Saturday, January 01, 2011

Looking back at 2010

Now that 2010 is safely behind me, I can reflect. What happened? What did I learn? How can I improve?

The year was odd. It started with my main client going out of business. That was followed by about six months of basically not working, save for a few checks here and there from doing work with my son. Cash flow slowed to a trickle, resulting in a lot of adjustments.

It's important to note, that the time spent working with and visiting my son in New York City was the best four months in memory. Being with him, watching him work, lead, communicate ... what a wonderful experience. The meals shared, the drinks together, the times walking around the city, talking ... I was given a gift that very few parents receive; The gift of time with my adult son. I wouldn't trade that for anything, and it was then that I realized that I'd rather lose my house and the junk I owned if that was the price to pay for the wonderful moments with my son.

In late July, I landed a poor-paying contract with a large company. It was steady work, at least I had an income. It turned out to be the textbook example for "Corporate Hell". A large, impersonal company that treated people like cattle. No personality, no enjoyment, a culture of vanilla under flickering fluorescent lights. I sincerely hope the leadership there all lose their jobs and are replaced with real, living and breathing human beings. Otherwise, the place deserves to go under. There is no excuse for such a horrible, drab, lifeless, depressing, soul-sucking workplace.

I fled there at first chance, which turned out to be a call from a client from early 2008. I had left there in '08 because the owner of the small business was seeing a dramatic downturn in business and had to jettison his best but most costly asset -- me.

His business, now, was booming, and he needed help immediately. I was thrilled. I reduced my daily commute by 57 miles (from 80 to 13), saved two hours a day in driving time, got a 25 percent increase in income, got my own office with a window, and would be working on really cool stuff.

In a small business where the owner likes and respects me and my opinions. A chance to have an impact.

Hours mostly flexible, next door to a good sub/pizza shop, half a block from a bodega.

That's going very well. In fact, I haven't enjoyed work this much in many, many years.

What did I learn in 2010?

I learned that I could live on a hell of a lot less income than I thought I needed.

I learned that if I lost everything -- something we thought was a very real possibility -- it would not matter. Money and things and status and all that bullshit is just that: Bullshit. Don't get me wrong; I still have my eye on a 3 Series or S Class, I'm still taking a cruise in 2011, I'm still enjoying my High Definition TV with Surround Sound, my pool, my patio, my fireplace, blah blah. But I learned that those things are not only not the key to happiness, they're not even needed to "live". Having friends, enjoying walks with my dear bride, seeing my grandson grow, witnessing the birth of my granddaughter, experiencing the struggle of watching my dad decline as he ages ... those are the important things that make life worth living. The rest is just stuff. I know we all say that, but the difference is that I now know it.

How can I improve in 2011?

I intend to read more.

I intend to take more walks.

I intend to continue to improve my culinary skills and repertoire.

I intend to continue to get more organized.

I intend to continue to get rid of complexity, no matter where I find it. That includes tossing/selling/donating things that I own.

I will say "No" more often, which will allow me to say "Yes" more often (Some of you will get that; As for the rest -- you have to "be there" to get it).

It is my intention to take a cruise in the winter, and a vacation at the beach (and surf!) in the summer.


In retrospect, with all the troubles 2010 brought (and it was a helluva ride!), it was a very good year.

All The Best,

-- Don

1 comment:

Velicus said...

This is a wonderful post. I am so happy for you, and thank you so much for sharing it.

-A fellow reader of 37signals