2020 Annual Review: The Year I Hit Restart

I’ve kept my annual reviews private for years… until now.

It’s been a yearly ritual since I first learned about the idea from Tim Ferriss in 2017. But I’ve always kept them tucked away in my journal or a Google Doc. I’d perform these extensive reviews but then never looked back at them again or make any substantial changes in my life afterwards.

So that’s why you’re reading my first public annual review in what I hope will become a yearly ritual. It’s a way for me to hold myself publicly accountable.

First, I want to express sincere gratitude for the incredible people, opportunities, and privileges I have in my life. In a year with so much destruction and chaos, I was lucky to be able take a step back and do the things I care about with people I care most about. Most importantly, it was a year I hit restart on my life and began again (hence the title).

I don’t want life to float on by while I watch from the sidelines. Similar to how we do annual or quarterly reviews at work or in school (i.e. finals), we should do the same for our lives too.

This post will cover the good and bad from 2020 (compared to some of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year). Then, next week’s post will cover my future plans and goals.

Here are the two questions I’m answering in my review (which I copied directly from James Clear):

  1. What went well for me this year?
  2. What didn’t go well for me this year?

It’s important to note that I wrote this Annual Review for myself and to reflect on my year. It’s not to compare myself to others and certainly not advice for how you need to live your life.

With that being said, feel free to copy this format for yourself. It might be the highest leverage activity you do for yourself all year.

Alright y’all, let’s dive in…

1. What went well for me this year?

Writing

For 9 consecutive months this year, I contemplated starting a blog. I thought about it a lot but never did much about it.

I bought this website domain in April, and it sat unused and untouched for months. During that time, I only wrote 1 article for Silicion Bayou News. I’m still proud of that story of the only black-owned brewery in New Orlean. But I needed consistency.

I became paralyzed by over-analysis. I knew what I needed to do but was afraid to get started until I made a key decision in October. Here are the 4 ways I flipped the switch…

1. 30-Day Blogging Challenge and This Website

I started the personal 30-day blogging challenge in October. With the help of my good friend and accountability partner Alec D’Alelio, I was able to get this blog off the ground. It was exactly what I needed to jumpstart my writing practice again. I needed the consistency and the public accountability of a challenge like this. I needed to write about many different things to re-discover what I enjoy writing about the most.

Since then, I have written 30 blogs on this website. Some of the blogs had less than 30 views while others had 200+ views. In total, I had over 1,500 visitors and 2,500+ views to my website in 1 month of writing everyday. The fact that anyone reads something I write still blows my mind so I appreciate anyone taking the time. These are the three most-popular posts from that 30-day period:

1. Why I’m Starting The 30 Day Blogging Challenge

2. Why I Decided to Leave New Orleans

3. Becoming a Man – Revisiting my Bar Mitzvah 11 Years Later

2. Ship 30 for 30

On November 15, I enrolled in Ship 30 for 30, started by Dickie Bush as a way to start a daily habit for himself and others. I joined 30+ other people writing daily mini essays on Twitter. The catch: each essay would fit into a screenshot image and was between 250-350 words. You can view my mini essays here and read what I learned from this experience here.

I loved joining a cohort of other writers, sharing ideas, and reading their essays. I also loved meeting so many new people from across the world. I definitely recommend checking it out if you want to start a writing habit yourself.

So in the span of 64 days, I wrote 60 essays (30 for my blog and 30 on Twitter). I’m starting to get a feel for what I enjoy writing about the most and what resonates with others.

3. Creating on Twitter

Speaking of Twitter, I started tweeting almost every day since October about a wide range of topics. My tweets range from podcasts and crypto to philosophy, startups, and sports. I’ve been mindlessly scrolling on Twitter for over 10 years, but this was the first year I started sharing my ideas and thoughts on the platform (besides just sports commentary).

Twitter is like an open market where like-minded people can share ideas, tell stories, and learn from each other. I’ve also met at least a dozen new people from across the world on the platform this year. It’s pretty cool to see the reach you can get from tweeting actively. Since October, I’ve had  386k impressions, 9,652 profile visits, and added 77 new followers. I see Twitter as the new LinkedIn but less formal and way more fun.

4. Email Newsletter

I started a weekly newsletter called The Baer Necessities. The reason I send the newsletter is to share what’s going on in my life, what I’m learning, and what I’m working on. I’ve sent 5 editions now with an average 73% open rate. Think of the email like a weekly postcard from me letting you know what’s going on in my life. I’m obsessed with good email newsletters and will likely write this email for a very long time. It’s probably the highest leverage activity I do every week. In case you didn’t realize yet, email is not dead and never will be.

Mountain Biking

Since moving back to Memphis for the pandemic, mountain biking has become an integral part of my life. I now bike around 4-5 times a week depending on the weather. For me, it’s been the best way to work out, immerse myself in nature, and listen to good music or podcasts. It’s also a fun distanced activity with friends during the pandemic.

I didn’t start tracking my rides until I road tripped to Colorado in July and brought my bike with me. Since that point, I’ve recorded 43 rides, 39 hours of riding, 314 miles, and 6,093 feet of elevation on my Strava account. In 2021, I want to take my mountain biking skills to the next level (more on this in my post next week). If you’re on Strava, feel free to follow me. I’ll follow you back!

Travel

While it wasn’t the year of traveling I expected, I still cheated (like most people) and traveled to some breathtaking places.

Pre-pandemic, I traveled to Philadelphia for a Venture For America Formal. Philly is a super underrated city, and I’d love to go back again.

Below are some places I’ve traveled to during the pandemic (including stops on my solo road trip from Memphis to Telluride, CO and back):

  • Santa Rosa, FL
  • Amarillo, Texas
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Telluride, CO
  • Moab, UT
  • Denver, CO
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Hollywood, FL
  • Miami / Brickell, FL
  • Key Largo, FL
  • Heber Springs, AR
  • Vicksburg, MS

Lastly, I can’t wait until we’re able to travel to new countries and places again without any worry of the virus. I have a lot of countries and new places calling my name once we can do it confidently.

Working in the Crypto Industry

In August, I lucked out and connected with a crypto startup based in New Orleans. I started working as a content marketer for Gilded Finance, a crypto accounting software company. I’ve loved crypto since the 2017 bull run and 2018 crash, so I’m happy to be back in the industry.

The further I go down the rabbit hole, the more excited I am to work on the frontier of this emerging technology. It’s awesome I get to learn about crypto everyday and improve my SEO and content writing skills along the way. If you want to see anything I’ve written for Gilded, make sure you check out the Gilded blog (where I’ve ghost-written 5 blogs so far).

Quality Time with Family, Dogs and Home Friends

I decided to leave New Orleans after I lost my job and move back home to Memphis with my parents and sister (who is living at home for nursing school). In total, I’ve spent 8 months of the year living back home. While it was not part of the plan, it’s been awesome living with my family for an extended period of time for the first time since high school. My sister and I joke to our parents that we’re never leaving, and they will never be empty nesters again!

I’m also getting to spend a lot of time chilling with my best friends from growing up. It’s been so nice to take a step back and spend time with these people I care so much about. 

This phase of my life reminds of a blog post from Tim Urban called The Tail End. In the blog, he notes that by the time you graduated high school, you had already used up 93% of your in-person parent time. I recognize I won’t be living here for the long term, so I’m glad to make the most of my time with family, friends, and my dogs.

Reading

I’ve loved reading my entire life but never read more than a couple books every year. At the beginning of 2020, I set the goal to read 2 books per month. I quickly realized that this goal doesn’t work well for me because I love reading multiple books at once, so I adjusted. I walk over to my bookshelf or open my Kindle and read whatever I want to at that particular moment. 

Once I realized this was acceptable, the quality of my reading took off. I read almost exclusively nonfiction books (though I’m open to good fiction books). This year I read or listened to 12 full books and currently in the middle of 4 or 5 books. In 2021, I plan to start keeping a list on this website for the books I’ve read and writing quick summaries for each. Here were some of my favorite books this year: 

Podcasts

If you’ve read any of my articles this year, you know I’m obsessed with podcasts. My favorite types of podcasts are longform interviews with high-performers who I can learn from.

There’s nothing better than listening to a 120-minute conversation with someone like Hugh Jackman, Matthew McConaughey, or Jerry Seinfeld (to name a few of my favorite Tim Ferriss Show episodes this year). I have learned more from listening to podcast conversations in the last few years than any other medium, and I don’t plan to stop any time soon. In fact, I might start my own podcast next year (more on this idea next week).

Growing my hair out

Some may disagree that this is a good thing, but I’m so glad I grew my hair out for the first time. It’s something I wanted to do for years but never had the patience to see it through. Now that I’m a 24-year-old living with my parents writing blogs in my bedroom everyday, how could I not have long hair and overgrown facial hair?


2. What didn’t go well this year?

Losing a Friend

In March, I lost my best friend, pledge brother, and college roommate of three years: Brice Makris. He was the type of person who would light up any room he walked into and could make anyone die from laughter. I’ve never met anyone smarter or more empathetic. Nothing I write here could justify his life or the amount of pain his death caused me and countless other people this year. I miss him more every single day. I plan to write a longer tribute to Brice – though I’m not sure when or how I will share it yet. I’m glad I got to know and spend so much time with such an incredible person. Rest in peace, Big Mak.

Losing My First Job Out of College

Unfortunately, I lost my first job out of college in late April due to the pandemic. As a coworking office space, Launch Pad lost a ton of business during the pandemic. But it was the best first job post-college I could have asked for in my two -year Venture For America experience. I feel like I received an 8-month crash course in so many aspects of business including sales, marketing, customer support, and operations. I learned how to work on a largely remote team. I feel like I got years of experience in such a short amount of time. Most importantly, I made long-lasting friendships with my coworkers and managers. 

While I wish I could have stayed at my first job for longer, I’m so thankful for everything I learned and everyone I met in my short time there. One of Launch Pad’s biggest values is “We go long,” meaning they invest in their relationships and work for the long haul. I expect to be friends with everyone I worked with at LP for many, many years to come.

Budgeting & Investing

I dropped the ball on budgeting with zero effort put towards it. I only invested a little bit but not nearly as much as I would have liked. While I’m happy that I at least started the practice of investing this year for the first time, I want to put more effective systems in place to make my money work for me instead of letting it sit in my savings account losing value on inflation.

Giving (Gifts, Money, Time)

I’m terrible at remembering to give gifts for holidays and birthdays. I always think about it and then wait until the last minute. But most of the time, I forget to give anything at all. It’s a major fault of mine and something I want to improve. 

I also want to be better at giving a percentage of my income to charities and a portion of my time to organizations or mentorship. Overall, I want to be more cautious about contributing to the betterment of the world and my community instead of just taking from it. I’m still working on a plan for how I’m going to do that.

Social Media Use

Social media has tremendous upside but terrible downside. Mindlessly scrolling social media is also one of my biggest faults (along with the rest of the world). While I try to do social media fasts from time to time, I’m still spending way too much time on Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook.

I’m looking for ways to limit my social media use in 2021 but not delete it entirely. Here is the question I want to ask myself: how can I continue to reap the benefits of social media (staying in touch with friends, meeting new people, learning new ideas) while limiting the downside (comparing myself to others, mindlessly scrolling, getting stuck in little echo chambers of the internet)? I don’t know the answer but it’s something I want to work towards.

Staying In Touch With Friends and Family

I’m pretty terrible at staying in touch with friends. Even though 2020 gave us the chance to step back and Zoom with anyone across the world at any time, I didn’t fully take advantage of the opportunity. I find myself becoming so busy with my own work and life that I forget to call friends or don’t call them back at all. As someone who loves alone time, the pandemic has been fine for me mentally, but it also made me more antisocial than usual. I want to work on this.

Lack of Physical Challenges and Exploration

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to do one ridiculously hard physical challenge (like run a marathon, hike a 15,000 ft mountain, or bike across multiple states). I failed at this, though the pandemic definitely threw a wrench into some of my plans. Although I’m pretty good at showing up for daily workouts (whether it’s biking, body workouts, yoga, or running), I’m not good at giving myself a lofty goal to work towards. I’m looking to change that next year. I also want to explore more, whether that’s within my city or on the road. Once this pandemic is over, I can’t wait to start getting out there and traveling extensively again.

Learning New Hard Skills

I dipped my toes into learning some new “hard” skills this year like HTML, SEO, keyword research, copywriting, and basic graphic design. However, I never became advanced in any of these skills. I’d love to pick one or two skills in 2021 to become extremely proficient or advanced in (again, I’ll share more on this next week).

Finding a Side Hustle

I never did this. I wanted to find an alternate source of income this year through some sort of side hustle. Everything I’m writing is free right now – mainly to get my name out there and because I love writing. I believe that’s the best way to start. While I never found a side hustle this year, I think I’ve planted the seeds to start a side hustle next year.


WHEW, you made it to the end of my annual review. I hope you’re able to take something positive away from this review and apply it to your own life in some shape or form.

I’m a true believer that we will come out of this difficult period in time stronger than ever before. The best innovations in history always come out of major struggles, recessions, and crises. This crisis will be no different. What important innovations will come out of 2020?

After reviewing the good and bad of my year, it’s time to plan for the future. It’s time to double down on what worked and dial back on what didn’t work. 

In the next week, I will publish part 2 of this annual review with my 2021 plans and goals. I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions, but I believe there’s a ton of value in setting your intentions for the year or years to come. You can always make changes later – it’s your plan after all.

What were the highlights and lowlights of your 2020?

Happy holidays and happy new year everyone!

P.S. Make sure you subscribe to my weekly newsletter so you don’t miss out on any future blogs. That’s the best place for you to stay up to date on everything I’m writing and the cool things I’m learning every week.

Published by Jonah Baer

Florida State student | Memphis, TN native

3 thoughts on “2020 Annual Review: The Year I Hit Restart

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