I’ve been doing a year in review publicly for three years now. If you haven’t read the previous one, you can see my year in review 2021 to catch up.
This year has been equally painful as it has been pleasant. It was another huge year of growth, but one with warnings of slowing down. I had clear goals that were met this year that were years in the making. I’ve also had roadblocks that have me looking for ways to regain my strength. Anyway, here it goes.
Cut my screentime
Through most of my teen years and until my mid 20s, I’ve been glued to a device of some sorts. Gaming consoles, computers, and eventually smartphones when they became a cultural centerpiece. As I started approaching my late 20s, I realized something was terribly wrong with this. I would constantly be looking down at a device rather than looking up towards what life has to offer. Over the last few years, I’ve severed the ties of many of my social media accounts, video gaming guilty pleasures, and general consumption of junk media (you know what it is).
I found myself spending way too much time being online and getting really nothing out of it. I saw the stats, they weren’t pretty and decided I needed to build the habits to make it happen. I have one constant and that’s work. While I’m okay with being on a screen during work hours, I wouldn’t be pushing myself to be on them more than that unless I’m doing something creative, which means no consuming. This also goes for overworking. Ever since my startup days, I tended to want to be in the know of everything that is developing and spend excess time doing so. Now, I don’t really care. Life is change and how you respond to that is what it is.
After many conscious experiments later, I’ve found myself in a much better state this year. I hardly care about my phone and no longer have that phantom limb feeling when it’s not with me. I leave it when I go do things and find myself in the present more often. It makes life especially more enjoyable. I talk more about what I did in my book, but really it is a few steps:
- Gain awareness that it is a problem by showing yourself the stats of how often you’re on a device or how many times you pick it up a day. It will take a very painful lesson before this gets through to you like missing a kid’s first moment.
- Ask yourself if the time spent on the thing is worth more than doing nothing at all or something else you’d feel more creative with.
- Do the thing that inspires you instead and allow yourself to do absolutely nothing.
I’ve gone from binging video games back to back to anticipating a select few that I really enjoy (God of War for example) a year. I’ve stopped trying to catch up with the ever-changing games & social media I used to enjoy and appreciate the memories I had with them when I was younger. I hardly contribute on social media other than to give a heartbeat letting people know i’m still alive. Life is good like this. I may in the future use social media as a means to create, but not fall prey into the consumption trap again.
Run a marathon
Every year, I have a goal to run a marathon. My first year I ran a half. The second year, I ran a spartan race. This year however, I wasn’t able to properly train for it due to some challenges recovering from what I believe is long covid. While it doesn’t stop me from my regular activities of working out, running a spartan race, or playing in a basketball league, it does make it especially challenging for running a rigorous training program.
About a year ago I caught covid in January 2021 and immediately noticed my average mile pace declined over 2 minutes overnight. I’d feel completely out of breath while running a 12-minute mile, which was slower than usual. I knew something was up, but I never could figure out what it was.
I’ve been challenged with other symptoms on a strange recurring basis like brain fog, fatigue, breathlessness, and muscle aches all out of the blue. The good news is that my body is in physically amazing condition and doctors cannot tell that I struggle, but we’re still trying to figure out how to recover over the long term given the initial promising studies are starting to become reality for actual treatment. Otherwise it is just time that will heal that I’ve noticed. If you know of anything that has helped you deal with this or know someone who has, let me know as I’m always curious to try new things.
Sadly it wasn’t in the books for me this year, but I have successfully recovered my running to my 2021 times after a year of regular runs and pushing my body to get back to that 10 minute mile average. At this pace, a marathon will be on the books in the next 5 years for sure. I’m in no rush to do it as it’s a once in a life type of thing for me. I’ll always use running as a tool for my health.
But hey, I had one of the best basketball games of my life this year.
Writing another book
This year I’ve gone through a couple of depressive episodes. I like to think that most people deal with depression in some fashion regardless and that everyone weathers the storm here and there. What had me inspired to write a book came from two main things I was doing while trying to figure out what was going on.
The first is consuming too much content on the internet and social media. Always trying to learn something new or hear of someone else’s opinions on something. Realizing that I had lost my own unique thoughts and feelings in the process.
The second is going through these seasons of life where you’re not really sure there is a road to recovery. There always is. At the time, it was especially disheartening given I was battling some invisible unknown illness and nobody had an idea of what could be done. Needless to say after experimenting enough myself, I found a way to make it manageable for me through eating well, meditation, and exercise.
Basically I got to a point of being so utterly fed up with the world that I started to write a book on this feeling and the realization that nobody is coming to your rescue and that one ought to start looking inside for the answers. That’s how the book came to be and I’ve already had so much positive reception from friends, family, and random strangers on the internet that the book has resonated with them.
The regular emails I get about those who may have lost a job and ask for a copy that I’m glad to hand out or those who are struggling with mental health and can’t afford another book are the stories whom I hope to get out to more and more people. It is especially meaningful when people reach out. It means that the message is reaching them to some degree and that makes me feel especially proud of the book.
The book has to date sold more copies than I’ve sold of my previous book in a whole year. I’d like to make it more accessible to the public by lowering the price, running free promotions, and promoting the content on social media more for the mere hope of a publisher to pick it up and do their thing with distribution & marketing. A man can dream, right? For now, I’ll continue to self-publish as it makes me happy.
Getting to Principal at work
I had a goal to get to principal by 30 years old wherever I worked. I turned 30 earlier this year and figured it was too late to happen. I know most may not want to push themselves that hard for a promotion, but I had felt like I was already doing the work and just needed the story to push myself to that level.
I found much of my success to be that on building in the public. Let the people speak for whether the stuff we were building at work to be impactful to them. Let us communicate more regularly with the world to get a better pulse on what’s going well and what’s not going so well.
I think I read over 40 books on leadership, product management, engineering, and knowledge work to pull it off over the last 6 years. There were so many fascinating ideas from each of these books that helped me ultimately make it. From how to tell a story to how to sell my work. From leading indirectly to building what matters. The secret was simple really. Read books, apply ideas, work hard.
While there was plenty of stressful days and especially things not going the way you’d hope, I had learned to “let go” more and naturally this surrender would form future coalitions to make things especially more successful. The only word I can use to describe this phenomena is “magic”. It all works out in the end.
While it’s just a title, it’s a feat that I hoped to accomplish to “be like my heroes” when I had just started in this industry. Now I work with my heroes everyday and that makes me especially happy. Here’s an expanded piece on this topic: https://jondouglas.dev/dream-job/
Read a lot
I typically read a book a week. This year, I’ve been able to read just a bit more than that. This year, I really got into philosophy. No other topic has sparked my interest as much as philosophy has, and it has helped me live a more profound life because of it. What got me into it was reading some old stoic and taoist classics and asking myself “now what?”. I continued along the path of finding great thinkers and stumbled upon Ralph Waldo Emerson and eventually found the likes of Carl Jung and many more.
What is crazy to me is the correlation of mythology and philosophy as it has evolved over the ages. Whether that’s the transition of mythos to logos or seeing your favorite mythological story be represented in one of your favorite philosopher’s worldview. There’s a beauty to all of this and I’m still quite ignorant about the space as a whole. Knowing nothing is awesome.
While I did revisit my philosophy history, it seems strange that you only get to know these people more intimately when you’re older and can understand what they’re saying. When I was in school, I remember glossing over the likes of Moses, the big three Greek philosophers (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle), or even the big three stoics (Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca).
What you don’t learn is about the origins of half of these things. Different people like Heraclitus or Democritus who had radical ideas at the time that would only be accepted hundreds of years later. Or even the roots of Martin Luther or Descartes and really diving into what they were trying to say but is often misunderstood.
While I could go on for days, I just find so much of these philosophers so interesting. The pragmatic attitude of William James or the eastern thoughts of Schopenhauer. There’s just so much to learn and re-learn in this topic once you’ve had an insight for wisdom.
My favorite books this year have to mostly deal with some type of philosophy. Eastern philosophy, Western philosophy, mythology, and much more. On-top of that, I learned a lot about the human body ranging from topics about sleep, stress, trauma, anxiety, depression, longevity and much more.
Last but not least, I read a number of books arguing against the world of advertisements and constant infotainment. I found these to be some of the more modern and interesting titles given the world we live in where there’s an ad served for every piece of content you want to consume. Hell, half of the book I wrote includes similar ideas given I feel the exact same way about our attention being stolen and ads being more powerful than most people think.
Here’s my top 5 this year:
- The Courage To Be by Paul Tillich
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
- Amusing Ourselves To Death by Neil Postman
- Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Pushing to the Front by Orison Sweet Marden
Anyway, if you’d like to checkout my full reading list this year, it’s here on Goodreads:
If you have any book recommendations, do let me know. Any recommendations go directly to my “to read list” and if I get multiple of the same recommendation, they go directly to my “to read next list”.
Spend more time with family
This year was the first major year of being able to travel freely again. We took a two week vacation back to Utah to visit our family that we left behind when we decided to move to Texas at the hint of the pandemic back in 2020. A lot changes in just two years. Land gets developed. People get older. Public temperament shifts. We were able to do a lot in two weeks. We visited every kid-friendly park we could think of including dinosaurs, aquariums, jungle gyms, and more. We also had our kids spend quality time with their grandparents, cousins, and aunts/uncles. It was a lot of fun and we’re excited to start traveling again as our kids start to get older.
When we’re not traveling, we’re quite busy by going on a nature walk everyday, trying out all sorts of classes & hobbies together, and getting ready for kindergarten. Life will change in the next year for our family once our first born is in school, but alas life is all about change.
- The more you create, the more powerful you become. The more you consume, the more powerful others become.
- Whenever you think of something, put it in writing. Writing something down manifests it into reality.
- Share with others freely. When others share with you, look for the potential, not critique.
- Your fear of success can hold you back further than your fear of failure.
- All love is forgiving in that you sacrifice the capacity to love “for” it.
- The more you surrender to the idea of success, the more you will accomplish.
- If life is a constant pendulum, don’t forget to re-center yourself.
- What really matters is how well you helped other people be better people.
- I am enough and will always be enough. You too are enough and will always be enough.
- You don’t need anything to be authentic.
- Give your feelings a name.
- Stop looking towards what other people think. Look inward to what you think.
- Joy is the emotion expressed when one accepts the courage to be themselves.
I’ll be honest with you. Three years ago I would’ve told you exactly what was next in my life. But after this year, I’ve learned a lesson of being more present in life. With that said, I don’t know what is next. And I think that’s beautiful. Who knows, maybe I’ll write another book or do absolutely nothing. Only time will tell.