My year consisted of a lot of personal challenges I took on outside of work, being the first year I remained in the same job and apartment for an entire year. My main focus has been on my daily mood, reading and learning, and personal projects, but I still keep a healthy excitement for guitar, cooking, and writing, to name a few. I could go on about specific advancements within my job, but I’ll spare that for the more interesting progress I’ve made to better myself on the whole, some of which has helped my approach to work. It was quite a year, and just a starting point for a great 2016.
Perhaps the largest improvement in my life in some time came through meditation. I was pushed toward meditation by a Tim Ferriss Podcast in which he and Kevin Rose gush over how amazing they feel now that they meditate. Like many overly stressed workaholics, I felt it would be a waste to purposefully spend time not getting anything productive done but my experience with meditation tells me that it is quite the opposite. I began with Headspace and the 10 day challenge, meditating for ten minutes each day. At that point, I was sold. Honestly, by day four, I was sold. The ability to break away from all of the stresses, worries, and constant pressures throughout the day is enormous and empowering. I have begun to see that my daily issues are nothing to stress about and often times are distracting me from the good that I am experiencing elsewhere. I meditate regularly still and plan to continue, likely with longer meditations, such as those by the Honest Guys on YouTube.
In addition to meditating, the biggest daily habit I’ve added has been writing in a journal. I only spend ten minutes or so each day, mostly in the mornings, but it’s been helpful as a release for thoughts that sit in my head all day, without an escape. I don’t show this to anyone, and don’t reread it myself, but the act of writing is incredibly powerful.
Perhaps the most important area I’ve cultivated in 2015 to improve my mood has been rituals in general. I strongly believe in decision fatigue, that regardless of the decision being made, from what to wear, to what to eat, to how to solve a difficult problem, people lose their will to make decisions as the day progresses. Rituals have helped me greatly with this, in which I eat, wear, and do many of the same things every day. Check out Daily Rituals for some interesting tidbits on the rituals of history’s great artists, and confirmation that you don’t need to wake up at 4am and run five miles to be great.
Aslihan (my wonderful girlfriend) and I have been reading the same books, for the most part, since we began dating in 2013. Our first date began the first session of our book club after we bought two copies of Water for Elephants. The majority of my 2015 reading list was shared by her. I highly suggest finding a friend or group to share books with, it helps enlighten you to deeper meanings within the story that you may not recognize.
Reading became a much larger focus for me toward the end of 2015 thanks to some inspiration from Tony Robbins. Robbins is a master motivator and talks about reading 600 books in 6 years during his teenage years. I’ve followed his lead by doing speed reading exercises to increase my words read per minute, predominately by suppressing the voice in my head, and have allowed myself to dream big about how many books I can read in a year (30, 40, 50?!).
I point all of this out because I believe my attention to reading was possibly the greatest lesson I learned in 2015. I got an in depth look at life in Turkey prior to and during WWI through Louis de Bernières’ Birds without Wings, a novel I recommend to everyone, particularly those without knowledge of how various religions coexisted in the Middle East before the arrival of Europeans. The parallel story within the book about Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) is an amazing history lesson also. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera was another gem we read, and one that I’m not sure I would have fully understood without Aslihan’s help. The story touches on the interacting lives of several characters and the differences in each of our perceptions. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life provided me the best insight into the building of our nation that I’ve read and a man born at a time that could fully intake and exploit his qualities. Finally, I finished the year with How Asia Works by Joe Studwell, an amazing breakdown of the policies and actions that led Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and China (after ’78) to succeed following WWII. This book broke down my preconceptions for how a nation can and should control its agriculture, manufacturing, and finance to become a successful, wealthy state. I read several others, 10 in all, and each provided a new, great perspective for me. 2016 gives me the opportunity to read more, learn more, and teach more. I have lists and lists of books to read and have increased my focus by planning 50 pages per day. Check out my reading lists on Goodreads and look out for articles specific to some of these selections.
I thought when I started at Google I would be crushing the classes they offer with vigor. I’ve been troubled by my lack of action and believe it is because of my lack of attention. I feel as though various subjects that I want to learn, particularly higher levels of statistics, machine learning, and Python coding, are not used in my daily life enough that I need to move on to the next level in a more structured way. Without the knowledge of these techniques, how can I really understand what I need to learn and how it may apply to my daily job and goals. I have 2 classes I will finish in January 2016, plan to see an article about those and how I feel they have helped me in and out of work.
Music is a subject near and dear to my heart and I believe there is a huge opportunity in the music recommendation area. I’ve been working on something, stay tuned.
Beyond the music work, I still help PDQ, my mom’s healthcare advertising company, with monthly emails to consumers. Digital business is becoming a focus of theirs, particularly as they look for exit opportunities, and it is up to me to facilitate builing the products that will provide increased value for their customers. Without the help of healthcare companies this may be difficult, but there is certainly opportunity for improvement on the current situation.
Guitar has been in and out of my life for stretches since I first began in 2012. I love the relaxation it provides but don’t create enough time for it. 2016 will include a renewed focus on playing, if only to help myself relax and stay balanced. I was able to learn the Beatles’ “Rocky Raccoon” in just a few weeks at the end of 2015, but my playing must move from regurgitating songs to feeling out chords and getting hooked on the tunes.
I attended a few weddings this year, in Seattle, DC, and Long Island. This took up much of my travel time, although I can’t complain at all. Seattle is a beautiful town that deserves more of my time and was more of a reunion with friends than anything. My trip to DC was my first in over 15 years, and my interest in politics in that time made it spectacular. A long run from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial was just what I had needed. Finally, a long weekend on the island for my sister’s wedding was unbelievable.
Washington DC was unique in this situation because I made sure I had some time to myself in the city. As with most weddings I’ve been to, the rest of that trip and those to Seattle and Long Island were more about the couple than my personal exploring. Planning to see a city in the 36 hours of a wedding weekend is unreasonable and I’ll need to put time aside for exploring and stepping out beyond the typical sightseeing.
2016 will feature far more traveling, to Ireland with my family, Charleston with friends, and probably a personal adventure of sorts.
Many other areas captivate me and sit in that happy area of my passions and possible careers, notably cooking. I plan to do far more in the coming year, particularly more time intensive, focused cooking by making more complex meals that require concentrated time and planning.
2016 is already off and running. As you can tell by now, I’m trying to write more, and share this writing with whoever will read it. If you have any feedback, opinions, or just want to chat, send me an email at [email protected].