This was a great year. 2015 gave me more victories than failures, and instead of pressing courageously forward, this year I paused to marshal my resources, and decide on the direction I want to go for the next five years.
The biggest lesson I learned this year:
I’ve now been a member of Fizzle for more than a year, and I’ve learned a lot. The most important thing that Fizzle helped me to do is figure out the right direction to go, and hone my idea before I launch it.
Barrett Brooks’ quote, which I first heard in an episode of the excellent Fizzle podcast, made me realign all of my projects and ideas into a 5-year plan. Once I had that plan in place, knowing what to work on next is automatic, and it’s kept my head clear and my focus on what’s in front of me.
That makes this year’s Annual Review different than my 2014 Annual Review. Instead of checking off accomplishments in general, I am counting my victories based on goals I have in mind for the future.
I recently wrote about how to do an Annual Review, and listed examples and resources (including spreadsheets and workbooks from around the web) in this issue of my newsletter. (Many hat tips to Chris Guillebeau, for starting the #AnnualReview blogging trend.)
1 – What went well this year?
My love life is excellent.
I was really lucky to marry such an amazing woman. She is tender, and funny, and good-natured, and wonderful to spend my life with. Of the 4 masculine archetypes (King, Warrior, Magician, Lover) the one I most identify with is the Lover, and she is the woman I get to love.
This year, we deepened our relationship (details are private, thank you), and I will always count her love as the biggest win in my life.
The Habits of Excellence newsletter
For years, I have been writing high quality newsletters for other people, and constructing sales funnels from start to finish. But I didn’t have one of my own, something I could point to and demonstrate how a sales funnel worked.
As part of my five year plan, I realized that I had all these projects relating to habits and productivity that were (ironically) clogging my production queue.
All of this content was created with the intent to repurpose into a different form of content later, and the weekly writing schedule gave me the habit of creating it.
I’ll be moving this newsletter from weekly to monthly, so that I can focus on bigger projects, but I’m glad I got to express these ideas, and create a start-to-finish sales funnel to showcase what it can do.
(Subscribe to my newsletter, get the free ebook, and go to the CTA at the end for the cross-sell product, and you’ll see what I mean.)
New Product listed on Gumroad
It’s not my best work, but I did it in six days, and it serves as the foundation for a few different branches of my five year plan.
This is a big win because:
- It’s the end of a sales funnel I can demonstrate;
- I’m using a new tool fluently, and I can see the low friction in the product creation process that Gumroad brings to the table;
- My body of work requires a product on waking up early.
I’ll be updating this product next year, but you can use the Power Playlist to choreograph your ideal morning routine. (Today I lowered the price to a dollar, so enjoy.)
Pioneer Nation and Father Fitness
When I spent this year deciding what direction I wanted to go with my work and career, I saw that this is the place where I could have the most impact, and best utilize my talents and abilities: helping men become better dads.
Because better dads make better kids,
and better kids make better people,
and better people make a better world.
If I want to have a major positive impact on the world by the year 2100, the best thing I can personally do is help men become better fathers.
Parenting went really well this year. All of my kids are happy and healthy, and we structure our lives around helping them pursue their interests. The #huntresskids are bright, funny, inquisitive, artistic kids with great vocabularies and exceptional manners.
Racemaster of the World Domination Summit
I had a lot of big wins in this area. I love being onstage, and I got to get up in front of 3000 people wearing a superhero cape.
More importantly, I got to make a treasure hunt for 3000 people, a scavenger hunt of clues and riddles through the city of Portland, and it worked.
I’ve made plenty of treasure hunts in Portland before – but never any that worked so well, and never at this scale. Doing a treasure hunt for WDS was really fulfilling for me.
Related: My WDS Experience in 2015
I defined my two most important goals in life, and learned to say ‘no’ to cool projects that could threaten them.
Before the new Tillikum Crossing opened, the pedestrian-and-light-rail bridge over the Willamette River, I went to go climb that bridge. (Because I have a thing about that.)
It was a beautiful summer day, I was in peak physical condition, and there was a concert playing next to OMSI, where the bridge connected to the land. With awesome theme music playing, and a crowd of people on the shore, I climbed the fence and climbed the bridge that would carry the Orange Line of the MAX train. All dressed up as the superhero that I gave up years ago, before I moved to Costa Rica.
It had been a long time since I had let Danger Man out to play, and for weeks, he had been trying to get out. (If you’ve ever had an alter-ego, you know what I’m talking about; they have their own personalities, goals, and desires, and sometimes they trick you. If you’ve never had an alter-ego, pardon me if I sound crazy for a bit.)
I made a deal with Danger Man, cautiously – we would go and climb this bridge, and be safe about it, and if we could find a good balance, we would see what to do next.
So I became this superhero called Danger Man again, and ran around in costume and did Parkour and climbed a bridge, and saw the city from perspectives that mortals don’t ever see, just like I loved to do when I was younger.
I perched on one of those long, seductive cables, and looked at the crowd down there – and they weren’t looking at me. They were looking elsewhere, at something else, not at some random, unexpected trespasser way up high. I considered plans to get their attention, to do something flashy and dramatic, but it seemed dangerous and too risky for a cautious outing like I had planned.
Running over to the deserted Orange Line stations, I vaulted over the railings, and considered a massive treasure hunt project, involving all of the different stations on the new line, my parkour friends dressed in superhero costumes, short videos filmed at each platform accessible by on-site QR codes, and the Unipiper as the main character.
This big, sweeping project, it would have taken months, and resources I don’t have, and all for an outcome I couldn’t predict.
While I was perched on that bridge, I realized: this whole thing would be really cool and fun. But I have been down this road. I indulged in Danger Man for an entire summer, and gave the whole “Superhero-Themed Guerilla Marketing” thing a try. I failed. (12 times, by my count.)
It was while I was on that bridge I realized my two main goals in life:
- Raising my kids
- Building my fortune
If anything interferes with those two goals, it is a waste of my time.
Being Danger Man takes a tremendous amount of energy, willpower, training, and creativity. Devoting these personal resources to a project that doesn’t serve either of my two main goals would keep me from attaining what I really want.
For a while longer, Danger Man is in my past. A bizarre mistake that gives me plenty of stories to tell my grandchildren – and that’s enough.
I regained an elite level of fitness.
This gets harder every year.
Being a parkour athlete only takes a modest amount of training when you’re young; by the time you proudly crow “OGPK!” with another dad as you pull off a difficult stunt that other kids half your age can do with ease, it takes a steady, daily commitment to train for parkour.
Nevertheless, I spent most of the year as an athlete, to prepare for an epic-level trick that I failed to achieve.
2 – What could have gone better?
Backflipping off of bike racks
There are a few tricks that I want to accomplish for posterity before I retire from parkour, and find a gentler sport to occupy my attention.
Backflipping off of bike racks was my big goal for the year, the one that I went into months of training to accomplish. For a long time I drilled 60 flips a day (#60aday) and achieved the level of fitness that I will only be able to attain for the next few years.
Then, this happened:
Delegate – last year’s Word of the Year
During last year’s Annual Review, I chose the word ‘Delegate’ as my theme for the year. By now, I don’t delegate anything.
At the beginning of the year, this word made sense – I had an assistant in my day job, and a VA for my side client work. Both of these people could take tasks that I assigned them, and the more I did this, the more I could produce.
By the middle of the year, my assistant left, and I didn’t get a replacement; I also stopped taking paying side work so I could focus more on my day job and my personal projects. Now, with no one left to delegate to (and no funds to pay for hiring someone else) I’ve been doing everything myself.
The Poverty Cycle
I’ve been open and candid about my poverty for the past few years, despite the fact that it has lost me friends and clients.
(As I have said before, it has also makes some relationships stronger, and filters my tribe.)
The ongoing difficulty of being poor is manageable, and if I had to choose between poverty and the personal, physical, and relationship problems that some rich people have, I would choose poverty every time. Maybe it’s because I already know how to manage it, or because the difficulty you’re used to seems easier than what you can’t fathom, but compared to a disease or a disability or a toxic relationship, poverty is easy (and temporary).
I realized this year at Pioneer Nation (or WDS, I forget) that most bloggers are not poor. To be a blogger, you need time and resources and ingenuity, and many people in poverty are so preoccupied with survival that they don’t develop the skills necessary to build a blog and gain an audience.
Many of the bloggers I meet don’t share the same struggles that I do; an easier life gives the leisure to develop the extracurricular skills needed to be proficient in this new form of communication.
So I find myself in a unique position: many bloggers are from upper classes, and here I am, one of the few voices of the lower class with the eloquence and platform to be heard.
While being poor is a continual source of stress and distraction, the only real disadvantage is when it affects my kids. They had some really good friends whose parents found out we weren’t in their financial class, and the friendships suddenly cooled from the parents levels, and our kids lost their friendships. That sucked.
Yet another reason I have to make a fortune. I want to travel with my family, and work on what matters to me, and escape the yoke of debt that has weighed on me ever since I tried to get out of the poverty I came from.
We moved again.
I do like the house we live in much better than our last one – we were moments away from signing a 3-year lease when a much better house fell into our laps. But every move reduces your momentum, drains your finances, and requires a few months of grounding before you can stop focusing on setting yourself up and start focusing on what you want to do in the world.
This was our 5th move in under 2 years, and hopefully, it’s the last for a while.
My most major website redesign was left incomplete.
I’ve been working on a massive 12-month website redesign for my day job, and some of the work in there is the best work I’ve ever done.
I took databases of thousands of MP3 files, audio interviews, guest bios, and more, and wove them together to make a pleasing search experience. I took hundreds of personal development products and designed a completely new access portal for consuming them, and discovered that designing education portals is something I really enjoy.
By then, for reasons outside of my control, the project was scrapped, and the most advanced and impressive digital web design I’ve ever done will not be publicly available. (But privately, if you ever want to see it, ask me and I’ll show it off for you.)
3 – What goals did I accomplish from last year?
Let’s take a look at my 2015 New Year’s Resolutions:
Weekly Review – every week
I’ve been really good about my Monday morning Weekly Reviews. It has become an indispensable component of my productivity and clearheadedness. (A couple weeks ago I wrote about Weekly Reviews in my newsletter.)
No drinking on weekdays
This was off and on. During my Paleo phase, this was easy, and I limited myself to wine (or maybe cider) on the weekends. After the Fall Equinox, when I allowed myself to drink beer again, sometimes I have a drink or two with dinner, and it makes getting up in the morning more difficult.
Pranayama for ten minutes before bed
I did this for maybe a week, which is stupid; I have an app on my phone for Pranayama, and all I have to do is open it and set the timer, and off I breathe.
I still use this app sporadically, when I have a few minutes and need a quick reset, but trying to get in meditation during the witching hour (when kids are going crazy before bed, and brushing teeth becomes a battle of wills) isn’t the best time for introspection.
Keep to a morning routine
For most of the year, this was great. I had a regular 5:30 am wakeup time, built a Power Playlist to choreograph my morning, and even taught a workshop on Waking Up Early.
For the past few months, though – I’ve been in hibernation, and the world is a harsh, cruel place at 6:30.
Until I make a new Power Playlist for tomorrow – have I told you that it’s only a dollar for a limited time?
Blog more regularly with less intensity
I tried this and realized it wasn’t a good match. (See also: Why Breaking New Year’s Resolutions is Good For You.)
I planned on blogging frequently on this blog, shorter and leaner, but I like writing long. One post, for me, is a collection of ideas (and memes, and images, etc) instead of a quick burst. I’ve gotten more comfortable in microblogging on Facebook, and I often tell a quick story there that isn’t featured elsewhere. (Are we friends?)
On this blog I published 15 posts, and another 35 over here, and 3 more on Medium. I meant to write more exclusively on Medium this year, but then I realized it is a syndication platform, and not standalone.
I also wrote 3 or 4 good quality ebooks, made some good videos, and wrote plenty of email marketing campaigns. But “less intensity”? I might not be cut out for that.
Blog about the good stuff
I started a new category for the purpose above, thinking to blog on stuff I use and like, and transition into blogging about affiliate products. My blogging tendency runs long, so I wasn’t able to invest the time that this needed.
Break a sweat every day
While I was in training, I sweat every day. Sometimes I exercised 3-4 times a day. I love being active, and moving my body, and I am always more calm, focused, productive, and tranquil in the face of difficulty when I am sweating every day.
My routine of late has been to abstain and train from New Year’s Day to the Vernal Equinox, and then spend the last couple of months working on my beer belly and relaxing. During this time, I’ve been hardly exercising, and it re-iterates for me the importance of exercise in my life.
3 exercise classes / training sessions per week
Again, this was easy during training, but these last few months I’ve failed. Should I keep this resolution during my hibernation period? Or let myself go completely fallow for part of the year? I’ll decide tomorrow when I make next year’s Resolutions.
Eat on the paleo diet for at least a month
I went at least 5 months on this diet, and I was lean and happy the entire time. By the time the Equinox came around, I was continually frigid in Portland’s climate, so I started drinking beer (in part) to get some fat on my body.
Weekly roundup meeting with every client and every project
This was successful when it needed to be. I put in a recurring task in my task manager for every Friday, and if I had any open clients or projects outside of my day job, I took a moment to touch every project and message every client about the status.
Join a mastermind group
I had a few virtual mastermind groups (on phone or Skype) with some really incredible people. (Marilyn Alauria is someone to watch out for – she’s on a serious trajectory.) Ultimately, I found that virtual masterminds don’t have the same level of accountability and immediacy that in-person mastermind sessions do, so I got together with an old mastermind partner from years past, and we’ve started meeting regularly again and inviting others to join us.
Define my next big direction – the branding saddle on which I will ride
This happened. I went to Pioneer Nation to work on the Father Fitness project, which has now evolved into the blog I am launching next month, at BeTheBetterDad.com.
I’ve got a comprehensive content strategy, a weekly newsletter writing habit, and an audience to build.
4 – What goals do I want to accomplish next year?
I’m going to figure these out tomorrow, when I write my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016.
My wife and I have a habit of going out to a cafe on new Year’s Day, and writing our New Year’s Resolutions together. It’s always been one of my favorite parts of the year, and I’m looking forward to sharing my resolutions with you. Stay tuned!