2022 In Review

by Cody on 2023-01-06 filed under review

I love a good yearly review. For the writer, it forces you to be objective and comprehensive about life. For the reader, you get a peek into someone's life, which may inspire or terrify you (inspirify?). Since I just read Will Larson's 2022 Review, I am going to try summarizing 2022 in the life of Powell. I am both goal-driven and data-driven, so I'll review the year through those lenses.

2022 was a hard year for all of us. But I got through it, just like you did. Let's see how I did.


I went into 2022 with the extraordinarily vague goal of do something the world needs more of. Why? Well, the past couple of years have been rough for humanity. We could use some helpers. While I really loved my team and the technical challenges of Snap, and I'd had a lot of fun with the product itself, it wasn't aligned with the kind of challenges that I wanted to direct my energy towards. How do I pull that off though? For example, the world needs less litter, so I guess I can quit my job to pick up trash at the park all day?

I stewed on that for a while, making no progress. Then I was contacted about a role as VP of Engineering at Seesaw Learning. It captured my interest because 3 of my kids used Seesaw within the classroom. In fact, my daughter used it nonstop to livestream her home life to her kindergarten class journal. Seesaw got them excited about learning while bringing me as a parent into the conversation. Are these things the world needs more of? Yes. It also offered good technical challenges, good people, and meaningful upside if things went well, so I made the switch in March.

How did it go? Like everyone else in the world of technology, it was a year of surprises. 'A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor' and all that. Overall though, we made a lot of major improvements towards hard problems [rolled out new engineering levels, new team structure, crucial investments in security, hired great people, major user-facing improvements like Messages and a web-first rewrite of the mobile app]. The factors that attracted me in the first place all remain true, and I continue to feel good about making this switch. If you're a technical person dealing with burnout or just thinking hard about the meaning of your work, consider a job you'd find intrinsically motivating. Something more mission-driven has worked well for me so far. For 2023, I will continue this goal.


For the past 3 years, I've set (and met) a goal to run 500 miles. There are a lot of benefits of a big, bold goal like 500 miles. It's motivating, so I get my shoes on when I'm not feeling 100%. It's a constant reminder that I can get a lot done in a year. It requires me to plan and prepare, to the point I amortize my remaining mileage for the year across weeks and months in a very intense spreadsheet. Most importantly, it builds a strong connection to that song I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by the Proclaimers.

How did it go? I barely made this, reaching 501.5 miles on Dec 29th. Like the rest of humanity in 2022, I just kept getting sick, making this more dramatic than intended. For 2023, I will continue this goal. I'll modify my approach slightly though, either by banking more miles when I'm feeling healthy or living 2023 in a plastic bubble.


Hoo boy, let's skip this one. I find it hard to set financial goals around outcomes like net worth, because you have no control or influence over the public markets. As a result, no overall goal here.

In the spirit of honesty though, how did it actually go? Well, everything went down just like everybody else. Better luck in 2023, gang!

There were bright spots. Our family began investing in residential real estate during the pandemic. This is an interesting side gig that generates some income + equity, diversifies our assets, and gives us tangible outcomes from our work. I think that last part is really important for technical folks. Sure, you can spin up 1000 VMs in AWS in 10 minutes, but can you get a fence built in a week within budget without driving yourself and your tenant crazy? (Good property managers help a ton, but they can't solve problems like these.) Anyway, we just completed construction of our 4th rental property here in Washington state. The new place is a bit of progress towards affordable, high quality, and higher density housing in Seattle, which I find important. My rough goal here is 1 new property a year that pays for itself (that constraint is key). For 2023, I will continue this goal, though I'd rather fail the goal than drop the constraint.


It's hard to set family goals. Years ago, I tried with goals like '1 quality activity per week per family member', then tracking all that in a spreadsheet. (I know, terrible idea, but 3 kids + 1 wife + 1 dog drove me to desparate measures.) That lasted about 1.5 weeks. Instead, my family goals are to be there every day and deliver 2 big family highlights. For me, being there every day means that I make the time to be with them and help them, like making breakfast, handling bedtime, and helping with homework. I devote 7am - 8:30am, then 5:30pm - 7:30pm every week day to this, plus most of the weekend. Two big family highlights are experiences we'll remember forever.

How did it go? I was (and am) there every day. That's one benefit of working from home, though my family may feel I am slightly too there. We also succeeded on 2 big family highlights, with an extended family trip to Isla Mujeres in Mexico then an immediate family trip to Disneyland too. (Side note: I was super skeptical of the Disneyland experience, then we had an amazing time, and now I'm listening to podcasts about theme parks and watching series on Imagineering. Who is this person?) Anyway, for 2023, I will continue this goal.


Ever year, I aim to read 24 books at an average of 2 per month. There's enough flexibility and buffer in that goal for me to read some quick, trashy stuff and more challenging books as well.

How did it go? I finished 27 books. That's good! If I peek into Goodreads, my top 5 were:

  • The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki. Ruth Ozeki is one of my favorite authors, and also a Zen Buddhist priest. Her stories are so different and engaging, and they make me think differently. This one specifically got me thinking a lot about thinking itself and, oddly, our relationship with stuff in our house.
  • My Struggle vol 1 by Karl Ove KnausgÃ¥rd. A 7 volume autobiography by an intense and often unlikable Norwegian man? Sign me up! But really, the level of detail in his autobiography is like stepping into his life. Not only was it like living his childhood, but my own childhood came to life. Not for the faint of heart though, the series is a daunting commitment and I'm currently stuck on vol 3.
  • The Shining by Stephen King. You don't need me to tell you Stephen King is good, but he is.
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X. Incredible on multiple levels: his own life story, and the evolution of his thinking on race, religion, and America.
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. It's unlikely you need me to tell you Andy Weir is good, but in case you do, my son, wife, and I all enjoyed the heck out of this. Can't wait for the movie.

Interestingly, there's nothing here technical or leadership-related. If there's something along those lines that captivated you, I'd love to hear it. Regardless, I will continue this goal in 2023.


Spotify informs me that my top 5 songs played in 2022 were all from the Encanto soundtrack. It's a shared family account, in the sense that we're all related and that we all share a close kinship with the Family Madrigal. For 2023, my goal will be to see some cooler songs on my annual Spotify Wrapped.

What's Not Here?

I could list categories forever: technical, creative, mental health, etc. However, I hit diminishing (or even negative) marginal returns pretty quickly as my commitments stack up. Things slip through the cracks, I get worn down and grumpy, etc. I'd rather succeed on the things I find most important and enjoyable than become the World's Most Complete Human.

New Goals

I did devise a couple of brand new goals for 2023 that led me here, to this write up. First, I want to publish 4 posts of merit in 2023. At some point, I turned into a content consumption machine, but I learn a lot and have fun when I put things into words. Is this an actual post of merit? Let's see if anyone reads it.

Second, I want to ship 2 side projects. My github is littered with abandoned projects with cool names, but again, I learn a lot and I have fun when one of those projects actually ships and collides with reality. For example, I reinvented the CMS in a golang monster with a candy coating of bugs and memory leaks to power this website. But if you're reading this, I count that as shipped and I'm halfway to my goal.

Wrap Up

2022 was tough. When I look at what I did, I feel good about it. I hope you feel the same about your own efforts. And if you don't, consider how our time here is finite and how you want to spend it. Set some goals, then make things happen.

Questions / comments / challenges to a duel? Contact me. Thanks for reading.