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2021 Annual Review

2021 Annual Review

When writing annual reviews in public, it's tempting to proclaim "this year was the best ever!" Maybe it lends some kind of credibility to the author. But to be honest, last year wasn't my best year ever. A lot of great things happened, but those great things were undergirded by a growing sense of exhaustion--exhaustion that eventually lead to burn out.

As always I am stealing James Clear's simple annual review questions:

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go so well this year?
  3. What am I working toward?

What went well this year?

I took a bunch of online courses

Online education and Cohort Based Courses were all the rage last year. Maybe they were overhyped, but I'm still very bullish on CBCs. It's a great way to meet likeminded people, learn something you really care about, and often the quality of education is much higher than you'd get at a traditional institution.

Here's a few courses that I really enjoyed:

I made new friends and deepened existing friendships

I've met some incredible friends via twitter and online courses. This year I even got to meet a few of them in person :)

An extra shoutout to:

  • Tasshin Fogleman (for metta-pilling me)
  • Sasha Chapin (for scent-pilling me)
  • the book club boyz
  • the Non-Coercion Collective
  • Around & About

I got to travel

I got to travel a decent amount considering the whole pandemic thing.

Palm trees over a pool in Hawaii
  • Finally got to see "O" live in person, a bucket list item of mine since middle school.
  • Explored LA with old and new friends
  • Paddled through electric blue bioluminescent microorganisms in the San Juans
  • Relaxed on the beach in Hawaii

Other wins

  • Mentored BASB twice
  • Learned how to write freely without editing myself every 5 words
  • Ran my first "cohort based course"
  • Reached 1000 subscribers on YouTube (published 35 videos this year)
  • Got a new job

What didn't go so well

I burnt out

Burn out feels like something wall street bankers or crazy entrepreneurs go through, working 80 hour weeks month after month until they snap.

So when I started getting more irritable, I felt like I wasn't allowed to burn out. I work from home! I have flexible hours! I've been remote for years!

But all the signs were there: exhaustion, cynicism, inefficiency.

I was tired all the time, stress eating, not wanting to exercise.

I got frustrated with my boss and my coworkers and my work.

The quality of my work was slipping and I kept pushing deadlines back and back.

Instead of acknowledging the signs I ran from it. I signed up for an excessive amount of online courses, seeking connection and a place to hide. There's your first warning sign: an introvert seeking extra connection.

When the pandemic hit, I thought I would fare okay. I had already been working remote for a few years, and I recharge by spending time alone.

But there's a big difference between working remotely from a co-working space, and working remotely from home. On top of that, 2021 was the first year where I was the only remote employee. With everyone else working together in person, I would inevitably miss out in tiny, inconsequential ways that weren't so inconsequential.

Saying good morning, water cooler chat about the weather, sharing lunches--unless the entire company is remote, these things can't be replaced by the occasional zoom meeting.

Through the summer and into fall the situation was getting progressively worse, and I still didn't want to admit it.

Labelling yourself as a productivity blogger does not bode well when your own productivity drops off a cliff. This internal conflict between my online identity and my results at my day job made the situation worse.

Instead of taking the time to rest I doubled down on my side-projects. I made more youtube videos and ramped up my productivity coaching. I thought if I could somehow bootstrap my way into being a successful content creator I could escape from the feeling of being trapped--a feeling which really only existed in my mind.†

I was withdrawing from my friends and my family and my partner. Everyone around me knew I was burnt out before I allowed myself to know I was burnt out.

In September, my boss called me on the phone, and offered a referral to another job.

My boss and coworkers had been nothing but supportive, but the arrangement just wasn't working out the way we had hoped.

I wrapped up my projects, and took some time off to do nothing.

What am I working toward?

A big part of moving forward is taking the time to recover. I haven't been posting as much here or on YouTube, largely because I want to get back into these things at my own pace. I'll let that flywheel restart when the urge to create starts building again.

Personal Development

I'd like to avoid a situation like this from happening again. To that end, I'm going to continue learning how to access my emotions more skillfully. I'd like to practice embracing rather than running from conflict. I'm convinced that listening to and respecting my wants and emotions will be a huge step up for me.

There's a whole host of techniques and mindsets which I am excited to explore further:

  • Metta
  • Alexander Technique
  • Non-coercion
  • IFS
  • Focusing

This kind of work will help me build stronger relationships, with my friends, my family, and with May.

New Job

I'm actually really excited about my new job. I've been working as a Research Scientist for a fusion energy startup in Washington. Yes it's a similar title at a similar company as my last job, but my new role has different projects, a different focus, a full sized lab, and plenty of coworkers to complain about the coffee machine with.

The new job is a much better situation for me, but that doesn't mean it doesn't come with its own challenges. I'm having to re-learn how to work in person, deal with a commute, and how to carve out a space for myself in a rapidly growing startup.

This blog and YouTube

In 2022 I hope to write and talk much more about non-coercive productivity. Despite my setbacks last year I've learned a ton about living without coercion. I'm excited to share that exploration with you.

2021 was a tough year for me, but overall I'm incredibly grateful for what I have, the position I'm in, and especially for the people who supported me.

Here's to an excellent 2022!

† I still think a pivot to online solopreneur is possible. But for me, an attitude of scarcity is not the platform to launch that from.