2010 Annual Review

Personal Annual Review. Done!

I recently finished a great book, ‘The Art of Non-Conformity’, by Chris Gillebeau of AONC.com. I read enthusiastically about personal growth. This books boils down many concepts about self-actualization and independence into a short easily-digestible read. Reading Chris’s blog I was impressed with his thorough annual review process. He takes a look at what worked and what didn’t worked in the past year, and sets goals for the future.

Inspired, I did the same. Here is my personal annual review.

Review of This Year: 2010

I had a fantastic year. I traveled extensively while working and learning.  I made growth in many areas of interest. I learned massive amounts too about how to do it all better; including setting more rigid goals.

High Points of the Year

  • 8 new countries. 38 lifetime (I think).
  • Attained non-US-resident status.
  • Reached advanced proficiency in Spanish
  • Fully employed all year; 2 great, engaging software projects. One game, one business-app.

Year in Pictures

Packing North Brasil 1 North Brasil 2 Rio Fun 1
Rio, Apartment 1st, First Class Rio Fun 2 Sao Paolo, Hotel
Quito, House Quito, Botanicals Galapagos 1 Galapagos 2
Cartagena, Apt. Venezuela Beach Angel Falls, VZ Beach Hut, Aruba

Calendar

To frame the events of the year, here are my locations by date.

  • USA – Holidays with the family.
  • Brasil – January 14th
    • Maceio – Spoke at Adobe Flash Conference – FlashCampBrasil.com.br
    • Recife – Met local web developers
    • Praia Da Pipa – Fantastic surf town
    • Rio – Fell in love with this dynamic, diverse, amazing city.
    • Buzios
    • Sao Paulo – Big city where all ‘business gets done’. Great city, a lot like New York. I love New York(TM), but I don’t want to live there.
  • Argentina – In Transit – 24 hours – Amazing memories.
  • Chile – In Transit
  • Ecuador – April 13th
    • Quito – Reconnected with a great college friend, hosted 3 friends and 3 family members who visited. Studied Spanish
    • Galapagos Islands – Experienced a great natural wonder of the world.
  • Colombia – July 13th
    • Cartagena – Lived in a fantastic apartment, Scuba’d met many locals, LOVE that colonial city-center. Hosted a friend and colleague for a 10 day visit.
    • Santa Marta (Rodadero & Taganga)
  • Panama – September 1st
    • Panama City – Visited local IT companies. Surprising this ‘Miami of Central America’ doesn’t have much opportunities within my field.
    • West-Coast Beaches
  • USA – September 13th
    • Attend Sister’s Wedding & Visit family
  • Panama – September 22nd
    • Toured Panama Canal
    • Bocas Del Toro – Another “Disneyland for Gringos”. Like being at any American party-college (where everyone is minoring in Spanish).
    • San Blas Islands – Wow! Picture-perfect beaches.
    • Scuba Rescue Certification
    • Studied Spanish
  • USA – November 8th
    • Visit a new client in Philadelphia
  • Venezuela – November 15th
    • Margarita Island – An island with a its own pro-baseball team. Go Braves!
    • Canaima – Toured Angel Falls – Natural World Wonder
  • Aruba – December 5th
    • Nitrox Scuba Certification
    • Join a friends family vacation. Fantastic.
    • Kite Surfing Certification
  • Curacao – In Transit
  • Bonaire – December 23rd
    • World-class scuba
    • Christmas
    • New Years

Highlights

  • Vastly improved my Spanish. Now Advanced. I’m done with classes for now. What a great ride! I feel I must work a 1-3 month contract-job in a Spanish-speaking office as a next step. Or choose a new language (Portuguese) and start again.
  • Took Cooking Classes. In RIO, I later found my inquisitive classmate was a journalist and wrote an article in the Rio Times Newspaper about us.
  • Saw Pro Soccer at the world famous Maracana Futbol Stadium in Rio
  • Flew my first first-class flight. Rio to Buenos Aires. Amazing! Not 3-times-the-price-amazing though…. (I used Frequent Flyer Miles….)
  • Two more Scuba Certifications and many great dives
  • Kite Surfing – I’m new but already love it.
  • Best apartments; Copacabana, Rio De Janiero, Brasil and El Laguito, Cartagena, Colombia
  • Favorite new city: Rio.
  • Favorite new country: Brasil. (Everyone asks me “What’s your favorite place ever?”. Not sure, I don’t really do ‘superlatives’,… but for now – Brasil.)
  • Full employed every month of the year. Three total clients.
  • Great work/life balance. Average billable hours – 30 per week. With networking, learning, and socializing, I averaged about 50 hours on computer per week.

Books Read

I have a practice of reading only select parts of books. Particularly since the Amazon Kindle e-Reader that I have provides the first chapter of any book free (amazingly awesome).  The list of all books I’ve partially is vast so I won’t include it.

Here is a list of the books which I read completely this year.

Guidebooks

Music

I very rarely listen to music (sorry iPod), except when I’m working – where I listen pretty much nonstop.

Here are the tracks from the 5 of the albums I really enjoyed in 2010.

Summary

Business

I was fully employed all year. I was able to take vacations, coordinating with client needs. Good balance. I had three main clients;

  • Adobe – I wrote a 5-article series for Adobe EDGE on Flash Gaming.
  • I’m contracted as a salesman on behalf of a South American Flex application development company. They look for software development clients in North America (my territory) and Europe. I’m more interested in creating solutions than selling solutions, but am very excited about continued opportunities here.
  • I created a team of contract-developers and led development on a Engineering Adobe AIR desktop application for 10 months.
  • I created a multiplayer gaming API for a social network.
  • I gained expertise in new technologies. Robotlegs, PushButtonEngine, and Adobe AIR.  The first two will continue to be core services I offer.

Ideal Client

Over the past few years I’ve refined what I look for in a potential client project and what I look for in a potential client to create a winning engagment. Here are thoughts;

  • Payment Type: Hourly helps control risk and is preferred in most circumstances, especially for first-time clients.
  • Accounting: Upfront partial payment is ideal. Especially for first time clients. Good sign of faith and this also greases the slow wheels of accounting in many companies.
  • Billable hours: 20-50 per week, avg. Shoot for 30. Clients expect 40.
  • Industry: I like both applications and games. They are complimentary processes and skillsets, which I enjoy.
  • Independence: I prefer to use the technologies I want (Robot Legs & Flex 4 for apps, Flash 10 & PBL for games)
  • Flexibility in schedule
  • Risk: I liked ‘owning’ the whole project and subcontracting to designers / developers. Perhaps being on another’s team too would be cool. However, working hourly reduces stress and is a better way to offer my best without compromises and bikering that comes from Client’s questioning ‘Why isn’t my new request covered under our existing flat-rate contract?’
  • Learning is important to me on each project (self-learning in most cases – but I’m open to work with others who can teach me)

Building Expertise

Adding new expertise to your professional repetoire is good for business. Brings more opportunities and being ‘the expert’ in anything welcomes new opportunities. Truly being the guru is not my goal, open, honest competence is.  Being an early adopter in creating proven, effective solutions help to maintain a competitive edge.

With RMC I offer 4 services. The services are all related to Adobe Flash Platform. Within that I specialize in the Robotlegs framework for applications and the PushButtonEngine framework for games. Specializing is not easy and in the last 18 months I added these two specialities. I see a pattern in my approach. First I learn OF a technology. This requires that I am well networked and well read on novel things in my field. I read my blogs through iGoogle each workday for just about 15 minutes. When I’m interested I make time to do some experiments for my own use and demos for public consumption which I post on my blog. This requires good time management (as its unpaid work and striking while the iron is hot is best, no delays to learning it).  When I have vetted the new technology as well-aligned with my business, personally interesting, and technically effective, and marketable as well I cross-compare to other solutions before deciding to focus on it.

Becoming an expert in something that is truly helpful, but that noone wants, is counterproductive of course.  Sometimes this requires patience to wait and see how the community embraces or rejects a new way of thinking.  Then I like to offload the cost of learning to others. This is not always possible, but in the case of my two specialties I pitched to clients wto write paying articles about how to use each. I researched, learned, and refined my workflows WHILE writing an article on it.  I used to struggle with perfection, but now I’m comfortable to start a project using tools I don’t fully know yet. I only need to feel confident what I want to do is possible. This frees me to try more new things and again, offload the cost of learning onto a client’s dime.  Then I evangelize the technology in the community. Now that I’m invested in the framework, helping its popularity is in my political interest.  Hopefully, I’ve played my cards write and my praise is well-received.  This process helps me expand the value of what I can offer (specialization) and the way in which I find work (promotion).

Reflection Questions

What went well this year?

  1. Travel – Covered much of ground, getting to know my surroundings. Good pace.
  2. Learning: Spanish, scuba, reading.
  3. Fun – I really had fun. I met some amazing new friends and reconnected with old friends too.
  4. While living an non-traditional, non-conformist life, I thrived, not just survived.  I improved my hourly rate, maintained health (and US health insurance), maxed out retirement savings, saved properly for taxes.

What did not go well this year?

  1. Contract Negotiations – I fell into less than favorable terms. I didn’t get ‘burnt’, just crispy.
  2. Budgeting – Spent too much. Particularly on accommodations.
  3. Goal Setting – I didn’t set enough formal, measurable goals. I really want to for the future. So I will.

What went… ‘huh’?

I’ve had a lot to think about. Writing about my life, living a life ripe for introspection and constant evaluation has been a great growing experience and a bit tedious as well.  I feel somewhat self-experimented.

  1. Travel vs Sedentary life – Is this a good vs bad discussion? Not sure.
  2. “I wish I could do that.” #1 thing I hear from people as they learn about how I live. Really anyone can live a more self-actualized path. Anyone reading this at least. I’m inspired by this comment though, and think of it as a call to action to help others improve their lives however they want to improve ‘em.
  3. #2 thing I hear… “Don’t You Get Lonely?”. I do. Feeling that whole issue out as well. I also get, “When is it going to end?” – No idea, but I’m not sure ‘it’ has to ‘end’.

What’s Next?

Good question. I’m laying out my goals for 2k11. Coming soon…

Please leave any comments and questions below and I’d love to answer them here too.  Pardon my grammar and spelling. Rapid, free, stream o’ consciousness is my goal, nothing more formal.