2014 personal review: the victories, the failures, the lessons
The end of the year is a totally arbitrary time to reflect on your life. I mean, you might as well pause on July 19th, or any random date, and think to yourself, “how did the last 365 days go?”
But still, I can’t help it. The markers are so clean – one year ends, the next begins – that I inevitably reflect.
I had 365 mornings to wake up and try to make something of myself. Some totally worked. Others, really didn’t.
There was one day when all I had on my to-do list was laundry. Somehow I didn’t even put my clothes in the washer until after 9:00pm. Fail.
There was another day where someone told me that my work helped her come to terms with a loved one’s death. Success.
I like to look at the year so that I can learn how to make the next one better. I want to double down on the victories, while figuring out how to avoid repeating the failures.
Normally I would keep this reflection to myself, but in an on going effort to be as transparent as possible (and hopefully provide a bit of value along the way) here is my annual review…
I started making serious investments in myself: for the first time ever, I actively invested in myself. I attended an amazing conference in Toronto, moved into my own apartment, read a bunch of books (“Flow” was the most influential), took several online courses, and worked with two coaches to improve myself.
Honestly, I was nervous about it all. The conference was crazy expensive, rent at my new place is considerably higher than at my old place, and the courses and coaches felt a bit indulgent.
Looking back, the ROI on these investments was insane. No matter how you measure it (income, happiness, connections, creativity, enjoyment of life, etc.), it was a good move. More on this in the Lessons section below.
Speaking went extremely well: 2014 was by far the best year in speaking I’ve ever had. After burning out in 2013, I decided to do fewer in 2014. This allowed me to invest more time and research into the audiences I was addressing, and boy did it pay off.
I got standing ovations at nearly 40% of the speeches I delivered (in the past it was less than 1%), had over 1,000 people in the audience for the first time, and sold out a conference in Paraguay.
Prioritized my mental and physical health: Again, after a difficult 2013, I decided to prioritize my mental and physical health. I hit the gym 3-4 times a week, tried to get into yoga (I like the idea of yoga more than actually doing it), practiced gratitude every day (this product is amazing, btw), quit drinking hard alcohol, and did my best to get eight solid hours of sleep a night.
Everything flows from your health and when you prioritize it you’re better equipped to serve, to create, to laugh, to enchant, to… whatever.
After 1.5 years of being on the prowl, I started a new relationship: My new girlfriend, N*, is amazing. I’ve always been blessed with great girlfriends who helped me grow as a man, but I’ve never had a partner who is as thoughtful, spiritually aware, and beautiful as N*. I’m counting my blessings. More on what I learned about romance in the Lesson section below.
I wish I could sit here and tell you that 2014 went swimmingly and that I got everything I wanted and that I didn’t make a single mistake, but that would be complete and utter bullshit.
Failed to meet a single goal that I set for myself as a blogger: here are the goals I was aiming to achieve as a blogger:
- Write every single day – not post every day, just write
- Develop and implement a marketing plan for the blog to grow readership
How did it go? Well, I tried to write every day but couldn’t get in the swing of it. I’m going to work harder on that in 2015.
As far as the marketing plan goes – I did develop one, but I never really deployed it. It didn’t mesh well with how I like to work so I’ll either have to be more disciplined in 2015, or redesign the plan.
Wasted tons of time in the grey zone between relaxation and productivity: I’m reluctant to admit this, but I wasted a lot of time in 2014. And when I say I wasted a lot of time, I don’t mean I spent a lot of time relaxing. Relaxing and enjoying life is a great use of time.
What I mean is that I spent a lot of time on social media, watching mindless TV, drinking only because the people around me were drinking, having conversations that didn’t interest me, playing on my phone, and reading stupid buzzfeed lists.
Life’s too short for that stuff. I’ll never be perfect, and that’s ok, but there’s just no excuse to waste as much time as I did this year.
Allowed wayyyy too many vampires into my world: So I wrote an article recently on how to eliminate the vampires from your life. That wasn’t one of the articles I wanted to write, it was one I needed to write.
Earlier this year I fell in step with people who were good people, but totally uninspiring.
Looking back, I think I was afraid of being alone. More on this in the Lessons section.
And most importantly, the lessons I learned
The super humans among us – they aren’t different than me (or you): two quick scenes, that still make me pinch myself:
- August: I’m in Vegas and somehow thanks to my AMAZING friend Chris P*, I got invited to Penn Jillette’s house after his show to eat tacos and hang out. Aside from just being awesome, this was great because Penn and Teller were childhood idols of mine.
- June: I’m on a tour of the West Wing of the White House. At one point my tour guide mentions that he sometimes passes the President and that the President is surprisingly awkward when he engages in small talk (Mike Z*, you are the man for making that tour happen).
I always assumed that the super successful among us, the people who truly shape our world, are fundamentally different than I am.
However, when I had the insane privilege of meeting Penn Jillete, and got a close look at the White House –especially with my tour guide’s humanizing remark about President Obama – I realized that the super humans among us aren’t fundamentally different than I am.
They may have found their core truth more quickly than me, they may be working harder and smarter than I am, but they aren’t different than me. They’re not different than you either.
While this may seem like a little thing, it is by far the most empowering realization I’ve had in the past five years.
How to get a passport in 8 hours: I know it’s an unusual item for this type of list, but one of the most important things I learned this year is how to get an emergency replacement of a lost/stolen US Passport.
Long story short, I lost my passport moments before an international flight. I was supposed to fly down to South America to give a speech and thought I was doomed. I thought I’d have to cancel the event and let my audience down. Fortunately, I was wrong.
It’s possible to get a passport in a few hours, but it’s a bit finicky. Here’s what you do:
- Immediately schedule the first available appointment at your nearest passport agency.
- Regardless of when your appointment is scheduled for, show up about 30 minutes before the agency opens
- Have all of the necessary paperwork and documents good to go, as well as proof of travel
- Be super polite to everyone involved so that you can get on their good side
If you’re lucky, everything will work out. I scheduled my appointment for 10:00am on a Monday. I showed up at 8:00am (the agency opened at 8:30) and was seen at 8:45am. By 4:00pm I had my replacement passport in hand and was able to catch a 7:00pm flight down to South America.
It’s better to be lonely than to be with people you aren’t enthusiastic about: I was – and to some degree, still am – afraid of being alone and lonely. Because of this, I spent a lot of time hanging out with people who I didn’t actually like. I figured being around anyone was good protection against being lonely.
Bad idea. It ended up affecting how I thought of myself pretty negatively. The unconscious logic was, “If this is the type of person who I hang out with, I must be a pretty low status guy.”
So, after one particularly bad weekend I decided to stop.
Instead of avoiding loneliness by filling the space with people I disliked, I decided to only spend time with people who I truly admired, whose company I enjoyed.
At first I was super lonely. More nights than I care to admit were spent calling my 3-4 real friends in DC, only to find them all busy.
But eventually I realized that I was happier being lonely than I was hanging out with people I disliked.
And though I didn’t realize it at the time, by pruning my social life I was also creating space for serendipity to take over, which brings me to…
About romantic chemistry – when it’s real – you don’t have to force it: I was single for 1.5 years. In that time I dated a wide range of women –a barista, a millionaire entrepreneur, a yoga teacher, etc. – trying to find a great match.
A lot of times I really liked the woman I went out with, but we didn’t have any real chemistry. Instead of just accepting the situation, I tried to create chemistry by falling back on charm and charisma or by bending my values a bit, and if we both squinted a bit, it worked. But after a few days or few weeks it always became clear we weren’t right for one another.
Then, suddenly, I went out with N*. Our first date lasted for hours but felt like seconds. And I didn’t have to use any sleight of hand for our lives to fit together – they just did.
I learned that when you have true romantic chemistry with someone, you know it.
The best possible investment you can make, is an investment in yourself: I mentioned this a bit in the Victories section above, but hands down the most valuable thing I learned in 2015 is that investing in myself pays off exponentially.
There are a lot of different ways to do this, but in my experience, it’s less about how much money you spend on the investment and more about how much time and sincerity you put forth.
In case you’re interested in investing in yourself (and I hope you are) here are a few ideas:
- Attend a conference
- Learn a language
- Quit the stuff you don’t love
- Improve your physical health (gym, yoga, running, ultimate frisbee, etc)
- Improve your mental health (psychologist, coach, practice your religion if you have one, etc)
- Take a class (doesn’t have to be academic, a massage class could be awesome)
- Buy yourself a gift
- Quit or reduce drinking
The most valuable part of investing in yourself isn’t the massive growth that you create, (though that is valuable) so much as the simple act of signaling to yourself and the world that you love yourself. And that, at the end of the day, is the biggest, most important challenge of all.
Thank you for an incredible 2014. As I mentioned before, none of this would be possible without you. Here’s to making 2015 the best year of your life.