2023: The Year I Changed Everything!

I quit my job and moved city.

2023: The Year I Changed Everything!
Running on the beach at sunrise on New Year's Day.

Issue No. 18

This is a project by Jeremy Brown. I write about topics that I'm passionate about, such as building high-performing teams that make great products, culture, leadership and technology.
As I'm building this newsletter (and a podcast and YouTube channel) in the open, you will get updates on this project here from time to time.

I apologise for starting the year with a more reflective newsletter than usual. Don't worry, I'll be back to my regular content soon (I'll explain more later). If you're not interested in a personal update from me, feel free to skip this week's episode or just skip to the summary at the end.

Since this letter is longer than I intended, here is the bottom line up front: 2023 was a challenging year, but it taught me a lot. I made some significant changes, including moving to a new city and leaving my job at the end of the year. In the coming months, I plan to invest my time and energy into this newsletter and explore other projects.

More than in previous years 2023 ended with a lot of hope for me as the start of 2024 feels like a new beginning, a rebirth if you will.

Before I delve into why I'm hopeful for the coming year, indulge me as I reflect on the past year

Retrospecting On 2023

“There's so much more to who you are than you know right now. You are, indeed, something mysterious and someone magnificent. You hold within you — secreted for safekeeping in your heart — a great gift for this world. Although you might sometimes feel like a cog in a huge machine, that you don't really matter in the great scheme of things, the truth is that you are fully eligible for a meaningful life, a mystical life, a life of the greatest fulfillment and service...”

― Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft: Crossing Into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche

In some ways, it was a difficult year and I felt my situation reflected many of the macro events going on in the world. Rising inflation, wars and a tightening of belts and attitudes in venture-backed startups had a ripple effect which touched many of us who were working in VC-backed startups.

As I look back on the year, I'm incredibly proud of what my team and I accomplished at work. However, despite my professional successes, I began to feel the signs of burnout. After work, I lacked the energy to invest in my relationships, health, and other important aspects of my life. It became clear that while I had achieved great results, I was losing sight of my purpose and wasn't in an environment where I could thrive.

During the summer, I came to a realization and decided to make some changes. I began exercising more regularly and my family and I finally acted on one of our long-standing dreams. In just two months, we packed up our belongings, rented out our flat, and moved 750 km (466 miles) south from Paris to Montpellier.

Making changes hasn't been easy. Exercising regularly has been especially tough, especially with a big move. The move itself was exhausting. But as I started to change one part of my life, I realized I needed to keep going and change other things too. These changes started to have a ripple effect.

I eventually realized that to unlock my potential, I needed to make professional changes. This meant finding a way to do my work without sacrificing everything and being in a place where I can grow, learn, and make a difference.

To reach my full potential, I must exist at the frontier of what I know and what is possible. I spent quite a lot of my early career in this space, however, I've drifted away from that frontier. I had become too comfortable, prioritizing safe choices and taking fewer risks.

I realised that the cost of staying in my comfort zone, further from the frontier was taking its toll on me. The moments where I felt alive were getting fewer and farther apart and I was more likely to be found moaning about stuff that happened to me than taking action and doing things that energised me. My responses to situations had drifted to the negative rather than the positive.

I was paying a price in terms of compromising, pushing back my feelings, accepting situations and trying to see the silver lining even when I felt my core values and principles were being diluted.

But the price I was paying was much more costly. By not pushing out towards the frontier I was missing out on a deeper, broader, and wider possible future that I know is available to me.

To truly grow, I need to push myself back out to the edge, take risks and have faith in myself. In 2024 it's time to leap forward and see what I am truly capable of.

"Alive" is My Word for This Year

I’ve never had a “word of the year” before or a theme for how I want to approach the year ahead, but inspired by Ryan Halliday who does this every year, the word “alive” hit me like a ton of bricks as I thought about the year I want to have.

When I look back on the past year the moments that I want more of in 2024 are the moments where I felt truly alive, special moments with my family, going deeper with friends, adventures in far-flung places, working in a team that feels in sync with each other because they have a shared purpose.

I want to actively create more moments this year that are full of positive energy and I want to share my positive energy with others.

I want to inject some positivity, optimism and sunshine into a world that is changing from one that is in peacetime and full of abundance to a world that is in wartime mode. It feels like every side is fighting against each other, from the right and the left becoming increasingly polarised, to management setting themselves against employees through layoffs and return-to-office mandates.

Alive for me also means sustainably doing things. Not just short bursts of extreme and intense life but finding a sustainable way to be alive. I’m prone to overdoing everything I do, so the challenge for me in the year ahead will be to find a middle ground that works.

Favourable Conditions Never Come

We are always falling in love or quarreling, looking for jobs or fearing to lose them, getting ill and recovering, following public affairs. If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come."

― C.S. Lewis

As you might know, I’ve been trying to get this newsletter off the ground for some time, as well as several other projects. Just like this C.S. Lewis quote, I was always looking for favourable conditions.

At the end of 2023, I realised that favourable conditions never come and I would need to “enter the arena” even though conditions felt unfavourable.

Going Slow to Go Fast, Going Together to Go Far

"New goals don't deliver new results. New lifestyles do. And a lifestyle is a process, not an outcome. For this reason, all of your energy should go into building better habits, not chasing better results."

― James Clear, Atomic Habits

As the year starts I’m going to try to go slower and focus on the most important things to me. Spend more time with family, invest in my health, and spend more time with the people who energise me.

My goal is not to find a job or make wads of money. While I would like to build a business at some point I’m not setting out to achieve any specific metric. I want to actively and consciously search for the work that I want to keep doing over a sustained period.

For the short term, I’m likely going to do some short-term contracts to make ends meet and experiment a lot with various ideas I’ve had for some time.

The work I get paid for may change over time, and it may or may not involve the things that I want to keep doing. But what I want to keep doing, such as mentoring and helping others who are earlier in their career than I am, writing, sharing ideas, connecting people, and having meaningful conversations, will make this all worth it.

So What Does This Concretely Mean for Me?

I’ve left my job at Dashlane.

I’m grateful for what I learned about myself, it sounds like a cliche but working at a startup is like working at several different companies in a very short period. I’ll be cheering the company on from the alumni stands. I’m SO grateful for the folks I met there and I'm happy for those who find joy and peace there.

I’m excited about what I’m going to learn and build next.

I’m going to invest quality time in my family, my friends, and myself.

I’m going to write more in this newsletter and see where it leads. I’m also going to explore some of the ideas I had around podcasting and video.

I’m open to short-term or part-time contracting opportunities helping organisations as a consultant or as an interim CTO or VP of Engineering.

I’m not closing the door to a permanent role but I’m going to approach that option thoughtfully to make sure the fit is right.

And What Does This Mean for You, Dearest and Most Loyal Reader?

This newsletter will resume its weekly cadence and I’m going to explore some other ideas I’ve had for a long time.

I also have a ton of useful tools that I've found and used over the years that I want to make available to folks.

I’ll get back to the original idea I had of putting out a podcast introducing you to folks that I think you should meet and I want to experiment with video and YouTube in particular.

Putting out a newsletter, podcast and YouTube videos sounds like a creator cliche. I know! 😹 I have some things in me that I need to share and these seem like the best ways to do that in 2024.

Thank You!

If you got this far down the page, thank you, I truly appreciate your interest. For me to write better I have to weave myself into the fabric of this newsletter and this one came out very personal.

I value each one of you, the fact that you follow me in my corner of the internet means SO much to me and I hope to be able to bring you some value in return this year.

Happy New Year to you, here is a wee Irish blessing for each of you.

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

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