The Year in Review – 2021

Reasons to publish an annual retrospective:

-Frivolous navel-gazing (Vanity.)

-Documentation of my personal history (Vanity.)

-I have the idea that some distant friends might like to pass an afternoon reading an update from me without actually having to converse. (Vanity.)

-For an internet stranger’s voyeuristic pleasure. You know who you are and you’re welcome.

Rather than try to format my retrospective as a narrative––which I’ve attempted thrice––this iteration uses bullet points. Each point represents some aspect of my life in 2021. I’ve also laid out some plans for 2022. I expect God to laugh at those plans.

Brazilian Jiujitsu: As I remember the state of my BJJ at the beginning of 2021, I was intent on practicing the closed guard for an extended period of time. Per this post, I had the same plan in 2020. But closed guard didn’t really stick, although my hip bump sweep got pretty good. Instead I messed around with butterfly half guard for much of the first half of the year.

My skills developed significantly once my professors began to teach me how to use my length. At 6’1”, I am practically the Manute Bol of BJJ. Short guys train BJJ; tall guys shoot hoops, I guess. I’ve been playing a lot of collar sleeve guard: scissor sweep, triangle, omoplata, repeat. I got my purple belt from Johnny Tama this December. Yay!

Plan for 2022: Learn judo, wrestling, leg locks, back attacks, collar chokes––in no particular order. Teach some beginner classes, perhaps.

Dance: I intend to publish a long reflection on teaching dance soon. TL;DR: Some friends and I started dancing together to Cuban music. We invited more friends. It became a class. We are now an “entity.” Or at least we have an Instagram and a name: Timba San Diego. I love these people.

Plan for 2022: Continue to invite more friends. Throw some parties. Perhaps teach a second class. Spread the love.

Baduk: Baduk is hard. I reached a 4 kyu rating on OGS on two separate occasions this year. That makes me a “pretty darn good” player. Someday I’ll reach a dan rating, but I’m not in a hurry. Climbing the ranks at this point requires a level of focused attention which I don’t presently have the energy to dedicate.

Plan for 2022: Play whenever I feel like it and have fun.

Consulting and Recruiting: I retain two jobs. I work as a recruiter for technology companies and as a management consultant for a coaching business.

After close to a decade in recruiting, I’m proud to share that I have figured out a system that works for me. Turns out I’m a pretty darn good recruiter.

As a management consultant, my client grew over 100% YoY in both revenue and profit in 2021. I should really have a book to sell you. Instead, just give me a high five next time you see me.

Plan for 2022: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Art: Maybe the most interesting thing I did this year was let go of my fear of visual art. Followers of my blog might remember my posts from earlier in the year. I’ve now left behind the exciting part of the learning curve, so I have less inspiration to write about the process, but I’m still drawing!

My favorite self-portrait from the year.

My main interests are in portraiture and figure drawing.

Plan for 2022: One of the highlights of 2021 was attending a drawing group with a live nude model. It would be great to find a regular group like that in 2022. Also: pastels are in my future.

Reading: For most of the last decade I’ve read perhaps one book per week. My pace slowed a bit this year, but I still read a lot. My favorite books of the year were: The Kingdom of God is Within You (Tolstoy), The Silence of God (Carse), The Kingkiller Chronicle (Rothfuss), and the writings of Malcolm Muggeridge.

Plan for 2022: I implemented a “no devices after 8pm” rule for myself which accelerated my reading. I expect to crush a lot of fiction in 2022.

Spirituality: As you can probably tell from the list of my favorite books of 2021, I spent a great deal of time this year “doing” spirituality. I went from zero to N in terms of my understanding of the Christian tradition this year.

I’ve also maintained a practice of around one hour per day of silent meditation. Insofar as there is a “secret” to my creative output, it is meditation. Highly recommend! (Yes, I’m one of those people now.)

Plan for 2022: Learning more about Eastern mystic traditions and meditation practices.

Blog: I published over 20,000 words on my blog this year! That’s about a quarter of a book, apparently.

The other secret to my creative output is that I maintain no expectation for writing here.

I don’t adhere to any “best practices” for blogging: I’m not optimizing for length or readability or SEO or sharability. I simply write whatever I feel whenever I feel inspired. That goes against basically everyone’s advice for writing. Oops. But I have no ambition as a blogger except to amuse myself, some friends, and the occasional anonymous internet lurker.

Plan for 2022: If it ain’t broke.

Social Media: An unexpected twist of 2021 was my embrace of social media. OK––“embrace” is probably too strong a word. It’s more like a tepid arms-length dance between middle school sweethearts than an “embrace.” Nevertheless, I am now on Instagram. Oh––and Substack (update coming soon).

I was principally inspired by two friends who are both active on social media. I observed first-hand as one of them built a community at our gym through his activity on social media. I never posted about this but he interviewed me on his podcast a while back. I was famous for a day.

My other friend persuaded with me with an argument: “In 2021, the better your online presence, the better your life.* And your life lags behind your online presence.” He has since started a business inspired by this thesis. Cool!

*At least materially. There must be some miserable Influencers out there. Right? Right?

Plan for 2022: Now that I am one of the drivers of an organization, my hand is basically forced here. Instagram is the best thing after a firm handshake for introducing people to the music and dance I love. So I’ll probably be experimenting a lot this year.

Social Life: I’ve cultivated a wonderful network of jiujitsu people, dance people, creatives and entrepreneurs. I’ve been able to find some wonderful friends and mentors in their 40s and 50s. Young readers take note: Older people know stuff; wisdom matters.

Plan for 2022: I’ve been trying to bring together the jiujitsu and dance people for a party for months. It’s been like trying to stick together the north ends of two magnets. It’s going to happen in 2022 and it will be glorious.

Lightning Round / Other Random Things on My Mind:

-Vehicle Maintenance. At some point in 2022 I will buy a car or motorcycle. I’d really like to learn a bit about motor vehicles.

-China. I still speak Mandarin, though it’s getting really rusty. I’d like to find a way to bring China back into my life somehow, someday. I was previously taking baduk classes with a Chinese professional. Perhaps I’ll start again. Any Chinese speakers in San Diego want to hang out?

-Magic: The Gathering. I reached a mythic rating on Arena twice this year. Oops. I’m happy to report that my non-baduk gaming is down roughly 90% year on year.

-Acroyoga. This unusual activity seems to be an intersection of dance and BJJ. I keep meeting “acro” people. So maybe I’ll give it the ol’ college try in 2022.

-Fun things to do at night besides dance?

-Squat / Bench / Deadlift form check. I’m weightlifting again 2x/week.

Thanks for reading. See you in 2022!

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