2023 in Review: Preface

Just for fun, previous editions ↴

Yesterday, the last day of 2023, I experienced two failures trying to do relatively non-consequential activities. It felt like a microcosm of my 2023.

I was running the livestream for my church’s service, and (once again) the overlay slides were all screwed up. There could have been a few reasons for this, most of them my fault, and I could have checked the slides before the service (and then hurriedly tried to fix them); but in the end, I didn’t care enough to figure out what had happened.

I had my weekly session with my teenage computer programming protégé and we tried to fix one bug with my latest software product, some issue with authorization of database calls between Astro/Vercel and Supabase. We spent the entire 90 minutes trying to figure it out without success. It was frustrating for me and, I fear, very boring and non-educational for him.

But in the end, does it matter? I was exceedingly frustrated by both failures. But the one time I looked at the live stream broadcast stats, there were 8 people tuned in. The project with the bug isn’t public yet, and while I’ve told a handful of people about it, none of them have even logged in (thereby experiencing the Supabase data bug). I’m dogfooding it, but I don’t use it every day. My immediate thought is, “Why am I doing these things?”

When I left my full-time job in August I knew I was burnt out, but I thought I would quickly recover. I underestimated the extent of my burnout and overestimated the speed at which I could bounce back. I thought I would ride my bike a couple of hours every day, that my new ideas and plans would come together quickly, and that my energy levels would return in about a month. I was wrong on all counts. After the the big career success of 2013-2020, I didn’t take any time to recuperate. I immediately jumped into the next thing, which ended in failure, and then the next thing, which ended similarly, although of my own accord this time.

I did not know that a decade of professional grinding without any real rest had actually left my tank empty, that I had been operating on fumes for quite a while. During that time, I would remind myself, “This is what you signed up for.” I would repeat the 12-step axiom, “When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation–some fact of my life–unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation.”

I considered my difficulties a personal failing that required proactive improvements on my outlook, not environmental conditions that were harming my health.

With my first change of the new year, I unsubscribed from Cal Newport’s podcast and Andrew Huberman’s podcast. I’m slowly unsubscribing from some of my more productivity-related RSS feed subscriptions. I removed a bunch of the more manic productivity YouTube videos from my watch later playlist.

I think I’m going to try a different angle on personal productivity this year. I’m not sure what it looks like yet, but I do know that I don’t want to consume nearly as much personal productivity content as I have been. I don’t want to worry about capture, anxious I’ll forget something. I don’t want to pretend things are important. I’m going to unapologetically and mercilessly remove things from my (currently 230-item strong) personal todo list (and that is only one of a handful of such lists).

I’m still invested in the productivity tooling space and have no guilt about playing with new tools (of which there is never a shortage) or tweaking my setup.

Since my show on the 21st, I haven’t worked on any of my Big Ideas/Plans. I don’t feel good or bad about it. We’ve been busy with the holidays. I’ve worked on this site. I’ve worked on bike stuff, primarily the backlog of bike projects/tweaks I hadn’t managed to tackle in the last 6-12 months.

I went to see the doctor
He said, “You should be dead”
I said, “I was doc, but now I’m back”
I’m holding on… Yes I am
Well the doctor looked right through me
Shook his little head and said
“What do you know about that?
It looks like you’re holding on”

I got an empty feeling
I got an empty feeling baby
It’s tearing me up inside
Life is a river
It’s a river, I’m watching it flow
I think I might just wander on in one time
And get up to my neck in it
Just to know that I’m alive

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