52 Good Things from 2021
The 15th year of my annual gratitude practice, now spanning 782 good things.
I’m almost two years late in publishing this, but I want to keep my annual gratitude practice going. Plus I have drafts of 2022 and 2023 going, so I’m almost caught up.
Regarding 2021, it turns out we did have COVID years, plural, and this was the second one. My summary of the first stands in well for the second:
And yet, I have plenty of gratitude. I mean, obviously, it was a horrific year. But I’m taking a Stoic approach — control what I can control.
This gratitude practice started in 2007 as a check against the stress I was feeling as a dirt-poor first-time entrepreneur. I was worried about the opportunity cost and thought that if I couldn’t find at least 52 highlights from the year then I was making a career mistake. Now it’s morphed into a mindset shifter and important life log. I love these lists as a way to look back on what I was doing and what I thought was important.
I wonder in ten years whether I will remember 2021 most for the pandemic or most for the second home we bought. I’m hoping house.
1. Closed on a house. It was an adventure to get to the point of actually closing. Sarah and I are persistent people and worked through a post-inspection renegotiation, undisclosed environmental problems, delays and delays, with, finally, just before signing paperwork, a pool leak. But if you are reading closely, yes, we bought a house with a pool. This is definitely a good thing in our lives.
2. Wood Pellet Smoker. The first thing I bought for the house was a wood pellet smoker. I love the control and the outcomes. I’ve now smoked pork butt, pork shoulder, several ducks, chicken, scallops, steak, salmon. I got a CampChef Woodwind and I can literally check the temperature of the meat and the cooking temperature and the level of smoke with an app.
3. Eloise in the snow. There’s more snow two hours north of NYC and the snow is deeper and cleaner. Thus, we have a very happy dog.
4. The kitchen sink. Our new house was not even close to move in ready, and thus required some renovation. Every renovation is an exercise in Hedonic Resets. For ours, the last thing to go in was the kitchen sink. We had months of delays where we were doing dishes in a paint splattered utility sink. Then once the kitchen sink dropped into place I felt unbelievable joy. Yes, Hedonic Resets are so powerful that they turn doing the dishes into a joy.
5. New Car. New house means more driving, so we bought a nicer car. We’ve always been cheap on our cars and so this is the first time we have anything approaching modernity. Very nice experience to have a backup camera for the first time (that’s how far behind we were). The car was dropped off by Carvana, and we may have nearly been their last customers.
6. Kids swimming in the pool. The thing I like best about this house is having ambient energy from friends and family. The height of that is the energy of kids jumping into a pool. The first testers were my niece and nephews from Boston.
7. Smoking duck. Duck doesn’t have enough meat, but it sure does taste good coming off of a smoker.
8. Like 2Chainz, I also got to enjoy mowing my own lawn for the first time.
9. IKEA master. I did it. I found the hardest IKEA item to assemble and I assembled it. The IKEA bunk bed with trundle is the boss level of IKEA furniture and I managed it on deadline.
2021 was very much a year of sheltering in place (or in our case, two places).
10. First vaccine. Sarah and I were so careful about quarantine and felt so much relief when we walked away from the vaccine center with our first shots. Thank you science!
11. Dad’s east coast visit. I went more than a year without seeing my dad and step-mom and that’s much, much longer than we’d ever gone before. It was a “holy shit it’s good to hug you” kind of thing.
12. Our first CA visit. Once we were double vaxxed, we flew back to CA where most of my family lives. Hugs are good and I still remember a big hug from my youngest sister.
13. Thanksgiving. This was our first test of the new house as a family gathering point. I “built” our kitchen table out of a giant piece of plywood and some Etsy table legs.
14. Anna & Akshay. They were our first friend guests, arriving before we even had a kitchen or dining room table.
15. Jason & Amanda. Our second friend guests and the people who introduced us to the Oculus Quest.
16. Mom’s art show. She’s living an inspiring retirement as a full time artist, and got her own show with the artist collective she’s apart of in Philadelphia.
17. Boston. We leaned into the joy of podding, staying a few weeks with Sarah’s brother and his family.
18. Willow & Maia. Had dinner with these two cousins while we tried to piece together a shared understanding of the Stubblebine family history of kidnapping, free love, forced child labor, estrangement and alcoholism. At every stopping point, Maia’s partner Phil tried to summarize it back to us and, well, hearing someone else tell it really made the history seem bonkers.
20. Started winning Zwift races, always in the D category. Here’s a video.
21. Bought a new Wahoo Kickr direct drive trainer for Zwift racing.
22. Biked 2318 miles
23. Backpacked the Tetons (3 nights).
24. Built and road and crashed my own MTB trail. Later realized people maintain better trails just down the road.
25. Not sure how much I ran, but having a treadmill in the gym was great.
26. Discovered that chopping wood is great cross training.
27. Built a desk out of Amazon-purchased standing desk legs and an old door. Feels luxurious to have so much space.
28. Also switched from the old Apple Monitor to an LG Ultrafine 27". Very happy.
Movies & TV
30. Shang Chi at the drive in.
32. Unforgotten, a Britsh crime drama.
35. Succession. The “My dad told me to” scene was so cynically on point.
37. Only Murders in the Building. This later turned into a Thanksgiving tradition for us.
It was hard to get out of the house, but we tried.
38. Went to Warriors vs Nets, row 7. Great statement game by the Warriors and sitting close really shows how athletic and physical NBA players are.
39. Took Eloise to Dog Day at Trenton Thunder. Finally experienced the famous Taylor Pork Roll.
40. Went to the Met and it had the same special energy as the first time that I visited NYC. That’s a Hedonic Reset in action.
41. Art Omi. New York state is rich in sculpture parks. Storm King is the crown jewel, but Art Omi in Ghent is a more fun and accessible visit. Plus you can take your dog.
I must have been thinking hard about a change because I don’t have a lot to say about Coach.me or the Better publishing empire on Medium. Instead, I was looking to simplify.
42. Started a daily newsletter and got 150 issues out before the year ended. (archive here).
43. I got into SEO and placed a bunch of pieces onto the top of Google. I enjoy the systems thinking piece of this.
44. Ended my Heavy Mental training program. I’d run it every day for four years, developed a lot of great material, and helped a few thousand people. But I was happy to lose the daily responsibility.
I’ve blocked out the work I did to oversee construction and renovation of our new home. What a mess. But I did get to be a great appreciator of the work Sarah did to furnish the house.
45. Joined Costco to get multiple NovaFoam matresses. These are great.
46. The kitchen was her design.
47. The house is filled with furniture from her family’s (now closed) furniture company, Country workshop.
48. Introduced us to the world of induction stoves.
Therapist & coach
49. Have to really give my therapist credit for helping me feel my feelings rather than rationalize them. This is probaby the most important breakthrough of my entire self-improvement journey, cut procrastination in half and made me a much more grounded person.
50. Worked with Justin Cox as a newsletter coach. He was great — natural coach and super well informed about all things writing.
51. I always enjoy coming face to face with extreme competence and that’s what we got to enjoy with Sophia, our head of pest control. Pests were the cause of a lot of the remodel and when we were done it was so noticable that our neighbors commented on not seeing hordes of mice coming from our property onto theirs.
52. My only participation in the NFT craze was that I sold Tweet #420 for $5 worth of Etherium. No idea what either the Tweet or the Etherium is worth now.
Other notes: This was the year of the insurrection, the year Omicron had us cancel our Xmas trip to California, Juniper’s trip to NYC, Eloise meets her cousin Misu, ran the Momentum conference. I also wrote a bit beyond just the newsletter: Wheaton Scale for Productivity, habit coach methodology, write with the book in mind.