2018 reiterated to me the feeling that life isn't always predictable as we sometimes think. The path I've taken isn't quite what I planned on this time last year, with different challenges and opportunities than expected, but I'm thankful for it as I've grown as a person through the process.
At the start of the year I was in Australia, visiting my sister and her family having spent Christmas with them after a few months of travelling through Asia.
Australia had been the last stop in my route, a date in the calendar I knew I was going to hit. Before then I planned loosely, up to a month in advance, but always had the certainty of Christmas in Australia. So as Christmas and New Years passed, I began wondering where next? What does the future hold?
After doing some research I settled on Bali, having heard lots of good stuff about it, and planned on spending 1-2 months working solidly, doing a little paid work but mostly attempting to build up a business with Mike. I even bought an extended visa upon arrival in Bali, so I didn't have to leave after a month.
But as I sat in Bali, and even as I was leaving my sister and her family behind in Australia, I felt quite lost. Where should I be in the world? What should I be doing? Am I living my "best life"?
I guess you could say I had my own late-twenties life crisis. Some of the best months of my life were those I had just lived, travelling alone through Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and more, but deep down I sensed living solo wasn't right for me, not now at least. I needed to settle down somewhere, at least for a little while, and find my community.
So in late January, after a short stint in Bali, I arrived back in the UK. I had a friend's wedding to attend which I was glad (and surprised) I was able to make having expected to miss it.
The wedding came and went, and I still wasn't entirely sure where home should be. Honestly, I felt quite lost at this time, and spent a couple of months staying with friends whilst working remotely and trying to figure out my next steps.
It was during this process I made one of the hardest decisions of my (relatively easy) life, to step away from working on building a business with Mike. This took a couple of months of wrestling with, as a big part of me wanted to keep doing what we'd set out to do 10 years before (build a business together), but I couldn't shake the feeling I needed to make space with a clean slate for what would come next. I wasn't to know it but this decision gave me room for what would come next. (Shoutout to Mike here, the way he handled the process and the strength of our friendship since is testament to how much of a good guy he is.)
It wasn't until a brief trip out to Madrid that I gained some perspective. As the plane was descending to land at Madrid airport, I felt a sense of peace that I should move back to London. Those of us that believe there's more to life than matter might say God was speaking to me, others could put it down to the dots finally connecting and the path ahead revealing itself. Either way, I felt I had my answer, I was to move to London and settle down, at least for the next 6-12 months.
After Madrid, I had a quick stop off in Berlin to see my friend Nico, and headed back to London. After a couple days of frantic flat hunting, I found a place and put down a deposit. A month later, after another quick last minute trip around the world to see my bro in Canada and sister in Australia, I arrived back ready to move in.
After deciding to move to London I contacted those I knew from working in the city before in case anyone knew of any opportunities. One of those I spoke with was Barry, who unexpectedly pitched me on starting a startup with him, as part of an incubator.
This wasn't an offer I was expecting, but after a couple of weeks of weighing it all up, I decided I was in.
One of the main reasons for agreeing to join the incubator was to work with Barry. I'd worked with Barry before, and admired his product skills. As an aspiring founder myself, product was an area I wanted to develop in, so getting to work alongside him was a big pull.
The role itself was outside my comfort zone, as prospective CTO. As someone who comes from a front-end background, I hadn't really considered myself as the CTO-type. I thought that CTO's were backend developers who enjoyed architecting server setups in their spare time. But after chatting to some CTO's I knew and some I didn't, they convinced me that this was a role I could grow with. After all to start with I'd be the Chief Technical Officer of one, me.
Since taking on the role, I've learnt a lot. Technically, working with React Native for the first time and getting my feet wet with AWS; from a product perspective, going through the process of discovery with Barry; and understanding myself and my motivations and strengths/weaknesses better as a founder.
We set out to work on building a mobile news app for younger folks (18-24yo). The premise being, how can we take what we know from the world of habit building products like Snapchat and build habit loops in the news? The Dot was our first stab at this.
The past 6 months have been a real learning opportunity and I've enjoyed living outside my comfort-zone and testing myself. I'm grateful for the opportunity Founders Factory have given me and I'm proud of the work we've done so far.
This I achieved, and it was actually quite a bit easier than I expected. I started running in early March, and although progress wasn't noticeable early on, things didn't take long to pick up. 57 days after I started training, I ran my first 10k.
This timeframe isn't recommended, I went from running 5k to 10k in one swoop of excitement at hitting my goal, and later in the year paid the price with an achilles injury. But this is to say that we humans are far more capable than we think, running a 10k felt almost impossible for me after years of physical issues, but was actually far more within my grasp than I realised. For years I placed a ceiling above what I could do, this year I smashed through that.
This goal I didn't hit, having stepped away from any personal business projects when I had the hit-the-reset-button moment at the start of the year.
This one was a fail too, when my plans changed from travelling to settling down I left this one behind. That said I still visited four new cities (Melbourne, Madrid, Honolulu and Edinburgh) as well as heading back to Sydney, Vancouver and Berlin.
Having thought at length about my goals for 2019, I realised my project this year is me. My goal is a healthy Fred.
I've read others online who have gone through therapy, and at times earlier in the year I realised I'd bottled up some emotions rather than dealing with them at source. Some say everyone should do therapy at least once in their life, so this year I want to give therapy a shot, even a minor increase in peace/happiness/health is worth it.
Secondarily I want to take my fitness goals to the next level. Running 10k was about getting my legs moving again after a years of physical issues and feeling limited by them. This year I want to be playing football again regularly, as well as get in better physical shape (stronger, leaner, more flexible). To do this I'm going to put my money where my mouth is and work with some professionals who can help guide me in how best to achieve the outcomes I'm going after. Some of these specific goals will probably change after discussing with professionals, but for now:
Well that's a wrap, folks. Here's hoping 2019 is the best year yet for you, that you live life like never before and come out of it with no regrets. Let's do this 💪