Welcome to my first annual review, a tradition I plan to continue next year. In it, I cover highlights from 2022 and progress in different areas of my life, including data I've tracked on habits using the Done app since 2021.
In writing this, I learned that summing up an entire year is no small task. I used my habits to decide where to focus and tried to cover the most memorable highlights. All in all, the process was well worth the time spent. As much as I reflect on experiences throughout the year, it was nice to step back and look at 2022 holistically.
As for 2022, I will look back on the year fondly for many years to come. It was full of new beginnings, challenges, experiences, and lessons learned. There were moments of pure joy and happiness and others that were tough to manage.
Through it all, I found calm in the simple moments, like reading by the fire with my wife Dana and walking our dog Gizmo, and perseverance in recognizing all I have to be grateful for: my health, family, friends, career, and the life Dana and I are building together.
In late March 2022, Dana and I rescued a 12-week-old Toy Fox Terrier/Shih Tzu mix puppy from Mississippi via Southern Paws Rescue in NJ. We named him Gizmo after the friendly gremlin and the word my Pop-Pop once used to describe the statues at South of the Border while on a family road trip to Florida that I'll never forget.
Just days before we were supposed to pick Gizmo up, we learned he contracted parvovirus, an often deadly virus for dogs, putting all 20-some dogs he was traveling with into quarantine for a month. Despite being vaccinated, we were told he had a 50/50 chance to live. We had the option to choose another dog but decided to wait it out and hope he pulled through — the little guy did! Gizmo came home with us weighing around 4 lbs. with an ear infection and sores on his back from the parvo treatment. I'll always remember the look on Dana's face at dinner a few days after bringing Gizmo home. It was surreal to have a little creature relying on us for its well-being. I'm expecting it will be a great primer for parenthood.
Gizmo is one year old now, around 15 lbs, and doing great. Dana and I had been talking about the potential of owning a dog for some time before we rescued Gizmo. The timing felt as right as it ever would be, so we went for it. The joy of having Gizmo has far outweighed the responsibility of owning a dog. He has us out walking more and exploring nearby walking trails, getting up at the same time more consistently, and finding more space to pause in the day.
Read more about Gizmo here: BL&T No. 081: Meet Gizmo, Our New Pup
Dana and I moved to my hometown (Bucks County, PA) in August 2021. We were lucky to find a contemporary home surrounded by trees. We've enjoyed creating our new life here and all that comes with living among nature.
Despite settling into our new house in 2021, 2022 was when it started to feel like home. We got past the indecision of how to decorate and started making our primary living spaces feel like us. Having rented for the last 10+ years, we also learned a lot about owning and maintaining a home.
Here were some highlights in 2022:
Related: BL&T: No. 046: Moving Home
Part of our decision to move to PA was being able to host friends and family. As our home came together in 2022, we were happy to live out that vision. We loved seeing friends from NYC make the trip and having a place for them to crash for the night. Here are some highlights that come to mind:
Christmas Eve dinner was a milestone, especially with both families under one roof. Dana and I had been discussing the idea of hosting a holiday since deciding to leave Brooklyn, so this was exciting to cross off our list.
When the pandemic hit, I started dreaming about having a home gym. It was nothing more than a dream because it was impossible in our small Park Slope Brooklyn apartment, so I made the most out of the small space we had freed up.
Shortly after moving into our new home, I joined a local Strongman gym called Lion’s Den Elite Training. I enjoyed working out there but struggled to make it to the classes consistently due to their timing. In December 2021, I got COVID which put me out of the gym for weeks. Once I felt up to working out again, I began seriously considering a home gym setup. My decision came down to whether or not I was committed to strength training long-term, considering that life will only get more complicated when kids come into the picture.
I placed my first home gym order from Rogue on January 10 and never looked back! I set up the core equipment right after it arrived (thanks to my brother Justin for helping me unload it) but spent 2022 making improvements like hanging mirrors and adding new gear like an axle bar, Concept 2 rower, and 150# sandbag.
I learned a lot by researching, designing, and building out the space. A highlight was discovering the power of Reddit as a research tool — I'm now part of a home gym community along with others, like motorcycling.
Having a home gym has been well worth the investment in time and money. I’m grateful to have the space at my fingertips and the flexibility to work out on my schedule. It's also been fun to have Dana join workouts when she's up for it.
I competed in my first Strongman competition last July. The prospect of competing had been on my mind since sometime in 2019 when I first learned about Strongman through a barbell club friend.
Taking classes at The Lion's Den opened my eyes to what Strongman was all about. They were hosting a Summer competition, so I decided to go for it. My only aim was to get the experience first-hand and see if it was something I was interested in pursuing.
In terms of the competition, I was proud to make it further in every event than planned and enjoyed the day. I'm considering competing again, but if I do, I’ll likely do it to push myself and have a milestone to work toward vs. place in the competition.
Read more about lessons learned after the competition: BL&T No. 097: Competing in Strongman
During the pandemic, Dana and I did a fair bit of riding our bikes in nature with her parents near their house in Delaware. It was nice to be out riding for leisure vs. getting from Point A to B like I’d become accustomed to while living in cities.
When I heard an old family friend Lee had taken up cycling, I decided to join him for a ride. Lee and I went out for our first ride in early July, and I fell in love with riding. Soon after, I realized that I needed to upgrade my bike if I planned to continue going on 20+ mile rides. By October, I purchased a gravel bike, Cannondale Topstone 3.
As a last hurrah for the season, Lee and I decided to participate in a 33-mile bike tour around Bucks County. I hadn't done more than 20 miles on semi-flat land, so I wasn't sure what to expect. The hills were challenging, but we got through it in 2.5 hours and had a great time.
Since graduating college, my relationship with music has gone in and out. Writing and performing music went from being what defined me in my teens and early 20s to hobbies I stopped making time for in my life. When friends or family would ask me if I was still making music, I’d tell them I was waiting for it to pull me back in.
In 2022, I was happy to get back on stage a few times:
I’m still figuring out how I want music to be part of my life, but rather than trying to come up with a definitive answer, I’m learning to be comfortable following whatever path it takes me.
When Dana and I lived in NYC, hanging out with family meant pre-planning, coordinating schedules, long drives, and driving around looking for a parking space in Brooklyn when we got home. It was nice to spend a full year seeing family more casually without barriers.
Some examples were seeing Dana's cousins' soccer game, having dinner with my parents on weekdays, taking my younger brother Justin bowling, and seeing "A Christmas Story" with Dana's cousins at Ambler Theater (and dressing up as characters). I look forward to hanging out with family more in 2023 and deepening those relationships.
In 2019, I was competing in powerlifting. From February 2020 to October 2021, I transitioned to working out at home with Bowflex adjustable dumbbells and a kettlebell due to the pandemic. Given my constraints, I mostly did high-intensity, high-rep workouts (think: 100 lunges, 80 squats, 60 burpees, etc). In late 2021, I was excited to get back to strength training, but I knew it would take time to get back to where I left off.
My focus for 2022 was to regain strength while building upon the cardiovascular fitness I gained during the pandemic. I started the year working out at Lion's Den occasionally before fully transitioning to at-home workouts in my home gym by Fall. Throughout the year, I followed two programs from my friend and Lion's Den owner Joey Szatmary and added high-intensity workouts to every session. I could have been better about following these programs, missing some sessions due to travel or other obligations, or swapping them with classes at the gym.
I recently finished Joey’s powerlifting program and had a chance to test my one rep max (1RM). Although nothing can replace a 1RM attempt in competition, I was happy to see gains in my upper body lifts. Below is a breakdown of the most weight I lifted for the core powerlifting lifts in 2022. I compared them with my last powerlifting competition in September 2019. At 150 lbs, I weigh about 10 lbs less than I did then.
I’m not sure when I’ll compete in these specific Strongman events again, but here are some PRs from 2022:
In terms of fitness, 2022 was a year of growth and discovery. After the competition, I decided to started lifting lighter to work on my form. With that in mind, I try not to be too hard on myself about the drop in my squat and deadlift because my focus wasn't improving them. Instead, I'm proud to have a Strongman competition under my belt and to have found a new passion in cycling. As much as I enjoy competing, my primary goal with fitness continues to be staying healthy and fit as I get older.
In 2022, I published 104 posts on my website, most of which I generated as part of my weekly newsletter, BL&T (Borrowed, Learned, & Thought). The breakdown was 52 newsletters, 47 notes, and 5 essays. This is down from 200 posts published in 2021 (52 newsletters, 145 notes, and 3 essays). What caused the drop?
In 2021, I started a daily writing initiative to practice writing, specifically refining my ideas into finished pieces and being less precious about publishing. During this time, I generated over 130 posts, significantly increasing my output in 2021.
I’m not surprised by the decrease in posts. I stopped writing daily when it became more of a burden than an exciting initiative. Instead, I have enjoyed using my newsletter as a platform for the majority of my published content. I expect this to continue into 2023 along with occasional longer-form essays like this one.
Here are some highlights from my newsletter in 2022:
2022 was a year of experimentation and flexibility in terms of my diet. A journey I'm still navigating.
In 2019, I became much more aware of my diet. I gained almost 20 lbs for my first powerlifting competition and then lost it all by adhering to Ryan Fischer's carb-cycling program (think keto) in a couple of months. Around this time, I stopped drinking alcohol entirely, even in social settings. I kept this up in 2020 but made exceptions.
In 2020, I learned about the benefits of eating plant-based and made it a priority. I also started 16:8 intermittent fasting again (eat between 2 and 10 pm). These were helpful constraints during the pandemic, keeping me lean and feeling good.
In 2021, I kept the momentum going on intermittent fasting, and plant-based eating, and reduced alcohol consumption, but began making more exceptions in social settings.
In 2022, we were spending more time with family, entertaining at our home, and meeting new people, so I chose to be more flexible. I also started strength training again, which got me thinking about whether or not a primarily plant-based diet made sense for me. I also had early morning workouts which made fasting difficult.
The habit data below reflects my mindset shift from 2021 to 2022.
Related to general wellness, last year was my first full year using a standing desk, rotating between a balancing board (thanks to my mother-in-law) and Uplift's motion stool, which allows me to sit back on an angle while still being "in motion." I got tired of sitting in a chair all day during the pandemic and have loved the change.
I read 17 books in 2022, down from 21 books in 2021. I attribute this to not making reading as much of a priority as in 2021, with experiences like training Gizmo turning my routine upside down. You'll see this in the data below.
I was also not reading for quantity, leading me to pick up a dense book like The Rise of Elvis Presley: The Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick after visiting Graceland in Memphis, TN. I’m still not finished reading.
In 2022, I read:
I'm very close to wrapping up Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard P. Rumelt but will have to count it toward 2023. See my growing list of books here.
Over the years, I’ve enjoyed speaking with like-minded folks about my experiences, lessons learned, and thoughts on relevant topics. I was happy to do more of that last year, most notably appearing on my first podcast. In 2022:
I haven't written much about my finances but liked the idea of touching on them in my annual review. In 2023, I plan to be more diligent about reviewing my finances quarterly. For this post, I won't cover all aspects of finances, but will reflect on my stock portfolio and savings.
I started dipping my toes into investing in stocks in mid-2017 when I bought my first Amazon stock via Robinhood. Since then, I've grown my portfolio by investing in tech companies, companies I admire, and others where I see growth potential. In January 2019, I opened a Fidelity account and started auto-investing in index funds. Shortly after, I converted this to a joint account and Dana started contributing. We still do this today.
It's no surprise that my investments got hit hard in 2022. I saw my Robinhood portfolio drop around 40%. Naturally, the hit on my Fidelity account was less severe, losing roughly 7% of its value. Given the state of the market, I didn't buy any new stocks in 2022 besides auto-investing in index funds. I started allocating more funds into my savings account, which recently increased to a 3.75% interest rate.
The time horizon of my investments is long, so I'm not too concerned about having a rough year on paper. However, I don't see myself making any major investments for the foreseeable future except for any potential opportunities through Barrel Venture Partners.
In 2023, I plan to continue with my current approach (barring any life changes) but will set up auto-contributions to my savings account. Currently, I move money manually between checking and savings accounts. In the coming years, I'll reallocate money toward bond investments.
It was nice to get back to traveling in 2022. Here are the places I visited, not including trips to NYC for Barrel events or to see family in Delaware and Virginia:
I hope to continue traveling in 2023. So far, I'll be heading to LA early this year to attend a conference and spend time with my long-time friend Kyle.
At the end of every year, I’m surprised by everything we pack in and develop at Barrel. 2022 was no exception, from restructuring our team to launching BX Studio to increasing momentum with Barrel Holdings. Most of my writing focuses on lessons learned and progress in leading the team at Barrel, so I focused this section on how my role evolved in 2022.
I transitioned into the Chief Experience Officer (CXO) role in May 2021. At the time, my purview grew from the Creative team to the Client Services and CRM teams. I dedicated Edition No. 036 of my newsletter to what I was embarking on and what I called lessons (to be) learned:
My priorities changed throughout 2021. Toward the end of the year, I outlined three themes heading into Q1 of 2022, again in my newsletter:
In 2022, we sunsetted CRM and folded Project Management into Client Services. My role also grew again, this time to include Software Engineering and Strategy, a newly formed team. In 2023, it will expand to Business Development.
Until now, I haven't taken a moment to reflect on what I set out to do since becoming CXO almost two years ago. Looking back on all of these themes was rewarding. Despite setbacks and changing priorities throughout 2022, I'm proud to have continued progress in all areas.
Last year, my role shifted to working more closely on projects with the team and clients. These experiences were invaluable — helping me remove roadblocks for the team, refine our processes, and increase our value-add to clients.
Here are 10 highlights from initiatives I contributed to in 2022:
Heading into 2023, these three themes are top of mind: