2021 Year in Review

By Nat Eliason in Life

Published or Updated on Feb 01, 2022

Last year I spent quite a while on my annual review and goal setting.

This year I spent less time. Partially because I didn’t feel like it, and partially because almost everything from my planning last year got discarded. Funny how that works! 

That’s not to say it isn’t valuable to do a deep review. I think it is when you aren’t sure about what direction you want to move in. I feel great about where I’m headed right now though, so I want to keep moving along. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. 

Reflecting on 2021

Coming into the year I had a number of goals that I laid out in my 2021 goals & guidelines post. Probably way too many. 

Almost none of them happened, but a lot of other great stuff I didn’t include did happen! Looking at the year, the most significant things to reflect on would definitely be:

  • The birth of my daughter
  • Learning programming
  • Getting deeper into crypto
  • Quitting drinking
  • Working on Crypto Raiders

The Birth of Our Daughter

At the top of my goals for 2021 was for Cosette to get pregnant, and by mid February we knew we were expecting in October. Our daughter was born right around her due date with no complications, and she was the highlight of my year by far. 

There was a lot about Cosette’s pregnancy that was surprising, all in good ways. I wrote about it in-depth in Medley 287, but she really busted a lot of myths we had both had in our head around being pregnant. She felt great throughout, stayed really active, and the birth process was wonderful. 

Parenting, too, has been different from what we expected. For one, it’s been easier, and no it’s not just because I’m the dad saying that. Cosette agrees. I do think most of this has to do with how we structured our lives going into it though. Being healthy, having control over your time, and being comfortable financially remove most of the normal stresses that come with parenting. And having a community that values family and would rather do Saturday morning breakfast than Saturday night clubbing helps with not feeling cut off socially, too.

Knowing you have a baby coming also changes how you think about work. I’m not 100% sure how much the feasibility of the Creator Towns project motivated me to abandon it, or if it was the sudden strong drive to make money with a baby on the way. The hunting instinct when you have a kid coming is real. I don’t think I’ve ever been more productive than I was from late February to October. I probably got a couple years worth of work done in those seven months.

The strongest feeling that comes to mind reflecting on having our daughter last year is gratitude. Gratitude that we started having kids earlier than feels “normal” for our generation. Gratitude that everything went about as well as it possibly could. Gratitude that our friend group is so supportive and either is having kids of their own or excited to start. And gratitude that we’re in a situation where we can spend as much time with her as we want without having to be stressed about balancing all of our commitments. 

10/10 would recommend. Go make a baby this year. 

Learning Programming

When I stepped out of Growth Machine I was in explore mode. I wanted to find a type of work I loved doing that I could focus heavily on to start a new career. 

I talked about that exploration in “high speed career sampling” but after a few months I ended up landing on finally learning programming. I say “finally” because I’ve started down this path a few times, and it’s always ended up getting abandoned to focus on the shorter term need to make money. 

I went to Carnegie Mellon for college. It’s considered one of the best two or three computer science schools in the country, and it made me hate programming. I took one basic CS class and got a C, and hated every minute of it. I was convinced programming wasn’t for me.

Then I did an internship with a consulting firm where my team was doing a lot of work in excel, and I ended up discovering Visual Basic and taught myself the basics so I could automate my work. Then I showed them how to automate a lot of their work. Suddenly programming was fun! But I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy classes on it, so it stayed a side interest that I never fully explored. 

I dived a little deeper when Justin and I worked on “Programming for Marketers,” but that was still fairly shallow scripting stuff. And there was a brief period before I started Growth Machine where I started trying to learn again, but I needed to make money faster and starting the marketing agency just made more sense. 

So this was probably the fourth or fifth time I started down the path of finally becoming a competent programmer, and this time it stuck. Maybe 75% of my work time now is spent programming, and I love it. It’s been incredibly fun and rewarding to learn, and seeing people use the stuff I’ve built in the wild compounds the motivation even more. 

If it’s something you’re considering, the best advice I have is to get a basic foundation in full-stack javascript, then start building stuff that you’d use. I built so many random projects over the last year, most of them going nowhere, but it gave me the foundation to work on all the Crypto Raiders stuff. Don’t worry about whether or not anyone is going to use the stuff you’re building or if it’s dumb. Just build what you want to build. The experience alone of solving new problems makes it worthwhile. 

Going Deeper into Crypto

Crypto has weaved in and out of my life a few times now. I first heard about it around 2011-2012, when my friend was helping people trade rare items in DOTA 2 on a gray market using Bitcoin. We set up miners on our gaming computers at some point, though I’m pretty sure any bitcoin we mined is long gone.

Fast forward to 2017, I got interested in it again mostly thanks to my friend Taylor Pearson. I read all the seminal articles, got really excited about it, then kinda lost interest since there wasn’t much to do besides hold it. It is fun to look at my original “how to invest in cryptocurrency” article though. If we’d only known! 

Anyway, the best thing I did back then was to start dollar-cost averaging into a bit of crypto every month. I pretty much set it and forgot about it for three years, until the market started taking off at the end of 2020. 

At the start of 2021 I was trying to find something new to focus on, and suddenly there was stuff to do in crypto. From 2009 to ~2018 it had really just been speculative investing. But now people were building real applications on top of crypto rails, and you could hop in and use them or build your own!

The first wave of NFT mania started in January, which made me start looking at the growing Ethereum ecosystem more closely. That led me down the DeFi rabbithole, and I was pretty quickly hooked. I created “DeFi Orientation,” started writing my “DeFriday” series, and probably spend 75%+ of my work time in crypto land now.

This is where my interests were able to merge pretty beautifully, since I decided to start learning Solidity, the programming language for building apps on Ethereum. Learning solidity is probably the highest leverage skillset you can possibly develop in the world today. You’re literally programming money. And I honestly find it to be the most fun form of programming I’ve tried. 

Quitting Drinking

In June I decided I’d had enough and made a public commitment on Twitter to quit drinking forever. I was in this weird spot with drinking where I didn’t like feeling like “5pm Nat” and “9am Nat” were so out of alignment, and while I didn’t have a problem with alcohol, I definitely didn’t like my relationship with it. 

Some people are good at moderation, and I am not one of those people. I’m typically pretty hot or cold. I’m obsessed with something, or don’t care about it. But that can also manifest in a more harmful way where I’m either addicted to something, or not touching it. So while some people might be able to manage a rule like “only have 1 drink on weeknights” or “only drink on weekends,” it’s psychologically much easier for me to say “none ever” than “just a little.” 

The most surprising thing about this change has been how easy it was. It’s been over six months now and I honestly don’t miss it. There are the occasional moments where I might wish I had a beer, or smell a wine that I know is exceptional, but the desire passes pretty quickly. Plus there are good alternatives between Athletic Brewing, HOPWTR, and Surely (disclosure: investor). 

This is definitely the change I’ve made for my health that I’m the most proud of. And I partially credit running the Austin marathon in 2020 with helping me get here. I had to cut drinking for two months because the alcohol was preventing my body from recovering from long runs, causing me to be constantly injured. When I saw how much better I could recover without it, I realized how much other subtle damage it must be doing that I wasn’t noticing. 

So yeah, 10/10 would recommend this one too. Your 2022 homework so far is to quit drinking and make a baby (not necessarily in that order…). 

Working on Crypto Raiders

Sometimes the universe just aligns things in strange and beautiful ways. And there was definitely some magic alignment going on that led me to where I now spend most of my time, working on Crypto Raiders.

I’ve written a number of times on this site about how I used to be obsessed with video games. I was extremely bored by school and college, and video games were a great escape where I could work on something that felt more meaningful. 

One of my strongest theses with crypto has been that it would unlock a new world of video gaming, where players would be able to own the assets in the game and be able to trade them in an open market, just like they might trade any furniture in their house. 

Players have been attempting to cash out their in-game work for meatspace money for decades. And it’s always been either against the Terms of Service, or somewhat arduous. I saw primitive versions of this with gray markets for items, currency, and characters in Runescape, WoW, and DOTA 2. It’s always been obvious players wanted the option, and now there is a good technology to do it. 

We’re in Crypto Gaming 1.0 right now, where there are a lot of “games” with DeFi or speculative elements attached to them, where most of the economic activity is from the speculative elements and not the actual gameplay. Axie Infinity is the prime example, since the entire earning model is based on breeding new characters to sell to other players who want to enter the game. 

Crypto Gaming 2.0 will, I believe, take more of a “Play & Earn” model (vs play to earn). The game itself needs to actually be fun, and the primary source of value creation should come from in-game activities, not from attracting new people to the game.

So enter Crypto Raiders. I got in touch with them because one of the people helping build it was another former marketing agency founder turned crypto enthusiast. They were looking for a solidity developer to help them with their token launch, and I ended up being just far enough along on learning to figure it out. 

We launched the token in August, and it’s been an increasingly wild ride since then. The team has grown from five or six to over twenty, we’ve released a ton of game content and the metagame has evolved to a complex enough point where community members are spinning up websites and chrome extensions to help you optimize your build and choose gear. There’s been millions of dollars in sales on our NFTs, and tens of millions in trading volume on our tokens. 

And most importantly, people really like the game! I think this is the first time I’ve worked on something where I feel like the teenage version of me would be really proud or excited to know this is what I’m doing. Teenage Nat kinda sucked so I don’t know how much I want his approval, but that’s still nice to think about. 

Anyway this is the reason I didn’t feel compelled to do a super deep review or goal setting this year. I’m having fun. I wake up every day and get to work on a video game, do some writing, hang out in Discord with my friends, and I’m making good money doing it. Cosette and I have a healthy daughter, comfortable life, great friends, and are making increasingly healthy shifts in our lifestyle.

Life is good. Maybe something will change and I’ll need to do a deeper dive to feel like I’m back on track, but until then, I’m gonna enjoy it.

I hope you enjoy your year too.


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