“This space that has been granted to us rushes by so speedily and so swiftly that all save a very few find life at an end just when they are getting ready to live.”-Seneca
2021 was a Tale of Two Cities for your boy Steve: the best of times and the worst of times. My 2020 Retrospective covered all of the parts of life that dramatically changed last year:
- My fiancée Alex and I moved to Nashville and rented a house.
- A month after that, we postponed our wedding by a full year.
- Two months later, we bought a house.
- Outside of two road trips to visit family, we lived like Hobbits.
- On Christmas Eve, we adopted a second dog, Olive.
- Team Nerd Fitness exploded in size, and we had our best year ever.
I hoped 2021 would be a “return to normalcy.” Looking back now in the early days of 2022, it’s pretty obvious that “normalcy” has left the f***ing building.
And it ain’t coming back.
2021 Life Updates
Let’s start with the fun, exciting stuff. Alex and I finally got married!
In mid 2020, we pushed our Dec 2020 wedding back by 12 months, which seemed extreme at the time. We knew vaccines were coming and assumed an extra year would give the world a chance to get its shit together.
By June 2021, with the vaccine rolling out everywhere and America seemingly on the rebound, we decided to move forward with our wedding. We sent out new Save the Dates, we updated our website, and we put the wheels in motion to get hitched.
And then a month later, the Delta Variant started ripping through the country (Tennessee especially). Unnerved but undeterred, Alex and I (okay, mostly Alex) continued planning for an as-scheduled wedding, hoping that Delta would wind down before our wedding would happen.
What we held strong to: the wedding and all parties were taking place outdoors, in an international location: Aruba! Alex and I had visited the Marriott in Aruba twice prior, and thought it would be the perfect spot for a 4-day party with all of our friends and family.
We also knew all guests would be vaccinated, need to get texted before landing and before returning home. This made us feel much safer about planning a wedding with Alex’s 92-year old grandmother involved!
And then a comical list of “omg what next” events took place:
Our wedding planner got sick just 6 weeks before the wedding. One day it was “can we push our meeting back by an hour?” and then two weeks of radio silence, followed by “She no longer works with this company, we’re assigning you a new wedding planner.” Luckily Jessika who stepped in absolutely CRUSHED it!
Then…weeks before the wedding, first details about Omicron started coming out, and Alex and I just started laughing. We had planned and paid for this 4-day party, and the rules on how to visit Aruba were changing daily. In fact, days before we were scheduled to leave, the CDC changed their plans for allowing people into the country from international destinations.
However, Omicron hadn’t spread widely yet. Cases in Aruba were low. Everybody who got to Aruba had to be tested, we asked all guests to be vaccinated, and everybody had to test on the way home as well.
So we figured it was now or never: The wedding was on!
Of course, the best laid schemes of mice and men…
On the day we were scheduled to travel to Aruba, Nashville had a torrential storm that grounded all flights for hours:
Because we couildn’t get to Aruba that day any more (after getting up at 4AM and having a 6AM flight)…our Covid Tests were now invalid due to a 72-hour window rule.
So we got off the plane…
Rented a car…
Got NEW covid tests…
Then drove to Atlanta…
Spent the night…
And then flew to Aruba the next day.
For as many things that had gone wrong before the wedding, everything went right from the moment we set foot on Aruban soil.
We started with a welcome Party on Wednesday at sunset, and I was overwhelmed with joy at seeing all of our friends and family in the same place at the same time! I hate the spotlight, but I do love giving people a reason to get together.
So I’ll take it 🙂
Thursday was a beach party (complete with steel drum), followed by a killer rehearsal dinner at Infini.
Friday was the actual wedding. HOO BOY!
I enlisted the help of Barron Cuadro from EffortlessGent.com, who helped me figure out my suit situation so I didn’t look like a complete chump next to my bride. Rented tuxes never fit me correctly, so I invested in a custom suit from SuitSupply. It was fairly pricey, but I’ve never felt more like James Bond.
I also rocked some pretty epic Captain America Cufflinks that let me stay a bit nerdy.
The ceremony itself kicked all sorts of ass: a violinist and guitarist to play our favorite songs. Alex’s gramma served as our “flower granny” which was a highlight.
Alex and I didn’t do any sort of first look, so I didn’t get a chance to see her until she was walking down the aisle.
DAMN SHE LOOKED GOOD!
One of my best friends from college, Megan Morgalis, served as our officiant. My brother Jack was my Best Man, and two of my best friends served as groomsmen.
After the ceremony, it was time for cocktail hour poolside, dinner and dancing:
And then yes, everybody ended up in the pool.
It was surreal having all of our friends and family in one place for a 4 day party. In my opinion, it was worth every penny, every gray hair, and every ounce of shortened life expectancy.
Of course, Alex might feel differently, as she bore the brunt of the planning and stress around each detail…
But now that we’re married she’s stuck with me 🙂
Something I’ve known for a decade finally hit me square in the head, around May of 2021: I’m not a particularly good boss or manager.
I’m terrible at managing people and overseeing initiatives. I don’t particularly enjoy managing and stewarding a ship of 50 people.
I love making stuff, I love writing, I love the creative process. I love sharing my ideas in interesting ways. I like working with my hands. I like DOING stuff.
I am a creator.
And for the past 5+ years, I haven’t been doing much of that.
2021 was the year I rectified this: I dipped my toe back in the creativity pool by creating content daily for Nerd Fitness’s Instagram, and that got me kickstarted. It was mostly memes, but I enjoyed the constraints to keep me creating:
I also started sharing regularly on Twitter, and it seems to be resonating. Here’s my most popular tweet of the year:
I try to think of creating for Nerd Fitness in terms of stand-up comedy:
- Twitter is my “Tuesday night at the Cellar” attempt to try out new material.
- For those tweets that truly land, I can then punch them up and incorporate them into my regular act (Instagram).
- And then if they do well on Instagram, they might make it into my special (long form articles).
Speaking of which, I didn’t write nearly as much long form content as I would have liked. I did publish a few posts on SteveKamb.com:
- 2020: A retrospective
- What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: Lessons from Seinfeld
- Bo Burnham’s Brilliant Burrito Ballad
I’m starting to detect a pattern in the stuff I enjoy writing about: I’m fascinated with the creative process and the challenges of putting one’s work out into the world.
So, as I spent the first half of the year making stuff, I finally accepted the truth that THIS is what makes me happiest: when I’m writing and creating.
It led me to make two big decisions with Nerd Fitness:
I realized I was holding my own company back with my role in my own company.
I made some big changes towards the top of my organization in June 2021, and spent the second half of 2021 unwinding a few things and making some bigger changes.
The most important decision: I promoted my COO, Adam Baker, to become the CEO of Nerd Fitness. I’m shifting myself over to “Chief Creative Officer.”
What does my future look like? More creation. I’m working on a second book proposal, and considering what type of podcast it would be fun to host/create.
It’s taken 6+ months to get this new strategy sorted out, and probably months more before everything is humming along, but for the first time in a long time, it feels right.
My biggest challenge? I’m good when my back is against the wall, or when I’m on the hook to deliver, but less motivated when things are going well.
I’d like to synthetically replicate those things without losing my creative fire.
And I believe this means my best efforts should be on building the habit of “chop wood, carry water.” When I just need to create for creativity’s sake, how do I stay hungry? I believe a second book deadline would help, but also building the daily habit of making things.
I also have tremendous Impostor Syndrome.
I’m fortunate to have very creative and successful friends that inspire the heck out of me. But their work also intimidates me – it’s easy for me to say my work isn’t good enough to be published in comparison to their body of work, but I’ve come to realize I’m playing a different game than them!
And that’s what SteveKamb.com has become, and I hope will continue to become: a place for me to chase my curiosities and see what the hell comes out of it.
2021 House Rennovations Update
I’m now a seasoned home owner (18 months, lol), and this year brought all the highs and lows that come with ownership:
We completely re-did our guest room (well, Alex did most of it), and now it looks absolutely fantastic. Except now it’s pretty much a “dogs lie on the bed and bark at the squirrels in the back yard room:”
We started renovating my home office, which will eventually have floor-to-ceiling book shelves, something i’ve always wanted. I’ve just never stayed in a place long enough to make it worth it!
We got new air conditioning units… and then two days later had a flood of epic proportions.
Torrential rains over the course of one night, and a backed up drain led to 18 inches of water in our basement. Turns out our home gym also had a pool installed:
Fortunately, everything dried out, nothing important was ruined, nobody was hurt, and we turned it into quite the party.
We continued to upgrade our yard and surrounding property, getting our poison-ivy filled hedges removed and a new wooden fence installed:
Oh, and Alex built one HELL of a garden. I helped with the manual labor, but she did all the work:
We put quite a few projects on hold to both financially and mentally prepare for our wedding, but we still managed to get quite a bit done during the year.
Lastly, I noticed a shift in myself towards the end of the year.
I spent the first 12 months of homeownership lamenting the upkeep and renovations. I couldn’t wait to be “done.”
Now? I’m finding a better rhythm.
I work on a house project with Alex, I’m not complaining like a toddler as I do it, and then occasionally take a weekend or two to play video games or catch up on a bunch of books.
2021 Golf and Fitness
In 2021 I managed to do something I hadn’t done since I was 18.
I broke 80 for 18 holes of golf!
I also had my first eagle in 20 years.
And I shot even par on 9-holes for the first time ever.
Even better? I did all of these things in the same round.
On the morning of my wedding.
Wearing sneakers, using rented clubs, 3 beers deep, and playing in 30MPH winds on a tough course in Aruba.
I shot a 77 at Tierra Del Sol in Aruba, while playing with my dad, brother and childhood best friend.
It was the best round of golf I’ve ever played. I shot a 42 on the front, and an even par 35 on the back, complete with an Eagle and two birdies.
Comically, I think it was because of the wedding later that day that I played so well. I was so scared about getting sunburned that my brain was preoccupied the whole round. Sure, the few beers also probably took some of the edge off!
I got a chance to play a fun round at Sweeten’s Cove outside of Chattanooga, TN too:
I continued my lessons with Errol over at Profectus Golf, and I have no doubt it was these monthly lessons that helped me put each of the pieces of my swing together for my big round.
I finally decided to upgrade my golf clubs, and will be retiring my Titleist 981s (20+ years old!) in favor of new Taylor Made P770s. At Profectus I was hitting these irons a good 15-20 yards farther than my old clubs.
I played 13 rounds of Golf, which is definitely the most golf I’ve played in a year since high school. I was able to drop my handicap down to a 10.7, which is also the lowest it’s been since high school.
NOW! Let’s talk about workouts.
Admittedly, my workouts took a backseat to the rest of my life in 2021. But I still did them. Like brushing my teeth or showering, I worked out because that’s just what I do. I missed more workouts than I have ever missed in a year.
I probably half-assed many of them too.
- January: 18 workouts
- February: 16 workouts
- March: 14 workouts
- April: 3 workouts
- May: 12 workouts
- June: 6 workouts
- July: 10 workouts
- August: 11 workouts
- September: 15 workouts
- October: 13 workouts
- November: 15 workouts
- December: 13 workouts
Although my workouts were probably the most inconsistent they’ve been in a decade, I also stayed in pretty darn good shape. Working out just took a big back seat for me this year with everything else going on.
Fortunately, because of the 15 years of training, I could coast this year and still not need to do anything special to prepare for our beach wedding.
My coach, Anthony Mychal, has a philosophy of “never be more than 2 weeks away from your goal physique.”
That resonates with me.
I do pretty good, 95% of the time.
I took 3 big trips (3+ weeks out in Arizona, a week in San Diego, and 3 weeks in Cape Cod, and didn’t work out at all on any of those trips. It made for some rusty workouts the week after returning, but that’s okay.
I figured the world would return to normal once we all got vaccinated. And for a time there, we did actually travel.
We took a roadtrip out to Arizona to visit Alex’s parents for a few weeks. The road trip was actually kind of fun, and I got a chance to play quite a bit of golf out there.
We flew out to visit my brother Jack and his wife in San Diego, which was the first time on a plane in 18 months:
I also got to meet up with two longtime internet friends!
Dr. Spencer Nadolsky, whose internet meme game is unparalleled:
And Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, who was nice enough to take me for a ride in his sweet Tesla:
This was at the lowest point of Covid transmission on the year, so we felt very safe and didn’t run into any issues.
We also took a month and drove up to Cape Cod, MA to visit my parents for the summer, and had 3 weeks of relaxation as well.
Oh, and we flew to Aruba for a week for our wedding! So, 4 total flight
2021 Media Quick Recap
I feel like I still spent too much time CONSUMING Media and not enough time CREATING my own…but I at least managed to consume some damn good stuff.
I’m also now realizing this section is kind of half-assed, but that’s alright. I’m trying to downplay media consumption in my life, so maybe it’s appropriate! Ha!
I watched Ken Burn’s Civil War series. For an extra $4/month, PBS unlimited through Amazon Prime is one of the best deals out there. I plan on making my way through lots of other documentaries as time allows.
My favorite special of the year was Bo Burnham’s “Inside,” which totally feels like an accurate next phase for the man that wrote the Kanye Rant.
On the literary front, I read the first 1/3rd of the first 1/3rd of the Churchill Biography. That is gonna be an adventure in itself.
After watching the show on which it was based, I started reading The Expanse Book series, and this quickly took over most of my reading time for months and months. I’m now 6 books in, and can’t wait to see how this wraps up.
I read tons of other books, but none of them gripped me the way Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks did.
I hate hyperbole, but this might be the most important book I’ve read in the past decade. It’s responsible for my large sense of calm I’ve felt since getting married.
Here’s one particular quote that jumped out at me:
“It turns out that when people make enough money to meet their needs, they just find new things to need and new lifestyles to aspire to; they never quite manage to keep up with the Joneses, because whenever they’re in danger of getting close, they nominate new and better Joneses with whom to try to keep up.”Oliver Burkeman
I also did the impossible – at the behest of my friend Mark, I finally managed to read ALL of War & Peace. And made this video to commemorate the journey:
I played through 4 big video games in 2021:
- Dark Souls 3 (my grade: B)
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (my grade: B-)
- Demons’s Souls (my grade: B+)
- Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (my grade: B)
I fell in love with FromSoftware’s video games, and managed to complete all games Miyazaki has created since Demon’s Souls. I’m eagerly anticipating Elden Ring.
Favorite movie of the year: Spider-Man: No Way Home. This felt like epic, homage, and self-awareness done RIGHT.
I’m realizing this is feeling a bit light, and have resolved to start documenting my favorite things as they happen throughout the year so that 2022’s media recap is a bit more beefy!
Or, more individual articles are crafted here on SteveKamb.com. Only time will tell!
2022 and Beyond
I type this recap in early 2022 with an overall sense of calm I don’t think I’ve ever felt.
I feel like I’ve spent the past decade always working towards the next thing, and staying unsatisfied until I get there. Of course, I’d always move the goal posts to further prolong my dissatisfaction, or life would pull the football out from underneath me before I could kick it.
Now? I’m just focused on being present.
I am excited to renovate this house at a reasonable pace, but also to enjoy it along the way.
I’m pumped to get my new office finished, but I’m not in a rush.
I’m excited to continue playing golf and improving my swing, but I’m not going to be disappointed if I have a bad round.
My workouts are back on track, and I plan on bulking up while reaching for a goal of a simple set of 5 on a 225 back squat. Squats have always been my weakness, so I’ll be slowly plugging away at reaching this goal, but at a comfortable pace as dictated by my coach Anthony.
I’m hoping Omicron subsides, and Alex and I can start to rejoin society again here in Nashville. We took this entire pandemic with an abundance of caution, but I also think it’s time to start really putting down roots.
I’ve started doing Morning Pages (as laid out in The Artist’s Way), and it’s helped me start each day in 2022 with actually writing and creating.
Alex and I will take a honeymoon at some point in 2022, provided we can do so safely and without spending the entire time stuck in quarantine!
I’m starting up a book club with some friends.
I’m hoping to finish a book proposal and get a second book deal, but I’m also not too worried how that shakes out. The important part will be writing the proposal and the book.
Let’s see what the rest of this year brings. I don’t have expectations or goals.
Instead, I’m going to work on being creative each day, spending time with my family, and seeing where this leads me.
I’m hopeful for things to improve, but I’m also quite happy with where things are now.
Let’s do this.