I am really bad at taking vacations – the last time I tried to take a couple days off, I ended up writing most of a short programming book (which I put out at the end of last month) and getting started with my author/publisher relationship with Pluralsight. So instead of relaxing at all, I took on two more projects.
The last two weeks were quite different. No work, lots of books, and a flight to Los Angeles four days ago. My girlfriend and I spent New Year’s there, which marks (as far as I can remember) the first time I’ve spent New Year’s “on vacation”. Los Angeles is truly one-of-a-kind: it felt like we were immediately welcomed the minute we step foot out of our plane. We spent a day on the beach, nights in clubs, and a ton of time with some of our greatest friends. I feel like Los Angeles is my second home, after only a short time there. I’m excited to go back as soon as possible; it feels like so many incredible things are going on all the time that the entire city is basically its own living thing. It’s incredible to plug into, even for just a bit.
This year was spent working really hard – it’s been a lot of headaches and stress, but the eventual goal was to free myself up to do more interesting things this year. I’ve spent time building complex systems at Simple, teaching at Pluralsight, and experiments on smaller content on Kindle and YouTube. I think that people underestimate their ability to be flexible – it’s great to do one thing and do that really well, but what if you can do a couple things where you thought you only had room for one? What if the thing you’re doing isn’t the right thing? Why not “taste test” a couple things throughout the year?
We’re only a couple days into 2016 and instead of being home tonight like expected, I’ve ended up in Salt Lake City, with a flight home later this morning. I didn’t expect to be here, but as we landed, I realized that a thing like flight plans going completely haywire would have been handled a lot differently by my old self, say, eight months ago.
I spent a fair amount of time this year reading the Stoics – primarily Marcus Aurelius and Seneca – also Ryan Holiday’s great modern summation, “The Obstacle is the Way”. I don’t think I was aware of how well I had internalized their work until today: ending up in Utah is amusing and interesting, not stressful, not the end of the world. The obstacle is the way – the present is what matters, not the future. I was supposed to be home, but instead this turns out to be one of the more interesting January 3rds I have. How different would this day have been if I would’ve been afraid of anything and everything going wrong, like it did?
I’ve had the good fortune to work on a lot of interesting things over the last year. I still love programming, and I love the work I’ve done in new tools and paradigms I had no experience with in the past. Over the next year, I’m going to push myself harder to learn completely new things – for instance, the entire field of machine learning and neural networks has been out-of-reach without ever finishing calculus in school. This would have seemed insurmountable to me in the past. It’s now an interesting challenge. I’m also going to work on a couple smaller projects. My last side project was overly ambitious and was infinite in scope – now, I’m building things that start really small and are easily verifiable and testable. This decision was no doubt due to the introduction of Lean Startup and Scrum books over the last year.
This last year has been setup for 2016 to be great. More travel, more interesting work, more diversification. I have a lot of crazy plans and I’ve spent the last two weeks not working on them, but allowing myself to dream a bit bigger and how to get from this point in time to where I know I can be in 365 days.
I don’t believe in resolutions – I think ambitious goal-setting because of an arbitrary date change is just a way to procrastinate. Instead, I’m thinking of each project and goal that I have as part of a larger “sprint”, where the project is simply this year as a whole.
Move fast, break things, don’t look back. Those are my plans for this year. It’s going to be awesome. As always, you can find out what I’m working on (and keep me accountable) via my Now page.