A letter to Future Me

Like many other people, during the months of December and January I reflect on the year that's passed, and come up with some goals for the next year. Over the years this has led me to:

  • Move to places like Texas, Virginia, and Alabama to work in the aerospace industry.
  • Start a software company, and later sell that company.
  • Travel to Alaska, move there, and then move to Colorado.
  • Many other things ...

This year I thought I'd take a different tact, and write a letter to myself that I'll either tape to a wall, or perhaps lock away, only to be read in January, 2014. The letter begins like this:

Dear Al,

Another year has gone by -- how did you do? Here's what I expect:

  1. The Scala Cookbook received excellent reviews.
  2. You've moved to Boulder or Louisville (Colorado).
  3. You've been practicing yoga regularly at a top-notch studio.
  4. More ...

Personal goals

Everything else after that is more personal than I care to share here, but I thought that was an important lesson: At this point in my life my personal goals are much more important than my work goals. For instance, I don't feel the angst I used to have, that I had to start my own business because everybody else was doing things wrong. That says something about me, but it also says something about the improvement of the software industry practices and talent since the 1990s.

That being said, I think it also comes from the saying, "If you understand Zen, all work is the same." I'm at a point where I understand and believe that saying. I suppose it also comes from a peace of mind, knowing that I don't have to "work" any more, but I choose to work because it's something I enjoy.


If you've been hesitating to make your own New Year's resolutions, I encourage you to try writing a letter like this to yourself. I've found it to be much more interesting than just writing out a list of goals. (Although I've shown a list here, I actually wrote each item out with a little description, stating my motivation for each item. I also wrote them out by hand. I have letters I wrote to myself dating back to 1987, and I find that I can remember almost exactly what I was doing and thinking when I wrote those letters. I think the memory aspect of this comes in part from seeing my own handwriting.

Instead of thinking of these things as resolutions, or even goals, think of them as "pre-realities". Write in a matter-of-fact way about the things you've accomplished in the year that's gone by. Then make them happen.


P.S. - A friend of mine encourages adding this statement to the letter: "This, or something better." For example, I've written that I want to move to Boulder or Louisville, Colorado, but if something better comes up, of course I'll take the "something better". It goes back to thinking of these things as pre-realities.