2016 was pivotal for me. I threw in the towel on startup I'd been working on for several years; I moved from New York City to Rio de Janeiro and back; and, most importantly, I dug myself out of a personal and professional rut.
As I write this, it's January 2017. I'm happy to say that the healthy habits I started forming a year ago are still in place. I'm writing this post to acknowledge the work that's gone into the last year, and as motivation to keep moving forward in 2017.
It was hard to leave New York knowing I might never come back. But the move turned out to be just what I needed. The new environment helped me let go of patterns that weren't serving me.
Cheaper rent meant I could afford my own office. Without the distractions of working from home, I could stay focused and productive for long stretches of time. I found that the more I got done, the more I wanted to do.
Something happens to your sense of time when you live somewhere new. My first month in Rio felt equivalent to three months worth of "regular" life back in New York. Because I only had a short time there, I made an effort to do things every day. I woke up early to hike or run or watch the sunrise. I thought, why can't real life be like this? When I left Rio for Buenos Aires, I had to start over again. I noticed once more how my emotional state changed with a new environment. I started off comparing and resisting the differences between the two cities. Eventually I stopped resisting enough to notice the wonderful things. As it turns out, different ≠ worse. It occurred to me that this process happens over and over again in life. It's silly to fight it.
Going into 2016, I asked myself three questions: What do I want to have accomplished a year from now? What new habits do I want to form? Who do I want to be a year from now?
Plenty of solitude, introspection, and writing allowed me to name and accept what I know deep down to be true.
Writing was crucial to this process of self-reflection and realization. I started blogging in January because I wanted to get better at writing. Halfway through the year I stopped publishing blog posts, but I didn't stop writing altogether. Instead, I started free writing using a website called 750words.com.
I've been free writing since July, 2016. Since then, I've written over 100,000 words. I was skeptical at first, but it's become sort of like therapy for me. Now I use free writing to help think through decisions when planning or designing.
I learned that certainty is one of six fundamental human needs. In 2016, after years of working for myself, I finally realized that the best way for me to meet my need for certainty is by having a routine and sticking to it. A routine makes me feel collected and productive. Now I know that no matter where I go, I have to keep my routine if I want to be in good place.
Time blocking helped me spend time doing things I value. I got in the habit of writing down everything I want to do in a month and then blocking off time on the calendar to actually get it done. I found this method actually works for me.
Fully aware of how much time I had been wasting on social media, I installed a Chrome plugin called Facebook News Feed Eradicator. It's like an ad blocker for news feed content. This one simple plugin helped me break my news feed habit. I stopped reading news on Facebook and I read books instead. Around the same time, I listened to podcasts instead of music while working out and commuting. As a result, I read many more books in 2016 than I did in 2015, and I learned a lot from both the books and the podcasts.
2016 was a year of reinvention. The most important thing I did was figure out how to tell my story and whom to tell it to. After we shutdown our startup, I had to decide what to do next. I thought about my past experiences, what I'm good at, and what I love to do. Then I started networking. I emailed over 100 people and I met with a lot of them. I listened to their feedback. I refined my story. Then I talked to more people. This process repeated for months, until I got it right. Eventually I had a portfolio I was proud of and I was interviewing with some amazing companies.
I realized this process can never stop. You have to constantly tell, re-tell, and adjust your story.
Rio de Janeiro. Buenos Aires. New York City. Toronto.
São Paulo. Salvador, Brazil. Praia do Forte, Bahia. Ilha Grande, Brazil. Iguazu Falls, Brazil and Argentina. Fitz Roy Mountain and Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina. Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina aka the most southern city on the planet.
Seeing the sunrise the last night of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Riding a motorcycle to the top Morro Dois Irmãos for sunrise. Being the only person on Lopes Mendes Beach on Ilha Grande, Brazil. Seeing the Perito Moreno Glacier up close. Hiking up Fitz Roy Mountain in Patagonia and discovering I'm an INTP personality type. That night at Club 69 and that other night at Negroni in Buenos Aires.Living without a phone for 3 months while in Brazil and Argentina. Getting lost on the city bus from Salvador to Praia do Forte. Taking a helicopter ride over Manhattan. Interviewing with Google.
Waking up early most days. Having a morning routine. Writing daily, weekly, and monthly to-do lists and blocking time in my calendar to do the work. Writing every day. Dedicating time to read books. Listening to podcasts instead of music while working out. Taking and/or editing one photo a day. Breaking my Facebook habit. Using the Notes app to capture thoughts, lists, plans, ideas, links, quotes, etc. I wrote 1,178 notes in 2016. Running regularly.
47 blog posts. 11 case studies.
The Art of Travel. On Writing Well (I read this twice). INTP. The Design of Everyday Things. Don’t Make Me Think. Sprint. Waking Up. Sapiens. Intercom on Product Management. How Not To Be Wrong. On Writing Thinking, Fast and Slow. Replay. Rework. Partially read: The Second Machine Age. How Google Works. The Hard Thing About Hard Things. Never Split the Difference. Walden.