Now that I’ve reflected on the year that was 2020, It’s time to look forward and plan my goals for 2021.
The two important lessons that I’ve learned with personal goals is, (1) quantify success as much as possible, and (2) determine the behaviors that I’ll need to change in order to achieve those goals.
The first lesson is similar to the OKR or SMART goal used in business. Dr. H. James Harrington, a pioneer in performance improvement, stated, “If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” I need to know whether I’ve achieved a goal, and if not, then have some idea as to how close I came, so that I can learn from the experience. Ensuring that a goal is as quantifiable as possible upfront, helps me a year from now reflect on that goal. Now, this isn’t always completely achievable, somethings worth doing are qualitative, but I can still define the desired quality that I seek.
I learned the second lesson from my initial reading goal from 2017. I set out to read twenty six books that year, one every two weeks, but only ended up finishing eighteen. Upon reflection, I realized it was due to two factors, (1) I didn’t reserve any specific time for reading, and (2) I chose too many books that I didn’t care for, disincentivizing further reading. I learned from that reflection that in order to accomplish a goal, I need to change my behavior to set myself up for success. In the case of reading, I needed to reserve time exclusively for reading and I needed to select higher quality books.
For new goals, it’s not always obvious what behavior needs to change nor how, so sometimes simply setting the goal and keeping track of progress helps me understand my behavior better and what specifically needs to change to accomplish my goal.
With all that said, here are my goals for 2021:
and Table of Contents
- Continue to explore classical music
- Remain COVID and cancer free
- Lose sixty pounds
- Start resistance training and biking
- Explore more Italian wine
- Taste twelve new grape varieties
- Spread LEGO enjoyment out throughout the year
- Close out baseball cards hobby
- Complete solar and battery installation
- Complete light switch and outlet upgrades
- Read twenty four books
- Maintain selection quality (average rating of 4.3 or greater)
- Continue to strengthen and maintain a great marriage
- Visit friends and family in person
- Travel and Dining
- Hold off on most travel until 2022
- Patronize favorite restaurants
- Write down financial plan
- Create philanthropy thesis
- Focus on impact, not ladders
- Grow senior talent
- Mentor two coworkers
- Build professional brand
I plan to focus most of my new 2021 goals on creating, mostly writing more. My high-level goal will be to author five essays by the end of this year. I’m purposefully describing the goal as essays instead of posts. I define essays as possessing both timelessness and definitiveness. What I mean by that, is that while an essay may be timely, it should be written to be relevant five or ten years from now and tied up in current events. An essay is thorough, complete and can serve as the definitive resource on a topic. Basically, an essay is something that can be shared ten years from now when someone says, “You don’t know about $THING? Then read this $ESSAY, it’ll provide you the relevant details.” Some examples that I’d like to model my writing after include:
- Lara Hogan’s “Manager Handoffs”
- Will Larson’s “Migrations: the sole scalable fix to tech debt”
- Michael Lopp’s “The Update, The Vent, and The Disaster”
- Patrick McKenzie’s “Salary Negotiation: Make More Money, Be More Valued”
- Cindy Sridharan’s “Effective Mental Models for Code and Systems”
- Charity Majors’ “The Engineer/Manager Pendulum”
- Tanya Reilly’s “Being Glue” (A presentation, not a written essay, but the impact, timeliness and definitiveness is the same)
I’ve purposefully left out impact as an attribute that I’m aiming for this year. I don’t imagine that I’ll be able to go from zero audience to writing something impactful in less than one year. I don’t intend to write into a void, but I’m realistic with the time and effort required to (1) grow and maintain an audience, and (2) actually write something that can be impactful.
Since I’m starting from zero, I’m not entirely sure if five essays is even a reasonable goal, but I like setting aggressive goals, because in failure I can learn and plan better for next year. So in reality, the only failure is the failure to learn something.
I’m not going to limit my writing to essays either, as practice makes perfect. I don’t consider either the previous post or this current one to be essays. I’m already embarrassed by the writing in my previous post, but I want to continue forward momentum, as it makes more sense to write the next post than forever copy edit the last post. I want to avoid the genre that is “yelling at clouds” when writing, but beyond that, I don’t have specific writing plans. Part of this practice will be to help find and refine my writing voice.
As mentioned previously, I find it pragmatic to not just set a goal, but also define behaviors to help achieve the goal. To help create time for me to write, I need to reduce my time consuming. I don’t want to reduce my reading goals for books, so I will most create time to write, but reducing my consumption of writing from the Internet. I’ll do so mostly by optimizing my Internet consumption for the same type of material that I want to write, essays. This means a reduction in Twitter, as well as a culling or maybe the better term is curating of my RSS feed and emails newsletter subscriptions.
One of my bucket list goals is to author at least one book, almost certainly nonfiction. I have an idea that I think has merit. I don’t think my best strategy is to go from zero directly into writing a book, so most of my writing effort will consist of the aforementioned goals for essay writing and refining my voice. For the book, I’d like to work on a draft of the outline and test out a chapter or three in essay form to test the waters and gather feedback. I’d like to put myself in position to write the book as a 2022 goal.
There are some features I’d like to add to this site and many rough edges I’d like to polish this year. I have no large goals with the site itself, mostly an iterative evolution. Sooner rather than later, I’d like to migrate my past writings from newsvine.com from this site to a subdomain archive so that I can simplify this current site and the content it supports. I don’t believe the new content that I plan on writing will be that similar to my previous content from over ten years ago. I’d also like to archive the wine blog that I started with my wife in 2019, as its on indefinite hiatus.
I’d like to eventually start a side business or two on the Internet, as it’s only getting easier to get a business from idea to live. I’m not planning on starting one this year, but I’d like to learn about more of the “no-code” tools that have sprung up in a healthy community and ecosystem. In this way, when I’m ready, my first instinct won’t be to over-engineer the business, but instead use what’s already available and only add magic engineering sauce when it’s a necessity.
I plan to continue my exploration of classical music. So far I’ve discovered that Beethoven isn’t my jam, but Claude Debussy shows potential. I’ve discovered that this musical exploration is a great complement to writing, as I’m listening to Beethoven’s “Piano Trio in D Major” as I type right now.
I’ll likely end up minimizing the consumption of “mindless” television as a side effect of creating the time I’ll need to achieve my other specific goals for 2021.
My health goals for 2021 will continue from 2020, but require new key results. These goals will be my highest priority for 2021, for without health, all other goals become either unachievable or lose meaning. The obvious goals are to remain COVID and cancer-free. I’ll follow proper COVID risk mitigation until properly vaccinated, which I’ll get in line for the moment I’m eligible.
I’d like to end 2021 under two hundred and twenty five points. This is a convenient weight for a couple of reasons. Under that weight, I’d also be under a BMI of 30, a nice round number that’s also the milestone for being just “over weight” rather than “obese.” Two twenty five is also sixty pounds less than my current weight of two eighty five, meaning that I’d need to lose five pounds per month to achieve this goal. From all my research, losing five pounds per month is both achievable and healthy. Ideally, I’d lose more weight in the early months, as I’d imagine my returns to diminish the more that I lose. Once I hit this milestone, I’ll take review of where I’m at before planning what my ultimate weight goal will be, as I’m not sure if just shooting for a normal BMI of 25 or less is oversimplifying things.
As for my behaviors to achieve this goal, I’ll stick with my current plan of intermittent fasting combined with a low carb diet. I do want to ensure that I can maintain my weight going forward, so by the end of the year, I’d like to be able to find an equilibrium in fasting and carb consumption that I can likely sustain for the rest of my life, adapting to life’s challenges as needed.
As I lose weight, I’d also like to ramp up my physical activity more. From my research, counterintuitively, exercise doesn’t help one lose much weight, but has plenty of other significant health benefits, from improved cardiovascular health to improved mental health. I’d like to add light resistance training twice per week to ensure muscle tone, and when I return to the office, I’d like to commute on bike most of the time.
With shelter-in-place and an inability to visit Californian wineries, I started to explore Italian wine more thanks to Vina Enoteca’s virtual wine tastings and monthly wine club. I’d like to continue that exploration this year, before moving on to other regions in 2022.
I’m currently tracking my progress towards The Wine Century Club, checking off seventy three grape varieties. I’m not sure that I can find examples and drink twenty seven more in a single year as this is definitely an effort that sees diminishing returns. I’d like to make progress and Italy is a region full of variety diversity, so I think I can make solid progress this year and add another dozen to my list and total eighty five by the end of the year.
I received a few LEGO sets that need building this past Christmas. I’d like to spread these builds out over the year, as my capacity to display completed builds is close to full. I’ll need to set a very high bar for future LEGO set purchases, or start boxing some existing sets.
Lastly, I’d like to close out my current nostalgic recreation with baseball cards before I spend just a little too much time and money.
We’ve already invested quite a bit improving a house that was supposed to be “move in ready.” So I’d mostly like to complete the current house projects installing solar and a batter backup and my personal project to upgrade the light switches and outlets. I’d like to push off any further improvements until 2022.
I plan to maintain the twenty four book goal that I’ve set the past few years. This seems like a well balanced goal based on the amount of time I want to commit to reading. I’d also like to maintain, if not slightly improve the quality of the books that I select to read. Looking over my 2020 list, I’m happy with almost all of the books, so there’s not that much room left for improvement, and I’d be happy with another 4.3 average rating for 2021.
Don’t let the low quantity of words in the section diminish its importance. Relationships are the only goals that challenge health for top priority. Instead, this goal is simple because it’s important: continue to fall more in love with my wife every day. You'd think that once you're in love, that's it. But from experience I've learned that there's always another level. So my goal each and every year is to continue to build a stronger marriage; keeping finding that next level.
Once the world gets back to a new normal, I’d like visit friends and family in person again.
Travel and Dining
I’ll limit most of my travel for 2021 to the above goal, to visit friends and family in person. It’s going to take time until travel is safe again, so I won’t have the entire year to travel. I’d also imagine that after over a year of shelter-in-place and travel restrictions that there’s going to be quite a boom in travel. I’ll wait for that boom to subside before I get back out there as a tourist.
I want to continue to patronize my favorite restaurants and contribute what I can to keep them in business. That will remain take-out for now, and transition to in-person dining once it is safe. I did enjoy the boom in outdoors dining and I hope that trend continues (voluntarily, not as a requirement to combat a pandemic).
I will write down the financial and investment plan that I have mostly defined in my head. This is important to ensure that I stick to the plan, in both bull and bear markets. The one part I still need to sort out more is what my plans are in regards to alternative investments and real estate.
I want to put in a similar amount of thought and consideration into a philanthropy plan as I do an investment plan. I want to ensure I’m putting donations to good use and maximizing their impact. In a way, philanthropy is a specific type of investment where instead of dividends and capital gains, the return is a future world better off than today.
I have specific goals and OKRs at work that I won’t get into here, as this is not the proper forum. Instead, I’ll focus on my professional goals outside of immediate work.
I’ve enjoyed the clarity, focus and reduction in pressure last year from not obsessing over the next promotion and moving up the ladder. I’d like to keep that mindset in 2021 and focus on the work itself, the impact I can make and how I can continue to grow as an engineer and leader. Beyond this general goal, I have a few specific goals for the year.
I’m now responsible for a level of senior talent, in both quantity and quality, far greater than ever before. Beyond the expectations of being a leader at LinkedIn, I also find that I have a personal stake to help this talent grow and reach their full potential.
In all the chaos that was 2020 and work-from-home, I lost touch with both of my mentees. That said, both have grown far and I’m not too sure that my mentorship is as helpful anymore. I’d like to ensure that I’m helping others on similar paths to mine learn from my experiences and maybe help them have a slightly easier journey. I’d like to identify and start at least two new mentorship relationships this year.
Lastly, I’d like to continue to build my “professional brand.” A lot of the writing that I’ve already planned will contribute to this goal, but I also want to ensure that I’m nurturing a healthy professional network and using the various platforms to their full potential. Specifically, I need to update my LinkedIn profile to represent my latest responsibilities and accomplishments and continue to start and engage high quality conversations on both LinkedIn and other professional networks.