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(A quick note: there are some shirtless pictures of me in the "Health" section. YOU WERE WARNED)
Here we are again.
Each year, I make a habit of reviewing the year that's gone by - looking over the data, internalizing the lessons, reflecting on what worked and what didn't. It's become a ritual so critical to my self-understanding that it now takes up a few weeks on my calendar.
My review of 2021 is over here. At the end of last year I was coming off an extremely tumultuous and painful period; I'd fired someone for the first time in almost 8 years and was beating myself up over my failures as a leader. My marriage was in repair-mode and was finally in a better place. I'd hit my lowest-ever body fat percentage, but in the process had made myself irritable and grumpy.
I called 2022 "The Year of Building My Team." Here's what I wrote:
"2022 is going to be the year of "building my team."
'My Team' means my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, and you. 'Building my team' means prioritizing the people around me, building them up, supporting them, and letting them know what they mean to me.
Yes, my own goals are important - trust me, I have several. But none of those goals really matter if I end up alienating the people I care about. And the truth is, building other people up feels good. In fact, it often feels better than achieving something for myself."
So - what actually happened?
Overall, sleep quantity and quality was consistent this year and last. Both years saw a dip in the middle of the year (around June and July) with a subsequent rise and fall in September and October.
The past few years I'd noticed a general pattern of sleep quality decline heading into the colder months; the past few years seem to indicate a shift earlier in the year, which is interesting. I experience a general mood and well-being decline in colder months that I typically attribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder; it may be more accurate to say that following a period of sleep disruption, I experience a drop in mood. Not sure!
Also interesting to me: while the amount of deep sleep doesn't change much during the year, the amount of REM sleep does.
Overall, I'd probably say my sleep improved a small amount in 2022; my valleys were lower, but my peaks were also higher. So perhaps it's more accurate to say there was more volatility overall.
In terms of how I look, I definitely took far less photos of myself this year, and so have less snapshots to work with.
Here's what I looked like in Q1 of this year:
I got a DEXA scan in June and came in around 18% body fat, probably close to my high point for the year.
After a few months of calorie-cutting, I had a follow up DEXA scan and came in at 14.6%. The below photo is from about a month after that measurement, and represents probably the high point of how I looked:
I had a few big takeaways from this process:
I started lifting weights seriously this year, and the impact was huge. I'd been avoiding lifting weights for a while after a few back injuries. I decided to work with Dr. Rori Alter over at Progressive Rehab and Strength, because a.) she has a deep injury rehab background and could help me recover; b.) she works with a lot of competitive powerlifters and is a competitor herself; and c.) her approach, which is methodical and gradual, appealed to me.
I've worked with many trainers and been in many programs over the years - PRS is, for me, the best. Not only did the program MASSIVELY improve my back pain, I've had few to no new injuries since working with them. Not only that, I've been lifting much heavier than I had previously, and achieving things I'd thought impossible for me, like squatting to depth.
Lifting put more muscle on my frame, which greatly improved my physique, even at higher body fat percentages. Compare the above photo to my peak physique in 2021, sub-10% body fat:
While I was noticeably leaner in 2021, I was also much smaller, and I liked my look better this year.
In terms of lifts, here was my progress:
Bench Press: 188 lb max --> 229 lb max
Squat: 184 lb max --> 234 lb max
Deadlift: 200 lb max --> 275 lb max (note that I didn't start deadlifting until about halfway through the year due to injury)
Overhead press: 85 lb max --> 137 lb max
Progress has been gradual, slow, and not linear; I'm sure I could have added more to my lifts by trying to rush things. But the methodical pace of the PRS program is, I believe, a huge part of why I haven't gotten hurt, and have spent relatively little time out of the gym.
In terms of diet, 2022 saw me weighing in significantly heavier than in 2021.
This was likely due to two primary reasons: 1.) weightlifting resulting in additional muscle mass, and 2.) spending a BIG chunk of the beginning of the year eating off my nutrition plan.
This was the first year I made a concerted effort to track caloric deviance: How far off I was from my caloric target, as a percentage. I realized last year that focusing on weight isn't particularly helpful; after all, my weight could go up if I'm adding muscle mass and looking significantly better. At the same time, focusing too much on body fat percentage leads to excessive weight-cutting, which I learned last year dramatically impacts my mood.
Caloric Deviance, on the other hand, is a measure of behavior; regardless of what my plan is at the moment, if I'm eating according to plan I can be confident I'm heading in the right direction.
The impact of lower amounts of caloric deviance is pretty clear:
As caloric deviance declines, weight also declines. This is largely because around the time I really started working on lowering caloric deviance, I was also cutting calories.
Note that at the end of the year, caloric deviance shoots back up. This is one of the other things I've learned: periods of calorie cutting tend to be followed by periods of off-plan eating. This is a general principle of human psychology: periods of inhibition tend to be followed by periods of disinhibition. Better to set a sustainable target and hit it consistently over the long-haul.
At the same time, I think cycling onto shorter cut periods is an effective way of keeping body fat low and maintaining my physique without driving myself crazy. We'll see.
As per normal, the end of the year was a bit of a shit-show eating-wise, so my weight has ticked back up towards 180 lbs and I’m fluffier than I’d like to be. Still, the last few years have demonstrated that I can get very lean if I put my mind to it.
Overall, 2022 was a positive year for my health. Finding PRS had the single biggest impact on my health; I fully plan on sticking with them and continuing to build strength for the long-term. That was the force multiplier that made everything I did with my diet much more effective.
I said in my review of 2021 that it was the hardest year in the history of my business, and, at the time, that was true. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), it would soon be outdone by 2022.
How to talk about this year? At the end of 2021 I reflected on the experience of losing a team member, and how torn up I felt about it.
Little did I know: I would go on to either fire or lose four more team members in 2022, representing a loss of more than 60% of my original team.
It's hard for me to pry apart: what is that experience which changed me? Or was it me, changing, which made it all happen?
I started the year with the goal of Building My Team. In order to do that, I had to get clear on what kind of team I wanted to build.
To get clear on that, I worked diligently on my "Purpose, Values, and Mission" - a document laying out exactly what I was trying to do, and who I would need on my side to get it done.
This process - and the practice of reviewing and adhering to it - profoundly changed how I viewed my role.
In many ways, this was the year I actually became a leader. In the past, I'd been so concerned with taking care of people - worrying about them, and how they felt about me - that I was unable to properly care for the team. I let my concern for individuals blind me to their shortcomings and put the entire company at risk in the process. I simply was not prepared to make decisions that would make people upset, or risk my personal relationship with them.
That had to change. Stephanie Hitchins, my business coach, told me early on that "Once you start to be really clear on what you're trying to create, people who aren't a good fit will start showing themselves out..." and that's exactly what happened.
Doesn't mean I didn't fuck a whole lot of stuff up, or make a whole bunch of terrible decisions - I certainly did. But I also made a series of tough decisions that made me profoundly uncomfortable...and which, in a very real way, saved the business.
At the end of 2022 we have a VERY different team in place. I've never been more confident in the group of people I work with - every one of them, aligned with our Purpose, Values, and Mission. At the same time, we're MUCH more profitable, with a significantly higher Net Revenue despite seeing Gross Revenue down by 40% this year.
I started 2022 almost $30,000 in debt; we're ending this year with more than that in the bank as a safety buffer. To say the year has been transformative would be an understatement.
The great lesson of my life - the one that I have to learn over and over again in different contexts - is that no one is served by avoiding the hard conversations. I remain too concerned with validation and avoiding conflict, which just breeds more difficulty over time. I don't know why this remains so difficult for me to internalize. It has been, and remains, the great obstacle for me to overcome.
This is also the most complicated area to understand and measure. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, sometimes just __trying__ to measure happiness is enough to destroy it.. I’m trying to become more comfortable with that fact, and relax into the idea that “happiness” is a vague concept to begin with.
Many of my long-term underlying psychological issues - my need for validation, my inability or unwillingness to clearly articulate my needs to people I love, my alternating discomfort/obsession with pleasure, my over-analysis of my own feelings - persisted, perhaps unsurprisingly. 2022 was the year I began to explore psychoanalysis (through books, rather than on the couch). Most of what I learned there told me that those issues likely have deep roots stretching back all the way to my childhood, and a “quick fix” is unlikely.
Regarding my relationships, I can more or less divide the year in two: before my “epiphany,” and after. The epiphany in question had to do with the fact that I was “playing defense” in many places of my life - trying not to lose, rather than to win.
I was so concerned with repairing past damage, retaining clients, not losing cash, not losing team members, etc, etc…that I neglected to set ambitious goals that actually motivated me. This insight struck me like a sack of bricks thrown from a passing trucks. I spent a week more or less in a daze.
The elation I felt after deciding to reconnect with my ambitious side and truly pursue what mattered to me, while exhilarating, was also off-putting and disconcerting to many around me. What did that mean for them? Was everything we’d been doing up until this point worthless?
It took a while for me to calibrate, and to understand the critical importance of translating and communicating my vision to those around me. It’s very easy to forget that people can’t read your mind and don’t share your experiences; what seems obvious to you is not obvious to others.
As I mentioned in a post earlier this year, there are three critical errors that alienate us from others:
We think we know what others intend, but don't.
We think others know what we intend, but they don't.
We attribute the actions of others to character; we attribute our own to context.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, it should not surprise you that all those errors come from my personal experience.
Overall, though, it was a good year for personal happiness. While I experienced some significant interpersonal struggles, I’m ending the year in a solid place, with a much clearer vision of who I am and what i want. I feel deeply connected to the people around me, and did work in and out of therapy on how best to maintain those connections.
As I end the year, I’ve become more and more interested in solutions to problems that simply do an end-run around, or ignore altogether, the conscious and rational mind. Psychoanalysis, mentioned above, deals explicitly in the unconscious; similarly, I’ve wondered how many of my “psychological” issues are physical in origin, or, at the very least, could be more effectively addressed physically.
Could I be more “embodied” in a way I don’t really understand, and so can’t adequately imagine? Is part of my problem implicit in the ways I try to solve my problems - namely, analytically, quantitatively, rationally? Is there more - or, perhaps, less - to it than that?
I don’t know. It’s an interesting idea, and one I hope to explore more next year.
WHAT I’M TAKING AWAY FROM 2022
This year, I tried to be explicit about the lessons I learned in 2022. Here they are, in no particular order:
Accepting poor performance is a choice. Your goals are achievable, but you may need to make hard decisions in order to get there. Keep things legible, pay attention to the details, and be honest about your needs.
Heartbreak over Harmony. Being honest, open, and transparent about your needs is both more important andmore connecting than trying to keep things "calm." It serves no one and breeds resentment and distrust.
Relentlessly prune the things you shouldn't be doing - they take up space from things you should.
Be clear about your purpose, values, and mission. Don't lose sight of who you are and what makes you great.
Your health, mood and stress boil down to just a few things: lift consistently, keep your eating deviance to a minimum, avoid porn, sleep well, initiate often.
You have to ACT. The world conspires against you. It pushes and pushes to keep you immobile, incapable of action, wanting what others want, resenting what others have. STOP IT. Stop complaining, stop wishing, start ACTING.Learn, revise, move forward, always.
And, just like that…it’s over.
What a year. As always, I am just happy to be here - and so happy that you are here with me.
Thank you for reading, and Happy New Year - let’s make it a good one.
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