Wednesday 16 September 2020

My 2019 10Q answers

Time for a little self-reflection. I've done 10Q every year since 2010. It's becoming quite a good record of the past decade of my life. Reading my answers again, I get that familiar feeling that a lot has changed; and yet some problems are still bugging me.

Here are my answers from 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 20162017 and 2018. And this is what I wrote about last year (2019):

Day 1:

Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

My answer:

This has been the most significant year of my life so far. I married Fran on 16 February. Actually, we got legally married two days before, on Valentine's Day, and then had our wedding. It was the most wonderful, emotional 8-day stretch of my life so far. I'm so grateful that everything went well, that our guests had a good time, that I was so happy and joyful. I was on cloud 9. We got married at Oxford Register Office on Thursday with a small group of immediate friends and family. On Friday we set up the reception at Wytham Village Hall. On Saturday we had our wedding ceremony at Convocation House, part of the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Then the reception. On Sunday we cleared up at Wytham. Fran and I then spent the night in London to get the early train to Paris the next morning. We had three nights in Paris for our minimoon. Utter bliss. I didn't get much sleep. My mind was buzzing. My heart was filled with joy and love. So much joy and love, in fact, that it frequently burst out of my face and eyes. I was an emotional wreck; a very happy one.

Day 2:

Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you're especially proud of from this past year?

My answer:

I'm still so proud of our wedding. I'm sure everyone thinks their own wedding is the best one they've ever been to. But ours really was - for us. I think it expressed who we are beautifully. I have so many happy memories. The photos by our friend, Dave, are beautiful, black and white, and candid, not posed. We shared our favourite music. We gave lovely speeches. There were some really nice little touches.

I'm trying to think what I've regretted this year. I'm getting quite good at not hanging on to regret. When I put up the shelves in the kitchen with my parents a couple of weeks ago, I made a mistake when measuring where to put the bracket. I should have measured twice. Measured from the middle point. It was a very deliberate mistake. But even when you're being careful, you can still slip up. I drilled 8 holes in the wall the size of a pound coin unnecessarily that we weren't able to use. But you can't see them because the shelf covers them up, so it doesn't matter. I've come a long way.

My lovely wife (still feels weird to say that!) has helped me remember that I made a mistake when booking our train tickets home from Paris for our honeymoon in September. I somehow managed to book them a day later than planned. This really bothered me at the time. I was so annoyed with myself. But it turned out to be a brilliant piece of luck. It meant our journey home was slower and more relaxed. We didn't have to make any connections in Paris. We had a whole extra day to spend together in a city that has become really special for us. We're both really glad it happened. If only all of my mistakes and missteps could be so fortuitous!

Day 3:

Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

My answer:

My family has officially grown. I have joined two families together: the Whalens and the Wheares. Have I mentioned that I got married this year? There was a lovely bit towards the end of our wedding day when all my family, the Whalens, got together for some photos in the marquee. It was just us, and our friend, Alex, who took the pictures. All 6 original Whalens, plus Laura's 5 children, her partner, Garry, and my brother Richard's girlfriend, Zoe. That's the first time we've all been together. I hadn't even met two of Laura's latest children. And I hadn't met Garry before. It must have been back in 2013, maybe even 2012, the last time we all got together. I'm sure I could figure it out if I thought about it hard enough. Maybe 2014. Anyway, too long. It was in Bristol at 3 Great Brockeridge, my parents' house.

How has this affected me? Life kind of just carries on. I've had an amazing year, but I still get bummed out, still get bored at work, want to leave and find another job, still get grumpy. I feel a bit more grown-up, though. But I think I've taken things in my stride. I can totally see why people get married and have weddings. I get it now. I feel very secure and happy and content. My life is a joy, most of the time.

Day 4:

Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

My answer:

Greta Thunberg. She has really helped to make me even more conscious about my environmental impact and consumer decisions. It's been a big year for spending. We bought a house, an eco house, in an eco town on the edge of Bicester. It's also partly moving to a community like this that encourages us to change our behaviours and habits. We test drove an electric car this morning. By this time next year, we will probably own an electric car.

I was really inspired when I learned that Greta travels around Europe by train. I therefore haven't flown this year and don't intend to anytime soon - if ever again. The last time I flew was still in this 10Q year, back in October-November 2018 on our way to and from Rio in Brazil. This has impacted me because, when I went to Geneva in May for a week of training at UNAIDS, I decided not to fly. I got the train instead. And it was great. It meant I had to sacrifice a bank holiday, but it was totally worth it. I liked it so much, in fact, that we travelled by train to the Amalfi coast in Italy for our honeymoon. You don't need to fly in Europe. The train might be a bit more expensive and take a bit longer, but it's a pleasant, comfortable way to travel. UNAIDS refused to pay the full cost of the train; they paid what it would have cost to fly. And my employer, Torchbox, very kindly and nobly agreed to pay the rest. They also gave me half a day of time off in lieu for the lost bank holiday. Not a bad deal.

Day 5:

Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? "Spiritual" can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

My answer:

A passage from the Bible made me cry so hard. We were preparing for our wedding ceremony with Elaine and Stephen Dando. Elaine was our celebrant and my mum's best friend from school. She and Stephen are semi-retired vicars. They spent a lovely afternoon at our house in Oxford discussing our ideas for the ceremony and helping us to shape them into a proper "god-adjacent" service. We were discussing which readings we might have. I wanted all four of our parents to speak during the course of the wedding. My mum, Moira, had written her speech way back in May 2018, shortly after I proposed to Fran, when we asked if she'd like to speak at the reception. I think she wrote it the very same night. Fran's dad, Tom, spoke at the reception. But we also got my dad and Fran's mum to do some readings during the ceremony. Sandy chose his own reading. Ros, I think, didn't want to choose; or we chose this for her. I remember that Moira always used to wax lyrical about how much she loved the Song of Solomon, the Song of Songs, from the Bible. Elaine had it on a print out for us. Not the King James Version. Something a bit more modern, but that I actually much prefer. Elaine read it so beautifully, so simply. I cried so hard. I don't quite know why. It's a very emotional thing, planning your wedding, thinking deeply about who you are, who we are, what matters. We wrote our vows as well. I was very moved. I cried, again, at the same point in the real ceremony, blurting out of my nose, making Fran laugh. But I hadn't cried so hard in front of Elaine and Stephen and Fran that day since we watched Your Father's Murderer. It may, in fact, have been the hardest I've cried in my adult life. Cleansing. Therapeutic. Perhaps a little embarrassing. Almost like I was baptizing myself with my own tears. That passage helped to root the ceremony in tradition, even if everything else was new and just for us or borrowed from other weddings we have enjoyed. I've had a very tearful year, in a good way.

Day 6:

Describe one thing you'd like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?

My answer:

I would like to be driving an electric vehicle by this time next year. It's important to me because I want to limit my use of fossil fuels and limit the damage I'm doing to the environment. I'm now convinced that it's time to go electric. I was toying with the idea of a plug-in hybrid because we make some longer journeys each year. But now you can get cars with a range of up to 250 miles, which is enough to get to Zeals and Falmouth and Wales; and to do Scotland with one charge. We need to stop for petrol once on the way to Scotland anyway. I'm totally up for it. We had our first test drive this morning. I spoke to one of my neighbours, an EV Champion, during the week. And I've booked some more test drives for two weeks' time. It would feel great to drive to work each day in an electric car, knowing that I've reduced my emissions. I would also have a shiny new car. We would probably lease it instead of buying it outright or doing a Personal Contract Purchase.

Day 7:

How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?

My answer:

Hmm. My life is already good. We're eating less meat. I still eat a lot of salty snacks, but they bring me so much joy I'm not sure I really want to cut down. I do wish I was happier at work. It's an old refrain, isn't it? I have been thinking more seriously about going freelance or quitting my job at Torchbox and getting a job at the Government Digital Service or Conversion Rate Experts. I've had a tough week at work. I was really miserable on Tuesday and Wednesday. This quite often happens when I've got client meetings or training sessions coming up. I would like to feel like I do every Monday. I've been working a 4-day week since the beginning of June, taking Mondays off work at Torchbox to focus on my freelance projects and, occasionally, catch up on life admin. It's so good realizing on Saturday and Sunday evenings that I'm not going back to work on Monday, that Monday is mine again. I highly recommend this to anyone, if you can afford it. I can't afford not to do it now. It's been brilliant.

I'd like to continue stripping away the unnecessary, the glum-making, the wasteful of time and money and energy. I want to live simply and wholly. I don't want things hanging over me. I want to strip back, declutter (my mind and my possessions).

I'm not really thinking of a specific piece of advice. I've absorbed a lot of ideas about how to live. I read a book about freelancing by a former colleague at Torchbox, Steve Jalim. I'd like to stop some habits that aren't helpful or useful. But some of these make me who I am. Do I want to get rid of that?

Day 8:

Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully in the coming year?

My answer:

I want to read or listen to a bit more of Malcolm Gladwell. I always enjoy his podcasts with Bill Simmons. I might start listening to audio books in the car - much as I love my NFL podcasts. Maybe I could start on that after the NFL season. I can just about keep up.

I'd like to see if there's a role for me in the UX team at Torchbox. I feel like I need a change, but I want to make sure I'm doing more of the work I'm good at, not more of the work that makes me anxious and depressed. I want to be doing stuff, not talking and consulting and meta-working. So I want to dig into whether that's going to work for me. It would give me the opportunity to introduce more of the ideas from Making Websites Win into the company. I can be the evangelist. I need to take on a bit of risk and make a role for myself. I might not even have a line manager. Although I know who I'd want my line manager to be. Hi Dave Harris! I suspect things will be different at work this time next year. I hope so!

Day 9:

What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?

My answer:

I'm afraid of leaving Torchbox. I worry that it would be like leaving Manchester United as a player. It might not be better anywhere else. (Although this is the Manchester United of my youth I'm thinking about. I know the club has seen better days. It is no longer on top of the world.) I've been toying with the idea of going on sabbatical: going to work for GDS or CRE on the understanding that there would be a place for me at Torchbox if I wanted to return after a year or two, to share what I've learned. It's worked for some other people: Ben, Nick, Dave Harris - all have left and come back.

How has this limited me? I may have left by now and found a happier, more fulfilling job elsewhere. But it's been such a big year with the wedding, buying a house, the honeymoon, that a new job as well would be a lot. Maybe that's next year's project. Fran got a new job this year, but it still hasn't solved all the things that she worries about. No job ever will. Let's face it. For any of us.

So I could give this UX role a real try for a few months in the new year. And if it's not working, or not coming to fruition, I could quit. Go freelance. Apply for CRE or GDS or somewhere else that inspires me. There is life beyond Torchbox. Quitting stuff has worked for me before.

Day 10:

When September 2020 rolls around and you receive your answers to your 10Q questions, how do you think you'll feel? What do you think/hope might be different about your life and where you're at as a result of thinking about and answering these questions?

My answer:

I hope I'll be in a better place with work. Fitter. Happier. More productive. Not worrying too much. Regular exercise at the gym, for both of us - whether that's an actual gym or our own cycling, swimming and walking routines. I might also be slightly ashamed how little I've mentioned how wonderful Fran is. She is the reason my life is so good at the moment. Let's face it. But this is introspective. It's self-reflective. Although I did promise to think of us before me in our wedding vows. I hope things are just the same, but a little smoother around the edges, a little less cluttered of mind, of inbox, of to-do list, of second bedroom.

Day 11:

What are your predictions for the coming year?

My answer:

Electric vehicle. Are we still in?


Record your own answers this year at