A reflection on business, family, and my quantified self. See also: 2018, 2015, 2014, 2013.
This year cemented my transition into adulthood. Sure, I’ve had kids for several years but those were awkward years like being a teenager is awkward. It’s only after you’ve sent your first off to kindergarten, coached her soccer team, and sat on a city advisory committee that you know you’ve made it.
Jump to: Unnamed Startup | Instagrammin’ | Book Recommendations
My greatest professional accomplishment of the year: taking off the entire month of June.
We kicked things off by traveling to Japan with my parents. They’ve never been to Asia before, so it was a great introduction for them. After landing in Tokyo, we spent a few days in Hakone, a hill town just south. One highlight was the private onsen (outdoor hot springs) in our Airbnb. From Hakone, we went to Kyoto for a bunch of sightseeing (while staying in another amazing Airbnb), and then wrapped up their trip with a couple days in Tokyo. After saying goodbye to my parents, Leah and I took the kids up to Sapporo for a week, and then recovered from the Japan jet lag with a week in Maui. Rough, I know. For the last week of June, I went fishing in Alaska with my dad, uncles, cousin, and some other dudes.
I consider this epic adventure to be a professional accomplishment because:
- I literally didn’t do any work for the entire month.
- Most self-employed are horrible at taking time off, and end up working even when they’re “on vacation”.
- Amazingly, I didn’t have to deal with any client fires, and none of my clients fired me.
Taking a full month off every couple of years seems like a good life strategy.
Food Blogger Pro
If you read last year’s Year in Review, you might’ve noticed I was starting a new full-time job. And I did! And then I left a few months later.
Don’t worry, I still work for them as a contractor. I’d like to think everything is peachy. Hi Bjork! ?
The folks at Food Blogger Pro are absolutely wonderful people who I love to work with. Full-time wasn’t a good fit for a few specific personal reasons:
- As a contractor, my income is diversified across several clients. As a full-time employee, I only had one source of income. Unexpectedly, I felt less job security when I thought I would feel more.
- I lost a significant amount of the agency that comes with being self-employed (e.g. take vacation whenever you want, attend conferences, write off various web tools, etc.). Notably, I had already planned my June month off and didn’t feel quite right about doing so as a full-time employee.
- I didn’t feel like there was the proper incentive for me to invest as much of my creative energy as possible.
For me, the lesson learned was that, even though Food Blogger Pro was a really great job by all objective measures, I have a pretty high bar to exceed.
In July, my business partner and I started working together on a new company. We haven’t picked a name yet, nor launched, and that’s just fine by us!
One of the things that’s going really well: only working on the company part-time. This has greatly reduced my stress, and prevents the startup from impinging on family life. Because both my partner and I are able to meet our financial needs with part-time consulting, we have essentially infinite runway to find product/market fit. Or market/founder/product fit. Or whateveryoucallit.
We’ve also found a pretty good cadence. We get together every six weeks (either him traveling down to me or me up to him) and set OKRs for our next six week period. Having OKRs keeps us from constantly questioning our direction; having time together gives us the opportunity for us to have much deeper conversations and course-correct as necessary.
The worst cliché in business is that having a partner is like marriage without the sex. I’m happy (?) to report that it’s true. A business partnership is an emotionally-fraught relationship, with lots of ups and downs. We’re fortunate that we’ve already been able to work through a few rough patches. I’d like to think we’re getting better at reconciling our differences too.
Ironically, because I have something on the side to work on, I’m also enjoying my consulting work much more.
After Ava started kindergarten this year, we went from somewhat flexible routine to fully assimilated into the system. I’m amazed we manage to get her to the bus stop every morning at 7:20. It’s been a pretty great experience for her though. She’s attending Bridgeport Elementary, where I went too, and is in the “two-way immersion program”. Her Spanish accent is already quite good.
Charlie is bumping along being his happy self. Every Tuesday and Thursday he enjoys hanging out with his high school buddies in the Tiny Timberwolves program. At home, he enjoys playing Uno with Ava for hours and will soon be catching up to her on a two-wheeler.
Leah continues to find opportunities to define herself beyond the all-consuming role of “mom”. Notably, she took a wood block printing class this fall and produced some fabulous art. As a mom, she’s proud of the effort she put towards helping Ava grow as a reader.
Outside of work, I really enjoyed participating in the Tualatin 2040 Community Advisory Committee. Along with HB 2001, the Housing Needs Analysis and Economic Opportunity Analysis documents we produced are foundational elements to what I hope will be transformative policy changes in the near future.
Here are some highlights of the year from Instagram:
According to Goodreads, I read 50 books over the year (with an original goal of 30). Of this set, my favorites were:
- The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un, Bright Sun of the Twenty-first Century. The truth is stranger than fiction. A super fascinating read if you want to understand North Korea beyond what limited perspective the media provides.
- Camino Sunrise-Walking With My Shadows: One reluctant pilgrim packs a weighty load on a 500-mile path. Super fun book by Andrew’s dad that’ll make you want to walk the Camino.
- Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice. Legitimately a “real-life political thriller”. It’s hard to believe it’s real.
More so though, the following books excelled in the category of “surprisingly insightful explanations of underappreciated topics”:
- Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions
- Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic
- Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity
I couldn’t recommend these three highly enough.
According to Strava, I ran 775 miles in 121 runs (average of 6.4 miles per run), way down from last year’s 167 runs. I’m still working out 5-6 days/week, so I think this is because I’ve added soccer and walking to my weekly routine.
According to TripIt, I traveled 29,170 miles in 43 days on 7 trips. Japan was my furthest destination. I also went to Maui, Alaska, Tuscon, Boston, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia. Independent of my long trip, travel was way down and it felt good! I like doing things around home these days.
Life is pretty good right now, so I don’t think I have any goals that would move the needle on my personal happiness.
One thing we’ve been doing as a family, which is working quite well, is creating a seasonal bucket list:
These aren’t things we have to do, but things we’d like to do. If we do them, great; if we don’t do them, no worries. Putting our bucket list on a whiteboard in a laundry room serves as a gentle reminder on the bigger picture items we’d like to accomplish.
For 2020, a few of my bucket list items might include:
- Getting my boater education card.
- Figuring out a system for the kids to earn and save money.
- Finding a good volunteer opportunity for the entire family.
- A fun weekend getaway for Leah and I.
I’m also pretty tempted to get back into flying…
Inspiring, as always. Greetings of the season to you and your family, Daniel 🙂
Sounds like a great year! I’m impressed with your ability to set aside so much time for reading, congrats on hiting 50 books!