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2023 Year In Review

8 min

Every year, I try to review what worked, and what didn't, in my life. Here's my post from last year doing just that.

Less data this year - I've kept most of that in the background this time around in order to try and focus a bit more on the narrative.

Wishing you and yours a very happy and healthy new year. See you soon.


2023 was a year of very high peaks and very low valleys - an uneven year, more so than most. In that sense, it felt like a transitional year, one where I end with far more uncertainty than normal.

I had in mind a certain kind of trajectory for 2023. That trajectory did not emerge. Instead, several destabilizing events - for good and ill - occurred:

I was hypnotized. I was hypnotized and found myself undergoing radical personal change that I previously would have believed impossible. That experience profoundly altered my perception of what kinds of change are possible.

To say that my experience with hypnosis unraveled several long-standing and extremely distressed issues would be an understatement. Those problems were so old that their absence has been destabilizing; if I am not limited in this way, what is possible? I am still working that out.

I started studying hypnosis. I could not simply let my experience with hypnosis go. I had to understand it; I had to know how it was done. I spent a huge chunk of time this year studying, practicing, and thinking about hypnosis. I've been certified twice over; taken multiple courses, read several dozen books, logged around 100 hours of practice with clients and many more by myself. I taught a course about self-hypnosis to 100 people or so. Heck, I even stopped writing in this blog specifically to make room for hypnosis study!

For the last few years, I'd been looking for what my "next thing" would be. I don't know if hypnosis is that thing, but it certainly feels like it. It is hard, now, to remember my life before I became obsessed with it.

I had an ablation. The surgery went as well as could be hoped, and I have had only one (very brief) instance of AFIB since (down from 2-3 a month previously). This represents a major improvement in my quality of life.

I am still wondering about secondary effects here - for instance, I observe that I have started drinking a bit more than I used to, since alcohol used to trigger my AFIB. This isn't enough to be a problem per se, but it does make me wonder.

My grandmother passed away. "Memere Hudson," as my kids called her, was one of the most stable, most profound, most uniquely positive people in my life. To call her mode of living "ethical" is to dramatically undersell it; she was moral at her very core. That she lived a very long life is a blessing, but not one that makes me miss her less.

Our cat, Bela, passed away. We'd had Bela since he was a kitten, and his absence was shocking, even though we were prepared for it. It is hard not to notice that he is no longer there to crawl up onto my lap. I miss him.

Bela, portrait by

I struggled with my fitness this year. I don't mean to say that things went terrible, but I didn't make much progress - and in some areas, I backslid.

This is almost entirely due to lack of consistency on my part. I was hurt part of the year, and wasn't lifting - it's taken me until this month to get back to where I was. I had a lot of trouble (or, perhaps, just less motivation) tracking and managing my food intake; as a result, while I likely added some muscle mass, I also added a significant amount of fat, shifting my body fat percentage in the wrong direction. At the same time, I didn't bother to measure those things as accurately as possible (for example, by getting a DEXA scan). In many ways I just felt "tuned out" of health and physical performance generally.

I feel like this shows up in my Heart Rate Variability, which generally struggled to hit the peaks of the previous year (when I was running, training for the Spartan race, and walking more).

(Note the data is presented on a Process Behavior Chart, probably the single most useful thing I learned all year - see my blog post about them here).

Weekly Average HRV, 2023

I've got two big dips here - the one early in the year is from the ablation. The second big dip (just recently) is unexplained, but seems to be correlated with my last COVID booster - but also, potentially with having COVID (I got very sick, tested negative, but everyone else is getting COVID now so who knows).

As a result of all this inconsistency, I'm not lifting what I should be, I'm handling stress less effectively than normal, I definitely got a little tubbier, etc.

I'm nowhere near as upset about these things as I might have been. For one, I knew I was taking my eyes off the ball here - I was too excited about hypnosis, and knew that putting time in there was going to result in less time going elsewhere. I also think that my work with hypnosis has helped to defuse my hyper-critical inner voice that would have been freaking out about my love handles.

At the same time, I think my balance is off here. There is no reason I can't study intensely and maintain healthy habits; that's a false dichotomy. This is an area of correction next year.

We played some of the best, and most exciting, shows of my life. Musically, this year was full of peak experiences - playing two sets at Roadburn in the Netherlands, playing two sold out nights in NYC, playing sold out shows in amazing venues on the West Coast, reuniting with friends and label mates in Austin.

Not just that - this was the first time my kids ever saw me play music. I will forever remember them falling asleep just offstage in NYC, then carrying them up to the green room and letting them sleep on the couch. To have them see what the hell it is I'd been getting ready for all those nights when I was gone for band practice; to have them feel the energy backstage, and see people enjoy the music, and meet musicians, and then get interested in music and start learning themselves (Oliver and drums, Max on bass); well. I don't know how to describe it.

tired kids at the Bowery Ballroom

Thao told me once, after one of these shows - "You are their hero." I don't know if that's true, or whether it'll remain true; but for now, I keep that close by, in my heart, whenever I need reminding. I say it to myself like a mantra - something to keep me on track, keep me working, keep my striving to be my best self. A reminder that they are watching.

I struggled to write new music. Despite all the excitement around the band, I really struggled to write anything this year. HANL recorded a cover of Low's When I Go Deaf that I'm proud of, but is, of course, weird; I don't know how it'll be received (then again, you never do).

Tim has been prolifically recording his musical idea; I perhaps have 1/2 of a song in the bag. I'm not sure where the difficulty comes from - fear, perhaps? Insecurity? Feeling too old? - but it's there, and ignoring it has gotten me nowhere. Something to work on.

Work started strong, but then dipped - and it was all my fault. I have run into the same problem over and over again, namely: I take my eyes off the ball when I'm bored. I don't pay attention to the details, and it comes back to haunt me every single time.

In this case, I ignored underlying technological and market changes that were affecting my customers. Frankly, I was too engrossed with hypnosis, too excited about learning something new, to pay attention. I saw the signs, I saw the data, I was aware of the problems - but I chose to ignore them, chose not to act, chose the bliss of ignorance. I simply did not want to face the difficult truth, because I knew that doing so would mean a great deal of work for me. I hoped that ignoring the problem would simply make it go away.

Surprise, surprise: it didn't. And so I ended up the year in a much more difficult place financially than I should have. We lost a large number of clients, shifting the business into much more precarious waters.

Every single one of the negative effects I've been experiencing over the past few months - lots of stress, emotional upset, lots of demands on my time, anger, lashing out - are self-induced. I knew better and I fell victim to my biases and weaknesses anyway. It happens.

The question, as always, is what am I going to do about it? Crying, as I tell my son, can be a great release...but solves nothing.

The process has already begun in some ways - I've been shoring things up in the business for weeks now. The question is: how do I grow past this need for fixing? How do I address the problem at its root - my unwillingness to pay attention to the small, yet critical, details?

That's going to be the focus of much of my work in Q1 of next year, so I'll let you know.

I am leaving this year with three big takeaways, three big lessons. I present them to you, unedited, from my private notes:

You have far more control over your emotions and thoughts than it may seem.

Looking inward and seeking to truly understand the deep coherence of the negative thoughts can release them, allowing you to make a decision without becoming emotionally overwhelmed. But this work will do not itself; do not shy away from this responsibility.

Discipline is the constraint.

Most of the time, you know exactly what you need to do in order to move you towards your goals. The problem is simply that you do not do these things consistently. Small variations in consistency have large downstream effects; convincing yourself of the opposite is a lie. Attention to detail, and discipline in execution over time, will have compounding effects which are hard to comprehend. Anything you can do to enable this will pay significant dividends.

Numbers are pointless if you are not committed to acting on them.

You can track everything in the world, but if it does not inform a change in your actions than you are simply wasting time. Analysis without action is a defense against action; looking at the numbers gives the illusion of doing something, and in so doing relieves you of the responsibility to act. If you are going to be data-driven, commit to it. Know your criteria for action and act.

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