My Recap of 2020
Table of Contents
I’m sure we can all agree that 2020 was a challenging year, to say the least, that we have had in recent times.
With many lows and difficulties, I’m sure there were also highlights and achievements.
If 2020 proved anything it’s that we can get through anything, even if when things get dark and uncertain.
Facing My Worst Nightmare
Death is one thing you can be sure of in this life, no matter who or where you are.
And even with that said, it is something that we still have extreme difficulty dealing with.
2020 began with me facing my worst nightmare, losing one of my parents.
It is something you cannot explain to someone, an unreal feeling, lost feeling, what the fuck feeling.
My father passed away on 23 January 2020 after being in the hospital for exactly a week.
It came as such a shock to the family as my mother and I saw him a few hours before he passed and we both feel confident that he will be coming home soon.
I spoke to the nurse and received the news, collapsing to the floor as if I was crushed by some invisible weight. Tears in my eyes, a rock in my throat, and a knot in my stomach.
I truly believe the only things that got me through this has been:
- Stoic philosophy that I’ve been studying and trying my best to practice
- Journaling (even though I only started a few weeks before)
- My strong mother and sister
I still experience moments of sadness when I want to phone him or tell him about something I read or found.
I don’t believe these moments will go away, they will just become easier to deal with.
Below are the bullet points for my speech at his memorial:
- I am proud of my mother and sister and my father would be proud of how they came together to get through this difficult time.
- My father was known as the computer guy as well as a bookworm.
- My father was extremely curious and had a burning hunger for knowledge.
- My father was always ready to give advice or guidance to those who asked.
- My father was a generous soul and he gave more than he took.
- A person’s character was more important than anything else.
- My father had a love of nature, animals, and even “goggas” which is a South African term for creepy crawlies.
- If I had to list everything I learned from my father it would take forever, so I will list the few things I feel is most important:
- Love for reading and writing.
- I discovered Bruce Lee through my father and he is still one of my heroes to this day.
- Stoic philosophy which I try my best to practice and learn every day.
- If you are struggling with a decision, take a paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side, list the positives and the negatives on the other side, doing this will almost always make it clearer.
- The mantra, Amor Fati, love your fate no matter what position you find yourself in whether it is good or bad.
Going Completing Remote & Getting Started with Shopify Development
Since April I have been lucky enough to go completely remote by joining an incredible headless e-commerce company called Especial Digital.
I have learned so much over the last few months when it comes to developing for Shopify, from public apps to Shopify store themes.
So far I have developed the following public Shopify apps:
Quicklink Page & Loading Speed App
Quicklink is a small addition to your theme that will speed up your store for your customers.
It does so by preloading any content behind the links a visitor can see while browsing your store.
This drastically reduces loading times when they click on a link, leading to a better shopping experience.
Quicklink is an open-source technology, you can find its source code and technical details on Github.
Smart Metafield Collections App
This app leverages Shopify’s product metafields to create custom collections.
When a product is created or update, the app will search the product’s metafields.
A collection will only be created only when the following saved metafields are found:
- Metafield namespace
- Metafield key
- Metafield value
If a collection already exists and the collection is active, the product is then added to the collection.
Automatic Background Service
The app will also automatically search all products once a day to find any metafields that might have been missed so that your collections are always in sync with your products.
Smart Last Sold Collections App
This app allows you to create custom collections that include products that have been sold recently.
When an order is placed the app will go through all the products and either create collections or include these products in existing collections.
Each collection has the following settings:
- Collection title
- Filter by tag (only include products that contain a specific tag)
- Include sold out products
Products will only be added to active collections.
Scheduled Background Service
The app will also automatically search the last 500 orders once a day to ensure the collections are in sync with the orders in the shop.
Vendor & Brand Directory App
This app leverages Shopify’s product fields to create vendor pages as well as a directory page that displays all product vendors.
Automatic Page Creation
Both vendor and directory pages will be created automatically when a product is created or updated according to the saved field setting.
The following product fields can be used:
- Product Type
- Product Vendor
- Product Tag
- Product Metafields
Vendor Details Page
When a vendor is created, a details page will also be created which you can use to add more details for the vendor.
When a vendor is created it will automatically be displayed on the directory page which also offers layout & style options.
You can further customize this page by adding your own CSS.
ActionBuddy for Writers
I didn’t do any development on ActionBuddy this year, but I did do some marketing related tasks.
I managed to get the feature videos done that I had planned last year which you can watch here
I also managed to put a pricing page together that better explains the differences between a free and paid account, you can view it here
After doing a crash course in GraphQL I was looking for something I could build to apply what I had learned.
While talking to a friend of mine, he mentioned that he would like to build something that would help companies their extra stock.
This felt like the perfect opportunity to use my React and newly learned GraphQL skills.
The app provides the following functions:
- Importing of CSV data (stock inventory)
- Searching and browsing of imported data
- Ordering of imported data
My website took a bit of a backseat this year, I did not do much to it.
I did however manage to get three blog posts done, you can read them here:
- The importance of having a development process
- A different approach to deadlines in development
- Benefits of side hustles
Towards the end of the year, I had to learn or get up-to-date with the Next.js framework so I did a course on Frontend Masters.
Course: Introduction to Next.js
I would like to give kudos to the presenter of both courses Scott Moss for his fun method of teaching the material and sharing his knowledge.
I am very impressed with what the Next.js framework offers a developer that would like to create an app and have everything in one neat, powerful package.
Besides the features of Next.js, it also makes a few things a lot easier to do, one of these is routing.
With my experience in React, routing can be a pain because of the amount of setup it takes. With Next.js, no extra packages are needed, all you need to do is follow a certain pattern and your routes will be created for you.
Other than routing, Next.js also gives you powerful functions that you can use to do server-side rendering which has a lot of benefits from load speed to SEO.
In a nutshell, I am excited to start using Next.js and what it offers.
I believe journaling helped me a lot in dealing with the death of my father. It also proved to be very useful for my yearly recap.
I seem to prefer the classic journal over the Daily Stoic journal but seeing that this the first time I am journaling it might change over time.
I don’t journal every day, but at least once or twice every two or three weeks. I feel this is enough time for me to write about things that happened or things I have been thinking about.
Stopping Smoking & Nootropics Change
With the lockdown we had in South Africa, there was a ban placed on all tobacco products.
Because of this, the black market prices for cigarettes jumped dramatically and I decided I will try and use this as an opportunity to try and quick for the umpteenth time.
I had never tried the cold turkey method of quitting but this time I didn’t have a choice unless I wanted to spend ridiculous amounts of money.
On 16 April 2020 I stopped and I still can’t believe it but I haven’t smoked since.
It was by no means easy, I experienced twitches, mood swings and my temper was very short during the first few weeks.
I did try different nootropics to try and ease the withdrawals according to an article I found.
- Rhodiola Rosea 3% Rosavins 1% Salidrosides
- N-Acetyl Cysteine
One of my biggest fears if I ever stopped smoking was gaining weight. Surprisingly I haven’t gained as much as I feared which played a big part in remaining a non-smoker.
Even though it has been difficult to exercise this year, I decided to reignite my passion for cycling and I bought myself a mountain bike.
If I didn’t feel like walking, I went for bicycle rides which I enjoy every time I do it. Cycling doesn’t feel like exercise to me, it is almost like meditation with the added bonus of some cardio.
I don’t regret buying the mountain bike at all, especially because I didn’t go to the gym once this year.
I definite to becoming a better reader as I have started reading a lot more over the last two years which is encouraging for me as I did not enjoy reading at all.
Every book I read this year I hadn’t read before so each of them got a review.
Everything Is F*cked A Book About Hope by Mark Manson
I am a big fan of Mark Manson ever since reading his first book, The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck.
However, I was hesitant to read this book because I felt his first book was brilliant and this one would not live up to it.
Was I wrong! I enjoyed this one as much as I enjoyed the first one.
It was incredibly insightful not to mention I am happy that there is still a lot of humor in his approach which makes it so much more fun to read.
His first book has a life changer for me personally whereas this one is more about seeing the world in a different more educated manner.
Some of my key takeaways were:
- The fun and interesting in which he explains that self-control is an illusion with the clever analogy of the Thinking & Feeling Brains we all have.
- An alternative Newton and his laws of emotion (What an eye-opener)
- The different types of religions (not all religions are spiritual) and how they function.
- What it means to be an adult (absolutely nothing to do with age)
- And finally how we need pain in all its various forms to essentially become the versions of ourselves.
If you want to understand the world, yourself, and our sometimes f*cked society while having a good chuckle every now and then give this book a read.
Trackers by Deon Meyer
What an incredible journey!
I enjoyed reading this novel so much, it was fascinating, riveting, and an absolute masterpiece.
Each story was expertly crafted and I didn’t want to put the book down.
It was also exhilarating to be able to relate to some of the locations referenced in the book, actual streets, and suburbs of Cape Town.
If you are looking for a crime thriller, I can highly recommend this novel worth every word.
Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
I discovered this book in my father’s library after he passed away and immediately knew I wanted to read it.
I started reading it before the COVID-19 crisis became global and feel like it is precisely the type of material someone should read while something like COVID-19 is happening.
The book is divided into two parts, the first being the author’s experience of being in various concentration camps in three years during World War II and the second part is logotherapy in a nutshell.
What a compelling read, not to mention shocking, heartbreaking, and a wake-up call.
In my opinion modern society, myself included, has gradually become soft, weak, and self-entitled to the extreme.
Things can be so much worse when you read about what others had to endure, not to mention those who did not survive.
Nobody wants to go through a bad experience, but we always have a choice of how we will respond and it comes down to the age-old question of what is the meaning of my life.
If you want a one size fits all answer to this question you will be disappointed, the answer is as unique and different as we are but I believe it is essential to being the best possible version of yourself.
I feel I need to share a few lines I found incredibly powerful from the book:
“Nietzsche’s words, He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how,”
“Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.”
“… but only these two–the “race” of the decent man and the “race” of the indecent man.”
“Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; he is also that being who entered those chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”
The second part of the book was just as captivating, I did not know something such as logotherapy existed and I am planning to investigate it further.
Whether you have a why or don’t this book is a combination of history and incredibly insightful knowledge.
The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
What a brilliant, inspiring, and refreshing take on business!
These days a lot of material about business is recycled from years ago. Much of it can be referenced back to Think And Grow Rich.
This book though is a welcoming breath of fresh air when it comes to business.
I have recently become a fan of the author and this is the first book I’ve bought of this and I am not disappointed.
In the book, he explains that business is an infinite game and that you need the same mindset if you want to create something that lasts.
That means you need to focus on the long term and not the short term which is what a lot of businesses these days do unfortunately partly due to one person.
I have never heard of Milton Friedman before reading this book, and the little I learned about him I can confidently say I do not like him.
He is the reason why almost every business focuses purely on how much money they can make, despite the costs, nevermind the consumer.
The chapter on The Responsibility Of Business (Revised) was such an eye-opener, not to mention inspiring!
If you’ve ever had a feeling like something has been missing in the world of business lately, I almost certain after reading this chapter you will know why.
Whether you are a business leader or not, you should read this book.
It offers brilliant examples to get the point across and the advice is not just applicable to business.
If for some reason you cannot read the book, you can watch the following video:
The Last Hunt by Deon Meyer
Another ingenious thriller that keeps you guessing until the very end as well as a few laughs.
The duo of Benny and Cupido entertaining and also evidence of a strong friendship which everyone needs and wants.
I wished I’d been to France as it would’ve made it a bit easier to follow the locations and pronounce some of the names in the other half of the story.
You don’t know how the story will end up until the last few pages which how every suspense thriller should be.
If you are looking for something exciting, not to mention intriguing to read definitely get yourself a copy, it won’t disappoint!
While I wait for the next Benny/Cupido episode I am planning on reading a previous one. Perhaps Icarus?
Invest in Yourself by Colin P Dunbar
With the passing of my father at the beginning of the year, I thought it would be fitting to read something he wrote.
And so I decided to read one of his autobiographies that goes from when his career started up until 2004.
Even though I remember some of it, it was interesting learning about the things I didn’t know or forgot about.
I also felt great pride and admiration for my father in the way he didn’t give up and kept trying to achieve the goals he set.
It is a testament that you can achieve anything you want to and that you should never give up.
For me, the most valuable part of reading this was the lessons that I can learn from so that I don’t make the same mistakes my father did which I believe is what my father would have wanted.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
I thought I understood what habits are and how they work, this book proved that I had no idea.
I think the term habit is used often but very few of us understand what they are, how they are formed, and why some people seem to be able to develop healthy ones while others only seem to have bad ones.
Habits are incredibly important and useful in every aspect of our lives.
In every chapter I learned something fascinating, the content is golden but that’s not all, the author was nice enough to include cheat sheets and templates that you can download and use to get the most from your habits and develop new ones that will benefit you.
I could talk about this book for several hours but I’m going to share some of the things I found I wish I knew years ago:
“The effects of small habits compound over time. For example, if you can get just 1 percent better each day, you’ll end up with results that are nearly 37 times better after one year.”
A habit formed according to how many repetitions are done, and not for how long.
“Habits can be completed in a few seconds but continue to impact your behavior for minutes or hours afterward.”
Our human brains are wired to prioritize immediate rewards (instant gratification) over delayed rewards, however, in recent centuries our lives have become filled with delayed choices such as career planning, retirement planning, etc.
If you were like me and thought you understood habits, I highly suggest getting this book and giving it a read. Everything you thought you knew can be turned upside down.
The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony
If I could sum up this book in one word, it would be WOW!
The book was in my father’s library and I had heard about it on more than one occasion which was one of the reasons why I decided to read it.
I am so happy that I did, on more than one occasion I was filled with envy because of the experiences that Lawrence and others had while working on the Thula Thula game reserve.
I can’t imagine what living this type of lifestyle, perhaps someday I will find out.
At the beginning of the book, Lawrence explains that he doesn’t possess some magical skill that helped with communicating with the herd of elephants instead the book is about how expressed their feelings and emotions with him and in the process taught him many valuable lessons.
But the book is not only about the herd of elephants, there is also Max, David, and Brendan.
Not to mention the sometimes intense tribal meetings with the surrounding Zulu tribes.
This book was so refreshing and inspiring, restoring my faith in humanity. I am so grateful that there are people like Lawrence protecting animals and forming incredible bonds with them, we need more people like Lawrence.
I would like to end with a few words from the book that I completely agree with:
“If there is one thing I disapprove of it’s the unnatural capture and taming of wild animals, whether an elephant or a bird. To me, the only good cage is an empty cage.”
With the restrictions and lockdown due to COVID-19, I wasn’t able to do a transcendental meditation session as well as volunteer at an animal shelter, both of which I am hoping to do in 2021.
Even though I have been using Node.js for some time now, I don’t have a comprehensive understanding of it especially when it comes to setting and creating a Node.js server.
This year I want like to do a course on Node.js so that I can utilize it better and learn more about it.
I was planning to do a Python course last year but never got around to it. With the direction I am currently in, I might give this a skip for now and return to it at a later date.
At the moment that is all the plans for 2021, if the COVID-19 situation improves I might look at adding more to my plans.
I hope you enjoyed reading my 2020 recap and if you have any comments or questions please post them below.