While 2017 was a whirlwind year (got married, moved to Utah, started blogging), my theme for 2018 has been expansion. Expansion in the sense of taking on way more than I can handle, but also pruning things down to what I care most about.
The year started with Mrs. Minafi and I moving into a new apartment here in Salt Lake City (last December), which would serve as our jumping off point for many travels and hikes around the city. Expansion also applies to personal projects. I’ve thrown myself into learning more about a number of topics including Japanese, WordPress, Genesis, Bulma.css, SEO, growing a website, learning design concepts, making new friends and even considering the idea of becoming a CFP (certified financial planner).
This year at work was somewhat rough for me. Not because it was stressful, but because the phase of the project I was working in left me less involved. I love the beginning of a project, where everything is blue sky, you’re solving user problems and trying to create something from scratch. When the project moves further along to where it’s more about (possibly) minor tweaks and working with dozens of teams to collaborate is when I struggle.
So What’s This All About?
Every year I do a rundown of what I did during the previous year. Think of it as a highlight reel of only the interesting bits of the year. Looking back, it always seems to amaze me what was accomplished, and writing your own year in review posts can be inspiring. I start writing notes for this post midway through the year and build on that with things as they happen.
Whenever I think “when did I go to see The Flaming Lips in concert?” or “What were the best shows I watched last year?” I refer back to these posts to find those answers. They’re a time capsule of the years actions, goals, accomplishments and sentiments.
I’ve been doing these yearly posts for quite a while. These were started before Minafi, but last year I moved them over here for posterity. You can view any of the past 8 years posts here: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.
What stands out from 2018?
What Went Well?
- Exploring Utah has been much more fun than I imagined. Being able to go hiking at the end of a workday, drive out to the mountains for a weekend camping trip or head to a ski resort within 30 minutes of my apartment is nice. My only regret is not doing more!
- Working on Minafi has continued to be fun and challenging. Minafi hasn’t taken off into the stratosphere of success (if you define success by rapidly growing page views or generating money), but I’m constantly having fun, learning, making new friends and hearing about how Minafi has helped people get better at investing. I have no plans to stop anytime soon.
- We went down from 2 cars to a mini-SUV this year. In addition to being cheaper, it has allowed us access to safely access more places. Now that it’s snowing here in SLC, I’m totally appreciating having all-wheel drive. I also enjoyed taking public transportation to work – which has been a less stressful way to wake up in the mornings.
- After our honeymoon, I started getting up early. Most weekdays this year I woke up at 5:40 am and wrote for an hour in the morning. This way of kickstarting the day has felt great. I never considered myself a morning person, but after reading The Miracle Morning my mindset completely changed. While I’m not sure how this will change with my newfound job-less lifestyle, I still plan to get up before 8 am. That’s still morning, right?
- Living in an apartment. After the last 11 years in our house (and many more years growing up in one), living in an apartment has been SO NICE. If something is broken or there’s any issue at all, we put in a ticket with the building manager and they stop by and fix it. Not needing to be home for this is also incredible, and allows more flexibility with our schedule. It honestly feels like living in a hotel after a decade of yard work and a never-ending to-do-list.
- We started travel hacking, but have a long ways to go. It did give us 1 and half of our already-planned trips for free. Want to see how much better we can do at this in 2019.
What Didn’t Go As Well?
- Our spending was way higher this year than I expected. Mrs. Minafi and I finally 100% combined our finances which gave better insight into our spending. We also took a combined 12 times (!) where one or both of flew and stayed somewhere this year. This also meant lots of money on flights, hotels, and boarding Lily (our dog).
- My growth at work struggled as the phase of the project shifted. Sometimes depending on where a project is, it needs a different person and different skills. I wasn’t able to realize this sooner, unfortunately, which left me somewhat unchallenged for much of the year without figuring out a way to push myself.
- I didn’t pay attention to my Diet much this year. That meant eating or drinking whatever I wanted throughout the year. Even with hiking and CrossFit, my weight stayed the same since we moved. In 2017 I put on 10 lbs and was hoping to work them off, but 2018 wasn’t the year for that. Preparing food ahead of time and setting better habits here would help.
- We didn’t hang out with friends as much this year. I miss board games nights and casual hangouts. We haven’t gotten back into the habit as much here in Utah.
- Focus wasn’t my strong suit. I spent a lot of this year exploring and trying new things, but that meant doing a lot of things less-than-great as opposed to a few things well. I’d hoped to get out The Minimal Investor book, or another interactive article, but didn’t complete either.
- Although I worked on it a bunch, Minafi hasn’t taken off the way I want to it to – yet. I wrote some great articles this year, but nothing quite as fantastic as the interactive guide from last year. I did try a bunch of things that didn’t work, or weren’t fun, which has improved my direction for next year.
Here are a few of my favorite experiences of 2018.
Honeymoon to Southeast Asia
In 2017 we went on a first honeymoon (as we called it) to Japan for 2 weeks. That honeymoon happened just a few weeks after our wedding.
At the time we wanted to take a trip to Southeast Asia with Adventures by Disney, but it just wasn’t in the cards for the timing. We looked at our schedule and decided to drop the money on it – 9 months ahead of time in January 2018.
The honeymoon was amazing – I’m still in awe of our trip. Even with a price tag of around $15,000 (!), I have no regrets. One thing I didn’t mention is that we also got free, edited photos by a Disney photographer during the trip. Those are licensed only for personal use, so I can’t share them here, but they did manage to catch some special moments.
In those two weeks, we went to Vietnam (Saigon, Hoi An and Hanoi) Laos (Luang Prabang) and Cambodia (Siem Reap / Angkor). Here are a few of my favorite photos from that trip.
I’ve spent a lot of time this year focusing on Minafi, and I’ve learned a lot. Many of the strategies for growing a blog, or a business, are based on the concept of needing to make money – which makes sense. Minafi is in an unusual position where I don’t technically need to make money – at least not right now.
That has put me in a position where it’s actually better if I set my own path rather than looking to mimic what has worked for someone else. Everyone has their own set of skills and background knowledge they come in with, and for me that’s a focus on development, content creation, product design, and organization. Those are things I enjoy doing and want to do more of. I have the luxury of being able to choose what I work on, and I want to capitalize on that.
I’m looking forward to really just doing my own thing in 2019, and not focusing on what a blog “should” do. Much of the repeated advice was just no fun for me: post 3x+ a week, reach out to a bunch of people for backlinks, comment a ton on others blogs, posts need to be X length (mine are typically 3x or longer). Now that I’ve dipped my toe into a bunch of things, I know what I enjoy and can focus on that.
There’s a point of diminishing returns in travel where you start to dread the next trip. This year was riiiight around the max amount of travel I’d want to do – at least while working.
- Went to Orlando, FL in January for a work trip (ironically this was one month after I moved away from Orlando).
- Spent 2 weeks in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia for our 2nd honeymoon.
- Had a 3-night team offsite here in Park City area, where we had a bedbug scare (!). Everything was alright, but we switched hotels.
- Went glamping outside Zion National Park in Utah, where we hiked the Narrows.
- Took a quick trip to San Francisco, CA for Mrs. Minafi’s work, to see family and eat delicious things.
- Roamed around Scotland for a week, visiting Inverness and Edinburgh and ending up London for a night.
- Went back to Orlando, FL for FinCon, friends, and fun.
- Back to Zion National Park in Utah with Mrs. Minafi’s family – getting a chance to hike Observation point, a difficult ~10 mile trail.
- Visited family in Richmond, Virginia for Thanksgiving.
- Had a 3rd trip back to Orlando, FL, this time to visit Mrs. Minafi’s family for Christmas.
Whew, that’s a lot. 2 international trips, 7 flights and 3 trips to Orlando. In total, I spent more than 50 days in hotels this year (Mrs. Minafi spent another 10 days or so more than me since she had additional trips for work!).
One reason why it was hard for me to stick to a healthy schedule this year was thanks to all this travel. As much as I love it, it’s been too much. I still want to travel a bunch next year, but I have a feeling it’ll be less than 50 days (and perhaps fewer trips back to Orlando).
The idea of slow travel still excites me. Where you go to a new place and stay for an extended period of time – like a month or two. I wouldn’t want to do that without Mrs. Minafi though, and she’s still working, so I doubt that’ll be in the cards for 2019. After this past year, having some time to recover and get into a groove sounds much more exciting than jumping into another adventure right away.
Events and Entertainment
Unlike most years, we didn’t end up doing too much this year. In past years we’ve had Broadway Across America or Shakespeare Theater season tickets, but not this time around. Instead, we mostly focused on going to shows we absolutely wanted to see, rather than ones we were only curious about.
- Saw Colette at the Sundance Film Festival
- Postmodern Jukebox live here at the Depot.
- Went to a very awkward Poppy concert.
- Went roller skating at an old fashion skating rink.
- Saw The Violent Femes and Belinda Carlisle live in the Red Bute Gardens.
- Watched a bunch of World Cup live in pubs.
- Tuned in for some of the CrossFit Games live – while in Scotland.
- Saw Malala speak at Pluralsight Live
- TJ Miller live standup – which was a fun show!
- Whitney Cummings standup (she was amazing – definitely see her if you can, or read her book).
- Christkindlmarkt – the Christmas market here in town.
- Saw a bunch of movies, my favorites of the year were Won’t You Be My Neighbor, The Greatest Showman, A Quiet Place, Crazy Rich Asians, and Free Solo.
- Watched way too much TV. A few favorites were Mr. Robot, The Good Place, Outlander, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Americans, Westworld, The Haunting of Hill House, Silicon Valley, Wild Wild Country, and Younger.
- Read or listened to 100 books. I’ll be posting about my favorites from the year later, but a few standout favorites are: Children of Time, Educated and Born to Run.
- Played a few video games to completion. My favorites were Hollow Knight, Horizon Zero Dawn, Mario Kart 8 and Monument Valley 2. Doki Doki Literature Club was memorable/scaring.
- Listened to a lot of music on Spotify this year. The Greatest Showman and Great Gatsby soundtracks were on repeat a bunch, as were Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Dua Lips, Grimes, Hayley Kiyoko, and The Magnetic Fields.
We already have a few events lined up for 2019 too! Aladdin, Moulin Rouge (in NYC) and Ali Wong live all should be fun.
Hikes and Outdoor Exploring
I tried my best to get outdoors more, but still struggled at times. One thing that did work was putting a repeating event on my calendar to hike after work one day each week – and letting Mrs. Minafi know I’d be out. I’d put in an audiobook and explore a trail on my own (usually grabbing a Cliff bar from my works snack wall before heading out).
Between those evening hikes, a few day trips and the occasional weekend trip, we’ve started to get the feel for Utah. Here are some places we’ve explored so far:
- Timpanogos Cave National Monument
- Zion National Park
- The Narrows
- Angels Landing (we turned around part of the way up due to wind and traffic).
- Observation Point
- Kolob Canyon Trail / top of the Subway hike
- Bunch of hikes all around Salt Lake. Some of my favorites:
- Livingroom Trail (5 miles)
- Adams Canyon (6 miles)
- Centerville Canyon Trail (6 miles)
- Lake Blanche Trail (9 miles)
- Rattlesnake Gulch (4 miles)
- Ensign Peak (2 miles, great easy hike to bring people to).
- Desolation Trail (5 miles)
- Valley View Terrace Trail (2 miles, great for Lily!)
- Bonneville Shoreline Trail (ongoing).
- Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland.
- Camping on public land outside Timpanogos
Here are a few of my favorite hiking related photos from the past year!
If you’re in Salt Lake City and want to go for a hike, feel free to hit me up! Or if you have any recommendations for places to go around Utah? I’d love to hear them!
We tend to eat out a lot. We’ll travel to places purely because there’s great food there. The thing I was most looking forward to from our honeymoon was the chance to eat delicious local dishes – and I was not let down.
This list doesn’t include homemade amazing meals. We cook a lot at home, and was a guest at many delicious dinners, but those will stay off the books.
- Prix Fixe Thai dinner at Kin Khao in San Francisco was my favorite meal of the year.
- Street markets in Southeast Asia
- High tea in Edinbugh
- Borough Market in London to eat all the things
- Benu in San Francisco (3 Michelin star place).
- Ethiopian dinner with FinCon friends. We went back for a
- Dim Sum House here in SLC with friends
- Red Iguana in SLC for delicious mole.
- Current for delicious fish.
A few areas that didn’t quite fit in anywhere else.
- Went skiing a few times and picked up a ski pass for the 2018/2019 season.
- Joined in IPO celebrations with my company as they went public on the NASDAQ.
- Got a tour of a Scottish Castle from an Earl.
- Walked the streets of Edinburgh during Fringe.
- Plowed a rice patty behind a water buffalo.
- Ate a tarantula.
- Went glamping.
- Bought an all-wheel drive vehicle.
- Celebrated Samhain with friends (and took a messager joke to the extreme by making a full costume out of it).
- Played Top Golf for the first time.
- Organized a team offsite/retreat in a 5,000+ sq/ft house.
- Launched “Pluralsight Projects”, the product I was a Product Manager for.
- Walked the fields of Culloden outside Inverness.
- Created a world map of our travels.
2018 Goals Review
Here’s a look at the goals I set out for the past year and how I did on them.
1) Turn Minafi into a Business
I tried at this one. In the end, the things that felt the most “businessy” were the least fun, or had the least connection to readers. While I’d still like Minafi to stand on it’s own (it’s currently an expensive hobby), I’m OK with it not being a business in 2019 still. If it makes money, great, if it doesn’t – as long as I’m still having fun with it, meeting great people from it and helping others learn how to invest it’s a success (so long as it doesn’t bankrupt me in the process).
Going into 2018 I suspected that is might be my last year working. Although I thought there was maybe 1 chance in 10 that would be the case, the company I worked for had a great IPO and I was fortunate to capitalize on it. One of the goals of turning Minafi into a business was to give me more flexibility do my own thing sooner if that didn’t happen.
“Side hustle” or “passive” income is the holy grail for people who dream of more control over their time, and that has been a motivator of this goal. While that hasn’t happened yet, I’d still pencil it in as something to think about in the future. Minafi is an LLC at least, so there’s that!
Goal Grade: D
2) Build on my Keystone Habits
Going into 2018 my habits were all shaken up. I’d just moved from Orlando to a new city, I changed from a mostly-remote job to an in-office job, my gym changed – everything.
This goal was about creating something new in all that change. I even laid out a few ideas:
It could be embracing a morning routine, joining a mastermind group, developing productivity time, or anything else.Me, writing this goal last year
Out these were some of the best things I did this year! Writing every morning was “productivity time”. I joined a mastermind with Felicity from Fetching Financial Freedom for much of the year, before joining a new one with Lily, Olivia, Zach, Aaron and Janet after FinCon. We also recently started an in-person more general blogging one (that meets at breweries) that Scott and a few others have joined.
Ideally, this keystone habit would be something involved in creating here on Minafi.Me, writing this goal last year
I really like that I included an intention with this one. It’s something I want to do with my habits going forward, as it guides it to solve a problem rather than to reach a specific goal.
Goal Grade: A
3) Slow Down
2017 was a stressful year. Getting married, changing focuses at my job, first honeymoon, fixing up & selling our house, driving across country, finding a new place – whew. That led me to put “slowing down” as a goal for 2018.
I think I was split on accomplishing this one. For example:
One thing that I really want to focus on in this category is cooking dishes I enjoy at restaurants.Me, writing this goal last year
We cooked some this year, but not any more than previous years. We did buy an Instant Pot which has made some cooking possible that wasn’t before.
One actionable step for this is to take public transportation to work rather than driving more often.Me, writing this goal last year
This I did do! In additional to taking the train to work many days (most days?) I joined a gym that allowed me to take it, workout and bus home.
I easily fall into a mindset where I’m needing to get something done right now and obsess about it until it’s complete.Me, writing this goal last year
When I get into that mindset, I’m often a little more short with my responses to people, making for rough conversations. i’d like to think I improved at this over the past year, but still have room for improvement.
Goal Grade: B
4) Become More Active
With the change from Orlando to SLC, this was a focus on being more active – specifically outdoors.
Now that I’m in Salt Lake City, I want to make it a point to enjoy nature more. Hiking and skiing are the obvious ones, but also walking and biking more.Me, writing this goal last year
I for sure walked, hiked, biked and skied more this year than in the past. I went to the gym about 2x a week on average on top of that. The most I’ve ever hit the gym is 3x a week, so 2x a week isn’t too bad.
Although I was more active, one hypothesis of mine didn’t prove true:
As a side effect of being more active, I know from experience that I’ll eat better, get more sleep and have more energy to focus on things when I want to.Me, writing this goal last year
Whew, that’s quite an assumption. It turned out to be completely wrong though. In the past, I’ve set fitness + food + sleep goals that have helped, and I assumed fitness was the cornerstone of it, where if I did the work there the others would fall into place. Turns out I still need to pay attention to each individually.
Goal Grade: A for the actual goal of “be more active”, C for the desired topic of “be more healthy”.
Enjoyed having themes for the year in 2018 rather than goals that I could fully accomplish. I want to continue that trend in 2019 and see how it goes!
1) Ease into each day
Wake up on my own schedule whenever possible. Read and reflect in the morning. Don’t check social media or email before breakfast. Enjoy coffee, and a tasty breakfast.
After decades of waking up and jumping right to work, I no longer need to do that. It’s a surprisingly hard habit to change! Unless Lily needs a walk right away, there’s little reason to jump to action in the morning. I hope to slow my days down and spend more of my mornings easing into the day.
- Create a plan for what to do when I get up each day & make it a habit.
- Have healthy and tasty things to eat handy when I wake up.
- Learn more quick and healthy breakfast recipes.
- Strengthen my reading muscle little by little.
- Reflect on why I’m feeling stressed and take steps to improve.
How will I know this was accomplished? If I can wake up and not feel at all stressed about the day to come.
2) Favor habits over goals
Even though I have a bunch of life goals, I don’t want to set time-based goals this year. Instead, I want to focus on creating sustainable habits. These are habits that span location, time and are flexible to ever shifting life conditions.
These should be supportive habits that drive towards improved physical or mental state, increase productivity or better relationships.
Much of what I’ve read about habit formation focuses on only adding one habit at a time. This doesn’t take into account how to form habits when you suddenly leave a job and have an excess of time. Habits will be formed to fill the time, it’s just a matter of if those are intentional habits or unintentional habits. I’m aiming to make as many habits intentional as I can.
- Pick specific habits to work on, focusing on times of the day – morning habits, after breakfast habits, lunch habits, after-lunch habits and evening habits.
- Start with the bookends – focusing on good morning habits and good evening habits.
- Reflect on how things are going weekly and determine what new habits to try only when I’ve been able to effortlessly perform the existing ones.
How will I know this was accomplished? If I feel like I’m getting into a routine without self-imposed stress that still allows for mental and physical wellbeing.
3) Provide value only I can give
Everyone has their own unique background and skill set that they bring. I want to leverage my own background more to focus on what I can bring to the table in all situations.
That includes creating something here on Minafi that’s unique to my own experiences. This may look wildly different from anything else out there, but it will leverage areas I’m stronger in – programming, basic design, product thinking, teaching.
This spans beyond websites to any part of life. Providing value only I can give as a husband, as a friend, as a volunteer, as a mentor – and anyone else I encounter.
- Brainstorm (or actually continue brainstorming) areas to add value to Minafi.
- Talk with Mrs. Minafi and other friends more often and seek opportunities to help.
- Setup a repeating event to hang out with friends.
- Start volunteering with a local cause. I’ve been looking into being a big brother, or something that might allow me to help pass on some knowledge/skills I have developed.
- Consider mentoring people getting into programming, or local startups. While I’m no mega-star, I do have a bunch of experience in these subjects.
How will I know this was accomplished? I’ve created things I’m proud of and built/grown relationships with people in my life.
4) Consistently track whatever I want to improve
I’ve tracked many things over the years: fitness progress, weight, happiness, spending, investments and more.
For the past year, I didn’t track much of anything. In that time I saw my weight and my spending rise.
A decade ago I earned $37k/yr at my job and still saved money! In 2018, we spent over $100k as a household. While I don’t regret it, I want to see what we can do to lower expenses while maintaining a comparable level of happiness and exploration in our lives.
What I want to do is differentiate “tracking” from “action”. In my Q2 goals, I tried to do way too much.
Instead, I’m going to focus on tracking things I want to improve, then setting habits towards them with time on my side.
For starters I’ll be tracking calories and spending – evaluating them daily. What I track later will depend on what I want to improve.
- Start tracking spending and calories today.
- Start tracking where my time is going.
- Develop a routine on when to reflect on anything tracked.
- Review calories daily
- Review spending weekly
- Review time weekly
- Cautiously start tracking more areas I want to improve, but only when I’m serious about focusing on them:
- Productive time
- Learning time
How will I know this was accomplished? If I can consistently predict the future trend of anything I want to improve based on past data, and impact change if necessary.
What to Expect on Minafi in 2019
I love building things – one look at my failure resume will tell you that. Minafi has been one of the most fun endeavors in a long while, and I plan to continue it in the new year.
I have an ever-growing list of things I want to do, and even without a day-job I doubt I’d be able to get to everything (unless I obsessively worked on it perhaps, but that’s not healthy).
Here are a few more concrete of things I’m aiming to do (or continue doing) next year in no particular order:
- Keep publishing a new post every Monday
- Start up the new Focused Investor Series with a new guest post every Wednesday (note: interested in contributing? Check out that link!)
- Eventually start a weekly (or biweekly) sharing post, detailing what I’m reading (similar to Physical on Fires’s Sunday’s Best, or Four Pillar Freedoms Sunday is for Sharing).
- Continue sending out a weekly email with posts from the week and a few thoughts. Not on the email list already? Why not join!
- Continue cataloging FIRE in the News, but attempt to automate it more.
- Convert The Minimal Investor email course I have into a web course available for free here on Minafi.
- Finish The Minimal Investor Book – and decide if I’ll self publish or seek a publisher.
- Add interactive elements to the web course, enabling more feedback, experimentation and learning along the way.
- Allow people to save progress in the course (and interactive guide) and return later.
- Find a way for people to measure their progress when learning (test? answering a question by someone else? a completed worksheet?)
- Create curated areas for investing related books, courses, apps, platforms and other tools that help people find the right ones for them.
- Create a place on Minafi for people to ask questions and get help. (forum? Q&A area? Slack group? we’ll see).
- Create a follow up course to The Minimal Investor (have a few names I’m throwing around for this!)
- Try doing something with video to help people learn.
- Talk to beginner investors more to understand what’s holding them back from investor
Like I said, these are ambitious, and I’d be surprised to hit them all in 2018. With each step I’ll find other new things I want to work on too which may change my course part of the way through. I think of these as a snapshot of where I think I’ll be spending time, with full knowledge that it’ll change.
I’m looking forward to 2019 more than any year in my life. It’ll be a year of balancing high hopes with reasonable expectations; one of growth and reflection and one where I see if I can enjoy time on my own away from a job. I’m excited to see what I can do given time – in terms of output, mental health, physical health and just for fun!
Whew, that a lot. How was your 2018? Did you write up a post about it? How were your goals handled from last year? Are you making any new ones for the new year? If so, feel free to share anything in the comments.