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Day 473 of 1827: 2013 Wrap-Up, Part 1

Day 473 of 1827: 2013 Wrap-Up, Part 1

So, as 2013 draws to a close, it’s time for me to look back at….

Argh!  Stupid jet lag!

Well, anyway, it’s been long enough; let’s take a look at my goals for last year and see how I did!

Strap in, boys and girls; this is gonna be a long one!

  1. Successful full-time entrepreneurship:  SUCCESS-ish.  I’ve successfully transitioned from full-time employee to full-time freelancer, which is progress… but not quite what I wanted to accomplish.


    • I am my own boss now.  I get to decide how many hours I work each day, where I work, and what I work on. It’s pretty awesome!
    • I don’t have to go into the office every day.  I can work anywhere, as long as I’ve got internet access.  This gives me lots of freedom to live wherever I want, which also gives me a ton of leeway to decide what my cost of living is.
    • I get to send out invoices instead of waiting for paychecks.  You have no idea how much more satisfying this is!


    • I’m still billing hourly for my time.  This means that my most productive hour is exactly as valuable to me as my least productive hour, which is not particularly motivating. Plus, it puts a hard limit on the amount of money I can make each week, which I’m not thrilled about.
    • I promise my clients a certain number of hours per week.  If there’s one way to make yourself feel like you’re still an employee, it’s to give somebody else control over your schedule.
    • I’m focusing too much on technical skills.  The primary value I bring to my clients is technical expertise — which is great, but you can’t build a business on technical know-how alone.  I haven’t been properly developing my abilities to identify problems, empathize with customers and market my self/skills/products.


    2013 was a great year for me professionally.  I broke out of the employee mindset that had been guiding my life for the past 12 years.  As a result, I was able to build a foundation that will allow me to build relationships and create value anywhere in the world.

    It’s a good start, but so far, I’ve mostly just laid the groundwork; my current situation is barely one step above being an hourly employee.

    In order to take things to the next level, I need to divert my focus on technical specialization and learn more skills that will help me establish and grow a product-based business.

  2. Conversational Spanish fluency:  SUCCESS.  If not 100% success, then 98%.  Close enough (:


    • I can start up a conversation any time I want.  With the probable exceptions of biology conventions and dentistry training seminars, I can get somebody’s attention and communicate my needs/ideas with almost 100% success.
    • I can understand what the other person is saying about 80% of the time.  Depending on the situation, how tired I am, and the speaker’s accent, I almost never have to ask, “¿Cómo?
    • I can act as an interpreter.  Especially over the last few months, several of my friends have relied on me at times for interpreting between Spanish and English.  Ego tripping aside, it’s actually a lot of fun because it tests my empathy every bit as much as my language skills.


    • My vocabulary is… um, what’s the word….  Although I am really good at learning Spanish grammar, my vocabulary is still terribly limited (at least, considering how long I’ve been immersed in Spanish-speaking cultures).  What can I say; I am really bad at memorization!
    • I need to be in the right state of mind.  Especially late at night, it takes a lot of concentration for me to converse in Spanish.  If you were hoping for some passionate conversaciones de almohada, you’re gonna have to be super patient with me.
    • Apparently, I sound like a dictionary.  Learning a new language is not just about syntax and vocabulary.  Spanish has a different way of expressing certain concepts than English; even if you translate the words correctly, the resulting phrase is not always intelligible to a native speaker.  The problem is further compounded by the fact that these forms of expression vary from culture to culture — my Spanish currently sounds like a mix of Chilean, Colombian and Mexican, with a dash of Guaraní.
    • My English is suffering!  I often joke that my brain is dumping English to make room for the incoming Spanish… because by golly, I swear that’s what’s happening!  I have lost at least 10% of my English vocabulary since I started learning Spanish, and occasionally, a little Spanish will sneak its way in when I’m chatting with somebody in English.


    I’m going to Thailand!  So excited to practice my Spanish over there!  😛

    Ok, seriously, though.  I’m actually quite pleased with how well I’ve mastered Spanish over the past year, especially considering that I barely had any formal training.  With the possible exceptions of Argentina and Spain, I could parachute into any Spanish-speaking country, and I’d be able to communicate just fine.

    As for whether I will be doing the work to stay in practice while I am in not-particularly-Spanish-speaking Asia… patience; we’re not at the 2014 goal-setting post yet!

  3. First successful passive income investment:  Ehhhhhh….

    Ok, so first, crypto-currency speculation doesn’t count.  Even if I do mostly place limit orders.

    Also, we’re not going to count bank accounts in countries where you can actually earn a decent rate of return on a savings account.  Because that’s boring.

    Unfortunately, if you take those away, I really don’t have anything that qualifies as “passive income”.  Blargh.


    • I’m starting to get a better understanding of the role money plays in my life.  Look out for a deeper exploration of this idea in a future episode of Five Years AbroadCAST!


    • Yeah, there’s no way to sugar-coat this.  I didn’t achieve this goal.  I wanted an investment that would earn US$1000 per month without requiring more than a few hours of work.  One year later, I have no such investment.


    Fortunately, the limiting factor here was not capital (although the US government will make short work of that come tax time).  The primary obstacle that I failed to overcome was doing the research.

    And for me, that’s a big obstacle.  I hate doing research.

    Unfortunately, being a successful investor requires a lot of research.

    The good news is, I can get motivated to do the necessary research when I find something that really interests me.  For example, I can tell you in intricate detail how Bitcoin’s blockchain works.

    Incidentally, that may or may not be why people tend to avoid me at parties; further testing is necessary.

    If I decide to try for this goal again in 2014, I’m going to change the parameters so that I focus on a multitude of small investments rather than a single large one.  That way, I can try lots of different things to see which ones interest me the most, and then I will know where to focus the majority of my time and capital.

  4. Successful romantic relationship: Um… next!

    jaja Ok, I can’t get out of it that easily 😛

    So yeah.  There is no Mrs. Five Years Abroad at the moment.  Let’s now proceed to analyze why in painstaking detail.


    • I’m attracting higher-quality people into my life.  This past year, I met a lot of really interesting and intelligent women.  Not all of them appreciated my sense of humor, but that’s OK; nobody’s perfect.  Compared to the women in my life a year ago, though, the caliber of individual I’ve been attracting has definitely gone up.

      Incidentally, this also applies to the men I interact with, but we’re focusing on my love life here, which – despite the occasional allegation to the contrary – means we’re looking exclusively at the female demographic right now.

    • If there’s one relationship that has really blossomed this past year, it’s the one I have with myself.  I have developed an incredibly deep sense of empathy for myself (and consequently for others), an understanding and appreciation of my mecosystem, and some pretty vivid and exciting dreams (no, not that kind of dream; I mean the kind that teaches you about yourself).

      Yeah, ok.  I know everybody does this.  “I’m not in a relationship right now because I’m working on myself.”  Well… ok, how about this:  I’m not in a relationship right now because I need to work on myself first.  Not much better?  Hey, at least I had the courage to admit that I tried and failed.


    • I’ve been awfully passive about this.  I’m still deciding whether this is actually a not-so-win, but the fact remains that I never really set out to meet people in a dating context… and let’s face it:  If you don’t meet new people, it’s hard to date new people!
    • Wait a second; what about all the awesome European / Antarctic / Aussie chicas that I haven’t met yet?  You ever notice how large of a role physical proximity plays when you’re dating?  There’s gotta be a way around this that doesn’t involve internet dating.

      That’s right; I said it.  I don’t like internet dating sites.  My thought is, a dating site is kind of like a horseback riding club — you don’t go there to find a girlfriend/boyfriend; you go there to meet people who share whatever common interest or activity the group is based on.  And given that so far, every woman I’ve talked with has admitted that she hates dating, I’m actually a little afraid of the people I might meet on dating sites!


    Yeah… I’m not sure if I’m ready to pick this torch back up for 2014.  I’m actually much more interested right now in forming new friendships and further developing my empathy than I am in getting involved romantically with anybody.  This year will see at least one goal focusing on improving my relationship skills, but maybe with less emphasis on naughty bits and such.

Whew!  Well, that was a good start to ending 2013.  It was a huge year for me; I grew a lot and accomplished some pretty amazing things.

I didn’t meet all of my goals, but I’m actually really happy about that.  If I consistently achieved 100% of my goals, then I’d really have to question whether I was pushing myself!  Plus, understanding why I didn’t accomplish certain goals has given me a lot of insight into how my priorities have changed.

But we’re only halfway through!  Stay tuned for part 2!

Mapocho River at sunset
Unfortunately, I didn’t achieve my unofficial 2013 goal of making the Mapocho River look pretty.
This photo was taken in 2014.

Check out Five Years AbroadCAST for more lessons leaned… plus interviews!

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