2019 was a crap year, and I’m glad to see the end of it.
There were some great big victories in my business, and I’m proud of what I accomplished; but there were a lot of challenges with my health, teaching me lessons I wasn’t quite ready to learn.
Annual Review Table of Contents
My #AnnualReview consists of 4 parts:
- What were my victories?
- What could have gone better?
- How many New Year’s Resolutions did I keep?
- What are my resolutions for next year?
To see all of my annual reviews, click here.
To use my workbook to create your own Annual Review, click here.
Part 1 – What were my victories of 2019?
My family is doing great, we’ve settled into our new home in New Zealand. The past two years were focused on getting here and getting residency; now that all that is done, I’ve turned my attention to my business. Professionally, I leveled-up in some big ways, and went through some major transitions.
Joined Thought Leaders Business School
When I read the Thought Leaders Practice, it knocked my socks off. I had been working with authors, coaches, and speakers for many years, providing digital marketing services to this target market. I had always nurtured the plan to transition into becoming a member of this market eventually, but I always hesitated, because the business model is full of dead-ends and blind corners.
If I was to become one of them, I reasoned, I needed to do so when I was confident in a business model that worked.
Reading the Thought Leaders Practice should me precisely how this could be done, and enrolling in Thought Leaders Business School gave me the practical tools to make that happen. It also gave me access to a community of people who are already doing this, making good money by sharing their ideas with an audience.
Already, I’ve made some major moves in my business that are really exciting – if you’re on my newsletter list, you will hear about them very soon. (And if not, subscribe and you’ll find out.)
Took off 5 weeks to heal
When I first moved to New Zealand, I saw the entire country shut down for four weeks, from 15 December – 15 January. As an entrepreneur, I often work during holiday breaks, and for the past couple of years I’ve seen everyone take a monthlong vacation, and every time, I’ve thought, ‘I could never do that. I could never take 4 weeks off from my business.’
And then, fate demanded that I do just that.
In November I fell so ill I could not work. I was bedridden for five weeks, and fatigue was my constant companion. I had to shut down my business and postpone all client work.
My victory is – for the first time in two decades, I took a month off of work, and this has forced me to re-think how I look at my work and my relationship to it.
Revised entire business model (and this website)
When I came out of November, I decided to implement the Thought Leaders methodology, and move directly into coaching. If I had it my way, it would have been a longer transition, and I would have held on to lower-paying service work for a longer time. Revising my business model this fast will make it a cleaner break.
I also revised my typography and branding on this website, to accomodate the transition. I’ve used StellarPlatforms.com as my professional outpost for so long, and this website as my personal blog, it feels a little unfamiliar, but I think once I get used to thinking of myself as a Thought Leader, it will become more familiar.
I Flew to Denver on a whim
At the end of July, I was talking with one of my clients about an event he was helping produce, the National Speakers Association’s annual conference in Denver. He had a speaker drop out at the last minute, and I flew up to Denver from New Zealand to take her place.
The big victory for me is that when opportunity knocked, I was able to fly across the world and step through the door. I’ve never been able to do that before, not in a game this big, at this level, and it proved to me that I’m ready for bigger and better things.
Two New Keynotes
In Denver I gave a new presentation titled ‘7 Steps to Turn your Signature Speech Into A Signature Offer,’ a keynote that I created on the flight to the conference. It went over very well (you can see the testimonials about it on my Speaking page).
I also spoke at an international conference that made a stop here in Wellington, the 7in7 Digital Nomad Conference. ‘Questions That Collect Referrals and Testimonials.’
Foresight 2020 Webinar
I’ve produced many webinars for my clients, and until this year, I had produced none for myself. This is a gross oversight, because I’m good at webinars, and the best webinar experts agree that they convert into sales better than anything else on the internet right now.
Right after I came back from Denver, I went into launch mode for my first webinar, Foresight 2020. The feedback I got was that my presentation was ‘flawless.’ That made me feel good.
I sit through a lot of webinars, and I often see people stumble and stutter their way through a framework. As a trained performer who spent a decade on the stage, I take better care of my audience than most people, and that confirmed for me that webinars are the direction I need to go next.
Launched New Training Program
The 90-Day Profit Accelerator has a terrible name, but I needed to get it launched and get it live. Over Q4 of 2019, I taught my material to the first cohort of students to take this program, and I learned more about what it is, and why it’s valuable.
I’ll relaunch this program in 2020 (probably smaller, maybe split into 2-4 parts) and I’m confident it will be more successful because of the distillation process. That process is only possible because I launched it and got it out the door.
A lot of my material lends itself well to training, and I have a feeling that selling training programs will be a core component of my business in years to come. I launched my first big program this year, and it was a success.
Yoga time with Indi
My 13-year-old daughter has expressed interests in yoga and meditation, so I got a couple of yoga mats, rearranged the furniture in my office so it could accomodate the two of us, and set aside the time to take her through some of my favourite yoga routines. This has now become one of the highlights of my day, taking the time to relax and strengthen my body and my mind, and sharing the wisdom that has meant so much to me in my life.
Her questions are deep and introspective, and her early interests in these fields of esoteric study encourage me that she will be a powerful woman when she comes into adulthood.
View this post on Instagram
Maiden, Mother, and Crone at Stonehenge Aotearoa. Thirteen years ago today, my daughter was born. At the precise moment of the anniversary of her birth, it also happened to be the precise moment of the New Moon. This magical woman stood at the center of a sacred circle, as she left childhood behind. I am so honored to have this wonderful person in my life, and I am grateful she has such powerful and wise women as her mentors and her guides. #maidenmothercrone #stonehengeaotearoa #happybirthday #huntresskids #stonehenge #aotearoa #newzealand #sacredsites #druidsofinstagram
The Daily Howl with the boys
When I was well, I started a new tradition with my sons, where we would sprint up the long hill next to our house. At the top, we would howl together, and we worked out a complicated allowance scheme where consecutive days of howling would bestow greater financial rewards.
We did this for months last summer, and then in the recent Springtime (September-October) before I fell ill. I’m unable to take them up the hill at the moment, but as soon as I recover, I know I can invite them back on the Daily Howl and we will run again together.
View this post on Instagram
Every day, we howl together. . There is a big hill right next to our house, and once a day, my boys and I run up this hill together, to howl from the top. It gives us a welcome break from the rest of the day, when we can run and yell together and be boys. . Not pictured here is our large puppy, the most boyish of us all. He runs up the hill with us, setting the reckless pace and reminding us of the power we possess as beasts. . Showing them how to harness and direct their power is a critical lesson to teach my boys to become men. . #boyswillbeboys #woolfenoot #howl #dailypractice #parenting #exercise #dadlife #fatherhood
My wife is a wonderful caretaker
I never would have been able to recover from my latest relapse without the patient, healing hands of my wife. This year, she took her vows for ‘in sickness and in health’ very seriously, and rearranged her life to cook me healing foods and research the best supplements and herbs to help me recover. She has been the steady light in my life that has convinced me that no matter how bad I am feeling in the moment, I will feel better in the future, and I am eternally grateful for her care and love.
New content strategy for 2020
For 2020 I put together a content calendar that is based around monthly masterclasses, and a simple content strategy that creates feeder content for each month’s topic for four weeks.
I discovered this new strategy while doing my own homework for the 90-Day Profit Accelerator (using this Content Strategy Dashboard) and it gives me a clarity and focus for my work that I’ve been missing.
I also discovered the titles for my next book: Marketing Yourself. All my content for 2020 is going to be supporting the eventual production of this book, and I’m feeling really good about this clarity of direction.
Here is a partial list of some of the content I created and published this year:
The Stellar Platforms Blog
- How To Ask For A Testimonial From A Client
- NSA #Influence19 Conference Recap
- [Book Review] The Thought Leaders Practice
- People First Project – June 2019
- 10 Great Homepage Above-The-Fold CTA Examples
- 4 Ways to Research Your Ideal Customer
- Best Email Subject Lines of 2018
My Personal Blog
- Listen to my interview on the Book Marketing Mentors podcast
- Befriending My Illness
- September Springtime
- A month of catching up
- From Winter to Summer and Back Again
- Darkest Days of the Year
- Movements in May
- 6 Highlights from April
- Time changes
- Working while weary
- 2019 starts swiftly
- The Queen of Wands
- New Years Resolutions 2019
My Highest Viewed Posts of 2019
- 9 Reasons Homepage Sliders Suck – Stellar Platforms.com – 1,236 views
- The Breath of the Neutral Mask – CaelanHuntress.com – 2,418 views
- 10 Books That Changed My Life – Medium.com – 101,286 views
This final post has shown me the power of accessing external audiences, and it convinced me to finally enrol in the Medium Partner Program. In two weeks I’ve made $200 off this story, and it looks like it will become a tidy little revenue stream by itself. I may write some more long-form posts for Medium later this year.
The surprising lesson here is that when I stop writing about sales and marketing, and I start writing about the deeper aspects of my character, it resonates with more people, and it might be a better way to grow an audience. I’m not ready to start sharing my secrets yet, but this has me thinking about it.
Part 2 – What could have gone better?
Listing my victories first has been really helpful to remind myself that there is a lot I have accomplished.
This is why the Accountability Formula starts with Wins. When I’m leading a Mastermind Group, we start with Wins, then talk Challenges, and then talk Commitments. I’m just realising right now, as I write this, that I’ve been using the Accountability Formula for my Annual Reviews for the past few years, and that makes me smile.
This year, though – 2019 was very frustrating and challenging.
Physical Illness and Weakness
For the past two decades, I have been strong – but I wasn’t always this way.
When I was seventeen, and living in my car, I was as skinny as I am right now.
Once I got into college, and had access to a dining hall, I put on a proper amount of weight. Then I got really into yoga, and then I became an acrobat in the circus, and in my thirties I got into parkour. I’ve never been very big, but I’ve always been muscular, and I have always felt strong.
Until this year. A few month ago, I lost most of my muscle mass, and it would be fitting to use the word ’emaciated’ to describe my physique.
I’ve learned some lessons from my illness, and they are apparently lessons I needed to learn – about my damaged work ethic, and my use of the stress response to get into work mode. These lessons are valuable. But they have been very challenging to learn.
Cancelled trip to Sydney
At the end of November, I was going to fly to Sydney to attend my first of 5 three-day immersions for Thought Leaders Business School. I had a hotel booked, and food planned, and I even rented a tuxedo. Once every two years they hold a gala, where all the Black Belts (who make over $60k/month in revenue) come back and have a black-tie event. This year it was on a cruise ship going across Sydney Harbour, overlooking the famed Opera House.
I had been looking forward to this trip for months. And I was physically too weak to make the trip, so I had to cancel everything.
Eating like I was healed
When I flew to Denver at the end of July, I feared I was too ill to make the trip. But once I got in the air, I felt great. When I made it back to America, I ate like a normal American, which I hadn’t even done while I lived there.
I had an American Burger for the first time in many years, and it was both beautiful and disgusting. When I got bumped for a day on my return flight, I couldn’t find anything better for dinner, so I ate a whole pizza.
Upon returning to New Zealand, I continued to eat like I don’t have a chronic illness, and it was fine, for a couple of months. Then my symptoms started returning – bloody uncomfortable symptoms – and then I entered the worst flare-up of my life.
The lesson I’ve learned is that I can never again eat like a ‘normal’ person, and I will always have restrictions on my diet – even when I’m feeling fine.
It’s one thing to be the sole breadwinner for a family of 5, and have an entire family depending on your creativity and ingenuity as an entrepreneur. It’s an other thing entirely to balance those pressures against an inability to work more than a few hours per day.
Healing and relaxation built into my day
This year I did not prioritise rest and relaxation like I had resolved to do during last year’s Resolutions, and that has kept me vulnerable to my condition.
Doing the wrong kinds of work
A number of times this year, I had clients say, ‘Hey, Caelan, can you do this thing for me?’ Since I’m a designer who has good technical skills, and I know my way around the Internet, I often answered, ‘Sure, I can do that for you.’
While I could technically get these things done, I wasn’t very good at them, because I was figuring things out. It’s hard to charge a premium price for your services when you don’t really know what you’re doing.
I ended this year with a few dissatisfied customers, and that always makes me feel terrible. This taught me that I need to be clearer about the kinds of work that I can do well, and turn down work outside of my core areas of expertise.
Some months I make my monthly nut, and some months I don’t. If I had savings built up to cushion those ups-and-downs, this wouldn’t bother me, but I had to scramble a few times to find something (anything) to pay, instead of focusing on what works in the long term.
I’ve got high hopes for the new business model I’m implementing in 2020, and my goal is to end the year with $30k in monthly revenue.
Working harder instead of finding an easier way
I’m good at working hard, and truth be told, I like working hard. My tendency, when faced with a challenge, is to put my Capricorn horns against the problem, and flap my tail, and keep on working until the problem is solved.
Unfortunately, that requires that I activate the Stress Response, which is one of the triggers for the autoimmune disorder that I am no accomodating in my body. My work ethic is making me sicker.
So now, when I find myself facing a challenge, and ready to work hard to solve it, that is precisely when I need to stop, and pause, and reassess, and ask myself, ‘Is there an easier way to get this done?’
Quite often, there is. I don’t want to change direction like that – like I said, I like working hard – and my failing this year is that I indulged in toil instead of finding an easier solution.
Taking care of my wife
She’s done such a marvellous job of taking care of me this year, and I have not reciprocated. It makes me feel like a mediocre husband, and that’s not what she deserves.
Part 3 – How many resolutions did I keep?
This is the part of my annual retrospective when I review my New Year’s Resolutions from the beginning of the year. I’ve been using these graphics to measure my success:
Resolution Not Kept
Power Playlist 5x/week before 8am
For the first couple of months of the year, I reliably hit ‘play’ on this playlist in the morning. Having a glorious balcony to look over the mountain valley made it easier…but I got accustomed to doing this outside. When the weather turned in March and April, I stopped doing this morning routine, and then dropped it all together.
Recently I started a different morning routine: 10 minutes of light therapy, followed by 40 minutes of Qi Gong, and that’s been working well. I don’t use the same playlist, but I still have a morning routine.
Sleep in when I need to heal
When I was ill, I did this, and when I was in remission, I did not. Part of the reason I went from remission to relapse, I feel, is because I did not keep this resolution; when my body felt strong, and tired, I would push through and work hard to accomplish what I needed.
Rest when stressed
I had completely forgotten I made this as a resolution. It’s become a guideline recently, since my most recent relapse started, but I find it appropriate that I set this as a resolution this year, did not keep it, and paid the price for it.
Journal every day
I originally made this resolution to write a page of stream-of-consciousness writing in my Moleskine, like the Morning Pages of the Artist’s Way.I did this sporadically throughout the year, some months better than others; but I did do something very reliably – the 5 Minute Journal.
I got a special journal for this purpose, and left it on the table where my wife and I have coffee together in the mornings. Every morning while we chatted, I wrote a list of things I was grateful for, I answered the question, ‘What would make today great?’ and I listed a dozen Daily Affirmations.
The proper 5-Minute Journal method also has an evening component, and I did not do this. What I created for myself, it turns out, is a digest of all my gratitudes for the year, and now I find that an easy pick-me-up can be had by flipping through the pages of this journal.
Hike every week
I didn’t track this very closely, but most weeks I had 1-2 hikes midday during my lunch break, until November, I’m barely able to walk for more than 150 yards now, but if I exclude the final 2 months of the year, I’m confident I met this resolution.
Pamper my wife every month
She takes such very good care of me, and I have not been taking good care of her. I don’t have my recent relapse to blame, either; even when I was feeling well, I did not take the time or make the effort to give her treats and presents, and I should be better about that.
Attend two conferences
Not only did I attend two conferences – the National Speakers Association annual conference in Denver, and the 7in7 Digital Nomad Conference in Wellington – I spoke at each of them, too!
Audition for something in Wellington
This was not a priority. It would have been fun, and allowed me to dip my toe into the performance community here, but I never got around to it.
Invest 5% of all income into Cryptocurrency
I’ve been very careful to avoid the ‘crypto-bro’ community (it’s bad enough that I’m all into sales funnels) so I haven’t been talking about this very much. The market has been down all year, and my holdings are currently worth less than I have invested, in total. Many rookie investors would see this as proof that they wasted their funds, but I’m taking advantage of the bear market, and increasing my holdings. If XRP explodes in value, as many predict, then my activities this year will fund an entirely new lifestyle for my family.
Or, I made a bad bet, and I put in the amount I was comfortable to lose. I’m fine either way.
Publish 12 posts on Sales Funnel Strategy
During NaNoWriMo 2018, I wrote a 12-chapter book. I planned to convert each of these chapters to a blog post, one for each month of the year. I did the first in January, 4 Ways to Research Your Ideal Customer, but when February came around, I never finished the post. Part of the reason is, when I went back and read through the manuscript, I realised I needed to change the ideal customers for the book – which would have meant re-writing each chapter as I made it into a post.
Around this time I was souring on the phrase ‘sales funnel’ as part of my positioning, so I discarded this project in favour of others.
Besides, now that I’ve discovered the title and topic for my next book, Marketing Yourself, I’m much happier in having that be the book that builds my reputation, rather than Sales Funnel Strategy.
Part 4: What are my resolutions for next year?
I’ve published that in a separate post. Read my 2020 resolutions here.