Per My Last E-mail #32

Happy New Year!

Hi Friends 👋,

Happy New Year!

I saved this week’s e-mail for today, because January 1st is my favorite day of the year. Each New Year’s Day, I get up, work out, shower, meditate, buy a new notebook, buy a very big coffee, and lock myself in a Breather to review the past year and set goals for the next one.

Today’s no different, except that I already have my notebook (thanks to Maurèle), I’m fasting (thanks to a week of BBQ, tacos, and beer in Austin), and I’m going to share the review and planning process in this e-mail (thanks to a combination of narcissism, accountability, and habit).

From a practical perspective, New Year’s Day is no different than any other day. But it’s a day that forces perspective that’s harder to come by on a normal day. How did last year go? What do I want to accomplish next year? How do I need to change?

My process is pretty simple.

  • Re-read last year’s goals and give myself a grade for each. This isn’t too formal and there isn’t a rubric, just an honest gut call on how I did.

  • Make new goals for this year. I generally use a bulleted list, although last year I tried personal OKRs. This year, I’m going back to a bulleted list. The Key Results ended up being too specific; I broadly achieved my objectives but got there in different ways than I’d planned.

  • Write unstructured thoughts that serve as a narrative for what I’ve done and what I want to do. This year, I’m doing that piece here.

  • That’s it. The process of sitting down, reflecting honestly on last year, and putting what I hope to achieve next year matters more than the format. Trust the process.

New Year’s Resolutions are devilishly hard to stick to for an entire year, but I try to use the enthusiasm I have on January 1st to build habits that will stick with me once the initial excitement of a new year has worn off. So how did I do last year?

2019 Review

The specifics of my 2019 goals are personal and specific, but broadly, I wanted to become more financially responsible, improve my health and memory, and live a more interesting life outside of the office.

Financial: I give myself a B on this one, and two things saved me from a failing grade: 1) Puja and 2) doing things that automatically took my money from me and did something smart with it. The biggest wins were buying our house in Athens and investing in a house in Philly with friends. Just upping the amount that Acorns takes from me and squirrels away each week has been really helpful too.

Health & Memory: I’m a C here. I’ve prioritized sleep but haven’t gotten much better at sleeping, and I always get into my best shape by about ~February before declining throughout the rest of the year with a fat-crescendo over the holidays. On the plus side, writing has helped me remember more of what I read by forcing me to revisit it and put it into context.

Interesting Life Outside of the Office: This is the one that I’ve done the best on, partly because I took it literally and now spend 100% of my time outside of the office. Aside from just quitting my job, this has been a year of exploration. Inspired by Puja’s love of travel, I spent time on four continents, traveling abroad to Mexico, Canada, Ghana, Jordan, Israel, Japan, Amsterdam, and Mexico again. I started a debate club (sign up here), failed at creating a Slack Book Club, joined a great in-person book club, took a writing class and a knife skills class, joined the OnDeck Fellowship (let me know if you’re interested in applying), and started writing this newsletter (more below).

Before 2019, I was objectively pretty boring. This past year has been one of the best of my life because I emphasized learning, exploring, trying new things, and meeting new people. In 2020 and beyond, I want to keep it going and make it easier for others to do the same.

2020 Goals

The start of a new decade provides even more perspective than a typical New Year’s. Looking back at how many annual goals I dropped and replaced from just last year, though, suggests that setting goals for the entire 2020s would be foolish. But Missions lend themselves to longer time horizons.

2020s Mission: Make people happier through learning, growth, and community.

This mission won’t be surprising if you’ve been reading these e-mails. Over this past year of exploration, I’ve become more convinced that a) happiness is the ultimate goal, b) we’re happiest when we’re part of a community that encourages us to grow as individuals, and c) learning for learning’s sake - through reading, debating, trying new things, having interesting discussions, picking up new skills and applying old ones in new ways - is going to be a big theme of the 2020s more broadly as we get more time to spend in active leisure. Given what I’m good at (read: there are better people to solve climate change or reduce poverty), I can’t think of a better way to spend the next decade.

To that end, I have a few goals for 2020:

  1. Start a company with a mission that mirrors my own.

  2. Put the basics - finances, health, wellness - on autopilot.

  3. Start, join, and support communities that help me learn and grow.

  4. Become a better writer and storyteller to attract people to the mission.

Starting to write this newsletter wasn’t on my list of 2019 goals one year ago, but it’s been one of my favorite accomplishments this year. Thinking in public, sticking to a weekly routine, and getting to have conversations with so many of you about mutually interesting topics has been a major highlight.

Once I started writing it, though, I gave myself a goal of hitting 300 subscribers within the year. As of today, there are 309 of you subscribed to Per My Last E-mail. 🎉 Thank you!! Now that there are more of you here, I need to make it better. To that end, I have some 2020 newsletter goals:

  • Make it less dense. After hearing “Your e-mails are… really dense” hundreds of times this year, I’m finally starting to get the message. (To whit: just deleted 4 sentences for this one and stuck with one plus this parenthetical).

  • Write more original pieces. This is a double entendre. I want to increase the number of essays that I write, and I also want them to be more original - pick more unexplored topics, add elements of creative writing, and use different media to help my storytelling.

  • Go deeper on the intersection of a few key themes. Community, strategy, happiness, real estate, education, startups, and finance have emerged as my favorite things to write about this year. Next year, I want to focus more on the intersections among these topics. I.e. real estate alone is kind of bland, but the impact of place on community-building and happiness, and how to best finance those places, is more interesting.

  • Get to 1,000 subscribers and build a community: There is a healthy tension implicit in this one that requires getting the three goals above right to resolve. I want to grow the number of people who subscribe while making the content specific, relevant, and engaging enough to merit discussion and interaction.

    You can help with this one - I always appreciate your feedback, and please share Per My Last E-mail with people you think would enjoy reading and engaging 🙏🏻

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That’s it for this week. I’ll be back with a new and improved Per My Last E-mail on Monday.

Thanks for reading and happy new year!