The year of 2023 was the first year in my life where I wasn’t a student. As can be expected with such a transition I had lots of fun and encountered some struggles along the way too. Without further adieu here are my top 10’s of the year.
Top 10 Experiences
- Following Jesus — 2023 was the year I decided to follow Jesus. It was a big decision for me and I put a lot of thought into it.
- Meeting my girlfriend — 2023 was also the year that I met my girlfriend.
- Trip to Peru — In the fall I spent two weeks in Peru with my brother, sister-in-law, and their 6 month old son. Highlights included the great conversation, Machu Picchu, lots of delicious food, and spending so much time with my Nephew.
- Trip to Scandinavia — In the summer Fermyon had an offsite in Oslo, Norway. Since I was already being flown out to Europe I decided to tack some travel on before the trip. I spent one week working remotely in Copenhagen. Then I spent two weeks traveling around Helsinki, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Bergen, and Oslo. This was my first solo trip and I ended up really enjoying it. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and I met a lot of cool people. I also ate at so many top tier restaurants.
- Fermyon off-sites and conferences — I was very lucky to get to travel a lot for work (2 off-sites and 3 conferences). Even better, I can say that spending time in-person with my co-workers is a highlight experience for me. In addition to all of this I was also very excited to give my first ever conference talk this year.
- Competitive Magic the Gathering — Throughout the year I got into competitive Magic. This culminated in me qualifying for and playing in the Western Canada Regionals. I was one match win away from qualifying for day two which I thought was very good for my first ever tournament.
- Iron Ring Ceremony — Last year I finished my degree, but my actual graduation and Iron Ring Ceremony happened in 2023. The Iron Ring Ceremony was particularly special because my brother was able to be a special presenter of my ring. I’m not much of a ring guy, but I plan to wear my Iron Ring for the rest of my life.
- Spending time with family — I’m really thankful I decided to stay in Edmonton so I could be around my family. I love spending time with the family and I love watching my niblings grow up. I cherish the countless dinners and outings over the year.
- Playing hockey — Go Powder Puffs go! I’ve been lucky to fall in with a great team for beginner level adult hockey and it has been so much fun.
- Playing D&D — Thanks to serendipity I ended up playing D&D in a group ran by my grade 5 teacher. It was not only a blast playing D&D with my friends, but it was also great reconnecting with my teacher.
Honorable mentions to my Grand Prairie trip, my Seattle trip, jamming on guitar with friends, and all the hockey games and concerts I went to.
Top 10 Movies and TV Shows
- Daisy Jones and the Six — As frustrating as the character of Daisy can be I still loved this show. I binged this one so hard!
- Succession — The final season of Succession really delivered. It offered up some of the most visceral acting I’ve ever seen.
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs — A compilation of stories that make you laugh and cry. By far the best story telling I saw all year.
- Get Out — This came out quite awhile ago, but stood up to all the hype and accolades it has received.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves — This was definitely a box office style movie, but Chris Pine is one my favorite actors and I really appreciated all the inside jokes for people who play D&D.
- Love, Death & Robots — This show takes on a very unique format. Some of the shorts were amazing, and some were gross or uncomfortable. My favorites were “When the Yogurt Took Over” and “Ice Age”.
- Thirteen Lives — I may never dive again after watching this movie. It is absolutely wild what those divers did for those boys.
- Better Call Saul — Overall I think Breaking Bad was better, but this let me binge a little longer.
- Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — A great show that regrettably starts to become a little all over the place in later seasons.
- The Bear — I’d heard so much about this show that I had to watch it. I loved the window into restaurant culture and I had also just come back from Chicago so it was cool to recognize locations. Not so sure I loved the yelling though. I also thought the second season was a flop.
Honorable mentions to Barbenheimer, Napolean, I Think You Should Leave, Shane Gillis: Beautiful Dogs, Pete Holmes: I Am Not For Everyone, Rick and Morty, The Heights, The Devil Wears Prada, Straight Outta Compton, and episode 3 of The Last of Us. I watched so many good shows this year that I couldn’t help but mention them.
Top 10 Books
- The Problem of God by Mark Clark — It reminds me of a modernized version of The Case For Christ. This was the book that made me realize that intellectually I was a Christian.
- Crashing Through by Robert Kurson — A fantastic story about pushing through adversity. I love Robert Kurson’s writing.
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis — I through this along with a study guide which I found very helpful. I’ve been planning to read this book for more than five years so it felt good to finally do it. I definitely felt the first half of the book was better than the second half.
- The Butcher of Anderson Station by Daniel Abraham — I really liked the format of a shorter story that fleshes out the background of a longer series.
- Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey — I don’t want to give anything away, but I think The Expanse is great and totally worth the read.
- Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey — Like I said above, The Expanse is great.
Top 10 Others
- Cube — In 2022 I rekindled a love of Magic: The Gathering. My favorite way to play it was a format called limited where you have to draft the deck you play. This year I got into a variation of limited called cube. In cube you draft cards from a specially curated list rather than the current Magic set. This allows you to play with cards from throughout Magic’s history at various levels of power. I was very lucky to meet a group of guys who regularly cube and I’ve been having a blast playing with them.
- Lucky Paper Radio podcast — I spent 4 days and 1 hour of 2023 listening to this podcast. It definitely helped fuel my cube addiction.
- Acquired podcast — This show has ignited a love for business in me. I love how long their episodes are.
- Game Changer YouTube Shorts — Far and away the best trio is Zac, Brennan, and Josh.
- Lords of Limited podcast — Lords of Limited has definitely taken the place of Limited Resources as my go to podcast in the MTG limited scene. I think they have better banter and hotter takes.
- Ashe — I discovered Ashe this year and couldn’t get enough of her. I saved 26 of her songs on Spotify.
- Lex Fridman podcast — I’m less into this podcast then I used to be, but Lex still delivers on high quality long-form interviews across a broad spectrum of people.
- Joseph — Joseph is the other artist I couldn’t get out of my head this year.
- Yoga with Adriene — At first I found Adriene’s vibe off-putting, but now I love it. She is such a positive force.
- The Ultimate GarageBand Beginner’s Guide — This YouTube playlist is an amazing free resource. Not only did it teach me the mechanics of using GarageBand, but it also taught me the basic principles of recording, mixing, and mastering.
Honorable mentions to Harry Styles, Tor Miller, Suki Waterhouse, Stay Sassy, MTG Arena, and blog fan mail.
Reflecting on 2023
After nearly six years of university and internships I feel that I’ve learned how to excel in these domains. I’m now entering into a whole new world of full-time work. I’m going to need to learn a lot of new skills and lessons to start mastering this domain.
I’m just about at one year of working at Fermyon and it has been a treat. The work is interesting; the team is super smart and friendly; I get plenty of travel opportunities and tech conference exposure; I’m excited about the potential for the company; and they’re very supportive of a healthy work-life balance. Perhaps the biggest highlight of my career in 2023 was the opportunity I had to give my first ever conference talk at Cloud Native Rejekts. My talk was a beginner-level explanation of WebAssembly.
My goal of writing a blog post was too specific of a goal and ended up being important to me. I also think I did a poor job of networking in Edmonton — read as I didn’t network in Edmonton. That being said I built more of network in the cloud native and Wasm ecosystems this year than I expected to thanks to all the travel.
- Find and maintain a sustainable work-life balance.
- Actively seek 1-1’s to learn and build relationships with teammates.
- Write a blog post in January detailing my plan and goals for my new job more thoroughly.
- Stretch goal: Start building a professional network in Edmonton.
- Stretch goal: Go to 2+ technical conferences.
Thanks to hard work, networking, and some luck I’ve found myself in a position where I’m going to be making more money than I’m used to. Given this opportunity I want to take maximum advantage of it and save as much as I can. Savings now are going to compound a lot more than savings I accrue when I’m older. Not to mention the fact that I’m single and have no dependents which provides me with lots of flexibility in how I spend my money.
So given this sudden increase in income and desire to save a large percentage of it, I have decided I need to strap some training wheels on for the year. In other words I’ve decided that I need to start monthly budgeting again. My hope is the monthly budget will allow me to save significantly while also spending my money on fun things guilt free.
How I put this money I save to work is a more complicated question that I plan to answer throughout the year. There are many things I can do with it: pay off my debt; build a sizeable emergency fund; save for travel in the mid-term; invest for retirement in the long-term. The ordering and weighting of these uses is to be determined.
By far the biggest financial win of the year was that I used YNAB religiously. It was the training wheels I needed — and the training wheels worked. Reconciling my finances weekly was game changing. I ended up deprecating my high level spreadsheet because YNAB was filling enough of the same role that it felt redundant to do both.
My saving and donating goals were very ambitious and I did better than I expected to in meeting them. I was very good at immediately setting the money aside from my paycheck in the right amounts to hit my goals. But because I wasn’t using automatic deposits to investments/charities I was able to occasionally cheat by dipping into these piles to cover other shortfalls in my budget. In the end I donated ~9% of my net income (~6% gross income) and I saved ~27% of my net income (~19% gross income). Note that the vast majority of my saving (~57%) was deployed to paying off my debt. Thanks to which I’m debt free now!
I have two takeaways from the above calculations: First, I need to setup automatic deposits. Even with a budgeting app it is too easy to cheat and move that money around. Second, I need to be a little less ambitious in my goals. More realistic goals will allow me to actually strive to meet them.
- Use a monthly budget like YNAB all year.
- Keep my high level spreadsheet updated.
- Donate 10% of my gross income.
- Save a minimum of 15% of my gross income.
- Research investment strategies outside of RRSP.
- Stretch goal: Save 30% of my gross income.
This year I’ve split physical and mental health into separate categories. While they are tightly linked in how the affect each other, I think it is helpful to view my goals for them as separate.
The main thrust of my physical health goals is to continue with Stronglifts 5x5. I’ve set my year end goal based on the Intermediate I goals found on the website translated to 5 rep maxes. The secondary thrust is to continue to build a resilient body through things like yoga and stretching so that I get injured less.
Overall I felt 2023 was an average to below average year for my physical health. I did yoga in January and played lots of hockey along with successfully rehabbing a concussion. But I only managed to do Stronglifts for four and half months of the year. Working out five times a week was also a wildly over-ambitious goal. And with all the travel I varied wildly each month how much I was working out. There was also a very tough end to the year which involved me tearing my MCL while playing hockey.
- Do yoga every day in January.
- Play a sport (hockey) once a week.
- Workout (yoga/weightlifting/etc.) three times a week.
- Actually warmup, cooldown, and stretch when I workout.
- 5RM of: squat 255 lbs, deadlift 355 lbs, bench press 175 lbs, barbell row 155 lbs, and overhead press 90 lbs.
- Stretch goal: Workout (yoga/weightlifting/etc.) five times a week.
My mental health has a huge impact on my day to day life so I want to continue to actively work to improve it. In a previous post I talked about how I think more regular therapy could be valuable. I want to try and enact that this year.
From the perspective of how my mental health was over the last year I would say 2023 was a success. I certainly had lots of low moments, but on the whole I did a good job of managing them and my emotions around them. In terms of my specific goals I think I did a poor job. I basically enacted none of my plan. On one hand it is a positive sign that the year still went well regardless. But on the other hand I’d like to stick with the plan.
In particular I think my relationship with my phone is the most worrying and difficult to address element of my mental health. I’m not a fan of how central of a role my phone takes in my life. Worse, the things I’ve tried to do to address it haven’t worked. It seems like a going cold turkey is the best bet, but I’m also not ready to do that.
- Build life coaching or therapy into my life on a regular cadence.
- Keep using yoga as a tool to aid in my mental health.
- Avoid having my phone be the first thing I interact with in the morning.
This is a new category I’m adding this year. It has become abundantly clear to me over the past year how good relationships are one of the most important factors to my happiness. Given that I’ve graduated university and decided to work for a remote company I am going to need to be extremely proactive about finding, building, and maintaining relationships.
I think 2023 was very successful on the relationship front. I spent a lot of time with my family which I loved and notably I met someone. While I didn’t execute on my goals with as much gusto as I thought I would I still think I met the bar for each of the goals.
- Plan semi-regular lunches with friends and family in town as a way to get out of the house.
- Get involved in 1-2 activities where I can meet people e.g. hockey team, dance lessons, etc.
- Host friends and family more often at my place.
- Be proactive about setting up calls with friends who live far away.
Travel and Adventure
Truth be told I’m not sure the best way to set goals in this area of my life. If I’m too specific than I always miss the goals because plans change. But, if I’m too generic I don' think the goals are in any way valuable. For this year what I’ll try doing is listing some adventures that I’m entirely confident I want to do. I’ll also include some stretch goals of things that sound fun and that I want to look into, but that I’m not ready to fully commit to.
While I only hit two of my specific goals I still think I had a very successful year of travel. My trips to Scandinavia and Peru really standout. Thanks to work I was able to travel to a number of places too: Seattle, Chicago, Cancun, etc. I counted and I was on 30 flights throughout the year. A lot more than I expected. My goal for doing an imperial century definitely should have been under my physical health section.
- Visit friends in Seattle.
- Bike an imperial century.
- Stretch goal: Do a multi-night canoe trip on the North Saskatchewan.
- Stretch goal: Join a digital nomad group like Remote Year.
- Stretch goal: Plan a solo-trip to another country I haven’t been to.
This is one of the few categories where I’m setting a less ambitious goal. I’m very excited about building cool things and I think that long term it has compounding effects. However, now that I’m graduating I feel that I’ve entered a time in my life where I’m more focused on finding balance in my life as opposed to obsession. Put another way, I feel less of desire to grind on side projects than I did a year ago. I’m sure this desire will ebb and flow with time.
Although I’m only aiming for one project I’m sure it will take me a couple tries to find an idea that I’m really excited to hack on. I also want to highlight the importance of the publishing and writing about it steps. I’m not going to consider a project done unless I do those too.
I missed on both counts here. While I did build and write about some small projects on the Fermyon blog I wouldn’t count those as meaningful (in the context of my own goals). I also did nothing around a hackathon with friends. That definitely should have been a stretch goal.
- Build, publish, and write about, one meaningful project.
- Organize a low-key weekend hackathon with my friends.
Nothing crazy here. I want to continue to build the habit of reading books because I think it is a good counter-measure against the rapid pace of our digital world. In terms of genres I’m open to reading any mix of fiction, non-fiction, and self-help.
This was a really big miss. While the books I read this year were very impactful I didn’t read nearly as much as I wanted to. Oh well, next year.
- Read 1.5+ books a month (for a total of 18+ over the year).
I’m really pleased with how my blogging went last year and all I’m aiming to do in 2023 is keep a similar cadence. I could set a really aggressive stretch goal here, but I don’t think I actually desire to write that much. My perspective is that about one post a month will still give me the benefits I’m looking for. I’m also not going to set any goals about having posts go viral — that either happens or it doesn’t.
The only thing I would change about my writing last year was that I wish it was more consistent. I think it is better to write one post a month rather than four posts one month and then zero the next. Consistency will not only help me build discipline in the practice of writing, but it will also build my credibility and audience.
My writing was not as much of a failure as my reading was, but it still wasn’t great. I definitely was not consistent like I hoped I would be. Including this post I wrote 8 posts this year. Three of those were done on company hours for the company blog. And it’s very generous to call my WebAssembly reading list a blog post — it really was more of an accompaniment to my conference talk. I will give myself a small pat on the back though for at least blogging a few times and not letting it go completely.
- Publish 12+ blog posts.
I’m so pleased that two years ago I decided to pick up guitar. Doing so filled a hole in my life that I wasn’t aware of — making music. As a kid music was a big part of my life, but it faded in university. Suffice to say I’m glad it’s back. Music is a more apt name for this category because my interests are starting to wander beyond guitar. In addition to my goals of progressing on guitar I’m also starting to have the desire to pick up piano too. I’m leaving it as a stretch goal and we’ll see where the year takes me.
Last year was a smashing success on the music front. I wasn’t very good at intentional practice on the guitar or making progress through Justin Guitar. But, I did knock it out of the park on other fronts: I jammed with friends a lot; learned the Nashville number system and started songwriting; recorded, mixed, and mastered an original song; led a group of carolers in an impromptu performance at a seniors center; played in worship bands multiple times; and even started publicly singing in worship bands. I’m thankful for all the work I put into guitar so that I could reap all these benefits.
Last year I also acquired my first acoustic guitar “Luther”, a D-16e Martin. Towards the end of the year I also purchased “Miller”, a Roland FP-30X digital piano, to assist with my piano lessons that start in 2024.
- Complete Justin Guitar Grade 3 and finish 3 modules in Justin Guitar Grade 4.
- Complete Justin Guitar Ear Training and Theory up to Grade 3.
- Learn to use a looper with this course.
- Keep playing in front of family and friends to practice performing.
- Keep jamming with other guitarists.
- Stretch goal: Record a cover of a song.
- Stretch goal: Start taking piano lessons.
Looking Forward to 2024
I’m very happy at Fermyon so I want to focus on keeping a good thing good. The biggest priority here is keeping a health work-life balance so I don’t get burnt out like I did in university. I also want to up my game on the 1-1 front. Last year I did a good job of doing 1-1’s with everyone on the team, but then I quickly lost steam. I want to build more regular 1-1’s into my schedule because improving relationships will help me do better work at Fermyon and open up job opportunities in the future. Not to mention the benefit of socializing in an often isolating remote job. Finally, I want to learn to love the problems were solving for customers and not the solution we’ve created. Put another way I want to focus on writing high impact code that matters.
- Maintain a sustainable work-life balance.
- Build a more rigorous schedule of 1-1’s for learning, mentoring, and socializing.
- Stretch goal: Give another conference talk.
- Stretch goal: Start building a professional network in Edmonton.
- Stretch goal: Try out a co-working space.
- Stretch goal: Find a way to contribute to the upstream Wasm ecosystem.
Last year was a financial success so I plan to keep it simple and stay the course. To make sure I hit my saving/donating goals I’m going to setup automatic deposits. I also want to spend some time at the start of the year to tweak how I’m using YNAB to be more effective. As a stretch goal it’d be good to find a financial advisor who can help me with my complex situation of dual citizenship. Also depending on how things go throughout the year I might look into buying a home with a rental basement suite.
- Use YNAB all year.
- Save 20% of my gross income.
- Donate 10% of my gross income.
- Stretch goal: Find a financial advisor.
- Stretch goal: Buy a home.
Most of my focus in the start of the year will be around rehabbing my knee. In terms of exercise I’m setting a more realistic goal of twice a week at a minimum. I’m also setting the goal of being able to do a pull-up because I’ve always wanted to be able to do one.
- Rehab my knee injury.
- Be able to do a pull-up by the end of the year.
- Do yoga every day in January.
- Do a meaningful workout at least twice a week (yoga at studio/strength training/go for a run or bike/etc.)
- Play a sport once a week.
- Bike an imperial century.
- Stretch goal: Train for a try-a-triathlon.
My main goal for mental health in this coming year is to build a more healthy relationship with my phone and social media. I don’t think the goals I’ve listed are sufficient for a perfectly healthy relationship, but I do think they are achievable and a good starting point.
- Pick a few Sundays to stay off my phone.
- Stretch goal: Don’t use my phone between 9pm and 9am.
- Stretch goal: Have a research question about how productive people relate to their phones and social media.
My relationship goals this year are mostly focused on maintenance with some opportunities on the side to grow my circle of relationships.
- Prioritize and maintain relationships with my girlfriend, family, and close friends.
- Schedule regular lunches with friends and family in town.
- Keep in touch with friends abroad.
- Host six dinner parties.
- Meet more local people in the music/tech/Christian scenes.
Coming to faith last year was a big change. I want to focus on approaching it with intentionality in 2024. Finding a community to get plugged into is going to be critical.
- Find a church home.
- Get plugged into a small group at Church.
- Build a habit of reading the Bible and praying three mornings a week.
- Read 8 books of the Bible.
- Pick a few Sundays to try sabbathing.
Travel and Adventure
For 2024 I’m going to list a bunch of things that I potentially could do, but go in with my eyes open and make them all stretch goals. Hopefully this list will give me inspiration throughout the year, but will also give me the space to be spontaneous.
- Stretch goal: Family canoeing trip in Bowron Lake Provincial Park..
- Stretch goal: Go to New York.
- Stretch goal: Take dance lessons.
I felt like I needed a new section to track my progress around productivity, organization, and digital tools. I really want to find a note taking tool I can consolidate on like I did for task management with Todoist. Right now I just use a mix of random tools that aren’t working well for me.
- Keep using Todoist for task management.
- Consolidate on a note taking tool like Obsidian.
Building things is still exciting to me and perhaps more importantly is a compounding activity so I’m keeping this goal around in a very simple form. I would hope that the project either is deeply technical or solves a problem. In the case of a deeply technical project it will act as a learning/teaching opportunity. If it solves a problem then it will help me flex my entrepreneurial muscles. I’ve moved the hackathon to a stretch goal because I still think it is a great idea, but it would take some meaningful work.
- Build, publish, and write about, one meaningful project.
- Stretch goal: Organize a low-key weekend-long remote hackathon with my friends.
Based on how little I read last year I’m toning this goal back a little bit to make it more reasonable. One potential issue that occurs to me is that if I only read 12 books that’s still not a lot to construct a top 10 from. That can be next years problem.
- Read 1+ books a month (for a total of 12+ over the year).
I’m going to keep this goal the same as last year. It’s worth noting that ideally I publish about once a month to practice my consistency.
- Publish 12+ blog posts.
My most extensive list of goals for 2024 is here in the music section. I just have so much that I’m excited to do. The headline here is that I’m starting to take piano lessons. I’m stoked to get some formal training and plug the theory and ear training gaps that I have. My hope is that while I devote a lot of my energy to piano I’ll still have enough to make a modicum of progress on guitar. We’ll see how that goes.
- Take weekly piano lessons all year and perform in recitals.
- Practice piano 30 minutes a day.
- Jam with musical friends often.
- Continue to play publicly in worship bands.
- Complete Justin Guitar Grade 3.
- Write four songs.
- Release two mixed and mastered songs on SoundCloud.
- Stretch goal: Pass Royal Conservatory Piano level 1 exam.
- Stretch goal: Complete Justin Guitar Ear Training Grade 3 and Justin Guitar Theory Grade 5.
- Stretch goal: Organize and perform a small concert at a senior center.
- Stretch goal: Learn to use a looper with this course.
Reflecting on 2023 fills my heart with gratitude for the things I was able to do and the people I did it with. Mulling over my goals for 2024 has gotten me excited for the year to come. As I dive into 2024 I want to acknowledge the seasonality of life and encourage myself to tackle goals as I’m excited about them. I don’t always have to be pushing each boulder up the hill. Sometimes it’s okay to pick the one that feels right for that season of life. If you got to the bottom of this thanks for reading and see you in 2024.
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