Year in review – 2023

By: Russ
Estimated Length: 10 Minutes


I don’t know how old this blog is. Like a rescue dog or a middle child, details are fuzzy, so we’ll make up a birthday. I could look at the publish date of post #1, but seeing as I’m a lifelong underachiever, I can’t ignore the fiddling, rumination, and enthusiastic planning that transpired for months (or years) before ever hitting “publish” on anything.

I can tell you that January was something of a “put up or shut up” month, so we’re just going to call each new year the blog’s birthday. I’m pretty sure the goal to sit down and write each day was something of a New Year’s resolution, but then I’m not big on those either, so who knows if that memory is made up or not.

So we made it! 1 year…. ish. I wanted to take a post and reflect on the year and what has developed via this little hobby of mine. I initially rolled my eyes at most of them, but despite my best efforts and terrible attitude, these lessons crystallized and stuck for me in 2023.


Not long ago I became obsessed with optimizing my time. I could pay people to pick up my food, I could front-load exercise to achieve the greatest gains in the shortest amount of time, I “read” books while vacuuming, and I could reorganize my day to maximize personal time.

At no point did I ever stop to consider what I’d be doing with all this time I was gathering. Despite the effort (which I assure you was tremendous), I can’t say I noticed an uptick in anything meaningful. I spent more time on social media getting angrier… so I guess that’s… something. It was like having a military-grade death laser with nothing to aim it at, and at some point, you have to ask what the point of having a military-grade death laser even is if you have nothing to explode.

Focus is often packaged up as a way to be more productive at work, but in my opinion, to stop there is to miss the most impactful aspect. Directing focus towards our children, partners, friends, bodies, emotions, communities, and hobbies can unlock a richness in life that I assure you I was missing out on before recognizing this problem in my behaviour patterns.

A shift from hoarding time to focusing my death laser brought profound improvement. Maybe I only accomplished one thing in my day, but it was infinitely more meaningful as long as it was completed with focus.


When I tried to biopsy the “successful” people I wanted to be more like, I found an interesting (if not troublesome) trend. Very few people are outrageously skilled at more than a couple of things, and there’s often a wild imbalance at play; people who are really good at one thing are often really bad at another.

There is a very high likelihood that you’re a better parent than Steve Jobs. You’re likely a better partner than Elon Musk. You can probably tell a joke better than Oprah Winfrey, and I bet if we tasked Gandhi with making your kid a cup of hot chocolate, he would be deemed history’s greatest monster.

Gandhi offering a lesson… and hot chocolate

Being a well-balanced human is a nightmarish task that we’ve all deemed to be the bare minimum of acceptable living. We sit around in our sweatpants and lament our ability to get started on the simplest of tasks as if it’s abnormal, when in fact nothing says “I’m a human” more than complex tool use and overthinking our way to ruin.

I remain unconvinced that anyone can do more than 2 or 3 things really well. Passable at many things, but say you want to excel at parenting, your career, and being a spouse? Pump your brakes, Allstar; they’re called “exceptional people” because they’re rare.

So, what’s on your Mount Rushmore of critical life skills? When you’re done coming up with your four heads, promptly blow two off the mountain, and what’s left is probably what you can reasonably accomplish.


Saying “no” to the thing you don’t want to do (Christmas with your volatile family, a social get-together with your spouse’s obnoxious friends, etc.) can be a hellish endeavour for many. The problem is, this isn’t even half as important as the truly difficult one: saying no to the things you want to do desperately.

Because we can only focus on a handful of things, we likely need to lock down almost all external distractions to excel at them. It’s easy to categorize distractions as unhealthy things that forever tempt us, but they come in many forms. Sometimes they’re not bad at all; sometimes they’re beautiful opportunities.

This year I gave up an NHL season ticket that I’ve shared with a good friend for over 20 years. It’s one of the only times I see this friend, and our friendship is important to me. The problem was on game nights, I’d routinely get to sleep around midnight, which isn’t ideal when some weeks have upwards of 3 games in them. Being a dad with stupid dad responsibilities meant I would land fewer than 6 hours of sleep on those nights, which in turn meant an uphill climb the following day. Those three days were a problem on their own, but compounded over a couple of months, it’s hard to keep pace, let alone pick up speed.

While I miss my friend and the entertainment of hockey, I struggle to express how profound it is to lower the difficulty level of life three times a week. It gives me the bandwidth to do almost everything better because everything is downstream of everything else. My mood stabilizes, output increases, and satisfaction rises.

Author Ryan Holiday has three photos on the wall of his office. Two of his sons, and one between them displaying the word “NO.” While the exhausted father in me finds this poetic and hilarious, his meaning is a lot more heartfelt. It’s his reminder that saying yes to anything is saying no to something else. Yes to the opportunity might mean saying no to the ability to tuck your kids in at night, so use the word very carefully.


For years, the idea of creating anything was paralyzing because you know how it will go: you spend time on something special, release it to the world, and then the only person who notices it is your mom. There’s a good chance you’ll feel foolish, embarrassed, and dreadfully alone. The first three posts of this blog took me six months to write precisely because of these feelings.

My readership at the time of this post is low. Like, my-mom-doesn’t-even-read-it low. And my mom is a very nice lady. I wish I could tell you there’s a fun little hack to get around this jarringly uncomfortable stage, but I’m unsure one exists. Perhaps one does for you specifically, but in general? Probably not. It might feel like an uppercut to the jaw, and you might have to wait for the day to arrive when you feel like you can take an uppercut to the jaw. I don’t know how to get there or to conjure the readiness. Sometimes it arrives with little fanfare.

People will tell you “the joy is in the process” and “create for an audience of one.” They’re not wrong in the slightest; they’re just annoying. Once you’re ready for your uppercut to the jaw, you learn those annoying people are correct. Never let those smug bastards know it.


Before I started the blog, I was terrified to take my uppercut to the jaw. I bake quiche and sometimes read poems. I am not cut out for a life of endless punches to my glass jaw.

The thing about taking an uppercut to the jaw though? You learn you can take some jabs to the body. And after the initial uppercut, it’s primarily jabs. It certainly feels like it will be an unending parade of uppercuts until your head inevitably detaches from your frame, but that’s just your mind trying to keep you safe from the scary unknown. The first hit can often be the worst, and what comes after is far less intense and, in some cases, even enjoyable.

Sometimes, the bar can be as low as taking the first step. It feels as though the progression will be:

Start —> Build —> Build —> Build —> Find an audience —> Satisfaction

This can be deflating because, my god, if you haven’t started yet, there’s still so much to do, with no guarantee that those last couple of steps will even happen.

It’s valuable to keep in mind that in some instances, the progression plays out differently:

Start —> Satisfaction —> Build —> Build —> Whatever

The journey can be enough, but it isn’t easy to believe that until you start. The greatest gift, though? Once you prove this to yourself, all at once, success in other things appears far closer than you initially thought.

6. 30 FOR 30

Compound interest is easy to see and prove but oddly complex to imagine. We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in a single day while wildly underestimating what we can do in a year. Small efforts building to large outcomes make sense in theory, but we sometimes struggle to implement that.

The only way to prove it is to try and reflect. This year was little more than 30 minutes of effort each day, for 30 days, twelve times in a row.


I’m blessed to have several types of friends. They’re all different, with each bringing a different energy to experience. Some are very careful and methodical; some listen well, some give great advice, and some send memes. There was one group that I decided to act differently towards this year, though: hypers. I just made that term up because “hype-men” feels exclusionary, and “hype-people” doesn’t roll off the tongue.

Hypers are all-in. They just want to see you take off and don’t have much time for “ya, but what about this problem we haven’t considered” thinking. Those types are invaluable in different ways, but when you need to clear that first bar, you find yourself a hyper.

I deliberately went out of my way to see my hypers. At least twice a month, I’d pick one and suggest a coffee or a meal, and I’d walk away feeling like a lit fuse every time.


Our experience makes up an incalculably small percentage of wildly waving muppet arms existence. Every lesson you hold dear is just a reflection of some massive win or loss. When we see someone expressing life tips or sage wisdom, what we’re seeing is more somebody’s experience than truth.

There can be a certain freedom in realizing there might not be hard and fast rules. You don’t necessarily need to wake up at 4 am, cold plunge, or curate your gut biome to succeed in life. Most like this because it means they don’t have to give the time of day to annoying advice, but don’t forget to consider that it might also be true for the advice you like from people you enjoy. The people you admire and want to emulate had billions of experiences you didn’t have on a completely different timeline, so adopting their blueprint without consideration might be foolhardy. What’s more challenging, advice you like is far harder to discard when it stops working than advice you don’t.


The world can feel overwhelming when you consider the problems. War, plagues, social injustice, and paper straws that are so clearly terrible but half of us are afraid to call them out or we’ll be branded as war criminals.

It can, at times, feel as though many have reached their threshold for caring. There’s been so much to worry about in recent years, and the world doesn’t seem to be letting off the gas anytime soon. As soon as we “got through” COVID, the Ukrainians were attacked, and while we were still processing that, the Middle East exploded. It’s a bit defeating to know that for as uniquely unstable as things seem now, this is normal.

It feels selfish to retreat inward, but at the same time, one of the more bulletproof bits of advice ever offered is to control what you can control. You likely don’t have the answer to the turmoil in the Middle East (and if you do and you’re sitting on it, you’re such a dick).

What you can do is read to your kids, go for a walk, make your partner their favourite meal, or tell a friend randomly that they’re doing a great job at nothing in particular (phrase it differently though, that could be taken the unintended way).

Will reading to your kid bring peace? No, but neither will having a panic attack on your hands and knees with the news playing in the background. Make no mistake though: both will spread, so considering which action to choose is worth considering.


A concept I adopted from Atomic Habits by James Clear is to let the score take care of itself. Borrowed from the competitive world, the idea is that rather than focusing on the ultimate outcome of the game, focus on the smaller parts and then whatever happens happens. For example, rather than building a championship team, you work on increasing foot speed by 5%, getting an extra hour of sleep, or changing the pre-game meal. While none of these tasks are a sure way to victory, they’re certainly the building blocks, and they’re easy enough that stacking 3 or 4 together becomes trivial.

And so it is with many of life’s barriers. You’re likely not playing for any championship, but you might be trying to start a business, iron out the wrinkles in your marriage, raise a kid, or start a blog. Berating yourself in a mirror each morning like some psychotic bully is useless without first understanding the overall problem. Are you scared, lacking confidence, worried what people might think, or resistant to vulnerability? The overall task is nothing compared to those because those are the upstream problems.

For me, it was strengthening the vulnerability muscle. While it felt like my task was to build a website, start a blog, write the blog, edit the blog, and build an audience, I needed to become more comfortable with sharing something that gets zero clicks. The rest of the tasks handled themselves once I gave 100% of my efforts towards handling the embarrassment of producing things for precisely zero views. After a handful of blog posts were written that nobody read and I didn’t die, the worries became almost silly.