2018 was a year of refuelling. Financially, physically, emotionally. Every dimension.
I felt pretty burnt out by the end of 2017 and was ready for change. I made three decisions coming into the year:
- Start a new thing | 100%.
- Start cycling as my #1 sport and and ride 5,000km | 100%, 80%.
- Avoid alcohol for the entire year | 33%.
At a personal level, I feel good about 2018. I’m infinitely more positive than I was a year go. Stepping back, I know I’m insanely lucky and privileged to have a happy family, good health, food on the table, relative freedom and autonomy.
But I have an insatiable appetite for growth. My nature is to see opportunity for improvement over all the good things I should appreciate.
To overcome this bias to dissatisfaction, I write a yearly review. Usually I keep it private. This year I decided to publish, inspired by a few friends who do an admirable job of sharing regularly.
I focused on five buckets in 2018:
This post is primarily for my benefit. I welcome any feedback, but my only motivation is holding myself accountable.
Health – defined broadly – is my top priority. Without it, I can’t do any of the things, or support any of the people, that matter to me in this world.
I started the year in strong health and fitness, but have been on a downward trend in the final months of the year. Next year I need to improve sleep, mindfulness, and a broken clavicle.
Cycling. I decided to start cycling in 2018. I bought a beautiful bike and set a goal of 100 rides or 5,000km by the end of year. This was an excellent decision for 4 reasons:
- It’s a sustainable sport I can hopefully do for the next 40 years. Last year I ran too much. My joints hurt. It was clear I couldn’t run at that level when I was 50. I hope to always lift functional weights – ie deadlifts, squats. Bone density matters! But strength without endurance feels incomplete.
- It builds relationships. I established or deepened several relationships through cycling in 2018. It’s one of a few activities where you can legitimately spend 3 hours with someone you barely know, without it becoming awkward. I think this comes down to the combination of a shared interest, extended conversation mixed with bouts of quasi-competitive exertions. I don’t like golf or fishing, which might otherwise fit this criteria.
- It’s a great way to explore new places. Exploring on a bike is the best way to see a place. I found incredible new places across Marin county, East Bay SF, Santa Barbara. I can’t wait to explore parts of Europe, Australia and elsewhere by bike.
- When alone, it’s a meditative experience. Your legs rotate ~100 times a minute. Your heat beats ~135 times a minute. You pass sights, smells, and scenes over multiple hours, with only your thoughts and breath as company.
I didn’t hit my goal of 5,000km, but came close:
Diet. This year began, like the one before, with a 3-day water fast. Nothing but water, herbal tea, and slow walks. This sounds intense, and it is. Although the second attempt was infinitely easier than the first. I’ve found this to be an incredible way to reset the body and mind from the silly season.
I was in a state of ketosis until May (measured as blood ketones over 1.0 mmol/L).
I’ve always experimented with diet, but over the past two years have found consistently solid outcomes by combining a low-carb, high-fat, high-fiber diet with time-restricted eating. I generally eat between 12pm and 8pm, and therefore always skip breakfast.
The science on time-restricted eating is remarkable and under-appreciated. A single example: a sample of women who survived breast cancer were significantly (30-40% from memory) less likely to see their cancer return, if the only thing they changed was when they ate, not what they ate. This podcast has a great overview.
I avoided alcohol throughout Q1. This felt great, but was actually a fail as I was planning to continue this through the entire year. I’ll aim for another restraint in Q1 2019, as I find it can impact my productivity and energy.
- The biggest lowlight was breaking my collarbone in a moderately serious biking accident in early December. It was a wake up call, and entirely user error. Biggest lessons? Don’t turn on a white line, get the best helmet you can afford, and always let someone know where you will be. My doctor claims the average cyclist can expect a fall every 10K km. If this holds true it won’t be the sustainable sport I was seeking.
- Depressed immunity. I’ve been battling low-level head cold, sinus infection and cough for the past few months. My immunity is down. I blame insufficient sleep (over a period of years), and the Petrie dish of toddlers in daycare. I plan to fix the former in 2019, and am waiting with excitement for my Oura Ring to arrive.
- Complete failure to build on the meditation practice that I started exploring (lightly) in 2017.
Family is my actual #1 priority. Just that good health feels like a precondition for doing well in this bucket of life. Put on your own oxygen mask first.
The highlight of 2018 was watching our daughters (Z=3, M=1) grow, evolve and interact. It blows my mind to see these little humans that came from our bodies, start to engage with the world, with us and and each other.
It’s not without big challenges. We are two working parents with the closest family an 18 hour flight away. We’ve committed to sharing the parenting load as equally as possible. Practically, this means we prioritise getting home for dinner most nights over the marginal hour spent in the office. Over the course of the year, we made hundreds of trade-offs in areas that would have been unthinkable only a few years back. But kids have a way of reframing priorities. They are the anchors we reshuffle the rest of our lives around.
Other highlights included throwing a surprise birthday party for Rach with a handful of friends, and multiple visits from family overseas.
This was the biggest area of change in 2018.
I decided to transition out of an operating role at RecruitLoop at the end of 2017. I feel good about the decision, and wrote about it here. RecruitLoop has thrived under Paul’s leadership, and I have immense gratitude and respect to him and the team for their amazing efforts.
I dedicated the first few months of 2018 to exploring what next. I took _50 coffees_, met some incredible people, and explored opportunities at startups, growth companies, and in investing.
I ultimately joined Lyft in May, to help lead operations on the product team. I’m learning a ton about product management, operating in competitive hyper-growth, and undisputed product-market fit. Lyft grew 100% in 2018, achieved 29% market share, and reportedly filed for IPO in December. I’m lucky to be a part of it.
I’ve since spoken to quite a few people about making the transition from founder to something new. Unsurprisingly, this is a unnerving idea for many founders – particularly when your identity is often intertwined with the company you’ve started. I’ve taken real fulfilment from helping a few people consider analogous decisions throughout the year. If you’re facing something similar, I’d be delighted to help.
In a similar vein, I enjoyed working with a small number of early-stage founders at inflection points in 2018. We continued our involvement with Startmate this year, and made our first direct investment into an early-stage company. This is something we plan to keep exploring through next year.
I think about growth as a function of the rate of improvement, across defined areas of competence. It was an strong year on both dimensions.
I added a bunch of ‘areas of competence’ in 2018: new skills, experiences and learning. Less charitably, I moved from _unconsciously incompetent to consciously incompetent_ in a number of areas. Just a few examples:
- operating in a 3,000 person company
- building and improving tech products at scale
- parenting two daughters
- diet, sleep, and influence their on endurance, energy and longevity
- investing, decision-making, risk and luck.
Across each of these areas and others, my rate of learning and improvement felt measurably greater than in at least the past few years. I don’t know if I can claim competence in any of these areas, but I have much better maps of the unknown.
It’s worth elaborating on the final example above, as it was a clear theme of the books I read in 2018: investing, decision-making, risk and luck.
I read 22 books this year, and most relate in some ways to this theme. This wasn’t intentional from the outset. As I finished one book, the next few steps in the journey emerged: as a result of open questions, or authors and ideas referenced.
The outcome of this learning has deeply influenced how I make decisions, approach problems, and think about risk and luck.
Example decisions? Deciding to join Lyft over other opportunities. Deciding not to buy a house in the Bay Area despite months of trying. Where and how we decided to invest in 2018. Deciding not to have surgery after my accident, in the face of conflicting medical advice.
I think of play as the things we do for pure enjoyment, without a specific goal in mind. It’s not a perfect definition, as play overlaps with a bunch of categories above (eg, time with kids, cycling). For me it typically involves music, concerts, skiing, surfing, travel or time with friends.
My top 5 albums of 2018:— Michael Overell (@mboverell) December 24, 2018
- All Melody, @nilsfrahm
- Persona, @rivalconsoles
- Knock Knock, DJ Koze
- 2012-2017, Against All Logic
- Singularity, Jon Hopkins
Most listened to artist: @maxrichtermusic
Top live act: @nilsfrahm in SF.
- Nils Frahm at the Regency Theater (best concert of the year).
- The War on Drugs at the Fox
- Tash Sultana at the Fox
- The Wiggles at the SF Palace of Fine Arts
Travel (excluding work travel): Brisbane Australia, Vancouver, Santa Barbara, LA, Russian River, Lake Tahoe.
Lowlights: I barely surfed, and had only one ski day all year (mostly due to poor and late snow). I’m unlikely to ski this winter due to injury.
Things to Remember
2018 was a good year. I’m energised and excited to tackle the year ahead.