2014: Year in Review

I’m just realizing I didn’t actually do one of these last year – or rather, I did the “year in review” post, but not the goal-setting post. Weird.

Not for lack of goal-setting, though. I had many goals in 2014, I also had my progress on many of those goals completely derailed by the sudden appearance of a son into my life, contracting my work week, vastly increasing the amount of time spent frozen in awkward positions in the dark trying to figure out how to extract my arm from beneath someone’s head without waking them up.

If I’m thinking about 2014 as a year – as an overall experience – obviously, Oliver’s been amazing, and disruptive, and profoundly life-changing in ways I couldn’t really understand before.

Screenshot 2015-01-03 09.21.30

And here’s the thing – everybody says that, and yes, of course, you love him more than blah blah blah. You get that.

I think the whole “it’ll change you’re life in ways you could never dream of” meme that everyone likes to tell you is more interesting when you think about the ways your boring, day-to-day life is being affected. Because really, how many times can you stare lovingly into a baby’s eyes? I mean, a lot. I do that a lot. But then he, like, wiggles in this weird way that means he’s going to start crying and you spend the next 4 hours desperately trying to find the one thing, out of all possible things, that he wants to do right at that moment so he’ll calm down. Do you want to bounce on this ball? No? Do you want to eat? You just ate. Do you want to play? Oh, right. You can’t sit up.” And on, and on.

All this has far-reaching effects on how you actually live your life, how you are able to move through physical space. I think you can imagine that beforehand – you can imagine, for example, not being able to go to the grocery store, or something. But the actual experience of that is a whole different thing, sort of like the difference between watching Oz and being in prison when your cell door clangs shut for the first time.

Anyway, it’s great, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t take it back for anything. But there are trade-offs.

OK. What else.

Obviously, this was also the year we lost two of our dogs, Phineus and P-Chan. One to cancer, one to old age. For both, I held them in my arms while they died. One, by chance – one, by choice.

Both experiences replay in my head every now and then, for different reasons.

For P-Chan, I remember the feel of her fur. Patting her head as she went to sleep. I remember the dread of making that call.

For Phineus, I remember the way he fell onto the deck – the way he fell completely sideways, like a tower of blocks being knocked over.

I remember the way he went limp when I picked him up, truly limp in a way that no healthy thing ever can. I remember his eyes being wide open as he coughed up blood, and not knowing what to do, other than rub his forehead and say “You’re OK.”

Anyway. I don’t know what I was supposed to take from that. But it happened, and it’s a part of me now – rattling around up there.

I think we can move on to the more practical things, now – because for all that, for all the complaining and such, if that’s what it is, above…this was one of the best years of my entire life, on almost every level.

Let’s go over some of my concrete goals:

1. Run a half-marathon. – SUCCESS.

Screenshot 2015-01-03 08.32.44

I started running last Spring for a 5k, gradually built up to a 7-mile tolerance (this was a huge accomplishment for me, considering I was unable to run even a mile when I started), then promptly stopped training completely when Oliver was born.

However, I still ran – which was probably ill-advised. Afterwards it felt like my body was disintegrating and I walked funny for two weeks. I’m glad I did it though.

My time was 2 hours, 30 minutes or so. I finished towards the end of my age range. Pictures of me during the race show a man who is clearly in agony.

So – Do I want to set improvement in this event as a goal for 2015? Not quite sure yet. Mulling it over.

2. Take Fridays off. – SUCCESS.

I actually beat this goal by a wide margin, as I now only work Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

I started taking Fridays off for a month or two before Ollie was born, and then switched over to taking care of him Mondays and Fridays while Thao is off at school.

Admittedly, in the beginning I assumed I would be able to do something – anything – when I was home with the baby. Maybe take calls? Catch up on emails? But the hard truth is that on baby-days I can barely take care of my own vital bodily functions, such as eating or going to the bathroom. So, in effect I have a forced vacation day, and that isn’t a bad thing.

The overall theme of this year was the automation of much of my business and the decrease of my workload/stress levels, and I have to say…I am worlds apart from where I was last year. Much less stressed, much less worried.

I am very lucky to be in a business that can support the kind of lifestyle where I can take months off when my child is born, only work 3 days a week, enjoy my work, and still make a healthy income.

3. Rent a house on Lake Winnipesaukee. – FAILED.

This didn’t happen – so much of the summer was taken up with Pregnancy Stuff, I don’t really blame myself for this, though. Blame Thao and her Fallopian Tubes.

This is definitely going on the list for 2015. Our time at Jay’s house on the lake was some of the most relaxed, happiest times we’ve had – and I want that to be a part of our regular life.

4. Make coffee for Thao every morning. – SUCCESS.

I’m big on rituals, and I wanted a ritual that involved caring and providing for my wife – especially in the light of my old schedule, which would often involve waking up and getting straight to work. I wanted something to make me slow down, show that I care.

I’ve been doing this every day, and it’s great. We’ve added oatmeal to the mix, so each morning I come up to the room with coffee and breakfast and we enjoy some time together. Now, Ollie comes downstairs with me and watches me cook while I babble to him about whatever is on my mind – fun for me, and Mom gets some alone time.

5. Double my income. – FAILED.

Nope. However, I did almost double the gross income of the business…just spent a lot more on help, software, etc.

This was the secret of halving my workload – I paid more out on each project to remove work from my plate. It was the best trade I could have made. Automating the business is more than enough for one year, so I don’t feel bad about this at all.

However, now we have the capacity in place – which means growth is my big goal for 2015.

6. Have an employee I love. – SUCCESS.

This year I added people to the team – Keith (who’s left since, unfortunately), Carina, Fred, and Adeel. All have been great so far, and as our processes improve they are able more and more to run each project without me. That’s freed me up on marketing, sales, overall growth and skill acquisition, and it’s been fantastic.

They’re the direct reason I was able to expand the company to include a sister-brand, Adwords Nerds, launching in the next month. Everything’s not perfect, but I know these people are great, can handle the work I send them, and are fun to work with – there’s not much else I could want.

7. Read 25 books. – SUCCESS.

On Kindle alone, I read around 30. 1 or 2 of the list below are Thao’s, but when you add in the books from my GoodReads profile and all the books I’ve completely forgotten about, we’re in the clear. Not to mention the many, many comics I read this year (as this was the year my crippling comics addiction resurfaced).

If you’re curious, here are the books from my Kindle (not included – anything I bought last year but read this year, of which I think there was a few):

Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More..
Chris C. Ducker December 11,2014

No Booker, No Bouncer, No Bartender: How I Made $25K On A..
Shannon Curtis December 10,2014

Unique Ability: Creating the Life You Want
Catherine Nomura November 8,2014

What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars
Brendan Moynihan October 26,2014

80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working..
Perry Marshall September 30,2014

New Sales. Simplified.: The Essential Handbook for..
MIKE WEINBERG September 30,2014

The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence
Josh Waitzkin September 22,2014

The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and..
Timothy Ferriss September 21,2014

The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby..
Elizabeth Pantley September 18,2014

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom..
Pamela Druckerman August 2,2014

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
Jennifer Senior August 2,2014

Think and Grow Rich
NAPOLEON HILL July 23,2014

The Richest Man in Babylon
George S. Clason July 23,2014

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials..
Ryan Holiday July 23,2014

Alice Sebold July 10,2014

The Elegant Solution: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering..
Matthew E. May June 27,2014

The House on the Borderland
William Hope Hodgson June 23,2014

A Letter of Mary: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell..
Laurie R. King June 16,2014

A Monstrous Regiment of Women: A Novel of Suspense Featuring..
Laurie R. King June 9,2014

Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of..
Ellen J. Langer June 1,2014

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice: or, On the Segregation of the..
Laurie R. King May 26,2014

Rhythm: How to Achieve Breakthrough Execution and Accelerate..
Patrick Thean May 3,2014

Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life
Ben Greenfield May 3,2014

Less Doing, More Living: Make Everything in Life Easier
Ari Meisel May 3,2014

The Trusted Advisor
David H. Maister April 24,2014

How to Build Websites that Sell: The Scientific Approach to..
Peep Laja April 17,2014

Unlimited Power: The New Science Of Personal Achievement
Tony Robbins April 10,2014

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When..
Ben Horowitz March 18,2014

Galveston: A Novel
Nic Pizzolatto February 25,2014

The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of..
Thomas Ligotti February 25,2014

The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive..
Jeff Olson February 16,2014

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival (Vintage..

8. Have a beautiful office I’m really proud of. – SUCCESS.

Seemingly happened almost by accident, but I did, in fact, finally make the plunge to having a proper office for my business. Located on Main Street in Middletown. Probably one of the best decisions I’ve made, considering how important my remaining work hours have become – I’m probably 200% more focused at the office vs. working at home.

Even better, I’m now splitting the space with a friend, and there’s now someone to grab coffee with, complain to, etc – an office buddy. An unexpected, but welcome bonus. (The half-rent doesn’t hurt, either).

Pictured: The office at night, before I was splitting the space.

Screenshot 2015-01-03 08.58.58

9. Release a record. – FAILED.

HAVE A NICE LIFE - The Unnatural World - Cover
HAVE A NICE LIFE – The Unnatural World – Cover

The Unnatural World was released via The Flenser this year. They did a fantastic job of promoting it, and we got on NPR, getting me one step closer to my life-long dream of being on “Fresh Air.”

You can stream the record here.

However, I’m counting this as a fail, since TUW was written and ready to go in 2013, and only released in January of 2014. I fully expected to get another record out, but that didn’t happen.

However, Black Wing – my depressive chillgaze project – was finally finished this year, and is slated for a Spring release on vinyl via The Flenser. I’m really excited for that.

10. Get a massage every week. – SUCCESS.

For a few months I did, in fact, get a massage every week by bartering time for a website. This had to stop when the baby was born – massage day is now baby day, and I can’t afford to take the time out on my remaining work days – but it was awesome while it lasted. I’m hoping to replace this destressor with mroe regular exercise and trips to the sauna.

FINAL SCORE: 7/10 = 70% Goal Completion rate

Really not bad. This was a year with very memorable highs and lows – but I really can feel the momentum gathering. At least, I think I can. The work I keep doing – all these goals, all this tracking, all this constant effort to improve – it feels like it’s working. And that’s very gratifying.

On to 2015. I’ll post my goals for the upcoming year later.

Hope you had a good year. If you didn’t, hope this one is better.