2019 Status Update

Let’s see – it’s been almost exactly a year since my last update. Having said that, looking through my backlog, I have 38 drafts in the backlog that I never wrapped up, so there’s been material to work through; I just haven’t written much in the past year. So with that said, what have I been doing for the last year? Come to think of it, what the hell did I do in 2018?

A partial backlog of half assed drafts

Highlights of 2018:

  • Spent first half of year in China (Can’t recall specifics besides frittering my time away, really)
  • Moved back home from China
  • Spent a couple months job hunting
  • Got a new job

Highlights of 2019:

  • Started job, moved to a new city.
  • Found out about online language tutoring services, started to learn some languages
  • Started seriously applying a regular regimen to classes. My first month of language classes, I took on average 2-4 classes a week at one hour per class. Now I average 1-2 classes a day. That’s roughly 10-14 classes a week. My total lesson count for the year so far is about 250. That’s not bad – almost a class per day. Let’s see if I can crack 300 by EOY.
  • Made some serious headway into certain languages. My Cantonese has improved significantly since starting online language classes. My Mandarin probably improved modestly, or maintained around the same level. I’ve also started learning Spanish, though my Spanish is easily the worst of the three. To be fair, I was learning from scratch.
  • Also learned a lot about the general methodology of learning languages. I’ll have to do a write up about that – In fact, I’ll make sure to link it when it’s done
  • I’ve regained what I once lost, meaning I gained a bunch of weight lol. Weird how my China weight fluctuates so drastically from my America weight – the only explanation I can give is how each area lends itself to a certain diet. American diets tend to be calorie heavy when eating out, whereas Chinese places have various options.

Can’t really think of any other major events. This is why I advocate for following a smaller project based timeline for targeting goals, AKA SMART goals. Hitting concrete targets lets you break down what it is you accomplished, and makes it easier to broadcast it. SMART goals are generally binary – you either reached your goal or you didn’t. That’s really easy to measure. However, even if you don’t reach your goal, you can still expound on it at length. I’m really going to try to move to smaller timelines (say, monthly or even biweekly) in which I recall what I did. From there, I can do a meta analysis at every 3 or 6 months and then the annual write up.

Having to do this annual write up with no written material makes it a lot harder to break down what I did throughout the year besides my most memorable accomplishments. This is especially flawed, because the things that stick out to me most might not necessarily be the things that had the biggest impact. If I could quantify all my accomplishments over the past year with perfect clarity, I’m sure there will have been some that actually made a significant impact but I had a blind spot for. Kind of like that person whose opinion you disregard, so when they make a good point it blindsides you.

I need to do another write up where I review my past year goals and what I accomplished, with new goals added. I’m not going to do the analysis, but I am going to list out some goals I have in mind for next year.

  • Write 365,000 words in 2020. Influenced by this tweet. I’ve always admired patio11’s writing, enough that I read through most of his oeuvre starting back from when he initially started his bingo card creator app. Reading through his early work, I definitely feel like his writing quality isn’t particularly out of reach, or even great. Looking at his current stuff (More than 10 years later, Jesus) I feel like I’m looking at the work of a master of his craft, effortlessly producing work on the caliber of paid professionalâ„¢. I don’t see any reason why I can’t improve if I keep working at it. (I think this number is a reach. 365,000 is the goal, which is 1,000 words a day. Sounds perfectly doable in theory, but I don’t think I’m going to execute on this literally every single day in the upcoming goal. Doesn’t mean I can’t take steps to hit that goal.)
  • Hit 365 language lessons in a year. That’s at least 1 hour a day dedicated to language learning, of miscellaneous languages. Probably Cantonese or Mandarin still. FSI estimates language fluency for Mandarin or Chinese to take about 2200 study hours. Round out to about 200 for my main language, and that’s about 10 years. Sounds doable. Check back on my status next year. Also, I don’t need to reach full fluency – just “Good enough” for general conversations. I think this goal is more than reachable. Considering I’ve been averaging about 1.3-1.6 hours a day (~40 classes a month) for the past ~3 months, I feel like even missing a bunch of classes will still give me leeway to hit this goal. Unless, of course, I lose my source of income and can’t afford to take classes anymore. But that’s a different story.
  • Leetcode. I’m considering looking for new job. According to CS job websites, getting a decent feeling for data structure and algorithms whiteboarding is pretty important to the big tech company job interview process. I don’t have a concrete goal in mind, so let’s say somewhere between 1-200 problems solved. That’s about 2-4 problems a week. Doable depending on the problem set, but if I do start interviewing, I’m assuming I’m gonna go grind a ton of leetcode in a short period of time.
  • Read at least 12 books this year. That’s only a book a month. Seems perfectly doable, though to be fair, I can barely remember a single book I’ve read this year. Maybe the last book in the 3 body problem trilogy? Though now that I think about it, that was probably 2018.

I’m actually pretty excited about this upcoming year – I can finally start to pay down my looming debt and possibly even really see some of these initiatives bear fruit; I already was able to communicate more with relatives using my Chinese. I can’t wait to see if I can begin busting out the Spanish with strangers.

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