2021 Q3 Review

2021.10.07 | 4547 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. 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. Enter: The Hamniverse.

Q3 has been a period of realignment and reconnection - for my systems, connections, and cycles. Which is good because I needed a course correction after H1.

To summarize Q3: I got back to doing stuff - internally, externally, and otherwise. I found I’m happiest and most satisfied when I’m doing things I like, that I think are impactful, together with people I enjoy.

There’s always room for growth but I’m feeling pretty good, pretty happy, and pretty optimistic. I’ll take a breath to sit with that.

In 2021 Q3, I built 11 Monoliths, started selling NFTs, made $0 from HAMY LABS, reached 22,000 unique viewers, restructured HamForGood, hit a 65% savings commitment rate, adventured around the US, and got promoted.

My name is Hamilton and this is my 2021 Q3 Review.

Projects

Build a better world.

Success Metrics:

  • 7 / 10 productivity

I’ve been trying to create a sustainable creation engine over the past decade. Honestly I still haven’t achieved it. I’ve created a sputtering engine that cranks but never quite turns over.

Externally: my businesses don’t make money, my art doesn’t connect with people, and my shares are rarely observed.

Internally: my businesses don’t feel like they’re useful, my art isn’t good, and most of my shares are just bad.

Still - I continue to iterate. I think it’s a worthwhile way to use your life, I believe there is opportunity to be had here, and I enjoy it:

  • Solving problems
  • Using your imagination
  • Sharing it with others

Sometimes you just gotta sit with the suck. Realize that being bad at something is the first step to being good at something. Then warn everyone reading that they should be prepared for another 50 years of reflections on half-baked iterations.

My Projects practice is not where I want it to be. My past efforts haven’t had the impact I’ve wanted them to have.

Yet this practice is a core part of my life plan - my visions of how I spend it and the impact I’ll have when I’m done. I’m trying to be mindful of the gaps between where I am today and where I want to be in a few years’ time so I can systematically close them.

30 is just a couple years away for me. I want to have a working engine by then. It’s not going to happen by itself. It has to be me - my systems and their execution.

Business

Solve real problems. Make real money.

Success Metrics:

  • $0 MRR
  • $0 MRP

Goals:

  • ❌ - [Dream] Incorporate HAMY LABS
  • ❌ - 0 / 3 problems researched and solved
  • ❌ - $0 / $100 MRR, $0 / $50 MRP

Building businesses is hard. For me, the hardest part has been figuring out what to build. Not things I could build, but things I should build. Things that are actually useful - not just for me and my experience, but for real people and their experiences.

I’ve been reflecting and I think there are a lot of reasons why this has been so hard for me:

  • I’m privileged and don’t have many problems that need solving
  • I’m relatively resourceful and quite persistent at solving any and all problems I’m faced with
  • I enjoy building things to start with

Together this creates a weird incentive and perspective system where:

  • I don’t have much firsthand experience with problems
  • I can solve most problems in front of me
  • I have a tendency to build things even when there is no problem

Which I think has me missing problems right under my nose and going off in random directions building things for problems that don’t exist.

Of course all of this may just be side dishes to the biggest problem of all:

  • I don’t have much (any) experience building businesses
  • I don’t have skills and knowledge that could help increase my chances of success

Everyone I’ve talked to about this with says that the answer to these issues is one or both of the following:

  • Build more businesses (iterate)
  • Talk to real users and understand their context / experience / problems

I can do the iteration. Talking to people… Not my favorite.

In Q3 I’ve started 3 different business projects only to kill them almost immediately because I 1) didn’t think it was useful, 2) found a more useful thing to work on, or 3) ran into several problems and devoted all my time to fixing those rather than the original problem. I’ve learned a lot and found some better problems but still haven’t shipped anything.

Next quarter I’m going to try and get something shipped. What I’ve done in the past hasn’t been successful so I’m really going to focus on talking to real people to understand their problems and shipping MVPs to validate my hypothesis before going off on tangents.

CloudSeed

CloudSeed is the only business I shipped in Q3 - and by shipped I mean it has a homepage. It’s a direct response to a problem I foresaw in each of the businesses I started but never shipped.

That problem: I’m gonna have to build the same thing for each business I make and it’s going to be boring and tedious and full of bad copypasta code.

Solution: Provide high quality project boiler plate that scales to your first 100k+ users without any modifications necessary. Minimal configuration to 1M+ then you’ll have money to pay SWEs to take it from there.

I don’t know if anyone will be interested in using this but me. But it’s the only business so far that’s kept my attention and still seems useful a few months in. So I’m still building it.

More to come in 2021.

Art

Explore, build, and share systems of the multiverse.

Success Metrics:

  • 0 Exhibitions
  • 0 Publications

Goals:

  • ❌ - [Dream] Create 3d concept art for a game / story / world
  • ✔️ - 11+ / 3 monoliths
  • ❌ - 0 / 3 exhibitions / publications
  • ❌ - 0 / 1 collab

I’ve been on an art kick recently which has been fun and long overdue. For the past two years I’ve been all in on code-based art. Last year I refined my vision for what my art would be - settling on an idea for Monoliths.

This year has been a set of trials for that vision - eventually learning that the metaphor didn’t work in its current form. This quarter, I’ve continued building and refactoring that vision.

I think I ended up with something I like. Something meaningful, aesthetic, and all the while pragmatic.

The product of that iteration: The Monoverse - an extension of the original Monoliths vision, all the while more expansive and functional.

Oh yeah and I got into NFTs, 3D modeling, and real-time generation. All in a quarter’s work.

The Monoverse

The Monoverse is in many ways a system of exploring, understanding, and representing domains of thought moreso than a traditional art piece or series. It’s a practice, not an object. It’s this practice that is the art - the media, the perspective, the execution.

Here’s the current version of the system:

  • Each Monoverse has a domain it will explore
  • Each Monoverse domain is explored through a series of Monos - generative engines of some kind
  • Monos output Instances - which will be the physical / digital manifestations of these explorations

These Instances are what you actually see on HAMY.LABS, Instagram, and - recently - the blockchain. Some Instances from my newest Monoverse 0002 - Earth:

HAMY.ART on hic et nunc

HAMY.ART on hic et nunc

NFTs

I started creating NFTs and putting them up for sale on the blockchain. This was a dream goal of mine this half to better understand the NFT space and start participating in it myself.

I did a good bit of research before deciding where and how to mint and sell my NFTs, eventually deciding on the Tezos blockchain and hic et nunc marketplace for a few reasons:

So far it’s been a good experience. Pretty easy to onboard, an active community, and some very cool experiments going on in the outskirts of some of these chains. I don’t think it’s a mainstream market yet but I do think NFTs or a direct relative of them will play a significant role in the future of digital / virtual worlds.

Shares

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

Success Metrics (2021 Q3):

  • 22,660 Unique Viewers

Goals:

  • ⭕ - 7,553 / 10,000 users / month

This year I’ve committed to making Shares a core part of my creation cycle. It’s not enough to just build it, you also must share it.

In truth, it’s always been a part of my creation cycle whether I officially acknowledged it or not. I’ve always had a blog and YouTube. Probably would’ve had an Insta too if I had any kind of smart or !Windows phone before 2014.

But it was always kind of an afterthought without much proactive strategizing about how it fit into my portfolio and could support my other efforts. Now I’m trying to take a more strategic position on my Shares - to give them the effort they deserve and ensure that effort is being used effectively. All in pursuit of my humming projects engine by 30 vision.

I expect my projects effort allocations to be something like this:

  • 40% Business
  • 40% Art
  • 20% Shares

The idea is that Shares are a supporting mechanism for the businesses and art I’m building. They help drive awareness for them, connect me with other creators, and help me test drive ideas with people before I put the time in to actually build them.

If my businesses and art are the product, shares are the platform.

Over the past year I’ve done a good bit to make my Shares practice more effective:

  • Created a prioritization system for what Shares to create next
  • Iterated on systems for creating simple, useful, entertaining blog posts and videos as efficiently as possible (I’ve still got a long way to go!)
  • Created a set time each week to work on Shares and dedicated space in my monthly plans to account for this

So far I’ve seen some pretty good results from this effort.

  • I’m producing content more regularly
  • The content is more simple, useful, and interesting
  • Shares have hit almost 10k / month for the first time in over 2 years

Unique visitors HAMY sites 2021 Q3

A lot of this recent growth has come from my videos on YouTube. This was a bit of a surprise for me so I’ve spent a lot of time this quarter trying to understand why my videos are bad, why the videos of others are good, and how I can close that gap.

A lot of it comes down to:

  • I talk too much about too many things
  • My video / sound quality is bad
  • The videos are boring / not enough visuals to keep people interested

So I’ve upgraded my systems and chastised myself for being too verbose. I also bought way too much recording equipment so probably say goodbye to any potential HAMY LABS profits this year or corresponding donations to HamForGood.

HamForGood

Make this world a better place.

HamForGood is my altruistic side peeking through. It’s the idea that we (I) should all be doing something - however small - to give back.

Now realistically this idea has invaded many of my other life domains so isn’t super necessary to have in its own catgory. But I like it because then it’s easier to explicitly call out as something I want to do and to track its actual impact.

Like every year before it, it seems unlikely that HAMY LABS will make any profits which means no % to give to HamForGood. Which got me thinking:

Why do I suck at doing things for good?

I think the answer is two-fold:

  1. I suck at creating businesses (see Business section)
  2. HamForGood only works when you have a successful business (which I don’t) so it’s destined to fail

For those new here, HamForGood distributes money to orgs doing good work for good causes. It gets money as a % of profits made through HAMY LABS.

So if HAMY LABS doesn’t make money, HamForGood doesn’t have money to give.

But I don’t like having nothing to give and I don’t know how long it will be til HAMY LABS actually makes money (hopefully by 30 but who knows?). So this quarter I decided to change how HamForGood works to better make up for my shortcomings.

It now works like this:

  • HamForGood gets 10% of HAMY LABS profits
  • We will call this money pool HamForGood Fund
  • HamForGood Fund will be invested in low cost index funds
  • Each year it will give 1% of its money to these orgs and causes

If we assume a 4% safe withdrawal rate each year (which I do for my own Financial journey), then we can assume that this fund will grow by 3% each year after we take 1% for distributions. Over time this leads to more money given - even and especially when HAMY LABS isn’t making money.

Now you may be asking - well if HAMY LABS doesn’t make any money then how is there even money in there to grow?

The answer is that I’ve diverted some of my personal giving funds towards HamForGood (e.g. as part of my System Tax) so that I can continue to propel this effort forward even when I do poorly in my Projects.

Over time (like decades) this should outpace direct giving by a series of multiples.

How much more money? Well when we calculate over decades, we see some pretty massive returns.

  • Fund > direct giving in 41-69 years at 5% returns
  • Fund > direct giving in 100 years by 176-1090% at 5% returns

Ofc 100 years is a very long time and I’ll probably be dead. But I think sometimes our problems aren’t easily solved in a single generation. Sometimes we have to plant some seeds for the next one.

Self

Build a strong foundation.

Success Metircs:

  • 6 / 10 Best Self

I’ve struggled a bit to determine what exactly I want for myself. Who do I want to be? What makes me happy? What would make for a satisfying life?

In many ways, my reflections are a tangible representation of that struggle - trying on new hats and perspectives, holding onto the ones that work, and discarding the ones that don’t.

This half I’m experimenting with some new subdomains within Self that I think better capture the reality of being human in this life. This was a relatively recent decision so things are still very rough in this iteration.

We’ll give it a go and see what happens.

Mind

Cultivate a calm, present, growing mind.

The first new subdomain is the Mind. I have a lot of regular habits and systems with the purpose of maintaining and improving the mind.

Not from an external viewpoint like learning new things - though I do plenty of that through my external domains of Projects and Career.

But more from an internal standpoint:

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Morning walks
  • Reflections (like this!)

Things that allow the mind to let go, recenter, and proceed with mindfulness and intent.

I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with this subdomain, but it does seem like it captures a part of me I hadn’t explicitly identified in the past. Interestingly a lot of its relevant actions are already covered in other subdomains so maybe this will just add complexity. Alternatively it may provide a more accurate view of the intertwined nature of existence and provide a better foundation from which to build on this domain.

We’ll see.

Body

Build a strong physical vessel for a happy, healthy, and impactful life. Be a fit old Ham.

Success Metrics:

  • 6 / 10 Feel

Tracking Metrics:

  • 4 / 6 abs
  • 55 / 50 resting heart rate

Previously I’ve tried to goal on aspects of my physical self through physical accomplishments, fitness goals, and proxies for overall health. In some ways I think those measurements go both too deep and too narrow.

I find myself wanting to say that such a focus on the visible attributes of the body is a very western tendency. There’s far more to the body - to physical existence - than what you see.

Now I’m not going to go all metaphysical on you and say that any measurements of the body are misplaced / misguided. I love measurements.

Rather I think I need to take a broader view of the domain - how does it feel, how do I feel about it, how is it serving me. I think this is a good step towards better understanding and building my body in the future.

Switching gears to this quarter - I’ve been in some of the worst physical shape in recent memory. I got sick, I’ve been eating less healthily, and I’ve been exercising less often and with less intensity when I do.

My current state of fitness is below where I want it to be. But I think my previous state was too high - or at least there are several areas I would’ve readjusted.

Previously I’ve described my outlook and strategy on physical fitness as post-competitive fitness. But I think that even goes too far towards the idea of competition - and for what? I don’t compete physically.

Instead I think Holistic Fitness may be a better term for my current perspective. I want my body to look good, feel good, and be good. Nothing more, nothing less.

Tactically, I think about the areas of fitness in this order of priority:

  • Cardio - good for long-term health and fitness
  • Lifting - good for muscle building in select areas
  • Abs - Look good, feel good
  • Stretching - Don’t turn into a ball of flesh
  • Cross-training - Try new things, don’t wear your body out

I’m in the process of readjusting my systems to better fit these values. More to come.

Spirit

Build a core of meaning.

I don’t really know what this subdomain is for yet but it felt like it was missing so I added it. Similar to my late creation of the domains of fun, mind, and shares - spirit seems like something I’ve been exploring for several years but just never acknowledged as an independent body of work.

In many ways I think my constant creation and iteration of bodies of systems and principles in all aspects of my life is a form of meaning creation - the establishment of a direction from which to move from this moment to the next.

I want a life that is meaningful. That’s why I often throw around the idea of ‘impact’ - it’s a measurable phenomena that could be used to make an argument for meaning.

But maybe there’s more meaning to be had and impact is just a small subset of that. I don’t know - I guess this subdomain is here to find out.

Finance

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

Success Metrics:

  • 65% Savings Commitment Rate
  • 34% FI

Goals:

Ah back to old faithful. Mr. Money Bags themself. Finance.

You know money isn’t everything but it sure does seem to be involved in everything. So it is that we jump from my mind, body, soul monologue to capitalistic antics.

I’ve been spending a lot (like a true hedon!) and have already surpassed my 2020 spending by about 33% and we still have 25% of the year left. A lot has been from:

  • Trips and adventures (the world is open, kinda, for vaccinated folks)
  • Moving into a new apartment
  • Systematic (and overbudget) upgrades of various classes of items in my life
  • Eating out more (coffee, bagels, and New Moon top the list)

Luckily I’ve also had some positive changes in my spending / earning potential:

  • Got promoted at work
  • Back at office so can eat their food and drink their coffee

My savings commitment rate remained mostly consistent throughout Q3 but took a dive in September due to increased spending on upcoming trips and the pending apartment move. This puts me at an overall savings commitment rate of about 65% for the year. Solid, but shy of the 70% I’ve been goaling on.

Savings Commitment Rate - 2021 Q3

Savings Commitment Rate - 2021 Q3

Though it’s not ideal, I do think that the increased spending is warranted and worthwhile. In many cases, this spending has been ‘catch up’ from missed adventures in 2020 and the increased spending due to the apartment move will likely pay dividends down the road.

Though I am bullish on frugality, that doesn’t mean I’m against spending money. Rather, I believe you should invest in those things that are valuable to you. Whether it’s things you enjoy, things that will boost your productivity, or just things you’ll use often - there are many classes of investments that will take a hit to your financial status but are well worth it in other areas.

Separately, I published The Simple (, Long, Short, Boring, Probable) Path to Wealth - my strategy for long-term wealth and financial independence along with a reflection on the book by the same name. It’s the best financial advice I can give based on the limited knowledge I retain. I think most people would be better off for reading and implementing it.

Partnership

Megna and I are moving into a new apartment in Q4. I’m trying to get her to make more vlogs / blogs so stay tuned for a joint apartment tour.

Adventure

Experience life and all it has to offer.

Success Metrics:

  • 8 / 10 Best adventure

Lots of adventures in Q3!

  • Coney Island for pics, sunshine, and carnival games

  • Phoenix in NYC to learn about the expenses of modern day life, check out the Rockstar Games HQ, and get a workout in

  • Nashville for family, hot chicken, and a car race

  • Alaska for an unhealthily long people race, animals, and huge sushi

  • Atlanta for #love and family

Career

Create value, change the world, build a legacy.

I’ve pivoted this domain from work to career. I’ve found that it helps shift my mindset from something I have to do to something I get to do (external vs internal locus of control).

I realized that my Career isn’t something that needs to have a negative connotation. Rather this is my life’s work in many ways. It’s what I devote most of my energy towards and thus should represent the impact I want to have in this life.

This shift aligns this domain better with my life visions and systems and makes it more explicit what I want to spend my life doing and inversely what I don’t. Regardless of whether I’m working for myself, a nonprofit, or a planet-scale behemoth - this domain helps me compare my life vision with my life trajectory and pivot accordingly.

I’m still at Instagram and still building, learning, and enjoying my time there. I’ve been particularly happy that we’ve been allowed to start coming into the office. It’s a small thing to some but it gets me out of my house, into a workspace with more room and ergonomics, and they give me free food. What more could a 🐷 ask for?

I was promoted this half, officially reaching the equivalent level of ‘senior software engineer’ in the industry. We don’t call it that at FB - I think for good reason - but that’s basically what it is.

It’s a milestone achievement for me as it is the first promotion I’ve ever received in my career. It’s thus the first tangible sign that I don’t totally suck at this. That I am creating some value and it’s appreciated.

Now it’s not the only feedback I’ve gotten - I wouldn’t have gotten this far if I didn’t get regular feedback and use that info to tweak my systems. I also don’t recommend putting much weight into phenomena outside your control. But I also think it’s foolhardy to completely ignore the data around you.

So for now I’m happy about what I’ve been able to accomplish and excited to keep building.

This quarter I’ve been taking more ownership of goaling and direction. Helping to establish what we’re trying to accomplish, how we can get there, and how we can measure that progress. I’ve found this to supercharge my productivity - not in the amount of work I can do but in the impact of that body of work.

Interestingly a lot of my improvements and successes in understanding and execution here seem to have a direct relation to the iterations I’ve done in my business side projects. A lot of being a founder / entrepreneur seems to overlap with the skills and tasks necessary to be an impactful agent of change:

  • Identifying the problems that need to be done
  • Understanding and verifying these problems
  • Prioritizing these problems
  • Generating, evaluating, and executing solutions

As I mentioned before, I suck at building businesses. But here’s some sign that I’m learning and maybe - just maybe - I’m getting a little bit better.

Ham

Lead a happy, healthy, and impactful life.

Success Metrics:

  • 7 / 10 Best Ham (7 Projects, 6 Self, 8 Adventure)

Q3 was a far better period for me than H1. A lot of that is directly attributable to me being mindful of my values and and intentional in my actions in their relation.

I’m still behind on many of my goals but I feel like I’ve rebuilt a strong foundation of action and am optimistic about leveraging that momentum to get the most I can out of 2021.

Do the work. Do it right. Gradatim ferociter.

-HAMY.OUT

 

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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