2019 Year in Review

Reflecting on 2019 and looking ahead to 2020.

I know we are two weeks into 2020 already, but memories about 2019 are still fresh, so I'd like to reflect on it and look at my successes and failures. In this post, I'll list the most important things that happened to me this year and share the lessons I've learned from them.

A quick disclaimer, I'm writing this post mostly for myself, so I can look at it in the future and see where my mind was at the end of the decade.

If you learn something from this article, let me know. It will make me a bit happier. If not, well... I'll keep writing anyway.

Building With React

I finally became comfortable working with React. I was able to build two projects with Gatsby (Sawdust pages and this site) and one with Create React App.

I'll write a post about the latter one because it was an exciting experience. In a few words, it's a small proof-of-concept web app I built for a friend that she and her colleagues use every day at work.

There is still so much to learn about React, but I'm glad I became more familiar with it and not starting from zero in 2020.

Lesson: Self-starting is the key here. None of these projects required using React. I could've used WordPress instead of Gatsby or CRA.

Yet, diving into the React world made me feel more confident in my own skills. I was finally building things with the framework (and not just watching courses)!

Working with the WordPress VIP agency

Rareview, the agency I work with, became a silver VIP partner this year. This isn't only my achievement, but I did contribute a lot to making it happen.

We have worked hard on every project. It wasn't easy. Sometimes things didn't go as planned, broke, and we had to fix them. I had to step out of the comfort of the code editor and turn into a project manager. I felt burnt out (not only because of work) for a few weeks.

But even with all those struggles, I realize we did good for our clients. They like working with Rareview and keep coming back with new projects.

WordPress VIP also liked our work and invited us to become a partner. For a self-taught guy like me, it means a lot. I feel incredibly grateful for this opportunity.

Lessons: First lesson here is to be grateful for the clients you have and do the best work for them. Because think about it, of all agencies and freelancers, they came to YOU. Isn't it an ultimate honor on its own?

Another big lesson is that to avoid burn-out, you need to invest in processes and other people. You simply can't do everything on your own. That is something I'll be focusing on in 2020.

Saying No

I mean it when I say I am grateful for the work I have. But sometimes projects backfire and teach you completely unexpected lessons.

There was this one never-ending gig with tons of revisions that promised to be the beginning of a great relationship with a new client but ended up being a very time-consuming, energy-sucking one-timer that I don't even feel comfortable showing to anyone.

So why am I grateful for that project? Because the lesson here is still a good one.

Lesson: Sometimes you have to say no to things that don't feel right from the start. Don't fool yourself. Don't try to justify it. Say no. You'll thank yourself later. Again, I'm talking to myself here.

Learning vs. Launching

I blogged about it already but want to reiterate the idea once again. It took me six months to build a website that could have taken a couple of weeks.

As any person who enjoys building things, I often noticed how my focus shifted from results to learning and the act of building itself.

Lesson: There has to balance. You can't build things if you don't know how. At the same time, you can't build things if the only thing you do is learning how to build them.

So the practical tip here that works for me is to shorten the learn-launch cycle. That is, learn something new, implement it, and launch immediately. Have a big-picture goal in mind, but break it into small manageable tasks that you can complete in a day or two. Make releases each week/month. This way you build momentum, progress, and feel accomplished.

Another lesson: accept the fact that things aren't going to be perfect. And there is beauty in that.

Picking Up Writing Again

This is one thing that I am very proud of. So happy that I started writing again this year. I published three posts closer to the end of 2019:

Did you notice that the last link leads to CSS-Tricks! How cool is that!?

I know, three posts doesn't sound like much, but we all have to start (or restart) somewhere.

Lesson: I guess the main lesson I learned from posting those articles is overcoming fear of failure and rejection.

I was going through all sorts of mental traps like:

  • What if no one will read it?
  • What if someone will read it and think it's stupid?
  • What if Chris doesn't like my article? I'll never be able to write for CSS-Tricks then.
  • What I'm writing about is obvious. Everybody knows this stuff.

Those are not the questions you should be asking yourself. Replace them with:

  • How to write an article people would want to read?
  • How do I check facts and make sure what I'm writing about is correct?
  • How do I write an article so good it gets published on CSS-Tricks?
  • How can I write about [insert your subject] in a unique manner, provide more context, and add more value?

Did your mind immediately turn into a champion mode after reading the set of quality questions?

Running Every Day

This was the only resolution I set at the beginning of 2019. I decided to run every day in 2019. And I'm happy to say that I have not missed a single run. In fact, there were seven days when I ran twice.

Some stats:

  • In 2019 I went for a run 372 times
  • I ran a total of 895 miles (~1441km)
  • It took me 133 hours (~5.5 days)
  • My VO2 Max estimation is 56. Garmin Connect tells me this means my fitness age is 20. Good.

What is interesting is that running every day became part of my daily routine and even identity. I structure my days, travels, and work so I can run at least 3k in the morning. It takes just 15 minutes but sets the right tone for the rest of the day.

BTW, Let's be Strava friends!

Lessons: First lesson I learned here is how to set goals and actually achieve them. Here's what worked for me:

  • The goal has to be flexible. I didn't set a specific amount of miles to run per day/week/month.
  • I have to understand why I'm doing it. In case of running, I just feel much better if I run first thing in the morning.

Second lesson is that it's still hard. Even though I enjoy running, there were days when I wasn't feeling it. But I went for a run anyway.

Breaking Up

I don't want to share much about it, but not sharing at all would not be honest because it had a ripple effect on all areas of my life in 2019.

This was the most difficult moment I had to deal with this year. Sometimes love actually means letting go.

None of us did anything terrible to each other, but we aren't together anymore. I still miss her. It still hurts. But it's life, I guess.

Lesson: Do what is right for you. Be honest with yourself and your loved ones.

Moving to Canada

I haven't shared it online, but I became a permanent resident in Canada mid-2018 and moved February 2019. The move was pretty smooth for me because I work remotely. Really grateful for that.

Lesson: Immigration is not as impossible as I thought.

Side Projects

I had a few maintenance releases for my themes this year and launched this website. Not much to be proud of. But it's ok. I'll pay more attention to my side projects in 2020.

Lesson: Learn to manage time better.

Wrapping Up & Resolution

If I had to put a label on this year, it would be Rediscover. 2019 changed my view on many things: myself, work, money, rest, relationship, goals.

For 2020 I want this word to be Grow. I'll put the lessons from this post to test and hopefully share more progress in the next yearly recap.

And just for fun, here are some of the goals for 2020:

  • Read 36 books
  • Publish 12 educational posts and 36 posts in total
  • Get under 10% body fat (This is yet another experiment like running every day)

I'll keep some of the goals private, but you can, for sure, hold me accountable for the ones above.

Happy New Year!