2015 Year in Review

After 2013 was the Year of Yes and 2014 was the Year of More, the theme of 2015 was Pushing the Limits. 2015 was about a combination of great physical exertion but also deep introspection, and I’m in a pretty happy spot as I enter 2016.

Sports: Let’s start with the most obvious focus of the year, which was me getting into the best shape of my life to do several endurance events. I’ve already recounted my first Death Ride, the Tahoe Trail 100k, and riding the Leadville 100 MTB race.

After completing Leadville (the hardest physical feat I have ever done), I could have gotten lazy, but decided that I should keep pushing myself. I had always wanted to have run a marathon, but never wanted to train for one. However, this was the year since I was in the best shape of my life with strong legs and cardio after so much biking. So two months after Leadville, I ran the Golden Hills Marathon, on trails from Tilden Park in Berkeley, up to Skyline ridge through Redwood Park, down to Lake Chabot in Castro Valley, covering 26.2 miles and 5000 feet of climbing in 5.5 hours (finishing in the top half of the field) (Strava) (photos).

I even kept it going after the marathon by talking myself into the Low Key Hill Climbs at Alba (Strava) and Mt. Hamilton (Strava), and 100 Miles of Nowhere on Cañada Road, and 50 Miles of Montebello (because Jill Homer is a maniac). It was a little ridiculous.

Of course, once the snow started falling, I got excited by skiing, and went skiing every weekend in December, which was more skiing than I did all of last winter.

Final stats for the year:

  • Biking: 70 exercise rides for 2700 miles and 281k feet of climbing, up from 2000 miles and 165k feet of climbing in 2014. Plus the usual 150 days of bike commuting for ~750 miles.
  • Running: 12 runs for 138 miles and 22k feet of climbing, including the marathon.
  • Other sports: 19 times playing ultimate frisbee and 41 playing volleyball. Volleyball was down this year, as I replaced my morning games with morning bike rides for much of the year for training purposes.
  • Overall: 168 times exercising (non-commute) for a total of 402 hours, so exercised 2+ hours on average every other day.

Job: I am still in the same job as last year (Chief of Staff to Product VP of AdWords at Google) – I’ve been in this role over three years now, which is a record for me. I still enjoy it, and am challenged by it daily, and am still getting the opportunity to learn new things, so it satisfies what I look for in a job. Plus while ads may not be cool, they generate the revenue that enables all of the other cool things that Google does, like self-driving cars, balloon-powered internet, cardboard virtual reality, etc.

Generalisting: I invested a lot of time this year on improving and exploring myself. This took a number of forms:

  • In March, I took the week-long Problem Solving Leadership class from Esther Derby and Jerry Weinberg, who I’ve previously described as a freaking people ninja. I didn’t know much about the class, but spending a week in a small group setting with Jerry seemed like it would be good for me. It was incredibly intense. Through a series of exercises, he and Esther exposed what our bad habits of collaboration and leadership were, and then gave us opportunities to practice new habits. There were times when I was shaking with emotion because of how I got so wrapped up in the exercise. By the end of the week, we had all learned a lot about ourselves, and had a bunch of things to work on, which I wrote down for myself:
    • You tend to jump in and start acting, regardless of the situation
    • You tend to like throwing new ideas out with no end (Are you better at recognizing when it is not helpful and stopping yourself?)
    • You often aim for zero-level solutions (trying to fix the whole system, instead of taking concrete action today)
    • You tend to bull ahead and speak for others, even when they can speak for themselves
    • What have you done about taking responsibility and finishing things?

    It was a great experience for me to have these master coaches dig into my head and expose the bad habits tripping me up. Also, PSL was in Albuquerque, so after the class was done, I got to go on a balloon ride!

  • A month after PSL, I went to Up to All of Us, a retreat run by my friends Aaron and Megan. It is a community loosely focused on online learning and development, but they invited me to show up anyway despite having no particular expertise in the subject. It was an interesting experience for me to participate without having any domain expertise, and relying solely on my more general systems knowledge and generalisting skills, which provided me an opportunity for self-reflection. I appreciated the opportunity, and am planning a session/experience for the next one in February.
  • Overlap’15 was in June. I still haven’t written a post about the Overlap community and experience, even though it has become a big part of my life over the past three years (e.g. I met Aaron and Megan of Up to All of Us through Overlap). Overlap’15 was near St. Louis, with the theme of Playing with Purpose. It kicked off some existential thoughts, where I realized I wasn’t sure what my purpose was these days, which is something I am continuing to wrestle with. And the first exercise really dove deep into questions of my identity and when I was my best self (my superpower vs. my kryptonite). But it was also a joyful experience of being wholly at home with a community, where I was so energized by others that I was the last one awake most nights, and stayed up all night talking on the last night (this caused some self-examination on my former claim that I am an introvert). We zip-lined, slip’n’slided, tubed down the river, told stories around the campfire, and generally had a heck of a time. If you want to do a retreat near St. Louis, I highly recommend the Wilderness Lodge. Of course, being around a community of energized generalists who are out to change the world is an amazing experience regardless of venue.
  • I also spent a bunch of time in therapy in 2015, working through some issues and bad habits in my brain. It’s been an interesting experience of having somebody else to observe “See what you’re doing there?” and become more aware of my unthinking responses to certain situations.
  • And the SF Salons continued on a monthly(ish) basis – contact me if you’d like to be invited.

The other exciting thing in 2015 was that my ski lease now has a year-round house in Tahoe, so I spent a lot of weekends up there biking, running, hiking, skiing, or just hanging out in the hammock. It turns out I like Tahoe in the summer too!

2015 was a heck of a year, where I pushed myself beyond what I thought I could do both in the physical realm and in the mental and emotional realm. It really helped to reinforce a growth mindset that I can do more than I think I can, and it’s up to me to keep learning and not get complacent. That being said, people keep asking me what my next big adventure will be – whether I’ll do an even crazier race (Tour Divide?) or some other feat of endurance. I haven’t decided on anything – I didn’t sign up for Death Ride or Leadville – and I think this might be a year of integration as I take what I learned in 2015 and make it part of my life. To use my own terminology of learn and latch, if 2015 was about learning, I think 2016 will be about latching the gains into place. We’ll see how that goes!