Year in Review: 2009

This year has been one of self-discovery and of asking myself what I should do next with my life. It has been one of learning and big decisions.

I discovered the importance of nose breathing, went cold-turkey on black coffee (more than 11 months now!), started studying the Navy SEALs (an unrelenting source of physical motivation), took a firearms course.

I discovered some incredible bloggers who have inspired me more than words can describe and whose tweets from various exotic places continue to inspire and motivate me. Most notable are Sid (connected through HN), Amber (connected through Sid), and Colin (connected through Amber’s blog comments). Amber and Colin’s dramatic transition to a nomadic lifestyle motivated and inspired my decision to take the steps necessary to make my own nomadic lifestyle transition a reality.

I discovered lifestyle design, personal development, and the importance of my own personal brand. I began consciously developing my own personal brand and will continue to do so well into the coming year.

In August, I announced the closing of a chapter in my life — a chapter of possessions and stuff — and that I had decided to change my lifestyle and transition to one of a minimalistic nomad. The year 2010 will finally see the realization of a life-long dream to travel the world and live nomadically.

I very unexpectedly met someone who broke me out of my shell (even if only for a moment) and opened my eyes to an artistic world of beauty all around me. She has given me support and a new perspective and she has taught me that amazing things can happen when you take a chance. Wherever our relationship takes us in the future, I know her love has made a life-long impression on me.

I became an Uncle to my sisters' baby boy, Linkin Tola Bou.

I took my first breath underwater and jumped out of an airplane.

Realizing my web hosting business had growth potential and that it needed a better “brand” image, I renamed it (from to ActualWebSpace), revamped the website, registered the business with the State of New Hampshire. I opened a PO BOX and a bank account and set up the billing system to automate things like invoicing, payment processing, new orders, expired domains, etc. I opened an account with eNom to provide domain registration and SSL Certificates.

While working on the new website for ActualWebSpace, I observed myself getting out of my perfectionist state of mind.

My grandfather passed away and I saw my family come closer together than ever before. The event made me realize how important it was to follow my dreams and make the most of this life.

This year I got "wasted" for the first, and hopefully the last, time (it took four Gin & Tonics' + 10oz of Jameson).

I was already aware of the power behind a having a routine and developing a habit, but I rediscovered that power when I started a daily routine of one hundred pushups. Doing a minimum of one hundred pushups every day -- first in five sets of twenty, then four sets of twenty-five, then three sets of thirty-five, and now two sets of fifty -- I improved from barely being able to do twenty pushups, to being able to do eighty pushups in 1 minute and 30 seconds. I will continue to do at least one hundred pushups every day.

I took the first big step towards my transition to a nomadic lifestyle and gave my notice to my boss: January will be my last month as an employee.

As outlined almost exactly twelve months ago, here are my 2009 New Year’s resolutions and the results. It’s a mixed bag. Looking back, I feel the goals should’ve been more “significant” instead of just a list of things I’d like to accomplish. The goals for 2010 will look much different.

  1. Get in the best shape of my life
  2. Somewhat. This is hard to measure. I’ve definitely had a lower fat percentage in previous years and I’ve definitely been stronger, but this is the first year that I feel my health has been consistent. In the previous years, my physical condition fluctuated greatly but this year things seem to be leveling off. Overall, I think that’s a healthier state to be in.

  3. Improve my social skills
  4. Absolutely. I opened a lot this year and I feel a lot more comfortable smiling back at a stranger. My self-confidence has improved and I know more about my weaknesses and strengths. I need to work on initiating conversations instead of just responding to them.

  5. Improve my handwriting
  6. Not even close. I didn’t set up any regular routine to improve my handwriting, so it remains unchanged.

  7. Make at least one of my website ideas a reality
  8. Somewhat. I didn’t get any of the many ideas finished, but I did manage to finally finish revamping my web hosting business, which included designing a new website.

  9. Read one book every month
  10. Somewhat. I read several books, including The Warrior Elite, ProBlogger, Pragmatic Thinking & Learning, The Four Agreements, Don’t Make Me Think!, and an eBook, 279 Days to Overnight Success. I wanted to review each of the books after I finished reading them, but I missed a couple. (I plan to re-read those and post reviews next year).

  11. Learn more about microcontrollers
  12. Not even close. This goal obviously wasn’t as important as I thought because I didn’t spend any time whatsoever learning about microcontrollers. While fun to learn, it’s just that: only fun. I fail to see any use for such knowledge in my future, so I subconsciously steered away from spending time on it.

  13. Add more programming languages to my skill set (maybe Scheme, Perl, Python, and Ruby)
  14. Not even close. While I learned more about project management and software development, programming largely took a back seat this year. For the most part, I only dabbled with programming when it was required to maintain previous work. This is still something I want to focus on, however.

  15. 500-yard swim in under 10 minutes (using sidestroke or breaststroke)
  16. Not even close. The lack of access to a pool is my biggest excuse. I did some distance swimming in the lake at my parents house just to gauge my current ability (crappy), but the lack of a regular routine left this goal unaccomplished.

  17. 80 Push-Ups in 2 minutes
  18. Absolutely! A little over a month ago, I was barely able to do 20 pushups non-stop. I set a goal of 100 pushups every day, starting with 5 sets of 20, and worked my way up to 2 sets of 50. A few days ago, I timed myself and did 80 pushups in 1 minute 30 seconds! That goes to show the potential of a regular routine!

  19. 80 Sit-Ups in 2 minutes
  20. Not even close. I can do about 30 situps non-stop, but then I’m spent.

  21. 25 Pull-Ups (no time limit)
  22. Not even close. I can do about 12 pullups (full extension and then chin above bar)

  23. 1.5 Mile Run in under 10 minutes
  24. Close! Before I moved to Somerville, I was using a treadmill that was in the office where I was living. I had a regular running routine and decreased my 4-mile run time from 42 minutes down to 30 minutes. At that speed, I would’ve run 1.3 miles in 10 minutes (8 mph average). Since moving to Somerville, however, I’ve lost my daily routine and my 4-mile run time is probably closer to 36 minutes now.

  25. Become a certified scuba diver
  26. Almost! I took the PADI Open Water Diver course and completed all the class and pool work, however I still need to complete two open water dives before I can actually get the certification. It was too cold to do the open water dives this year, so I’ll be completing them in the Spring.

  27. Complete the AFF program
  28. Almost! Unfortunately it was too late in the season to do the AFF program (solo-skydiving) so I had to settle with a tandem jump (strapped to an experienced skydiver). It was an incredible experience and I plan to at least start the AFF program next year.

I am very much looking forward to 2010 and I feel very confident that it will be an incredible year. If 2010 is going to be the Year of Transition, then 2009 was the Year of Realization (that a transition is necessary).

Write a Comment


  1. Hey Raam.. sound like you did well in your New Year Res for 2009.
    after reading this, It makes me want to make a Res for 2010.
    hopefully I can keep it up like you did..
    Here’s to the New Year!!
    How do you know you can’t, Until you try..

    • Thank you Aunt Sharon! Setting goals for the new year and then doing yearly reviews is a great way to make sure you’re making progress year after year!

  2. Hey Raam,

    Likewise, it’s been awesome to connect with you this year too!

    You know, the “learn new programming languages” goal has eluded me every year I’ve had it on my todo list. I think part of it is it’s really hard for me to measure – I have learned from Ruby on Rails, and built toy apps with that, but I don’t really feel like I have the level of competence I’d like.

    On your point of social skills specifically I had a real breakthrough this winter when I had to meet a bunch of new random people (large social events). Usually I just go hang out with my group and meet one new person at a time as they merge into the group, but I decided to take a more active approach. I’m writing a blog post up about it, but I basically “hacked” conversation. I’m starting to notice this more and more – I have some kind of idea, or blog post I want to write, and then something related is mentioned on a blog I regularly read. I suspect it has more to do with similar demographics of people I connect with than metaphysical super powers, but we’ll never know

    Back to the point, this is my foolproof way of initiating conversation – Sid’s conversation hacking formula: start by thinking of something interesting I wanted to talk about, and then broke it into 4 levels: small talks (0) – unrelated, or “normal” questions that can transition to the topic, basic (1) – introducing the material, intermediate (2) – if they are a little familiar with the material, explaining ang gauging interest, and true discussion (3) – where we geeks (may or may not include yourself in this category =P) like to be, real conversations, stuff that matters.

    I was reading Seth Godin’s Tribes, so for me I used the following: (0) – Hey, this might seem kind of weird but I find it fascinating, I’ll explain in a second how many close friends do you think you have? How many people do you interact with regularly? How many friends do you have on Facebook? (Tribes says you can maintains communities of 150, after that relationships break down. (1) We have now introduced Tribes into conversation. Discuss the concept of Tribes as in the book (if they don’t know the book). If they have more or less than 150, discuss depth and implications. (2) Share anecdotes from within Tribes (Nathan Winograd no-kill shelters is a great one) and if they are familiar with Seth Godin discuss his other works, else perhaps (3) If they are still with me, we can have a real conversation!

    This comment is getting a bit long, but I used this with a half dozen or so different topics, and man conversations just flew open. We discussed all kinds of tangents from there. I met someone who was a fan of Tribes and Seth Godin, and jumped straight from level 0 to level 3. I think most people like me always want to be at level 3, but in social conversation just starting at level 3 I lose most people. With just 2 minutes of talk preceding to build up to it however it’s easy to get there

    I don’t think you need any help with this, I just felt like writing it out. Now I will copy and paste this comment, pretty print it and publish it on my blog =P

    • Thanks Sid! That was really helpful. I’ll definitely try using that technique the next chance I get.

      I think one of my problems is that I generally try to avoid situations where I may have to introduce myself or start a conversation (parties, social events, etc.). This doesn’t apply for work-related events, but since so much of my work is computer-based, there aren’t many times where I need to meet new people face-to-face.

      One of the things I need to work on is consciously making an effort to attend casual social events so that I can work on connecting.

  3. i commented on your 2010 post when i meant to comment on this one. so i’ll say it again: thank you for the nice things you said about me. i dissolved into beautiful tears…not just of sadness for your future departure, but of ultimate joy for the time we have spent together and, now knowing the impact i’ve had on your life. you have had an equally big impact on me and my my life and the way i see the world and the people in it. i’m so grateful for you and everything you do. thank you for changing my life as well. i am forever on your team. <3