the days are long but life is short
I cannot believe that this year is coming to an end. 2018 has been a whirlwind of adventure — a period of unpredictable chaos and extreme learning.
I publish this “Yearly Retrospective” (2016 , 2017) as a mechanism for remembrance, reflection, understanding, and gratitude.
First, I want to emphasize an important disclaimer:
This essay is not advice. I am weird. I am nothing and luck plays a significant role in my life. Furthermore, lists of tiny achievements are not impressive or important. Motion is not progress and talking is not doing. No participation trophies. So please think for yourself (if you want) — my life is no example.
Secondly, thank you for an awesome year.
I really do owe everything to everyone…“While life is largely a single player game, I know that I am standing on the shoulders of giants.” I am infinitely indebted…the continuous support, the irrational favors, the “putting up with Jordan”…it all means the world to me, thank you.
Anyways, thank you so much for taking the time to review my year with me. Please do not hesitate to reach out if there is everything I can do to be particularly helpful — enjoy!
This whole essay is about an 11 minute read. I linked to lots of relevant content and bolded my favorites throughout.
- Published an essay every single day this year, bringing my “writing streak” to 1000+ days in a row. 300,000+ views! I am by no means a professional (nor hope to be)…I write to learn to think, not to teach…it has been an amazing journey thus far. I also craft a newsletter where I share the most interesting links I find every week (1000+ active readers).
- Saw the world by visiting 39 cities and 15 countries across Europe, Asia, and North America. I made some incredible memories…partying in Japan and Barcelona, solo-touring Central China, and wandering middle-of-nowhere Missouri. I lived in PHX, STL, HK, and SF. I attended 6 big concerts/festivals, tried the most amazing foods, and went to really exciting sporting events. I *tried* to live in the moment, putting experiences above possessions and making a conscious effort to do new things. (travel blog here)
- I met with hundreds and hundreds of incredible people, from all over the world, who challenged me in a variety of ways. I also tightened relationships with family, close friends, and peers…the days feel long but life is short. Nothing was easy (nor was it supposed to be). There were lots of ups and downs this year, as I was reminded that everyone is fighting battles that you likely do not know about. I made lots of mistakes, I sparred demons, I unleashed ego, and finally found some sense of harmony.
- Challenged my intuition and explored my curiosities via creation…publicly launched 9 full-stack projects, acquired tens of thousands of users, and shut down two profitable businesses. No big wins (yet). I also interned in San Francisco again and learned a ton (more on that below). Was extremely fortunate to work with who I believe to be some of the absolute best people in the world…and, yes, we are continuing to slowly bring together The Avengers.
- Finished with 3.5 years of college — one semester left until graduation. Trying to make the most of my time remaining, optimizing for fun and unique experiences. More doing, less donuts.
- Spent New Years at home in Arizona, mostly playing overly competitive pick-up basketball and catching up with old friends. Also visited Taliesin West (Frank Lloyd Wright Museum).
- Experienced “digital nomad life,” couch-surfing with my ultra-minimalist friend Jeremy for a week in NYC. While I was there, I made some hard business decisions in an effort to be more aligned with my future.
- Was named Runner Up to Product Hunt’s Maker of the Year Award.
- Flew to Barcelona and was lucky enough to be able to crash with two of my best friends (Benji & Justin) for a week. Was an awesome time— visited Camp Nou and La Sagrada, ate lots of Tapas, and enjoyed Spanish nightlife.
- Ventured to Singapore! Met up with several friends from school and spent six days wandering around the technologically advanced, humid jungle. We stayed in a scary hostel and did all of the touristy stuff you would expect from naive travelers.
- Landed in Hong Kong (my home base for the Spring semester), where I would be studying computer science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Lived with one of my best friends Kenny in a shoe-box sized dorm.
- Studying abroad with several of my closest friends from school (and dozens of peers) was an incredible adventure. Over the 5 month period, I was super lucky to have had so many unique experiences. From going out in Lan Kwai Fong to watching horse-racing to hiking across random beaches…I made a very conscious effort to “say yes” to doing more things. HK is a special place that I could write endlessly about — please do contact me if you need recommendations.
- Traveled to Taipei— visited museums, attended an incredible cooking class, elevated up Taipei 101, and ate lots of DTF.
- Celebrated the Chinese New Year in Hong Kong. Also went to an Asian Champions League soccer match.
- Arani, Jacob, Jared, Sachin, and I launched StartupSift — a search engine for breakout startups.
- Flew to Shanghai(with Anthony, Mack, Nofal, and Ryan) — visited several temples, toured the second tallest building in the world, and went to some of the most interesting nightclubs I have ever been to. Drank Baiju. Also, ate lots and lots of dumplings.
- Crossed two years of daily blogging and moved back to WordPress.
- Traveled solo to Central Vietnam (Da Nang, Hoi An, and Hue) — biked the countryside, relaxed by the beach, ate gallons of Pho, explored Marble Mountain, went across the Hai Van Pass, and toured the Imperial City.
- Traveled solo to Xian, China — visited the Terracotta Army, got super lost in an outdoor food market, and ate some of the most amazing authentic foods (probably my favorite meals ever).
- Flew to Beijing, China — sled down the Great Wall, toured the Forbidden City, drank more Baiju, and, once again, got super lost. Beijing also has some of the most unexpectedly overwhelmingly massive nightlife.
- Ventured to Chiang Mai and Bangkok with four of my closest friends — made some awesome memories mud-bathing with elephants, climbing a sticky waterfall, and visiting scenic temples. Also, kept Passover throughout the trip.
- Flew from Bangkok to Siem Reap — watched the world’s most beautiful sunrise at Angkor Wat and rode ATVs across Cambodia’s rural countryside.
- Took an overnight bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh — had an emotionally transformative experience visiting the tragic killing fields and genocide museums. Also biked across the bustling city. Finished with a 12 hour overnight layover in the Bangkok airport.
- My friend Jacob and I took the MTR from HK to Shenzhen, China. In Shenzhen, we got lost and toured the electronics market. The next day we took a bullet train to Guilin, where we hiked and explored aimlessly. We then rode a bamboo raft into Yangshuo (the most beautiful town I have ever been to) — where we biked to Moon Hill (and captured some incredible photos).
- Traveled with four friends to Seoul, South Korea — explored vintage clothing markets, toured the DMZ, played in VR, ate tons of KBBQ, and went out in Hongdae and to Octagon.
- Adventured to Southern Thailand (Ko Phangan, Ko Samui, Surat Thani) for the Full Moon Festival — an all-night beach party which devolves into fire jump-roping and flaming torches (a really unhealthy environment for humanity). Was awesome!
- Flew to Bali (with Alanna, Julia, Nofal, and Rachel) for Kenny’s Birthday — relaxed at beach clubs, hiked a volcano before sunrise, and ate delicious foods.
- Jacob, Alex Banaga, Ben Lang, Henry Kaufman, and I built Bookclub — a simple way to build and share your digital bookshelf. Thousands of people set up accounts and explored the product. While the site is still functional, we have since de-prioritized the experiment to focus on other things. Still definitely an opportunity to perfect something awesome in this space.
- Jordan Singer, Morgan Heck, Shiv Kanth, and I finally launched Wonder for Slack, as Wonder Bot passed 100,000 installs.
- Traveled to Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan — visited beautiful gardens, ate Kobe Beef, played with Mario Kart VR, and went to EDC Japan (in the pouring rain), where we saw Jai Wolf and Martin Garrix perform.
- I turned 21 and wrote an essay about my problem with birthdays. Took a ferry to Macau and visited the largest casino in the world!
- Somehow passed my four final exams and said goodbye to Hong Kong. Here are 107 photos from 5 months abroad.
- Made the 30-hour voyage back to Arizona. Hainan airlines only lost one of my bags along the way!
- Spent an all-too-short 72 hours in AZ before moving my belongings to San Francisco for the summer, where I would be sharing a room with Jacob(and an apartment with my other two friends Ilan and Justin). Crazy rent prices aside, it was exciting to be back in San Francisco (for the third summer in a row).
- I started my internship as a product manager at Blend. Was lucky to have an opportunity to work with (and learn from) world-class operators tackling really important problems. Thankful to have worked with an awesome team and super helpful mentor/manager (Greg). Gained lots of experiences/insights → one week in, I flew to Seattle to spend a day with some of our customers.
- Participated in a program as a Floodgate Insider, where I shadowed a VC firm and met some really awesome people (thanks Ann, Mike, Mitchell, and Sachi).
- Connected with several old and many new friends in SF. Put together a couple of events, one in conjunction with Ron, another with Ian, and several more with Rahul. Really awesome feeling bringing together a diverse set of interesting thinkers together. I had dozens of really interesting conversations throughout July, some of my favorite were with helpful friends Andy, David, Johnathan, Jonathan, Logan , Valentin , and many many more.
- Fell into a routine (for the first time in months)…worked long days and had a consistent exercise schedule. Spent a lot of time hanging at Dolores and playing spike ball. 4th of July was fun!
- Road-tripped to Tahoe with Ilan, Jacob, Justin, and Kevin — went tubing and did a 14 mile hike (where we ran out of water, surprised we made it).
- Went to Outside Lands (for the first time)— saw Illenium and Future.
- Spent a weekend in Arizona, hung out with family and friends.
- As our lease expired, I spent the last two weeks living with Alex, Ben, Ezaan, and Vihar in the Mission. Then finished up my 12-week internship in San Francisco…packed and returned to St. Louis for the start of my Senior Year.
- When I got back to school, I wrote an essay titled “Dear Freshman Me.” I also decided I would not be participating in job recruiting. Moving in off-campus was rushed and hectic (thankfully had my housemates Ben and Noah around). Because I went abroad, being back at school was especially new and exciting. “Welcome Week,” before classes ramp up, is always a super fun time of the semester.
- Published an essay about how I think phones are casinos → I deleted my precious Instagram account, turned my phone black and white, and really started trying to appreciate presence. Learning slows down time (h/t Arjun Sethi).
- Moved my entire life into Notion (replacing Evernote) and also began a personal curriculum, where I learned a lot about various topics including The Mongols, hydroponics, waste management, and city building (have since scaled back this exercise).
- After two years of sales (to dozens of countries and nearly every state), Daniel, Jeremy, and I decided to shut down Disrupt Cards.
- Road tripped to Nashville with a bunch of people (s/o Fannie 4 driving) for the Breakaway Music Festival — saw DJ Diesel, Blau, Illenium, Lil Pump, and Lil Skies.
- Went to Chicago for WashU’s Senior Trip — ate great Pizza, caught up with alumni, and explored the city. Also went to an Oktoberfest festival in St. Louis.
- Darshil Patel, Maas Lalani, and I launched Remove Vanity Metrics, which was covered by Taylor Lorenz in The Atlantic.
- I wrote an essay about productivity and did a small interview with NBC on the topic of structured procrastination (h/t Marc).
- Road tripped with Noah, Ben, and Kenny to Hermann, Missouri(small Bavarian town of 3,000 people) for Oktoberfest.
- Darshil, Maas, and I then launched Just Focus — a simple website blocker for chrome (which now has over 1300 downloads). We also built Founder Rewind which received tens of thousands of page views.
- Jacob and I, inspired by Daniel Gross, launched Magnet — a simple way to collect email responses in a google sheet.
- I traveled to Duke to visit my brother Adam and close friend Jarred. Checked off a bucket list item of going to a Duke basketball game. Also dislocated my shoulder that weekend.
- Darshil, Maas, Gavin, and I created CreateASignature — got thousands of uses. That same week, we quickly built FinalGradeCalc — a dead simple tool for calculating what you need on your final.
- I published The Signal — a handy list of 50+ high growth companies.
- Jacob and I went to see a live showing of Wild ‘N Out — was a super funny experience.
- Ben Lang and I ran an experiment where we introduced hundreds of highly ambitious makers to one another. Got really good feedback and we are looking to do this again in January. Let me know if you want to be included.
- Held several “Moonshots Events,” where a few friends and I get together and discuss various interesting things going on in the world. Also hosted a few dinners (and hope to do more of these next year) and a Chanukah party.
- My friend Brent and I went on a spontaneous adventure across Missouri to attend the Chargers vs. Chiefs game (a big thank you to Russell Okung for that experience).
- Passed my final exams and completed my Computer Science major…will be finishing my Finance major and graduating next semester.
Aaaand that brings us to today…I recently flew home to Arizona and will be here for a few more days. On December 24th, I am flying to New York City and then spending the next three weeks traveling to Holland, Belgium, Hungary, India, and Hong Kong with four of my close friends (Kenny, Noah, Tej, and Vihar). Please let me know if you have any recommendations…should be another adventure. I’ll be tweeting.
2019 will be exciting…I have a lot to work on.
Thank you so much for reading about my year. As I mentioned before, I owe everything to everyone. I am so lucky and I thank you for all of the support.
I hope you (and your family/friends) have had a healthy, fulfilling year.
I wish you the best in 2019.
if there is anything I can do to help, please reach out
If you have never met me before, here is some more about me.
Best ways to stay connected?
- My newsletter and my Twitter
- My email is jordangonen 1 at gmail dot com.
Also published on Medium.