State of the Union 2016, and 2017 Preview

Jason Zook Year In Review

It’s time to look into the rear view mirror, while also keeping one eye looking out the front windshield (and trying not to get dizzy while doing it). Weird way to kick off a “year in review/preview” article? Sure. But I’m a weird guy!

What went well in 2016?

PAYING OFF OUR DEBT!!! Yeah, this one is first on the list and gets ALL the exclamation points and caps lock action. In 2013 my girlfriend Caroline and I felt like we were drowning in debt. It felt suffocating. But we hunkered down and built a plan to pull ourselves out of our $124,000 debt-hole. I wrote two articles about our getting out of debt plan and then becoming debt-free. This was one of the biggest highlights of 2016.

A JasonDoesStuff Redesign: Halfway through 2016, I redesigned JasonDoesStuff (for the fifth time). Funny enough, I have a new design in the works. Yes, I have a problem with redesigning my site. Anyhoo, the 2016 redesign was great for cleaning things up, removing clutter, and getting focused on what I really wanted my digital home to become. I love redesigning my site because I’m always evolving as a person and my virtual home should follow suit.

JasonDoesStuff Website Traffic: While we’re on the topic of my virtual home, let’s look at some traffic numbers…

  • Total visitors (aka sessions) – 323,600 // 106% increase from 2015
  • Most visited article – Social Media Detox // 101,320 visitors
  • Traffic from social media sites – 10,200 visitors // 3.1% of total traffic*

*It may seem weird to celebrate extremely low traffic from social media, but I’m on a tear against using social media for business these days. More on that in my next point.

Quitting Facebook: Can I tell you how amazing this has felt?? I finally did it. I was scared, no doubt about it. I had over 9,000 followers/friends on Facebook. Some of my strongest connections with people have been through Facebook. But I finally decided to rip the band-aid off. I couldn’t take it anymore. I believe social media, especially Facebook, is the next great addiction we will face. I’m willing to be on the wrong side of history if I’m incorrect in that assumption. I greatly reduced all my social media usage and had one of my most profitable years yet (and I was happy!) If you didn’t read it, here’s my goodbye letter to FB.

Projects with Matt Giovanisci: I don’t remember how Matt and I originally got connected, but early on in 2016 we kept chatting and finally decided to work on something together (GetSponsorships.co). I think/hope Matt would agree, we work really well together. We’re both rare breeds of humans that can just hunker down and get a ton of work done in a short period of time. It was definitely a highlight to chat with Matt on Skype for hours about coffee, social media douchecanoes, and Internet sleazeballs. Oh, and we’re working on a fun software project together (SpruceMetrics.com). You can check out what Matt’s up to at MoneyLab.co.

Continuing California Life: In 2015 we (my girlfriend Caroline and our dog Plaxico) sold all our stuff and moved to California. We spent the first few months finishing out an awesome roommate-filled adventure in this crazy house. Once our time there came to an end, we ventured a little further up the coast finding our newest digs in Oceanside, CA. We love it here!

The Vibrant Stuff Bundle: On a whim Caroline and I decided to do a Black Friday bundle of all our courses, guides, and digital goodies. We’d been looking for a way to use Bumpsale together, but nothing felt right. Then, the Vibrant Stuff Bundle was born (Caroline’s site is Made Vibrant, and this site is JasonDoesStuff)! It was 16 total products, valued at $2,500, but the price started at just $1 and increased by $1 after each purchase. A few days of work, a few years of creating products, and what I thought would bring us a couple thousand dollars, brought in over $20k! Crazy awesome. It also felt good to give folks who couldn’t afford to buy all our products the deal of a lifetime.

Money: Since I touched on it with the Vibrant Stuff Bundle, I may as well just come out and say it: We had a great year financially. Sure, we didn’t make $1,000,000, but we don’t need that type of money to be happy. Our projects brought us enough money to finish paying off our debt, build a small nest egg of savings, and start doing some light investing. After 10+ years of working at this online business stuff, I finally feel like I’m in a bit more control of my income and finances (insert huge sigh of relief).

What didn’t go well in 2016?

Getting Burnt Out With Online Courses: Listen, you don’t need to run for the hills if you’re thinking about creating an online course. Go ahead and make one, I’d love for you to see if it’s something you should do. I, however, have been dabbling in creating online courses for three years and I got tired of it. In fact, I got downright bored with it. It’s one of those things I know I can do well, but it doesn’t excite me. As soon as something stops exciting me it’s time to move on. (Don’t worry if you’re a Teachery customer, read more on this in the What’s Ahead section below.)

Emojibombs: Hah! I still LOVE that name. My Internet BFF Paul Jarvis and I decided to embark on a 24-hour project experiment. We wanted to create and launch an idea in just one day. Emojibombs.com was born. A daily emoji origin story delivered to your email inbox. People seemed to really enjoy watching the process, but we only ended up making about $200 after expenses (woof!) The t-shirt I got out of it was a nice bonus though!

Juggling Too Many Projects: There were a handful of times in 2016 when I simply had way too much on my plate. I have no one to blame but myself for this one. It’s crazy to realize that working for yourself can bring more stress and overwhelm than working for someone else. It shouldn’t be this way. This is something I’m definitely looking to get better at in 2017.

What surprised me about 2016?

Health and Fitness: Sometime around June I was getting really frustrated. I couldn’t seem to lose weight, and I felt like I was eating pretty well (90% of our meals are prepared by a meal prep company). Then I started to think I might be fighting a battle I couldn’t win on my own. With the help of Paul and Brian from HealthGeeks, I ran a few tests and started taking some natural supplements. I also changed up my prepared meal company and got into a simple exercise routine (3-4 days of weight lifting per week, 15-20 minute workouts). I feel really good on a day-to-day basis since working with Paul and Brian, plus I’ve lost over 20 pounds. Yay for fitting into my clothing comfortably again and doing it in a sustainable way!

Reorganizing My Email Accounts: I used to manage all my disparate email accounts (11 of them) using Mac Mail. In fact, I’d been using Mac Mail for as long as I’d been on a Mac (since 2004). I got tired of the poor user experience of Mac Mail and trying to keep up with so many email accounts. I ended up just turning on email forwarding for 9 of my accounts and one account gets managed completely through a customer support system (Intercom). That left my main Gmail account and I turned one dormant Gmail account into personal stuff only. Now, I only use Gmail, have embraced labels, and love the multiple login feature. I don’t think anyone actually cares where your email reply comes from as long as they get the reply they’re looking for. It surprised me that this big move with my multiple email addresses went so smoothly.

Finding Out Cashews Make Good Cookies: Wait, what? Yeah… So, I love cookies. I love baked goods in general. But I REALLY love cookies and enjoy baking my own. I don’t enjoy the guilt I feel from eating them and I’ve tried to cut sugar out of my diet completely. I randomly Googled “cashew chocolate chip cookies” not thinking I would find any worthwhile results. I. Was. Wrong. Cashew-based cookies have become a staple in our home. I use this recipe as my go-to starter and replace sugar with maple syrup. From there, I’ve concocted a few different recipes of my own. Look for my Cashew Cookies Changed MAH Life cookbook to hit shelves soon.

Minimal Wardrobe: In February I shared one of my favorite articles I’ve written (Find Your Flavor of Minimalism). A few weeks after publishing that article I cleared out the majority of my already fairly minimal closet. I wanted to see if I could wear only 7 t-shirts and further downsize the rest of my clothing items. The first few weeks were kind of weird, but after that I found it liberating to not have to worry about choosing what to wear. As the months went on, I’ve continued to stick to a wardrobe that consists of:

  • 9 t-shirts
  • 5 long-sleeve shirts
  • 3 dress shirts
  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 3 pairs of pants
  • 9 pairs of underwear
  • 5 pairs of athletic socks
  • 5 pairs of dress socks
  • 2 jackets
  • 2 zip-up hoodies
  • 2 beanies
  • 1 pair of sweatpants
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 1 pair of joggers (hipster, I know)
  • 3 pairs of mesh shorts
  • 3 workout shirts
  • 4 pairs of shoes
  • 61* total items of clothing

*I challenge you to go into your closet after reading this and start counting your clothing items. You may end up having 61 items just in shorts and socks.

What’s ahead (projects) for 2017?

Focusing On My Software Products: I’m really excited about the software products I’m working on right now (Teachery, Spruce Metrics, and Your Pack). I want to dig even deeper with these products and make them better. Make the experience better for people using them. Be more helpful to existing customers. Just create more value. Notice I didn’t mention growth or money. That’s not my focus, that’s a byproduct for me at this point.

BuyMyFuture Round 3: Oh man, I have a really fun twist for the third iteration of BuyMyFuture! It’s going to be crazy and should be quite a unique surprise. The third round of BuyMyFuture will open at the end of March. I will probably do a smaller fourth round in September as well. BuyMyFuture has become my main source of income and I’m really happy about that. It checks all the boxes for me and the first two groups of purchasers have been extremely happy with the value.

A Shift In My Writing: I feel like 2016 was focused on How-To articles. Which is fine. I have no qualms about that. But, I’d like to spend more time sharing my entrepreneurial journey. More time looking at the behind of the scenes of projects I’m working on and less time on how other people can replicate the exact steps. I, absolutely, want to continue to share my knowledge, but I’d like to find a new way to do that and one that stands out a bit from other entrepreneurs who write about their experiences.

More Tools, Less Content: I keep having these nagging thoughts about creating tools, not content. Instead of writing an article that would help you do something, I’d love to create a simple tool that does that thing for you (or, at a minimum speeds up the process!) This is very vague at the moment, but keep an eye out for interesting tools in 2017.

Something With Bumpsale: My friend and Bumpsale biz partner, Conrad Decker, got left out of my 2015 review and it’s stung me all year (don’t worry Conrad, the sting wasn’t that bad!) But, Conrad is super talented and I’m hoping that clearing my schedule a bit will free up time to build something unique and interesting with Bumpsale. I purchased a pretty cool domain last year and I think it could lend well to a software product that Bumpsale gets wrapped into. We’ll see!

Experimenting With YNAB: Very recently I was introduced to YNAB (youneedabudget.com). I was searching for a way to track business and life expenses, and had yet to find an easy-to-use platform. So far, YNAB looks awesome (and I hate budgeting!) We have some financial milestones/goals we want to try to hit this year and YNAB looks like it will be great for keeping a closer look at our spending.

MOAR Travel: Caroline and I went on some awesome trips in 2016 and we’re continuing that trend in 2017. In fact, we created an entire website where we’re sharing all our travel adventures. Here’s a sneak peek.

How am I framing 2017?

I’ve jumped on the train of picking a word to “frame your year.” Here’s what previous year’s words were:

  • 2015: Experimentation
  • 2016: Moderation

How’d I do with moderation in 2016? Eh, I’d say so-so. For business stuff? Better than 2015, but not fantastically great. For diet/nutrition and fitness, the moderation framing absolutely helped.

What’s my word for 2017? Different

My second book will come out in 2017 and the working title is Do It Differently. I want to go somewhat-all-in on making sure I look at everything I’m doing a bit differently in 2017. Whether it’s a new product, a relaunch of a product, a new direction in writing, my website redesign, etc. Just really make sure things feel different and unique.

Write Your Review, Preview, and Pick Your 2017 Word

This doesn’t have to happen in January. There are no rules about year in reviews, year in previews, and framing words. I’m so glad I do this exercise every year, if nothing else to spend time doing a bit of reflection.

Looking back on where I’ve been helps me see more clearly where I want to go.

As a random end to this review/preview article, I surveyed the BuyMyFuture buyers and asked them to pick words for 2017. Here are the words they picked in case you need some inspiration:

  • Create
  • Established
  • Do
  • Leap
  • STRONG
  • Deliver
  • Ship!!!
  • Structure
  • Execute
  • Make
  • Explore
  • Focus
  • Completion
  • Build

Fun fact: Out of the 111 survey responses, over 60% of the words had something to do with creating/building. I love that!

Let’s make 2017 awesome and… different! 😉

Continued Reading: 2015 State of the Union

This is the end of the yellow brick road. If you want to read more articles mosey on over yonder.