Goodbye Old Year, Hello New: The Best and Worst of 2018

Here’s an understatement:  It’s been a year. I’m happy to say that all is overwhelmingly good. The family has health and good fortune and despite the ups and downs of daily life we have had no major difficulties to speak of. That said I thought I would put together a quick rundown of the best and worst of 2018 – this should give you and me and clean slate to work from in 2019.

green grass covered rock formation at daytime
Photo by Jacob Aguilar-Friend on Unsplash

This year included our first forays into youth baseball, cub scouts and a full year with our puppy Hazel.  We’ve made new friends and neighbors, made great progress at work and managed to fit in a few fun family reunions this year.

Social Media

Social media really has been turned on its head this year! I say this as a digital marketer and long time user of several social platforms. 

  • Facebook has gone from being the tool of choice for businesses to one that has left brands scratching their heads. 
  • Google Plus has finally been shuttered.
  • Twitter has sorted some of its technology handicaps and resolved controversial features such as the 140 character limit, and it’s actually become a joy to use, yet the user base has shrunk. 
  • LinkedIn has become overcrowded and sterile. 

All in all, it has provided those of us in industry with an opportunity to reevaluate how we use these platforms, what engagement is really valuable, and what ways can we differentiate our content.  I think the next year will prove to be interesting and exciting, but we’ve got quite a bit of work to do.

Blogging

I made a single post this year, not including this one. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I didn’t prioritize posting next to other things. I started many but broke my own commitment to finish those posts and launch them. I resolve to get over that and post regularly this year. 

The post I did make was one out of frustration with the growing amount of anti-semitism in the world today. Pittsburgh was a wake up call that it is still alive and well here at home in the US, but recent news shows it starting to manifest itself in many other places ranging from the writings of Alice Walker to Belgian soccer matches. Turns out this trend has been visible for the last several years, particularly across Europe as noted in this recent report on antisemitism in Europe.

Pop-Culture

Greats that we lost this year were many, but I was especially touched by the losses of Stan Lee, Stephen Hawking, and Johann Johannsson. Stan started the comic book universe that was so foundational to my youth. Hawking taught me to unlock my love for hard science through application and imagination. Johannsson was an artist I only discovered in recent years for his incredibly powerful film scores that left me searching for the composer.  Such giants in their respective fields.

TV Winners: Game of Thrones (S7), Westworld (S2), Better Call Saul, Narcos, Homecoming and Ozark.

TV Losers:  House of Cards and Homeland final seasons

Podcast Favorites: Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, The Daily, Song Explorer, How I Built This, Love Your Work and Westworld: The Recappables, 

Books I Enjoyed This Year

I read and listened to a ton of books this year, which was great. That said, here are a few of my favorites. 

It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work – A very poignant new volume from DHH and Jason Fried over at Basecamp. A reassuring manifesto that you can do good, smart work in a civilized fashion and know that you can thrive at work and at home and be satisfied while doing so. This has influenced many of my interactions with colleagues this year.

The Strange Death of Europe – I’m a couple of years late on this book, but it’s been an unexpected treat in how provocative its been to my own thoughts on the global challenges with immigration and what it means to current nation states now and in the future. The book has had some harsh reviews, given its politics can be interpreted to be very conservative, but I think its a very powerful review of recent history.

The Sirens of Titan – I was inspired to read this Kurt Vonnegut classic after seeing it on the coffee table in Westworld. The book is a sometimes silly and other times horrifying adventure through our solar system, pairing ordinary people with extraordinary beings. The ultimate conclusion is a powerful sentiment about the meaning of human life, that is to love and be loved.

Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic – A meaty and somewhat heady tome on the philosophies and writings that inspired the American revolution. Highly recommended but this one takes some time to work through, particularly given how many other references it makes that you may wind up checking out. 

Turtles All The Way Down – Great young adult fiction.  I stumbled upon this and was intrigued by the title. After learning it was written by the writer of a number of really popular YA books/films, I thought I would give it a try.  Turned out to be a fantastic look into mental illness in teens that was a page turner all the way down (err.. through). Highly recommended.

Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI – Probably the greatest piece of content marketing I’ve read in years. This text by the CTO of Accenture, is effectively a pattern language for businesses exploring automation at enterprise scale. Starting with a primer on basic machine learning concepts, it expands to talk about how human resources and organizational design will change to account for these new technology paradigms.  A must if you ponder the future of work. Also great if you are trying to figure out how to make your business’ content educational and relevant to your customers.

When Breath Becomes Air – Heartbreaking true story of a surgeon gripped by cancer. The book tracks his discovery of the disease, his fight against it, and relationships with coworkers, friends and family during the period. It approaches head on the idea of preparing one’s self to die. 

The Hard Thing About Hard Things – In recent years, this became one of those business books that you’re expected to read if you follow the startup technology scene. Written by one of the founders of the leading VC firms, Ben Horowitz, this is an easy to read and honest transfer of lessons from someone who has been a part of growing or helping to grow some very significant companies of our time.

Work

This year was one to be proud of for our digital and demand generation team at ICF.  We successfully implemented and launched Marketo across our organization and made some key hires on our demand generation team.  Our web team has really started to come into its own, with a new leader and solid contributors on all fronts from content and design to SEO to analytics and optimization.  The organization also successfully completed four acquisitions in which our team played a major role of integrating sites into our experience. We also worked on launching a new brand for our marketing services agency, ICF Next – expect more on that in the coming few weeks.

Health and Fitness

This year, Yoga continued to be my go-to method. I’ve become stronger and improved my balance overall, but I’m starting to feel that I need to diversify my workouts to stay fit.  While I’m happy that I could recently get into my wedding suit comfortably, my goal is to get myself back into the shape I was when I felt best in my life. More to come in the next couple of weeks as I put my program together.

Family Trees

I’ve been deep into family tree research over the last two years, and this year led to some huge discoveries on both sides of my family. I managed to meet a few of my third and fourth cousins around the country, that I had never met and developed some great new online relationships with others. I also have managed to trace back a few of my family lines further back than I thought would be possible through DNA and document research.  I’m very excited to see what I can learn in 2019!

Thanks for reading!

Please comment or contact me directly to let me know what you have been up to. I promise to keep up my writing this year, but look forward to hearing from you and what posts you have enjoyed.


Also published on Medium.