Archive for January, 2019
On my “2018: Annual Review” post, I’ve mentioned my Jar of Awesome as something that went well last year. So, let me expand on that, going all the way back to the year of 2012…
What is that blur I see?
In late 2011, I spent a couple of days reflecting on my life and came to the realization that the memories of many years were a blur. The good habit I once had of expressing gratitude simply vanished. I then decided to start keeping track of my gratitude again.
I then created a note in Evernote named “Gratitude – 2012”, tagged “gratitude”. In that note, I’d add whatever things I was grateful for. Sometimes I wouldn’t realize I was grateful for something and wouldn’t write it down. Sometimes I’d say to to myself “I’ll write it when I get a chance”, and would simply forget to do it. That year, I wrote down 22 things I was greatful for.
I continued doing that every year since. In 2013, I only wrote down 2 things, and in 2014, 6 things. I had to kick it up a notch.
Comes 2015, I write down 100 things! In 2016, 201 things!! Now we’re talking…
Why’s that important?
As the years went by, I went back to those lists to fill up my mind with good things that happened. Quite often I’d read something I had forgotten about: maybe I had been grateful to something someone did for me, and that was a good reminder for me to get in touch with that person, checking how he or she was doing, and maybe express my gratitude to the person again (heck, maybe at the time I had felt grateful but never told the person about it).
This type of approach has helped me keep the momentum when life’s good. But most importantly, it has helped me remember that if the current moment or day isn’t so great, I’ve had better days, and I can probably have it again!
What changed since 2016?
My gratitude note for 2017 only has 60 items. That’s ok, though. At one point in that year I started using The Five-Minute Journal, which features a section to write three things I’m thankful for on a daily basis. At the end of the year I scanned to pages and stored in Evernote.
While all of my previous ways to track gratitude had been working out well, I wanted to give it more exposure, so for 2018 I decided to try something different and implemented the Jar of Awesome. The jar was placed on a counter close to where I normally drop my backpack off every day as I get back from work, so it was very easy to be reminded to take a moment and think about things I’m grateful for.
The placement of the jar is also an invite for my family to join in! While they’re still somewhat shy, I’m no longer the only one expressing gratitude in this way.
Within about three months, the jar was full, and we had to move on to a bigger one! Whenever we’re writing down things we’re grateful for and putting it in the jar, we say “we’re making a deposit”.
Comes December 31st, the bigger jar is completely full!
So, what’s next?
The question as the year ended was: “Now what? What do we do with those little piece of papers?”.
One aspect I liked about my previous ways of tracking gratitude was that I could easily go back in time and review it, relive moments, reach out to people. How can I have the same sort of experience with the jar? Here’s what I came up with: every morning, my wife and I pick 10 gratitude “deposits” each, and we read out loud each one, reliving the experiences for a quick moment, and charging up for a new day.
So far, we have already opened 460 deposits and it looks like there’s still 40 or so to go!! After we’re done opening all of them, we’ll burn it to send it out to the universe. 🙂
The jar is currently receiving deposits for 2019. May it be full again by the end of the year!
I’m going to be speaking at the AgileShift Conference in April!
I’ll be delivering my current favorite talk, for which I’ve been receiving great feedback from people who have seen it (ranging from software developers, QA, business analysts, product owners, etc.):
Testing in Agile: From Afterthought to an Integral Part
Testing cannot be an afterthought; it has to be an integral part of software development. Is it something that QA teams do? Or is it part of a developer’s duties? Do business analysts play any role in it? What is test automation? Unit test, Integration test, Test-Driven Development, Behavior-Driven Development… what do those mean?! This session addresses all of those questions, as we talk through the importance of tests, the collaboration among team members, the techniques, and practices around different kinds of automated testing.
I hope to see you at the conference! 🙂
As per my 2017 Annual Review, these were the things I mentioned I was working toward:
1. Way to exercise outside of DST
2. More consistent way to work on music
3. Beyond the Track
4. New language on Duolingo
5. Public classes
So, allow me to ponder over those things, and add on top of it…
What went well in 2017?
Jar of Awesome: I’ve adopted the idea of having a Jar of Awesome (first read it on Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans book), and on January 1st of 2018, I’ve put a jar in a place that’s easily visible and accessible at home. By December 31st, the jar was full of reminders of our gratitude throughout the year!
Riding Trip in Europe: This is a bucket list type of endeavor. Back in late 2017, I’ve seen a post about this tour. I knew that was something my wife and I would love to do, so I had set it as a goal for 2018, which we have accomplished!
Learning Other Languages: I continued using Duolingo to learn and practice other languages. I’ve finished Italian, continued practicing it for a couple of months, and then a started and finished German. Both languages came in handy for my trip to Europe mentioned above. Last year I mentioned I was running my longest streak ever on Duolingo, at 144 days. I went all the way up to 300+ days, but ended up breaking the chain after completing one day a few minutes after the counter resets. That’s ok: I started over and am now back to a streak of 175 days! For almost a year I had my daily goal set to 50 XP, but I had to lower it to 20 a few months ago. I figured it’s better to lower it than break the chain, and will likely go up to 50 soon.
Meditation: my last year’s post shows a streak of 236 of meditation. I got over 300+ days. But then, there was one bad day that threw me off, and the chain was broken. It’s ok; I started all over the next day! I’m now running a 140-day streak. I’ve just passed 1000 sessions overall, which makes me happy. Some days are easier than others, but it’s important to keep the practice every single day.
Beyond the Track: last year I’ve mentioned that this was going to be something I’d be working towards. And I really did! I’ve held one meetup every month, the entire year. I was also the main speaker for most of the meetings, and edited/published videos of all meetings so that people who couldn’t attend were at least able to watch it online (and a good number of people did!).
SportBike Track Riding: I enjoyed so much riding my bike at track days in 2017, I planned to do the same in 2018. Well, I did more than twice as many track days! I’ve been improving my riding consistently, and having a lot of fun.
New Original Songs: I wanted to work on music more consistently, since I have a big backlog of ideas for songs. I’ve managed to finish and publish two new songs, and have a third one almost ready to be released earlier this year. The interesting thing about the two songs I published is that I didn’t spend a lot of time working on them. On the first one, released in late March, I’ve put together some parts I had for a song, showed the inspiration for lyrics to my singer buddy Roberto Gallaeci, and we knocked it down in just a few sessions. For the second song, released in early November, I already had the music, lyrics and vocals all written, so I only had to sit down and record everything, which I did in about 2-3 weeks. So, while I’d like to have recorded more songs, I’m happy with how productively I was able to put out two songs that I’m really proud of (and can’t wait to put out the new one, which is almost done!).
Trainings Delivered for Improving: Twice this year I’ve had to lead trainings with less than 10 days notice; something that popped-up and someone was needed. Without going into details, I just have to say I’m very happy with the evals I got from both trainings.
Involvement at Improving: I’ve continued growing my involvement with Improving’s “extra-work” related activities (such as doing presentations at conferences and user groups). I’m specifically pleased with the feedback I got from attendees to several of my presentations. That’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing, and knowing that people enjoy my talks is always a great motivator.
What didn’t go so well?
Exercising: Last year, I mentioned I needed a way to exercise outside of DST. I’ve failed at that. While I did do some exercising during that period, I’m not proud of the low frequency. For this year, I’ve taken the Evernote’s Ever Better Challenge and created the commitment with myself to do any sort of physical activity for at least 20 minutes, every day, for 30 days. Exercising is very boring for me, but I have one core motivation to do it: I need to be fit in order to take my Sport Bike riding to the next level!
Public classes: I enjoyed teaching some internal classes at Improving early last year, and I considered offering them as public classes. However, I decided to shelve that idea as I pursued other goals throughout the year (the goals that were achieved and mentioned in the “what went well” section.
What am I working toward?
Continue Growing Beyond the Track: I’m digging this work I’m doing and I’ve been getting great feedback from people saying how much this initiative has helped them. I’ll continue having the monthly meetups, but I plan to grow it outside of the in-class meetings. I have tons of ideas, I’m acting on them, and I have even created a Patreon page for Beyond the Track, so I can build a bigger community around it and get help to keep pushing it forward.
SportBike Track Riding: I’ll continue doing it! I’m putting together specific goals I want to achieve this year, the kind of progress I want to make, what tracks I want to ride, and will go have fun!
New Opportunities at Improving: As I look into growing within the company, I’m analyzing some opportunities and settings some goals to pursue this year. I’ll quite possibly blog about it as things materialize.
This was a quick summary. There are other things that went well, much like there are other things that didn’t go well. Oh, and there are also other things I’m working toward! But I think this is a good way to start off this year.
When I started to work on some Ruby on Rails projects almost 8 years ago, I knew zero about it. Instead of jumping head-first into learning the language (Ruby) and the framework (Rails), I started by learning how to write unit tests for it. That was the tiniest thing I could do to get my feet wet (passing tests give me that instant gratification we all crave for).
Learning how to write unit tests in whatever language should be relatively easy; if it’s not, I probably would not consider working in such language to begin with!
After learning the basics of writing tests, I can implement simple things in the language however I can, which back then, it meant I was “speaking Ruby with a C# accent”. That’s ok, because once I see my tests passing, I can poke someone who knows a lot more about the language than I do to teach me the better ways to both write the implementation, as well as the test.
More recently, as I started getting my feet wet on ReactJS, one of my first questions was: “how do I write tests for this thing?”.
That gets the ball rolling for me…