After a relaxing holidays, I’m back and at it in 2021! Since I formalized my goals for 2021, my monthly reviews will include goal tracking as well.
🟢 Get 1% faster. It’s only January, but I feel really good about this goal. The next couple months of training will be about rounding into shape by tweaking form and pushing my speed endurance. It should translate fairly easily into faster 100 and 200m times.
🟢 50% less discretionary spending. My discretionary spending in January was actually down 91% compared to 2020. I don’t think this is sustainable (in particular, restaurants reopening means my food spending will probably go up), but it’s a great start to the new year!
🔴 One hour of solitary free time a day. I’ve only come close to this goal on weekends. I haven’t done a good job prioritizing free time during the week.
🟢 Twice-weekly live conversations with friends. Somewhat surprisingly, I’m 4/4 in January! About half of these were serendipity—I’ll have to make my own serendipity and reach out more to keep this up in future months.
I think that contrary to popular opinion, friendships don’t become deep because of similarities or differences in personality or interests. Rather, in my experience, close bonds are defined by shared vulnerability. This is common across all of my best friends and strong relationships.
Close bonds can spring from different kinds of shared vulnerability. Most obvious is sharing secrets. But there’s plenty of other kinds:
At CMU, our outdoor season typically started in the beginning of March. March in Pittsburgh is, well, freezing. We were lucky if our home meets weren’t cancelled for having ice or snow on the track. All in all, March was my least favorite month in college. It always felt harder to warm up and hit top speed at these cold meets. I struggled to match my indoor times, which, because of the tighter turns, are typically a second slower for the 200m and even more for the 400m.
What made me slower during March? Was my warmup not thorough enough for the cold weather? Was it fear of injury? Could it be just decreased intensity coming off of indoor championships? I couldn’t find any specific research about sprint performance and temperature. Without a way to gather more data, I was stuck.
In college, I assumed that success in software engineering came from technical skills—that superstar programmers were those that could write the fastest/best/most code. But after entering the industry, I realized that smart software engineers are a dime a dozen. What sets engineers apart isn’t technical ability but communication skills.
Communication is important because software engineers operate within a team and business. You can’t just build what’s beautiful; you need to build what’s right for your company. If your project is falling behind schedule, you need to be able to communicate what’s blocking you to potentially non-technical teammates. And of course, you need to establish rapport with your coworkers.
No set of tips can make somebody a good communicator—it’s a skill that requires dedicated practice. I’m hoping, however, that the tips I’ve included below can help. I’ve collected them in my years as a software engineer and engineering manager. They’re generally organized by communication medium. Some of these tips apply to organizations and others to individuals, though most apply to both.
New years are a time for both reflection and looking forward. I’ve never been good about resolutions—I’d inevitably forget or de-prioritize my resolutions as the year progressed. This was becaause I’d set my resolutions based on whatever whim I was pursuing at the time.
This year, for the first time, I followed a structured goal-setting process: I started with a set of 25 goals and whittled them down to a single goal across each of four axes of my life. Those domains are fitness, finance, mental, and social.
I designed each goal to be specific, realistic, and falsifiable. Each one also encompasses several goals from my original list as milestones or as indirect results of the root goal.