Last Year Counted: 2014 In Review

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“I have a simple rule: whenever it comes to a birthday or a December 31st just ensure that the last year counted.” Dave Cornthwaite.

Today, in a way marks both anniversaries. While it’s a month into the new year as I write this, most of the thinking behind it was done around the end of December. Tomorrow is also my 25th birthday. When I was looking back on 2014 I stumbled across Dave’s quote and it resonated with me. Dave is an adventurer who’s on a crazy quest to do 25 thousand-mile journeys using different forms of non-motorised transport. He’s built the life he wants for himself and it’s massively inspiring.

Last year was the best year of my life. Was it perfect? No, and I failed on many of the things I set out to do, but where I succeeded I fucking succeeded.

At the start of last year, I reflected on 2013 and set myself goals in a few areas for 2014: fitness, knowledge, finance, and adventure. I also set myself monthly challenges. So let’s take them one by one.

Fitness

Fitness was a totally mixed bag. The first half of the year was fantastic. The second half, however, was awful. Once I returned from sailing (more on that in a minute) I failed to get back into the swing of things. Injury, illness, work, personal stuff and anything else that could get in the way, did. My gym moved from 15 minutes from my house to 45.

There were some interesting highlights. While my BJJ suffered, I took up Olympic Weightlifting and after 4 weeks training, entered a competition which was a blast. I also got to train in Marcello Garcia’s in New York and another gym in Copenhagen.

Knowledge

At the start of the year I set out to read 52 books; I read 67. Unfortunately I didn’t read all the books I originally planned to. I’m going to tackle this particular subject in another blog post.

Photography ended up taking up a lot of my learning focus. I’m now significantly more competent with Photoshop than before and have completely outgrown my current camera. An upgrade is on the horizon.

I didn’t, however, dedicate any real time to design or coding. I’m not sure I’ll get to them in much depth this year either.

Finance

Financially things blew up. I had 52 tutorials published on the Tuts+ network and also produced a course on Setting Up Your Mac For Photo and Video Editing that should be out in the next month or two.

As well as writing for Tuts+, I branched out to other sites. The major one was MakeUseOf who I wrote about 25 articles for in the three months of the year.

I also wrote for a couple of new sites where the articles haven’t been published yet.

It was an odd twist. The projects I thought would pay off in 2014 didn’t and the ones I hadn’t thought much about have turned into a serious source of revenue.

Adventure

Adventure was another area where things went way better than expected. I’d originally not planned to do too much travelling. Instead I ended up sailing between Denmark and Spain, stopping at Germany, Belgium and France along the way. I also spent some time in England, elsewhere in Ireland and. for New Year went to Puerto Rico with a two day stop over in New York on the way home.

Monthly Challenges

Every month I set myself a challenge. Generally it was to a specific thing every day or X times a week, though sometimes it was broader. These challenges were a great success. Some of them I failed to reach but still got lots done anyway. The goals were:

  • January: Stretch every day
  • February: 30 mins resting squat every day
  • March: Hill sprints every day
  • April: 7 hours sleep a night
  • May: Meditate every day
  • June: 8 gym sessions a week
  • July: 8 books
  • August: Cook 3 new things a week
  • September: Write for new sites
  • October: Do things
  • November: Write 1000 words per day
  • December: Meditate every day (again)

The hardest one far and away was trying to meditate. It’s something I really want to do but struggle to have the patience to. I’ll have to tackle it again next year.

So that’s my year. It counted. In the next post I’ll look at what I’m going to be doing in 2015.

A Quick Update

So this blog has been particular quiet of late. I made it back alive from sailing anyway! Simply put, I’ve had the busiest few months of my life. Things have been great on many levels with huge opportunities. It’s been fucking fantastic on so many levels. Unfortunately some things had to take a hit. This blog for one. Fitness for another. Business, sickness, injury and the lack of a car have all conspired to keep me from the gym. Finances are the total opposite; they’ve been booming. A full update will come at the end of the year — I’ll be doing a full end of year review.

Oh! I’ve started writing for a few more websites. The main other one is MakeUseOf. You can check my stuff out here but there’s some pieces I’m super happy with like my takedown of T-Swift and Spotify.

June Review

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I’m writing this from Klintholm, a small Danish fishing village on the coast of Møn. We’ve sailed 110 miles in the last two days. June was a good month – but for the first time, I failed at a challenge. I got my gym sessions in for most weeks (8, 9, 7, 8) but I failed to do my 10 image series. I did do a lot of other photography though – I spent two sessions shooting the Bailey Lighthouse for the image series, and also did three studio shoots with bodybuilders. This, along with getting everything set for travelling this month, meant I just didn’t get the two or three days I needed to dedicate to doing the series. It’ll now happen in August.

Financially things were good. The photo shoots and writing were nice – there was also continued progress in other areas that will pay off down the line. Hopefully in the next month or two for some of it.

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Fitness was obviously great. I got a lot of training done which I was happy about. I got some serious strength increases with this month’s sessions in Compound Fitness and it was nice to get some jits sessions in again.

The reading challenge continues well. I’m still a good few books ahead of my goal. Unfortunately this month I got heavily side tracked by the Dresden Files. Amazing books, but not the most literary.

One thing that was fun – even though I nominally failed – was the photo project. I explored the area around the Bailey Lighthouse, one afternoon, for where there were going to be good photo opportunities. I then went back a few days later at 4 am to get them at sunrise. This is definitely something that will be good to do more of going forward.

For July – I’m on a boat. My time is kind of free but also severely limited by what I have the opportunity to do. Internet access is patchy, sailing can be relaxing or hands on depending on the weather and I’m just not sure when I’ll be anywhere. The one thing I know for sure, is I’ll have a lot of opportunities to read! I’m going to take the soft challenge this month and aim to read double my required number of books – I’m going for 8. Even though I’ve plenty of reading time this will, I think, still be a stretch.

Sailing in July

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Just a quick update. I’ve booked my flights to Copenhagen for next month. I’m spending two nights in the city there then making my way up to Strandby on the North tip of Denmark. Once there, I’m getting on a yacht and we’re going to be sailing all the way to Vigo in Spain. The route is most likely to be down the inside coast of Denmark, through the Kiel Canal in Germany, across the top of Belgium and the Netherlands, the full length of the French Atlantic coast, then across the Bay of Biscay to the Atlantic North coast of Spain and on in to Vigo.

After that plans are pretty loose. I may head deeper into Spain or back up into France to meet up with some friends or family. I could also spend some time enjoying the weather in Vigo, or else make my way back to Dublin, possibly via London.

Building a Hackintosh

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Last week I did something interesting – I built a computer that runs OS X. In theory, the only way you are meant to be able to get a computer that runs OS X is to buy it from Apple; in practice, Apple’s computers are built mostly using standard parts and if you get the same parts you can build a computer that supports OS X. I took on the challenge for a series of tutorials for Tuts+, the site I do most of my writing for.

I am writing this post right now using my Hackintosh. It runs great. There are a few quirks that still have to be teased out. A quick Google shows that almost no one has a Hackintosh that works perfectly first time. I am working on a series of three tutorials describing the part selection, hardware build and software setup that will appear on Tuts+ in the next few weeks.

The computer I built, while not ridiculously powerful, is still a very capable machine. It is mainly built around a 3.7GHz i5 processor and 16GB of RAM – perfect for photo editing! There’s also a video card with a gig of VRAM, although that’s not going to be used over much. Overall I’m pretty happy with it. It was a fun project and I’m looking forward to sharing the tutorials.

Fixing the “ducking” problem!

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A tweet from Andy McKenzie this morning reminded me of a problem I used to have with Apple’s puritan autocorrect – every time I wanted to say “fuck”, “fucking” or “fucked”, my iPhone decided that I obviously meant “duck”, “ducking” or “ducked”. Seriously, unless you work as a duck breeder, I doubt anyone uses the word duck more than the word fuck. Fortunately there is a simple solution that I have been using for a while.

iOS let’s you create AutoCorrect shortcuts. A lot of people, including me, use them to fill in their phone number or email address just by typing two or three characters rather than the full string. You can also use them to solve the “ducking” problem. If you create a shortcut so that “duck” is the shortcut for “fuck”, “ducking” for “fucking” and “ducked” for “fucked” the AutoCorrect problem is switched – now you have to be careful not to invite your nephew to go and feed the fucks.

Creating a new AutoCorrect shortcut is simple:

  • Go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts.
  • Click on the + in the top right corner of the screen.
  • Enter the word you want to AutoCorrect to in the top box and the shortcut in the second box and click Save.
  • Problem solved!

May Review

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May was a mixed month in terms of a few things. A lot was going on which meant my long term goals took a backseat to dealing with the urgent short term stuff. The flipside of this was that the stress of the urgent things forced me to take time to relax – as a result I read a lot and I’m now 6 books ahead of schedule! My 30 day challenge of meditating also nicely fell into alignment with what was going on around me. I certainly noticed the difference to my focus and it’s something I’m going to keep in my daily routine going forward. Midway through the month I became aware of the guided meditation service Headspace. Not this month, but perhaps next, I will redo meditation for 30 days and work through their program.

Financially things were interesting. While I did not directly earn a lot, I set a few things up that look like they’ll have serious returns in the near future. June on the other hand is going to be a month of big financial returns.

Fitness was mixed. I managed to get in some good training for at the beginning and end of the month but had some situationally induced slack off in the middle. This is gonna get back on track this month.

I finally got around to doing something creative. I managed to get two good photo sessions done. The first was another street shoot in Dublin. I got three photos I was happy with from it. Two portraits and the moped in motion shot below.

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I also got a second shoot where I played around with a macro extension cube and my desk cactus. The photos had a really nice abstract quality. You can see one of them in the header image and another below.

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Creativity is also something I am going to push this month.

For June’s 30 Day Challenge I was tied between two ideas: 1000 words for publication a day or eight gym sessions a week. In the end I settled for the eight sessions as I will be doing a lot of writing any way but have other things going on that mean I may not be able to write every day. Yes, eight sessions is more than seven days which means I’ll be doubling up weights and jits on some days. This is intentional. Also, eight is a minimum goal rather than a set target. I’m also going to do a monthly challenge, in this case, to push my creativity, I’m going to create a 10 image series of my home town, Howth. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while and I’m excited to do it.

When you read this it will likely be on my new website. This is something I’m going to spend the first week or two of this month designing. This blog post will likely go live with the site.