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Erik Trautman

Technical entrepreneurship, business strategy and product development

Reflections on 2013 and Looking Ahead to 2014

At the end of every December, I clean off the white-boards, flip to a new sheet of paper in my notepad, and sit down to reflect on the past 12 months and plan for the coming year. The older I get, the more importance this ritual seems to have. The end-2011 review put me on the path to upending my life and moving to San Francisco. End-2012 end-capped the most disruptive and incredible year of my life and had so many unknowns that it was almost impossible to plan more than a few months ahead into 2013.

All those unknowns meant that a lot happened in 2013. I learned how to code, worked at a startup, broke off a long term relationship and founded The Odin Project. I've also become more and more fully engaged with life -- I'm getting closer to eliminating "empty time" like mindless web surfing or TV watching or other wasteful activities.

In some ways it feels like I haven't made enough meaningful forward progress. I gave up the chance to get a job as a developer to instead focus on building my own startup. The lessons I learned were very different than if I'd sat down and focused on mastering that craft -- my friends who did continue as devs are far more capable of building web products than I am now -- and it's occasionally easy to wonder if I shouldn't have given that a shot. I got involved with a lot of different things and ended up stretched pretty thin. Would focus have delivered better results, whatever that means?

There's something to be said for walking the winding path, though, because it's given me the kind of perspective on founding and growing a startup that I never could have had from just reading a bunch of blog posts on Hacker News, and that's incredibly important for the future. I've also discovered how much I love working with product and how much I enjoy taking a leadership role. This has absolutely informed my path forward and I'm excited about the new opportunities it's opened up.

I go into 2014 holding more certainty about the future than I did a year ago. It's not that there are less unknowns, but I know what the unknowns are and have a plan for dealing with them. 2013 was about jumping into the fire and 2014 will be about excelling in that environment.

The theme of the year will be significant improvement on all levels. My guiding philosophy is to be fully engaged and to focus on people. I've gotten interested in the quantified self, so I'll be quantifying various physical and cognitive measures and running experiments on diet and lifestyle. Because, let's be honest, what data geek wouldn't want to hack into themselves?

It's not all serious stuff, though. I also make lists of all the fun things that I'd like to do so I can get it on the calendar. I didn't really do that for 2013 (again because of too many unknowns) and I regret it. Following the example of a friend, I composed a list of 29 things big and small I'd like to do before turning 29. It's a shorter fuse than a whole year -- I've only got until August -- but that's okay.

In the spirit of accountability, here's the list (which I'll keep up-to-date when things get checked off):

  1. Build a fire on the beach
  2. [DONE] See an indie concert in SF
  3. Go winter camping + take photos in Yosemite
  4. Salsa dance in a club
  5. Speak to a professional group of >100 people
  6. Work with an incredible startup team
  7. Swim in the Pacific
  8. Hang glide or (less awesome) paraglide
  9. Watch the sun rise (from Twin Peaks?)
  10. Watch the sun set over the Pacific
  11. Host a BYO-Friend dinner at home
  12. Go skiing (for the first time in >10 years)
  13. Photograph snow by the moonlight
  14. Tahoe trip (summer motorcycle trip?)
  15. Bicycle Pub Crawl
  16. [DONE] Visit the North Coast Brewing Company in Mendocino (did Russian River / Lagunitas instead)
  17. Cook real Indian food (and not Tikka Masala... Lamb Vindaloo maybe)
  18. Join a 60+ mile bicycle ride somewhere random in California (Tour de Clear Lake???)
  19. Climb at a rock gym. Bonus: Climb outdoors
  20. Motorcycle trip to San Diego (Mexico?)
  21. Surf the Pacific
  22. BBQ in Dolores Park
  23. Reach out to make a serious and defined impact in a casual friend's life
  24. Camp at Half Dome in Yosemite
  25. Write a guest post for a blog
  26. Publish a white paper or editorial or book
  27. Get to averaging 6-back on the dual N-back challenge
  28. Win a prize (however lame or trivial) for a photograph
  29. Be an extra in a movie or join a flash mob

I'm really looking forward to 2014 because of all that I've got planned out and the opportunities I feel well equipped to take advantage of.

I hope you kick some ass too.

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