2015 Year in Review

This has been quite the year: I moved cities, spoke at some major events, started out in a fairly new industry, survived, had many ‘firsts’ and successes, as well as a lot of failures too.

(please do not mind spelling and grammar issues, I have not edited this text)

A big theme this year in my career has been the importance of retrospectives; actively looking back and taking note of what is going well, what isn’t going so well, and possibly finding was on keeping the former and improving the latter.

In retrospectives we focus on three major questions:

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go so well this year?
  3. What am I working toward?

What went well this year?

Moved Cities: In 2008, technology connected me with an amazing human being, Jade, with whom I developed a close but a sporadic friendship with. In August of 2012, I met Jade for the first time in Person and it was then that I had decided that I would like her to be a deeper part of my life, we began dating. We maintained a long distance relationship until 29th December 2014 (exactly a year ago since writing this). Yes, I moved cities for love.

It wasn’t easy though. I had a very comfortable and good career going at Sage Alchemex, and many roots (family, friends, etc.) in Durban. Moving meant giving up everything I knew and started brand new, in a city where I barely knew anybody.

In this year, I have learned a lot. I have a wonderful career and a brilliant company, and have made a few friends with whom I hope to remain friends for a very long time. I have laid down roots.

Jade and her family have also been amazing in this transition. Helping me with a place to stay, as well as abundant love and care – I barely feel homesick.

Career: Those that know me know that I am  not one to be ambitious about ‘careers’, ‘titles’, ‘money’, etc. I want to make an impact in the world in whatever way I can and make life easier for others whilst making a generally positive contribution.

My career took an immense turn from moving from a product based tech industry to a client focused services industry – the dynamics are vastly different. I started of as a WordPress developer at Wobble in January and moved to Head of Development by March. I spoke at a few great events:

  • Spoke at a Cape Town WooCommerce Meetup
  • Spoke at WordCamp Cape Town 2015 on Day#1 (Training Day) [it was also my first time attending a WordCamp]
  • Spoke at Cape Town PHP with Sarah Nicholson on Dev Efficiency.

I also wrote an essay for HeroPress on my journey in the WordPress industry, as well as a local WordPress meetup organiser. Later during the year Wobble’s steering direction changed under new management with values and philosophies incompatible with my own, having made many great friends there as well as having a team that looked up to me, I made the very difficult decision to leave. At WordCamp, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the wonderful crew at Nona Creative (who were hiring) and knowing their culture, we spoke and I soon joined their extremely cool team with all the right values and focuses which I craved.

All of these endeavours and twists allowed me to immensely grow my people skills. Managing a team and also dealing with difficult people and situations has certainly allowed me to grow stronger and handle a lot more.

I improved drastically as a developer as well. I may not be the best in the room, but I have certainly come a long way in the last 12 months and have reached a growth rate where I can pretty much handle most things thrown at me (even if it makes me nervous at first).

Ambition: This is has probably been the first year in which I have grown in ambition. I always found money, career titles, and the likes to be quite meaningless to me, however, I have grown ambitious for making  a positive impact on those around me in the world. It’s a new feeling and I have had a taste of succeeding at this at a small level, but I hope to do much more in the next year.

Letting Go: This year began with a lot of letting go from moving to a brand new city to letting go of all the things that were not me. One of the major parts of this exercise in letting go was the removal of my Sikha (a tradition Hare Krishna pony-tail, a symbol of my old religion). Removing it was both a very difficult decision as well as a very liberating act.

Sugar-free: Last year I began an exercise in reducing my added sugar intake and eventually moved away completely from adding sugar to things like coffee and tea. It’s been a year and my taste buds have completely changed, when sugar (even a little) has been added to something I find it quite repulsive and most things taste more flavourful and naturally sweet – its a wonderful feeling.

New Adventures: I finally made it up Table Mountain. I climbed Lions Head, and did the Platteklip Gorge Hike (not on the same day). I had many new first experiences this year like the spice route and enjoying a good wine. I went for a few Jiu Jitsu classes with one of my best friends and may very well take it up further. I made a drastic reduction in my comfort zone and related life philosophies. Had my first car accidents (I am putting that here because it did teach me more than it hindered me).

Survived: Because, breathing is always a plus.

What didn’t go so well this year?

Patience and Mindfulness: Last year I instructed a few mindfulness workshops and retreats and experienced far more mental and emotional peace and contentment than I did this year. I barely practiced deliberate mindfulness this year and I have felt the results of its neglect. This could also be due to having a lot of changes in my life, as well as many more difficult situations to deal with, that has had me feeling less patient, understanding and mindful than I used to be. This is definitely something I would love to return and work more on.

Healthy Eating and Cooking: This is something I had hoped would not be neglected, but due mostly to laziness I have not yet learned to cook well and often eat the same thing for supper most nights and eat out very often. My goal is to go on a few cooking workshops and courses that would force me into action and allow me to eat better, have more dietary variety, be more food independent. When I worked at Wobble I would have a social lunch walk and end up eating fast food a few times a week – this was obviously not healthy but now I know how smokers enjoy the social smoke. I also attempted, with great enthusiasm, to pack myself healthy lunches everyday – this lasted 3 days and I terribly missed the social aspect of this endeavour. Working at Nona, we have regular work cooked meals which is wonderful except when there isn’t a vegetarian option or when I get take out (again). Nona work meals is also something I would love to contribute to once I learn to cook better.

Fitness and Exercise: Early this year I joined Virgin Active gym. This did not last much at all. I went a total of 9 times. in the 9 times that I did attend, I did find a lot of benefits and did witness my body visibly changing from the weight training and really did love this endeavour. I find that I cannot train without a partner, especially a more skilled partner that can both encourage and correct. I have not cancelled my membership and hope to regain my gym attendance soon.

Early this year I also bought myself professional running shoes, these were used to run a grand total of 5 times. Once when I first got them, briefly. Once a few months later for a random run. A few weeks after that I ran 5km out of random inspiration, and a few days later I managed a 10km. These distances covered are not so bad – but I would love consistency over long distances. I signed up for local parkruns (5km Saturday morning runs) which I have yet to attend, I hope to begin doing these more often in the new year.

I purchased a Jawbone UP activity tracking wristband early this year – I got some benefit from it for a few months before its novelty wore off. I do not enjoy the tediousness of wearable technology that requires constant taking off, putting on, and charging. I have also purchased a squash racquet which has not yet made love to a squash ball.

Reading and Writing: In 2014 I read 139 books – I averaged 3 books in most weeks. This year, I have read 6 books – an average of 3 books every 6 months instead of every week.

Granted, I do have a lot more going on this year than I ever did in previous years – I do, however, think I could have done far better than just 6 books. Finding solitary time to lose myself in a good book with all that has been going on has been difficult. I realised that I do also care a lot about the consumption of knowledge rather than merely the reading of a book – audio books have now become a friend of mine in traffic. In terms of consumption of knowledge, I have watched far less debates and documentaries (I would average 4 hours of this a week previously).

Writing has been sporadic. I have written every 6-8 weeks this year, this has not been great last year either and I have not done any creative writing at all this year, this is definitely something I hope to improve soon. Writing is a deeply therapeutic release, and based on the events of this year, this should have been the year of my most writing done.

Learning: This year I had hoped to learn a new language with Duolingo, I made many great starts but failed to keep up with this and barely remember what I have learned, this may either require a fresh start again or finding another means of active and deliberate learning of a new language. I had also planned on doing more cooking and attending a cooking workshop, this didn’t happen. I also wanted to do an advanced driving course, but this too has not yet occurred.

Keeping Connections: This was severely neglected this year. I had many close and loving friends especially from my time with the Hypnosis Guild over last few years. I have seen these old friends a total of once or twice over this year. I have a friend, Alan, who has been one of my closest friends in Cape Town for 3 years now. I was extremely excited to be living in the same city as him, but last I actually had time with him was on 31st December 2014 – yes, its been a year, I am a terrible friend. Alan was not the only friendship I have neglected in this way this year and I hope to work on this a lot in 2016.

I realised I do find it difficult managing so many new things at once, each demanding my attention and attention, it seems, is a finite resource which I need to be better at managing.

Screen Addiction: A few months ago I lost my iPhone 5S. It wasn’t a tragedy or a bad thing. I managed to get a replacement iPhone 6 Plus. The iPhone 6 Plus is an amazing phone with quite a great screen size (I find it a bit too big for regular use and handling and can be quite inconvenient, but the size is also perfect for reading and other activities).

Having my iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Music, Kindle, Facebook, YouTube, GMail, and chat services on my phone, I have begun to spend an awful amount of time in front of its screens. Apple Music allows me to listen to anything I wish, Kindle offers me every book I purchased for reading to skim through and enjoy, Facebook offers a large screen view of social activity and photos, YouTube videos are beautiful on the large HD screen, Gmail emails are easier to read and respond to quickly without even realising it, and the Chat Services I have used previously have begun to be utilised a lot more merely due to increased screen time and new friendship that I have been cultivating and nurturing this year.

I believe that if all of these tools were on separate devices or mediums (i.e. Apple Music on an iPod, Kindle actually being books, YouTube being on the television, Gmail being on the laptop, etc.) it would not seem as though its so addictive and showing that much cumulative screen time and I would seem far more diverse than I do addicted. This perception is definitely something I need to improve and manage better, especially in social situations and with my family and friends.

Balance and Travel: A general theme this year has been a lack of Balance. I have focused far more on new connections and friendships than old ones and losing the balance in these connections. I have focused a lot of development work and not enough on my psychology stuff as these are both part of who I am. I have done more career building than focused personal growth and also personal time-off (I have not taken time off just for myself all year) – a balance needs to be found.

I also travelled a lot more last year than I have in this one. I have gone to Durban to visit family thrice, and visited family in Johannesburg once. This is down from an average of 8 to 12 trips a year.

What am I working toward?

I am not one to make year long goals, or large goals at all (I find goals limiting and the journey to be the beautiful end-all-be-all), but there are a few areas I would like to make an asserted effort to grow in and work on in this new year.

Patience and Mindfulness: I would like to grow to cope with more and be more patient and deliberately mindful than I have been. This will take regular intentional practice.

Healthy Eating and Cooking: I need to become more deliberate with eating better and avoiding eating out so often as well as learning to cook a larger variety of items in order to become more confident in the kitchen – a cooking course would definitely help and I would really like to find one that appeals to me as a conscientious vegetarian.

Fitness and Exercise: Along with eating better, I would like to grow my fitness and be more consistence with exercise. I specifically want to focus on cardio, strength, and running – taking up a new form of Martial Arts with also be a goal this year but not a primary one. I realise a partner is an important part of this goal (except for running) and I have signed up my girlfriend to the Gym I am at so we may offer each other the motivation needed, as well as attending the Gym with her Dad who has been immensely beneficial to this growth for me (love him). Martial Arts with a good friend is also an option for me.

Reading and Writing: I would like to focus more on my consumption and dedicate a few hours a week to both consuming media (books, audiobooks, documentaries, etc.) and writing, especially creative writing.

Learning: I would like to dedicate sometime each work specifically for knowledge growth. Learning new languages, coding, improving current skills as well as growing new ones. I want to go on a cooking course, advanced driving course, and a finance course as well.

Keeping Connections: I need to make an effort in resurrecting some of my neglected friendships as well as maintaining the ones I built this year and not neglect them when I make new ones in this new year.

Screen Addiction:I will be working on managing the perception of Screen Addiction and try to reduce the amount of time I spend in front of a single device and have specific screen free times where I should not be in front off or touch any screen. This should be an interesting experiment for 2016.

Balance and Travel: Balancing Work and Life is a myth as they are so intrinsically integrated that Work is Life, a major part of it. However, I need to create a balance between my personal hobbies, joys, personal ‘me’ time and work times.

I hope to manage to leave the country (for the first time) this year – travel more.

Career: I will also be focusing on growing in making a dent in the universe, finding the areas where I can contribute to the industries that I have involved myself in and find ways in which I can make the most impact. Agency Connect is one of those things I will be working on in this regard for 2016 in the development industry.

Relationships: Having too many relationships doesn’t allow for those relationships to get the necessary attention it needs in order to be particular deep and meaningful. This will require a necessary culling of relationships that do not offer me the value, joy, and growth that is mutually needed. This will allow me to focus on the few relationships that offer immense depth and spiritual and intellectual satisfaction.

Change: A lot has changed this year and I have handled the things that changed quite well, but I have allowed these changes to allow neglect in other important areas of my life. I would like to assert better change management in the coming year so that I can tackle immense change (as its inevitable) whilst still keeping my head steady in other areas of my life.

All in All

This has been an amazing year. This coming year is going to be an even more adventuress learning and growing experience. I do not have all the answers, all I can do is look back to see what I can be better at going forward and working that into the present moment.

Here is to a new year ahead of us.


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