Inspired by my friend Paul Jarvis and the habit-building machine James Clear, I decided to write my own 2015 review and 2016 preview. My state of the union.
Originally, I hesitated to write this article and realized why I was hesitating: I was afraid I might have to admit I’d failed, or that I’d find something I was ashamed of. I don’t have any clue (as of starting to write this) if I failed, but the fear that I might uncover a failure was strong enough to force me to immediately start writing. I’m certainly not going to let my ego get in the way of progress, so here we go…
What went well in 2015
Selling all our stuff and moving to San Diego: My girlfriend and I made the decision to pack up our perfectly acceptable life in Florida and move clear across the country. We emptied a 1,600-square-foot home of stuff and let strangers come and haul it away (for a couple dollars here and there, obviously). We packed only what we could fit in our VW Tiguan and drove 3,000+ miles to our new home. Decluttering our lives, starting (nearly) completely over, and living in a brand new environment was incredible for us both. This was a huge win.
Traveling like crazy: I was surprised to find out I traveled to 23 different cities in 2015! They weren’t all super glamorous cities, and they certainly weren’t lavish trips. But I found myself doing some of my best writing and thinking while on the road and in unfamiliar environments. I wrote an article about working and traveling if you’d like to read more about that.
Making money in weird ways (again): 2015 was my best year financially since 2011. Yet, when I think about the amount of stress I had and time I worked in 2011, the two don’t even compare (2015 wins by a mile!). Because 2015 was a year of experimentation for me, it was no surprise that I made money from 22 different sources. Yep, 22! As a fun tidbit, I made over $200,000 in total revenue, but made only $655 in the month of May. That’s not a typo. That actually happened. 10% of my income came from completely hands-off sources (Deal sites, YouTube, and Amazon) and another 10% came from public speaking. The remaining 80% came from digital products (almost all of which can be directly attributed to my email list). I use this handy spreadsheet for keeping projects and projections organized.
Uncovering and sticking to life values: Sitting down and really understanding what I value in life was probably one of the biggest wins of 2015. A few years ago, if you would have asked me what I’d do if I won the Powerball, I’d immediately have listed all these luxurious purchases, trips, etc. All things I was supposed to want. But after writing my book and having lots of D&Ms (deep and meaningfuls) with my girlfriend, Caroline, I’ve realized how much I don’t care about owning a big house, lots of fancy cars, blah blah blah. Knowing what I do value has made such an extremely positive impact on my life.
Consistently writing, no matter how painful: I never thought I’d be a “writer”, yet it’s the job description I best identify with right now. I don’t consider myself a good writer (whatever that even means), but I don’t aspire to win awards with my writing or be recognized for my word-smithing. In 2015, I wrote over half a million (500,000) words and tossed most of them in the garbage. But the ones that didn’t end up in the garbage helped convince people to buy the stuff I make and learn from the experiences I’ve had in life. If that’s all my writing ever does, I’m totally okay with that.
What didn’t go well in 2015
Health and Fitness: Truthfully, I think this is the thing I’m most ashamed of. I regained almost all the weight I lost in 2012. Freakin’ bummer. But I realized that I can’t do everything. I needed to focus on realigning my businesses and ensuring I kept some balance and happiness in my life. Unfortunately, working out and eating right fell by the wayside a bit. I’m hopeful that by having “moderation” be my word for 2016, I can create better habits and get back in my fighting shape! (I was never actually in fighting shape. It just felt cool to write that…)
Social Media: For the first few months of the year, I really struggled with social media. Should I get on Periscope? Should I put more time into creating content specifically for Facebook? How many tweets is the right amount per day? YUCK. I’ve done two 30-day social media sabbaticals, and they’ve taught me a lot about how social media affects my life. I get stuck scrolling through carefully curated feeds of people’s lives and end up comparing my own life to theirs. It’s not healthy, and I strongly believe social media is an addiction. I’ll be stepping back heavily from social media in 2016 and trying to focus more on in-person time and creation time.
Teachery: If I’m being honest, which I’m really trying to be here, I failed Teachery and my co-founder, Gerlando. I should have invested more time and more energy, but I simply put too many other things on my plate (and in front of Teachery on that plate). I still strongly believe in what we’ve built with Teachery, and I am trying to set a more focused plan for the time I’ll be able to spend growing and nurturing Teachery and its users.
What surprised me about 2015
Stats: I don’t really care about how big my email list is or how much web traffic I get to JasonDoesStuff.com, but I was surprised when I checked the numbers. My email list (The Action Army) grew from 6,767 subscribers on January 1, 2015, to 8,738 subscribers on January 1, 2016. That’s an average of 5 new subscribers per day, or around 160 per month. My website had 205,000 pageviews in 2015, and because it launched in late 2014, I don’t have year-over-year numbers to compare it with. I do know that:
- 15% of the total traffic came from referrals (other sites). IWearYourShirt.com was the biggest referrer of traffic (and it’s completely inactive). TheNextWeb.com was the second-highest referrer.
- 40% of the total traffic came from search. My 90-Day Challenge article from 2013 is still the article that drives the most search traffic. My Social Media Detox Recap article is the second-highest driver of search traffic.
- 41% of the total traffic was direct traffic. People coming from links in other people’s email newsletters (or my own). Or people just typing my domain in directly (that’s cool!).
- 4% (just 4!) of the total traffic came from social media sites. This was shocking to me as I posted my articles on Twitter and Facebook often.
Being able to write and talk about IWearYourShirt: This may sound weird, but 2015 was the first year I truly felt comfortable talking about IWearYourShirt (IWYS) and didn’t have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. When I walked away from that business in 2013, I was in a bit of a dark place. I just felt like a complete failure and like I let a lot of people down (myself included). I’ve since picked up those shattered pieces and started to realize how important every mistake, mishap, and decision made during that time was for becoming the person I am today. I credit a big part of my newfound comfort with IWYS to reading the book The Obstacle Is The Way (a must read!).
I read a bunch of books! If you know me at all, this is a shocker to you. Before 2015, I’d probably read 5 total books in the past 10 years (no exaggeration—I can name them). But in 2015, I read over 20 books. 20! I’ve discovered that I get a lot of ideas for my own writing from reading books. I think it’s partly due to the experience of reading a book and focusing only on that one task. It’s impossible to see popups, notifications, and other distractions on the physical pages of a book, or even on my Kindle. I have a reading list of my favorite books here.
I became an uncle! Let’s not beat around the bush on this one: I had no idea I’d become an uncle in 2015. It was definitely a surprise. But my sister and her husband welcomed their first child (Jake) into the world, and he couldn’t have been more adorable. I’m perfectly capable of holding a baby, but man oh man, do they make me sweaty (probably both out of body heat and fear that I’ll break them).
What’s ahead for 2016
BuyMyFuture Round 2: BuyMyFuture was such a great project for me last year. Not only financially (that part was good, too), but also as a way to prove to myself that I still have big creative ideas and can execute them well. I really love the initial community of BuyMyFuture buyers and can’t wait to welcome more people into my future in September of 2016.
My Second Book: Heyyy-oh! Yep, I’ll be working on my second book this year. No spoilers yet, but it will be another non-fiction book, focused on entrepreneurship. I already have a fun idea for the pre-order phase, which should happen in May. Pumped for this one!
The Action Army Podcast: I’m excited to kick off a solo weekly podcast on January 28. The goal of this podcast is to help entrepreneurs and small business owners make changes and take action in their lives and businesses. I’ll be doing this by highlighting weekly article topics I’ve written about and sharing success stories from people in the Action Army Community.
Things with Paul Jarvis: If you’ve followed me at all in 2015, then you know I’ve found my Internet Boyfriend (as my girlfriend, Caroline, calls him). Paul and I work really well together and share a lot of the same values. We have a handful of projects we’re working on together in 2016, and I’m really excited for the fourth season of our co-hosted podcast (Invisible Office Hours), which launches in February. We’re going to build a software product during the podcast season and pull back all the curtains on what goes into that process. I can’t wait for the challenges this will bring.
More Travel: As of this moment, I’m not sure where Caroline and I will be living after April. We’re going to take a few trips to scope out other areas of California and the West Coast. It’s a bit scary, but also exciting at the same time. We love San Diego, but also want to keep exploring and seeing new places. Oh, and we’re planning a few trips outside the US in 2016, too (like Iceland!).
No Public Speaking: I’ve decided to take a break from public speaking in 2016. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed speaking these past few years, I feel like I need a break. I want to create more, experience more, and learn more. Taking a year off should give me lots of ammunition to come back with in 2017. Or I’ll just become a hermit. Who knows?
What can you learn from your own review and preview?
You certainly don’t have to share your 2015 review and 2016 preview, but I’d challenge you to at least write one for yourself.
If you hesitate at the thought of writing your own State of the Union, I’d guess that it’s because you’re afraid of what you might uncover. I was afraid, too! But after going through everything and writing it all out, I can honestly tell you I feel great about facing those fears and assumptions. You may uncover a bunch of things that need your attention, and you may realize that you need to make some changes in your life or business(es).
“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” —Margaret J. Wheatley
Take an hour or two to reflect on 2015 (or whatever previous year it is when you read this). Find the areas where you need to improve, and admit to them. The mental anguish we put ourselves through is often worse than realizing and admitting what we did wrong and then moving on!
I hope this was helpful for you. It was definitely helpful for me. Now go write your own State of the Union!