My 2015 In Review

I have started to be very interested in S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. being an acronym which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time- bound.

As I am working to set goals for the rest of my life and for 2016 in particular I thought it’d be a great exercise to look back at 2015 and see what happened and what I already have achieved.

A year is a long time. In January 2015 I was still in my first position working for John Deere which was working on engines. I had been looking for a new position since about May 2014. I had applied for a position in December 2014 with the Ag department but had run into some roadblocks in the organization. I interviewed for a few more positions between January and April . In April learned that the technicalities were fixed and I was able to be offered the position I had interviewed for in December. I started my new position May 1st 2015.

I was part of the University of Northern Iowa competition ballroom dance team from Sept 2014 to May 2015. March 8th, 2015 I was completing the 2nd amateur (newbie) dance competition I was involved in. This took place in Minnesota. It was a great experience where I was able to learn how to ballroom dance and complete in 3 competitions total. Two in Minnesota and one in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Learning a new skill has been very fun. I was able to dance at quite a few weddings and it’s something that people are quite surprised by. Growing up being a wrestler and car guy and mechanical engineer this was not something many people saw coming. Truthfully I hadn’t seen it coming myself. Way back in early 2014 I think or maybe even late 2013 a friend asked me to go dancing one time and it stuck.

Between January and March I took the transmission out of my 1987 Monte Carlo SS. I replaced the front and rear seals. I also ended up fixing the transmission cooling lines as well as replacing my power steering pump and hoses. All those things were leaking. For the first time in 11 years of ownership of that car nothing seems to be leaking.

In April a dirt bike was stolen from the back of my truck which prompted this post.

At the end of April I participated in the “Financial LIteracy Test” sponsored/created by Mike Finley. The top 10 people won a total of $100,000 ranging from $1000 for 10th to $25,000 for first place. I did not win any of the money but I learned a lot about finances from reading both of Mike Finley’s books this year as well as various discussions I’ve had with the man this year. Through this I was able to recognize that starting a ROTH IRA was probably a good idea for me. I was able to put in $5500 (max year contribution) for 2014 before April 2015 (catch up period) as well as fully funding my 2015 ($5500). I have also started saving for my 2016 contribution and hope to have that funded in early 2016. That will allow me to start saving in other vehicles or giving more. In April I did my own taxes using Turbotax instead of paying to get them done like I did the 2 previous years.

In my interest to continue to be more efficient in my living, I cut my living expenses dramatically (for 6 months) by getting  a roommate. He has moved on and gotten married (which I’m very happy for him) but again I need to look for a roommate.

In June I rebuilt the engine in my Honda bobber, put it back in the motorcycle and eventually resynced the carbs and it ran super.

Books can take you anywhere!

In 2015 I read 37 books and listened to 21 audio books as of November 15th 2015. The list can be found here. This has been a wonderful experience. It has opened my world to many different experiences that I wouldn’t otherwise have.  We all have one life to live but via books we can gain a whole person’s life’s accumulation of knowledge about subjects as varied as launching early NASA space shuttles, Lucid Dreaming, Financial Literacy, Religion, Atheism and the future of the world.

I visited 11 different churches with my church. We would visit them 1x a month, usually the 2nd weekend of the month. Sometime it’d be a saturday (7th Day Adventists and Muslims) 1-11-2015 -Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), 2-8-2015 Sunday – Universal Unitarians, 4-11-2015 – Mosque, Waterloo IA,  5-9-2015 Saturday – 7th Day Adventist Church in Waterloo, IA, 6-21-2015 Sunday – Trinity Bible Church, 7-12-2015 Sunday – First Church of Christ – Scientist, Cedar Falls, IA, 8-9-2015 Sunday – Greenhill Baptist Church, Cedar Falls, IA, 9-13-2015 Sunday – Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, Waterloo, IA, 10-11-2015 Sunday – St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, Waterloo, IA, 11-8-2015 Candeo Church, Waterloo IA. This has also been a wonderful eye-opening experience. I have approached each service with a sense of curiosity of what I will find there. What is similar to my usual services (Catholic)? What is different? Why do they believe what they do? I have met many great people and learned that we all could likely learn a bit more from knowing our neighbors better.

I have continued mentoring 2 brothers via The Job Foundation (TJF). I have also been able to help out there in other capacities from making lesson plans to providing supervision at large group events. What TJF does is provide financial literacy training to many kids who would otherwise not get it (which is really all kids!) These kids are given a few lessons throughout the school year as well as they are rewarded with Conditional Cash Transfers. They get paid to get good grades. Over half of the money is put into a savings account that is inaccessible to the kids until they graduate high school. The rest they are empowered to spend, save or donate as they see fit, giving them the opportunity to make real decisions.  If you’d like to make a 1 time or recurring donation please contact us here.

Around march 2015 I started volunteering at Cedar Valley Gearheads. “Our mission is to provide safe, reliable vehicles at no cost to those most in need in the Cedar Valley.” I have really enjoyed working on vehicles there and the few opportunities I have had to interact with the people receiving cars. I was recently voted in as Vice President for this group and am looking forward to helping them grow as an organization that does even more good in the coming year. If you’d like to make a 1 time or recurring donation please contact us here.

I learned a lot about electricity and it’s future applications via presentations at the Waterloo Technical Society. They give presentations about various topics. Three I went to were about a residential solar project, a Tesla S owner and the UNI power plant operation. Summaries can be found here. I was also able to sign up for some shares of the Cedar Falls Simple Solar project which allows people to  purchase and get the benefits of solar panels without having to maintain them or have them on their land even. It’s a community solar garden. How neat is that?

Along with that interest in electricity I was also investigating it for transportation. I found a very cool website I had been talking with friends about building an electric bicycle for months and later an electric motorcycle. I finally just bit the bullet and bought the parts for the e-bike. I assembled it all for about $620 ($300 bike, $200 tire, $120 batteries) and was able to ride it around some. It is 1000 watts which is about 1.3 horsepower. It will go 29mph when fully charged. The one time I tried to get a max distance it went 10 miles averaging 18-20 mph. Not bad! I have since found many options for production electric bikes that seem a pretty good value.


Another bike and efficiency related thing I picked up in early 2015 was riding to get actual places I needed to go. I started by biking to dancing lessons at UNI. It’s only a mile. After that first short ride I was ecstatic. I was so jacked to bike more. I started biking down to main street and out to Gearheads. It finally ended with me biking to work about 6 times this year (45 minute bike ride). I was even up early enough one day to see Jupiter still in the sky at 5:30 in the morning. What a treat!

In my increased desire for efficiency in 2015 I took the step and actually sold a vehicle! My 2007 Mustang GT. While I enjoyed the car while I had it I kept thinking I needed more power. I asked myself what I’d actually do with a more powerful street car? I finally talked myself into selling it. I have more recently been considering a Toyota Prius or a Chevrolet Volt. My car buddies will be shocked or sickened to even hear those things coming out of my mouth but reading and learning about others has given me some appreciation of the fact that there might be more important things out there than me driving a fast inefficient car. All that being said, in my latest set of life goals I am still targeting owning a Lamborghini by the time I’m 30. Of course, we could all have self driving vehicles in the next 4 years so that might already be an obsolete dream. Who knows?

I was also lucky enough to stand up in 1 wedding, usher 2 and attend 3 more.

All of that seems to be a fairly thorough review of my 2015. Looking back, it was a great year. One of the things that I think contributed greatly was my renewed interest in informal learning through constant curiosity. Now looking forward I am working to set goals for 2016 for myself as well as set comprehensive life goals. I will hopefully share some of those in the future.

What did you do in 2015?
What do you hope to do in 2016?

2 thoughts on “My 2015 In Review

  1. Pingback: 02016 Year End Review |

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