Annual Review 2023

2023 Annual Review Table of Contents

Every Annual Review that I publish on this blog contains 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.

To use my workbook to create your own Annual Review, click here.

Part 1 – What were my victories of 2023?

This was a good year. It started hard, and had a difficult middle, but it ended very smoothly.

Recovered from an autoimmune relapse

Starting the year in terrible health was not auspicious. New Year’s Day was near my lowest point, and it took me 3 months to recover from a bad flare of Ulcerative Colitis. Last year’s Annual Review was published a month late, but as I recovered, I collected a lot of the lessons I’ve learned into an outline for another book. Life Balance might be written someday, and it covers protocols and frameworks like this:

Fluoride testimony at district council

I typically keep my radical opinions about politics, religion, and health mandates private. But this year, the Ministry of Health mandated that every district in New Zealand had to add fluoride to their water, or face a fine of $10,000/day. I felt it was time to speak up and share my experience with fluoride poisoning.

This mandate was found by the High Court to be in violation of Section 11 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights, which I reference in the following 6-minutes of testimony to my local district council.

Financial windfalls

The first half of this year was very difficult for me, financially. My business has not been doing well this year, and falling ill affects my productivity, my sales, and my revenue.

Unexpectedly, I had two modest windfalls this year, which did not come about because of my effort, ingenuity, sweat, prospecting, or hard work. I’m good at being a hard worker, and it’s how I default to solving my problems: just work harder. However, what these two financial windfalls have taught me, is that sometimes my problems can be solved independently of how hard I work.

I used this money to right my financial ship. I paid down all my credit cards, restocked the pantry, and allocated funds into investments that will grow my fortune.

Shipped the Storage Unit

This was one of my broken resolutions from 2021. When we moved from the United States, we packed a storage unit full of things we wanted to ship down here someday, when we could afford it. This year, finally, we could afford it.

Johanna flew up to the States to pack everything up into three big crates, and UPakWeShip has put them on a boat. We expect them sometime in Q2 of 2024. Being reunited with all our family treasures is going to be great!

Cooking with Indi

While Johanna was gone, I was parenting solo for two weeks. Indi took Johanna’s place in the kitchen, orchestrating the meals, and making sure everyone was fed. (We cook all of our meals from scratch, and I have a complicated diet, so food takes a lot of our time and attention.)

As Indi cooked, I did the dishes and cleaned, serving as her assistant. She is now 17 years old, and is blossoming into her own person as an adult. Spending time with this new adult in a fun and cozy kitchen was a great experience this year.

Crypto trading

I’ve continued learning about web3, and spending time as a day trader to grow my wealth. It’s a fantastic match for my skills and abilities. Trading requires a sophisticated understanding of mathematics, economics, technology, and psychology. Anybody who’s smart enough to try can join the market and make some trades, and walk away with profit (or with losses). I like the impartiality of trading. I don’t have to convince a client to pay me for a project; to profit, I have to make an educated guess and be right often enough that the numbers work out in my favor.

When I apply this field of knowledge I’ve developed to other skills I have in video production, scriptwriting, and public speaking, I get a proof-of-concept project like TokenTrader.TV

I’m going to shop this concept around to web3 companies in 2024 and see if I can join a team as a video content creator. My goal is to make daily web3 news videos for a company that wants stronger, more frequent connections with their audience.

Family vacation to Queenstown

Cherie came to visit New Zealand for the first time since the week the pandemic started, when she left the day before the borders closed.

We’ve lived together more often than not since our kids were born; Johanna and her mom are very close, and she’s active in the daily lives of her grandchildren.

Having her finally back with the family was a big win.

After she arrived, the 6 of us went to Queenstown for a weekend getaway.

We went down the Queenstown Luge, which the kids had been looking forward to for a long time. We went once a few years ago, and they’ve been talking about it ever since.

This year, we relived that experience, and even got a little video of it.

Part 2 – What could have gone better?

2023 was a hard year, in a lot of ways. I’m glad it’s ended so gracefully, because I didn’t expect it. Midyear was pretty rough, in the middle of wintertime; but this spring has been abundant.

Playful Productivity went nowhere

The feedback I got from people when I handed out my ebook or performed my busk out for Gamify Your Work was fantastic. “I’m so glad you’re doing this,” they would say. “People are really burned out, they need this message, and it’s good for business, too.”

“So do you want to buy something?” I would ask.

“No,” they said bashfully, “I can’t put ‘play’ on my budget.”

After publishing my first book on marketing last year, I pivoted to a completely different topic, selling to a completely different audience, to people outside of my personal network, who I didn’t understand.

The content was great, but I couldn’t figure out how to sell it.

Dropped out of Thought Leaders Business School

This really deserves its own article; and as I decompress from leaving a program that I spent 3.5 years diligently involved in, I’ve been uncovering more perspective on the experience. I’ve learned a lot since my time in TLBS, and of course, I learned a lot while I was there. While I learned many valuable things, they didn’t get me the results I was expecting when I joined.

Without writing the whole article, the TL;DR version is: this program works really well for people who spent a career in corporate, or in academia, and have a large existing network to whome they can sell. Their books are business cards on the bookshelves of their prospective clients, and are not written to be read, but to be noticed when a buyer needs an idea for a consultant to hire.

I thought I could learn how to sell that way, but I don’t understand how those kinds of purchases are made, because I’m not from the corporate world, or from academia; I work best with entrepreneurs. I know that crowd, and their motivations and pressures. But, most successful thought leaders don’t sell to the public market, they sell to the professional market.

It was hard to leave that program; I made lots of great friends there, and I felt like I was doing the work and using the system, like a good student. But if it was going to work for me, it would have worked by now. Something isn’t working, so I have to try things differently.

Went looking for a job

When I made the decision to leave the program that was guiding the direction of my career for three years, I thought of how great it would be to join a team. Focusing on one lane, and not having to wear all the hats, sounds really appealing after years of being a solo pro. I don’t know if I’m not cut out for employment, or if my resume is just really terrible, but I couldn’t even score an interview. Months of looking for positions, in marketing, in video, in sales, in web3, I couldn’t get anyone interested enough to talk to me, aside from a few personal friends who entertained the idea as a favor. I got really disheartened on this path, so I gave up before ever getting a job offer.

Part of me justifies this by the benefits of being an entrepreneur – many people who are employed will daydream about working in my career, setting my own hours, being my own boss, deciding how to spend my time. I love being an entrepreneur – when it’s working. Some years, my business doesn’t do very well, and it’s those years when I consider jumping ship and getting a job.

Speaking work dried up

I was getting really good at webinars just before the pandemic started. During lockdowns, webinars were very good to me. I started teaching other public speakers how to give more interactive presentations, and I was expanding into facilitation and hybrid events. My speaking kit demonstrates the depth of experience and accolades I have earned.

I created a new signature keynote this year for Marketing Yourself, and flew to Wellington to speak at an event. It was the only $400 I made from speaking all year. People stopped showing up to webinars, and I couldn’t get any paying work speaking.

I love performing, and being in front of an audience, but – maybe it’s time I let this go.

Lost momentum on content production

I like writing newsletters, and I like making videos, but they aren’t very popular.

I know the quality is good – when I put my mind to it, clients pay me big bucks to produce content for them. I typically produce content for my own channels as an afterthought. My production queues are always full of ideas, and I like spending time creatively composing words and creating neat videos.

But this year, I’ve stopped getting the likes and subscribes that tell me it’s working.

Maybe my constant pivots are confusing. Maybe I spend to much time focusing on what I want to create, instead of what others want to consume. Maybe the mediums I’m most proficient in using are now obsolete because they are overrun with spam, so the audience has tuned out anyways.

After years of publishing diligently, I went into a hibernation phase, pulling back from posting everywhere. My thought leadership has dimmed, and so has my publication.

Anyways, here’s a list of the articles I’ve published on my blog this year:

(click to read one, or scroll down to see how I did on my New Year’s Resolutions)

December 2023

October 2023

September 2023

August 2023

July 2023

June 2023

May 2023

April 2023

March 2023

February 2023

Part 3 – How many New Year’s Resolutions did I keep?

Resolution Kept

Some Success

Resolution Not Kept

Gain 70 pounds


When I started the year I was under 130 pounds, and I wanted to get big and bulky, as a reaction to the trauma of losing all of the muscle on an athletic frame. I couldn’t do squats, or handstands, or flips, or any of the acrobatic movements I’m accustomed to using in my interaction with the world.

The goal of 200 pounds, a weight I’ve never attained, was aspirational and full of the bullish hard work energy that gets me into trouble. What I actually wanted was to feel strong in my body, and my present weight of 170 makes me feel that way. I fantasize about getting bigger, but my digestion cannot handle the bulk of calories I would need to gain weight, especially with my dietary restrictions. I eat mostly meat, some fruit, and a few vegetables. No carbs or dairy, so gaining weight is a challenge.

I don’t mind failing this one, it was aiming too high.

Write the first draft of my next book, Life Balance


I have a 4-book plan that I am planning to continue:

  1. Marketing Yourself – a compilation of the lessons I’ve learned in digital marketing
  2. Playful Productivity – a manual on how to get more done in good cheer
  3. Life Balance – a new way for people to relate to work and rest
  4. Runaway – a memoir about my childhood and the traumas that made me into who I am

At the start of this year, I angrily discarded the Playful Productivity manuscript, and started writing Life Balance. But I quickly realized that this book would not translate to commercial success (and while I was enrolled in Thought Leaders Business School, this was the advice I got – write books that will result in commercial work.) I don’t have any offers or services in my Life Balance folder of IP, so after a few months of the hard work of starting a book, I went back to finish up Playful Productivity, because it was nearly done.

I polished off 18 chapters before I gave up on Playful Productivity a second time. I was continuing because I was already so close to being done; but I know now how much effort a book launch and layout and ebook and everything is, and I can’t justify going through that again if I’m not currently getting commercial feedback from the market that this direction is financially viable.

If writing and publishing articles and books is not going to bring me commercial success, I need to focus my time and energy on generating wealth for a little while, before I get back to writing books.

I still have every intention of filling a small bookshelf with the variety of books that I will publish one day; but I just published my first book last year, and I don’t have the financial gas in the tank to do it again so quickly.

One hour of self-care every night

Some success.

What makes this resolution easy is my 8pm alarm. At 8 every night, an alarm goes off on my phone, to remind me to put on my Blu Blockers, and to invite me to retire to my bedroom for a healing practice. Yoga, pranayama, qi gong, meditation, watching a webinar replay, listening to an online course – these are all things I do from 8-9 pm, when I feel like it.

Because my will is weak at this point in the evening, I often don’t do much more than put on my red shades, while I do the dishes. I want to be more diligent about healing in this hour, and when I am battling chronic fatigue, it’s easy to do. When I’m not, I find it hard to intentionally slow down at this point in the evening, even if it’s for my own wellness.

Something I’ve found helpful is to commit to 10 minutes of pranayama. An hour is daunting, and it’s easier to skip; but 10 minutes is hard to skip, because it’s so short.

Set up a cold plunge


I ordered a Freezetub and got a big freezer with some plastic tubs that make big, big ice cubes. Now my morning routine starts with a shower, before I put on a swimsuit and drop some ice into my morning tub to chill for 5-6 minutes.

Because my morning routine evolves over time, I’ll make note of it here:

  • Shower
  • Cold plunge and pranayama
  • Vibration plate, infrared light therapy, and meditation
  • Sun salutations
  • Calisthenics
  • Affirmations
  • Tea
  • Walk dogs
  • Coffee

I don’t always get through all the steps – sometimes I skip a few, depending on how I’m feeling – but having this framework for my morning Power Playlist has served me well this year.

Weekly dates with my wife

Some success.

Going out for dates is hard with such a restrictive diet. Dinner and drinks are out, and we prefer watching movies snug at home. But I think we achieved the spirit of this resolution with our dog walks.

We have two big dogs, and one of them is a little hyper. He bites his brother’s face in excitement when we walk them together. So every morning and every evening, we walk one dog, and then the other, holding hands.

These daily walks give us time to chat, which is the most fun part of our dates. Going places and ordering things is all incidental; what we really enjoy about our dates is the time to chat with our best friend, and converse about our lives and our world and what’s happening next. We get to do that with our dogs, which is why this isn’t a complete fail.

But it’s close. I need to be more intentional about taking special time to be with my lady wife.

Take one of my children out for lunch every week


This habit was easier at the beginning of the year, while I was in recovery from my relapse, and small outings like this were good for me to get my get-up-and-go going.

But when we hit a financial rough patch, buying lunch for 2 every week became a strain, and I tried to replace it with a cheaper coffee date. The topics we chose – chess for Taos and Indi, and Euclid for Zaden, didn’t grab their interest. Then it got cold, and we stopped going out in winter; when springtime came, and we were more flush, I should have started this habit again, and I didn’t.

I regret not trying harder on this one, because the window is closing on the time I can nurture a relationship with these lifelong companions while they are children.

Tropical family vacation

Some success.

We went on a vacation to Queenstown, but we didn’t go to the tropics. Part of this was financial, and part logistical. I was just trying to get the bills paid the first half of the year; the second half, we had our windfalls, and Johanna went solo to the States to pack up the storage unit. Getting an international trip together this year would have been tough, and it wasn’t a high enough priority.

1 win, 3 fails, 3 partials

I broke more resolutions than I achieved this year (related post: Why Breaking New Year’s Resolutions Is Good For You) but by reviewing my list every year, I can calibrate how well I can predict my year ahead.

I’m not surprised that the February Resolutions I made while I was thin as a waif and confused by my career were not accurate. I’m confident I’ll have some misses when I make my New Year’s Resolutions tomorrow.

By |2024-01-06T09:33:03+13:00December 31st, 2023|Introspection|

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About the Author:

Caelan Huntress is an American digital nomad living in New Zealand, and has spent ten years running an online business while traveling the world with his young family. Caelan is a website designer, copywriter, and sales strategist who specializes in helping entrepreneurs make more money in less time through setting up smart marketing systems. Subscribe to Caelan's newsletter here.

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