Archive for category annual review
Picking it up from were I left of on my previous annual review. This year I’m going with a looser format.
I’ve kept and grown my practice of re-reading books.
I had to read The Accounting Game again out of a need to refresh my knowledge in that domain.
A few books I’ve read again because I’ve been recommending them for years and I wanted to know how well they’ve aged:
Both books were revisited in book clubs with my fellow Improvers.
In another book club, we covered Atomic Habits; one of my favorite books since it came out.
A few other books I simply enjoyed a lot and wanted to read again:
Other book clubs we’ve run that were great:
- A Complaint Free World
- The Untethered Soul
- The Design of Everyday Things
- Make Time – Como enfocarte en lo que importa cada dia
- Yes, the Spanish version, so that our Spanish-spring Improvers could help the rest of us learn and practice the language!
I’ve improved my book reading process by switching it over from Evernote to Obsidian and am very happy with how it’s coming along.
I’ve been having great conversations about the books I’ve read, as well as putting lessons into practice, pondering on them, and getting better.
My “favorite books read in 2023” post will come out soon.
Life at Improving
Most of my team’s scrum meetings (except for the daily scrum) happened in person. We enjoy getting together to have productive conversations, leverage our big whiteboards, and seeing the other Improvers who come into the office.
Yes, we enjoy coming into the office. Fun fact: there are many of us who work from home on certain days, but end up coming into the office at the end of the day to attend to events, classes, user groups, or to simply hang out. One evening, folks came in to join my “how to write a song” class. Another evening, it was a class for those interested in learning how to play ping-pong. Here’s a great place to learn more about out Community and Culture.
For the first time since 2017, when I first started riding motorcycles at the track, I haven’t ridden a big bike at a big track. I have, however, ridden the mini-bikes a lot!
The Beyond the Track endurance team has raced all season (I joined as many races I could), and we’ve had a lot of fun.
I’ve also decided to do a few sprint races, which I also have enjoyed.
I plan on doing more sprint races in 2023, and our endurance team has already started our pre-season.
I’ve had some issues with my recording gear that prevented me from making more progress, but that has been addressed and I’ll have another new song coming up pretty soon. I have a nice backlog of music to work on when I decide to make time for it.
Looking at my YouTube channel, I’ve learned that these were the top 2 most viewed videos last year:
- Reaching Horizons, a cover of one of my favorite Brazilian bands, Angra
- Running, a metal cover of a dance-pop band from the 80’s (yup, you’ve got to check that out now, I know…)
I’ve put out a good number of posts both at the beginning and at the end of the year, and had a 6-month hiatus in between. These are my favorite ones:
- Pragmatic Programmers: Philosophy and Approach
- On Balancing Life
- Core and Supporting Values
- Improving my Reading System
- Differences between TDD and BDD
I really liked the series on testing that I’ve put out later in the year. Those posts came out of an “Ask me Anything” Lunch and Learn I presented and I thought more people might be interested in those answers. The posts generated some great conversations in different social networks, which triggered the creation of further posts.
Something interesting I found out looking at the analytics:
I have a batch of ideas for posts (some already filled with quite a bit of content), so stay tuned.
I started the year by putting a request on social network for people to help me get some of my talks booked as a Lunch and Learn for their companies or as a presentation to their communities and user groups. People answered the call and I got pretty busy talking!
I’ve had a lot of fun, learned a lot from the questions people asked me, and am very pleased with how well the content resonated with many.
These are talks I’ve had the most fun and gathered the best reactions:
- UX for Devs
- Effective User Stories
- Context-based Testing
Go here to get the description for those talks or any of my other ones. If you find something you like, plesae send me a request and I can arrange to deliver the talk either virtually or in-person (Houston and surrounding area) for your team and/or company.
Since mid-2020, I’ve used a Surface Laptop as my main computer to do .NET work, as my old Mac couldn’t handle the load. Later in the year I got me a new Mac M2 and am very pleased with it.
- I was up and running, working productively on my main project, within a couple of hours (most of the time was spent migrating data from my old Mac!)
- The backend code (.NET Core) has close to 1400 tests (both unit and integration). It takes 24 to 28 minutes to run them on my Surface Laptop. It takes a little over 8 minutes on my Mac M2!!
Coolest thing I’ve learned
I’ve learned a ton of things in 2022. Maybe the coolest one was Obsidian. I’ve been gradually either complementing or replacing Evernote with Obsidian. This is huge for me, as I’ve been an Evernote user since 2008 and it has played a huge part on my personal system. I’ll write more blog posts to talk about how this transition is coming along.
I haven’t worn wristwatches in a long, long time. Things like the Apple Watch haven’t appealed to me. But in 2022 I decided to try out the Halo View.
After wearing it all year and keeping an eye on the data it provides, these are the things that I like, and which are making me keep it for the time being:
- Information about my sleep: I’ve been analyzing my sleeping pattern, the quality of my sleep, how many hours of sleep I’m getting, and then I look for what has either a positive or negative impact on it;
- Activity tracking: I’ve both played tennis and ridden at the track almost every week all year long. It’s been interesting seeing how those activities compare against each other, how they affect my sleep and physical condition, etc.
2022, that’s a wrap. There are some great things to look up to in 2023, so off we go!
It’s Annual Review time, starting where 2020 ended regarding what I was working toward:
- Book Reading
- Sharpening technical skills
- Publishing my book
- Growing Beyond the Track
So let me reflect on that list, as well as whatever else came up.
What went well in 2021?
Book Reading: Daily reading habits have been maintained all year. I’ve gone through several books on a great variety of topics. But most importantly, I believe I’m getting better value from my reading habits.I started the year thinking of re-reading at least one previous book every month. Looking at my notes I see that was too ambitious: one book every other month is what I did, and am happy with it.
Here’s a big highlight for me in this area: the internal AppDev community at Improving started book clubs this year and I love it!! I’ve joined 7 clubs and led 2. We’ve covered books both on Technical and Soft Skills, and I personally got a lot out of my reading habit through this experience.
Sharpening technical skills: I started the year thinking of taking one pluralsight course a month. I did take a few, but then decided to change my approach to consume whatever resource I found to be directly related to technical things I was currently doing (or planning to in the near future). So I’ve joined two technical book clubs with my fellow Improvers, watched videos on YouTube and Udemy, and read blog posts. Most importantly, I’ve put the acquired knowledge into practice and discussed it with my team and co-workers
Blogging: I haven’t put out as many blog posts as I had planned, but I’m happy with many of the posts I’ve put out on this blog, the favorite ones are…
- 2021 is Here: What’s the Excuse Now?
- There Once Was a Magazine…
- On Failure
- Obviously, everybody knows that, of course!
- How to Lead When You’re NOT in Charge – Identity
Another highlight for me is my “Context-based testing in the life of Don Testa’Lot Moore” post to the Improving Thoughts blog. Not only is that a topic I’ve been coaching many developers on for several years, but I also like the whimsical tone I came up with to have a slightly different voice to that I use in my personal blog.
Also, I’ve been looking forward to seeing my fellow Improvers put out their great thoughts in our company’s blog and we’re now seeing a ton of content delivered through that channel.
Publishing my book: That didn’t happen, but the first draft is almost done. What did go well, though, is that for the last 18 months or so I’ve been putting into practice on a daily basis the things that are going on the book, and will enable me to refine the content. I’ve also spent 3 months going through a deliberate writing practice to sharpen my chops.
Growing Beyond the Track: I’ve grown both as a rider as well as my Beyond the Track efforts.
- We’ve put together a BTT Endurance Team, did a few races, had a lot of fun, learned a lot together, and every rider on the team got better throughout the year
- We have custom-made under-suit shirts with the BTT logo on the front, and our names on the back
- I finally rode with world renowned California Superbike School, and it was everything I had been hoping for since 2016
- I got a LOT of seat time
- I cranked up my data analysis skills and used it both to improve my own riding as well as to coach other riders
Our endurance team after our 1st race (we finished 3rd place in our class!)
Riding with California Superbike School
A lot of things I’ve been doing with Beyond the Track since 2018 has been inspired by California Superbike School
…and I got to meet Keith Code, the founder of CSS, and a huge inspiration for me.
A few other great things…
- I got an Elliptical machine so I can exercise at home while watching things. Also started playing tennis weekly again
- Got more serious with my journalling habit.
- Started going back to the office for the main team meetings.
- Got into the habit of updating my Now page somewhat frequently.
- Achieved one of my 2020 goals that had to be postponed due to the pandemic: traveling to a Spanish-speaking country and making the effort to speak mostly Spanish while I was there. The trip is currently ranked as my best vacation ever!
What didn’t go well?
Blogging: What was I thinking when I said I was planning on putting out “at least one blog post every week”?! In 2020, I’ve averaged 1.5 posts/week, so that’s what was in my mind at the time. In 2021, I’ve average 1 post/month! As I come to think of it, I probably did as much writing, except that I’ve kept most of it to myself (through my journalling habit).
Publishing my book: Yeah, so that didn’t happen. But, I’m fine with that, as I mentioned earlier. Some of my priorities had to shift during the year and the book project was affected by that.
What am I working toward?
Continuous Learning and Applying: I’ll keep re-reading books. Maybe one per quarter. As I say that, I’m just starting two book clubs at Improving to go over two books that I’m re-reading. I don’t want to only quickly chug through books; I want to put some of the learnings into practice, and I want to make it a collaborative effort with my friends and co-workers.
Improving: our company and our Improvers keep helping me have a balanced life, and I’m working on expanding this experience to our stakeholders. It sounds broad, but my private notes are more detailed. For my readers, suffice it to say that I enjoy my job a lot and am dedicated to make it even better.
My book: I’m working on having elements of the book released this year for readers to start consuming it.
Riding: I’m always working on that! This year I’ll keep improving my riding as well as my Beyond the Track, continuing our monthly meetings, the endurance racing team, and a few more things the group has discussed for the short, mid, and long term.
Technical Communities: The Virtual Brown Bag continues, and I hope to make it better so we can grow our attendance. I’m also bringing back the Improving Code user group as a hybrid (in-person and virtual) offering.
Music: I’d like to put out at least 2 or 3 new original songs.
Time for my traditional Annual Review, which started back in 2015. While some people, understandably, have strong reasons to completely erase 2020 off their minds, I have worked hard to build great memories in the midst of everything that was going on.
So, let’s start from where my 2019: Annual Review ended. At the time, here are the things I said I was working towards:
- Continue Growing Beyond the Track
- SportBike Track Riding
- Solid initiatives at Improving
- Get better at Spanish
I can check all those boxes! Each one of those are covered below.
What went well in 2020?
Continue growing Beyond the Track: a beautiful, professional logo has been created. I’ve printed cards, which members of my community give out to other riders they meet at the track, strengthening our networking. A new banner has been made for us to fly it at the tracks. The community is growing closer together, great friendships are forming, more and more people are stepping up to help produce content for the monthly meetings (which have successfully continued as online events). Members of the community are making custom leather suits and having the BTT logo put on it. We train together, we grow together.
SportBike Track Riding: I had to adjust the path to achieve my riding goals, and it worked out great given the constraints. I’ve received coaching, and as it turns out, it seems like I’ve also been coaching.
Solid initiatives at Improving: the initiatives I’ve been involved with have been working out well and are growing, and I am very excited and energized to keep working at it.
Get better at Spanish: One of my goals was to give my first talk in Spanish. in June, I experienced synchronicity at its best, as Improving acquired iTexico, and we were joined by 300 professionals whose primary language is Spanish. I gave the talk in December.
Blog posts: I’ve set a new personal record in number of posts published in a single year in the 16 years since I’ve started this blog. Most important, several posts have triggered great conversations, recommendations, networking, thoughts that inspired new posts.
Music: I’ve set a new personal record in number of songs I’ve recorded and published in a year, by putting out two cover songs and three original songs.
Book Reading: I’ve cranked up my reading habits up a notch and set a new personal record of books read in a year. I’ve read some great ones, focused on building my book library, improved my book reading, read some great titles, and my slots for reading-time are something I look up to every day.
Improving’s handle of the situation: I am so happy to be a part of this company. Our leadership’s handle of such a tough situation has been top-notch and inspiring. The care for our people, not just our employees but also our families, the way we lean in to help our clients, the quick shift to continue offering value through weekly virtual events, the way we’ve reinvented ourselves to keep offering high-quality consulting and training. The list goes on and on.
What’s with all those personal records? Those were deliberate. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have worked hard to make sure I’d have great memories to remember 2020 by. Whenever I go through challenges and hardships in the future, I can always come back to this post and remind myself that I have what I need in me to overcome adversities. I do have more highlights, but those are to be kept in my personal records.
What didn’t go so well?
No steady workout routine: much like in previous years, I haven’t been able to keep a steady workout routine. I did really well for several months having a great daily routine, but then I got out of it. I coming up with a plan to tackle that.
Cancellations due to the pandemic: there wasn’t a lot I could have done about this one. Fortunately, I believe I handled it well; the most important things were simply postponed.
Eating habits: both what and when I eat have suffered since the start of the pandemic. Fixing the when should be easy. Fixing the what, not so much for me.
What am I working toward?
Book reading: I plan to keep the same daily habits I’ve sustained since March, and adding a habit to review at least one previoulsy read book every month. I’m looking for lessons that have stuck with me, as well as those I haven’t quite grasped the first time through.
Sharpening technical skills: Most books I’ve been reading aren’t technical. For that end, I plan on going through at least one Pluralsight course every month.
Publishing my book: I want to see the book I’ve been working on published this year. Since this is my first book, it’s been a fun project, learning a lot of things, having frequent conversations with my co-author, and taking my writing skills to a new level.
Keep growing Beyond the Track: similarly to last year, I’ll continue actively working both on my riding skills, as well as growing my community, as well as the experiences I provide it.
As per my 2018 Annual Review, these were the things I mentioned I was working toward:
Continue growing Beyond the Track: the monthly meetups happened all year (except for November), more riders stepped up to do talks for the group, the website http://www.beyondthetrack.net/ has been up and running since early in the year with many important features for logistics, planning, goals and debriefing. A great community of track riders is forming, with folks who help each other out both on and off track.
SportBike Track Riding: I did put together plans and goals for my track riding, worked on those goals, and pretty much crossed off all of them! I have faced setbacks, but came back even stronger, and am now writing up my goals riding goals for 2020.
New Opportunities at Improving: while focusing on doing my job as good as I could and helping out my co-workers on any opportunity I had, I was rewarded with brand new opportunities at Improving, which I readily embraced. More on this under the “what went well” section below.
What went well in 2019?
New Original Song: I’ve put out one new song, title Still I’m Dreaming. This being a big passion of mine, getting to put out new music is always an celebrated accomplishment for me.
Riding Goals: Even though I couldn’t ride on the track for 3 months due to injury, I was still able to cross off all of the main goals I had for the year, one of them being getting my racer license. I celebrate this one because it isn’t only about riding; a lot goes into planning, improving my mental toughness, overcoming adversities, etc. The footage below is my favorite one ever, as it was captured by one of my coaches following me on the track, not too long after I came back from my injury, and I feel it’s the best I’ve ever ridden.
Promotion at Improving: halfway through the year I got offered the opportunity to get promoted to a Technical Director role at Improving. This is HUGE for me. On one hand, I get to do more of what I naturally do (helping others grow); on the other hand, it pushes me outside my comfort zone as I get involved with responsibilities I didn’t have before (which in turn, pushes me to keep growing). As part of that, I’ve jumped in to start and lead two important initiatives (directly related to two of my main passions in this industry) within the company, which are going to keep me very busy in 2020. I’ve also participated in a 3-month internal training program that was excellent, as it has both validated many things I’ve learned over the last several years, as well as it has taught me important things I didn’t know before.
Meditation: I’ve finally reached a solid streak of One Full Year of Meditation in August. It didn’t stop there, as I continue having meditation as part of my morning routine. Why? I know this practice has helped me a lot to get through adversities I’ve faced.
Language Learning: my Duolingo streak is up to 526 hundred days as of Dec 31, 2019! That’s the number of days I’ve spent at least 10 minutes learning a language. After spending a lot of time on Italian and German (no, I’m not fluent in either, as that hasn’t been my goal), I’ve gone back to Spanish. Besides Duolingo, I also watch YouTube videos in the languages I’m learning, so I can also get that kind of exposure to it.
Gratitude: As I’ve wished at the beginning of the year, my Jar of Awesome is full of notes of my gratitude! I’m empty it to start filling it up again. I’ll also be reading a few of those notes daily until I’ve read them all and relive the feeling at those moments of gratitude (and reach out to people who may have caused or participated in those moments).
What didn’t go so well?
Crashing: People say this about crashing on a motorcycle – “It’s not a question of *if*, but just *when*”. For the first time in 29 years I ended up getting hurt riding a motorcycle. That has not prevented me from plowing through life, getting things done, and coming back stronger than before, so I’ve done my best to face adversity, learn from it, and value life even more.
Didn’t make more music: I came close to putting out another new song later in the year, but couldn’t get it done (computer issues and such). The new song is ready to be recorded, though, and I’m very excited about it, as I think it sounds great!
What am I working toward?
Continue Growing Beyond the Track: this is an on-going effort through 2020 (and probably further). As I see things now, this is part of a long-term goal I have for me. For 2020, I want to keep adding features to the website, as well as keep growing the community.
SportBike Track Riding: much like in 2019, I’ll be putting down track riding goals for 2020. It’ll include even more focus on getting more coaching, as this is also part of longer-term goals I currently have.
Solid initiatives at Improving: I’m very excited about the two initiatives I’m leading at Improving, and a lot of my work-related activities are going towards these initiatives. You’ll learn more about what those are when time’s right.
Get better at Spanish: I am going to learn and practice more Spanish. It’s a language that a lot of people speak, so knowing it opens up doors. I have very specific ideas as to what I want to accomplish and how I’ll work my way there.
“When I was 42… it was a very good year” (I hear that in my head with the voice of the late Warrel Dane). Yes, 2019 was a very good year. There are many other things I could have listed in this post, but I didn’t want this to be longer than it already is. I’m proud of myself for how I came out of adversities, making an effort to clear my mind and see through it, finding opportunities, learning from it, and getting better. Could this year have been even better? Of course! What am I going to do about it? Well, taking the time to put together my thoughts and writing up this post is already one step taken towards an even better year in 2020!
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.
As per 2016 Annual Review, these were the things I mentioned I was working toward:
- Playing catch up professionally
- Serious hobbies
- Continuous improvement
I believe I did well in those three points!
What went well in 2017?
Solid morning/nightly ritual: Both My Morning and Nightly rituals are very solid and allow me to live a more focused life. I no longer need reminders and checklists to stay on top on what habits I want to build in those two very important moments of the day.
Meditation: As I blogged over a year and a half ago, meditation is finally paying off. It is the single most important thing I do every morning. I’m currently in my longest meditation streak ever, and it shows no signs it’ll be broken!
Journaling: I’ve finished my first Five Minute Journal (which covers 6 months of my life) and started a new one immediately after. This has been a great tool for me to continue practicing gratitude every day, as well as taking two moments in the day (morning/evening) to slow the hell down and reflect upon my day.
Blogging: as in 2016, I wanted to make this blog more active in 2017 (in terms of number of posts I create), and I achieved that; I’ve published 59 posts (against 23 in the previous year)! Many of these posts have helped clients and co-workers, and have also helped myself putting together presentations and training courses.
Learning other languages: in 2015 I used Duolingo quite a bit to learn more Spanish. After a hiatus, I picked it back up in 2016, and redid the entire Spanish course. When I was done with that, I then picked up Italian, which I’m very close to finishing. I’m also on my longest Duolingo streak ever: 144 days! That means, at a very minimum, I learn a little bit of something new every single day. And another cool bit of information: I’m learning these languages in Duolingo as an English speaker (in case you don’t know, English is NOT my primary language)!
SportBike Track Riding: this is a serious hobby I hinted as one of the things I was working toward. I rode at the track an average of at least once a month, improved a LOT as a rider, and am doing everything in a very methodical way, while having TONS of fun doing it. I document a lot of this on my dedicated YouTube and Instagram channels.
ImprovingU: One of the awesome things we have at Improving is called ImprovingU, which consists of internal presentations and training courses that employees can attend to in order to improve in a number of areas. Besides attending to many of these trainings, I’ve personally delivered three talks in what we call Tech Fridays, and also taught two other lengthy training courses.
Involvement at Improving: Improving also has a cool program for employees who want to get more involved (doing presentations, participating in user groups, volunteering, etc.). People who get involved get points based on the type of activity. I’ve stayed consistently among the top Improvers in this program. While I don’t engage in these activities solely for the points, it’s a good metric for me to see that I’m always trying to both get better and help others do the same.
Put out some new music: Making music is another hobby I take seriously. While I haven’t put out as much music as I’d like, I did get to publish two songs.
The first one was a cover as a tribute to my top favorite singer/lyricist of all time, who passed away in December:
The second one is a new original song, once again written for my beloved wife:
What didn’t go so well?
Periods without excercising: most of my excersizing last year came from going rollerblading at the park. However, that only worked while we’re on Daylight Saving Time (DST), since it gives me a good window between getting back home from work and getting too dark. Once DST ends, though, that’s no longer an option, and not engaging into another type of activity during that period has made me go too long without some good excersizing, causing me to put on some weight and also feel somewhat crappy.
What am I working toward?
In no particular order, these are the things I want to improve on in 2018:
Way to exercise outside of DST: I’m looking for alternatives so I can excercise when it’s too dark outside for me to go rollerblading. Right now, I’m trying a mix of trampoline, jumprope, weightlifting, pull-ups, push-ups. I’m evaluating how that works for me and making adjustments as I go, until I find a good flow.
More consistent way to work on music: I definitely want to put more music out this year. In order for that to happen, I will set aside at least one or two hours every week
Beyond the Track: I’m enjoying so much my track riding hobby that I’m starting a new Special Interest group, as I feel a strong need to share everything I’ve learned so far, and also learn more from more experienced riders. The first meeting is happening on January 17 (two weeks prior to this year’s track day season starts), and I plan on holding these meetings every month.
New language on Duolingo: when I’m done with all the Italian lessons, continue my long streak, possibly by still practicing Italian for a few more weeks, than reviewing Spanish, and finally starting on another language (maybe French or German).
Public classes: as I mentioned in the “what went well” section, I’ve created some internal courses to be taught at Improving. I’m seriously considering also teaching it to others who might be interested.
Myself through the eyes of others
My previous annual reviews have solely been done my me. It’s me revewing my goals, plans, results. I want to start adding this section now, given the following quote that showed up one of the days on my Five Minute Journal:
“Sometimes you can’t see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others.” – Ellen DeGeneres
So I decided to reach out to someone impacted by my goals, plans, actions, inactions, to see how I did in 2017. Here’s a summary of I heard regarding things I did well:
- “You’ve become a better rider” (my wife enjoys 2-up riding as my passenger, so getting better at it is a big thing)
- “You’ve made a new song for me!” (already mentioned it previously)
- “You got better professionaly.” (those close to me see and appreciate how I develop as a professional)
- “You took us to visit some places we really enjoyed.”
- “You been so patient with so many things and you have shown a great ability to forgive.”
- “You’ve kept our shared life stable, while still moving forward, even through the toughest times.”
I was very happy to hear those things. Even happier when I saw what I wrote on one of the first pages of my first Five Minute Journal before 2017 started:
In case you can’t understand my handwriting (I can’t blame you!): “To stay calm and level-headed through mood shifting turmoils. Staying on a stable routine due to that.”.
“I feel strong-willed towards the things I really want and believe. I’m dedicated to my family. I feel I can make a difference in the life of others.”
Honestly, I didn’t remember writing those words, but I definitely meant it and lived by it, and the results showed up, both stated by myself and a loved one. This has been a good validation that if I know what I want and what I am (or want to be), if I set goals, make plans, take actions, review it constantly, stick to small actions that don’t look much on a day-to-day basis but that add up tremendously, good results tend to happen.
As I did last year, here goes my 2016 Annual Review!
1. What went well in 2016?
Meditation: I’ve blogged about this last year. In summary, mindful meditation has been working well for me. It has helped me a lot through situations where I’d handle badly in the past.
Professional blog: I wanted to make this blog you’re reading more active (write more posts), and I’ve succeeded on it. In 2015 I had only posted twice, whereas in 2016 I posted 23 times.
Personal project related to my experiences living in the US: This was one of the things that didn’t go well in 2015. It almost slipped through the cracks again in 2016, but I finally got the ball rolling, and the Brazuca nos Uessei channel on YouTube was finally born! The first video came out late last year, but I’ve been posting new videos frequently ever since. I already have many videos recorded and am working on editing them.
Stop thinking about it and just do it: on my last year’s review I said I was working toward “less ideas, more action”. It’s very fulfilling following that approach and seeing a new project going from idea to production within 4 months. Even more so when the clients are still so happy almost a year later.
Back to doing presentations: I had been missing going out to speak at conferences, meeting old buddies, networking. It was great speaking again at Houston Tech Fest 2016. Even though I felt rusty and off-paced, I needed the action to get the ball rolling in this area.
Joining Improving: This was something that was bound to happen, and for me it was one of the highlights of last year.
Best for last… Relocating to the USA!: my yearly review last year mentioned a “Personal/Professional secret project” that didn’t go so well. This was it; my relocation back to the US. As I mentioned back then, I had done everything I could do, but the holdup wasn’t on my end. I’ve even set a Plan B in motion, and shortly after I did that, Plan A actually came through. Long story short, I’m permanently back to the USA.
2. What didn’t go so well?
Project I had to drop: early last year I was working on a side project that I though had potential (I still do). However, a good friend who was working with me on it faced personal problems and couldn’t continue, while I had so much going on with my relocation to the US that I just had to put that one project aside. I’m fine with it, though, because I did learn things while I worked on it, and maybe one day I can go back to it.
3. What am I working toward?
Playing catch up professionaly: in the last 5 years or so I’ve been focused on delivering the projects I was working on, and didn’t spend much time on keeping up with what was going on out there, as far as technologies are concerned. That was great, don’t get me wrong; delivering working software AND seeing the businesses grow on top of it, for me, is WAY more fulfilling then staying up to date with bleeding-edge technologies that may just die within a version or two. That said, I do want to spend more time this year revisiting some things I should know more, while learning new things that have been proven solid options.
Serious Hobbies: I have a couple of hobbies that I take seriously, and I’m making sure I put time and effort into them this year.
Continous Improvement: I am making an effort to improve both both as a person as well as a professional on a daily basis. Some days are harder than the others, but I’m surrounding myself with an environment that keeps me on track.
The year of 2016 was great. Obviously, there were ups and downs. However, for years I’ve been keeping a lot of things I’m grateful for, and my 2016 list looks great and inspires me to an even better year.
Inspired by James Clear’s “Annual Review”, I decided I should to mine, too. Heck, I do that on the projects I work on, I might as well do it to my own life as well.
So, the famous 3 questions that get the ball rolling:
- What went well in 2015?
- What didn’t go so well?
- What am I working toward?
I will be brief on this post, and later write up posts to detail more of each item. There are things that worked well in 2015 that I won’t list here, but will write up dedicate posts later this year.
1. What went well in 2015?
Defining goals, writing them down, and tracking them: at the beginning of the year I had defined goals, outlined them with key motivations, and kept reviewing them (at least once a week) in order to make sure I was tackling them as time went by. This has not prevented me from NOT accomplishing some of the goals, but it DID help me accomplish most of them, as well as it helped me reflecting on my failures.
Workout habit, results, and side-effects: I wanted to get in better shape. I don’t want to run a marathon or look like a bodybuilder. I just want to feel better about myself. Working out is boring for me. Tracking workouts and building the habit has made me find out how I can make this fun and harvest some benefits as side-effects.
Filing my taxes on time: Over the last several years I was always filing for an extension because I just couldn’t file my taxes by Apr 15. Well, in 2015 I’ve filed exactly on Apr 15. Huge improvement from previous years!
2. What didn’t go so well?
Make my professional blog more active: this post you’re reading is published to what I consider my professional blog. This is where I post things related to how I make a living (mainly, software development). I ended up only writing two posts last year, despite the fact there are many things I’d like to write about.
Personal project related to my experiences living in the US: this is something I want to do because I always have people asking me about this, so I figure I should share this with a wider audience somehow. I have some very specific ideas on what I want to do, I’ve picked a name for it, created the channels, the logo, but just didn’t start delivering the content.
Personal/Professional secret project: this is a somewhat secret project just because I want to keep it low before it is all confirmed. What bums me on this one is because I did everything I could do on my end, but there are things that are just outside of my control. But, in order to cope with that, a Plan B is on the works.
3. What am I working toward?
Less ideas, more action: I think I’ve been very good at keeping track of ideas. And there are quite many ideas that keep popping in my head. I think I’ve finally started to take action on a few hand-picked ideas. I’m turning those into projects, putting effort into them, tracking it, and at this moment I’m feeling good about them.
Take one day at a time: Having ideas flowing and figuring out some sort of a plan is good, but I need to learn to focus on taking one day at a time, live in the moment, make the best off of it. There’s only so much one can do.
Get better: I feel like at one point I was better than I am today. I also feel like I can get better than I was before. Working on that!
There are a couple more things I could add to each one of those bullet points, but I’m still thinking through it, figuring out the good things I want more of, the bad things that need to be addressed, and the things I just need to let go.