2021 H1 Review

2021.07.09 | 7046 words |

I regularly reflect on my life - my goals and aspirations, my systems and habits, and my respective progress and diligence. I find these reflections help me to understand myself, the world around me, and how we intersect - providing a foundation from which to ponder, plan, and execute the next steps of my journey called life. I publish these reflections on my blog as a way to hold myself accountable, stay in touch with reality, and provide an autobiographical history of Ham. Welcome to the Hamniverse, enjoy your stay.

If I had to sum up 2021 H1 in one sentence it would be:

I’m fine, but I’m not good.

This is fine. OG Comic by KC Green

This is fine. OG Comic by KC Green

2020 was a hard year but I managed to channel a lot of my energy into productive forms and ultimately had one of my most productive years ever (see my 2020 Review). I set some ambitious goals for 2021 based on the 2020 momentum and generally had a positive outlook for the year.

But there was some unresolved trauma from 2020:

  • Social distance and isolation
  • Monotony in experience
  • Work / life balance

I ignored it, allowing it space and freedom to expand in breadth and depth. By February I was at my wit’s end, looking for any and all opportunities to shake things up in the hopes it might change my trajectory. In hindsight, this was an external search for solutions to an internal problem and thus likely short-term, and near inevitable long-term, to fail.

Sure enough, the creep continued throughout the half eroding long-held systems, habits, and mental holdfasts. Each loss left vulnerabilities in its related domains, leading to an ever growing confluence of negative factors.

Low productivity -> longer work hours -> less working out -> less energy -> worse mood -> worse consumption -> less sleep -> less productivity -> etc.

So here we are at the end of the first half of 2021. How am I doing? I’m fine - I’m alive, I’ve got pretty much anything I could ask for, with no serious ailments to speak of. But I’m not good - I’m not living my best life, being my best self, or otherwise in a state I would dub ‘thriving’.

It’s time I took a breath. Looked inward. And accepted that.

It’s time to heal. It’s time to live. It’s time to play.

In the first half of 2021, I traveled to 8 new cities, built a photography practice, consumed 3 books, 11 games, and countless shows, hit a 63% Savings Commitment Rate, regressed to a 2 pack, killed my first startup, and accepted that I’m fine but not good.

My name is Hamilton and this is my 2021 H1 Review.

Adventure

Mission: Experience life and all it has to offer.

Best Adventure: 7 / 10

I had some really great adventures this half. I went to 8 new cities and had n new experiences (where n is a lot but I didn’t keep track so there’s no specific number to share).

Honestly this adventure was a lifeline for my life satisfaction and, to some extent, my sanity. I wasn’t dealing with my internal trauma, so this external stimulus provided temporary respite for many of my neglected, malnourished satisfaction centers - new experiences, social interaction, and wonder to name a few.

But I want to iterate that this respite was indeed temporary (this is for you Future Ham, heed these words). You can’t sustainably heal an internal problem solely by venturing externally, in the same way that you can’t fix a flat tire by ignoring it / choosing other modes of transportation. The tire will continue to be flat until you do something about it, regardless of whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

I think I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point out that adventure as escape - or the act of adventuring to escape something rather than to experience something - is suboptimal not just internally but also externally. If you haven’t dealt with your internal problems, there’s going to be some lingering stress and mismatched motivations which will ultimately prevent optimal presence, enjoyment, and appreciation of that external stimulus.

from Imgflip Meme Generator

These ponderings have led me to solidify on two principles going forward:

Self: Do what you must in order to do what you want.

In other words, you must have a solid foundation in order to truly and sustainably grow, blossom, and thrive.

Adventure: Adventure to something, not away from it.

In other words, adventure should be about exploration and excitement that compliments your journey. It shouldn’t be about escaping something. If it is about escape, that’s a good sign that there are other problems / factors at play that should be dealt with. Adventure will typically be a poor champion / proxy for that.

Exploration + Connection

But seriously, had some really good times this half. A non-exhaustive list of grand experiences:

  • Learned to ski (Catskills, Tahoe, Denver)

  • Did some solo urban exploration (Reno)

  • Explored nature (Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, Arches, Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, Birthing Cave, Devils Bridge)

  • Went shirtless (Miami)

  • Went home (Atlanta)

  • Painted like one of your Brooklyn girls (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens)

And many, many, many more. I’ll take more pics next half. Promise.

Thank you to everyone who planned, resourced, cared, hung out, talked, messaged, skiied, ate, explored, hiked, danced, stood, watched, joked, listened, memed, created, loved, laughed, and lived with us. It means everything <3.

To those we didn’t get to see this year - the world is opening and we’ll see you soon.

Photography

Photography has been a great outlet this half, providing both a low effort creative venue and a reason to get up from my desk and take a walk outside. The latter has been a grand struggle for me, effecting my satisfaction at work, my finances, and likely many of my core systems as well. But more about that later.

Megna took some photography classes which inspired me to learn a bit more about the cameras I’d invested heavily in last year. I knew I was into street photography and didn’t like to spend that much time on editing - I like to capture a moment, not distort it.

So I created a system that optimizes the kind of photography I like to do and the work required to do it: My Photo Processing System. By leveraging the in-camera Film Simulation and a lightweight photo culling process, I spend about 80% of my time taking pictures and only about 20% choosing them. That’s about the tradeoff I want. More time taking pictures would be even better.

There are still a lot of areas I can improve upon in my photography:

  • I’m bad at people (and often scared of people)
  • I don’t work the scene enough
  • My compositions often don’t turn out how I expect
  • I don’t really understand the ISO / FStop / Aperture things

But I’m kind of into keeping it as a lightweight hobby. Something to play with, but not really worry about.

Life’s about balance and I already have a lot of rigid systems with well-controlled flexibility. Sometimes its good to have outlets completely outside of that control.

I’ll be posting more things I see on @hamy.see. See you there.

Contumption

Now to the bad side of Adventure. Contumption is my bucket for content consumption. Not all content consumption is bad but in general producing is better than consuming and even ‘good’ consumption can quickly turn into a life smell.

I typically try to ensure I’m getting something out of every contumption by doing a reflection on my learnings / takeaways. However this half I’ve been bad about my systems and consumed way too much / produced way too little to actually accomplish that.

Some things I learned / discovered / rediscovered:

  • I love stories, particularly high fantasy and scifi. This is consistent across media - books, shows, anime, games, etc.
  • For games I’m most into RPGs, Strategy (grand, base building, deckbuilding), and Roguelike

I’ll just list some titles for you to peruse here as a testament to the fact that I am not always productive but should’ve been more productive than I was this half and be on my way.

  • Books
  • Games
    • No Man’s Sky - Recommend. Didn’t play that much this time around but did pop in a bit. Very grindy but I love the idea of the universe and story - esp it’s generative / procedural nature. Inspired several Monoliths
    • Oxygen Not Included - Recommend. Great game. I had to stop playing cause I played too much. Also cause I rage quit because I couldn’t figure out how to sanitize my water without overloading my powerplant.
    • Rise to Ruins - Not recommend. Has some good base building mechanics but not that many paths to winning despite the number of degrees of freedom.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition - Recommend. Didn’t finish it but mostly cause I put it down for awhile and didn’t want to remember what happened. Def improvement on the other Dragon Ages.
    • Mindustry - Recommend. Great game. Honestly the best base building game I’ve ever played. That being said, held back by lack of story and reason to play new levels. I think if a game took the simple, enticing story from Creeper 3 and mashed it up with the game mechanics of Mindustry I would never work again.
    • Kingdom: Classic - Not recommend. Maybe play it once cause free and pretty, but the pace and low number of freedoms of control made it boring pretty fast.
    • Wildermyth - Recommend. Very cool idea. I don’t love the incepted DnD trope it’s based around (i.e. I know I’m in a story, you don’t have to tell me I’m in a story in a story in a story) but I do like the mechanics of 1) infinite replayability of characters that makes sense in the story, 2) generative worlds and scenarios, 3) time-based strategic RTS with cutscenes and stories that read from player decisions. V immersive even though whole point is it’s not - other games should take note.
    • Divinity Original Sin - Not recommend. Good RPG but way too old school for me. Menus on menus on menus with lots of talking to NPCs that may or may not give you what you need and back to the Morrowind days of wading through journal entries to figure out what you’re supposed to do. Ain’t nobody got time / patience for that.
    • Songs of Syx - Recommend. Like Rim World but way more scale. Still in early access though so maybe wait a bit.
    • Darkest Dungeon - Not recommend. I figured out the main game loop in 2-3 hours and wasn’t that excited by it.
    • Creeper World 3: Arc Eternal - Recommend. Great game. As the reviews say: as satisfying as watching salt melt ice.

Self

Mission: Build a strong foundation.

Best self: 4 / 10

I’m fine. But I’m not good.

This is how I feel at the end of June. There’s nothing wrong. But a lot of things that aren’t right. A lot of things that aren’t optimal. A lot of things that I don’t like. Things that are keeping me from being my best Ham.

In 2020 the global ‘we’ talked a lot about privilege. I am highly privileged, likely representing at least the top 10% - and perhaps top 1% - globally with respect to Quality of Life, rights, means, and power.

So most of my problems are squarely #firstworldproblems. They’re not serious / big / important / urgent in comparison to those faced by billions of people around the world.

It’s true. I have a very low chance of catching covid, being the subject of murder / violence / bombings, being robbed, discriminated against, evicted, wrongfully convicted, enslaved, having a shortage of food / water / shelter / healthcare, etc, etc, etc.

Yet I still have problems. Smaller problems. Less dire problems. But problems nonetheless. A flat tire is a relatively small problem. Unlikely to kill you. But hugely inconvenient. Definitely worthwhile to solve.

For too long I’ve neglected my ‘small’ problems. I’ve allowed them to fester - for small issues to compound and join together to form bigger issues.

Now it’s time to face them. To acknowledge that there are problems. To calculate the negative impact they’ve had on me - in the form of 6 months of suboptimal Ham. To project the work required to resume my journey towards optimal Ham.

I have no sufficient, concise answer for how I’m going to go about doing this. Like any sufficiently complex issue, there’s not going to be one thing to change that improves everything - there will instead be a myriad of smaller issues to be improved that together may allow holistic improvement.

However my general strategy is to focus on my systems.

  • Use them
  • Reflect on them
  • Improve them

Much of the dissatisfaction, negative compounding factors, and loss of agency I experienced this half is, has been, and could’ve been prevented by executing the systems I’ve built for myself over the years. I just didn’t execute.

This journey towards an optimal Ham is never ending. But I think it’s a journey worth embarking on. Huzzah.

Finance

Mission: Grow my quality of life, stability, freedom, and ability to make change through wealth by achieving Financial Independence.

Success Metrics:

We’ll start off with Finance as I think this is the area I’ve done best in in 2021. Like my other foci, I haven’t been as diligent in the finance department as I have in previous halves. However, the systems I’ve set up and the previous work I’ve put in to reduce my expenses and increase my investments have been enough to coast me through these trying times. I’m not setting any records or hitting any goals but I’m still moving in the direction I want to go which says something about the long term impact and sustainability of these efforts.

Savings Commitment Rate over time

Savings Commitment Rate over time

My Savings Commitment Rate came out to 63% this half, a good 10% under my target goal of 70%. It is an improvement over the 62.9% and 61.8% Savings Commitment Rate I clocked in previous halves but was hoping some intention would bring that further.

Spending breakdown by category

Spending breakdown by category

We can see some high volatility in spending this half, driven mostly by large swings in my wants and big buys spending (much of which went to fueling my adventures), increased needs spending from eating out more frequently, and a large tax bill back in April (leading to my lowest monthly Savings Commitment Rate on record - 16%).

That said, much of this increased spending was balanced out by a large decrease in my needs spending compared to last year, driven mostly by my decreased recurring rent costs starting last August when I moved in with Megna.

% FI over time

% FI over time

Still, 63% is a very solid Savings Commitment Rate and we can see its positive impact on my path to financial independence in this chart. It’s not growing as fast as it would at my target 70% rate but it’s still growing and that’s a pretty big relief after a half like this one.

Looking forward:

  • I’ll likely roll over this 70% Savings Commitment Rate goal to next half. I think it’s a big milestone to hit and if I can do it it will set me up really well for some compound gains in the coming years. But I do foresee some difficulties getting there which may indicate I’m nearing the edge of money optimization without affecting my Quality of Life. My overarching view on finance is still very much in line with my view on minimalism - you should allocate your resources to fit your values as efficiently as possible. I think there are still some inefficiencies to be resolved but I’m not willing to sacrifice on my values to achieve this goal. Expect progress, but not large or fast.
  • I’ve started thinking about goals wrt FI (Financial Independence). For instance, what does every ‘level’ of FI afford me / what would I do with it? Since Financial Independence is largely about 1) gaining freedom and 2) doing so by managing your life expenses, this is a crucial thing to think about to understand if doing x for $y is worthwhile and thus if you should actually be doing it / can afford to do so without sacrificing something of >= value. I don’t know if I’ll ever share these milestones publicly but I do think it’s important to think about and thus wanted to share that it was an exercise I’ve been doing. More details in:

Healthletics

Mission: Build a good foundation for a happy, healthy, and impactful life. Be a fit old Ham.

Success Metrics:

  • Abs: ❌ 2 / 6
  • Heart rate: ❌ 53 / 50

Like many other foci this half, my health is fine but not good. My workouts have fallen in frequency and magnitude, I’ve been doing a lot more sitting at home and a lot less healthy / active activities overall, and my food intake has steered less healthy.

Some areas I’m observing health regressions:

  • Decreased muscle mass and tone
  • Decreased, more erratic energy levels
  • Decreased, more erratic mood
  • Decreased flexibility
  • Increased joint / tendon pains

I’ve long held that a strong core is foundational to an efficient, impactful life. But knowing that isn’t a sufficient rampart against poor habits that lead to eroding foundations.

Looking forward I’m trying to:

  • Get back to regular fitness
  • Get back to regular yoga for overallh health and mobility
  • Get lasik - so I can see

H&M

2 years with Megna came and went without much fanfare. I think that’s generally a good thing if a bit of a surprise and potentially serves as a bit of a warning.

It’s easy to become complacent in things. It is our nature to quickly adapt to new circumstances - a blessing and a curse. Often complacency leads to stagnation and then to regression.

A relationship - a life - is a wonderful thing. It shouldn’t be taken for granted, rather lived to its fullest. Living is work and should be given its due.

2 years in after a pretty awful half, I have a few takeaways I’d like to bring forward with me:

  • Life should be lived and celebrated. Life takes work. Celebration takes work. - Though celebrating one passing day vs another may seem subjective / superfluous I think it’s important to realize that we have a limited number of days. As such every day is worthy of celebration. A good celebration is an experience and, in the end, we want to amass experiences.
  • You must cultivate yourself. - It’s not sufficient to cultivate another or to cultivate each other or to cultivate together. At some point there is still a you with dreams, wants, needs. You must be your own protagonist and ensure that you thrive as an individual rather than leaving that side of you to complacency. It’s hard - I think many good relationships are very comfortable and satisfying - and the other perspectives of cultivation are not to be missed. But I think it’s an important shift towards a satisfying lifetime rather than just a satisfying life in the present. If you’re doing this right, this should be a strengthening thing, not a weakening one.
  • Without self love you cannot easily give love. - A recurring theme in this reflection is ‘As above, so below’ / ‘As within, so without’. I didn’t have much self love this half - largely due to my own choices. Without that self love I think it becomes exceedingly difficult to have any love to share externally. Cultivate yourself then cultivate others.

Projects

Mission: Build a better world.

Productivity: 3 / 10

2021 H1 was not a productive half. This half I’ve built 2 projects. In the first half of last year, I built 11.

It hasn’t been a total loss. I did lean into learning and have iterated on my systems to focus on what’s important and be more efficient in getting there.

  • Business -> MRP, MRR goals
  • Business -> Customer Conversations and Project building systems
  • Art -> Explored more of what I want my practice to be and how to get there

But ultimately still failed to hit my goals. It’s fine, but it’s not good.

Business

Mission: Solve real problems. Make real money.

Success Metrics:

  • ❌ $0 / $100 MRR
  • ❌ $0 / $100 MRP

Half goals:

  • ❌ 1 / 3 Problems researched and developed
  • ❌ Incorporate HAMY LABS as a business

The biggest, most positive thing I accomplished in my business pursuit this half was to think and learn about what makes a good business and methods of achieving that. Essentially I think this boils down to solving real problems for real humans and the value that’s worth to them.

Other areas I’ve explored:

  • Problem discovery
  • Problem prioritization
  • Customer conversations
  • Problem + solution iteration
  • Risk portfolio + constraint setting

In the process I’ve rebuilt my project-building systems from the ground up with a focus on problem exploration + fast iteration. I’ve switched my goaling to be focused on MRR and MRP as I think it’s better aligned with both my goals of solo entrepreneurship and Financial Independence.

LineTimes

Status: Active -> Archived

My first business move this half was to shut down my first startup. I did this mainly for 2 reasons:

  • I couldn’t prove it was valuable to anyone
  • It cost too much

I did learn a good bit in the process which kicked off my urge to learn more about:

  • Setting good business constraints
  • How to talk to real users
  • How to build cheaper

And learn I did.

Build 1: Placemark

Status: Active -> Archived

Placemark was the first business I tried to build this half. It focused on a real problem I’d observed and leveraged some of my learnings from LineTimes.

  • Problem: Hard to share locations with others
  • Solution: An app that would make it easy to collect and share locations

I was using my new systems (updated based on learnings from LineTimes) but I again ran into snags. Each of these spawned a new effort to fix said snags and make a more efficient process.

  • I started talking to people but I wasn’t getting useful feedback from them -> Read: The Mom Test
  • Was hard to get my tech stack stood up in the Cloud -> Build 2

I archived Placemark to focus on those.

Build 2: Codename Basemoth

Status: Active

Codename Basemoth is the second business I tried to build this half. It focused on a real problem - my problem - and used my newest system iteration, roughly:

  • Vet it’s a real problem
  • Understand how big of a problem
  • Get market validation
  • Dogfood my own shit

Codename Basemoth overview;

  • Problem: Took me a long time to get code up and running in the cloud
  • Solution: Boilerplate to get you up and running in the cloud in < 1 hour with scalability to first 1M users

Also:

  • Use my favorite technologies so I will use it
  • Use it myself because y doesn’t this exist yet

Admittedly this has taken quite a long time - well over the one month I typically allot to projects. But a lot of that has again been focused on learning and this learning seems heavily aligned with both this project and my future as a software engineer, entrepreneur, and technologist which I think makes it more worthwhile.

Learnings and observations:

  • Most small-mid scale projects can utilize the same infra
    • Large scale can be achieved if that infra is well-tended and structured
      • XL / Planet sized is likely another matter but doesn’t matter to 99.9% of people / projects
  • Hard part is knowing and thinking about what is actually good
  • re: Code philosophy, system design patterns, Continuous Delivery, Docker, .NET Core, Postgres, AUTH, etc., etc.

No code to show you yet but hoping to get something released in the next few months. Follow me @SIRHAMY for updates.

Art

Mission: Explore, build, and share systems of the multiverse.

Success Metrics:

  • ❌ 0 / 2 Exhibitions
  • 0 Publications

Half Goals:

  • ❌ 1 / 6 monoliths
  • ❌ 0 / 1 solo exhibition
  • ❌ 0 / 1 collab
  • ❌ 0 / 1 art learning course

My head has been all over the place this half.

  • It’s still on my body -> I’m fine
  • I’ve lost control of it -> I’m not good

For me art is a very high order function. It requires a lot of thought, a lot of creativity, and the pursuit of higher meaning and purpose. That usually requires me to have ample headspace to devote to this focus.

Alas, headspace has been in short supply this half.

All this to say I haven’t created much because I haven’t had my shit together enough to do so.

This creative desert did give me some opportunities to think about my practice as a whole - my goals and how I wanted to reach them. My goals and success metrics have always been poorly defined for my art.

  • Money - when a part of business
  • Viewers - when a part of shares
  • Pieces created - when its own thing

This is fine as art is really what you make of it - there’s no right or wrong way to measure it. But it’s not good because art is already a structureless construct so this lack of definition simply added spaghetti to the junction.

So I boiled my goals down to 3 things:

  • Explore / research / investigate systems of the multiverse that I may not get the chance to in my other foci
  • Build systems and creations that I may not get to in my other foci
  • Share my creations and explorations back with the multiverse

I was already going to explore and build as part of my recurring half goals so it seemed prudent to focus on the goal that wasn’t already covered: making an impact with this art. Impact is hard to measure as art often doesn’t ‘do’ anything except for get looked at and cause reactions in those observers.

So I wanted to find a way to measure how that art got looked at and what kind of impact it was having on those observers. I decided on # exhibitions and # publications as a proxy for this. In an ideal world, art that moves observers gets exhibited and published.

I have no idea if this is true or not. I just got here and this is a trip for pleasure.

Monolith of Autonomy

Monolith of Autonomy was the first and only Monolith I completed this half. I intended to explore many instances of it but have yet to get around to it.

On the bright side I did learn a lot and build many of the frameworks required for me to further productionalize Monoliths at large. Further I think this is the closest I’ve gotten to my vision of what a Monolith is and should be.

Not good progress. Fine progress.

Learnings:

  • I have a lot to learn about 3D programming and physics / visuals
  • There are some damn good artists out there
  • Everything is connected, synergy is great - Monoliths overlap with my coding and visual arts pursuits. Learnings in each flow back to reinforce the others.

Labeled Intentions

Labeled Intentions is my latest work exploring the many labels we’ve tossed back and forth over the past year.

It served as a good outlet to:

  • Make something with purpose
  • Build !monolith art (I like conceptual)
  • Build something

I think it worked.

Shares

Mission: Develop, share, and grow ideas for a better world.

Success Metrics:

  • ❌ 23,484 / 60,000 Unique Viewers

Unique Viewers to HAMY domains, 2021 H1

Unique Viewers to HAMY domains, 2021 H1

Historically Shares has been a third tier pursuit for me.

  • Something I enjoy
  • Low measurable value
  • Inconsistent effort

Over the past year I’ve been thinking a lot about what my ideal creation vision and system to achieve it was. After much thought, I think it comes down to endless iteration of these 4 phases (in non-deterministic order):

  • Observe
  • Create
  • Share
  • Think

Sharing is a crucial component of any creation cycle. If you don’t share it, how will it reach people / have an impact?

Build it and they will come is a very rare occurrence.

It’s so simple yet so often overlooked.

So I figured if I found myself constantly doing it and I think it’s a crucial part of creation then I should give it the effort and resources it deserved. So I did.

  • Committing to sharing 1 thing a week (been more like 1 every 2 weeks which is fine but not good)
  • Expanding my presence to more ecosystems and investing in existing ones (of note: YouTube and Twitter - see below)

YouTube

YouTube is the primary channel I’ve been pouring more effort into. It has a great distribution system and unlocks video as a medium of sharing. I’ve come to like video a lot as it forces me to think and share differently than writing and it also helps me prep skills for other endeavors like project and conference presentations.

That said video is a lot of work. I’ve decided that I only want to make videos that align with my other efforts - business, art, and technology - to help ensure the work I put in is worthwhile. Further I’ve built a prioritization framework to help me decide what the most valuable topics to share next are but anecdotally I’m still pretty bad at knowing what the people want / need.

If you like this content and want more content like it, like and subscribe. We’d really like that.

Twitter

Twitter kinda came out of left field for me. I’ve always had some level of disdain for the platform because I thought it had low signal:noise. But I was looking for other outlets to grow my following and saw that many of the people I like to follow also have a heavy Twitter presence.

So I gave it a shot.

And never looked back.

There are a lot things I really like about it:

  • Direct access to many of the artists and creators I fanboy over
    • Great digital art and solo entrepreneur ecosystem
  • Discussion-centric and we actually have discussions (?)
  • Forces me to think and share concisely (v hard, still not good, but trying to b better)

Though I think much of this is due to:

  • Very sparse connection graph
  • Actively participating

Anywho, Twitter is fun and you should follow me if you want frequent word sludge tossed through the glass of your rectangle and into your eyes. TY for coming to my Tweet Storm.

Work

Mission: Make money. Iterate on my project creation skills. Make an outsized impact beyond myself.

Impact: 6 / 10

This June marks 2 years at Facebook and Instagram. I’ve built a lot and learned a lot, spending the majority of those two years working on Instagram media delivery and logging.

This past year+ working from home has been hard. By my calculations, over half my time at Facebook has now been spent full-time WFH. I spend most of my work week at my desk, in my bedroom, in front of my computer. In fact I’ve had to come up with some creative tactics to lure myself outside and away from my desk to break that:

  • Weekly morning walks to a coffee and BEC
  • Daily 2PM leave the house time
  • Long adventures on weekends

They succeed. Most of the time.

Despite the personal ills, I’ve been lucky to work with a great team and on some really cool, challenging projects. I came to Facebook to find high scalability problems. I found some.

Some learnings from 2 years at Facebook:

  • Code is primarily a human operation. - You’re solving human problems with other humans. It follows that a lot of the considerations need to be human as well.
  • Communication is key. - What are you solving, why is it important, how are you solving it, what are you blocked on, what help do you need, what risks are involved, and what considerations / tradeoffs are you making. A mouthful but that’s really what people need to know. Make sure you know it, too.
  • Scalability and efficiency require quality throughout the stack. - This is the computer version of ‘As above, so below’. The more I work with software the more I think this is true. For high scalability wrt performance and developer efficiency, your code base should be high quality. This should be relatively intuitive: if you want a fast car / strong building don’t use shitty parts.
  • Productivity requires ruthless prioritization. - At the end of the day you’re a human. Maybe a super genius model with the torso of Cam Holmes, thanergy of Harrowhark Nonagesimus, and luck of Oponn. But still human. Which means you have finite energy you can allocate to your will. Yet we’re faced with near infinite opportunities to tackle and tasks to execute. The usual approach to this imbalance is to attempt to expend more energy to get more done. That will fail because you only have a finite amount of said energy, the tasks and opportunities are endless, and you’ll start cannibalizing from other areas required to maintain efficient energy expenditure long before you make a dent in that work. The sustainable alternative then is to use your finite energy more efficiently - prioritize the most important things first, then do them first. You won’t get more done (quantity), but you will get more done (impact).
  • Problems are opportunities and opportunities are all around us. - Opportunities are everywhere if we choose to see them. Seek them, scope them, then execute the most promising.

Ham

Mission: Lead a happy, healthy, and impactful life.

Best Ham: 5 / 10 = AVG(7 Adventure + 4 Self + 3 Projects + 6 Work) / 10

I’m fine but I’m not good. It’s time I faced that fact, learned from it, and moved on with my Hamventure.

Most of my dissatisfaction this half has been rooted in lack of presence, mindfulness, and intention. I have been floating along with the tides of life - the whims of emotion and circumstance.

This is fine. For some this is optimal. But not for me.

Life is unpredictable, but I believe you always have volition and you should use that to cut your own path through its tides, taking into account your destination, the winds, and tides as you go.

Sometimes life will deal you a shit hand. There’s not much you can do about that. But you can choose how you respond to it. Consider a mulligan then play it as best you can.

In 2021 I haven’t played my best hand. Sometimes I skipped my turn altogether.

I think I’m ready to change that. I think I’m ready to play.

Looking Forward

In 2021 H2 I plan to lean into my systems. I’ve built them over years of observation, reflection, and experimentation. Each was built to optimize my time and effort for my values and to mitigate the frequency and magnitude of negative outcomes.

If this half taught me anything, it was that my systems are pretty damn good. Interestingly I got this insight through failing to execute on my systems, experiencing the adverse effects of that decision, and realizing that my systems would’ve prevented many of them from happening.

Now systems aren’t all fun and games. Often they feel like a chore. Each week I spend a few hours on them, each month several more. But I do think the tradeoff makes sense -> a few hours regularly to prevent suboptimal allocations and bad outcomes.

In many ways this is a core tenet of my life philosophy, as described in my motto v2:

Or in this quote I like:

“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

In other words, doing the requisite work to do it right the first time often pays dividends down the road. The trick is making sure the requisite work is indeed the right work to be doing =))))

Do what you must so you can do what you want. As above, so below.

Moving forward I’m going to reinvest in my systems. Hopefully we’ll see some dividends.

2021 H2 Goals

Theme: Play

Over the past 6 years of public reflection I’ve gone back and forth between periods of sharing future goals and keeping them hidden. The pros of sharing are that you can hold yourself accountable and get people excited / engaged in your plans -> this is how I got a lot of collaborations over the past few years. The major con, for me at least, is that you get some level of satisfaction from sharing your lofty goals - before you even do anything. This can be bad because it can lower the urge to actually start doing anything by making you feel like you’ve already accomplished something - and starting something is the first step to actually doing something.

So coming out of a down half, I’ve decided against sharing my goals. My actions and accomplishments will have to paint the picture for me.

In 2021 H2, I want to stack the deck in MY favor to encourage actually getting shit done. This is one tactic to do so.

Fin

This has been the shortest longest year in recent memory. Probably heavily influenced by recency bias.

One thought I’ve been pondering quite a bit over the past week is this:

“The days are long, but the decades short.”

(Also recommend Sam Altman’s post by the same name.)

Life is finite. It moves ever onward. You can choose to flow with the tides or take control and cut your own path.

I choose the latter. Let’s play.

-HAMY.OUT


I’ve taken a step back from email because it’s a bit of a chore and feels a bit archaic. I still send out my reflections quarterly to my email list but if you wanna keep updated, I’d recommend you connect with me via my other profiles:

 

About the Ham

Hi I'm Hamilton - I built this! If you want more content like this subscribe to my email list, connect with me around the web, or take a look at some of my other projects.

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