2017: My Year in Review
“life is the bucket” — Ted
As we close out 2017, I, yet again, type in a state of reflection.
I write this year-in-review as a means to:
- Remember both the good and the bad parts of 2017
- Provide a transparent account of my life
- Appreciate the little moments
- Reflect over my choices and analyze outcomes
- Give a massive thank you
Disclaimer: I in no way mean for this to be a prescriptive essay. At times this year, I got really lucky and things appear to have went well. What is perhaps not perfectly represented, however, is how often I failed. I failed a ton. I messed up a lot. I am by no means the example. I made a ton of public mistakes. But I have no regrets. Always onward.
Further, I want to recognize that there are no participation trophies in life. No one cares if I work hard. No one cares if I may not sleep. Talking about working a lot does not accomplish anything. I only get compensated for output, not input. There is no prize for quantity. I say this only to emphasize the purpose for my writing — it is detached from ego. I really do not mean this essay as a brag towards my relative accomplishments.
Thank you to everyone — my family, (new & old) friends, enemies, mentors, coworkers, peers — everyone. While life is largely a single player game, I know that I am standing on the shoulders of giants. I owe everything to those who have helped me make it this far. Thank you.
2017 was another year of personal, social and professional growth. From exploring my personal tastes and preferences to acquiring new skills to stepping out of my comfort zone, this was another year of extreme learning.
(this whole post is about a 12 minute read) (also see 2016’s year in review)
Personal Summary (these are both external and internal metrics):
- Felt present. Used social media/phone significantly less. Began to really appreciate the little things in life.
- Met 100s of new people (many internet friends from Twitter). Most importantly, strengthened relationships with people I care most about.
- 365 days of daily blogging. 1/4 million views. (total = 675 days in a row).
- Had a ton of fun. Lived in PHX, STL and SF. Took a ton of road trips. Started taking more pictures. Played sports (nearly won intramural soccer). Interacted with completely new types of people. Challenged myself in new ways.
- Tried a ton of new food. Liked most of it.
- Shipped 11 new products on Product Hunt. Tens of thousands of combined users. Millions of total page views. Worked on everything from enterprise to consumer tools. Practiced empathizing with users, solving real problems and building teams.
- Started a weekly newsletter called “What’s Next’ and have grown it to 1700+ subscribers. People seem to really like it. Also put up a new personal website.
- Created a product (multiple) that generated revenue. (Still a long way to go).
- Passed the halfway point at college. Nearly done with my Finance/Computer Science majors. Quit most of the student groups I was in last year.
- Read/listened to 11 books. My favorite was Hillbilly Elegy. Also listened to a ton of podcasts (Revisionist History and many from Gimlet Media).
Once again, I wanted to emphasize that talking about doing, writing about doing, publicizing my doing != doing. No prizes for being busy.
- I kicked off the New Year at home (in Arizona). I spent it with friends. I played a ton of soccer. Ate a bunch of hummus. Also, I jotted down that Houseparty had just gone viral.
- On January 10th, I flew to Mountain View, where I met up with Vince Ning to help scale Scaphold. The team (Vince + Michael Paris) had just started Y Combinator — so it was a really exciting time for growth. I learned a ton about what it takes to build a company.
- Disrupt Cards (Jeremy, Daniel and I’s pet project) had finally started shipping. Somehow, someway, with no marketing $, we got on CNN and Justin Kan’s Snapstory. Decks were selling!
- Towards the end of the month, I went back to school and began my second semester of Sophomore Year, declaring my majors of Finance and Computer Science.
- The new President was inaugurated. I ate a bunch of Korean BBQ. Also, one of my essays was featured on the Medium homepage.
- Started an informal student group called Moonshots. Basically, we brought together a bunch of students — across engineering, business, premed and art — to discuss different aspects of the future (self-driving cars, crypto, etc.). Was very helpful.
- Participated in Out Of Office Hours and met some amazing mentors.
- My “internet friend” Henry Kaufman, who, to this day, I have never spoken with on the phone, and I decided to stay up late one night and build Celebrate Immigrants — a directory of immigrant founders. Though it was just a simple one-pager, it got tens of thousands of page views and was written about in Mashable (h/t Kerry Flynn) and The Independent. Most importantly, I think it made an impact.
- College was super fun! Explored areas of St. Louis that I had never been before and went out a lot with friends. Also ate a ton of good food.
- That same week, my other friend Gavin Dinubilo, whom I have never met in person, and I launched Templates for Gmail. The little chrome extension now has over 4,000 users and received 1200+ up-votes.
- Later that month, I randomly messaged this Romanian kid I saw on Twitter. His name is Sebastian Dobrincu and we, along with Henry’s help, decided to spin up IPOList — a curated list of publicly traded tech companies. Was super interesting to put together. This was the start of a great partnership (more on that later).
- Sent dozens of cold emails/direct messages to companies I was interested in working at for the summer. My criteria: find the “most unique opportunity” possible to a) accelerate my learning and b) make a tangible impact. (I know this was a very broad criteria, but I was not very concerned with field/domain).
- Published my 366th blog post in a row. “Just Start.” Lots of learnings.
- Started my weekly newsletter that has gone out every single Monday since March. I send a collection of interesting links and excerpts that help the curious think about the future. Here is the archive. Has since grown organically to 1700+ subscribers.
- Tried launching Disrupt Cards’ expansion pack. That failed.
- Spring break → went back to AZ. Hiked a ton (like everyday). Loved hanging with my best friends from home.
- Continued working on Scaphold as we neared the end of YCombinator. We were growing super quickly!
- Sebastian and I rolled out an entirely new project, this time with even bigger ambitions. We beta-launched Storyheap: a simple way to manage, track and automate your Instagram/Snapchat stories.
- Struggled personally thinking about “going all in” on different projects/ideas. Worked on focusing. Reminded that the days are long but life is short.
- Began eating “super healthy.” No carbs, no bread, no nothing (this later proved unsustainable for me, but I lost a ton of weight at the time).
- Went to the midnight premier of Fate of the Furious. For those of you who know me well (or follow me on Instagram), you know this is a big deal. And for those who do not, here are some action clips.
- Luckily (and I emphasize extremely luckily), one of those cold e-mails I had sent back in February landed in the right inbox at the right time. I found out in April that I would be headed back to San Francisco to work at Uber. I was super excited about this opportunity. (also got rejected from a number of other companies).
- School got fun again. Classes were winding down and got to go out more and visit new parts of St. Louis.
- Paused working on Scaphold to focus on finishing out school.
- Ported my ‘home base’ for my blog over to Posthaven. I now publish on PostHaven, which automatically re-publishes on my medium account.
- Launched Storyheap for real on Product Hunt. Launch day was scary/awesome as Seb and I went “all in on stories.” Got 1100+ upvotes.
- We also began getting real clients to use our product, including Universal Music Studios, several professional sports teams and many more. More than that, though, we learned an INCREDIBLE amount about selling enterprise software. We had to make some really really tough decisions along the way. This experience was an extreme accelerant for learning.
- Finished my second semester of Sophomore year. Course schedule was taxing (Rapid Prototyping and Web Development, Data Structures and Algorithms, a few business school courses and Philosophy) but made it out okay.
- Started writing for Hackernoon and a few other big medium publications. Published some longer form content.
- Got accepted to study abroad in Hong Kong for Spring 2018.
- Spent the last few weeks of May in Arizona hanging out with friends and family.
- I moved to San Francisco (somehow found a place to live with 3 of my best friends from school, thanks to ZeusLiving). This would be my second summer in SF (Jacob Schein, Ben Trunnel, noahadelstein).
- Began my internship at Uber. Was an awesome first month (and a super interesting time at the company). Ended up working a ton of hours. Learned a lot about building things and working with all types of people. Shipped real products.
- Started reading more about blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Also got super into audiobooks during my long, early-morning MUNI rides.
- Met up with a bunch of my friends who live in San Francisco. Also met many new ones. Even threw a few Shabbat Dinner parties (h/t Maddie and Ben).
- Launched Blade Signatures with Gavin and Henry. (Now has over 2000 users). Continued iterating on a number of different projects.
- Wrote this long-form post on IndieHackers about how we scaled Disrupt Cards to $1500/mo. (Thanks Courtland Allen).
- Spent a lot of time at work trying to understand people dynamics and how to motivate your team. Met with a dozen or so product managers from across the company and gained a ton of insight into how to ship big features. Also made a lot of new friends at work.
- Noah, Ben and I created StudentHustle: a collection of stories on internships and careers.
- Began running into some trouble with projects from earlier in the year. Some of them wound down, others provided some pretty passive income.
- Attended more Shabbat dinner parties, also explored new areas of San Francisco that I had never been to before. Went out in the Marina and in the Mission. Went on a really cool hike in Muir Woods. Also, importantly, ate a ton of amazing food.
- Launched my new personal website.
- Went on a camping trip to Crater Lake (would recommend).
- Began working on Wonder-Bot with some new friends that I met online.
- Shipped ExtremeFOMO with Shiv Kanth and Mashable wrote about us. Continued iterating on a few new side projects (both of which lost momentum).
- Started a slack group called “Startup Sparks” that has proven to be my most valuable resource to date. Essentially a collection of the smartest/most motivating people I know in one slack group. I have learned so much from talking to these people (many of which I have never met in person).
- Finished my internship at Uber. Was a great experience working in SF.
- Published a ton of interviews on Student Hustle including this long-form guide.
- I took a break from Snapchat and Instagram in an effort to be more present.
- Went back to school for the start of my Junior Year.
- Started further exploring my personal happiness and psychology. Started running more often. Cut out parts of my day I was not happy with.
- Sparked by a conversation with Jd Ross, began researching more big industries. Spent a ton of time “in the weeds” in sectors like oil, waste management, 3d printing homes, etc. Still doing this.
- Shiv and I launched and eventually sold Cryptotab (has ~ 700 users). Thought a ton about how to build “digital pickaxes” for the modern gold rush.
- School was fun — did a lot of new things. Classes were not very time-consuming. Continued eating good food.
- Published my 600th daily blog post in a row.
- Had midterms in nearly all my classes. That week was a serious grind but made it out alive.
- Began applying for jobs again for the summer. I thought a ton about where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing. Happy to explain more in person, but I generally focused on finding a product management position (inside the engineering org) at a “breakout list” company. I also applied to a few big companies. Effectively, threw a bunch of darts. Most missed.
- During Fall Break, my friend noahadelstein and I, on a whim, took a flight to Philadelphia to visit my friend at Penn. After a night there, we took a bus to NYC where we couch surfed for a few days. Visited a ton of companies and met up with a bunch of people. Only brought a backpack but the trip was amazing.
- Started contracting for a few clients.
- Shiv and I shipped TikTok — a countdown timer that lives in your browser. Got a few hundred users.
- Bitcoin passed $10k.
- Launched Pouch, a school project, with my friends Jacob and Tyler. We got nearly 500 users (earned us just an A- in our software engineering class 🙁).
- Went to the beautiful Antelope Canyon.
- Flew out to Mountain View for an on-site final round interview I was excited about. Got rejected for “weak communication skills.” Adapted.
- I sent a cold-email to a company I was really interested in and interviewed for a few weeks. I will be back in San Francisco this summer!
- Built a “smart mirror” for my Internet-of-things class with Justin Friedman. Not the prettiest, but it worked.
- Passed my finals! (2 Computer Science, 1 Finance, 1 Philosophy, 1 Analytics).
- Sparked some really good conversations in the small slack group I spoke about “Startup Sparks.” I’d bet on this group. I think the people in it are some of the best in the world at what they do.
- Booked my flights for studying abroad in Hong Kong. On the way (in January), I am spending a week in NY, a week in Barcelona, four days in Singapore and then ending up in Hong Kong! Let me know if you have any tips/recommendations.
- Packed up my room and traveled home to Arizona on December 19th. Have spent the last week or so with friends and family, playing basketball/soccer and hanging out. Also working on new projects and growing my freelance business.
And…that brings me to today (a few days before the start of the new year).
Thank you for reading. Thank you for an awesome year. I have so many people to be thankful/appreciative of. I am so lucky. Thank you.
I hope you (and your family/friends) have had a healthy, fulfilling year.
I wish you the best in 2018.