Hello, hello friends, family, colleagues, and whosoever else decided to click on a blog post titled “Reflection” by a random dude on the Internet. Welcome all!
I’m Ratik—a software engineer at Fueled by day, and artist-person-type-thing by night! Three years ago I started doing yearly reflections as an experiment and ended up really liking the process. What started out as a test run has become a yearly practice.
Each year when I publish one of these, people write in to tell me that they loved the approach I followed and that they want to try and replicate it for themselves. So, this year, I thought why not give everyone a peak into how my system really works. We’re giving away all the secrets this year. Let’s go!
The Secret Sauce of Reflection
At a high level, here is the process I follow:
- Put together a list of things you’d like to do in the upcoming year.
- Forget about the list; the trick is to only let the list simmer at the back of your head.
- Revisit the list around your birthday (mine just happens to be at the half year mark of the year so… um, this step might not work for you, sorry!)
- Be surprised at how all the background simmering has lead you to magically make some progress towards your list (brains are SO cool and also SO differing between two people).
- Focus time now. This is the most important step. Focus on your goals for the rest of the year and work like your life depends on it.
- Year is over. You’re in Decemeber. Look back, write about how things went.
- Go back to 1.
So, um, I guess, what I’m trying to say is that… I don’t know what I’m doing, man and neither does anyone else! You do you, boo! We are all on different journeys and progress looks different for everyone. No Gregorian calendar can determine your self worth!
Looking back at 2020(1)
The Evernote note I used to list out things I’d like to do in 2021 starts with the following beautiful sentence:
2021 is an ambitious year. We will do big things this year, move closer towards the ideal life we want to lead.
Cute stuff, bud! After the year that was 2020, I remember feeling a surge of optimism while planning for 2021. That optimism lead to the sentence you see above and the sentence lead to the list of things I wrote down.
While I glance over what all I’d put down, a lot of these jump out to me as experiments. 2021 turned out to be very much a year of experiments for me. Some experiments worked, some didn’t, some didn’t even see the light of day. This is okay though. I have no issues with this.
The more I’ve done this goal-setting and looking back thing, the more I’ve actually started enjoying failing spectacularly. There is something about humans being such big dumdums that really fascinates me. We plan for all these things we wanna do, we say we will do this and that and then out of nowhere life hits us in da face. All we can really do from there is adapt and fight through things.
In 2021, Ratik, the human dumdum did not anticipate a devastating second wave of the Coronavirus in India. Those were some bad, bad months, man. I don’t think I’ve ever been as anxious as I was during that time. I don’t think anyone got past that time unscathed. Everyone lost someone, everyone lost something.
2021 was also a complicated year for um… matters of the heart, let’s just say. A lot of new emotions this year. I didn’t even know half of these emotions existed (😂) till the year happened. Lots of learning and unlearning through the year. We out here growing the heck up, yo!
Overall, 2021 was a bumpy year, I would say. There were high highs and low lows. What kept me going through everything as always were friends and family. I truly have some of the best people around me and I’m very thankful for that. I genuinely believe that I wouldn’t be what I am today without the people I have in my life.
And on that note, before we get into 2022 and start over again, let’s take a closer look at what I’d planned for 2021 and how things panned out as the year went by!
1/ Professional Goals
This year was pretty good from a professional perspective for me. I went from being an entry-level engineer to a senior engineer at work. This was not something I expected at the start of the year. The promotion came as a big surprise when I found out about it in August. Good going, Ratik!
That said, there are a few things under the professional bucket where I think I missed the mark this year. These are definitely things I should have focussed a little more on. Gotta make these a bigger priority for 2022 for sure!
Work on at least 2 Android projects ✅
Big tick for this one! My day job almost guaranteed this.
The majority of my time this year was spent working on an Android SDK project at work. This was something I hadn’t done before this year. It was a really interesting project from a technical standpoint that taught me a lot of new things. I also had a lot of autonomy while working on this project — which was a little daunting at first but eventually pretty darn rewarding (hello hello, promotion!).
Custom Views on Android ❌
I wanted to get better at writing custom views on Android this year. I unfortunately didn’t. This was mostly because the projects I was involved with at work didn’t really require me to use this part of my skillset.
There was a point during the year when I was trying to work on this using a side project but it didn’t pan out eventually. Something to pick on for next year!
Work on at least 1 Flutter project ✅
This one was a success in my eyes. At the start of 2021, I had never used Flutter to build anything. This year, I got to build a Flutter app as part of an internal Hackathon at work.
2021 Fueled Hackathon: "Hopeful Reopening" | Fueled
The 2021 Fueled Hackathon was a great success. Our theme, "Hopeful Reopening," called for teams to create a product…
Work on at least 1 KMM project ❌
KMM was a technology that I wanted to give a go this year mostly out of curiosity and a desire to learn. This did not happen. I did look into the tech for a while but didn’t get my hands dirty with it this year.
Work on at least 1 React project ✅
Tick tick tick! I worked on a sizable (personal) project this year that uses React. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and learned a lot about React as a framework. The project comes out soon. Follow me on Twitter to find out when it comes out!
Write at least 6 technical blog posts ❌
I’m bummed about this one. I started to write a few things this year but didn’t complete anything. This was a consequence of how my time, attention and energies were distributed across things this year. I definitely want to focus more on this goal next year.
Look out for opportunities to mentor ⚠️
I remember putting this in as a stretch-goal. The desire for this goal stems from wanting to give back to the developer community in some capacity. I’ve had some great mentors along the way who’ve guided and motivated me regarding career things and I want to do the same for others.
This is a goal that you can’t really achieve on your own. So, my plan for this was to be open to the possibility of opportunities to arise. None did this year. We try again next year!
If you’re someone who wants to chat about anything related to things I’m up to, my DMs on Twitter are open. Feel free to drop a line there or on my email!
2/ Personal (Work)
The big theme for this year turned out to be experimentation. I knew at the turn of the year that I was going to have a decent amount of time outside of my day job to work on side projects this year (thanks to Fueled’s unlimited and minimum leave policies!).
This made me want to try my hand at a bunch of things this year and see what stuck. The goals in this section all stem from this desire to experiment.
Produce Frndship Time throughout the year ✅
In January of 2021, I launched a weekly podcast with my friend Parth called Frndship Time (FT). We didn’t really know how the show would pan out through the year but I am happy to report that it has been a great success!
Between Parth and, we produced close to 50 episodes of Frndship Time this year. We published each week on Friday from January to November. The show was my main side project this year that took a majority of the time I had outside of work.
Season 1 of the show wrapped up in November and we are currently deep into planning out Season 2 of the show. If you’re someone who likes podcasts, definitely check out Frndship Time on your favorite podcast app!
Write at least 6 personal blog posts ⚠️
This one is a partial success. Instead of writing personal blog posts, I produced audio for the podcast. The main reason behind this goal was to encourage documentation and that has surely happened as part of Frndship Time!
Make a (limited run) newsletter ❌
One of the experiments that I didn’t get to this year. My love for email and email newsletters combined with the recent disillusionment with social media makes me really want to try my hand at this next year. More soon!
Finish building and release Billboi ❌
Billboi was (is?) an Android app I was trying to build with my friend Arun back in January. It was supposed to be a subscription tracking app for Android that helped you keep track of your monthly fixed expenditure. We were building this because we wanted to use such an app and could not find any well-designed apps on the Play Store that had the functionality we needed.
Why did I stop building this? Welllll, I switched to using an iPhone in February and the need for having such an app died with that transition. 😂
This whole experience with Billboi actually taught me something quite interesting about myself: I really, really heavily lean towards making things that I personally want to use. I’d always sort of known this about myself but this whole experience with Billboi really solidified my belief.
Revive YouTube? ❌
I thought I would give uploading to YouTube another go this year. In the end, I just didn’t find time to devote to this experiment. Producing videos is so honestly so difficult.
Parth and I spoke about our experience of working with video and doing YouTube on FT earlier this year in case you’re interested in listening.
That said, I did make some video stuff this year that I’m semi-proud of:
3/ Personal (Soul)
Protect the asset; We are the asset.
Read at least 12 books (half fiction, half non-fiction) ❌
Reading took a big hit for me this year. One of the side-effects of producing art for a particular medium (podcasting, in my case) is that you end up consuming art within the same medium as well.
Consumption feeds creation for me and as a result I listened to a lot more podcasts this year than anticipated and that that took away time from reading.
Winter has been better for reading though. I’ve been reading daily these days. The winter sun ensures that I do so! Some standouts from the year:
Shoutout to my bestie Tanvi for both these recommendations!
Outside of books, I did end up reading more long-form articles this year thanks to this neat little “send to Kindle” technique. Stand-outs:
Fact-checking Modi's post-truth India
In late February, a video featuring a man in a skull cap attacking another man started to circulate on Twitter. "You…
A booming industry based entirely on missed calls helped bring India online - and vanished…
In 2003, Praveen Kumar bought his first mobile phone, as several of his friends already had. But for the 29-year-old…
Scaling with common sense #2: Being future ready. - Zerodha Tech Blog
Over the last year, owing to the unexpected rally in capital markets, Zerodha's customer base has more than tripled…
Room redesign! (work desk, work hardware, accessories, walls) ✅
This is an ongoing goal. Things are slowly, but surely coming together…
The “Ratik” re-brand ❌
I wanted to do a personal brand +website refresh this year (like every year, let’s face it 😂) but couldn’t carve out the time. I have some interesting ideas for this project. More soon!
Build out the Ratix Manor Discord (build a community!) ⚠️
Context: Ratix Manor is a Discord server I set up as a virtual version of my home during the pand… um, during the peak of the pandemic. It houses some of my closest friends. The server is used for a whole host of things: watching sports and movies together, playing games, listening to music together (RIP Daft Punk, RIP Groovy 🥲) to name a few.
Through the process of building out Manor, I realized that I really enjoy setting up, building and growing communities. The Ratix Manor project was one such manifestation of my love for building communities. I wanted to continue building the space this year but Manor usage dropped once stuff started opening up again and people got busy with life. Oh well, it was good while it lasted!
A new category for these blog posts! 2021 was the first time that I jotted down finance related things I wanted to do and learn about. Let’s see how things went!
Personal Finance, Investing, Financial Frugality et al ✅
On a friend’s recommendation, I read a book called Let’s Talk Money by Monika Halan. It’s a personal finance book written in an Indian context. My main takeaway from the book was that it is in the best interest of the financial industry that people like me, people like you do NOT understand much about managing our money.
The lack of understanding and confusion in us is what paves the way for people to be exploited by bad actors in the system. The lack of understand and confusion is what leads to all the stories we hear about scams, frauds, loss of money within our families.
I managed to spend a lot of time this year exploring the personal finance landscape. It wasn’t easy but I think I’m in a good place now and have good fundamentals in place. My good friend Siddharth (love you, bru!) helped me loads with this. Personal finance YouTube is a great place to learn things too!
Commit at least 3% of income to charitable giving ✅
A bunch of (personal) reasons behind why this is an important goal for me:
- Having worked in the social sector in India, I’ve seen how difficult fundraising can be for non-profits
- People working in tech make in-exorbitant amounts of money — most of these people do not need this much money
- The (interesting) fact that donating money to charitable causes almost always leads to more actual impact than donating your time towards the same cause (working, volunteering etc.)—Ali Abadal explains this concept really well in one of his videos
This year, my 3% went to the Internet Freedom Foundation (to support the important work they’re doing) and Hemkunt Foundation (for financial aid with oxygen cylinders during the devastating second wave of the Coronavirus in India). Bonus! — my workplace matched (maybe yours does this too?) the amount of money I gave to Hemkunt Foundation and helped double the contribution!
Targets under the music category are approached from two directions: piano playing and music production. Two categories, two goals.
Continue working on hand independence ✅
Huge area of growth this year. I am so happy! I picked up on two very important lessons this year from my piano lessons:
- There is no such “one moment” after which your hands become independent; you’ve gotta practice independence for each musical piece you work on
- Improvisational music playing is often the result of hours, if not days spent on a musical instrument being “ugly”, trying all kinds of things, playing wrong things
Shoutout to the legend Divakar for piano lessons through the year!
Put out at least 6 music things ⚠️
Music production took an intentional hit in terms of output this year.
As a software engineer, I spend a lot of time looking at a screen at work. As a podcaster, I spend a lot of time outside of work editing audio on a screen. These two factors combined made me take it easy doing music production-y things this year.
I preferred being away from a screen, at the piano, doing da music.
The one thing I did end up making this year is this almost goofy lo-fi thing using my Volca Sample. I remember using the music from this Volca session for one of the outros for Frndship Time!
Health wasn’t a big feature this year in terms of goals for me. I mostly continued with the habits I built last year — which was primarily 16–8 intermittent fasting (IF). IF has become a way of life now for me!
Health needs to be a bigger focus for 2022.
Watch 26 films (two every month) ⚠️
23 / 26 is what my Letterboxd tells me. We came ever so close.
That’s all for this year, folks! Another year done and dusted. Another one arriving soon. I’m excited to get back to the drawing board and prep for 2022.
Initial ideas for 2022: a little less experimentation and more doubling-down on things that work. Should be fun!