Annual Review 2017

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2017 has not turned out at all like I planned; but thankfully, I didn’t hold onto my plans very tightly. Instead of deciding on my outcomes, I held on to my vision. Even when my plans changed. Especially when my plans changed. Every pivot has brought me to a shorter, unexpected path leading to my two main goals in life:

  1. Raising my kids
  2. Building my fortune

These two simple visions guide my every choice, and if any decision interferes with either of these priorities, I instantly know my answer.

All the same, I did not expect moving to New Zealand. It wasn’t even on my radar. But my home country became a total mess, and my wife and I saw the fabled Land of Opportunity had definitely passed its expiration date. If we want to give our kids a good chance to succeed in life, we knew that living in the United States was no longer a viable option for us.

Someday, I am quite certain, our kids will go to the hospital for something, and they will go to college to study. In the USA, these life milestones are financial catastrophes, and the ability for people like me – hardworking, intelligent, charismatic, creative people – to move between classes in America has disappeared. I gave it a good try, and I’m done.

So when the opportunity came to move out of the country again, we took it. We did not have the means to do this on a whim; through a few personal loans and a lot of client work with Stellar Platforms, we built up just enough of a financial foundation to leap, as far and as fast as we could.

This latest adventure has reminded me of being in the circus, when I would practice some dangerous new trick, with nothing but my training, my physical strength, and my focus to prevent a catastrophe. Willingly, I would climb to my perch and prepare to do something life-threatening and amazing, knowing that keeping my attention on visualizing success (instead of worrying about danger) was a matter of life and death.

It’s been helpful to remind myself of that mindset (to…remindset, if that’s a thing) when I’m looking at my bills and my finances. I breathe, and focus, and move forward slowly, deliberately, and inspired.

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?

To see all of my annual reviews, click here.

1 – Victories of 2017

We moved to New Zealand!

I’m writing this post from New Zealand, and I have not blogged about the ins and outs of this journey, how it happened, and what it took to do it. This has been a massive move, financially and culturally. It’s not as different or exotic as moving to Costa Rica, which we did in 2011, but it’s been different in two big ways: geographically, it is much farther; and, we are not having a baby here. Taos was our path to Permanent Residency in Costa Rica; in New Zealand, we have a different path. It’s requiring a lot of visas and a lot of work, but we are making progress. Hopefully, by next year, we will be permanent residents, and fully have our footing outside of the US.

My business has successfully paid our bills (most of the time).

I don’t always meet my financial goals, and some months my wife and I structure extra fasting days into our weekly schedule. But most of this year, I have been able to keep my family afloat, as the sole breadwinner, through the creativity and sales expertise that I provide to my clients. Stellar Platforms is a digital creative agency, helping thought leaders make a living through their teachings by selling courses and products on their website. It took a few pivots to get this business situated, but now that it’s there, I feel proud of what I’ve made.

My children are growing into fantastic people.

Every year, they blossom a little more, and I get a glimpse of the kinds of people they will become. While they are becoming, I feel so privileged to introduce them to things that fascinate them, and see their curiosity sparked. Indi is a creative genius, and a master storyteller. Zaden is astoundingly clever, and fast to pick up any new skill. Taos is breathtakingly funny, and charming to everyone he meets. I love these people, and I’m happy I get to spend the rest of my life with them.

The kids are reading Harry Potter.

I’ve been waiting for this for years, to see them get excited about the plot twists and the funny characters that I love so much. We made a deal with them that they could not watch the Harry Potter movies until they first read the books, and last year Zaden was hardly reading at all (at 8 years old). We have an unschooling philosophy to our style of homeschooling, believing that their curiosity is a much better inspiration for their learning than our discipline could ever be. Once Zaden found Minecraft, he wanted to learn to type to use the cheat codes, and taught himself letters quickly. Typing came naturally to him, and after a few weeks of Minecraft play, his reading abilities skyrocketed. He took Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on the plane with him to New Zealand and finished it in a week. For Christmas we gifted them their own full set of the books; Indi is on Book 5, and Zaden on Book 4, already.

Intermittent fasting.

My wife has been studying Dr Jason Fung and listening to lots of podcasts about the health benefits of fasting. I spent a large portion of last year on the Keto diet with carb cycling and carb backloading, and it made me feel healthy and sharp, but took a lot of planning and restrictions. With Intermittent Fasting, I get many of the same benefits, but with much simpler restrictions: I don’t eat breakfast, once a week I fast on Sundays, and during lunch I eat protein and salad with no carbs. At night I eat whatever I want. This simple eating plan has made it easy for me to feel healthy and full, while cutting our grocery bills down significantly.

Bought XRP at $0.24

As I described in this tutorial, when someone I trust who is rich and smart says, “This is a good investment, and you need to get into this right now” I’ll take that advice. I didn’t have a lot to invest, but I was able to put in a few hundred bucks, and that quickly grew to a few thousand. If Ripple grows in the way that it’s fans predict, this could be the answer to my money troubles in just a little while. Fingers crossed.

Morning Qi Gong routine

While I haven’t kept to an hour-long morning routine, I have been able to practice 7 minutes of Qi Gong every morning, thanks to this video course. It’s super simple: every day for 30 days, Lee Holden guides you through a new 7 minute routine. It’s short, invigorating, and easy exercise. Even when my other morning practices disappeared, I’ve been able to keep this all year, no matter where I was living at the time. (Even in airports.)

My YouTube channel grew significantly

An unexpected benefit of making 21 videos for the 21 days of my first trip to New Zealand was stroking YouTube’s recommendation algorithm in just the right way. While I was at TechWeek, I heard someone mention that posting daily is the quickest way to get your YouTube channel to skyrocket. So I tried it. While my previous videos got likes and comments rarely, now my YouTube channel has a growing viewership and comments every day, on old videos I hardly remember making. That’s been a big lesson for me, and I plan to make more regular videos in 2018.

2 – What Could Have Gone Better?

Living apart from my family for two months was hard.

I moved to New Zealand first to take residence in our house, because our lease started in August. My family didn’t come, because I needed to get the visa sorted, and we didn’t have the money for all the tickets, and we didn’t have anywhere for our dogs to go live. It ended up being a good period of focus, for my business and my clients, but it’s the longest I’ve been without my wife at my side in 15 years, and the longest I’d been away from my kids since they were born. Thankfully, we got to FaceTime every day, making this time apart exponentially easier than anyone who ever left their family behind to go live in New Zealand in any previous decade.

Our dog is not in New Zealand with us.

When I left Portland, we had two rottweilers. One died. (Long story.) The other is still there, living with her favourite human on the planet, but she’s not here with us. It costs $8-10k to ship a dog over here, and I’m doing my best to get the funds together, because I miss her. This is the first time I have lived without a dog since we first got Tika in 2002, and it’s weird coming home to an empty house.

Money is tight.

I’ve been able to notice, over the last few years, precisely how much poverty distracts me from my work. When my coffers are full, and I know that every bill is getting paid on time, I can relax into doing my best work. When I’m out of funds, every payment has to be carefully considered, and I have to take extra time to move money between accounts to make things work. I have to stop going after what’s great to focus on what will pay. I can see how much poverty holds me back, and I’m actively focusing on removing this limitation from my life.

Self care before exhaustion.

I’ve been working so much this year (averaging 54 hours per week, according to my Client Analysis spreadsheet) that I would literally drop midweek. Wednesday afternoons, during my 2 months solo in NZ, I would often fall apart and lose half a day of work to unexpected rest and recuperation. The problem was my client load: I work full days on the weekends, and leave myself very few days off. Even now, on New Year’s Eve, I am writing this post after a full day of work. I took Christmas Day and Boxing Day off, but I’ve been working every other day in December. If I want to remain productive, I need to schedule self care into my week.

Hobby time.

I don’t have time for my favourite hobbies, most especially reading. I know that I’m making lifelong readers out of these kids by reading to them every night, but that used to be my best time for reading. I used to go through loads of books, often reading 4-6 at a time; now, I am lucky if I can get in one book a month. All of my creative work is focused into my business, so I don’t have any pleasant creative time that is just for my enjoyment, and that’s started to make my life seem dull.

Longer term retainer clients.

When I restructured my business last year, I offered two ways for people to work with me: retainer and hourly packages. I was able to do my best work for the retainer clients, but I didn’t have many of them. Most people hired me for smaller, hourly-based projects, and that worked fine, but it wasn’t great. The switching cost has been high, managing so many clients at once. So next week I’m revamping my service packages, to encourage more people to hire me for 3-month and 10-month terms.

No regular physical training regimen.

I’ve kept in decent shape, but I feel the best when . I have a few blocks of time every week where I regularly train in a specific series of exercises. Without that, I feel adrift in my own body.

3 – How many resolutions did I keep?

Last year I created these handy graphics to measure my success:

Resolution Kept

Some Success

Resolution Not Kept

 

6-7 AM Hour of Power

Some success.

While I still rise at 6 or earlier most days, I no longer commit to an Hour of Power. During the 2 months I lived in NZ alone, I found that an hour-long routine was very heplful and I kept at it. During the months that I was packing our possessions and moving house, while running my business and raising kids, I couldn’t always get there. So I think I have successfully instilled a regular waking habit, with a few brief exercises (right now I just do 7 Minutes of Qi Gong) but I haven’t been able to expand into a full hour.

Weight Training Twice a Week

Fail.

I did okay in the winter months, but once New Zealand took my focus, physical training was no longer a priority for me.

Daily Visualisation & Meditation Time

Some success.

I haven’t tried for this one as hard as I could have. I know firsthand the benefits of a regular meditation practice, and while my monthly full moon meditation practice is thriving, I haven’t been able to get a daily practice to stick. I nearly got a daily visualisation practice going, when I set a daily recurring task in my task manager that says ‘VISUALISE YOUR FUTURE.’ In the notes of this task, it says ‘ABCDE,’ and reminds me of 5 Visualisation Touchstones, five images that start with the first 5 letters of the alphabet. I often skip it, but 2-3 times per week I pause during my workday, close my eyes, and visualise these five magnificent scenes that I have created in my imagination.

Dance Every Month

Some success.

While living in Portland, I dropped into Sacred Circle Dance as often as I could. On Sunday morning, a crowd of hundreds of hippies would dance to load music and sweat their prayers together, and I loved it. This was such a healing and rejuvenative experience for me, I resolved to go at least 1 out of every 4 Sundays. Then I moved, and I haven’t found a place or time or crowd where I can dance with abandon.

Give 3 Keynote Speeches

Fail.

Shift in priorities. I could have pushed harder on this, but as I’m always telling my clients, you need something to sell from the stage. I don’t have that yet, but I’m building it. So I don’t feel bad about this; public speaking will naturally happen, when I’m ready for it, and I just need a little more time.

Travel Out Of State Each Quarter

This was a resounding success.

In 2016 I didn’t leave Oregon once; this year I travelled internationally multiple times.

Weekly 1-on-1 Dates with my Kids

Some success.

This was difficult in the first part of the year, because it meant fitting 3 more weekly appointments into an already-crowded calendar, and coordinating it with a group of 5 other people. What worked best was to reserve a time slot for every child, and do something special with them when the time came around, but remain flexible on the exact hour. Ironically, I kept this resolution the most while I was living in new Zealand and they were in Portland, and we got a bunch of homeschooling done over Skype. After they finally arrived with me here in NZ, I just never picked this up again. I’ll recommit to it for the New Year.

Blogger of The Year at WordPress.com

Fail.

I stuck with this for a month, and then dropped it. I thought this would be a good project for me to use to showcase a few of my skills; but they are not skills that are particularly valuable, or in high demand. When I saw the weekly grunt work that would have to go into this project, Iand measured that against the limited benefit I would gain, I made a considered decision and dropped it like a bad habit.

I don’t mind missing so many of these resolutions, for two reasons:

  1. I flipped my life upside down to move across the planet
  2. Breaking New Year’s Resolutions is good for you, anyway.

So I feel no guilt or shame for not succeeding. Instead, I celebrate the fact that I can try out goals for a while, and discard them if I want. It makes me less intimidated in setting goals in the future.

4 – What are my resolutions for next year?

I’ve written these up in a separate post: New Year’s Resolutions 2018.

By | 2018-01-01T17:39:04+00:00 December 31st, 2017|Introspection, The Good Stuff|

About the Author:

Father of 3. WordPress website designer. Creative director @ Stellar Platforms. Writer, multimedia producer, digital marketer, and retired superhero.

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