I love the energy and sense of renewal that accompanies a new year. It’s the perfect time to take a step back, reflect on where we’ve come from and think about where we want to go. I’ve done a yearly review privately for a while1 and this year, inspired by Chris Guillebeau and James Clear, I thought it might be fun to share!

It’s important to both celebrate the good and learn from the bad, so I’ll focus on answering four questions:

  1. What went well? 
  2. What could have gone better? 
  3. What did I learn? 
  4. What am I working toward?

[Fair warning: it’s a bit longer and more personal than a typical post, but a year’s time provides quite a lot to reflect and learn from!]

What went well?

  • Meditation: I really wanted to solidify my practice, and I’m proud to say that I meditated twice every single day of 2014. I’m still a beginner with a lot to learn, but the benefits of taking time each day to calm my mind have been far reaching.
  • Recovering from a broken leg: On July 1st I suffered a tibial plateau fracture that required surgery and a lengthy projected recovery (see: What could have gone better?) Thanks to an amazing team of doctors, nurses, and physical therapists I surprised everyone (including myself) by drastically beating all recovery estimates. I walked 8 weeks after having surgery, was doing pistol squats (one legged to the ground) 6 weeks later, and slowly running the following week. I then ran at least one mile every day from Thanksgiving until New Years, starting with an 8k Turkey Trot.
  • Blog: I finally overcame the desire to have everything be perfect and the fear(s) of failure and a negative reception to share this blog with the world. The response has been overwhelmingly positive! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
  • Relationships: I talked with all five members of my family 30 out of 52 weeks, and at least some of them on the others. I reached out to at least one close friend 46 out of 52 weeks, and also got to attend both my high school and college reunions. I went on at least one distraction free date every week and continued to work on improving a fun, strong, happy, and healthy relationship.
  • Plant based eating: After living the first 26 years of my life as a loud and proud “meat-etarian” I used 2013 to scale back on the amount of meat I consumed, and spent 2014 eating mostly plants. It wasn’t so much about cutting meat out but rather about consuming more nutrient dense foods and fueling my body in the best way possible. Special thanks to Kristen’s creative and delicious cooking!
  • Gratitude: I practiced being grateful every morning while journaling, every dinner by sharing three things I was thankful for that happened that day, and once a month by writing a gratitude letter to someone who had an impact on my life.
  • Simplify (minimalism): In 2013 I got rid of 80% of my digital and physical junk, and in 2014 I tackled 80% of what was left. It’s amazingly empowering to live clutter free.
  • Read more: I read 64 books in 2014 (up from 44 in 2013 and 9 in 2012.) I also wrote an article about how to read more for the blog. There is just so much wisdom out there to learn from brilliant and inspiring people!
  • Learn more: Last year I finished 46 online courses of varying length (up from 21 in 2013, and 1 :) in 2012.) Highlights include courses on Plato, Astronomy, Optimal Living 101 (audio & DVD), Particle Physics, The Archaeology of Israel, Physiology, Religion, Publishing, Project Management, Psychology, How to Learn, and Music Theory.
  • Language learning: I finished the Duolingo tracks for Spanish and French, both languages I already spoke but wanted to improve. I also learned some basic Arabic and Hebrew in order to help with…
  • Travel: The highlight of the year was a trip to Israel to experience the birthplace of three major world religions and get a better understanding of the people that lived there. Close runners up include two trips to the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver, Canada & Portland, OR), a retreat in Arizona, whale watching in Mexico, a reunion in Boston, visiting friends in Atlanta, and many trips home to Ohio and Michigan.
  • Yoga: Aside from the 2 months when I wasn’t allowed to put any weight on my right leg I started every day with 15 minutes of yoga. I also got talked into a 21 day yoga challenge that happened ahead of the holidays.
  • Guitar: I played the guitar an average of two out of every three days, as well studying music theory and a guitar specific music course. I continue to improve, but could also be better about practicing in a more challenging, deliberate manner.
  • Waking up earlier: Although it sometimes takes more than one alarm, I now typically wake up around 5-5:15 am to start my morning routine.

What could have gone better?

  • Owning my responses to events: I got a bit overwhelmed in the second half of the year and ended up negatively reacting rather than responding to several events. I also got into a few fights with reality and had a hard time letting go of unrealistic expectations. Even though I was aware of when my emotions were getting the best of me, I struggled to regain my balance. I know I am trying to be too much of a perfectionist in this area, but I do think it’s important. I will continue to work on it, hopefully using the tough lessons to improve.
  • Over committing: Part of my end of day journal practice is answering “How could I have made today better?” The words “scheduled less” showed up time after time after time. Even when staring at a completely full calendar I tried to add in additional projects and activities. I repeatedly over-committed and over-scheduled, only to come up short and stressed out. I thought that breaking my leg would force me to do fewer things but after factoring in more sleep each night, rehabilitation exercises, and everything taking longer I ended up with even less time than before. Fortunately towards the end of the year I started coming to my senses, and I’ve made serious progress I hope to build on in 2015.
  • Prioritizing: There are always a million different projects that I want to complete, and I struggled with saying “no” to some so that I could focus on those that were most important. Combined with over committing this resulted in a lot of self-imposed stress.
  • Going to bed earlier: “Bed earlier” was another repeat answer to “How could I have made today better?” Struggling with over committing and prioritizing, I often sacrificed sleep in the attempt to get more done. Luckily my body forced me to get more sleep when re-growing my leg, and I was able to continue getting to be earlier even after I had mostly healed.
  • Over consuming: Although I do a great job the majority of the time I have a tendency to go on occasional food and drink binges, particularly during holidays or all-you-can-eat and drink events. I impress myself with how much I’m able to consume only to end up catatonic an hour later, or severely hung over the next day. Part of this is due to the same FOMO (fear of missing out) that leads me to over commit and over schedule. I’m working on spacing out consumption or engaging in other activities to take my mind off of consuming during these events.
  • Outsourcing: There are a ton of repetitive tasks that I’m currently doing but which could be handled by someone else. I know that getting a virtual assistant would really help me, but even though it was one of my top priorities for 2014 I remain assistant-less. I’ve got another aggressive list of goals I want to accomplish in 2015, so I’m hoping to get this one taken care of soon.
  • Consistent blog posts: I started off the year with the goal of posting once a week, but only ended up publishing 9 articles. 7 of them came in the last 3 months of the year though, so I’m hoping to build on that momentum and knock this one out of the park in 2015.
  • Breaking my leg: Although I gained a tremendous amount from the experience, and it’s a great story (I rode my bike home on one leg…) it would have been nice not to have gone through. On the day it happened I was still recovering from a flight home from Israel and had already done an hour long boxing workout. It would probably have been better to listen to Kristen’s advice to take the night off.

What did I learn?

Be disciplined with time and eliminate distractions.

It’s just as important to focus on what you can’t do as what you can. Just as a clutter free environment can lead to a clean mind and better productivity, building time into the calendar can reduce stress and actually help you get more done. There are only 168 hours in a week, so it’s important to use them wisely.

Don’t go to bed with dirty dishes!

This includes dirty dishes in the kitchen sink AND dirty dishes in the mind or heart.

Simplifying (minimalism) helps keep things clean.

If there are fewer things to clean, its easier to keep them that way. If there are fewer commitments to honor, its easier to honor them. If there are fewer decisions to make, its easier to make them and you make better ones. Eliminate distractions and you won’t get distracted.

The value of investing in yourself, or the compounding gains of education.

By far the biggest reason that I’ve been able to learn and read so much has been taking the time to learn HOW to do so. Study optimal learning itself and watch what happens next. It’s also true that the more you learn and know the easier it becomes, as you are more likely to have come across related models or concepts which can be applied to the current topic.

Some activities give more time than they take.

You can accomplish more and produce higher quality work when you invest time in taking care of yourself. Activities that leave you with more mental and physical energy give you far more time in terms of productivity then they take in clock time. For me these include meditation, exercise, journaling, yoga, and sleep. When I do these things I’m a better person.

Genuine and honest conversations are the best kind.

They are the key to overcoming any interpersonal problems, to having better relationships, and to creating a better world. Strive to be genuine, honest, and vulnerable in every communication.

Every person is a person.

The earth is a truly large and diverse place, but people are all just people, divine sparks making their way in the world. Don’t allow language to be a barrier to connecting with others. Acknowledge them as humans, smile, and appreciate the gift of life. As yogi’s say “Namaste.”

The power of focus or “What gets measured gets managed.” – Peter Drucker

Everything that I’ve been able to accomplish in the past year is the result of setting goals and being able to track progress towards those goals.

Give to the world and it will give back to you.

Give gratitude. Give a smile. Give your time and talents without expecting anything in return. Besides the hard-wired rewards from our biology that LOVE when you give, the energy you put out to the world will eventually find it’s way back to you.

It’s easier to accept what is and go from there.

Don’t waste time and energy arguing with the past, or holding onto expectations. Just don’t. It’s not worth it.

Life is good! Don’t forget it!

Sometimes easier said then done.

What am I working toward?

In light of everything I’ve learned from last year, and where I would like to be a year from now, here are some of the things I’ll be working towards in 2015.

Project related:

  • Publish a new article every Tuesday. I’m making this a public commitment and I’m sticking to it. (So far so good!)
  • Publish the trading book I wrote over 2 years ago. It’s been sitting in final revision mode for too long and I’m ready to get it out the door and clear up the mental space.
  • Publish the book I’m currently working on. I’ve been excited about this project for the past year or so, and it’s time to give it the focus it deserves.
  • Complete a half ironman. An ironman on a steel leg? They say I might be crazy…
  • Learn how to write in Chinese. I did a crash course in spoken Chinese before a trip in 2013, and now I’d like to use the book Chineasy to learn how to write it as well.

Habit related:

  • Schedule buffers or down time into my calendar.
  • Live complaint free and as an optimalist. These things go hand in hand with accepting what is and being happy.
  • Consume in a positive way and in moderation. Continue to eat a plant based diet and be smarter about binges.
  • Waking up to my first alarm. Yikes!

I’ve got some other personal and private goals as well, but those will have to wait for another time.

Here’s to a great 2015!

  1. http://liveyourlegend.net/2015-goal-setting-and-weekly-planning-workbook-downloads/ []