Today is my twentieth birthday. I’ve made it an annual  habit  of writing a rather self-indulgent post about myself on my birthday. I’m going to take that opportunity to write about my last year, things that I have improved on, setbacks and future goals. If you were hoping to read an article about productivity or self-improvement, you can skip this post and I’ll have another entry later in the week.
Last year was a great one. There weren’t as many changes as the year before (when I moved to University) or the year before that (when I started this blog), but I still reached some important milestones. Most of all, I had a lot of fun, and if you can’t do that, what’s the point?
In University, I kept up my average of between A and A+ for a GPA. However I’m starting to take more courses which are based on participation and projects, which means keeping a spotless GPA will take more work.
Honestly, grades aren’t that important to me. Although I’ll work on keeping them (a guy who wrote a book on studying, should still have a high GPA), I consider learning something valuable to be more important. My lifelong goals are for entrepreneurship, where GPA and paper degrees aren’t going to matter, so grades have never been a focus of my effort.
I’ve kept up with regular exercising and gym-going. Aside from a sprained wrist in March and my bout with mononucleosis a few weeks ago, I’ve been in great shape (far better than 4-5 years ago). I’m still making improvements in fitness, but it’s more about being healthy and staying active than reaching a specific goal. I’m happy with my physical health, so I mostly want to keep it that way.
I’ll keep my dating life private, to protect the innocent, but I’ve also been happy with this in my last year. It can sometimes be hard to find the right balance between social life/relationship and your other goals, but it is worth the effort. I’m still figuring out a lot of these questions myself, so I wouldn’t expect any articles on relationships for awhile.
A big area of improvement was in running this website. I started this with the goal of earning a livable income. Perhaps that’s a little presumptuous for a then-17-year-old, but I wasn’t going to wait until I was thirty to start doing what I love. This past year has marked the start where I’ve actually been able to enjoy the income this website earns.
One immediate benefit was being happily unemployed for this summer. I worked the year before, to raise money for tuition and living expenses. However, as I’ve been earning more with this website than an entry-level full-time job for the summer, I’ve been able to enjoy a fun and relaxing four months between classes.
My 2008 income goal was $20,000 before taxes. Based on my income so far this year, I’m nearly on schedule. I have some plans to hit the target before the year end. The specific number isn’t that important, but I believe it marks an important step in being able to live entirely off the income from this website.
My reading (in terms of total volume) is not nearly as high as was a few years ago, when I was reading 70+ books in a year (I expect 30-40 this year). Part of this can simply be explained by reading longer books. I read several books nearing 1000 pages, whereas my previous reading habits focused on shorter books between 300-500 pages.
Another factor might have been my switch off Amazon books. I decided to switch to the library to save money. Unfortunately, even a large University library makes finding the book you want to read a pain. Amazon may be more expensive, but I can read exactly what interests me.
Still the drop in reading might just be a side effect of the busier lifestyle I’ve taken on.
A big time investment for this summer and the upcoming fall has been volunteering. I’m doing work as part of a fundraising team, getting corporate sponsorship for student events. I’m also running the website for the Commerce Business Banquet, in November. Although these take away time, there are a lot of rewards. I’ve had a chance to learn skills that would be difficult to practice normally, and I’ve made many great friends I might not have otherwise.
Looking back is useful, but I’ve always been focused on the future. I have some important goals, and there are many other experiences I want to get that don’t fit on a timetable. As always, I’m going to continue working hard on improving myself, which I think is the most important step in reaching any other ambition.
Thoughts on Goal-Setting
A lot of my goal setting philosophy has changed from when I first started around 5 years ago. When I started, I was intensely motivated to reach my goals. And when a goal didn’t look like I would make it, I would work even harder to reach it. Often this meant stressing myself out trying to make impossible targets.
I’ve since changed my perspective. Working hard and persisting towards goals is important. Having goals is especially important, even if you can’t reach them. But, a lot of life is outside my control. Stressing over goals that you couldn’t reach isn’t the point. The point of having goals is to stay focused, motivated and feel alive. I feel if I can accomplish that, I’m not going to worry that life isn’t conforming to my timeline.
I’ve found that if you set goals, come up with a strategy, and work your ass off, you tend to reach them. However, it often isn’t on your deadline, so you need patience to keep going even when progress is slow.
My biggest goal (although it’s more a lifestyle than a goal) is to live completely off my laptop, and travel around the world learning new things and having new experiences. I expect that this will need around $30,000-$40,000 per year to be comfortable. I’m sure I could do it with less, but this is my comfort zone.
So my first goal is to move my income from slightly below $20,000 per year to twice that. I have another two years of University with my degree in commerce. I’ve also been considering another degree in computer science, an passionate interest of mine for the last several years. I’m planning on reaching that ambitious financial goal by the time I’m done University.
My ideal lifestyle needs more than just money. I think it needs a lot of other skills and qualities that are hard to pin down. Languages, travel experience, being socially outgoing and independent are all just as important. I’m looking into doing a student exchange in another country to get some experience before I graduate.
I don’t have any other big goals that I’ll be working on in the near future. I think splitting my focus between many different goals will mean that I won’t accomplish any of them. And a digital lifestyle requires many minor goals across different areas, so I’m not worried that part of my life will be neglected to reach my ambition.
All of this doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I get to wake up each day, do what I love, learn something and feel like my energy was invested wisely. I’m lucky enough that I get to do this most of the time. I definitely have bad days, and things are never perfect, but most of the time, I’m having fun.