New Year 2017: looking behind and looking ahead

At the end of every year, I do a review of the previous year and plan for the year ahead. I find this is far more helpful than general new year resolutions and more often than not super motivating. There’s something really great in seeing what were (at the time) audacious goals being met and often pushed beyond.

I thought I’d drop a brief summary of last year and lay down some of the plans for the year ahead.

Looking behind: 2016

Move to the UK

During 2015 I was really keen to get to either the USA (New York) or the UK (London). Not having any degree is a major barrier to getting any sort of good visa, especially one that isn’t linked to a given company. However, you take what you can get! So I set out looking at every single type of visa for both of these countries trying to find a way in. One day I chanced upon a blog post which mentioned the Tech City visa, as I did more research I soon found this was a way to use my experience in lieu of a degree. Long story short, I got awarded the visa which lets me stay in the UK for 5 years, is extendable, let’s me work for whoever I want and leads to residency. You can read more about the visa here.

I then packed my bags, moved to Leeds for 5 months and then to London. Moving countries, cities and from office to remote work is a bit much concurrently, but I have finally settled down and consider London and the UK my home. South Africa will always be my home home of course.

This is probably the single biggest goal I achieved.

Read more

The goal was to read two books a month. While I increased my reading, and got through a good number of books, it was far short of two books a month. After consideration of the types of books I read and the amount of information in them, I’ve kept this goal to one a book a month or so. With information heavy books (The History of the World and Why Nations Fail being the two I am currently reading) I have found it better to re-read one than to jump onto another. Information absorption over adding to the tally.

Write exams for UoL

This one I didn’t manage to get. Due to moving countries and cities I found this too difficult to do. I recently read that instead of saying “I couldn’t find the time” you should say “It’s not a priority”. The reasoning is that you can always find time, it’s all a tradeoff between different tasks. In my case, moving and getting settled in trumped getting through studies.

“Getting settled in” is a strange one as it cannot be quantified, and you generally can’t attack it as you would a scientific problem. “If you add A and B then you’re settled”. Sometimes you are settled after a month, sometimes after 6 months and other times never. It’s all a game of feeling it out.

Looking ahead: 2017

Travel ✈️ 🌎

One of the big items this year is to do more travelling. Now that I am the UK I plan to go to Europe a whole lot, as well as Ireland and east to Russia, Japan and Sri Lanka. I’m digging around trying to find a way to get a multi-city multi-year Schengen Visa. As soon as that is done, weekend trips become viable. Honestly can’t wait for this.

Planning ahead

As per every year, an earnings increase is jotted down. This year is a bit different though as the positioning of the reasons for increase have changed.

For the last decade I’ve been concentrating on getting myself set up and comfortable. It’s been a good driving force, but I find myself now pretty comfortable and that hustle has gone away. It took some months of deep thought, but I started looking forward over a longer term. I plan to have a family and provide as well as I can for them, have a house, go on holidays, have savings. All of this costs money. I decided to do a budget of just how much this would cost and get some figures nailed down.

As it turns out, this all costs bucketloads of money. If you are looking for that driving force and burning desire to work hard and get ahead, look forward 10 or 20 years and start planning now. The great thing about planning for a family is that you are not only planning for yourself, you’re doing it for a unit. It makes the drive a lot easier to maintain.

Side projects

Last year I did pretty well with my main side project BVNK. There was some good interest, and it’s recently picked up again. I’m also looking along different lines (again, 10 years ahead) to see what the best application of the technology could be.

I’m also keen to do more smaller “weekend” projects. I’m busy wrapping up an offline-first playlist creator for Spotify. The idea is to have a random playlist that you can download for listening to when you can’t or don’t want to stream (driving, tube, gym, etc). It would also be great to make income from one or more of these.

Levity

One of the major mottos for 2017 is “Don’t take yourself too seriously”. I’ve really been working on this over the last 18 months, and still I find myself clouded by thinking along the lines of being too cool for school, or taking offense (however slight) to something someone said, even if they were deliberately being dick-ish. The ideal is that you only take in things you decide to take in.

Wrap up

There were some more items on the list, but this is pretty much the gist of it. I’m also aiming to post more regularly in 2017 now that all is settled.

All the best for 2017!