2023 in Review

by Cody on 2024-01-04 filed under review

If you're reading this, then we made it! 2023 threw what it could at us, but here we are, still spending too much time on the Internet.

Last year, I wrote a 2022 In Review. I had fun trying to summarize a whole year, and I heard from lots of old friends and colleagues afterwards. You people all encouraged me and now you will have sit through my 2023 in Review. Just like last year, I will try to bring in data and my own personal goals where I can.


In 2022, I made a big career shift by moving from the world of big tech at Snap to the world of educational technology at Seesaw. It was a significant change, but one I wanted to try to bring more purpose to my professional life. I didn't explicitly create a 2023 professional goal, but if I did, it would have been keep going.

And how did that go? For so many people, 2023 was a challenging year professionally with lots of surprises. I experienced some of that too, but I kept going and we did a lot of good things. We shipped so many new features, landed a ton of architectural improvements, and brought on a number of excellent new teammates. We made the learning experience better for millions of people and I'm proud of that. And just as important (to me at least), hooray, I still have a job *fires confetti cannon*!

I will be honest, it wasn't always a cake walk. Jobs can be hard and I think it's ok to admit that. I have yet to find a role where it's interesting, fulfilling, rewarding, and easy. (When I find it, you will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands.) For now, I am good with doing work that's interesting + fulfilling + rewarding. Easy can come later. Since I currently have a job that checks all those boxes and I have a lot more to give here, I will continue with this goal for 2024.


For the past 4 years, I've set (and met) a goal to run 500 miles. I recommend big, bold goals like that. First, it's motivating. The only way to meet the goal is to run; there's no getting around the math. Second, it's empowering. If I can force myself to run 10 miles on a cold, rainy Seattle Sunday, then I can also force myself to send that annoying email, respond to that cryptic Slack message, or even talk to another human on the phone.

How did it go? In 2023, I finished with 525 miles which earns me extra points for a palindrome. I am kind of amazed I ran that much given the amount of minor illnesses and injuries I dealt with. Did you know that as you get older, you just get hurt all the time for no reason? For example, I had to take 3 weeks off because I tied 1 shoe too tight. Apparently you can get tendinitis from that. Let that be a lesson: you can't take anything for granted, even your shoelace. In addition to the 500 miles, I did my fastest half marathon ever (1:47). For 2024, I will continue this goal.


I don't set concrete financial goals. While my last name is Powell, I have no relation to Jerome and no control whatsoever of the global economy. So, my vague hope is that things generally go up, but if they don't, that's ok because it probably wasn't my fault.

How did it go? Well, 2023 was certainly a better year financially than 2022. The stock market recovered, crypto went up, inflation went down. That's good for most people, and it was mostly good for me too. Our rental properties kept things interesting, but overall, it was a better year than I could've expected 12 months ago.

My single biggest financial decision in 2023 made little sense financially: we bought a lake house a couple of hours from Seattle. The Internet is full of personal finance wizards who advise against this sort of thing. I get the reasoning: you are locked in to a single place that requires constant maintenance. We are not just talking about boring maintenance here either, but fun new forms of rural maintenance involving septic tanks, wells, and hordes of raccoons. This point was well proven when both the refrigerator and hot water heater died in the first week of owning the place. But those things are fixable and this adventure proved worthwhile so far, because of the impact it had on...


My family goals were to be there every day and deliver 2 family highlights. My 3 kids are growing up quickly. It's hard to be a good parent on top of everything else. But I can be there, in the sense that I keep them clean, fed, in school, and out of jail. I can also try to deliver a couple of moments each year that we remember for years to come.

How did it go? Well, the kids are all somewhat clean, definitely fed, certainly in school, and out of jail the last time I checked. And we had plenty of family highlights. We did a couple of big family trips to Portland and San Francisco. But the reason I pursued this lake house is because I wanted more of these highlights. Could we get a place where others would want to join us and have a special time? It turns out that you can do this if you're willing to light a pile of money on fire and do double the amount of housework. Anyway, I will continue this goal in 2024.


Every 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, light, fun stuff and more challenging books as well.

How did it go? I finished 33 books. That's good! If I peek into Goodreads, my top 5 were:

  • The Overstory by Richard Powers. I thought and talked about this book more than any other in 2023, and it also inspired my March and April experiment to code every day. I am now a big tree guy, and I recommend you become one as well.
  • Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. An incredible story of survival in Appalachia that deserves all the adulation it received. It made me think of many people I knew growing up in Texas who got lost along the way and how lucky I am to be here.
  • Acid for the Children by Flea. I read a lot of musician biographies in 2023 and Flea's was my favorite. Every few pages, I would bolt upright in bed and say, "What on earth?" I don't know how he's alive but I am glad he is.
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I like a good ghost story. You pair that up with a bunch of New Zealand history and intertwining plotlines, and you've got a stew going.
  • Antkind by Charlie Kaufman. This is, without question, the weirdest book I've ever read. I don't know how to describe it and I don't know if I understood half of it, but I laughed a lot at the other half.

Reading good books brings a lot of fun into my life and I will continue this goal in 2024.


Spotify informs me that I was in the top 0.1% of listeners to Monster High. In other words, this was the year my daughter dominated my Spotify account and permanently destroyed the recommendations.

There were a couple of other fun music developments. We got into vinyl in a big way, which is cool as long as you don't look at the price tag of anything you buy. We also went to many more concerts. The real highlights were old favorites who blew me away, like the Cure, Depeche Mode, and the Old 97s. Any time you can pay your past self a kindness by seeing one of their favorite bands, you should.


In my 2022 In Review post, I proposed a couple of other goals for myself. The first was publish 4 posts of merit in 2023. I did write 6 lengthy posts that I put real work into. I don't know if I'd call them particularly meritorious, but the point was to write more. I'd consider this a win. I certanily overdid it on the length of my posts, and I am again doing that again here because I don't learn. But, overall, I have fun doing this and I would like to continue with this goal in 2024.

The other goal I called out in my 2022 in Review post was to ship 2 side projects. I think I technically did this via the website itself (launched in Jan) and the AI site I documented in my March and April experiment. It was fun, but it was work and it came at the expense of everything else I could've been doing. I love coding, but I don't like the idea of making that same trade in 2024, because...

New Goals

There were several times in 2023 where I felt like Bilbo Baggins when he said, "I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread." I'm on paragraph 97 of my year in review, so I guess that tracks. What can I do about that? I can manage my energy better, commit to less, and de-Bilbo-ify. So, the 1 and only new goal I'm willing to commit to here is to pare things down. And in the spirit of paring things down, I am not even going to describe how I'll do that or measure it. But I'm writing it here to keep myself accountable.

Wrap Up

2023 was a full year for me. While I am happy with what I did, I see clear room for improvement and that excites me. I hope you feel the same way! And if you don't, you've got all of 2024 to figure it out.