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Annual Review 2021 part 2: the year ahead

Annual Review 2021 part 2: the year ahead
Tegernsee, Bavaria with the Alps in the background. More hiking this year please.

Happy New Year! Welcome to part two of the review. Yesterday I posted the year in review. Today I look forward at the year ahead.

Overview:

2021: the year in review (part 1 - click here)

  1. Highlights
  2. Main themes: writing, running and breaking through with our dog
  3. Lessons
  4. Memories

2022: the year ahead (part 2)

  1. Writing
  2. Building
  3. Other goals

2022: the year ahead

My two major pursuits this year will be writing and building.

1. Writing:

In 2021 I proved to myself that I can publish on a regular basis.

This year I want to increase my serendipity. Writing is very beneficial in and of itself, but you also need an audience to read your work and engage with your ideas.

Patrick McKenzie (Software as a Service expert, currently at Stripe) describes it as the luck surface area = Doing * Telling. Whether you work in corporate or as a creator, it’s not enough to only do the work, you also need to let people know what you are doing. You need to promote your work to create your own luck. From Patrick’s podcast with David Perell:

“It is too easy to hide your lamp under a bushel, to think that [...] I’m just going to do the best work possible and I will naturally be rewarded for that. And the world is not set up to reward people just for doing great work.”

This year I want to take my lamp out from under the bushel.

Here are my metrics (captured at the start of December '21):

Updated snapshot on 31 December 2021:

  • 11 essays
  • 2 newsletters (as Twitter threads) that I back-link to  my site
  • Twitter followers: 353
  • Subscribers: 37
  • Page views: 516

I know I can only control the 'controllables' - the number of essays I publish and the number of threads I create on Twitter. The doing part.

The last three metrics are out of my control. I will gain followers, subscribers and page views by continuing to write and by continuing to put my ideas out there.

What I didn’t think about before, but realize now, is that I can control the telling part as well. This year I want to not only write, but also promote my ideas to increase my luck surface area.

For the doing part (the actual writing) my main goals are:

  • 20 Essays. I don’t have a fixed cadence, but I’m aiming to get out one piece every other week.
  • 50 curation pieces. In addition to the essays, I want to create curation threads on Twitter. A curation of five to ten highlights from the previous week. A combination of things I created (essays, threads) and consumed (books, music, funny tweets).
  • Incorporate design and drawings in my writing. This is one of my drawings from my essay on resilience. I scribbled it out in 2 minutes and got lots of positive feedback. The sketches help to make the words come alive.
Development goal for 2022 - more sketches

For the telling part (the promoting) my main goals are:

  • Experiment with publishing across different platforms: LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Medium, HackerNews and Mirror. Especially interested in Mirror. It is a Web3 publishing platform, where your essay is published as an NFT that can be traded.
  • Improve my website and “Start here” page.
  • Improve my tech skills.  Learn how to use no-code tools. I have some background in coding (through work mostly), but no formal education. No-code offers the building blocks to set up websites and host an online business without a deep understanding of coding.
  • Create more atomic essays. Easier to capture via screenshot and easier to share.

Let’s see what constant publishing and smart promotion do to the numbers above. Here's to expanding my “luck surface area”.

2. Building:

I want to earn my first $1 online this year.

This is a goal I mentioned in my essay on the creator economy in October.

I know I want to be a creator, but I don't know what I want to create yet. I am somewhere on the squiggly line below.

There are two steps to becoming a creator as I see it:

  • Figure out your personal monopoly
  • Experiment with different ideas

Personal monopoly:

The internet rewards people that carve out a specific niche, no matter how small. As I mentioned in my 12 Favourite Problems, I want to figure out my personal monopoly. What is my unique intersection of skills, interests and personality traits where I can be known as the best thinker on a topic?

Currently I am interested in a variety of different topics. I am exploring the possibilities. Seeing what works and what doesn’t. What feels good to write about and what doesn’t. From this I will figure out my niche and figure out what I am the best at.

Most of my pieces currently focus on the creator economy, philosophy, stoicism (as captured in my essays on memory and resilience) and the practice of writing. I am also curious about web3 and crypto. In the next year, I want to narrow this down or find the intersection of all these topics.

I also want to write more about my work. Currently the things I do in my job and the topics I write about are very separate. I did one essay on distraction in November, which was my first foray into applying ‘actuarial’ thinking to a problem I face (the constant distraction from my phone).

Experiments:

I have a couple of ideas that could be quite fun. Let’s see if they can be monetized.

Creators’ Corner. I admire creators. I admire people that take a bet on themselves and build their own side hustles and businesses. My Creator Economy essay was also the essay I enjoyed writing the most and the essay that got the most traction online. I want to profile the best creators out there… writers, musicians, YouTubers, startup founders, you name it. I want to talk about not only their projects, but also the philosophy behind it all. Why did they break away from corporate? What is the fire in their belly?

Bot. Create a Twitter bot that captures the best quotes from Paul Graham. I'm a big fan of his work.

Writing templates. Templates explaining the process and behind-the-scenes of writing. I believe in the benefits of writing and I want to encourage more people to consider sharing things in their own capacity.

Web3 and crypto. I want to continue exploring new projects. Curate and write content for the Shiny Objects Social Club.

The Accidental Actuary. This is something that came up in a conversation with fellow Write of Passage member, Michael Sklar. I can write more about my work and this can create an easier circle of content. Write and tweet about the work I do. Share more essays about my job and the interesting applications of actuarial science.

3. Other goals:

Outside of writing and building something online, I have a few other goals and calls to action.

Family. Navigate living in Germany and seeing my family in South Africa for a month or two each year. Remote work is the best way forward here.

Outdoors. I feel like I didn’t make the most of the beautiful surroundings outside Munich this year. We live on the foot of the Alps. In 2022 I want to do more hiking, skiing, trail running.

Races. I didn’t do any races in 2021. Shocking! I finally cracked 40 minutes on a 10km in 2020. This year I want to go sub 89 minutes on 21km.

Dopamine control. Take a break from the phone more often. Learn to switch off and be more present. Twitter can wait. I need to use technology to my benefit. It shouldn’t manage me.

Learn to say ‘no’ more often. I like to please others, but when I am over-committed, I tend to under-deliver. Respectfully declining events, turning down certain projects and not clicking on every latest course to boost followers is a good way forward.

Conflict. Something I learned while working with an executive coach this year is that I actively avoid conflict. But conflict is good sometimes. It’s better to talk things out.

Mental health and being kind to myself. I was really anxious early in November. I had made a commitment to myself that I would publish an essay every week. It’s good to have ambitious goals, but the pressure of a weekly cadence didn’t work for me. It became a big monkey on my back. After a few dark days, I changed my view from I ‘have to’ publish every week to I’ll publish when a piece is ready. There is no point forcing things. Too much pressure is counter-productive.

Support. Remember to help younger people navigate the world (careers, life, ambitions). Support my friends, colleagues and connections better and promote their work more. Get more people into writing.


Here's to a great 2022! I'd love to hear what your goals and ambitions are for this year. Remember to take your lamp out from under the bushel.


Thanks to Jess Schanz for reading drafts of this essay.