Last year, I wrote about 24 people who were successful by age 24. This year, I’ve decided to flip the question on myself to see if I could come up with 25 personal achievements; no matter how small.
Table of Contents
Coming up with 25 achievements turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. By the end of this list, you’ll see just how desperate I got. Without further ado, let’s get to the official list.
Junior Black Belt
When I was in 3rd grade, my parents signed me up for Taekwondo:
Over the next two years, I attended regular classes where I practiced grappling, sparring, and general athleticism. By the time I was in 5th grade, I completed my final test to earn my Junior Black Belt.
Shortly following my achievement, I quit the program. To be honest, I don’t know why, but I imagine it was too expensive for my parents. Instead, I went back to playing video games and soccer.
Semper Fidelis Award
In case you didn’t know, I’m a musician on the side. Specifically, I’ve been playing trombone since 6th grade which adds up to about 13 years. Granted, I don’t think I’m very good; you could say I peaked in undergrad. But, now I play as a hobby.
At any rate, I spent all four years of high school in the marching band. By the end of those four years, I was given the Semper Fidelis award for musical excellence:
Of course, as a minimalist, I no longer have this plaque. The photo you see here is from right before I parted with it back in Atlanta.
Amateur Radio License
Shortly after getting my Black Belt, I passed the Technician License exam. In other words, the FCC gave me the privilege to use radio frequencies above 30 MHz for communication. That said, I’ve never once used a radio despite owning a handheld.
In the future, I might try tapping into some of the latest digital modes like FT8. Of course, that would require a radio and possibly a tower, and I just don’t know if I’ll ever be interested in that kind of adventure.
As I’ve mentioned a handful of times on this site, I graduated from Case Western Reserve University in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. As an added bonus, I also graduated with a minor in Computer Gaming.
I’d share a picture of the degree, but I’ve heard that’s generally bad practice. Regardless, I have that 6-figure piece of card stock hidden away in a folder somewhere.
Edison Engineering Development Program
By now, you’ve heard me complain a lot about my experience at GE, but did I ever mention that I was a part of a rather prestigious program at the company?
As it turns out, I used to be a part of the Edison Engineering Development Program (or EEDP) which allowed me to rotate through the company to try different roles. Also, as an Edison, I was able to do a bit of traveling. I probably never would have visited Mexico if it wasn’t for that program, so I’m thankful for that.
Fun fact: my birthday is the same day as Mexico’s Constitution Day.
National Communications Coordinator
At some point during undergrad, I decided I wanted to get involved with a campus organization. Somehow, I ended up joining the Residence Hall Association (RHA) where I went from a regular member to the National Communications Coordinator (NCC) in the span of 3 years.
If you’re unfamiliar with housing organizations like RHA, let me explain. As NCC, I was responsible for putting together a delegation of fellow residents for 3 conferences a year (Regional, No Frills, and National). Here are some of those highlights:
As you can see in that last photo, we won a lot of awards.
In 2017, I decided I didn’t want to be an engineer anymore. Instead, I wanted to be a teacher. In response, I applied to grad school, but there was no guarantee that I’d get in. As a back up plan, my wife and I decided to take an online TEFL course, so we could earn our TEFL certificates.
Since then, we have both earned a TEFL certificate. If we’re ever in a pinch, we can rely on them to get us a job.
When I was in high school, a lot of my friends were soccer players. Of course, I was no stranger to the sport, but I never saw myself as an athlete. Sure, I played in the summers, but I was never going to play for the school.
Then, a bunch of my friends convinced me to try out my senior year of high school, and I somehow made the team. To be fair, I maybe played 10 full minutes of varsity soccer, but you can’t take that achievement away from me.
Apparently, I was so excited about making the team that I made my Aunt take senior pics of me in the uniform.
Perhaps one of my favorite achievements of my life so far has been growing the courage to quit my first job. It seems these days a lot of people are unhappy in their jobs, but they never take the first step toward moving on. Instead, they find other ways to cope like having kids, buying a house, or piling on the debt. Obviously, these decisions can make it harder to leave.
As someone who was fortunate enough to go to college and get a high paying job playing with trains, I felt guilty for wanting to quit. But then, I realized that I didn’t need to suffer; my “first world problems” were just as valid as anyone else’s.
At that point, I made plans to quit my job, and I’ve been enormously grateful for that decision every since.
Duolingo 300+ Day Streak
By the time this article is released, I’ll hopefully be just out of reach of a year long Duolingo streak. Until then, the achievement I’m happy to share is 300+ days!
If you’re unfamiliar with Duolingo, it’s a language learning app. Personally, I use it to study Spanish, but I’ve toyed with several other languages including French, Italian, and Japanese.
I’ve been using the app on and off since 2014, but I’ve been obsessed with it since I went to Mexico. Now, I’m dead set on really learning the language. The only problem is I never have a chance to speak it. Anyone want to help me out?
Diamond in Overwatch
Don’t judge me on this one! I was actually pretty proud of this achievement as I’ve largely played shooters my whole life. For whatever reason, I got locked up in plat for several seasons, and I just couldn’t dig myself out. That said, the struggle ended a couple of seasons ago when I finally climbed into diamond.
Since then, I’ve fallen all the way into gold, but I’ll still happily brag about reaching diamond every chance I get. After all, it’s been a long haul.
If Blizzard ever figures out matchmaking, I may be able to climb a little higher in the future. For now, I’ve taken a bit of a break from the game.
It probably sounds a bit weird to mention as an achievement, but I got engaged in 2017 (and since married). If you haven’t heard the story, I recommend checking out that article.
But to summarize, I took Morgan out to Disney for a couple days over Thanksgiving break. She figured I was going to propose, but she didn’t know when. To mess with her, I made a bit of a Disney challenge where we went around taking pictures of things. Every so often I would reward her from a bag of prizes. Of course, at some point, she had to pull out the ring reward which was how I proposed.
As fun as that was, I’m glad I never have to do anything like that again. Proposals are so weird. Why can’t we just sit down and decide on marriage mutually in 2019?
On March 18th, 2018, I got married to my high school sweetheart, Morgan. As with the engagement, I wrote a rather lengthy article summarizing that event and everything leading up to it. If you’re interested, check it out.
She and I have been married for close to a year now, and it doesn’t feel all that different from the 8 previous years of dating. In fact, I’m getting kind of tired of hearing how marriage is hard. Sure, there are disagreements and whatnot, but I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience with it so far.
Thankfully, I can succumb to my confirmation bias because I’ve found some really great articles that agree with me:
The internet is good for finding content that speaks to you. That’s for sure!
Again, this is going to sound like a weird thing to brag about, but I changed my last name in 2018. To learn more about that process, I recommend checking out the main article. In the meantime, however, let’s chat about it a little bit.
As you may have noticed throughout this entire piece, I’ve mentioned achievements, milestones, and accomplishments that have been tied to this peculiar fellow: Jeremy Griffith, the previous me. As of June 2018, however, my name was legally changed to Jeremy Grifski.
If you’re having trouble figuring out how or why I might have done this, take a look at my wife’s maiden name: Popowski. Together, we form a superhero family known as the Grifskis.
I won’t bother entertaining any negative comments regarding the name change. That said, if this is something you’re interested in doing, let me know in the comments. I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Most of my life has kind of been random. While I was in high school, I was very focused on the present. I was playing video games, practicing trombone, playing soccer, and doing homework. It wasn’t until I took the SAT that I started to think about my future.
When I was an undergrad, I struggled to pick between music and something a bit more lucrative, engineering. Of course, I settled on engineering only to find out it wasn’t for me.
If you would have asked me even two years ago if I ever thought about going to grad school, I would have said no. And, I can back that claim with my last semester grades. Yet in early 2018, I got accepted to 4 PhD programs before deciding to attend The Ohio State University for a PhD in Computer Science.
Now, I’m grinding away and loving it. Sometimes life takes strange paths to get you where you need to be, and I’m thankful for that. Otherwise, life wouldn’t be nearly as exciting.
The Renegade Coder
Let’s not forget! This website is a major achievement of mine. Having launched a small project like this will a few friends and failing miserably, I’m happy to say the The Renegade Coder is alive and well.
For reference, I started blogging in October of 2016, but I didn’t start this website until April of 2017. For what it’s worth, I came up with the name the same morning one of my fellow bloggers chewed me out for using his nickname in an article. Renegade is just about the best word to describe me.
At any rate, I don’t need to go in to the specifics of this achievement as I’ve shared a lot of the statistics already in another piece. That said, I’m really proud of this website, and I hope it continues to bring me joy.
GitHub 100+ Star Project
Speaking of small projects, I launched the Sample Programs collection back in 2018, and it’s exploded to over 100 stars already. If that’s not something to brag about, I don’t know what is.
If this is your first time hearing about the project, it’s a collection of code snippets in as many languages as possible. Currently, there are a lot of these kinds of repos floating around, but ours is closely maintained for consistency and documentation. Instead of just collecting snippets, we like to also have articles to showcase our solutions.
If you’re interested in helping out, we’d love for you to check out the project and maybe make a pull request.
Near the end of 2018, I was fortunate enough to be given my own college class to teach. Specifically, I was asked to teach CSE 1223, a 3-credit introductory Java course with a lab component.
Over the course of the semester, I graded over 50 assignments per student—of which, I had 40—plus 2 midterms and a final. In addition, I taught nearly 30 lectures and held about 15 labs.
By the end of the semester, I received a lot of positive feedback from my students. In addition to that and just having a really good time teaching, I’m confident to say that I’d be happy teaching full-time.
National First-Year Experience Bid
When I was an NCC, part of my responsibility was to try to recognize amazing people and programs at the regional level. Recognition came in the form of a bid (and sometimes a presentation). For those who care, bidding is the process of recognizing an individual or program through a multi-page document.
In particular, I helped write a bid for a first-year student which won at both the regional and the national levels. In fact, you can check out the NACURH 2016 Semi-Annual Report for proof on page 113. If you’re interested, I managed to dig up the regional winning version of the bid. Also, here’s a clip from that national conference:
To me, this feels like forever ago, but it was still a huge part of my life.
H.G. Gillespie Scholarship
When I was in college, I was looking for a little extra cash to help with my study abroad bug, so I figured I’d try applying to a few scholarships offered by my high school. One of the scholarships that I actually managed to earn was the H.G. Gillespie Scholarship.
As of 2019, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to over 10 states:
- New York
- North Carolina
- New Jersey
- North Dakota
Here’s that same list in pictures:
And, about 10 countries:
- United States
Again, here are some photos from those countries:
For someone from a small town in Pennsylvania, that’s a lot of traveling.
LMBA Open-Class Champion
At this point, the list is becoming a bit obscure because I’m running out of accomplishments, so here it goes.
When I was in high school, I participated heavily in various ensembles. In the fall, I was a regular in the marching band where we competed at the open-class level. Over the course of four years, we only managed to squeak out a championship win one time:
Regardless, I had a lot of great times in the band, and I would do it again—just not at the college level. Feel free to browse some of the previous scores on the LMBA website.
PMEA District Jazz
Since we’re on the topic of band and obscure high school achievements, I suppose we can cover my experience with district jazz festivals.
When I was in high school, I first got exposed to jazz as a freshman around Christmas time. Up until that point, I had never really experimented with that kind of music, so it was eye opening. I remember hearing my high school’s jazz band live and thinking that was something I wanted to do.
Over the next three years, I found myself auditioning for district jazz, an annual jazz festival for local high school students. Somehow, I managed to be selected every year with better success each year:
- 2009: Fourth Band, Second Trombone
- 2010: Second Band, Second Trombone
- 2011: First Band, Third Trombone
As a kid who never took lessons, I was pretty proud of my success at the time. Of course, I went off to college to find out that I was average at best, but it was nice feeling for a short time.
Again, minimalism is probably a weird thing to brag about in the same way that it’s weird to brag about veganism, but I just had to share since it has had a such a profound impact on my life.
About two years ago, I was living alone, gaining weight, working on a different website, drinking every weekend, and living an overall unhappy life. It was at that point that I was trying to find ways to improve my life. As a result, I ended up applying to schools, paying off debt, and saving money. In my mind, those were the best ways of coping with my situation.
Over time, however, I accidentally discovered minimalism. The thing is I’ve always kind of been a minimalist or at least frugal. I never really bought things I didn’t need, but I did hoard things that had sentimental value like old toys, games, and clothes.
Eventually, I discovered The Minimalist documentary which spurred me into action. At that point, I started getting rid of all the junk I was holding onto, and it was a really, really satisfying feeling. I couldn’t possibly share a list of all the things I trashed, donated, or sold, but here are just some of those items in pictures:
Of course, minimalism isn’t all about getting rid of stuff. It’s about living an intentional life, and I’ve been much happier since living this way. If you’re interested in learning more, perhaps I’ll write a short essay about my experience with minimalism in the future.
At this point, I ran out of things to share, so I figured it might be fun to ask you to share some of your favorite achievements. No accomplishment is too small, so get down there and start sharing! Let’s try to fill up this comment section with positive vibes.
After a quarter century, I can honestly say I’m pretty happy with where I’m at in life. Of course, there’s so much growth left to go, but I can’t complain when I’ve been this fortunate.
I’m hoping in the next 25 years I accomplish the following:
- Earn a PhD
- Get a teaching job
- Travel to 25 states
- Visit 25 countries
- Become financially stable
- Have some kids
- Build a tiny house
Of course, who knows where I’ll be in 25 years. That’s kind of the beauty of this life. We get to make it up as we go.