For most of my life, I’ve avoided books. In year 2020 I found joy in reading, which came about from a growing interest in a particular topic – financial freedom. Back in 2018 a friend of mine recommended two books on that topic to me “The Road to Financial Freedom” by Bodo Schaefer and “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. After reading them and getting the result I wanted, I found myself wanting to read more and more.
The transition from a person who does not consume books at all to a person who reads or listen books every day was smooth and took place over 2 years. At first I listened to books only on the road, now I read every day as a part of my morning routine.
I didn’t expect this to happen, it wasn’t the goal. I wanted to read one book first and then another. My “want to read” list has never been empty; it only grows.
In the past year I finished 25 books; more books than I had ever read or listened to in my entire life.
I mentioned the topic of goals. In the past year, I learned one thing from my own experience about goal setting. Setting targets for yourself that are 10x greater than what you believe you can achieve is something I aspire to. Making 10x goals certainly is inspiring, but measuring yourself by it can be devastating.
I looked at where I am and where my goals are. The gap was huge and it was demoralizing. The rule I learned from Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy is to measure the gain not the gap.
Another leason related to focus and “The Ten Years of Silence” rule.
I tried to pursue three things in the first four months of the year and that was a mistake. I pursued three businesses (knowledge business, books publishing and accounts receivable) but mastered neither to the level I expect of myself. My failure to reach my end result in these three taught me my most valuable lesson of 2020 - it is hard to become successful in a new field if you don’t devote enough effort and time into it.
John Hayes, a cognitive psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon, discovered that top performing people need around ten years to produce the exceptional results they desire. This is the idea of “The Ten Years of Silence”.
And if you pursue three things at a time, your chance of getting noticeable results will reduce more than three times.
But let’s review the year that was 2020, along with my learnings throughout the course of the year which culminated in a year of growth and personal realisation.
The year started with 28 hours travel from Vladivostok (where I live) to Koh Chang. Traversed that distance via three airports, two minibuses, one taxi and a ferry.
From there, I spent my time in Thailand between Koh Chang, and Krabi . Fulfilled my dream of wintering outside cold Mother Russia!
I learned to swim. Step by step, stroke by stroke, over the course of two weeks. This seemingly unrelated event inspired me to do something I’d been contemplating for some time; I decided to start my own business to pursue my financial goals.
Later this month I became a ruble millionaire. This was the result of hard work that had been stacking over the last two years. The first step had been to learn how to manage personal finance. The second step was to grow. The next and final step was to grow 10% of what I saved monthly to half of my income.
I had started investing in the stock market in May 2019 and, combined with these steps, made my first million, albeit a ruble one.
I met a man who was in the business of trading goods between countries and he offered to start an IT consulting business in Tajikistan and Azerbaijan with me. I turned down the offer made by this wise, elderly man, but I still dwell on it from time to time. Our thinking was aligned; we agreed on most topics completely. It was an unusual feeling, meeting a stranger so close to you in thought.
Hired my first freelance editor to support my business, and together we produced thirteen articles and my first book. I think she made me twice as productive and effective. At least, it certainly felt that way!
A busy month spent travelling, working on my new business part-time, and continuing to work for eighty hours a week for Jerry.ai as a lead software engineer. Within my engineering team, we had a bottleneck in the software development process, specifically the peer review phase. I tried a ‘code review hour’ practice that I had devised, to solve the problem and it worked. You can read about it in the article and “Team Lead 101” book.
First time snorkelling at Bamboo Island. In my first attempt when I was around a hundred meters from the shore, water started to fill my mask. I panicked and swam back. Realised then and there that if I didn’t get through this fail right away that it would be harder next time, in fact, I’d be unlikely to try again because of the fear of failure. So I forced myself to get back into the water where my (diver) wife was happily snorkelling. I’m glad I pushed myself, because snorkelling remains one of the most memorable experiences of the year.
Started an investing consultancy venture which is my new hobby. My first client was my family, and I grew their capital by 21% over the course of the year.
Hit my first 100 subscribers to my newsletter/blog. Thank you!
Decided to write a book. The initial thought was to write a book about how to be a better developer. This resulted in dozens of ideas for chapters and I decided to battle test them by writing a series of articles. Three of them were written this month:
- The Prestige: The Secret You Don’t Want to Overlook
- Want To Write The Best Code You Possibly Can? Read this
- 3 Smart Ways To Increase Learnability, Confidence, and Results
As a part of the book project I recorded my first video interview with Daragh Byrne on how to become a better developer, and how meditation and mindfulness can help. Daragh is an engineering manager and meditation teacher at https://codingmindfully.com/.
Last month of my full-time job.
My articles and interview didn’t get enough attention and I decided to switch the topic for my book. My next idea was to write about my successful spell as a team lead in Jerry.ai. I started writing the first chapters of “Team Lead 101” a book about the fundamentals of leading and managing engineering teams.
I finished an article that I had started before my new book and it became my second best article this year, 22 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be A Successful Developer. It was featured on dev.to and Better Programming and it went viral.
Tried to shoot one video each day on my phone about anything, which helped me practice my camera presence. I later used this experience and confidence to record a decent intro for a job site. I also recorded the second video about how to become a better developer, with Vladimir Dementyev.
Learned that speaking and asking in the form “WE will do something”, “WE are at fault”, “WE should” speaks to no one in terms of an attempt to inspire an action, but speaks to everybody in terms of insult.
Started using the Waking Up meditation app by Sam Harris. Found it refreshingly different and so very practical and relevant in my day to day situations. I love this app and have so far meditated for 154 days - about 2.4k minutes. Anyone wanting a free month trial, let me know on twitter or send me email at helloiamdi at gmail dot com. Just send “Hey, I want a free month of Waking Up” and I’ll give you a link.
“Your mind is the basis of everything you experience in life and any contribution you can make to life of others … it make sense to train it” – Sam Harris, Waking Up App
Became a mentor for a small group of computer science students. Taught the basics of programming and Python.
I had noticed the previous month that I had started eating much more sugar than I used to. As a solution to this unwanted behavior, I stopped eating sugar and wheat, bar one day per week where I would indulge, an idea I borrowed from Tim Ferris. He called the one day a week when you can eat everything you want “Faturday” because this day is, more often than not, Saturday. I still practice this idea and it works for me. I even noticed I wanted to eat less sugar during my “Faturdays”; my newly adjusted taste buds found it too sweet.
For the first time, I tried Metta meditation, also known as loving-kindness meditation, which was recommended via the Waking Up app I’d discovered the month prior. Discovered that this kind of meditation can turn your entire day around; doing it right makes me feel deep gratitude and happiness.
Changed the domain of my site from iamdi.dev to dmitryshvetsov.com.
Launched my “Team Lead 101: How to Manage and Grow Engineering Teams in Small Startups” book! Book launches for me always involve overthinking and lack of real actions. I was overthinking the launch strategy and was too shy to ask the help of my friends in distributing the book.
Thought about productivity a lot this month. Realised that if you make the most important task of your day the very first thing you do each morning then your day will be so much more productive.
During this month, I understood that I had failed to start a profitable business. I needed to find a stable income.
Started my most powerful habit so far. Every day, speak to yourself in the mirror; look yourself in the eyes and tell yourself all the things you did that were great today. End it with “I love you”. This sounds strange, and it took some work to become comfortable doing it, but it works powerfully.
Since I started this habit I feel like I’ve really gained confidence in myself. My wife told me that I’ve become a completely different person since I’ve started doing this.
Took advice from the book “Positive Intelligence”. In the event of stress, concentrate on your physical sensations. Another great tool in difficult situations that worked for me on a couple occasions during the year.
Studied the ideas of the Stoics and they turned out to be close to my heart.
Learned about the Second brain, a huge game changer for anyone, but a method I believe extremely valuable for any software developer’s toolkit. As developers, we read plenty of articles and books as part of our desire for the latest and greatest knowledge. When I think about how many of the ideas and knowledge we read in them that we really retain (at most 10% if we don’t practice the new knowledge we’ve read about), I can’t help but feel like it’s a complete waste of effort. Making notes and saving them into an app (such as Evernote, Roam Research, or Notion) means you’re enabling a “second brain” where you can find ideas and things you learned at any moment. Check out building a Second Brain.
Got an electric shock - 220V. I was always afraid of this moment, but for me it turned out to be nothing to be terrified about. Took this as a lesson about how our fear can be so much more than reality.
Started using OKRs to define objectives and track my progress. By reviewing my progress each week and measuring it on a scale of 0 to 1, I find I have a clear picture of where I’m doing well and where I’m missing opportunities. Its always clear to me why I’m not getting what I want, and why.
Made a Google Chrome extension rmtr to display different time-zones on a browser home screen. Try it and let me know what you think! But keep in mind it’s a work in progress and not yet published in the Chrome marketplace. Your feedback will help me get to that point.
After I shared my investment results from the year in progress, my friends started asking me for financial advice. I must say, I certainly enjoy answering their questions and sharing my knowledge and experience.
This month I actively began applying to job postings. I sent sixty-six applications to different companies and some of them reached out to me. One of them was Amazon, with an offer to progress through their interview process to become an Amazon software developer. I got to the last stage, which involved a five hour long interview with four Amazon engineers. I enjoyed speaking with the kind and highly intelligent developers at Amazon, but didn’t get through the interview.
After sending dozens of cover letters and applications I must say, from new found experience, that honest, sincere cover letters and resumes work better than arrogant, “I’m great” ones.
Saw the fruits of my meditation labor in practice: immediately switched from angry state to positive just before joining an interview call. This happened after the recruiter called me to say I’d missed the interview call. Imagine me with messy hair in an ‘at home, natural state’, totally unprepared! Here’s the payoff: I passed the interview and got an offer.
Some meaningful thoughts, at this end point of the year. Do I think three years in advance, when picking three important things I will work on today? Also, I realised that we often track what we spend money on, but rarely what we spend time on. I’m beginning to have an inkling that I might enjoy a scientific role (and not data science). Something to think on further.
Inspired (again) by the idea that systems are crucial after listening to a conversation between Sam Harris and James Clear about habits. I listened to it via the Waking Up app; it’s also available at samharris.org. Well worth listening to.
Closed out the year with capital growth of four stock portfolios 73.62%, 42.83%, 21% and 12.27%. Feeling the win.
On December 31 I accepted an offer from Squire Technologies. It’s time to go back to what I do best - solving problems with technology.
Plans for 2021
I’ll be sharing a new site section called “Book notes” in 2021, where I’ll share my notes after reading technical, investment, philosophical, and other great books (I’m not going to limit myself by genre!) that I think you’ll enjoy too.
Month after month I promised myself I would detach from work but in most cases, I failed to do so and worked until bedtime, or even later. In 2021 I want to find a balance between work and life. I think that by saying “NO” more often than I’m doing it now, I’ll find the path to achieving this goal.
I’m going to give free online workshops on technologies that I’m using.
I have plans to write the second edition of my book Team Lead 101, and will translate it into Russian.
I will move to another city which is close to places where tech conferences are held and, for the first time, visit them in person. Fingers crossed that the situation with COVID-19 improves in 2021.
Lastly I have made the resolution to hone my technical skills further, and to reach new financial goals.
Thank you for being with me throughout my 2020 journey, and here’s to us all finding good fortune in the year ahead!