My 2023 Annual Review

I’m very grateful for how my life is shaping out.

I feel extremely fortunate to have a partner I deeply love and a work situation that motivates me. I love Peak Frameworks and I love Arial Ten and I don’t feel like I have to compromise that much on either.

I spent most of 2023 in Toronto because I was extremely keen on buying a home. Being a digital nomad is a rare blessing, but not having a home base is troublesome and inconvenient. It’s a bizarre feeling to not feel comfortable at home after a long trip.

Fortunately, I ended up buying a house downtown Toronto this year! It has been pretty exhausting (both for my mindshare and bank account), but I feel that it’s an important step to keep building up my life.

I painted my office/studio this warm blue and I’m super excited to create great art there. And in a way, homeownership is a lot like entrepreneurship in that it intrinsically motivates me to better my situation.

My home buying process and travels have also really shed a light on wealth inequality. It’s sad. In most of the desirable cities I’ve visited, there’s a heartbreaking homeless and drug use problem. It reminds me of how coddled my bubble is and that much of life is simply not fair.

This was the fourth (!) year of me running Peak Frameworks, my finance interview prep business. I teach people to get into competitive finance roles like private equity and investment banking.

I still enjoy running Peak Frameworks and I consider it by far the best career choice I’ve ever made.

It’s enabled me to pursue music seriously and gain a good deal of financial independence while helping me remain close to the career I invested years into.

As you might expect, running a business is not a perfect path and certainly not for everyone. On the year, Peak Frameworks still had good growth, but I’m starting to see more competition and signs of weakening revenue. This final quarter of 2023 is probably the most stressed about work that I’ve been since I started Peak Frameworks; it puts the onus on me to work harder in the new year.

Though quite candidly, it does make it “fun” in a weird way. If I fail and screw up, it’s totally on me. And if I put more work into the business, then I’m the one who gets to reap the rewards. Kind of feels like how it should be if you ask me.

I’m still not sure what a life after Peak Frameworks really looks like. I think in the medium-term future (~40), I’d be open to running a family office and buying small businesses (like a search fund without outside capital). Realistically, I’m probably going to run Peak Frameworks until the wheels fall off or I get a godfather buyout offer.

As of right now, the “staff” for Peak Frameworks looks like this:

  • 1 video editor
  • 1 customer service person
  • 1 blog writer
  • 1 summer intern that does more technical blog writing
  • 1 guy who helps me edit memes
  • 1 homie who helped me build the equity research course

All in all, I probably spent an average of 15-25 hours on Peak Frameworks per week in 2023. 

After learning and grinding for 5 years, I released music on Spotify for the first time in the summer of 2023. I produce chill R&B dance music under the name Arial Ten (yes, it’s a nod to the font).

Producing music is kinda weird, because no one really cares about it except me and a few other people who are also wistfully delusional about becoming notable musicians. Literally no one else cares and in that way, it’s a hugely selfish pursuit for me.

But I do really, really love it. The feeling of creating a novel piece of art that feels like an expression of your soul is a magical experience. I genuinely really like some of the music I’m making.

I had some cool pseudo-accomplishments this year:

  • I got a song signed by Lisbai Musica, a European dance label
    • This didn’t do too much for me from a streaming perspective, but the label is run by some of my favorite artists, so it’s a validating feeling
    • A handful of producers I really admire follow me on Instagram, so I’ll take that small W as well
  • I signed a sync deal with Indica Records, a Canadian indie label. They essentially pitch my music to get it placed in ads, TV shows, etc.
    • It’s cool in theory, but I haven’t had any placements yet, so it’s more just like a theoretical accomplishment
  • I reached a peak of ~1,500 monthly listeners on Spotify, which is good enough for top 7% (according to some Tweet I saw)
    • This stat is also further proof that most musicians fail horribly
  • I’ve worked with vocalists on several songs at this point. My original goal for 2023 was to just work with one vocalist, but I’ve had the pleasure of working with a handful of talented vocalists
    • Having an Instagram presence really helped in finding similar level artists. It reminded me that it’s important to maximize your surface area of luck. 

It may sound a bit goofy, but “my ultimate goal” with music is simply to become my own favorite musician.

One day, I want to listen to my own music and like it more than I like Daft Punk or Kaytranada. I’m trying to create art that is purposefully crafted for my own hyper-specific tastes.

My ambitious-realistic goal is to get to 10k monthly followers next year and to start playing my own live shows.

I love Toronto, but the relative mediocrity of winter forces me to be open-minded about my long-term living situation. I think it is still the logical choice for the next 5 years of my life, but it’s an extremely heavy “inertia” play, which I generally try to be conscious of.

If I had to estimate, I think I will probably do Toronto in the summer and then travel in the winter for the next few years. But I predict that sort of lifestyle becomes much dicier when you have kids.

A lot of the people I admire the most live in southern California, which is on my mind. However, I don’t think it’s realistic to uproot my parents (healthcare, friend group, cost) and I will ideally see them at least twice per month for the rest of their lives. I’ll have to figure this out at some point.

I also turned 30 this past year and honestly, I have a good feeling that my 30s are going to be overall better than my 20s.

Kudos to early 20’s Matt for suffering like a champ because now my friends, it is time to enjoy.