Did you watch The Rings of Power or The House of the Dragon this year?
Both new shows were perfectly…fine. They took place in lovely locations, had solid production values, and were a good connection to their respective universes. However, both shows felt like they were setting the chess board and moving the pieces around to prepare for the REAL show, which will take place in Season 2.
My 2022 was just like that, just with fewer wizards and dragons (unfortunately).
This is my third annual review, which is two more than I thought I’d actually complete by now:
This annual practice was inspired by my friends James Clear and Chris Guillebeau. The goal is to take a few days to actually reflect on how the year went, and see if I’m l deliberately moving in the direction of the type of life I want to live.
Specifically, am I living a life that’s congruent with my values?
2023 was my first year of married life, and my first year (kinda) in the new role at my own company. It came with the excitement and terror of starting a big, new creative endeavor. It also had plenty of travel, plenty of good food, a LOT of golf, and the first year in a decade where I adjusted my overall strategy to my health and fitness.
Here’s the breakdown:
2022 was settling further into life in Nashville with my wife Alex and the dogs. It was also a year of crazy travel that surprised me when I looked back. Lastly, it was a year in which I struggled to find my footing on how I wanted a typical day to look.
I FINALLY built a journaling habit, and between that and reading a few books on time and creativity, I realized I had strayed quite a bit from why I started all of this in the first place!
My goal is to just be a creator who does interesting things, has interesting conversations, and shares fun work that inspires people to live differently.
Everything else is superfluous.
In Ryan Holiday’s Discipline is Destiny, he talks about the ability to “keep the main thing the main thing.” I built my career on creating content that got people to live differently, and accidentally found myself in charge of a 40-person SEO-driven coaching company.
My day was spent studying Google Analytics and management books, not doing creative work that lasts.
2022 was the START of a return to creative life, and taking a deeper look at my values and seeing where I could make some changes. I realized I wasn’t living a life aligned with the goals I truly wanted to focus on. So I made a simple document of my values (borrowing the idea from Georgetown professor Cal Newport), and then really pared everything back to focus my day around those values.
That focus has been largely been around CREATING more consistently. I reorganized my life over the first 8 months of 2022, and now feel like I’ve “put my ass where my heart wants to be” to quote author Steven Pressfield.
Maybe most importantly, in addition to writing more and saying NO to more things, I’ve started slowing down my expectations, and starting cutting myself some slack. This is due to Oliver Burkeman’s Four-Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals.
I have spent the past decade trying to get better and better at being more efficient and productive, and I’m finally realizing I’ll never actually “get there.” If I want to do great work, I don’t need to clear the decks before I can start. I just need to start, and be okay with other parts of my life slipping a tiny bit behind.
In other words: time management is like trying to hold back the tide. We can spend our lives perpetually living in the future, just waiting until we finish “the next thing” and then we can slow down and start living.
That’s not how life works!
In the same vein, this book finally opened my eyes to something that I knew to be true but didn’t want to believe: I’ll never have enough time to play all the best video games, watch all the best shows, watch all the best movies, listen to all the podcasts, AND do great work and be a great husband.
There’s too much content, I have too many hobbies, and life is too short. Even if I dedicated my life to reading books and playing games, I still couldn’t do it all. It’s time to let go of this pursuit.
If I want to spend time with my family, or playing music, or playing golf, and exercising, AND do important work, that really doesn’t leave time for much else.
I reread Oliver’s book twice, and came to the conclusion I needed shake things up, with my day, my work, and my career. Here’s how it all went down:
2022 Work Update
I officially ‘stepped down’ from my role as CEO at Nerd Fitness in January 2022.
It was kind of weird to ‘demote’ myself, but after 12 years of being in the wrong seat in my own company, it felt freeing to acknowledge this. It wasn’t a failure or abdication, it was an acceptance of reality: I’m good at a few things, and I have a passion for a few things:
“Head of a 40 person company” isn’t one of those things.
I demoted myself to “Head of Marketing,” while simultaneously acknowledging that this wasn’t the right role for me either! In May of 2022, we brought on a true Head of Marketing at Nerd Fitness (shout out Taylor!). We now have a functioning marketing team that is humming and working incredibly well together. Honestly, I didn’t realize how bad I was at “managing” a team until I saw Taylor organize our Marketing Department, and I realized quickly just how badly I was serving my coworkers by sitting in that seat.
The final piece of the puzzle was to get me out of the day-to-day management of Nerd Fitness’s social media experience, and that was taken care by September 2022 with another new hire.
I am still creating occasional content for Nerd Fitness’s instagram page and our YouTube channel, but since October of 2023, I’ve been able to finally have a singular focus:
Write my next book.
The toughest part for me of 2022? Letting go. I still felt compelled to come to most meetings, worried that my team would think I had abandoned them. The reality? I was probably holding most of them back, or sending them on various wild goose chases instead of just letting them do their jobs!
December 2022 was a month where I was completely removed from Team NF (for travel), and it’s been incredibly helpful for me to be able to keep my focus on JUST the book, my ideas. The ideas are flowing!
After a few months of bouncing ideas back and forth with my agent, I sit here today in Arizona, in a coffee shop, with a solid book direction, and ideas for my next 2-3 books after this one.
It’s also scary as shit, and I have all the fun things that comes with working on a book: impostor syndrome, extreme self-doubt, an overwhelming desire to curl up into a ball and not do any work…
But I’m also excited in a way I haven’t been in years.
Speaking of excitement…after a 6-year hiatus, we got to do Camp Nerd Fitness again!
(More Camp NF photos here from the amazing Will Byington).
We brought a few hundred nerds back to North Georgia for a 4-day adult summer camp. For an introvert like me that hates being on stage, it’s both incredibly exhilarating and emotionally draining. I also know it’s an experience I’m lucky to be a part of, and I’m glad we got a chance to do it again.
Oh I also got to dress up like Quailman from the cartoon Doug, but I was clearly upstaged by George Titsworth’s “Matt, a radar technician costume,” and a solid Ellen Ripley from TaylorTries:
Now that I’ve handed over most of my day-to-day responsibilities to far more capable people at Nerd Fitness, my brain has been back to focusing on the creative process, something I haven’t had the space (or the confidence to attempt), in probably six or seven years.
2022 Creative Update
In addition to Instagram and other video content for Nerd Fitness, I managed to publish a few pieces on SteveKamb.com in 2022:
You’ll notice a theme: rebuilding the muscle of creating again. It took 8 months of 2022 to reorganize myself and the company to get me out of the way, which is 8 months longer than I wanted it to take, but that’s okay. As I learned from Four Thousand Weeks, everything is going to take longer than expected, it’s never going to really get easier, and life is happening NOW.
I didn’t need to clear the deck, I need to just suck it up and prioritize the stuff that’s most important to me:
- Absorbing interesting material for future content creation.
- Having interesting experiences for future content creation.
- Writing more often than not-writing.
The biggest creative change I made in 2022 was finally started taking the “everything is material” mantra seriously.
I read a LOT, and watch a lot of great shows, listen to a lot of great podcasts, have a lot of great conversations, but often don’t retain a lot of the information I hear/read.
So I’ve implemented a new “second brain” system that has been in action for about 6 months.
I downloaded Roam (RoamResearch.com) and have been wading deeper and deeper into creating a system for content and idea capture. Essentially, it’s like building my own “wikipedia.” I highlight favorite passages and quotes in books and articles I read in my Kindle (I use the newest Kindle Paperwhite), I then take the time after reading each book to document the content in Roam, and share my perspective on them.
By doing so, I’m both absorbing the information more fully AND creating future places to draw content connections from.
Each idea, person, place, gets a page. With each new idea, new connections are automatically created. A wordmap of all my pages and ideas is also generated. And over time, unusual pairings or unique perspectives start to pop out.
Articles, books, and content starts to become much easier to generate, simply because it’s all being pulled from my second brain, which is one giant interconnected wiki. This is a digital version of the Zettelkasten notecard system.
I use an app called Captio to email myself quick notes and thoughts each day. The next morning, I quickly process all the emails to myself to see where they belong:
- A new page or idea in Roam.
- A new task or an update to a task in Asana (project management software).
It’s been 4 months of really diving into Roam, but this is already starting to pay dividends. My only regret is not doing so sooner! I’m revisiting a lot of my older favorite books so that I can truly flesh out my second brain of content ideas and adventures.
Now, in addition to reading books and documenting the fun adventure, I also traveled quite a bit in 2022 which led to plenty of fun experiences and ideas too.
2022 Travel Update
I honestly forgot how much I traveled until I started putting this recap together – no wonder I feel stretched a bit thin! After two years of traveling significantly less, this was like letting all of the air out of the balloon at once.
February: Alex and I drove out to Arizona for a few weeks to escape Nashville winter, and to spend time with her parents. I also played a LOT of Elden Ring (my game of the year) remotely via my PS5, and it was totally worth the wait.
March: This was followed up with my annual trip to visit my brother in San Diego for the first weekend of March Madness. It’s been something we’ve done off and on for the past 15 years, and it’s something I was glad to finally bring back.
I also got a chance to spend time with my buddy Sameer at a beach bar. There’s nothing better than a hazy IPA, college basketball on TV in an open air bar at 3PM, and the ocean breeze rolling through:
May: Things started to get crazy. I had Camp Nerd Fitness in Georgia (above in Work), and then immediately flew to Scotland to spend time with my wife who was over there on a work trip. She built an AMAZING itinerary, and it led to some epic experiences that really invigorated my love of travel again. Her parents even flew over to do some whiskey tasting and join us on a few hikes.
(If you go to Instagram.com/SteveKamb and click on the Scotland highlight, you can see the WHOLE trip)
July: I flew out to Bandon, Oregon for a 5 day golf-trip at Bandon Dunes (home of 4 of the top 10 public courses in America), where I played 9 rounds of golf in 5 days with a killer group of 12 dudes. My feet and body were wrecked, but my heart was full. More on this in the “Fitness and Golf” section.
Two days after returning from Bandon, it was time to drive up to Cape Code to visit my family for the summer, including meeting my niece for the first time! Here she is with my Gramma (her Great Gramma):
August: off to Tampa for another golf trip with my Vanderbilt friends. No clue why we picked Tampa in August, which was unbelievably hot and muggy. Still fun though!:
Things finally slowed down for the months of September and October, only to go absolutely haywire in November again.
November: We started with a big fake Thanksgiving for a week out in San Diego. My family and Alex’s family were all there:
The day after Thanksgiving, I flew down to Puerto Rico to meet up with my buddy Cash (friend since first grade) and head out on the SeaDream on the invite of my mentor and old boss, Andy Levine.
It was a small charter to my favorite place on the planet: Jost Van Dyke (home of the famous Soggy Dollar Bar). Highlights included hanging out with my longtime friends Dr. Morrie and Barb, Ashley, and old co-worker Kappy (who now manages one of the biggest country acts on the planet) – watching the US soccer match at a beach bar in St. John, and catching up with all my old friends from my past pre-Nerd Fitness life!
The day after returning from this cruise, absolutely wrecked because I partied like I was 26 and not 38, my wife and I drove out to Arizona.
December: After a few days in Arizona getting ready, and one technical delay (which was totally my fault), we caught flights to New Zealand to spend the end of the year for our anniversary/honeymoon. See the full story by clicking on New Zealand on Instagram.com/SteveKamb:
Looking back, no wonder many of the other parts of my life fell behind: my workouts weren’t super consistent, my golf game didn’t really improve, my work schedule was haphazard, and we accomplished significantly less when it came to renovating our house (unlike last year!).
HOWEVER! I’m totally okay with this. Life happens outside the gym. I could do this travel and Nerd Fitness didn’t suffer because we finally put the right people in the right places!
2022 House Update
With all of our travel and me reorganizing my entire work-life, quite a bit of the work we wanted to do happened on a slower timeline, and that’s okay.
There were a few big ones:
My office finally came together! Alex designed an UNBELIEVABLE office for me, and over many months we finally got it built. It now looks phenomenal whenever I’m on camera or Zoom meetings, and I’m inspired every time I sit down to work.
Outside of the office, we got our driveway redone, and fixed the front of our house too.
Oh and Alex built one heck of a side garden!
We also had some new tenants in our walls we had to evict: squirrels! So far we’ve had to evict a raccoon, moles, voles, and armadillos from our property – we live IN civilization, I promise. Squirrels were a cakewalk comparatively.
We have big plans for 2023, but I’m also cutting us some slack and acknowledging that this stuff will take as much time as it takes. Luckily I don’t believe we’ll be traveling as much.
Onto my physical scorecard for the year…
2022 Fitness and Golf!
Due to all the shit going on in 2022, I pretty much coasted on my fitness. In other words, I didn’t gain or lose weight, and I didn’t really gain or lose progress on my lifts.
Looking back at Evernote, here’s how the workouts broke down by month:
- January: 18
- February: 9
- March: 10
- April: 18
- May: 10
- June: 17
- July: 6
- August: 16
- September: 10
- October: 16
- November: 10
- December: 3
This is easily the ‘least’ amount of time I’ve spent with a barbell since I was probably 18, but I’m also obviously in a different phase of life. I have a family and hobbies and dogs and travel and rearranging my entire work life:
My mentality about training is very different now.
I train in the “gym” (my basement) for life outside of the gym. Travel and life was more important to me than my fitness, so I was okay just putting things on auto-pilot. After working with my friend Anthony for the past 7 years, with him now being a father of two and me moving into a different phase of my life, we amicably parted ways and I’m back to doing my own ‘programming’ for the past 6 months.
I’ll probably hire another trainer in the near future, but with a different focus as I approach my 40s, with a few areas of excitement:
- Mobility and injury bullet-proofing
- Gymnastics and strength training
I’m also on board with fitness coming second in my life to another hobby that I picked back up at the beginning of the pandemic: golf!
I continued to take lessons over at Profectus golf, and each lesson feels like 3 steps back before I take 3.5 steps forward.
The best round of the year was a 78 I made while playing at Gaylord Springs with my friend Sameer. He also got a chance to witness my 3rd-ever eagle at Nashboro Golf Club. After 20 years of no eagles and not breaking 80, it’s been awesome to break 80 twice and get two eagles in the past year.
My BEST shots are getting better – I still have trouble removing the bad shots and bad individual holes from the scorecard. I’m currently hitting the driving range regularly to continue to simplify my swing and reduce those mistakes.
I did get a chance to play golf in 3 epic places.
Scotland (Braveheart golf, essentially):
Bandon Dunes (9 rounds in 5 days!)
New Zealand (I felt like I was playing golf in The Shire):
I probably carded 30+ rounds, by far the most rounds of golf I’ve ever played in a year since high school. My handicap also improved fairly dramatically, getting down to an 8.6, currently a 9.4.
Heel bursitis kept me off the course for most of October and November, and now I’m I’m tinkering with my swing during the offseason, so I’m probably playing closer to a 15 at this point.
The hope is that 6 months from now, the foundation of my golf swing is significantly strong and the mistakes start to get smaller and less frequent. We shall see!
2022 Media Recap
Favorite Video Games: Elden Ring, by far, was the best game I played all year. It might be the best game I’ve ever played. Ever.
Zelda Breath of the Wild is up there with best ever, but nothing has captured my attention the way Elden Ring did.
The world design is brilliant. The level design is unparalleled. The enemy design is barbaric and demonic and gorgeous. I think I played 200 hours of this game between February and April. It took over my brain.
I also REALLY enjoyed Outer Wilds, which is one of the best “puzzle” experiences I’ve had in a game (up there with The Witness). I played through and would recommend Returnal, Ghost of Tsushima, and God of War: Ragnarok.
I played plenty of great indie games too:
- Loop Hero
- Death’s Door
Favorite show: Bill Burr at Bridgestone Arena. Burr is my favorite comedian – his podcast has been part of my life for probably 8 years. Seeing him at the top of his game, commanding the attention of tens of thousands…it’s amazing.
Favorite podcast: Ramit Sethi’s I will Teach You To Be Rich: Ramit interviews couples about money, but REALLY he’s interviewing them about their upbringings, deeply held beliefs, and everything in between. Alex and I can’t get enough of it!
My favorite non-fiction book: Four-Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. This is one of the books that I’ll look back on a decade from now and say “my life was different as a result of that book.” Tyler Cowen calls this a “quake book”, because it shakes your core.
My favorite fiction book: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. Great recommendation from my friend Megan – it’s about a young Korean man who starts developing video games with his friends. It’s so well written that I feel like I KNOW these characters intimately. Even if you don’t care about video games, please read.
Favorite movies: Everything Everywhere All at Once and Top Gun: Maverick, with some fun campy horror shout-outs to Saint Maud and Barbarian.
Favorite shows: White Lotus and Andor. The Season 2 theme song to White Lotus plays each morning as I’m writing. No joke.
I started cataloging my content consumption (with Roam), and thanks to Oliver, continually realized I’ll never be able to “do it all.” I’ve stopped books that no longer held my attention. I didn’t get 100% completion on games that stopped being fun. I gave up on shows halfway through.
Life is short, there’s so much great content out there that time can’t be wasted on sunk-cost fallacies!
Lately, I’ve been scaling back my podcast and gaming to only the BEST stuff, and freeing up more time to read and think.
2022 OVERALL GRADE
In the picture above, I’m trying to figure out the right way to go while biking in Scotland, which perfectly lines up with my struggles in 2022: trying to figure it out!
I’ll give myself a C+/B- for 2022, with a caveat: it was the first year back after a 2-year pandemic (which is still ongoing), a wedding that got delayed, moving into a new house (that’s 80 years old), and a complete rearranging of my company and my place within that company.
I learned to slow down a bit, stopped expecting things to happen quickly, and to stop ONLY living for the future.
Like House of the Dragon, most of the time was spent moving chess pieces around to gear up for Season 2. Plenty happened, I got to travel the world with my wife and play golf in some of the most amazing locations ever, I started a journaling habit that I was able to stick with for most of the year.
2023 is gonna be that Season 2. The pieces have been moved. It’s time to advance the plot!
2023 and Beyond
I write this post from an AirBNB in Arizona, where I’m staying with my wife and my two dogs.
I’ve narrowed and simplified my life considerably – I wake up each morning and I write. I play some golf, I hit the gym, and I read books.
I took the time to create my Values System, which I can now make sure I’m in alignment on when it comes to how I’m spending my time.
This month has been a return to form for training. I am going to hire another online coach, and come up with some goals and routines as I approach my final 18 months of my 30s.
The goals for 2023:
- Get a book deal and finish Draft 1 of Book 2.
- I regained the rights to Level Up Your Life. I’d like to get a 2nd edition done!
- Get my 4 workouts per week done, with an emphasis on mobility.
- Practice golf once per week.
- Advance a few major house projects.
- Community and life in Nashville: seeing friends weekly.
These are just rough guidelines – I’m going to focus on making each day a good day. And figure these goals should take care of themselves.