Spencer Carli

2021 in Review

January 07, 2022

2021 was an interesting year for me. It was the first that I felt, in some ways, I regressed. That I didn’t make progress.

That I was stuck.

I kept myself busy so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the lack of clarity I was facing in my life and work.

It was still certainly a good year, but my experiment into not really setting clear goals to hit, things to work toward, didn’t really work.

My work and my emotions were haphazard and unfocused. That took a decent toll on me.

As I write this I’m coming off of a “sabbatical” where I took the month of December off from work. I’m feeling better and have a more positive outlook towards the work I do.

Each week in 2021 I would spend 10 minutes reviewing my week (calendar, tasks completed) and write them down in Notion - What went well, what didn’t go well, and what I learned. The same questions each week.

I then did the same each month, reviewing my weekly reviews.

And finally the year, reviewing my monthly reviews.

I’m grateful I did this because it pointed out trends (positive and negative) and reminded me of many of the things that I forgot.

What went well?


Tried different fitness routines. I’ve never been one to enjoy working out. I’ve gone through phases of running, consistently going to the gym, etc. but nothing has ever really stuck. I’m still trying to find my “thing”. This year I tried Krav Maga and a gym membership at a luxury gym.

Krav Maga was a fantastic workout but I tried it at a time where I had lost control of my schedule and it was too much to take on/the schedule didn’t work for me. I’ve had gym memberships in the past but they were so cheap (Planet Fitness) that I didn’t care if I used them. I tried a luxury gym that was signfigantly more expensive (10x the price of Planet Fitness) with the hope that the price would encourage me to go. And I did! But I didn’t enjoy it. I’d rather invest that money into trying to find fitness that really resonates with me.

Fitness goal. With the above said, I still managed to hit my goal of some sort of workout 4x per week most weeks. This flucuated between a few minutes of stretching, Krav Maga, yoga, going to the gym, or guided home workouts. I showed up and that’s what mattered for this goal.

Went to dentist and doctor. A simple thing but something I’ve put off for a long time (over a decade for the doctor). I’m a healthy person but I want to get into the routine and ensure I’m comfortable going to the doctor so that if anything seems off I’m comfortable going (and understand how it/insurance works). I got out of consistently going to the dentist but after doing some researching into the importance of oral health at the start of the year I ensured I went every 6 months… and floss daily!

COVID Vaccine. Do to my elevated risk of exposure as a first responder I was able to get the COVID vaccine in early January. I didn’t have any issues with it and, so far, I haven’t had COVID. I was also able to get the booster in early December before spending Christmas with family.

December Sabbatical. In November I decided to take the entire month of December off of work. As I discuss below, I was burnt out and needed to reset and recenter myself. This was a fantastic decision and I didn’t realize just how much it was needed.

In 2022 I’m breaking my year down into a series of 6 week sprints - 5 weeks working and 1 week “off”. That off could mean traveling or it could simply mean that I stop working in the business and work on it for that week.


System Breakdown to System Success. At some point I read “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”. The system resonated with me and I adopted it.

However, during my moment of major overcommitment I let things slide and get out of control with too many systems and processes.

Once that broke down, and after 2 months of me not realizing it broke down, I scrapped everything and rebuilt it. It’s worked well for a solid 6 months now and I have no intentions to change it.

Once challenge I do continue to have is managing multiple task/project management systems - I have mine (Notion + Todoist + Calendar) and clients have theirs (Clickup, Asana).

It’s a lot of places to look (and some client projects are… messy).


In 2021 I expanded my role within the organization that I’m a first responder with. I took a class on driving and pumping a fire engine - PADO (Pumper Apparatus Driver/Operator). Shortly after completition I was promoted to the position of Engineer. Early in 2021 I also received my Firefighter 1 Commission through the state of Tennessee.

Additionally, as the organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit it is governed by a Board of Directors. I ended up running and winning the election to become Treasurer. Initially it was a challenging job and I took it on during a very busy time of my year, but it’s since become easier (though still more work than I initially anticipated) and I’ve enjoyed the important/challenging work we’ve taken on so far.

To round this section out, it looks like I ran 138 calls for service (emergencies ranging from minor medical calls to cardiac arrests to house fires) through the year.


Update all React Native School Courses. React Native School is still my primary project. As a rolling membership it’s important that I keep all the content up to date. Over the course of a few months I went through all 19 courses and ensured they were up to date and functioning correctly. No small task!

Delegation. For much of the year I had a virtual assistant to help me with tasks. It was a new learning experience that, at the start of 2021, I wanted to commit to for 1 year to try my hand at. My assistant ending up going to grad school so we didn’t make it to 1 year, but it was close enough. Vesa did great work but I don’t think now is a time to have an assistant. I need to work on clarifying things for myself first.

Rather than an assistant I think bringing on a partner that has ownership and domain expertise in the business/project would be a better next step for me.

Revamped and then shut down Work React Native. Work React Native was a weekly hand-curated React Native job list. When I handed this over to my assistant we worked to revamp it to provide more value and look better. This was something years over due.

That said, once Vesa left for grad school I decided to shut Work React Native down. I didn’t want to do the work to manage it and, after talking with employers and subscribers, it wasn’t providing enough value to continue it.

Job inteview. At the start of 2021 I had a short period of time where I was investigating taking a job as a developer advocate. I did one interview and, though I didn’t get the job, it was an interesting experience because I haven’t interviewed for a job in nearly 10 years.

Social media processes for React Native School. I don’t much like social media. At least not for work. Maybe I need to purge all my socials but to me they’re just too noisy and I don’t enjoy them (though I still spend too much time on them, which I discuss later). That said, I felt React Native School needed a social presence, so my assistant and I established some good processes to consistently publish and share work.

My favorite part about working on Twitter though was that we mostly shared other people’s work. I liked that and want to figure out how to incorporate that into other marketing channels.

rns social db


Historically I’ve struggled to spend money on non-practical things… I’m working on that. Despite that challenge I managed to build a few things:

  • Backyard garden
  • Entryway bench
  • Shower curtain stretched canvas

My grandfather (Opa) passed away this year. I inherited a variety of his tools and hope to learn to better use them over the years.

Cooking (in the winter). In the winter months I find I like to cook. When it gets hot though I don’t often cook because I don’t want to heat up the house… do more grilling in the hot months or just let that A/C work!

Books. I went through phases with books this year, as I tend to. The difference this year is that I read/listened to a variety of fiction books including:

  • Andy Weir - Project Hail Mary, Artemis
  • Dennis E. Taylor - We Are Legion (We Are Bob) Series, Outland


Fully funded my Roth IRA. Invested in a taxable account as well. This is a habit I adopted years ago and I’m very happy to have done so. It’s just part of my routine now and a decent chunk of my income goes towards investing. I see this as buying future freedom.

Made ~40% of my income through my own products. In the past few years I’ve lost site of my main goal - freedom. Things slowed down via my own products (due to burn out) but I was still happy to see that 40% of my income ended up through my own products.


Between COVID surges we managed to get some travel in this year

  • Asheville. Cabin in the woods. Dog doesn’t like mountain driving.
  • Traverse City. Family reunion. Beautiful area.
  • Las Vegas. Very different than our day-to-day life but we love the ridiculousness.

We rounded out the year with a second trip to Traverse City in December because we were toying with the idea of relocating. We’ve put those plans on hold for now.


Bought clothes. This is a silly thing for a 28 year old. But I bought clothes that I enjoy for the first time. I’ve always been gifted clothes so I never wanted to buy more because I already had some but this year I decided to invest in a few pairs of nice pants and shorts. They make a difference!

Took care of my shit. I don’t like having a lot of stuff. But what I do have I make a point to take care of it. I’m happy with how I maintained my truck, our house, the gear I use, etc. Take care of your stuff and it will take care of you.

Gave blood for the first time. This is something I’ve always wanted to do but was always scared to do (though I said it was because I was too busy). After a shooting at a highschool a few miles from my childhood home I finally got my shit together and gave blood. I donated the day after the shooting… when you’re making the right choice be decisive and commit quickly..

Continued NYE tradition of building a lego set with Steph. This is year 4. we built the discovery space shuttle set. It was amazing and quite complex (especially when a little tipsy). Ended up having to finish it on January 1.

Took a picture 334 days of the year. My goal was a picture a day. It’s not perfect but this is really good for me. I’m excited to see them in future years. I’m carrying this goal over into 2022 with one addition - 1 picture of Steph and I each week. Many of the pictures are of our cats and dog. We’re part of our story too!

What didn’t go well?


General Burnout. As much as I hate to say it, for much of the year I just didn’t care. I didn’t care about my primary project React Native School. I toyed with the idea of selling it. It’s good. I’m proud of it. But I was stuck and my coping mechanisms only contributed to the burnout.

Overcommitment. I took on a lot of new stuff this year. But I did it all at once. I was trying to fix my lack of direction with more, more, more. Some of the things I commited to were Krav Maga, treasurer position, PADO, React Native School projects, Build Your Academy (whole other company I wanted to start), multiple consulting projects. It was chaos. I did this multiple times.

Overwhelm. As a result, I assume, of the burnout and overcommitment I ended up quite overwhelmed. Like I was drowning in my commitments and was spinning my tires at 11,000 RPM (in a corolla) without going anywhere.

Feeling Stuck. I love our house but I don’t love our neighborhood. There’s not enough privacy for my preferences. Our house as appreciated an insane amount since we bought it… but the market here is (as it is everywhere else) nuts and we wouldn’t be able to make a move in that checked our boxes in the area we want to live. Thus we started looking out of state.

Not enough time at 10,000 feet. As I’ve said multiple times - I made myself busy. I was constantly doing things. But I never took time to take a step back and check that I was on the right path. I was heads down and never looked around. Thus, I walked in a lot of circles. This is one reason I’m working in sprints this year. Forced moments to break the work and look up.


Didn’t promote new courses. See “General Burnout”. I just didn’t care and wanted to be done with that course and move onto the next thing. This is a disservice to me and the people who could get value from that course.

Stagnant numbers for React Native School. We ended up right about at the same spot we started the year with. We had some highs and some lows but ended up 1 subscriber away from where we started (I wanted to increase subscriber count by 5 each week).

rns subscribers

Didn’t enjoy my work, particularly contracting. Much like my projects, I’ve worked mostly with the same client for many years. I need variation.

Lost focus on my “why” (freedom) and work started to lose its appeal. I started focusing more on money than anything else. That’s not why I do what I do. I stopped using my freedom and started using the wrong metrics to measure my performance. Again leading to the sprints and enforced freedom from work.

Goals didn’t have a strong why. My goals were “meh”. They sounded good but they didn’t speak to me and thus I didn’t put in the work.

Routines/habits stifled my creativity. I love my routines dearly and have leaned into them. I’m not going to change this. But I also recognize that sometimes I need to examine and potentially break/change my routines to think differently. Again, this lead to the idea of working in sprints with forced moments of breaking routines.

Mental Health

Limiting financial views. 2021 wasn’t my best year in financials. But it was still good… I made enough to live my lifestyle, save, and invest. Money isn’t a concern of mine but the thoughts that “this is all going to stop” crept up big time. Sometimes I feel guilty about making the amount I do without the physical labor I thought you had to expend to make a living.

General stress and anxiety. I bottled this up for a long time rather than recognizing and dealing with it. Steph and I have had many conversations about this and, despite being two very introverted people who’s day to day life and career weren’t affected by COVID, we’re thinking it has had some affects on us. Working on it.

Not enough outside/earth time. When we went to Traverse City we camped in a field surrounded by trees. The sun climbing above the trees would wake us up. We walked through the fields and woods barefoot. Dipped our feet into the chilly river. This made us realize that we’re not having enough outside/earth time. We’re disconnected from the thing that gives us life. This lead to thoughts of moving to more of a homestead… I still think we’ll end up doing that someday. We just want to do it in a certain way and we’re not quite in the position to pull it off, yet.

Lack of personal development. I love learning things. Or just consuming educational material - I don’t know if anything sticks. I didn’t protect that time. I would let things get in the way and end up consuming quick cheap content in moments of down time. I feel like I lost some level of intelligence in 2021 because of this. I also wasn’t organized - what I did consume I didn’t take notes on or, if I did, I lost them. I don’t even know what books/courses I consumed in 2021.


Struggled with the heat. Summers in the South are tough, ya’ll. I’ve lived here 4 (?) years and I’m still not used to them. When it’s this hot I don’t like cooking, I don’t like going outside, and I just shut in. Hopefully our neighborhood will have a pool this year for us to cool off in.

Fitness routine/intensity. I tried a lot of things - and I’m very proud of that. But, with the exception of Krav Maga, my workouts were very light/weak and consisted mostly of light stretching. I’m working on building out a simple home gym with simple workouts (and accountability) to counteract this. Still have a lot to try but I’m at least investing money into this area of life.

Opa passed away. In March my grandpa (Opa) passed away. He lived a long life and, with the exception of the last year or so of his life, was quite healthy and mobile. This was the first loss I experienced as an adult/functional human. It’s a bummer but I’m grateful for the memories I have with him.

Didn’t call Oma enough. My grandma (Oma) is the family member I talk to most. I try calling her at least once a week. I missed more weeks than I like. Like personal development, this must be protected.

Excessive social media and “cheap” content consumption. Something I’m most self concious about? My screen time. I’ve spent too much time on social media consuming cheap content. My YouTube subscriptions/suggested videos aren’t as high quality as they once were. I’m not happy with myself about this. It’s an addiction I need to work on, but I’m scared to do so.

Delegation. I didn’t leverage the people I hired/brought on to help me with things. I didn’t let them or set them up for success. This is one of my biggest weak points. I’m always amazed by people who can effectively delegate work and trust them to do it.

What did I learn?


Don’t cheap out on hotels. When we first went to Traverse City I chose to put it upon myself to get the hotel for our half way stopping point. However, as I said before, sometimes I struggle to spend money (read: cheap). I chose an absolutely horrible hotel. It’s worth spending money on a hotel.

Personal development must be consistent and protected. I dropped the ball on this. If I’m not learning I’m sliding backwards. I’ve slid backwards a lot. Learn for the sake of learning - it doesn’t have to have a reason other than self improvement.

Downtime is necessary. I do my best thinking away from the computer. The computer is there to capture the ideas and implement things, it’s not where I do my thinking. I’ve forgotten this for years. Thus the sprint concept with enforced time off throughout the year.

Adding another project on top of an already unclear project doesn’t make the unclear project any more clear. I’m not sure if that sentence makes sense. But overloading yourself with work and being busy doesn’t make anything better. Get clear on what you’re doing and, most importantly, why you’re doing it.


Didn’t keep a good log here, which I’m bummed about, but I do know I learned a lot from the following books/courses.


I took a few courses to maintain and gain certifications throughout the year.

  • Low Angle Rope Rescue. Weekend to learn to do rope related rescues (low angle === feet stay on the ground)
  • PADO. Pumper Apparatus Driver/Operator. Drive and operate fire engines.
  • EMR/CPR Continuing Education. To stay certfied and up to date on latest techniques for medical calls.

low angle 1 low angle 2 pado


I’ve always been interested in self reliance. With the various events of the past few years (COVID, tornados, power outages) I’ve started doing more research into how we can be properly prepared for emergency situations, especially living in a townhouse.

An additional reason for this that I’ve seen first hand as a first responder is just how quickly emergency services can be overwhelmed during natural disasters, weather events, etc. Know how to take care of yourself, your family, and help your neighbors.

It’s never a bad investment.

In the self reliance vein, I got back into the idea of homesteading. I want to be closer to the food I eat and nature. This was part of the reason we considered moving to Traverse City. It’s just not quite the right moment for that.

Until next time.