A Crazy year. Of growth and fear. 2020 retrospective.

A Crazy year Of growth and fear.

You can’t track it if you don’t measure it. It’s the primary justification for doing retrospectives, but tracking what? I have always been annoyed by keeping track of repetitive, boring data. As a flat and dry life accountant, writing the numbers about things I did has left me perplexed. I wrote a river of words: and so what? I walked to the moon: excellent! and why should we care? Oh, you read books, cools, we did that too.

I feel the risk of virtue signaling: I am good, I am better than you. And it feels out of place. So let’s focus on the right context: I am doing this only for me. I’ve always been struggling with committing for the long term to an activity. It’s just me. Neoteny is my second name. I am already bored while writing this without getting to the point. I am trying to challenge myself to be better. I perceive the potential I hide (almost always), and I have enough with living in dreams.

The greatest lesson of this year is about building habits. Slowly. Piece by piece. Day by day. Not that I wasn’t building habits the whole of my life. But were those the right habits to build? Not all of them. That’s my great win in 2020. I’ve decided I wanted to create some specific habits. And, dear collective brain sparse in the universe, I did it!

The numbers

Walking and thinking

I don’t cry in pain when I walk. Not any more. I started in 2017. I dropped tears after 100 steps. Now, I can walk for 10 Km and feel good. How could I live seated for so many years? The bright screen is one of the worst drugs of our times. Using technology to work and think is one of the most important areas in which design can help make our lives more balanced. There is a lot of work to be done.


Everybody thinks. Of course. But is everybody dedicating focused time to think about something? Intentionally? It was a new experience for me to reflect on the past day. What did happen? What did I do? Why did I feel like that? Did I learn something? Has it ever occurred to me already?

Daily journaling with the help of prompts is one of the superpowers we underestimate. Thinking about our thinking is one essential step in the feedback loop of self-development and self-leadership. Writing is the most effective medium to accomplish that but also recording your voice helps a lot. I recorded dozens of hours of free-flowing talking. Men, if I am boring! It’s only after having put out all of the words you keep somewhere in your brain that you start to feel fluent. You need to talk a lot to talk better. You need to write a lot to write better. And all of that, if you intertwine it with the right questions, it can only lead to you thinking better.

Journal writing

Writing what you are thinking has enormous benefits. You get to know three people, at the least—your past self and what you felt when you lived that past. Your future self: an unknown and unknowable person, much similar to you but not really you. What do you want to send to the future? How do you want to support your future decisions? And then there is you at this moment: who are you now? What are your dreams and your fears, now?

It might seem stupid but knowing you can be decentralized in time makes you feel less lonely and alien.

Blogging and online publishing

It starts with a blank page on an empty web server. There are so many white pixels: how shall I fill them? So you feel the stupidest in the universe by stating your existence online. Nobody will read you, and still, you check the analytics to see if that one only visit becomes two.

After 100 hundred torture sessions, everything is different. I am not ashamed of what I publish anymore. Excellent or ugly, grammatically correct or not, it needs to go live, now. I will think about it later on, when it is detached from me, living its online life far from my fingers and my neurons.

While in the beginning, I felt the urge to satisfy a non-existing audience with its impossible to know desires; now, I write first and foremost for myself. For my present self and for my future self.


Luhmann! If I like this word! I’ve been collecting notes on paper forever. All of it is lost, forever like tears in the rain. Not any more. Now I gather my thoughts. Still messy, yes. But I have built the habit of adding notes to my slip-box, my second brain, my note archive, my fricking beautiful Zettelkasten!

After many days of just adding notes, I had finally had my epiphany a few days ago. Two notes collided! I had two notes stating one the opposite of the other! What a beautiful realization! I have the creative tension of two opposite perspectives on the same concept and with arguments. I am finally generating ideas. I am note-making. I am lovemaking with ideas!


I’ve read books. And so what? Reading is the most overrated skill. Can you tell me how you changed thanks to what you read? I feel so guilty about not reading enough. And then I feel even worse when I read a lot, and I remember so little about it. That is what I will change in 2021. I will write-while-reading so I won’t forget what I want to keep. And I will have more materials to connect with my notes.

Online meetings

Too many. Not all of them useful. It was tiring.

And that’s not all, folks!

I am proud. I’ve set goals, and I worked hard to achieve them. I’ve learned so much about myself, my past, and my future. I have so many ideas and inspirations about future projects that I can’t contain them.

What I am sharing about my year is only 5% of what I did. And it wasn’t even about my job.

All of this during one of the worst year in the history of humankind.

I am still alive.

Not bad, Max.

Not bad.

A Crazy year Of growth and fear.
A Crazy year Of growth and fear.

2 responses to “A Crazy year. Of growth and fear. 2020 retrospective.”

  1. Hey Massimo,

    what an insightful and impressive year for you!

    I guess for most people these numbers are not very telling if they cannot compare them to their own. So looking at my own stats in comparison I am really impressed by these:
    +500 journal entries and drafts written, for a total of about half a million words
    +100 articles published. 45 of which, in a daily streak.
    +30 Atomic Essays in 30 days Challenge complete.
    +40 original illustration created for my articles
    +30 newsletters issued
    +100 subscribers to my massimo.substack.com
    +500 Tweets with +130’000 impressions

    I recently also published a quantified self report (https://www.dennisnehrenheim.com/quantify/2020) and I tried a public annual review as well this year for the first time ever (https://www.dennisnehrenheim.com/reflect).

    Wish you all the best for 2021


  2. Thank you, Dennis, it’s impossible to compare these kind of measurements for two people. Those numbers are mostly for ourselves to know that we did it and to have a relative reference when we will do it again. I also don’t want to become a slave to indicators and sensors, life is already full of notifications. My ideal measurement tool is Google Fit. You have to do nothing. But Google is too nearsighted to make a decent overall experience out of it.

    Relating to your Quantified 2020: you vagabond too little! 😉

    About your Evernote stats.
    > 372 hours spent in Evernote, 14% of my time (Rescue Time), 2.122 digital notes created (Evernote)

    Wow! And tell me what’s the primary destination of those more than two thousand notes, if I may ask?

    I appreciate your “reflect” which makes your numbers in context and I find it more engaging and inspiring. I think reflection and capability to change our actions is the most important lesson to learn.

    I wish you to have the following numbers to skyrocket in 2021
    > 0 words written
    > 0 essays published


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