It’s amazing how much difference a year makes. Every time I look back at old journal entries, I’m surprised at how much my perception has changed in what seems like such a short amount of time.

I’m very quick to forget what my mindset was like just twelve months ago – it’s why I love doing a yearly review. And, I get excited about where I can be a year from now – it’s why I love setting aside time to plan for the year ahead.

As in last year’s annual review, I’m going to focus on four questions:

  1. What went well?
  2. What could have gone better?
  3. What did I learn?
  4. What am I working toward?
  • For prompts and guidelines on performing your own yearly review, download a copy of the 2015 Yearly Review Workbook PDF or Google Doc.
  • For a simple and effective process to help you get clarity on your dreams, define your vision, and create a plan of action to make it a reality, download a copy of the 2016 “Best Year Yet” Workbook PDF or Google Doc.

What Went Well?

  • Blog: One of the highlights of 2015 was successfully publishing new content every Tuesday. Writing has been an amazing way to explore and share new ideas, and the number of people receiving the weekly newsletter grew tremendously. It’s been great to hear from so many people who are enjoying the content, and I was honored to be a winner of the Start a Blog Challenge contest sponsored by Live Your Legend. I’m excited to continue putting energy into the site and continuing to figure out the best way to serve everyone who stops by. Thanks for reading!
  • Ironman 70.3: I feel awesome about this. I trained well, but not too much, and was able to incorporate most workouts with Kristen and Classpass (including bricks where I would swim or run then do Flywheel, or biking before the Run for the Zoo.) For the race itself I was proud of both my swim (wetsuit helped tremendously, as did the Swim Training workouts at the LPAC), and my run (1:40ish half), but could use some serious improvements in my bike time to be competitive. Still, finished in 5:13, around 11th percentile, which I’m proud of for my first one, and made me feel like I could say a big “F* You” to my broken leg.
  • Health: More broadly than just the Ironman 70.3, my current health is something I’m proud of. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, both mentally and physically. We had a ton of fun with Classpass and have even planned trips around doing fun workouts in other cities (including The Class and Swerve Fitness in NYC, and Olympic Endurance in Denver.) It’s become such a normal and regular part of my reality that I don’t appreciate the fact that it’s uncommon.
  • Relationships: Building on the momentum from last year, I spoke with everyone in my family on 35 out of 52 weeks, and at least most people on the others. We also completed a family wellness challenge in the second half of the year. As for friends, I had a conversation with or hung out with at least one good friend every single week, except when we were in Kenya. I also sent twelve gratitude letters. Overall, my relationships have never been better, both with my wife, with my old friends, and with my family. I continue to learn a ton about the power of being completely genuine and vulnerable.
  • Reading: Read and learned a ton! I’ve finished 68 books as of today (the 29th) and have at least three more that are almost done. I highlighted some of my favorites, and lessons learned, a few weeks ago.
  • Self-Discovery and Growth: I wanted to do some type of self-discovery and growth exercise every month, which I got close to achieving. It was great to learn more about my strengths, values, and beliefs, and also to spend time thinking about what I want my future self to be like. Some of the exercises completed include Virtues in Action, 100 questions, Strengths to Calling, Big 5/Newcastle, Perfect Day, StrengthsFinder, Leaders Compass, Love Languages, Bucket list updates, Multiple Intelligence Tests, Values, True Colors, and Personal Mission Statement.
  • Travel: The highlight of the year was an amazing trip to Kenya for Safari, where I learned to appreciate life, to better recognize the interconnectedness of all things, and the value of simplicity. Other notable destinations include Sundance Film Festival in Park City, A wellness retreat in Cancun, Florida, Michigan (a half dozen times), Denver CO (twice), Portland OR (for WDS), NYC (twice), and Amsterdam.
  • Consistency on my fundamentals: My highest personal value is “being,” and by focusing on these activities I enable myself to show up powerfully and positively day in and day out. I’ve continued to make them more of a focus and have noticed myself feeling better and performing better as a result.
    • Meditation – Deepened my practice and added variety. Towards the end of the year, I was meditating for up to an hour at a time. I’m currently on a 369-day streak with the Muse headband (which started the day it arrived) and have officially logged 14,203 minutes of meditation. Add in maybe 10 hours of unlogged meditation, and it’s around 250 hours total, or more than 4% of my awake time.
    • Yoga – Started every day with a 15-minute practice to wake up, and also had fun visiting various local studios several times each week. I’ve probably done around 200 hours of yoga this year and have developed a strong practice.
    • Sleep – I’m averaging over 7 hours a night, and going to bed earlier (anywhere from 9-10:30) so I can wake up earlier (anywhere from 4-6). Making this a priority has made a much bigger difference than I anticipated.
    • Plant-based nutrition – It’s habit by now, although there was probably more fish consumption than necessary, and too many cheat days of high carb/cheese/sugar. Overall, it has made a tremendous impact on what we can do physically and how we feel on a day to day basis.
    • Journaling – I’ve tweaked my overall process to try and make it take less time, and also have a bigger impact. It continues to be a source of tremendous growth. Plus, it’s been cool to be able to look through old journals.
    • Cold-showers – Haven’t ended a shower without a cold blast in over a year. I’ve also had more and more frequent 100% cold showers, especially in the mornings so that I shower faster, and always 100% cold post-workout.
    • Kindness – Started off the year strong with a focus on performing a meaningful act each day. Eventually, I was living from this place all the time, but with took a step back in bringing attention to specific tasks each day. I feel good about it, but also feel like there is room to grow with it.
  • Complaint free, optimalist, downtime, and mindful consumption: These were some of the habit related changes I wanted to focus on that went well. I’ve gotten much better about scheduling fewer things and being more realistic with time frames, and I’ve learned to approach life and challenges from a place of gratitude and optimism. I also learned that if I focused on drinking lots of water and eating lots of vegetables, I tend not to go quite so far overboard with consumption.

What Could Have Gone Better?

  • Getting clarity on “Why:” For every single of goal that wasn’t achieved, one of the primary reasons for failure was the lack of a clear reason why. This caused me both to create arbitrary goals that didn’t fully interest me, and to fight resistance in making progress on goals that didn’t have a clear purpose. Ask Why! Why? Why?! WHY?!?!
  • Book publishing: Fail on all accounts. I put energy into some of the projects mid-year, but ultimately decided I wanted to focus on other things. I want to continue to make writing a priority, but need to be more realistic about what and when. This is also an area where I struggle with perfectionism, instead of getting something to “good enough” and getting it out there.
  • Wake up to first alarm: I think I can count on one hand the number of times I woke up to my first alarm. I didn’t even set myself up for success, by almost always setting more than one alarm. While I am getting up earlier, and getting better sleep, I still really enjoy an extra 5-15 minutes in bed in the morning.
  • Guitar: I played a lot. When I say a lot I mean for at least 5 minutes, on at least 165 days, with some sessions lasting hours. My goal was to play at least 5x a week for at least 5 minutes, but at some point, it became a chore rather than something fun. I took a multi-month hiatus from playing in the fall and came back with renewed excitement to finish the year strong. Still, I don’t want to get back to the place of it being a chore, so I need to spend some time thinking about what this looks like going forward.
  • Outsourcing: I spent a lot of time hiring my first VA, and then ended up firing my first VA. It wasn’t clear they were worth what I was paying them, but I think that it was more of a personnel issue above anything else. It’s something I’m going to revisit, probably by hiring multiple people for specific tasks rather than one general VA.
  • Skill acquisition and mental training: Two of the goals I wanted to work towards last year were learning new, fun skills (drawing, Colemak keyboard) and developing a more powerful mental toolkit (mental math, memory strategies.) I made progress in both but am not where I wanted to be.
  • Learn how to write in Chinese: I ultimately abandoned this goal to focus on other priorities, but it’s something that I’m still interested in for the future.

What Did I Learn?

Be genuine, honest, and vulnerable in all interactions.

Show up fully in all relationships you have. Anything less simply isn’t worth it. Live with genuine honesty in business and life, and amazing relationships evolve as a result. It’s simple, but uncommon – being willing to have honest conversations will set you apart from others. Drop all of the masks and just be you.

The more you can communicate, the better.

No matter what happens, communicate with the impacted parties, the more and the earlier, the better. Get everyone involved on the same page. Have conversations and address stress-points at the moment they happen. Approach challenging conversations by being focused on honesty and good outcomes.

Laugh at yourself.

As I continue to become more aware of my thoughts and emotions, I am more and more surprised at why I feel or act in certain ways. Sometimes I noticed myself reacting to one thing when it was actually something else that was upsetting me. I also noticed how many times I acted from previous biases or tendencies, even watching my behavior change when I was around people from earlier times in my life. Big takeaway? Nobody’s perfect, and most of us are confused even about ourselves. So laugh about and just do the best you can.

Breathe!

Stressed out? Angry? Sad? Remember to breathe! Feeling resistance to something? Breathe into it. Use the breath to get through tough workouts by disengaging your active mind and just counting inhales and exhales. The breath is an amazingly powerful tool, and can serve as a reminder that even just the opportunity to experience being is amazing!

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

Show up from a place of true service. Always ask what you can give, not what you can get. At the same time, be open to receiving blessings when they come your way.

Every event is neutral. Choose how to view it.

Even getting rained on while biking to work can be fun. It all depends on the mentality that you bring to it. The only thing we can ever fully control is our thoughts, so choose an empowered point of view.

Recovery is just as important as training.

If I’m going to be crushing challenging workouts, I need good fuel afterward, and I need to get enough sleep to allow my body to rebuild. Without sufficient recovery my mood turned cranky, my body got sore, and I was more likely to develop small tweaks and injuries. Training breaks the body down, to get the gains we have to allow it to build back up.

Clarity = Power.

If I’m not making progress, it’s because I’m not clear on what needs to get done next. And if I don’t know what it is that I’m trying to accomplish, there’s no way that it’s going to come to fruition. The broadest application of this is to get clear on how you want to live your life. Decide on the things that will guide your life and by which you’ll make all of your choices. Clarify what it is that you most desire, and then become the kind of person who attracts those things.

Be a good animal.

Take as best care of your physical vehicle as you can, because the mind can’t exist without it.

Strive for completeness.

My attitude and energy were at their highest when all the different parts of my life were integrated, and I was able to show up and live from a place of completeness. Are there parts of your life that are in disagreement with others? See what you can do to make them more coherent.

Life is amazing.

This past year was full of challenges, setbacks, and failures. But through it all, the one truth that kept resurfacing, is that life is absolutely amazing. To be here on this planet, fully present in this moment, breathing, and aware. That’s amazing. Don’t squander the moment that you are blessed to experience wishing it could be some other way. Appreciate it for how it is. One moment, one person at a time.

What Am I Working Towards?

The past several years have been full of ambitious goals, growth, challenges, and changes. I’m a better person than I used to be, and I’m excited about the person that I will be a year from now.

From a big picture standpoint, the overall theme for 2016 is “playful.” I want to live from a place of joy, childlike wonder, and with a spirit of play.

Regarding specific goals, here are a few of the things I’m going to be focusing on in the coming year.

Habits to add or focus on:

  • Continued consistency on the fundamentals.
  • Do more activities that make me laugh.
  • Let go of self-imposed expectations regarding timeframes.
  • Simplify! Continue decluttering my priorities, calendar, physical, and mental space.

Projects:

  • Improvements to this site. Continue posting an article once a week. Update layout and additional pages to resonate more deeply with who I am and the impact I want to have. Publish additional free tools that empower others to become better versions of themselves.
  • Complete a full Ironman. Now that I’ve completed a half, I’m setting my sights on the full.
  • Profound service and impact. More details are coming soon! I’m increasing the number of people I work with on an individual basis, and I’m excited to serve them in profound and powerful ways.
  • Teaching. Speed reading, memory, productivity, and thriving.

Here’s to a great 2016!

2015 Yearly Review Workbook PDF & Google Doc
2016 “Best Year Yet” Workbook PDF & Google Doc