📆 2020 Year in Review
Jan 16, 2021 • 8 min • Reflection
It's the time of the year again when people take to their blogging or social media platform of choice and share accomplishments from the previous 365 days. I'm not going to bury the lead. This is one of those posts.
I'll follow the same structure as last year's review, as I think it's helpful as a means to center things around reflection. Three questions will serve as our prompts:
- What went well this year?
- What didn't go well this year?
- What did I learn?
Before we dive into the review itself, let's get the humble bragging portion of this post out of the way. Keep in mind the disclaimer that lists like this always look more glamorous than they actually are:
- Started a new full-time role with Hugo
- Learned a ton about growth, marketing, and startups
- Spent lots of time walking around and enjoying NYC
- Started running more and logged my first half marathon
- Picked up 475 new subscribers to Oversimplified
- Published 45 new blog posts
- Read 18 books
What went well this year?
🌱 Doubling down on growth with Hugo
This was a big career move for a few reasons. Most obviously, there's everything that comes with moving from a ~1000 employee organization to a seed-stage startup with 8 employees. As someone who wants to be a founder one day, I knew that I wanted to experience building a business from the ground-up. So far, my time at Hugo has been excellent here.
The other part of this move is a change in role. I studied data science at university. My previous job was working as a full-time data scientist. While I still get my hands dirty with data at Hugo, the vast majority of my time is split using product management and marketing to drive growth. Some parts of the shift have come more easily than others, but I'm really optimistic about how I'm learning and growing as a product and marketing operator.
💪 Running and fitness in general
This one is kind of ironic given the fact that gyms were closed in NYC for about 6 months of the year due to the pandemic, but I've actually been in some of the best shape of my life throughout this year. I used to hate running and now it's turned into a healthy relationship. I even sucked it up and ran a half-marathon, which was a cool milestone.
Ever since gyms opened back up, I've been running less, but I haven't really been missing any workouts. I've experimented with different schedules, and I've grown confident that 6-7 days a week is where I'm happiest. I enjoy working out, so I prioritize it first thing in the morning. This wasn't necessarily a new revelation this year, but it helped me a lot when everything else shut down. I'm proud of it.
📝 Writing consistently
If you go by total words published, or probably any other metric for that matter, then this past year was by far my most prolific yet. Honestly, I haven't given myself much credit for this since I still fell below my goal for the year, but I should pat myself on the back more. Publishing 45 blog posts isn't easy!
I've struggled in the past to keep the habit up, but this year I was weirdly consistent. I'm not sure exactly, but I suspect that I published more weeks than not. Going into next year, the plan is to keep this habit going, aiming for one new blog post a week. Here's the full list:
- User Advocacy and Referral Programs for Growth
- At the Center of the Internet
- Visualizing Retention
- Notes on Your Music and People
- Choosing a Retention Metric
- Notes on What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- What It Means to Work on Growth
- Virtual Avatars and Influencers
- Replika and Virtual Friends
- Playing the Merchant
- Notes on Monetizing Innovation
- On the Future of Newsletters
- Newsletter Audit - Aug 2020
- Notes on Hacking Growth
- 24 Principles for 24 Years
- Notes on The Laws of Copywriting
- Principles for New User Onboarding
- The Power of Capturing Knowledge in Meetings
- 8 Lessons from Masters of Doom
- Getting Started with Value Chains
- Creating an Idea Development System
- A Practical Guide to A/B Testing
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things in 6 Minutes
- How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
- Why I'm Betting on Hugo
- Where Good Ideas Come From in 5 Minutes
- The Nassim Taleb Starter Pack
- Barrels and Ammunition
- High Growth Handbook in 6 Minutes
- 5 Lessons from Life as a Data Scientist
- How to Search for Startups
- A Framework for Career Decisions
- Why Data Scientists Should Write
- How I Built My Blog with Gatsby and Ghost
- Connections Before Advice
- Strong Identity, Weakly Held
- People Want to Help You
- The Big List of Data Science Interview Resources
- No-Code and WYSIWYG: A Perfect Match
- Occam's Razor Explained
- Searching for Energy
- The Perils of Unchecked Inaction
- The Simmering Six
- 2019 Year in Review
I read 18 non-technical books this year. Not quite as many as last year but still not too bad. I also started publishing notes on my blog, which is something that I definitely want to keep up. Here’s the full list in reverse chronological order:
- Tiny Habits
- Ready Player Two
- The Mental Game of Baseball
- Your Music and People
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Stories of Your Life and Others
- The Daily Stoic
- Monetizing Innovation
- Hacking Growth
- Masters of Doom
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things
- A Few Lessons from Sherlock Holmes
- Where Good Ideas Come From
- The High Growth Handbook
- The First 90 Days
- 10X Culture
- Atomic Habits
What didn't go well this year?
🧠 Sharing new ideas
"How could you treat your digital marketing and social media as a garden that others wants to spend time in?" I love this framing from these slides on Strategic Digital Marketing. I'm confident that this is the right way to think about personal brand and building an audience, but to be honest, I haven't really figured it out.
I've become more active on Twitter this past year, which was a step in the right direction. At the end of the day, I think I just need more volume. That means more time talking online about things I enjoy and more time interacting with others. I'll get there with time.
🤝 Connecting with new people I admire
While it sounds similar to the previous point, this fits into a different category in my mind. One of my goals last year was to capitalize on living in the city by scheduling coffees with new people I admire. I was able to do this to some extent through serendipity and a handful on Lunchclub sessions, but the pandemic definitely set me off course here.
I'm going to see if I can change this in the coming months. While in-person meetups are still largely off the table, that's okay. I've blocked off time on my calendar each month so I remember to set up a chat.
⏰ Maintaining routine
One of the most disappointing, and frankly, most surprising developments was an inability to maintain my morning routine. It's cliche, but I've found that what I do from 6am to 9am has a big say in how I feel the rest of the day.
One of the things about remote working, is that you lose structure. You don't have to be in the office at 9am ready to go. It's easier to take a break and workout during the day. It's easier to sleep in, roll out of bed, and jump on my laptop to start the work day. Put all of these things together, and I struggled to find motivation for waking up early and hitting my routine. I'm still experimenting with ways to improve here in the new year.
What did I learn?
🚀 Being effective on a small team
Unsurprisingly, working at a small startup is dramatically different from a larger company. I've got plenty more to work on, but I've learned a ton when it comes to idea prioritization, ownership, and proactiveness. Forcing functions are nice when aligned with your goals, and being a part of a small team is definitely that.
⏳ Time alone is powerful
I've lived solo for several of the past few summers, and I'm an introvert by nature, but quarantine was a different beast. Spending 2+ months with little to no in-person social interaction was an experience. It helped me come to a much greater understanding of the benefits and perils of spending time by myself. It's getting to the point where I can kind of sense when I need to add or remove interactions.
✨ Gratitude wins
If there's anything that I'm taking away from the past year, it's that I should be immensely grateful for everything in my life. I've been writing down a few bullet points in a journal each morning for a few years now, but the practice has seemed much more important lately.
Plans for 2021
🔥 Leveling up at Hugo
Last year was a good one, but the goal is to make 2021 even better. This applies to the business as a whole, though even more so on the personal side. There are a few working areas I can improve on and I'm excited by the result that I'm envisioning when I get there.
🪴 Digital gardening
As I mentioned before, this is a place where I think I'm getting closer, but need to focus on. I love riffing on ideas in public and dialoguing on them with others. If I can somehow create a space for more of that in my life, I'll be really happy. If you're into the idea, let's chat on Twitter or shoot me an email!
🎒Exploring new places
I'm hesitant to include travel on this list given the current state of the world, but hey, who says I can't be a little optimistic? Now that I'm working remotely full-time for the foreseeable future, I want to experiment with living other places for a month or two at a time. Stay tuned for more here.
That's a wrap! Good luck to all of you on a new year. If you published a yearly review of your own, reply with a link and I'd love to check it out! Honestly, while it might be a bit weird, I love reading these annual reviews. Until next time.
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