2018 Recap (and 2019 Goals)

New Year’s Resolutions™ are overrated, but time-based goals are nice, and so are general life reflections. I find it’s valuable to put them in writing and in public, mostly for reference and reflection down the line. I did one last year, and in 2017 as well.

2018 Was a Good Year (Recap)

2018 was an absolutely wild year of exploration and new experiences.

Travel

I traveled a ton, hitting 5 new countries (Portugal, Peru, Mexico, Czech Republic, and Austria), like 10 foreign countries overall (all the aforementioned plus Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, and Ireland twice), and many new states as well (weirdly enough, I checked off Arkansas from the list and had a lot of fun there).

I spent about half of my time in Austin and the other half in other places. This was both exhausting and exhilarating.

Hobbies and Personal Development

I continued learning Spanish, and I hit my goal of testing at a C1 advanced level. I now feel confident speaking Spanish with just about anyone, and I feel a level of conversational fluency that I’m pretty proud of. I dipped into learning German towards the end of this year, but I haven’t made massive improvements. I’m still not conversational by any means.

I’m still at level one in Krav Maga, but that’s mostly due to me being on the road every time there’s a chance to test up to the next level. The next level test is in February, and I’m pretty confident I can get to level 2 at that point. I’m stoked that I have now regularly (twice per week) practiced Krav for over a year now.

I surfed for the first time (in San Diego) as well as many more times after that (in Portugal). Unsurprisingly, I love surfing and hope to do much more of it. I also feel blessed with my snowboarding opportunities this year – I got to do both Colorado and Vermont.

I also stepped way the fuck outside of my comfort zone and took a 101 level improv class. This was wildly fun and beneficial (and definitely still scary).

Health

One serious new addition to my life is a regular yoga practice. I go to semi-hot yoga (I think it’s at 90 degrees) at Black Swan Yoga in Austin almost every day of the week, and it’s become an almost therapeutic part of my day. Plus it’s the perfect counterbalance to the weightlifting and martial arts I regularly do.

I still meditate every day, write in my daily stoic journal, and do morning Spanish lessons and Duolingo. I try to eat whole natural foods but fail a lot (mostly due to travel), and I don’t beat myself up over it too much.

Relationships

I don’t want to dive too deeply here on a public blog post, but I’ve got my own notes here and the summary is: things are good. I’ll say I sometimes neglect existing relationships in favor of professional development and work, travel, and new connections, but not to the detriment of the relationships. Just something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Career

I got promoted at HubSpot and have learned a ton more about SEO over the past year. The work is still exciting, and there are plenty of fascinating projects in the works now and coming up in the near future – many dealing with technical skills and data science, which are my core professional interests.

In the area of technical skills, I probably slowed down my education more than I would have liked. Urgent priorities can cause development related work to fall by the wayside. But next year, I’ve made it a point to continue learning technical skills, in particular data analysis/data science, even if it’s necessary to do so outside of work hours.

However, despite not learning as much as I’d have liked, I’ve made modest progress into a “Statistics in R” program through Coursera, and I’ve got to pick up some Python skills through some technical SEO + scraping projects. I also get to learn new skills working with CRO & customer acquisition clients on the side from time to time.

I have learned a ton about creating motion and impact in a big organization, though. Before this year, I only worked at startups where teams were small, hustle and scrappiness was the name of the game, and if the data suggested something was worth doing, we usually just launched into it (no hoops to jump through). By nature of the size and complexity, it’s not as straightforward at a big company, so it takes more emotional intelligence to get buy-in for your ideas and to spread them through the company. I’m still working on this, but I’ve gotten much better.

Personal Brand & Professional Development

In the broader marketing world, I got to speak at a few conferences. I did many online events like Conversion World and CommerceNow, but the most exciting event for me was probably Conversion Hotel. It’s an event on an island called Texel that is off the coast of the Netherlands and it’s filled with conversion nerds, my crowd. I got to do a panel with Justin Rondeau, as well as moderate some Q&A and do a very interesting late night (230am) Pecha Kucha session. A wild an awesome experience!

I wrote down a goal of 10k monthly visits to my blog. It’s really around 2k, but I’m alright with that. It’s difficult to set aside time to write the caliber of articles I’m trying to write, but I’m proud of what I’ve put out this year, and I’ll do more next year. I’ve already got a few articles that are almost finished that I’m super stoked to launch.

Conclusion

Every year is better than the last.

2019 Will Be Even Better (Goals)

2018 was largely a year of new experience – travel, surfing, trying out new skills, meeting new people, etc. While that will likely never change due to my personality (very high on trait Openness as well as Extraversion), I’d like to have a “quieter” 2019. Doing less, but doing it better, and focusing my time and energy on things I already know I really like. Essentially, instead of pointing my energy outside, I want to spend more of it focusing inward.

Career

I want to deeply focus on two areas:

  1. Technical skills, largely focused on data science areas (python, statistics, R, etc)
  2. Communication skills (continued writing focus, but next year a deeper focus on speaking/presenting)

Personal Branding

I planned to speak at ~4 conferences in 2018, and I suppose I hit that (depending if you count online events).

I actually don’t care how many I speak at next year, but I want to continue speaking and sharing my experience and knowledge. I’ve got two exciting ones lined up already for the new year – a startup event in Tartu, Estonia and a growth marketing event in Kiev, Ukraine. I also want to continue attending as many data, growth, and CRO events as I can. So I’m pretty much saying Yes to all of those. I’ll probably go through Toastmasters or something to hone up my skills a bit, as I’m pretty much a rambler when I speak.

Another piece is I actually do want to focus more on my personal blog next year, mostly because I have a backlog of ideas and info that I really want to publish. It’s just up to me to put aside some time to do so. I’d like to hit 10-20k traffic per month, but more than that, I just want to publish good articles that people bookmark for later.

In general, I want to publish 50+ articles in 2019. These could be guest posts, personal site articles, or HubSpot posts. But it’s important that I keep writing and putting together my thoughts in that format.

Personal Development & Hobbies

This is a mixed bag of things I like to do and want to do more of and get better at…

Spanish: continue taking group lessons twice per week and 2+ official classes per month. I also have a weekly Spanish call with Svitlana Graves and I hope to travel again to South America (hopefully Colombia) this year and immerse myself again. If you’re interested in doing Spanish calls with me, hit me up 🙂

German: it’s going to be a challenge juggling two languages, but I’ve already cracked into German, and I’d like to get to a B2 level by the end of 2019. This is going to be pretty difficult, but I think possible, following the same process I used to learn Spanish.

Martial Arts: level 2 Feb 23, 2019, and continue classes after that. In 2019, I’m going to start testing the waters with BJJ/ground fighting.

Reading: It’s hard to attribute causality to any one variable, especially in the messy real world, and particularly in absence of the ability or desire to run a controlled experiment. That said, reading has probably been the biggest positive lever in my life, in making me successful and happy.

I usually do 50 (or at least 30) new books per year, and I’ve been doing that for 5+ years now. Next year, I’m going to try something new: I’m only aiming for 10+ books and am focusing on re-reading my top all time favorites. This is to double down and relearn from things I’ve already taken value from, such as NN Taleb’s books, F Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpieces, Meditations, Radical Acceptance, and more.

Basically, I’m only going to read very technical books or fictional/spiritually rewarding books, no middle ground of feel good + feel productive pop business lit. In the spare time I’ll carve out here, I’m going to dive deeply into technical training in Python, statistics, and R, and work on the skills I like learning (languages, martial arts, and the new ones below, basically).

New skills: I still like learning new things, but in 2019 I’m going to bring it back and pick up old skills that have faded a bit:

  • Poker – my grandpa taught me how to play when I was really young but I haven’t played in years. I loved poker, and it goes together really well my love of decision theory, probabilities, and uncertainty. I’ll start slowly, playing with friends and shaking off the cobwebs, but I hope to join more serious clubs before the year ends
  • Salsa dance – I took a salsa dance class on a whim in college. I sucked at it but it was really fun, and eventually I was okay at it. I’m going to look for a class here in Austin to join, hopefully meeting weekly.
  • Music – Music is pretty core to my identity but it’s fallen to a footnote in my life, I think largely because there’s no “end” to the means of playing guitar. It’s not helping me in any pragmatic way, it just makes me happy (that’s all!). That’s the biggest reason I’m picking up the guitar again in 2019 and setting the goal to play at one open mic. I figure once I do one open mic, I’ll want to do more of them, so I’m making my goal an easy one.

As I said last year, for leisure I again want to place a premium on outdoors activities, particularly kayaking, surfing, snowboarding, and hunting/fishing. No goals here, just something I always want to do more of.

Travel

I want to travel less often overall, but I still want to travel a lot (if that makes sense). I basically want to travel for two purposes:
Business (conferences, retreats, masterminds)
To assist other goals and focuses here (yoga retreats, well chosen historical interests, language learning etc)

Basically, I want to do less hedonistic Euro-city hopping – which is pretty much just drinking local beer and wine in foreign places & seeing museums – and more meaningful travel.

I also love spending time in Austin and want to do more of that, particularly because I have activities like Black Swan yoga and martial arts that I want to do more often.

Relationships

Spend more (high quality) time with fewer people. Less networking and bar hopping and Bumble, and more time building on the foundations I’ve got.

Health

It’s all about the yin and yang, in terms of exercise and activity:

  • Yoga + Weightlifting
  • Salsa Dance + Martial Arts

And all I want to do outside of that is follow a reasonable diet that lets me feel energized all the time. Per usually, this is a paleo-esque diet with mostly veggies, meats, and water, with lots of supplements as well.

Conclusion

I’m excited for 2019. Every year has been better the last so far in life, and I expect as much moving forward.

Ironically enough in a post about the future, I’d like to spend more time in the present moment in 2019. To stop worrying so much about the past and future and just enjoy and focus on what I’m doing in the moment. This goes for everything, from fun hobbies to personal relationships to work projects. I know where I wanna go, now if I could only put my head down and enjoy more of the journey 🙂

Alex Birkett
Alex Birkett is a Growth Marketer and Content Strategist based in Austin, Texas. He's a proud UW-Madison graduate and enjoys craft beer, lifting weights, and sailing.

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