2016 was crazy year, right? An election no one would have predicted, so many famous people dying (Carrie Fisher hit me the hardest), and terrorist attacks. Despite the turmoil, I tried to focus inward and make it the best year for me as I could.

To frame 2016 for me, some context from the end of 2015 might be helpful. I left a great company (Rackspace) and a great city (San Francisco) to move closer to home (Chicago) and be the first engineering hire at a startup (Triggr Health). Almost immediately, we had a massive failure at Triggr with one of our providers. We effectively had to rebuild the backend from the ground up. That meant lots of very long hours through the holidays and into the new year. When some days you wake up, write code, eat lunch, write code, eat dinner, play an hour of video games, then write more code until you pass out, it’s a bit hard to take a critical look at your life and decide on goals. So my 2016 goal was a vague: “be happier”.

Good news though: I succeeded at my goal! I found a life-work balance after we finished the backend rewrite (phew!). I became closer to my coworkers and added a bunch more awesome coworkers. I hung out with friends more often. I went on a couple adventures. I went canoeing in the Boundary Waters with some awesome friends. My sister and I went backpacking Shawnee National Forest. My best friend and I went on coffee adventures in LA. I took a relaxing trip to Cozumel with friends for my birthday. And I ended the year with an awesome Umphrey’s McGee show to ring in the new year. I started working out (somewhat) regularly. I ate even healthier than 2015 and got to the lowest weight I’ve been since I reached my adult height. I’ve improved my focus with meditation and deep work.

For 2017, I want to build on 2016’s happiness goal with a focus on physical and mental happiness:

Meditate daily

I can already tell the difference in the way my mind works from doing mindfulness meditation sporadically. It has helped me at work and at home to be less stressed and more focused. I need to make this a daily habit to enable me to kick ass at my other goals. If there was one thing I could recommend you do in 2017, it would be mindfulness meditation.

Work out 4x each week

I’m pretty close to my goal weight, so it’s about time to start adding in more strength training to my cardio workouts. I started running for part of 2016 but switched to biking after my shins started killing me. I’m going to give running another try this year and aim for running a 5k.

Go skydiving

It absolutely terrifies me, so I should do it. Why not this year?

Publish Veronica

Veronica is a chat bot and service I’ve been working on occasionally for a while now. The goal is to have a bot that can control my house (similar to “Alexa, turn on the lights”), grab all my data (everything from FitBit/MyFitnessPal health data to spending trends from Mint) and make them accessible. She will be always present, ready to answer questions or run actions, via texting, Slack, and Alexa. She’s already driving my magic mirror display:

Read a book a month

I’ve been compiling a list of books from people I admire and now I need to read them. Feel free to suggest more!

  • Infinite Jest — in progress, but it’s long enough I’m gonna count it for 2017. Seriously. 900 pages with tiny text and 100 pages of footnotes, some of which have their own footnotes or reference other footnotes.
  • Zen and the Art Of Motorcycle Mainentance — how to live better. Not actually about fixing motorcycles, as far as I can tell.
  • Heavier Than Heaven — a Kurt Kobain biography. Addiction is our focus at Triggr, so books about famous addicts are especially interesting to me. I enjoyed Scar Tissue, the story of Red Hot Chilipeppers frontman Anthony Kiedis, so I’m hoping I enjoy this one as well.
  • Debugging Teams — a book by a few Googlers on being more productive in teams
  • The Non-Designer’s Design Book — I’m terrible at design. This seems like a great place to start to fix that.
  • Glass Castle — my girlfriend’s favorite book and a good change up from the rest of the books.
  • The Art of Learning — I listened to the author in a Tim Ferriss podcast and was very intrigued.
  • Daily Rituals: How Artists Work — Recommended by both Tim Ferriss and the author of The Art of Learning. I’ve been iterating on my morning ritual for a couple months now.
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things — a seemingly classic book amongst startup people, written by the fascinating Ben Horowitz, an entrepreneur and VC.
  • Tools of Titans — A condensed version of the Tim Ferriss show.
  • Cryptonomicon — I started this book after I finished Snow Crash and enjoyed Stephenson’s writing. It’s a weighty tome and I never finished it.
  • Devil in the White City — A true story of a serial killer in Chicago in 1893. I live in Chicago now, so it’s even more interesting.

Complete four classes

I would like to do 2 that relate to programming/my career and two around other interests. Right now I’m looking at edX’s Astrophysics and Practical Deep Learning For Coders. Astrophysics is fascinating to me. Deep learning is already shaping the world around us in so many ways: from Alexa to facial recognition in photos to self driving cars. I’ll decide on the other two once the first two are complete.

2017 has the potential to be an awesome year, especially if I even come close to hitting all these goals.