2022 H1 Review

2022.07.02 | 5755 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.

Ham

At the end of 2021 I was tired of being tired. I was disappointed in myself for not better living my values. I was ready for a change.

This year, I’ve been focused on being that change. These changes didn’t happen all at once, many are very new, and I’m still gathering data to understand their impact. But in aggregate, these changes feel like the right direction for life<>value alignment.

The largest change was the creation and adoption of a generalized philosophy for producing impact in our reality - The Creation Cycle. This is something I’ve been processing for many years, pulling from many different perspectives, prior art, and personal experiences, to summarize what value means and how to effectively achieve it.

I now think the philosophy is approaching a workable state so have refactored it into my Domains and Systems to further test and refine it.

My new Domains:

  • Observe
  • Create
  • Reflect
  • Share

Those that have followed my Reflections for awhile will likely find this new organization to be very similar to my previous Domains. This is largely correct.

  • Adventure -> Observe
  • Projects -> Create
  • Self -> Reflect
  • Share (new)

The largest benefit of this change to me is making “why” I’m doing things explicit. I’m increasingly convinced that “why” is the most important question to understand, the most often misunderstood, and the most common source of value misalignment. “Why” is literally the value of what you’re doing - if you don’t understand it, you don’t understand the value. #convincemeimwrong

Explicitly reorganizing my life to optimize for why<>what alignment has also made it more clear where other habits / areas of my life were misaligned / causing misalignment.

Many of these changes are new to me and I’m still gathering data to better understand their effects. I’m sure that some will prove false and most will require new tweaks but these feel like important things to test to better understand my best next move.

In the first half of 2022, I got engaged, traveled for 59 days, launched a business, created a generalized framework for effective creation, reached 3 years working at Instagram, completely missed my financial goals, attempted being a part-time Creator, and became a zealot for sleep.

Observe

Mission: Experience life.

The first step of any process is to understand the domain. The best way to understand a domain is to have direct experience with it. The purpose of Observe is to make this explicit so each relevant action can be taken with presence and clarity.

Adventure

I went on a lot of adventures this year. In some cases, more than I probably should’ve. This is a nonexhaustive list of adventures I’m grateful to have experienced and that I was able to remember from skimming my calendar / Instagrams.

One thing I’m trying to be more intentional about is acknowledging and appreciating the adventures I have right here at home. In previous Reflections, I’ve almost exclusively focused on those that took place in different geographies. While these may have a higher % prevalence of novelty / adventurousness, I don’t think it’s correct / sustainable / fair to hold these adventures over adventures at home.

In fact I’d posit the more valuable approach to this is to expect and evaluate adventures at home in higher regard than those abroad - both in terms of ROI, life value, and compounding network effects. If you start to feel your adventures at home are less valuable than those abroad - that’s probably a good indicator you should reflect on your values and actions and experiment with different ones. Testing this can help determine if its your home or (more likely) your leveraging of its opportunities that is at the root of this value perspective.

That said, the most exciting (and potentially exhausting) trip I went on this year was my trip to Paris, France with Megna and our families. While there we got engaged. It was too big to fit into this post, so I wrote about it in A Trip to Paris.

  • Skiing - Breckenridge, Colorado (5 days)
  • [Skipped] Skiing - Vermont (4 days)

  • Skiing - Hunter, New York (3 days)

  • Dan’s Bachelor Party - San Diego, California (6 days)

  • Work Remote / Layover - Los Angeles, California (4 days)

  • Skiing - Salt Lake City, Utah (10 days)

  • [Attempted Skip] Exploring - Medellin, Colombia (8 days)

  • Chelsea Galleries - New York, New York

  • Megna’s Doctor’s 5K - Long Island, New York
  • Chai’s Birthday! - Lower East Side, New York

  • Dan + Jessica’s Wedding! - New York, New York

  • Griffin and Aaron visited! - New York, New York
  • Lee’s Birthday! - Miami, Florida (4 days)
  • Jacobi Visited! - New York, New York

  • Phoenix’s Graduation - Atlanta, Georgia (6 days)
  • McKenzie’s Birthday! - New York, New York

  • Went to Paris! Got some pics! Also got engaged! - Paris, France (Read: A Trip to Paris) (4 days Atlanta, 7 days Paris)

  • Megna sold a lot of stuff! - Grand Caymans (2 days)

All in all I was away from home for approximately 59 days this year with trips to 10 distinct places. That’s a lot of days and a lot of trips for a 6 month period of time.

I think this is too much for me and some obvious signs of this are where I skipped / attempted to skip some trips due to cognitive overload. I like adventuring around but I’ve found I also need time by myself and in familiar surrounds to reflect, decompress, and reconnect from this influx of experience. When I’m overloaded like this I tend to lose happiness as I diverge from my values which in turn lessens my ability to enjoy the adventure - the whole reason I did it in the first place.

Moving forward I’m going to try to reduce this overload by doing less heavy lift trips with higher alignment with my values. I think this will lead to less overload and more resources to put towards more lower cost, local adventures. I think one week long, high value alignment trip a quarter is a great cadence for me to balance my adventures with my enjoyment of home.

In all likelihood this means that skiing is on the chopping block.

My hypothesis:

  • Because I believe that too much travel (59 days in 6 months) leads to cognitive overload which leads to unhappiness
  • If I do less frequent, higher alignment travel (~15 days in 6 months)
  • I will be happier

Connections

I don’t think I’ve been very intentional when it comes to Connections. Connecting with people is not something that comes naturally to me and my tendency is to shy away from them rather than do the work to build them.

When I look back on the last decade, I see a pattern of behaviors that on the surface seems like they would’ve helped me face and overcome this phenomena when in reality they perpetuated it. Specifically I think my patterns of choices for the circumstances in which I interacted with people and related substance abuse led to interactions focused on surface-level activity rather than any deeper meaning / values.

When I layer on the context that many of these activities didn’t really align with many of my values, the misalignment grows. Adding an additional layer that many of these activities detracted from my ability to live up to several of my values, the misalignment grows further.

This is a new perspective for me and I’m not exactly sure what the best path forward is. But I do know that what I was doing wasn’t working and some hypotheses for what I want to achieve. To start, I’m making a lot of changes that give a higher priority for my Health. I hypothesize that better alignment with this core value will lead to better alignment in how I connect and the connections I build. More in Mind.

Less late nights, more intentional connection.

Research

I do a lot of research. I’m trying to formalize it in my process to facilitate more valuable outcomes - for Create and Share.

I think the main theme of my research this half was to answer the question of “How can we meaningfully Create?” with the implicit position that Impact requires Creation and that there has to be a way to provide value with a higher chance of success. More on this in the relevant domains:

Create

Mission: Build a better world.

I believe all Impact originates from Creation. This is because Impact simply means an effect / result and for an effect / result to occur there must have been a source stimulus. Thus:

  • An effect / result requires a source stimulus
  • To create an effect / result requires the creation of a source stimulus
  • To create an impact requires the creation of a source stimulus
  • To create an impact requires creation
  • Impact requires creation

The Creation Cycle is the best system I’ve come up with to effectively create a stimulus that results in the impact you want to achieve. Its principles are not novel. In fact, they should be painfully obvious. Yet I see people (me included) get this wrong over and over and over again leading to suboptimal outcomes and wasted resources.

This is my attempt to make these obvious principles so explicitly simple / visible / obvious that I won’t get it so wrong next time. This is my attempt to force myself into the pit of success (and take everyone along with me).

The Creation Cycle’s steps are:

  • Observe: Create hypotheses for the state of the world and how we can impact it.
  • Create: Create Minimum Viable Experiments to test these hypotheses.
  • Reflect: Compile Validated Learnings from this Cycle to improve the next Cycle.
  • [Optional] Share: Share the Cycle’s outputs to impact the world and future Cycles.

For more on The Creation Cycle and how to apply it:

Business

I found clarity around how I want to impact the world: through business and technology. To reflect this, I’ve reorganized Art under Share and changed my bio from Artist / Technologist / Entrepreneur -> Technologist / Entrepreneur.

This year I’ve only launched one business: CloudSeed. It’s a SaaS project boilerplate built with Sveltekit, .NET, and Postgres. The problem it’s trying to solve is that it takes a lot of time / effort to create a new SaaS business / codebase - I’ve validated this with numerous potential customers. However my data shows that this solution may not fit the market.

So far I’ve had 0 sales (besides Megna who is very supportive but said she has no idea what it does). This is obviously not the result I was hoping for but I’m not overly disappointed by it - most businesses fail, mine will be no different.

What I am disappointed in is how I’ve played the game:

  • High cost (time / effort) to test my assumptions
  • False assumptions directing work for a long time (i.e. going in a wrong direction)
  • Few iterations / outcomes this year (one “experiment” launched, minimal learnings in 6 months)

In a world of many unknowns and low rates of success (like the one we live in), the most effective strategy is an array of diverse, low-cost, and value-based bets. We see this again and again:

  • Index funds beating 80% of active funds (CNBC)
  • VC funds preferring many bets vs “home run” bets (Y Combinator)
  • Startups using MVPs vs full-fledged products

This is why I created The Creation Cycle - to reduce wasted resources by applying the world’s leading strategies / philosophies for dealing with unknowns into an easy to follow framework for creation.

My hypothesis then is:

  • Because I believe a large source of waste and suboptimal creation outcomes is due to operating under false assumptions about unknowns
  • If we use The Creation Cycle for our creations (to efficiently test our assumptions)
  • We expect less waste and better outcomes

I’ll be testing this throughout the year.

Career

I moved Career into my Create Domain because I realized that having it in its own Domain led to value misalignment. Ultimately Create is the type of impact I want to have on the world during my life. It follows that a majority of my resources should align with the values of this Domain.

However if Career is in its own Domain then it’s likely its values will be different from Create’s. Since a majority of my waking “productive” time is spent at work, this leads to a large misalignment of my resources to my values.

I actually think that this value misalignment, between what you want to accomplish in your life vs what your day job provides, is extremely prevalent in today’s society. I think a lot of this stems from the modern usage of the term “career”. Today this typically means a “career path” which is really a template / cookie cutter route for a specific type of job progression.

But if we look at how those routes came about - it’s not because of any underlying core values. Really it follows the incentive structure of capitalism which is money. So if we think of our society in this way:

  • Money = Value in Capitalism
  • Money leads to government <> business paradigms
  • Leads to their specific roles (inputs / outputs in that system)
  • Leads to specific “jobs” to fulfill their role (process those inputs / outputs)
  • Leads to the creation of schools to train people to fulfill those jobs

This is the incentive structure of capitalism. We build systems to get money. Those systems require some sort of work to be done to function (organized into “jobs”) and career paths were created to fulfill these work requirements.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this system. I actually believe it to be rather efficient.

That said, when we understand the incentive structures that led to today’s paradigms of career paths (“jobs”), it seems rather clear that the incentives of society don’t necessarily align with the values (read: incentives) of the individual.

When I think of what a Career should be - I think it should be more of a record / legacy of the impact you had in your life. Thus when you’re choosing a “career path” it should be one that you’ve created (and that you regularly reevaluate) that you believe will lead to that desired impact.

My hypothesis is:

  • Because I believe most people’s “career path” doesn’t actually align with their values / what they want to achieve in life (ideal Career)
  • If more people considered what they wanted to achieve in life / the impact they wanted to have
  • They would have a different “career path” more closely aligned with their ideal Career

On the flip side I do understand that Money = Value in Capitalism. Thus Maslow’s Hierarchy dictates that Money must be taken care of before meaning / actualization can come into the picture. This is where “career paths” shine - giving you a cookie cutter way to plug into the value chain of capitalism.

I’ve recently come across the idea of Ikegai which seems like a good way to approach trying to balance these competing priorities / incentives. Modern interpretations (which honestly may mean completely separate from the original intent) seem to attempt to build a life of purpose by finding things that fit 4 different categories:

  • What you’re good at
  • What you love
  • What the world needs
  • What you can be paid for

If you can do this, I think you’ve found a good balance between the values of society and yourself - your Career and your job (“career path”).

#endrant

I’ve now worked at Instagram as a Software Engineer for 3 years. When I joined in 2019, I hoped to learn a few things:

  • Experience with larger scale
  • Jump into a new platform / organization, see how it ticks
  • Lead bigger projects with more responsibilities

I think I did those things:

  • Supported services hit 1 trillion times a day
  • Increased the efficiency of several core systems by 20%+ with aggregate resource savings > $5M / year
  • Created strategy, workstreams, goals, roadmaps, and led execution for 10+ people across several teams and orgs

But when I really look back and consider what my biggest learnings were from this time, they’re of an entirely different sort:

  • How to identify and opportunity size Value
  • How to prioritize
  • How to communicate effectively

They’re so different that I’m not even sure I can directly attribute them to this job. Instead it seems to be more of a combination of all the experiences and learnings I’ve had thus far in my Career. What I can certainly attribute to this job is direct experience with these things at high scale - the caliber of the teams, the size of the company (60k+ via Statista), the scale of unknowns and autonomy to tackle them.

As part of my Career realignment, I’ve been looking to ensure my job aligns with my Career. I’ve approached this in a few ways:

  • Experience in areas I want to explore / grow in
  • Learning / Applying / Testing new ideas
  • Working on things that align with the Impacts I want to have

Interestingly when I started doing this I came to a realization around the nature of Business.

  • The only other guarantee outside of death and taxes is change
  • The nature of change is often unknown / uncertain
  • Effective Business has flexibility for uncertainty
  • Entrepreneurship is the act of Business with flexibility for uncertainty
  • Entrepreneurship is effective Business

And how do we effectively perform entrepreneurship - i.e. do Business effectively in the face of unknowns / uncertainty???? The Creation Cycle!!!

So yeah this whole alignment thing found more alignment than I’d originally hoped. #feelsgoodman

Reflect

Mission: Understand life.

Where Observe attempts to gather data and Create attempts to use it to create impact, Reflect is a time to learn from these experiences. That’s essentially the whole point of these Reflections - to take time to really understand what happened and what I can learn from them so I can do a little better next time.

Mind

I’m really trying to improve my headspace this year from the general malaise I felt in 2020-2021 to something more happy and productive. As I reviewed my actions against my core values to understand what I could do about this, I realized that there was more misalignment.

My core values for my life are:

  • Happy
  • Healthy
  • Impactful

Happiness and Impact were fine (though not ideal) which is why I was focused on this malaise. But Health is something I hadn’t really given much thought to. When I started to think back to times where I was feeling least happy, least impactful it often seemed to correlate with times I wasn’t feeling particularly healthy.

It seemed that there was some connection between less Health and less living my values. It seemed to go both ways - a sort of vicious cycle.

This all started to click for me around May when I went to Atlanta for Phoenix’s (my brother) graduation. I was sick - so sick that I had to take off work and do minimal social activities (though thankfully not COVID). This came on the heels of weeks of benders on my many adventures this half. So I tried to heal - eating well, getting lots of sleep, being kind to my body (little to no alcohol, wind down time before bed, mindfulness exercises, etc.).

After one week of this I was feeling… Amazing? So I tried it for another week and another week and another week… It made me feel good. Better than before.

  • More energy
  • More positive outlook
  • Feeling #smarter
  • More clarity, agency, and better choices

Of course any new habit takes awhile to stick so there were some intermittent lapses in this direction. These served as good boundary tests for where my optimal lines were to best fulfill my values. What I’ve found works best is this:

  • 7-8 hours of good sleep
  • 1-2 hours winding down before sleep
  • No alcohol (def < 2 if ever)
  • No coffee 10 hours before bed
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule (I am ready to sleep by 0000, 0100 in extraordinary circumstances)

The funny / ridiculous / exasperating thing is that these are all actions that are encoded in my systems / values already. I just wasn’t actually doing them.

Even though this is the Mind section, we mostly talked about changes to Body because those were the things that led to the greatest impact here. I think this underscores the importance and prevalence of synergistic systems / cycles on impact - whether they’re vicious or virtuous. Continuing with the theme of synergistic alignment, I found that when I started setting these rules for myself I not only improved my areas of internal happiness (my mindset, my Body) and productivity (like Business) I also improved the quality of my time spent with my Connections - simply by being more present and intentional with these interactions.

Body

I laid out the biggest changes and their impacts in Mind. Essentially:

  • I’m mostly sober
  • I’m treating Health as the core value it is
  • I am turning into a zealot for good sleep

Other updates:

  • I’m trying to get back into running
  • I’ve created an array of travel-suitable workouts so I don’t have an excuse to not workout while traveling
  • I now have a daily habit to leave my house for 30+ minutes per day (also happens to be synergistic with Adventures, Connections, and Mind)

Savings Commitment Rate by Month

Savings Commitment Rate by Month

Finances

Enough with the good news, now with the bad news. My Finances are a shit show. At the end of June (6 months into 2022) I’ve already spent 90% of what I spent in all of 2021 - and I spent so much in 2021 that I had to increase my FIRE number.

My current numbers aren’t good but I actually don’t think this is an indicator of problems in my systems. The reason is that there are very few of these expenses that I wish I hadn’t made. In other words, most of these expenses were in line with my values and worth their cost to me.

Spending Breakdown by Category by Month

Spending Breakdown by Category by Month

Some expenses:

  • Lots of trips (like A Trip to Paris with my whole family for an engagement)
  • An engagement ring
  • Big purchases - like new running shoes, rain jacket, luggage, running watch - things I use all the time that needed to be replaced
  • Large investments in education, equipment, and efficiency for my Business and Shares
  • Taxes - I haven’t been paying my estimated taxes which keeps leaving me with a large tax bill at the end of each year. Now theoretically I should not count this in my expenses as really it’s closer to “money I never had” than money I received and then spent / saved. But it’s easier for me to count this as an expense and leaves less room for error that I accidentally skip over other money movements in my calculations. This does artificially deflate my savings rates but I’m okay with underestimating my performance for things like this as it biases me to get better.

So while my finances are well outside my goals this half I don’t see this as a huge issue right now. I operated within my means and values and the outcome just happened to be different than I expected.

Outcomes will be different than you wanted / expected because we live in a world of uncertainty / unknowns. The best strategy is not to worry about the specific outcome (something that already happened / you can’t control) and instead focus on what you can do about it (what you can control). This is one of the reasons I think Value and Systems based thinking is so critical for good decision making (like I’ve found in Business) - it forces you to take the “what” in context of the “why”.

For me, I track my Finances to provide myself with a life of:

  • Stability
  • Freedom
  • Quality of Life

So accumulating wealth for the sake of wealth is not the point of this domain. Spending with good ROIs towards these values (and the values of my other Domains) is.

Moving forward I’m going to:

  • Reduce spending through the end of the year (mostly trips and big purchases)
  • Pay estimated taxes throughout year

I’ll be monitoring my expenses through the end of the year and hopefully they’ll flatten and I can make some progress towards my savings goals. If they continue to show a pattern of elevated spending then I think alarm is warranted. Especially in this economy.

Share

Mission: Connect with the world.

Creation in a bubble does not work. The whole reason we’re creating is to produce an impact and the only way to produce impact is to share that creation with the world.

For a long time I considered the value of these Share Domains to be in their creation. But I think the values further align when we consider them as a way to connect with the world as opposed to the thing we’re actually connecting it to. At least it seems to better align for me.

Art

I’ve struggled with my connection and practice with Art. I think most of these struggles have been aligning what I want to get out of it with what I want to put into it. Over the past few years I think I’ve taken both too casual and too serious approaches in this search for alignment.

I know that I love art:

  • I love the process of creation
  • I love discovering the unique artifacts, perspectives, and methods of creators
  • I love its relevance and simultaneous absurdity to humanity

But that’s not a sufficient data point to design and build a healthy, impactful relationship with it. So, similar to my process with Business and Career, I tried to look at other data points to help triangulate better positioning.

When I look back on my favorite seasons of Art I find that I’m usually happiest when I’m building something Fun, Awesome, and Relevant to whatever it is I’m working / thinking on at the time. In the past year I attempted to make my practice more deterministically valuable externally but that stripped a lot of the Fun and Awesome from my creations.

With Art’s refactor under Share I’m hoping to recapture some of that magic - by regularly building and sharing things that are Fun, Awesome, and Relevant with those I care about. This refactor also explicitly denotes that Art is not the primary vehicle of impact I wish to have, giving more space for Business and Technology via Create.

Releases:

  • I’ve been playing with Reels and generative constructions -> @hamy.art

HamForGood

HamForGood is my effort to ensure I’m giving back to the world even when my day-to-day Create work is not having a direct positive impact on it. I typically try to do this in two ways:

This framework helps to align my incentives for Create value with my incentives for Share value.

The money side is not going well. This is because HamForGood primarily gets funded from 10% of HAMY.LABS project profits and HAMY.LABS has made negative money. Ideally my businesses will start to turn a profit and start funding this bucket (that’s part of my life vision) but depending on the data I may need to change tactics. I only do disbursements at the end of the year so we’ll see what this looks like at year end.

Action-wise I try to make 10 intentional actions that support a better world each year. Even if they’re small, I believe that every action is a vote and if we can all pitch in one action a month that can add up to large impacts at scale.

  • [Environment] Create your first NFT in 10 Minutes! (video)
    • Promotes Polygon over Ethereum (Proof of Stake vs Proof of Work) which is approximately 40,000x more energy efficient
  • [Environment] Ethereum vs Polygon for NFTs (video)
    • Promotes Polygon over Ethereum
  • [Environment] All We Can Save - We need you to solve climate change
    • Promotes All We Can Save - a highly regarded resource on the state of climate change and what we can do about it.
  • [Environment] Advocated at Facebook / Instagram to use Proof of Stake blockchains instead of Proof of Work blockchains for experimental NFT feature (see: Instagram Digital Collectibles)
    • According to the release they started with Ethereum and Polygon. If Ethereum can get its act together, it could be Proof of Stake by end of year (Q4 2022) but I’ll believe it when I see it.
  • [Action] Every Action a Vote
    • Hopefully illustrates that even small actions matter and that there are many opportunities to take them with minimal effort, same with this section.

I write this section in my Reflections to hold myself accountable to my values and ideals. Also to show the small, ridiculous things I think help the world to show that there are no barriers to entry - come as you are, help as you can.

Shares

I played around with what it would be like to make my Shares a primary outlet of impact.

I learned a lot:

  • Systemization in another creative field
  • Value is about the Customer
  • Business vs Hobby

Ultimately it made me realize how business fundamentals and frameworks are shared across many different verticals - a big influence in my Domain refactor towards The Creation Cycle.

With this new perspective, I realized that Shares is not the primary vehicle for impact for me:

  • Most successful creators use their platform to promote something else -> A Creation
  • I want to spend more of my time on Create vs Share - the primary impact I want to have
  • Even if I wanted to spend more time on Shares, I would need a Creation to promote to make it sustainable
  • I am not as good at Shares as I am at the technology / businesses I’m building in Create

Thus Shares should be part of the Share step - something to connect my Creations to the world - rather than the Create step - the core part of the Creation cycle.

To reflect this, I’m trying to do a few things with my Shares:

  • Focus more on things relevant and valuable to my Creations
  • Spend less cycles on Shares

2022 YouTube Stats

2022 YouTube Stats

Stats-wise YouTube continues to be my largest source of traffic in 2022 H1 with a total of 29,182 views and 1,020 subscribers. YT tells me this is 5% less views than the July-December 2021 period so not exactly going in the right direction here.

My top 5 videos are:

I think it’s interesting to call out the category of video here because it’s clear that my top performing videos are not super aligned with my current areas of focus for Create and Share. This is largely because I was focused more on creating content for those categories in the past few years but also shows I’ve got work to do to align with my domains.

Svelte is Better than React is really the only video in this list that furthers my current goals by promoting other, similar content and pushing people towards CloudSeed.

Looking at my other sites in 2022 H1, they bring in much less traffic than YouTube:

  • HAMY - 1,526 users
  • HAMY.BLOG - 800 users
  • HAMY.LABS - 2,806 users

Top posts are mostly linked to from my top YouTube videos with my 2021 Review getting some love:

Follow Along

That’s it for the first half of 2022. Hoping to have some cool things to share next time.

Follow along on my Socials.

 

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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