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My 2020 Annual Review

"When people explain what makes their lives meaningful, they tend to describe four things: having rich relationships and bonds to others; having something worthwhile to do with their time; crafting narratives that help them understand themselves and the world they live in; and having experiences of awe and wonder." ~Emily Esfahani Smith

2020 will always be remembered as the year I became a dad.

Presley was born at 4:54am on June 4. Ash was so strong and brave. On that day we officially became a family. My whole world changed. It's not just me anymore, now it's us.

I'm inspired by my dad to be a great dad. He didn't miss a single baseball game of mine, not one. With Presley, I don't want to miss a thing. I love being a dad.

2020 started off as a pretty standard year - Baja surf mission in January, fractured a rib snowboarding in Jackson Hole in February, raced a half Ironman with the boys in March. Then the pandemic hit and we sheltered-in-place. Work got so slow that once Presley was born it made sense to just take a full 3 month paternity leave.

With the pandemic limiting options and parenthood limiting time, it's no surprise that there was a reduction in pretty much every stat that I track throughout the year. Year over year, I earned 20% less income, spent 13% less on expenses, surfed 80% less, trained 45% less, traveled 30% less days over 57% less trips.

"The two skills of modern business: Storytelling and spreadsheets. Know the numbers. Craft the narrative."

~James Clear

There were no ultramarathon finishes or 14'er summits, as in years prior. But there were little family adventures. We camped when Presley was 2 months old, Ash and I barely slept a wink. We hiked, in desert and forest and snow. We did many boardwalk rollerblade/runs, our new favorite family hobby. We road tripped it up to Norcal 3 times, spending a combined total of over 30 days up there.

Coming back from paternity leave, I was motivated to figure out how to make dad-life fit with work, training, and fun. How can I design a daily and weekly routine that supports each of those areas? What's the right balance? What do I need to stop or let go of, and what do I need to prioritize? How can I be more productive and focused at work? How can I not forget to eat?

I haven't been busy in a while so it actually feels exciting to be stretched a little thin. I also know I couldn't do everything I'm doing without the incredible support of family and friends.

As I write this Presley is almost 8 months old. It's still crazy to look over and see her crawling around and climbing on things at home. It's a trip to think that I'm raising a little human. It's the coolest thing ever.

Career & Money

"People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers—even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness." ~Clay Christensen​

Career

A career change in 2018 led to my best financial year ever in 2019 and everything was groovy. Then the whirlwind of 2020 happened. It was a challenging year and I was forced to consider my career options. The conclusion is that I'm still at TheLions, and I'm more happy and motivated here as ever.

The pandemic hit the startup-recruiting industry incredibly hard. As I write this, Layoffs.fyi reports that 600 startups have laid off 83k employees since the start of the pandemic. The startups that didn't lay anyone off still froze hiring and remained in wait-and-see mode. My company had to restructure and make cuts, and I had to decide whether I should to stay or move on.

This is what lead me to Flockjay, whose mission is to help people from underrepresented, underserved, and non-traditional backgrounds launch new careers in tech sales. I saw in Flockjay what I missed from College Works, the impact of one-on-one coaching and the purpose I felt helping students prepare for successful careers. I became a part-time mentor and interview coach at Flockjay while staying full-time with TheLions, and I get best of both worlds. I get my weekly fix of one-on-one coaching with Flockjay, while still earning and performing to my best with TheLions.

Since starting at Flockjay in April, 20 students I've personally coached went on to land jobs at top tech startups such as Zoom, Stripe, and Gong.io. On the recruiting side, in 2020 I helped 9 startups hire great new sales reps while helping 11 candidates land great jobs. If I can continue to make a living by helping 30+ people per year land better jobs then I'm a happy man.

On New Years Eve a friend asked me what the next step is in my career. In the near term, I'm not looking for the next step but rather to continue getting better at what I'm already doing and better at fitting work into my overall life.

Many people are trying to climb up the career ladder, and I actually descended it in many ways going from a leader to an individual contributor. I've learned that climbing the ladder isn't the only way to find more fulfillment in a career. Often times a promotion, higher salary, or fancier job title doesn't lead to more fulfillment at all. What if instead you climbed down the ladder, and found a job that you were really good at, that you enjoyed? A job you could be so good at that you stood out above the rest? A job you enjoyed so much that it's actually worth the difference in potential compensation?

I've also been reflecting on the idea of being steady in my career, not getting easily discouraged when things aren't going well, and not getting distracted by shiny objects or greener grass. Compound interest takes time, and changing careers disrupts the machine. Why not let the skills and expertise, network and relationships, successes and learning lessons compound into something bigger?

Money

"Backup plans, safety nets, flexibility, and room for error was just as important two months ago as it is today. It’s just more obvious today. Try to remember that when this is over." ~Morgan Housel

It's tough being commission-only and having unpredictable income, but a major benefit is that it forces me to practice conservative money habits. I keep an emergency fund, spend frugally, and invest automatically. When the pandemic caused mass layoffs and the stock market to crash, I was able to stay relatively calm and patient as the craziness played out.

Right before the pandemic I almost bought a new car and moved into a bigger place. Thank god I didn't. Upgrade the lifestyle as slow as possible.

My immediate reaction to the pandemic was to cut spending and preserve cash. This wasn't difficult since everything was shut down anyways. Year over year, I spent 85% less on travel, 95% less on entertainment, 42% less on eating out, and 34% less on gas. Because of this I spent 500% more on gifts. Overall, I spent 13% less than the previous year.

But I also earned 20% less due to the pandemic and funding my own paternity leave. It would have been worse if not for some diversification in my income. In 2019, 10% of my income came outside of my main job. In 2020, it was nearly 25%. Having a diversified income can be a financial stabilizer, a learning opportunity, and be fun. It keeps my career interesting.

"Consistently reinvesting time and money into wealth creation rather than lifestyle inflation can have incredible results if allowed to play out for long enough." ~Nathan Barry​

Coming back from pat leave I was more motivated than ever to earn money. A dad provides for his family. It's a different motivation than I've ever felt before. Financial goals, like buying a house, are now family goals.

I reflected a lot about money this year. Money is about tradeoffs. If I make it about earning more, what do I give up? If I make it about spending less, what do I lose out on? I wrote down some money principles and money goals this year.

They say money can't buy happiness, but it can in the form of freedom, autonomy, and peace of mind. Freedom to do work I enjoy. Autonomy to work when and where I want. A buffer to guard against anxiety.

Most of all, I believe that money should fund a life filled with experiences and adventures with family and friends. That's why Ashley and I decided to get a little crazy in 2021 and splurge on a beachfront apartment. It's not the best financial decision, and that's okay.

Health & Fitness

"Discipline is the best form of self-care." ~Kayla Itsines

Swim/Bike/Run

  • Total hours: 174 (vs 317, 246, 85)
  • Total miles: 1230 (vs 3231, 2000)
  • Total sessions: 193 (vs 222)
  • Running: 114 runs (vs 189, 139)
  • Biking: 59 bikes (vs 63)
  • Swimming: 20 swims (vs 20)
  • Races: 1 (vs 4)

Healthy Habits

  • 234 active days (vs 254)
  • 78 yoga sessions, 19 hours (vs 120, 31 hours)
  • 8h30m average nightly sleep (vs 8h40m)
  • 299 days no alcohol (vs 243)
  • 266 days no meat (vs 303)
  • Habit of the Year: Home Cooking 

It was a pretty uneventful year on the racing front. Gratefully, I raced Bayshore 70.4 on March 7, the very last weekend of racing before the shelter-in-place orders started a few days later. I did not PR, though I did go hard and my 5:24:16 was good enough for 13th place (/139) overall.

With no more races on the calendar for the year, my goal was to remain as consistent as possible with workouts and health habits. I went 96 days in a row without alcohol from my race until after Presley was born. Kyla organized a 100 mile run club for May which was fun and a good boost in motivation to get out there.

Two weeks after Presley was born I picked up a bike trainer off Craigslist for $100. I've always been against indoor training but things were different now. Training became all about just trying to fit it in, and many workouts happened on the bike trainer with an eye on baby sleep cam right next to me.

Indoor bike rides outnumbered outdoor ones 44 - 15, and 18 of the 44 were poor-man's Peloton rides (which I love). It was a treat to get out for an outdoor ride after she was born, and the Joshua Tree and Hawk Hill rides with Kyle were all-time.

As expected, my fitness tanked after Presley was born. My fitness peaked in February as I trained for Bayshore and it hit a low in August as we were almost through newborn stage. In September I committed to Ironman Coeur d"Alene for June 2021 and I started to build my fitness back up.

Strava Fitness Score

These days, more runs are with Presley in the jogger than without. Our new family hobby is hitting up the beach boardwalk, Ashley on rollerblades pushing Pres and me getting my spadework in. It'll be a long road to Ironman, and a big task to go sub-12, but that's the goal.

Travel & Adventure

"Those 3 simple, beautiful words: as a family."

~Ryan Holiday

The first adventure of the year was a rainy ridge run in Hawaii. Soaking wet and covered head to toe in mud, we ran passed waterfalls and up muddy rope sections and back down again.

A few weeks later Jordan and I went down to Baja and surfed Salsipuedes for the first time. We scored it head high and glassy on an afternoon with only a few guys out. Little did I know this would be my only surf trip of the year.

In February we went to Jackson Hole for our 2nd annual trip for Jordan's birthday. On the first day I fell hard and fractured a rib. I didn't know I fractured a rib until days later as it got worse and worse. But that didn't stop us from getting in an epic backcountry day on Mount Glory.

We scored powder days in Mammoth for my birthday, again. On the drive up to Mammoth we listened to a few podcasts about the coronavirus arriving in Seattle. A week and a half later CA shut down.

I'm really grateful to have gotten these early year adventures in because for the next few months we sheltered-in-place due to the pandemic, and then Presley was born which was more sheltering-in-place.

Once Presley was born I couldn't wait to get us out on little family adventures. On July 24 and 25 we got Presley out for her first 2 local hikes. In the beginning of August we got her out on 2 Duffy boat rides with friends. And then on August 13th we drove up to Big Basin for a night of camping with her soul sister Navy. In November we drove up to Tahoe for some hikes in the snow.

Babies nor pandemic prevented our 6th annual boys trip. This year we explored Olympic National Park, Rob showed us a great time in his backyard that included camping next to rivers, hiking in a rainforest, exploring rugged coastline, and summiting a mountain in a hail storm.

This year we most frequently visited Sacramento to see family and Oakland to hang with friends. I've learned that travel is sometimes about the adventure, or sometimes about the people. Ideally it's both, but with Presley and the pandemic there was much more downtime with friends and family and I loved it.

With the pandemic limiting travel, I reflected on my daily routine and importance of adventure. The good life is about building a routine I love, but breaking the routine often. I don't want a life that gets less interesting as I get older.

I'm excited for a life of family adventures, and maybe instill in Presley an adventurous spirit and a love of the outdoors.

I also intend to keep a commitment to personal adventures, the type 2 kind not really suitable for the rest of the family.

Travel Stats

  • 65 days (vs 92, 88, 103, 145)
  • 14 trips (vs 33)
  • 14 destinations (vs 17)
  • 3 RT flights (Jaskson Hole, Seattle, Sacramento)
  • 3 multi-destination road trips

Trips

  1. 5 days - Oahu
  2. 2 days - Quartzite
  3. 2 days - Baja
  4. 6 days - Jackson
  5. 2 days - Ventura
  6. 3 days - Mammoth
  7. Road trip - Ventura 1, Big Basin 1, Napa 2, Sac 7
  8. 5 days - Oakland
  9. 1 day - SD
  10. 3 days - Joshua Tree
  11. 3 days - Sac
  12. 4 days - WA
  13. Road trip - 3 days South Tahoe, 4 days Oakland, 4 days Sac
  14. Road trip - 2 days Sac, 5 days Oakland

Destinations

  1. Sac 16 (4)
  2. Oakland 14 (3)
  3. Jackson 6
  4. Oahu 5
  5. WA 4
  6. Ventura 3 (2)
  7. Tahoe 3
  8. Mammoth 3
  9. Joshua Tree 3
  10. Baja 2
  11. Napa 2
  12. Quartzite 2
  13. SD 1
  14. Big Basin 1

Inputs & Outputs

The pandemic really slowed things down this year which shifted my focus from working to learning. I read more physical books this year, as opposed to audiobooks. I took a couple courses on Coursera. I took more notes than I ever have before, on the books and articles I read and quotes I loved. I started this in Roam and then switched to Notion.

I started using Twitter again to get real-time thoughts on the impact of the pandemic from a diverse group of people I actually trust. I deleted my entire following, and carefully selected 50 people I wanted to follow. I've since added a few more and have discovered some awesome creators like David Perell and Jack Butcher.

My favorite piece of writing was an article called How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen, the tagline: Don't reserve your best business thinking for your career. He says, "Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team. More and more MBA students come to school thinking that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people."

Other articles I loved:

  • The Rise of the Full-Stack Freelancer by Tiago Forte - "Portfolio thinking recognizes that having multiple parallel projects provides many opportunities for synergy. They don’t have to interfere with and impede each other — they can actually combine into something greater than the sum of its parts. Each one can make the others easier, more fun, and more profitable."
  • The Ladders of Wealth Creation by Nathan Barry - "Why most people don’t build wealth: increased earnings never go into wealth. All across society extra money—whether from a raise or working extra—disappears into lifestyle inflation or temporary purchases, when it could be put to work so much more effectively. If you want to build wealth that thousand dollars should be spent on new skills or invested in the stock market, retirement accounts, or another business, rather than burned on the latest gadget."
  • You Can Have Today, Instead You Chose Tomorrow by Ryan Holiday - "You don't have to do a lot everyday, but you have to do something. When you know what that something is, suddenly you have power and clarity and control. You know what to say yes to. What to say no to. You know who you are and what your life needs to be built around."
  • How Self-Care Became So Much Work on HBR - "It seems likely that the values driving us to be workaholics in the first place are also encouraging us to optimize ourselves by using metric-driven hacks... For type-A overachievers in particular, self-improvement bears a closer resemblance to work than to leisure."

I read 17 books this year (vs 21, 13)

The Impossible First - Colin O'Brady
The Ride of a Lifetime - Bob Iger
Trailblazer - Mark Benioff
CHERISH: The First 6 Weeks - Helen Moon
The Great Mental Models: V1 - Shane Parrish
Mamba Mentality - Kobe Bryant
Bringing Up Bebe - Pamela Duckerman
A Little History of the World - Gombrich
End Malaria - Various
The End is Always Near - Dan Carlin
A Short Guide to a Happy Life - Anna Quidlen
The Geometry of Wealth - Brian Portnoy
The Quest of the Simple Life - William Dawson
Down to Earth: Laid back interiors - Lauren Leiss
The Art of the Good Life - Rolf Dobelli
The Psychology of Money - Morgan Housel
Post Corona - Scott Galloway

Other Favorite Quotes

Theologian and social justice leader Howard Thurman on passion: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Entrepreneur Cindy Gallop on how to build a successful business: “There is a formula for success in business, and it goes like this: You set out to find the very best talent in the marketplace, and then give them a compelling and inspirational vision of what you want them to achieve for you and the company. Then you empower them to achieve those goals using their own skills and talents in any way they choose. If, at the same time, you demonstrate how enormously you value them, not just through compensation, but also verbally, every single day, and if you enable that talent to share in the profit that they help create for you, you’ll be successful. It’s so simple, and virtually nobody does it, because it requires a high-trust working environment, and most business environments are low-trust. In order to own the future of your business, you have to design it around trust.”

Ryan Holiday on Marcus Aurelius on parenting: "We know that he liked to tuck his children into bed at night and indeed, the final and most philosophical part of his routine came as he put them to sleep. Kissing them, he would say quietly to himself, “Don’t rush this. This might be the last time you do this. It’s not guaranteed that either of you will make it through the night.” So he drank the moment in. He was present. He loved them. He cherished this thing in front of him, which really was the most important thing in his life, and then he said goodnight."

Jeff Johnson on Yvon Chouinard walking the walk: "Before the climb a local climber was told we were with the great Yvon Chouinard. He looked over at Yvon wearing his 10-year-old jacket and pants, sunglasses he’s had since his first trip down there in 1968, and holding an old ice axe he forged himself back in the 70’s. The only thing he had that was new were his boots and that’s because his 30-year-old boots shattered the year prior while attempting another climb. And the climber said, “You’re not Yvon Chouinard! Where’s all your new Patagonia gear?” Yvon just smiled and said, “Why would I need new stuff? All this works just fine”. One thing is for sure, Yvon definitely walks the walk."

Writing

Previous years Annual Reviews - 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015

Excited for 2021, our new beachfront apartment, friends coming to visit, more family adventures, and Ironman Coeur d'Alene!

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