My 2023 wrap-up is optimistic

How 2023 affected my thinking, why time isn't an enemy but an ally, how I read 100+ books, which ones are the best, and my plans for 2024

My 2023 wrap-up is optimistic

It's been a livid year for me and my family. The only thing I could think of every time I talked about this year with others is that nothing terrible happened to my family and me in 2023. As usual, it had its ups and downs, but if I compared 2023 to almost any year, this one was the most stably positive!

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What happened?

For starters, nothing bad happened to me or my family. For some reason, I feel like this is a significant win. Today, I realize it results from years of hard work and education. Also thankful to live in Canada β€” one of the most stable and predictable countries around πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦

I'm now a happy double dad! πŸ‘ΆπŸ‘¦ As usual, the first few months were difficult due to how newborns sleep, but now we have a routine that makes things way more manageable!

Regarding business, we've launched ketl at BWL β€” go check it out! It's the first professional web3 social network with complete anonymity, verified credentials, full decentralization by default, and censorship resistance.

This year, I finally got free from my old Telegram channel dragging me down (it got hijacked by scammers, and Telegram support obviously didn't move a finger to fix it). You can find the new (extremely) private Telegram channel of mine where I shitpost here. But mainly, I've been growing my following on Warpcast (the new web3 Twitter), and so far, I've liked the interactions there. The "mute" button helps to decrease toxicity a lot. At the moment of writing, I have 20,000+ followers on Warpcast (follow me here!), which is more people than I ever had on Telegram!

I don't think I ever encountered any toxicity in 2023 that affected me in any way. I'm happy to report that whenever this happened, I quickly blocked off the toxicity and haven't thought about these people a single time afterward.

Also, 2023 was when I translated the book I wrote into English and published it! You can buy it on Amazon and listen to it on Audible! I'd appreciate support if you could buy a copy πŸ™ It is the book that changed my life and can drastically improve yours, too!

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One of the main outtakes of 2023 is that time is our ally, not our enemy!

Whaaaaat? My book is literally called "We Don't Live a Thousand Years," and now I'm saying that we don't race with time but work together with time? See, change takes time β€” and so does progress.

Life is not linear, and our success is compounded by our efforts to improve things. Now, I have no idea who Michael below is, but a good friend shared this video with me, and it resonated a lot with what little wisdom I gathered this year.

From investments to workouts to nutrition to learning β€” stuff takes time. The ability to pass the time productively sounds like patience. You make one step at a time over and over, over and over, and over again β€” from your perspective, you barely move, but the more you move, the faster you might accelerate. That is if you're moving towards acceleration and not linearly stagnating.

Here's a shocking piece of news: people are impatient and become increasingly impatient by the minute! Patience became a virtue only available to people who can afford it. This means that being patient becomes a competitive advantage β€” and whatever gives you an upper hand should be used (especially if it is moral enough).

Make time your ally. Learn to set things in motion and wait. If you'll live forever (let's hope for the longevity breakthrough), you must learn to pass the time productively.

I have a few exciting things I want to accomplish in 2024, but let's talk about it closer to the end of the wrap-up. For now, what shook my worldview the most this year?

Books

Oh, boy! Sometime in the middle of the year, I realized I was on track to finish 100 books in 2023 and decided to make it a goal. After all, in the previous wrap-up, one of my identity parts was "Knowledge seeker and accumulator!"

Ultimately, I've read 103 books in 2023, resulting in ~1.98 books per week. Most were non-fiction, but I have some fiction highlights, too. Reviews of everything I read are available in my book club. In fact, this is precisely how I'm retracing my steps here to give you the best books I've read in 2023!

Obviously, I haven't spent an average time reading of 20 hours * 103 books / 16 awake hours = 128.75 waking days devouring literature as my full-time job. Instead, I follow the process I've developed throughout the years.

I listen to audiobooks whenever I do anything routine (driving, swimming, cooking, commuting, renovating β€” this was a huge one, etc.), and I read on my e-reader around an hour before sleep. I prefer to listen to non-fiction and read fiction because I can't comprehend fiction in an audio format too well. After I finish any title, I read 1-3 summaries written by other people and write my own review summary in my book club. This helps me to retain the information and revisit the main points in the future.

I've read 5 books on parenting this year, and I recommend all of them. I'm very fortunate to have only read good parenting advice this year without any pseudo-scientific bullshit. Here's the list:

I can, without doubt, say that I became a way better parent this year β€” primarily due to the knowledge I got from the books and my practicing the advice daily. The "talking about feelings" with kids thing is πŸͺ„magicalπŸͺ„ β€” I have no idea why it works, but it is such a spectacular tool that I now talk to our 2.5-year-old, and he sees the world from my point of view, then accepts whatever logical thing I ask him to do. Or we speak, and it turns out that the item isn't logical, so we devise something better!

I'm so relieved that I don't have to be that strict parent who only shouts commands and doesn't explain anything. And it shows! My older kid now soothes and helps the younger kid with the same techniques I use with him! Children do be mimicking. They never do as we say. They do as we do. Become the person you want your children to be!

The science fiction writer of the year for me is Blake Crouch β€” I've read 6 books by him and was captivated with virtually every page I've turned. My favorite ones were "Recursion" and "Dark Matter," but the Wayward Pines trilogy is also worth exploring (the TV show beyond the first season is trash, though). "Upgrade" was the weakest work by Crouch so far, which doesn't invalidate that the rest is spectacular.

The year's highlight is all the books I've read on psychology or adjacent to it. I've picked the best selection below.

Now, this year, I've read plenty of popular non-fiction literature that a lot of people praise. Contrary to the general populous, I hated most of it. It was either bland, or ridiculous, or infantile, or unscientific, or hypocritical, or all the bad things combined. I'm not giving you any links, but if you find a title you like in the list below, I'm sorry for your loss: you have to start reading better literature! I learned precisely zero valuable things from them except that I will no longer use popular advice for non-fiction authors.

I want my time back from reading: "Four Thousand Weeks" by Oliver Burkeman, "Why Startups Fail" by Tom Eisenmann, "Impact Networks" by David Ehrlichma, "How to Create a Personal Brand in 10 Steps" by Michael Finne, "Thinking in Systems" by Donella Meadow, "Never Finished" by David Goggins, "Hyperfocus" by Chris Bailey, "Anatomy of a Breakthrough" by Adam Alter, "Anything You Want" by Derek Siver, "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfie, "Hell Yeah or No" by Derek Sivers, "Out of My Skull" by James Danckert and John D. Eastwood, "How to Live" by Derek Sivers, "Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be" by Steven Pressfield, "The Song of Significance" by Seth God, "The Creative Act" by Rick Rubin, "Holacracy" by Brian J. Robertson, "The Art of Innovation" by Tom Kelley, "Self-Made" by Tara Isabella Burton, "The One Thing" by Gary Keller, "Company Of One" by Paul Jarvis, "Bold" by Peter H. Diamandis, "Propelled" by Andreas Elpidorou, "Change by Design" by Tim Brown, "The Rise of The Creative Class" by Richard Florida, "Seeing Like a State" by James C. Scott, "Exponential Organizations" by Salim Ismail, and "The Design Of Everyday Things" by Don Norman.

I need to specifically point out "Outlive" by Peter Attia because it is so popular and well-praised yet riddled with unscientific bullshit. You get a healthy dose of good advice, but then the author throws in twice as much time-wasting carcinogenic wisdom that I can't recommend this book to literally anyone. Stop believing Peter and begin reading the research he references. It is not that difficult; the abstracts of peer-reviewed papers are written in plain English.

So let's say you've read "Outlive" and already posted, "Peter has changed my life; I started <insert pseudo-scientific bs here> and can already feel the results" β€” what to do now? First of all, clear this bullshit from your mind and go read books that are based on science. The best health-related book I've read this year was "The Obesity Code" by Jason Fung β€” go read it right now! You and all your loved ones will live longer.

Special thanks to "Excellent Advice for Living" by Kevin Kell and "The Power of Babel" by John McWhorter. I've read the former one twice already and finished the second one without being able to stop reading. They are so good that if not for the best book of 2023, they would take the title!

You might notice (ha-ha, you didn't because, let's be honest, you haven't counted) that I'm 31 books short (accounting for the best book of 2023) β€” that's because this is already the most extensive section of my wrap-up and I don't want to bloat it with less-remembered titles of the year. Some of them were great and did change my mind on a few topics. Feel free to catch up on them in my book club.

So, who's the winner?

I shamelessly stole this picture from the EA forum, lmao.

"The Dictator's Handbook" by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is by far the most impactful book of 2023 for me. Having been published in 2011, it's a shame that I've only read it this year. It πŸ‘ explains πŸ‘ so πŸ‘ much. In fact, it πŸ‘ explains πŸ‘ everything. God, I wish everyone on the planet read this book!

I now know precisely why putler is doing what he's doing in Russia β€” and why Navalny couldn't stand a chance. I now know exactly why Russia started the war with Ukraine. I now know what to do to stop it. I now know why Russia "forgives" huge loans given to dictatorship countries. I now know why Russia has this gimmick of democracy and elections. I now know why Prigozhin's coup was literally the only thing that could have saved Russia in the last decade.

I also now know that there will be no World War III. I now know why there will be no nuclear bombs used in any conflicts in the world. I now know why the Muslim countries failed to give Gaza any help whatsoever (even though they ideologically align with it) or why the Muslim countries do nothing to retaliate against the Muslim genocide happening in China right now. I also know why these desert dictators are building these massive monuments to bullshit in the middle of nowhere. In fact, I know that ideology won't cause vast conflicts (only local) worldwide.

I also now know why Canada is building oil pipelines amid a climate change disaster. I know why Vancouver gave housing developers tons of money for free. I know why homelessness and drug problems aren't being solved by anyone in North America. I now know why the USA will not fix the medical billing issues anytime soon.

It is all so clear now. Everything makes total sense. All these bad policies are enacted to gain or stay in power longer. If you have time to read just one book in 2024, make sure it is "The Dictator's Handbook" β€” it will ease your mind and free you from constantly thinking, "Why the hell would they ever do what they are doing?" about politicians.

Gaming

Every year, I try to play a single-player video game that is a masterpiece. I vividly remember RDR2 and Death Stranding β€” not so much Cyberpunk. This year, I upgraded my PC to RTX 4070 Ti and got Meta Quest 3 β€” and oh, was it worth it! I keep trying to play Skyrim VR, which is fantastic, but I never have the time or the energy to put on my VR goggles to mess around in free-moving mode (I'm still in the Whiterun, for what it's worth).

Instead, I opt-in to use Virtual Desktop and play good old flat games on the enormous virtual screen. I strap my younger son into the kangaroo-type carrier, which allows me to exercise and doesn't show him any screens whatsoever (all screens are virtual β€” we still don't own a TV). With an Xbox controller in my hands, I'm unstoppable. Quest 3 allows me to use the full potential of pass-through, and I no longer require any boundaries.

This year, I had the fortune to complete the three masterpieces below presented without ranking or scoring.

Psychonauts 2

For some reason, I waited for this game. I don't know why β€” but I have nostalgic feelings towards the last boss of the first game. I might be mistaken, but I think Psychonauts (the first one) was the second video game in my life that I've completed (the first one being GTA: Vice City).

The sequel didn't disappoint. I re-experienced all these feelings I had as a child and eagerly explored the world. The humor made me laugh multiple times; some spots were even clever. I wouldn't name this the game of the year for me, but in terms of emotions β€” this one was deeply nostalgic.

Disco Elysium

Wow, this was a wild ride. At first, I was afraid of picking it up because a good old friend with whom I reconnected had played an enormous number of hours (that turned out to be him leaving the game in the background for the music). But then I decided to give it a go β€” and this was spectacular. I've read literally every piece of dialogue the game threw at me and was consumed by the world the developers created!

I was instructed to play this game on a cold rainy day β€” which Vancouver has plenty of β€” and I did precisely this. I mainly felt awe for the artwork, sadness for the world and its inhabitants, and melancholy. It sounds like a bad experience, but it was more akin to an excellent noir movie in which you're so involved in the plot that your palms are sweaty at the culmination.

Alan Wake

I played the first part early this year randomly. I don't know why, but it popped up on my radar. I'm so glad it did, and I'm somewhat disappointed I haven't played it before. The narration style is outstanding, and after watching the entirety of Twin Peaks, being immersed in a similar setting was a pleasant surprise.

The game did age, but the graphics were still pleasant. I'm now dedicated to going on a Twin Peaks tour in Washington to at least visit the diner that was the basis for the Oh Deer diner in the game.

Alan Wake 2

If you haven't played it β€” go play. If you haven't played it β€” do not watch the video below. If you have played it β€” you know why this is the game of the year 2023; watch the video below!

Let's make a quick comeback to my buying an RTX card. First of all, this thing is HUGE. I had to bend some "unnecessary" parts of my motherboard to fit it in place of the RTX 3060 Ti I had before. Secondly, this game will ruin all ray-tracing games for you forever because of the musical segment. Well, you paid for all the ray tracing; you must use all the ray =tracing, right? Unless the next game with ray tracing that I play has a similar scene, I'm not going to like it at all.

Unfortunately, there were also a few disappointments:

  1. I couldn't stand Hogwarts Legacy; I played it for 5 hours, and even though it felt precisely like the HP games I played in secondary school, it felt so dull that I abandoned it right away.
  2. Subnautica VR was insanely good; however, I spoiled it by watching the walkthrough on YouTube after I got so tired of going to remote places. It is more like Outer Wilds β€” don't read anything about the game, and you will get a good experience.
  3. Skyrim VR is great (I modded the hell out of it), and I finally got everything right to enjoy it! The disappointment comes from how tedious it was to set everything up and my lack of time to play it. I want to install the AI companion mod, but I'm so tired of modding that I'll probably play non-AI mode, and this saddens me enough to not try to play it again.

By the end of the year, I also installed Baldur's Gate 3, but that's probably going to be a part of the 2024 wrap-up, as finding time to play games is becoming increasingly difficult.

Looking back, I think this was one of the best gaming years I have had in a while! So many feelings during endless gaming evenings are a true gift from my family. I'm looking forward to the new South Park game, Frostpunk 2, and STALKER 2 (probably a contender for my game of the year). Unfortunately, I won't play the new WoW expansion as I have no time for it.

Purchases of the year

I know, I know, consumerism, yada yada. We all buy stuff; the only way I'm different is that I try to get things I truly need and get rid of things that I don't. This year, I bought the following somewhat life-changing items (without scoring or in any particular order).

Air fryer

I laughed at the people who were in the air fryer club. Well, I now laugh at the people who aren't in it! I bought Instant Pot Duo Crisp to replace my good old Instant Pot, which has changed how I cook my food forever. For instance, I get restaurant-grade french fries without extra salt or chemicals in around 20 minutes. I no longer have to wait for my usual oven to heat up to cook Beyond Meat or Impossible burgers β€” I throw them frozen into the air fryer for 12 minutes and get decent patties!

If you haven't tried air fryers yet, I highly encourage you to buy one second-hand (they sometimes go for about $25); this will elevate your cooking experience!

Honda Odyssey 2014

For the longest time ever, I've driven my 2010 Toyota RAV4, and it still runs great today with 260-thousand-something kilometers on the odometer! However, having two kids now makes it difficult to squeeze the whole family (plus a stroller, sometimes a double-stroller) into an SUV. And what if we wanted to stop by Costco on the way home? Nah, it's not happening.

Or more like it wasn't happening! Now we have a 🌈minivan🌈 β€” and it flips the game. I honestly have no idea why people don't buy only minivans (and I'm frowning at my younger self, too). My Honda Odyssey has more storage room in the back than an F150, and it is also covered from rain and elements!

Three rows of seats comfortably seat 8 people! This has been such a tremendous this year quality of life improvement for the family that I can't stress it enough: if you have kids, get a minivan, and you'll love it all!

Apartment

OK, we've given in this year: we bought our own place. Don't freak out; it's a high(ish) interest-rate mortgage, so I'm still being robbed in the broad daylight by the big banks. However, when we calculated how much it would cost us to rent against how much money we would lose to interest payments annually, getting our place was a clear economic winner.

We now pay less money to cover the interest payments than if we rented! All this came with a bit of a headache as we had to renovate the whole thing, and I've lost my personal storage office. Still, the security of having no one able to evict us (especially in the Vancouver renters market) makes it all worth it.

Pixel Buds Pro

Again, for the longest time ever, I was an ambassador for the Sony noise-canceling headphones for long(ish) flights and for the Xiaomi earbuds for audiobooks. However, this holiday season, I decided to try something else (mainly because the Xiaomi mic sucks for calls). I've been a long-term Pixel fan (that's why I didn't get Samsung ones) β€” so I opted for the Pixel Buds Pro.

They are so much better than Xiaomi earbuds for everything I did with them that I don't even know where my old buds are. And they are so much more comfortable than the Sony over-ear headphones that I even use them with my Quest 3 when working or gaming. The quality of the calls is yet to be determined, but I feel it will be pristine.

Copilot and ChatGPT

Yo, what the hell? Was ChatGPT only released in 2023? It feels like it was available for ages β€” maybe because I've done so much with it. I don't have to list all the ways I've used AI in my workflow here, but some important things are worth pointing out.

However, VSC Copilot sucks ass when I'm trying to generate anything more complicated than a few lines of code. Even commit message generation is so bad that I only use it because my own commit messages are even worse. I repeatedly have to open ChatGPT instead of the built-in VSC AI tool to ask it questions.

So, what am I up to in 2024?

I don't like to set specific goals for the year until I'm halfway through and something obviously works or doesn't work. I'm a big fan of trying to improve what I'm already best at instead of becoming best at what I'm horrible at. However, while preparing this wrap-up, three specific areas popped up that I want to put effort into.

  1. Launch something big that generates a ton of revenue.
  2. Learn something hard outside of my comfort zone.
  3. Improve appearance to increase first impression likeability.

Let's go step-by-step, shall we?

Launching something big that generates a ton of revenue

I'm tired of doing hard things that only a medium number of people (~10 million or so) like. I want to build something huge that will blow up the Internet and get insanely viral. Ideally, this must have monetization built-in right away so that it doesn't only become popular but also brings in a lot of revenue.

Now, this something must not be hard. I've learned in my career that only the stupid things work. Stupid meaning when people say, "I could have done the same." Yeah, but you didn't. I want to build something that sells like hotcakes. Something in so much demand that I can't handle the inflow.

A single WoW mount made Blizzard more money than StarCraft 2. I want to build this mount. I don't want to spend 2 years building StarCraft 2. This will probably be something stupid like Wordle, which NYT bought. I think this should happen in 2024 because I believe I have gathered enough knowledge to do some things (that I like) better than almost anyone else.

I want this diagram to be the same circle.

Talent is mostly hard work towards perfecting a craft. People who are proficient in something effortlessly make goofy things that go viral. I think I have reached the point when I can make something popular quick and scale it up to tens of millions. For instance, check out this performance. It's super silly, but imagine the amount of effort that went into getting to this level of expertise.

However, I must remember about the action bias β€” I'm pretty bad at it. Most of the time, I rush into a project, complete it in a few days, and launch it without slowing down and considering other options. This lightning-fast decision speed worked out quite well for me in the past, but this time, I want to have a stupidly outsized impact of a few simple and quick actions.

It is statistically almost impossible to strike gold without ruminating on what steps should be taken. So, one of the goals for 2024 is to try to find an idea that fits my criteria above. It must be stupid, quick, not hard to implement, extremely viral, in outrageously high demand, and with monetization in place from day 1.

Similarly, I want to be conscious that consistency outperforms singular breakthroughs in the long term. Whether this idea will be short-term or long-term is yet to be determined, but I think I have a tool to better clarify what needs to be done.

A few years ago, I launched Borodutch Club to share my product launching expertise with other people. The nominal membership fee guarded the group from wannabes β€” and we got up to 300 members. It was one of the most productive years of my work β€” and I want to do this again, this time not limiting the club to Russian speakers only. At the peak, the members were launching dozens of projects a month.

I will revive the Borodutch Club at the beginning of 2024 and switch it to English. Subscribe to the blog (there should be a button on this page) to get notified when I relaunch Borodutch Club again. The Club's sole purpose will be to brainstorm ideas and help members get from 0 to revenue as fast as possible.

And in the meantime, I'm on the hunt for this idea of mine to implement and reap the rewards.

Learning something hard outside of my comfort zone

This goal is way simpler. I've been doing things "my way" for years, and this has to change. I will try to dedicate myself to exploring new tools, frameworks, and programming languages to write less code; and having a scheduled disconnected thinking time when I can get bored (another insight from the books I've read this year) to come up with creative ideas.

Additionally, I want to try a skill swap. If you're an expert in your industry, please contact me on Telegram or email me β€” I'd love to teach you what I know in exchange for you sharing your knowledge and experience πŸ™ It must be a fun experiment for both of us, so don't hesitate!

Improving appearance to increase first impression likeability

Unfortunately, first impressions matter a lot β€” this has been consistently proven by various researchers.

Over 2024, I want to try working with various specialists to improve my appearance without overcomplicating my lifestyle. Consider how Steve Jobs wore turtlenecks and jeans β€” I want this to be simple, frugal, and elegant. For instance, I've worn a mustache for 2 months this year, and I can certainly feel the difference in the vibes when talking to strangers. Same with haircuts β€” no more late haircuts for me, I guess!

The thing is, most people would rather die than change. Taking into account that I want to live forever ("Don't Die," lmao, amirite), seems like I have to be changing constantly β€” and appearance is for sure going to be one of the things I'll work on this year.

I've never been worried about how I come across other people or whether others like me β€” and I still don't care. However, having a pleasant, inviting appearance and attitude seems extremely useful in gaining people's trust, especially if they are strangers. If there is a chance of hacking social interactions β€” why not take it?

So, why am I optimistic?

In mid-2022, I was highly concerned with where humanity was going. It seemed that people were on a downward self-destruction spiral. But I've read "Factfulness" and searched for real-world data on whether we're stepping towards annihilation or prosperity.

Having witnessed the events of 2023 (except Ukraine and Israel being dragged into violent wars), I feel... good about humanity. Renewal energy is on the rise, electric vehicles are the new norm, poverty is the lowest ever, and the same is true of slavery. We took a dent with autocracies against democracies, but that, too, will return to the mean sometime soon.

I no longer believe there can be a nuclear war. I think the world is progressing toward prosperity through technological progress. The breakthroughs in 2023 made me way more positive about our fate. It seems that the world is... normal again for the first time after COVID.

(don't mind 15 billionaires actively building bunkers to survive WWIII, though, lmao)

I wish you all to be a part of this coming wave of prosperity. I want you all to be along for the ride. Let's raise our non-alcoholic beverages to 2024.

🀘 Rock!