2021 Personal Goals
This year I challenged myself to grow in a few dimensions, namely:
- Perform 150 Stronglift 5x5 workouts before 2022
- No smart phone before 2022
- No caffeine before 2022
- No alcohol before 2022
- Launch a personal project before 2022
A summary of what I learned is below.
I've been a regular coffee drinker since I was 16. If I think about it, I've probably regularly had caffeine in my system since my first pizza party as a child.
I like caffeine. Not enough to write an opera about it, but I like it. Not a big fan of my dependence on it.
So I took a break. I "weaned the bean".
In December of 2020, I substituted hot cacao for coffee so that by January 2021, all sources of caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, soda) could be cut.
It was rough, but wasn't as bad as some days in college when I'd regularly have 40+oz of Peets. This time, no headaches just more of a morning dullness for the first several weeks.
For my morning ritual or social drink, I drank herbal tea. Some favorites have been:
Lifting weights regularly also helped. Mornings I began with a workout had a sustained energy and focus. Not pulse-y like with caffeine.
I did fail this goal however, as I had chocolate a handful of times when offered (once for my neighbor's birthday and once for cookies my fiance made).
Next year: I love how reliable my days are without caffeine. I'm tempted to re-introduce it but only in a super diluted and constrained form (i.e.: no coffee, no chocolate, green tea with workout okay)
Weight Lifting (via Stronglifts 5x5)
Exercise makes you feel great... and I love feeling great.
I wanted to break the cycle of unfocused, Sisyphean workout sessions with no goal.
Enter Stronglifts 5x5. A dumb-simple strength training program based on the principles of "progressive overload" a fancy phrase for "if you do an exercise successfully, the next time you do that exercise, add more weight, more repetitions or do it faster".
Stronglifts 5x5 was perfect for several reasons:
- It's a well documented, full body routine
- It's only two workouts
- Each workout has three exercises
I set out to execute 150 Stronglift workouts before end of year. That's roughly 3 times per week. Manageable to a newcomer like me.
So I built my gym and started all exercises with no added weight but the bar. This was tedious for several weeks but necessary to establish proper form.
Eventually, I got to a weight I couldn't lift. Excellent. Gravity doesn't lie. I would attempt the lift for 3 successive workouts and if I failed on the third, I would drop weight for that exercise.
A simple calculus that works: try, try, try, step back, try again.
I took several vacations this year and upon returning would drop the weight significantly. I wanted to avoid an ego-induced injury ("I was able to lift that 3 weeks ago, why not now after I've been stagnant this whole time?") but in hindsight think I deloaded too much.
Regardless of weight, some days were more challenging than others. Challenging because of mental fatigue prior to the workout. Pre-workout probably would've helped with this but better to build the mental resilience without I figured. Also, most of them are just caffeine.
Apart from my no caffeine rule, my diet didn't change. I'd consciously choose to add protein to my meals but didn't track macros or calories. Pretty sure I never hit the recommended 1g/lb of body weight to build muscle.
Summary: I felt a sustained energy after my workouts. Focused, vital, good feelings. Next year I'm committing to a Push-Pull-Legs split, some regular cardio and consistently eat enough clean sources of protein.
First a man takes a drink; then the drink takes a drink; then the drink takes a man.
I'm an addict. Whatever I get into, I get into. It can be a great power if it's focused but that also means some things are pretty seductive.
Alcohol is one of those seductions and it's seduced me plenty of times.
Over the last few years, I've stopped drinking. Not at home, not with friends and seldom at social events.
But it was a loose rule, which meant I would bend it.
So I hardened the rule: no booze for 2021.
It was great. My hill to climb was turning down a social drink. Mexican weddings are a blast and turned up when tequila is on the dance floor. Weddings were still super fun without the alcohol.
I didn't have to explain myself as often as I'd thought and my drink refusals were made loads easier with my beautiful, supportive, soon-to-be wife.
I did fail this goal though as I had a small amount of tequila with my mother-in-law on her birthday. I will continue the goal this year though I will have wine at our wedding.
Summary: Take stock in yourself. Craziness is doing the same thing and expecting different results.
I love the internet. I can waste the whole day mindlessly surfing. It's awesome until it isn't. The iPhone and particularly, Youtube on the iPhone are big distraction sources for me.
So I switched to using a CAT B35 "dumb phone" running on KaiOS for the year.
Not being tempted to fact check every mundane piece of knowledge that comes up in conversation
Not being paged every hour by some app I would have otherwise checked once per day or week
Never worrying if I had my phone
Never worrying about if my phone has enough charge. It did. Often for about a week.
Less dependence on maps meant gaining more intuition with directions. This is how I learned to drive and navigate the city but over the last decade that's been changing.
Texting was slow but fun. I enjoyed the mechanical keyboard even if the keys would sometimes jam and force me to hang up or restart my text messageeeeeeeeeeeeee.
What definitely sucked:
Many businesses or public services just assume you have a smart phone. "Click the link we just texted you.", "Download our app to file a ticket", "Scan this QR code to read the menu". Most of these are minor inconveniences IF there is a failover system. While traveling to Chiapas, Mexico the airport's required COVID survey was only accessible via QR code scan. In territories where there are free government smart phone programs, these smart phone assumptions might not be such a big deal. For everywhere else, it's inequitable and yields efficiency losses to the business/service (time saved by smart phone features is lost to inefficiencies not having a non-smart phone program)
Alienated from all forms of MMS. Even when you do download the video sent to you, it's on a such a low res device you feel like you're beta testing a hit clip.
Summary: While I think a year with a dumb phone is worthy goal, I'm returning to iPhone for 2022. One of my 2022 goals is to use practice Spanish every day and having a mobile tool will be invaluable.
Launch a personal project: 24HourHomepage.com
I've already written, spoke and podcasted loads about the project I launched this year, so I'll be brief.
I wanted to get better at selling my work online. The first part of that was to get comfortable with the uncomfortable: talking about my work in public.
I wrote 21 articles, sold 901 units, gave a large public talk and got #2 on product of the day on Product Hunt.
I even had someone steal the idea and sell it as their own!
Since starting a new job in October, my pace of work on this project has changed and I've slowed on giving as many updates as I had in the past.
New commitment: Wake up every weekday before sunrise, work at least one hour on growing 24HourHomepage.com.
If you've challenged yourself similarly, I'd love to hear about it! Do you routinely set a yearly goal for yourself? I'd love to hear that too!
Until next time, Justin