2016 was a year of building momentum.

I spent a lot of this year pivoting, and shedding things that didn’t contribute to my two major life goals:

  1. Raising my kids
  2. Building my fortune

Having these two goals as the compass points to orient my life’s decisions has been clarifying, and helped me recognize what Warren Buffet calls the ‘Avoid-At-All-Cost’ list.

Warren Buffett’s Avoid-At-All-Cost list

James Clear tells the story so well, about how Warren Buffett’s pilot learned the 2-list method, that I won’t repeat it here; but the lesson I learned from it was applied directly to my life.

Any projects that required my creativity and time, and did not contribute to my two major life goals, they had to be shut out of my life completely.

  • The WDS Treasure Hunt – gone.
  • The blog I spent 18 months building – dormant.
  • The Habits of Excellence weekly newsletter – finished.
  • Writing about American politics – I’m done with it.

2016 was a year of shedding those things that I should avoid-at-all-cost, and I am going into 2017 lighter and more focused.

John Jantsch tells us, “You must decide to do less, to do your most important things.”

Annual Review Table of Contents

My #AnnualReview consists of 4 parts:

  1. What were my victories?
  2. What could have gone better?
  3. How many New Year’s Resolutions did I keep?
  4. What are my resolutions for next year?

For all of my annual reviews, click here.

1 – What were my victories this year?

I made some incredible websites.

My work has reached a new level this year. I’ve begun focusing more on marketing strategy and sales funnels, which requires a breathtakingly broad set of skills. Only a couple years ago, I was somewhat ashamed of my portfolio – but as of this year, I am quite proud of my work.

I discovered my long-term brand, Stellar Platforms.

sp-logo-125It took me a few pivots, but I found the brand vehicle that I plan to use permanently. I have pivoted through at least a dozen brands over the past 5 years, many times thinking I have found a long-term brand that I won’t have to drop after a few months, so finding one that I think I can really stick with is very comforting.

I broke six figures in my business for the first time.

I didn’t get to keep much of it, between running a household of 5 people and paying for my contractors, but surpassing this goal has been something I have tried to do for ten years. This year I did it.

I gave up those things I loved that drained my energy and momentum to my greatest goals.

Those things on my ‘Avoid-At-All-Cost’ list were difficult to let go, but when I realized how important it was for the attainment of my greater goals, I knew it was the right move.

I launched Father Fitness.

ff-logo-125The 5-Day Father Fitness Program was an example of what I had wanted to build for years. This year I had the technical prowess to finally build it, and it was moments after I launched it that I pivoted away from the brand. Climbing to this victory was what gave me the perspective to realize this was not the direction I wanted to go.

I delivered a fantastic keynote presentation.

At Stages PDX I gave a talk titled Selling Your Stuff Online, and it was so enjoyable and energizing that it helped me to realize that digital marketing, and not parenting and personal development, was how I should situate my brand.

I redesigned this website and made a Collected Works page.

Like the cobbler with no shoes, my personal blog was an old WordPress.com site with little theme control and amateur design. It took me about eight months to complete the migration, but I finally redesigned the site in time for my annual Introspection posts.

Collecting all of my various publications from across the web (and beyond) was particularly gratifying; when I look at my Collected Works page, I can see at a glance how much writing I’ve been doing over the past few years.

My oldest son is interested in puzzles and games.

caelan-and-zadenHe has a mind very similar to mine, adept at mathematics and strategy. I had always suspected we would connect over a chessboard in a new way, and it was only this year, at eight years old, that he began to hunger for the complicated mental challenges that I remember hungering for in my youth. This year we began exploring the puzzles and games that only geeks of a certain caliber can understand, and we enjoy these mental challenges together.

My household is running smoothly.

After six months in a house, you get to know where all the light switches are. After eighteen months, you optimize the arrangement of your possessions to accommodate your chores and activities. With all our children still young, they do not contribute much in the way of housework, and 5 people make a lot of mess. Having a smooth household is both a timesaver a sanity saver for the parents.

I grew marijuana for the first time.

It’s legal to grow marijuana in Oregon now, because marijuana is winning the drug war. I have always wanted to grow this weed, and it was surprisingly easy and fulfilling to do.

I have weekly dates with my wife.

caelan-and-johanna-greeneryEvery week, my children spend one evening with their grandmother so my lady and I can walk through the city we love so much and spend time together as grown-ups. These weekly respites from the constant volume and speed of parenting have kept our relationship balanced and healthy.

2 – What could have gone better this year?

I left my corner office.

For nearly two years, I had a nice corner office on the second floor. As of today, all of my office things are in boxes, following a move to the office next door; now I have a desk in a large open room with two other people, and no windows. It’s a significant downgrade. Thankfully, I can operate easily out of a backpack, so I have taken to working in cafes again, and it’s nice.

I got real sick in December.

It’s been more than two weeks, and I am just now (hopefully) at the tail end of this flu that knocked me on my ass. I spent many days unable to work more than an hour or two, and then badly, saving my energy for the inevitable chores of washing the dishes and feeding the kids. It has been a few years since I was this sick, and I don’t care to repeat the experience.

I don’t spend much time reading or meditating.

Although I am an avid reader at heart, reading is not easy when toddlers are climbing over you. I don’t have a good reading chair at home, and 2/3 of my library is in boxes because we have so few bookshelves in the house right now. Meditation is something I have consistently found difficult to work into my day, possibly because I do not have a good location for it. Lesson learned: set aside a space for activities that are important to you.

I’m not traveling or going to conferences.

Partly because of finances, and partly because of how busy my life is (business + family already takes most of my time) I haven’t been to many conferences this year, and I hardly travel. I think I needed the time this year to realign myself and my brand, and every trip and conference takes momentum away from my business and clients for a while. It was for the best I took this break, but it’s given me a serious itch to get out there and go meet new and interesting people. Goals for next year.

I’m not delegating enough.

Again, partially because of finances, I don’t have a team of the size I need to handle the amount of work I have to do. My solution is typically to work harder, and do more of it myself, but this solution has serious limits, especially when a business is scaling up and there is even more work to be done.

Next year I want to focus on doing less of the things I can hire out, and doing more of the things that bring me the greatest leverage.


3 – How many resolutions did I keep this year?

When I look back on my list of New Year’s Resolutions from 2016, I see a typical result, similar to years past: only a couple resolutions were kept perfectly, most were kept some of the time, and others were completely ignored.

(That’s not bad. Related reading: Why Breaking New Year’s Resolutions Is Good For You)


Resolution Kept

Some Success

Resolution Not Kept

6am Hour of Power

With the exception of the past two weeks when I’ve been really sick, I woke up at either 5:40 am or 6 am on almost every weekday of the year, and some weekends. I’ve found a really good rhythm with dedicating the hour from 6-7 in the morning to my own personal maintenance, and while I have not kept with a set morning routine for more than eight weeks at a time, the flexibility has been very useful. If I required more time in the shower, or on the yoga mat, or writing my morning word count, then I allowed myself to spend that hour in whatever manner I felt was most enriching for me at that moment.

One Hundred Dollars for One Hundred Days

If I kept my morning Hour of Power for 100 consecutive days, I planned to give myself a reward of $100 to spend lavishly on myself. I did not make it to 100 consecutive days, because weekends are a really nice time to catch an extra hour or two of sleep.

Juice Cleanse and Paleo

I did no juice cleanse this year, so it’s been a long time since I’ve dedicated myself to a detox. However, I did spent most of the summer eating low carb, and discovered Carb Backloading was very useful for my body. This is the process of eating Paleo for most of the week, and loading up on carbs once or twice for scheduled periods of time. If I had spent more time in weight training, I would have kept more diligently to the diet, and seen better results.

caelan-at-rugged-maniacSummer Parkour Body

I was in good shape this summer, but not great shape. I had planned to get in one or two of those tricks I want to accomplish for posterity before I have to retire completely from parkour (I’m 39 next year, and every year it takes me more time and training just to be acrobatically proficient) but I found that my time was better spent working on my business, and not my backflips.

Save 3 Months of Expenses

I don’t want to say this was a total fail, because I learned something very important this year: saving money does you no good, so long as your income does not match or exceed your expenses. I would save some money, and build a little pile of it, and a few months later I would have to pillage my savings to pay for those irregular expenses that always come up. When I recognized this, I knew my next step is not to save a set amount, but to manage the flow of income so it exceeds my expenses; only then can I save and keep it. So, resolution missed, but lesson learned.

Be More Frugal At The Grocery Store

I only tried this one a few times, and each time I hated it. To be in a New Seasons is to surround myself in abundance, and after living in the jungles of Costa Rica, that level of accessibility is very meaningful for me. I also realized this year, after a childhood of undernourishment and decades of lean living, finally being able to indulge in healthy food is one of the greatest glories of my present life, and it felt wrong to suppress it.

Send Thank-You Cards Every Week

For the first few months of the year I was good about this, but I eventually found it a chore, which is not how I want to feel my gratitude. I think the problem was my box of cards was on my office desk, and my weekly task popped up every Monday to write a thank-you card to somebody, making it neither spontaneous nor casual. Next year I will put my thank-you cards where I do my morning routine, and see if it is an easier habit to make there.

Think Positively In The Face Of Challenge

I’ve gotten much better at the Stoic remonstrance, “Cheerfulness in all situations, especially the bad ones.” This very day I had an opportunity to rage about an inconvenience, and after a moment of emotional turmoil, I took simple and direct steps to fix my mindset. (I took a hot shower.) The equilibrium of my life is owed to my ability to keep it together when things get tough.

Publish One Good Blog Post A Week

For the first 4 months of the year, I was publishing regularly at BeTheBetterDad.com.  My posts were beautifully designed, and built to showcase the skill I had attained as a blogger. However, they took 4 hours per week, 2 hours every Monday evening and Saturday afternoon. You can read more details about why I dropped the blog, but the big lesson learned is that I need a permanent brand vehicle if I’m going to devote this level of creativity to a blog.

Read One Parenting Book / Month

Failed, completely. I checked out a few books from the library, thumbed through a few chapters, but ultimately, the field of parenting doesn’t interest me as much as digital marketing. I love being a good parent to my own kids, but educating others on how to do it is just not my thing. It took me some time to figure that out, but once I did, this resolution was moot.

Create 3 Evergreen Speeches

I made 1 evergreen speech, Selling Your Stuff Online, and gave a well-received delivery at StagesPDX. My slide deck was fantastic, and I can repurpose the talk quickly and easily – once I solidify my main branding vehicle. (Hopefully this year.)

Bodywork Every Month

Total fail. I would love to devote the time and money to a weekly massage, and I thought the commitment of monthly bodywork would help me get there. Ultimately, I’m too busy and cheap to spend the time and money this requires, even though I know that massages make me more productive and less stressed.

Find Good Mentors For My Children

We found a fantastic tutor for my daughter, who specializes in highly creative learners. They had a marvelous year together. My oldest son found a great parkour class, although he hasn’t found a mentor yet. This year we focused more on unschooling, giving the kids support and guidance in line with their interests, and finding the right mentors for them to look up to is really helpful.


4 – What will I resolve to do next year?

Tomorrow I’ll write my New Year’s Resolutions and publish them in a separate post.

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For all of my annual reviews, click here.