
This year I put a lot of my work energy into EthTools.com which was intended to be a product to simplify interfacing with the Ethereum blockchain. I have written various posts over the year on my work building it. These are conceptual, technical, and theoretical in nature.
Interestingly whilst not making insane amounts of money it has exposed me to some interesting 'business' experiences. I have obviously always been aware of the importance of security, and reputation but have never had to deal with them head on. Working with users at scale is also insanely interesting. I had very little previous experience of 'putting yourself in someone elses shoes'. Stepping back and thinking about how customers actually use your service is really interesting. That in itself is progress. The fact that people actually use the product.
Unfortunately there was contention as regards the security implications of the product. This has serious implications for the viability of the product.
One of the most interesting aspects of 2017 is the continued collision of the various parts of my life and my various interests.
When I went to university it was very much for the experience. I left university perceiving my Economics degree to be somewhat of a random bonus. What I did not realise is that it is never really just about the piece of paper, but rather about the doors it opens. Most people assume networking doors, job doors etc. In my case I mean mental doors.
I left university with a degree in Economics thinking 'Well that's all a load of rubbish'. Since then I have been subconciously and more actively (over the past 3 years) diving down a rabbit hole of (in my opinion) one of the most interesting subject areas. Behavioural Economics.
In 2009 (I remember it like it was yesterday), I went travelling. I had saved up for my travels and rather than keep it in a current account I wanted to invest it in Marks and Spencers. I can not remember the context of the situation but i was adamant that they were going to increase in value. They increased in value four fold, and I had not invested. So many behavioural psychology heuristics apply here.
In 2017 I took the bull by the horns and invested in the stock market. The literal bull as the market has been on an upward trend for a number of years. It is particularly interesting to me analysing how the theoretical side of investment psychology plays out in practice. Test case.. myself. Get back to me after the next market crash. Actually. Don't.
Not a financial investment, but an investment in myself :) Over 2017 whilst learning about the stock market I have spent a lot of time learning about finance more generally. This combines with my teaching myself personal and corporate accounting over the past few years.
Through experience I have worked out how I tick. I find that in my 'day job' I work most optimally in short bursts. Four hours of targetted programming is beter than 8 hours of crap. This gives me a lot of spare time to invest in myself and also to..
Running is weird. It is completely insane to me how my desire and ability to run varies so drastically with my mental health.
At the start of the year I travelled to South East Asia for 4 months. I carried on my running training for a month or so but the heat and the required 4 am get ups (to avoid the heat) ate me. I was constantly tired, didn't want to meet people or explore, and was generally down. One of the main reasons I was in Vietnam was to 'take a break' from life and I wasn't.
I stopped running, kept on saying I'll start again on day x etc. I got fat and things were generally going downhill. Things were even worse because I wasn't running, wanted to run, but was failing to run. This was extra annoying because I remember when training for the Berlin marathon in 2016 that running in the rain made me the happiest I have ever been.
I ran the New York Marathon in November. I got back on the bandwagon enough to run a sub 3:30. I was happy in the circumstances but generally disappointed. I also injured myself in the process. I took 4 weeks off and I 'think' as of today I have recovered from the injury.
I am running Boston in April. Boston was the one I really wanted to run. I would like to go for sub-3 but in the context it will absolutely never happen. Instead I have opted to go for 3:30 again but significantly better trained (than New York). I hope that in light of not being able to run for time I can run and actually enjoy a a marathon for once.
I am training again now (strictly not 2017) and it is certainly going better than it was. That said I never documented how I felt and how hard it was to motivate when training for Berlin. Motivating yourself to do intervals seems so insanely hard. Surely it wasn't this hard.
I was concerned that Vancouver (see below) would not have hills for hill training. Vancouver does have hills.
Chicago 2018, and London 2019. I am not going to run Tokyo.
I have begun reading again. In 2018 I would like to read a lot more. At times I have been somewhat confused as to why people enjoy reading. I find myself just getting bored and disinterested. Towards the end of the year I worked out that I was just reading the wrong books. Also.. why is it easier to read a real book than on a Kindle?
I’ve been reading a lot of Behavioural Economics books. Part of me would really like to go into research. I have some really interesting ideas pertaining to the interconnect between Economics and Psychology but feel that the academic community is too traditional and unwelcoming. It intrigues me how much further scientific research would have developed had it not become this perverse ‘members only-esque’ club.
Everyone should read When Breath Becomes Air. It is probably the best book I have ever read. Gives you a lot of perspective. Life is short.
Plan for 2018
I begun writing this prior to travelling to Vancouver, Canada. I finished it there.
In a similar manner to the end of 2016 I feel as though I need to recharge and regroup. I am having a holiday. Soul searching exercise. Something like that.
At the Canadian border the customs agent asked me how I had managed to get my boss to give me 2 months off. “My boss is a real nice guy”.
My current thinking is that I may need to change how I approach software. I really wanted to create a consistent income producing business but thus far have been unsuccessful. Over the years I have had numerous discussions with numerous people about cutting losses, and as an Economist I do understand sunk costs. Working behind a screen all day every day has negatively effected my mental health for little gain. When people expect features and bug fixes in a timely manner it is certainly less than ideal if all you want to do is curl up in a ball in the corner.
One thing I am interested in potentially pursuing with Double Negative is a running application to allow the general public to take, upload, and share photos of running races. At the moment there is a oligopoly over the industry whereby a few players extort people who work (and train) hard. I want to build a super simple application to fix that. I am happy to write this publicly because if you think you can do this better than me, please do. It is never the idea. It is the execution.
In addition to the above I have done well enough over the past years to have a bit of flexibility when managing my time. It might be a bit self masturbatory but I would really like to improve myself in 2018. If I can help others in the process, that would be great. I want to do things that I would absolutely never do. I want to broaden my horizons and appreciate what is in front of me. I have come to the conclusion that with a lot of things you have very little to lose and a lot to gain. Volunteering, random acts of kindness, new experiences, impulsiveness. I want to try things. Hopefully I will document them here.
I went to a board game meetup here in Vancouver. I once played some drunken board games with an old friend and it was hilariously fun. I had nothing to lose. I ended up meeting some super cool people from Canada and across the world. Proof of concept.
Some of those people were like ‘Move to Canada’.
Before coming here I was trying to find a new city in the UK in which to live. I visited a number of properties in Manchester (both rentals and houses for sale) as a matter of intrigue. I was completely bemused. The majority of houses were less than nice, the rentals awful. It seems as though in the rental market people have really low standards. The agent was seemingly surprised that I didn’t want to rent a room covered in damp mould (even though he was going to paint over it :S).
The traditional adult thing to do is apparently to buy a home as soon as possible. Nah. Contrary to nearly everyone I know (Why?!) I think this is probably the worst idea ever. I think I am going to be a perpetual renter. Potentially around the world.
Having been in Vancouver a week, it is really nice but a quick Google tells me that buying here ain’t remotely attainable :P
Whilst I am here I think I’ll head down to Seattle and Portland and have a look around. The living situation.. work in progress.
TLDR; More of the same.