Originally published on 4 January 2021
Here we are again dear reader, the beginning of another year.
Now while most people are celebrating the fact that 2020 is over, we have to remember the change is arbitrary. 2021 isn’t some magical cure.
Nevertheless, I woke up this morning and felt different. I don’t know about you, but the year ahead fills me with hope and optimism.
As I mentioned in my previous email before the end of the year, I’m treating this newsletter a bit differently this year. I’m using this space to look forward, to tease out new ideas, and to share what I’m learning.
Before I kick things off, here’s a “quick” look at the 20 things that made my life better in 2020.
Okay, let’s start learning!
What can origami teach us of the world?
Robert Lang is a former NASA scientist turned origami expert.
In 2008, he gave a TedTalk about “using math and engineering principles to fold mind-blowingly intricate designs that are beautiful and, sometimes, very useful.”
You probably have no interest or reason to watch his TedTalk. However, half way through he shows this diagram:
He talks about how he takes a subject (beetle) and turns it into a replicated origami model.
“Now the first step is pretty easy. Take an idea, draw a stick figure. The last step is not so hard, but that middle step – going from the abstract description to the folded shape – that’s hard.”
The middle part, the hardest part, Lang explains, is overcome by following the four simple rules of origami (which I won’t get into here but is worth looking up).
Four rules, that’s it. What I learned from this talk wasn’t how to fold a piece of paper into a creature. Rather, I learned that if you understand the underlying rules, you can achieve anything.
The physical world obeys the laws of nature.
Businesses follow the rules of economics.
Even art has rules.
In other words, instead of fretting over how to bring your ideas into the world, spend some time studying the rules.
Frederick Law Olmsted won a superintendent job at 35
Not just any superintendent job, the one to oversee the design and development of the then unknown “Central Park” of New York City.
Today, Olmsted is renown for his landscape architecture around the world. But back in 1858, he was nothing more than a wandering journalist with a small interest in parks and gardens.
That is until he and good friend, Calvert Vaux, submitted their idea to a design competition for a new park to be built in New York City. Their design won, why? Because it was the only one to include sunken transverse roadways effectively hiding the much-needed cross traffic.
While all the other designs followed the prompt to include crossing roadways, Olmsted and Vaux were the only ones to creatively work around them.
Now, we obviously live in a much different time, one that seems to value credentials over ideas.
But you never know, sometimes an idea comes along that changes your life. Some can even change the world.
$14,383 of credit card debt, gone in 366 days
On January 1, 2020 I awoke in a sweat. Not because I foresaw the dumpster fire of a year that was to follow, but because of a credit card bill totaling $14,383.
On January 1, 2021, exactly 366 days later (2020 was a leap year), my wife and I paid off the remaining balance of our bill.
That’s right, we started 2021 credit card debt free!
Exactly how we managed to pay off all this debt while also saving up to buy our first house is the focus of my next article.
In a year of sacrifice and setbacks, we conquered something that continues to plague many people today. We set rules for ourselves, we changed our mindset around spending, and we kept things simple.
Here’s a look at our credit card debt (red) versus cash on hand (blue) throughout the past year. (The dip in Sept/Oct is when we purchased our house.)
I’m excited for this article and will let you know when it comes out. In the meantime, I cannot stress enough the importance of forward-looking budgeting. We couldn’t have achieved our results without it and is why I continue to recommend You Need a Budget as the best budgeting software out there.
As I mentioned above, this is the new format of my newsletter. Many of these musings might be fleshed out into full-length articles. Others might simply remain musings.
My goal is to learn and share what I learn all year.
If you stumble across anything interesting, feel free to send it over. My inbox is always open.
Until next week,