2023 Ukiyo: A Year in Review

Joe Martin
8 min readDec 30, 2023


A look back at 2023, and a celebration of what’s to come.

In 1949, the humorist Richard Armour penned the words, “Most people’s hindsight is 20–20.” Chances are good people had been saying those words for awhile, but Dick wrote it down, so he gets the credit.

Today, we dig up this phrase when something doesn’t work out. A friend breaks up, a business venture fails, a gingerbread house roof collapses under the weight of a second coat of frosting.

“Ooof. Hindsight’s 20–20, you know?”

Did it need to be though? Maybe it was an easily foreseeable consequence of poor choices.

Well, for years now, I’ve tried to cultivate a foresight that was 20–20. Or at the very least something like 20–80, and getting sharper every day.

One way I’ve tried to develop this skill, is by naming my years in advance. You can read all about it here, or see me talk about it at TedX here.

2023’s name was Ukiyo. If you want to know more about why I named it that, and what I saw for myself at the beginning of the year — you can read that here.

The name Ukiyo was inspired by the artist behind The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, Hokusai.

To know how it all turned out, and a few things I learned, you need only keep reading.

Writing Haikus Hurts

It turned out to be much harder keeping up with 1 haiku per week than I originally planned. Early on, the efforts I made weren’t enough to cement the routine through the year. As such, writing these little haikus eventually became more of a chore than something I could quickly do to slow down and capture my feelings.

However, the haikus I did manage to write early on developed into stronger pieces later in the year. I learned more about Waka and Tanka form writing. I learned more from working on some poems together with my good friend Adam Boles who coincidentally has a Master’s in Poetry himself, and his poems are quite lovely.

Up, Up, and Away

The year started with travel and it didn’t let up. Absolutely crazy to have set the intention for the year in July 2022 — with 0 travel plans in place for 2023. I was checking something off of my “It Would Be Cool To” list when I had the chance to sit down on a rainy morning and decide what I wanted my 2023 to become.

Camping trip to Clinton Lake, IL because I thought it would be cool to see stars in a clear sky.

Only after naming the year did the travel intention part of the year come to fruition.

And oh my, did travel hit in the biggest way possible.

As the year’s endless slate of travel kept developing, I would often wonder: did I make these things happen by naming my year in advance? Would these trips have occurred regardless? If I’d chosen another name?

The trip that felt truly fated was a journey to Tokyo, which only happened because I had named my year after a Japanese word. The only time I’ve ever done that and I end up in Japan. Crazy!

2023 saw travel other travels to:

Throughout the trips, I got in the habit of taking 1-min videos to capture a specific moment and view that felt meaningful. I was able to find a clever application using a remote server, a JSON script, and AppleTV trick that allows me to have these 1-minute videos on our TV all year long as the screensaver. It couldn’t be more magnificent.

A new tradition that kicked off this year as well involved traveling for Halloween. I wondered if “Halloween Camping” was a thing — and while it doesn’t appear to be around the Chicago area, it totally can\should\will be.

This fall, I had the chance to get together with friends for a Halloween Weekend Camping adventure under a full moon. Will definitely be doing it again next year. | see the video

Art in Real Life

To start the year I had claimed “It’s about taking in the art around me.” That happened in so many incredible ways I didn’t expect.

Some ways that I was able to experience theater, art, and music this year included:

  • Seeing a violinist play the Game of Thrones theme to a room full of people while aboard a Japanese cruise ship.
  • Laughing at a local comedy show with friends to celebrate 4/20.
  • Watching a Jamaican heritage performance with all the reggae.
  • Witnessing Jurassic Park in concert | see the video
Jurassic Park in concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, outdoors at Ravinia Park, Aug 2023


And playing music

  • There was a long list of new songs I learned this year, but musical performance of the year was with my friend, Will Dannen | see the video

It Would Be Cool To List…

Over the years I’ve cultivated a It Would Be Cool To List. It’s not a bucket list. It’s a living, shifting thing, subject to updates and tinkering as my desires, circumstances, and possibilities change.

The best part? There’s no pressure to accomplish anything on this list — it’s not a set of goals that need to be achieved. But if I manage to cross off an item here and there, I’ll be able to look back and say “that was pretty cool.”

I got so many incredible things checked off this year. The following are all the items that were on my It Would Be Cool to list ahead of this year.

As of today, every item on this list below has been checked off.

  • Go glamping | see the video
  • Go Zorbing | see the video
  • Play 4D vr | see the video
  • See bioluminescent plankton sea waves | see the video
  • See a movie in concert | see the video
  • Do an epic birthday | see the video
  • Stay at a tropical resort | see the video
  • Take an outdoor shower | see the video
  • Stay at a Japanese style village | see the pictures
  • Understand more about other religions
  • Have dinner outside by a pool
  • Dance on a beach at night to “Red, Red Wine” by UB40
  • Hang out, partake in some cannabis, and talk about changing the world with friends
  • Royal Caribbean cruise ship waterslide
  • Stay at your vacation house (thanks, Heather & Dennis!)
  • Sleep with the doors wide open at night out to the ocean
  • Go to a waterpark
  • Go to another place like Disneyworld

Incredible to look back at this list now as I’m putting this article together.

Taking care of myself

A big part of every year is being able to take care of my own body. Three ways I did that this past year.

Making a weekly menu

Every week my partner and I sit down and plan out our meals for the week. Not only does this help eliminate the question of “what do we want to eat for dinner?” but it also allowed us to craft healthier meals for the future version of ourselves as we look out at the week.

Morning workout

Nothing intense, I’m talking 15 mins. Some push-ups, a resistance band, and a yoga mat. I spend about 15 mins every morning during the week and it helps dramatically.

Toothbrush workouts

Friends, I can’t preach this one enough. Every time I brush my teeth, I’m doing some kind of leg or ab workout. This include squats, wall sits, calf raises — I’ve taken it real far this year with being able to balance on one leg, touch my knee to my elbow, while brushing with my opposite hand.

Every day, every time I brush my teeth.

Looking to 2024

As I look ahead to 2024 there are so many incredible things on the horizon, and so much that happened this past year that I’m deeply grateful for. Including any and all of you who might be reading this right now.

Thank you for joining me on the adventure — I hope it inspires your own. And of course, the adventure for 2024 wouldn’t be complete without a name, so…

Coming soon, you can find out why I’m titling my 2024 “ Verses.”

Joe Martin is a Chicago-based author & entrepreneur. He has built and exited two companies, while his innovative ideas around work-life balance been featured on WGN, FOX, and the TEDx stage. Join his mailing list at HiJoeMartin.com.



Joe Martin

Entrepreneur, author, and TEDx Speaker who believes real world interactions are more valuable than digital ones.