The problem with my 2019 resolutions were that too many of them ended up being vague or unrealistic. I was setting goals that were quixotic and foolhardy rather than pragmatic and practical.
I know many people push for the "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars." approach, but empirically that has proven not to be the case for me. This year I wanted to ensure I would ask myself "is this resolution actually feasible?" and "will I truly put in the time to see it through?".
Thus my criteria for 2020 became:
- The resolution cannot be failed before the end of the year.
- The resolution can be realistically achieved in a single year.
- The resolution will receive the necessary time and effort to see it through to fruition.
- The resolution should have concrete completion requirements. Use metrics sparingly as they typically lead to failable resolutions.
- The resolution should facilitate a proactive behaviour, not attempt to correct a negative one.
Amazingly, even in a year sidetracked by the pandemic, this criteria worked exceptionally well. Out of the ten resolutions I came up with only one of them was obviously terrible in hindsight. I lied to myself when asked "will I truly put in the time to see it through?" and there is no criteria I can come up with to force myself to be truthful. My only hope is that these yearly retrospectives allow me to grow and discern the truly beneficial resolutions from misguided obligations.
So without further adieu, let us begin the introspection!
1. ✅ Leave San Francisco / Silicon Valley
On April 16th I left San Francisco in Nessie, my Tesla Model 3, and crossed the border into Canada the morning of April 22nd. Yes, I drove across most of the continental US just one month after the country began to lockdown. I detailed each day of the trip in my April retrospective or you can relive my descent into insanity via my tweets during that time.
It is hard to believe that was only eight months ago because it feels like a lifetime. I drove 4200 kilometers in six days and am already having difficulty recalling parts of it. To a certain extent, because of all the lockdowns and social distancing, I don't feel as if I have left San Francisco. Even though I am back in Toronto, a city I've called home for six years, my brain is still preparing me to get that call to come back to the office on Market Street. Hopefully widespread adoption of the vaccines will return us to some level of normalcy in 2021 and I can start to feel like a true resident of Canada again.
Oh side note, I ended up writing an article detailing how I managed to import my Model 3 into Ontario because I could not find any first-hand testimonies on the Internet. Two gentlemen have already reached out to say how useful it was and provide their own experiences which I have added to the article. Amazingly it is now the number one result on Google when you search for "importing Model 3 into Canada".
2. 🙅🏻♂️ Take more vacations
OK yes, I did not take a single vacation this year but I don't think anyone is going to hold it against me. For the first four months I was alone in San Francisco plotting my escape. Then I spent most of the remaining eight months in lockdown as the residents of Ontario (particularly Toronto) showed they could not act like grownups and curtail the spread of the covid.
Worst case scenario for 2021 is that flying outside of North America remains difficult, if not impossible. But that isn't going to stop me from vacationing around Canada. I would love to go back to both Banff and Vancouver and I still have not visited the Maritimes. Fingers crossed I can get vaccinated before the summer and spend the rest of the year experiencing all The Great White North has to offer.
3. 🤷🏻♂️ Learn to play ice hockey
From my 2020 New Year's Resolutions:
I will consider this resolution a success if I can stick handle a puck from one end of the rink to another (in full gear) and take a decently hard shot ON NET!
Technically I failed this resolution but it was not for lack of trying. I signed up for skating lessons back in January and by March I was in full hockey gear, holding a stick, doing all sorts of skating drills. I was literally suppose to start puck handling the Monday after California started the lockdown. Toronto has even closed down not just public hockey rinks but even the ones meant for leisure skating. That is how serious things have gotten. Canadians are being denied access to ice rinks!!! Isn't that part of our constitution?
4. ✅ Read 13 books
Turns out when you're alone in a foreign city and/or locked down indoors you have a lot more time to read books.
From my 2020 New Year's Resolutions:
In retrospect 13 now seems like a pretty pitiful goal but I guess it is better to blow one of these resolutions out of the water than grossly overestimate myself.
Past me was correct, that was a pretty pitiful goal. I ended up reading 20 books but if you add up the number of pages it was nearly double what I did in 2019, 10,010 vs 5,721.
I'm thinking that this will be one of those resolutions that I carry forward year-to-year where the goal is to equal or beat it. Eventually I'm sure I'll hit some plateau and need to change things up but for 2021 I feel that 20 books is a solid goal to aim for.
5. ✅ Set-up a home office
I was forced into completing this resolution because of the work-from-home situation everyone is finding themselves in. But that does not mean that I half-assed it. This took me a little over five months to put together and I am really satisfied with how it turned out. There is definitely room for improvement but I think it is only going to come when I get my own home with more space.
6. 🙅🏻♂️ End the year below 15% body fat
I started the year out strong. I was already pretty close to 16% body fat and maintained it through July. Unfortunately the pandemic diet caught up and with no ability to strength train I started flirting with 18%. I am trending back down now in December but I fear that without some way to exercise in the winter I'm going to go through a tough couple of months.
I did manage to run 100+ kilometers for multiple months after my arrival in Canada so the drive is there. But not being able to rock climb or have access to a gym with free weights is starting to prove challenging. Refocusing on my diet should help for 2021 but that will probably only get me back to 16%. I know I am never going to hit my goal without putting on some muscle.
7. ✅ Play 24 video games
If you just look at the numbers I crushed this resolution. 42 unique games played. But at the same time, the spirit of the resolution was to try to increase my exposure to games that weren't mainstream. Looking at that list I'd say there are probably only 10 games that could meet that criteria and even some of those are the media darlings of the indie scene that a lot of people already know about. Outside of maybe Bugsnax, Carrion, or Mini Motorways I haven't really been preaching a lot of unknowns.
I am also disappointed in is how few games are from Apple Arcade. I had expected it would be what allowed me to play 24 games but that actually turned out to be Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Microsoft's attempt to become the "Netflix of video games" seems to be working and they have a plethora of titles scheduled for 2021.
8. 🙅🏻♂️ Launch a side project into a friends/family beta
If you go back and read my monthly retrospectives for 2020 you can see all the goals I try to set to kickstart anything that could potential satisfy this resolution. And every time I don't even make the slightest attempt. Even now at the end of the year I don't know why this is happening. I feel that the easy way out is to say that I am no longer interested in programming but that would be lying to myself. I still see myself getting excited from time to time. But there is something about the daunting nature of starting one of these projects that I just can't get over.
In retrospect this is a bad resolution but only because I can now admit to myself that I wasn't being realistic or confident. This resolution was not attempting to reinforce good behaviour but correct bad behaviour, and as I've written before that never seems to work out. All my other resolutions I naturally tried to complete and could look to what I wrote down as a North Star if I was ever unsure what the next step should be. This was the resolution I forced myself to think about the most and still ended up doing the least work for.
9. ✅ Create something physical with my own two hands
From my 2020 New Year's Resolutions:
The point of this resolution is that I want to force myself to create something outside of software. I am not going to make the same mistake as last year where I listed 16 different ways to satisfy a resolution and then did none of them. Instead let's try a few examples to set the tone. Something like woodworking or building something with an Arduino or 3D printing or making miniatures using Hirst Arts molds would satisfy this resolution.
Basically I just want to force myself to step away from the computer and create something that did not exist before.
I used 500 ml of resin to 3D print a variety of miniatures.
I became so enamored with 3D printing that I even wrote a guide on how to get started with the Anycubic Photon S printer. For reasons beyond my understanding, that article has now become the most one on this blog, dwarfing "How I set up a Jenkins node for iOS jobs".
I will admit that I am disappointed I did not stick with it and print more but the resolution was to help me break out of my shell and try something new which is what happened. When I started this retrospective I had thought I failed this resolution but I thought back to the sheer amount of hours I spent researching 3D printing, buying the various components, setting up a desk, actually doing the printing, and then writing that massive guide. I spent easily dozens of hours on this alone so how can I not consider this resolution a success?
10. ✅ Run a half-marathon
On Saturday September 26th I ran 21.1 kilometers in 2 hours 50 seconds. Well off the pace of my San Francisco half-marathons but still nothing to sneeze at.
Going by the strictest interpretation of the rules I managed to complete six of ten resolutions for a 60% success rate. However, two of those resolutions were essentially impossible to complete because of the pandemic and yet I still tried my darnedest for one of them. So if you gave me the benefit of the doubt for one and nixed the other, then I completed seven of nine resolutions for a 78% success rate which would be my best year ever.
I understand I'm toying with the numbers to make things look better. But the point I am trying to make is not that my success rate was so high, but that the resolutions themselves were solid (with that one exception).
Usually I end these retrospectives pointing out the shortcomings of my criteria and what I should change but I don't think anything has too this year. The criteria for 2020 seemed to work out exactly as intended and even succeed during a pandemic. 2021 is going to be another year of social distancing and I think this same criteria is going to help me create the best possible resolutions.#Resolutions