2014: A Year in Review and 2015 Outlook

“Your goals are constantly revised according to circumstance, but your purpose, your real reason for being, that supercedes everything.”

–Jim Tressel

Like I’ve done the past several years, I took the better part of two weeks to think and write about the year past and the year ahead. The benefits of goal-setting and self-reflection have been written about ad nauseam, but I still find it extremely valuable to take the time to re-set the bearings toward my goals at least once a year.

This year I modeled my review more based on the method Chris Guillebeau suggests in his book, The Happiness of Pursuit.

Below are some excerpts from my journal that I hope helps me stay accountable to my goals, while also serving as as kind of scrapbook to look back on.

Five Cool Things I Did

1. Competed in my first Olympic weightlifting meet. An opportunity arose to enter an open competition that was taking place in town, so I had to take it. Even though I played it somewhat safe in the weights I attempted, I made all six of my lifts and hit a small PR on my clean and jerk (98kg/215.6lbs at 77kg/169lb bodyweight):

 

2. Traveled more than ever before, going on 10 out-of-state trips to many cities I had never been to, such as Portland, Eugene, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, LA, Pittsburgh, Dallas (kind of), Atlanta, and Richmond. Also visited two new states (Texas and Oregon), putting me at 31/50.

3. Met author Keith Ferrazzi and told him how much his work had impacted me. Keith wrote Never Eat Alone, one of the very first books I read about how to improve social skills.

4. Stage dove for the first time (right side of the screen as the video begins).

Also, retired from stage diving.

5. Started a business.

If you had asked me on January 1, 2014 what my ticket to location independence was, my answer was just “writing”, with no real plan beyond that. But in February I was given the opportunity to do a large amount of copyediting for a project at my office job, and things started to become clearer that editing was the ‘thing’ I had been looking for.

I had no idea what to do from there exactly, just that I had a good eye for what worked in writing what didn’t, and that both co-workers and friends valued my feedback and edits highly. Slowly, I started mentioning to people that I did freelance writing and editing when they asked what I did, despite not having a single paying client yet. 

Then through a weird sequence of events, in March I landed my first customer. I wrote two sales pages for him at a rate that seems miniscule now, but it was still extremely surreal that someone paid me money for things I wrote in Word while sitting in my apartment. But it was money—albeit beer money—that I had cast out of my own iron, and I was hooked.

In June, I registered Elsass Editing, LLC. Things were progressing, but slowly. Seeing that the more I was putting in the more I was getting out (with almost no exception), there was one week in late August that instead of going to work out or hang out with friends, I felt possessed to do nothing but work on my portfolio and compile everything I had done over the past few years into one spot. Less than a month after that, I landed my first three major paying clients which managed to help me cover my rent for the last quarter of the year.

While I am still quite a ways from my goal, it’s been a surreal ride thus far and I am excited to see where I can take things in 2015.

Three Things I Did Well

1. Writing: I wrote more this year than any other in my life, easily. While 75% of it wasn’t for personal enjoyment or for the blog, the daily repetition of writing for other clients (even if it’s nothing outlandishly creative) has made me a better and more efficient writer overall, especially on first drafts, which now only sometimes look like a third grader wrote them.

2. Brainwashing myself: One thing I became very conscious of this year was the influence of media on my mindset. As I started to gain more experience with copywriting, I began to realize the disgusting influence words (written, audio, or otherwise) really has on us. Throughout the day, our attention is subject to one giant game of push and pull and our work (and everything we do) pays the price for it. Even with music, I noticed that when I would go through spans of listening to lots of country I’d feel lonely if I wasn’t actively seeing a baby in painted-on blue jeans, or that my worldview would have a slightly angsty edge if I was listening to pop punk non-stop.

Similar to Tim Ferris’ “information diet“, I started to become much more selective about what influences I let in, and tried to only allow things that put me in a positive/success-oriented mindset. 

3. Focusing Down: As is evident by the number of my goals I didn’t meet last year, this year I really started to realize the value in narrowing down my focus in terms of hobbies and interests, and stop trying to be a “renaissance man.” This kind of sums up my current philosophy toward passions:

Life is long, and I have plenty of time to switch these out, rotate them around, and both specialize and diversify skills and experiences.

Three Things I Did Poorly

1. Work/Friend-Time Management: When presented with multiple options to go out and do something or otherwise make plans, I sometimes found myself irrationally annoyed (instead of being grateful about my first world problem) that I’d have to decide between these opportunities or staying in and working.

Similarly, sometimes I’d keep entire weekend days or weeknights open without plans because I had this vision of having some sort of marathon-productivity session. I should know by now that my attention span for writing/editing has a limit of about 2-3 hours in any one sitting and that putting a constraint on my time (i.e., making plans) would only increase my productivity.

2. Picking Up the Phone: Be it my work phone or my cell, I could be better about picking either up and making a quick call when I need some information to complete a task, instead of relying solely on the asynchronicity of email.

3. Mo Money, Mo…Spending:  Because I had a new, alternate source of revenue, I found myself relaxing my frugality mindset and habits more often than I would have liked to.

2015 Goals

Happiness of Pursuit suggests setting a number of measurable goals across a variety of categories, such as writing, business, travel, spiritual, health, financial, and so on. Once complete, you’ll typically have anywhere between 30-50 goals across all areas. Guillebeau also suggests choosing a ‘theme’ for the year (e.g., the Year of Learning).

Here’s a small sampling from my lists:

Writing:

  • Find some sort of writing mentor. I think I have done well for myself in just “figuring shit out” but think my work could stand to receive some critique.
  • Finish a complete a manuscript of the next book.
  • Start experimenting with writing anti-poetry.
  • Do another social experiment in June.

Business:

  • Quadruple Elsass Editing’s 2014 income.
  • Gain 2-3 more steady, high-paying clients that will give me repeat business.
  • Identify and offer my services to 50 organizations that I would like to have as a client.
  • Connect with 1-2 copywriters/editors that freelance full time.

Friends and Family:

  • Try and have a “catch up” lunch or coffee once a month with a friend I haven’t seen in a while.
  • Host friends at my apartment 3-4 times this year (as opposed to 3-4 times total over the past two years).
  • Text or call friends and family more when random things make me think of them.

Travel: 

  • Go overseas for the first time in my life.
  • Send my parents postcards from my travels.
  • Go to three states I haven’t been to yet.
  • Go on two new local hikes I haven’t done yet.
  • Visit my sister in Florida.

Spiritual/Mind:

  • Explore specific/more advanced meditation techniques.
  • Go to some sort of meditation class/gathering at least once and see what I think.
  • Continue to be conscious of and prune out negative inputs on my mind (e.g., radio ads, time-wasting websites).
  • Read a book exploring the origins of/reasons for religion.

Fitness/Health:

  • Increase my snatch and clean and jerk by 10kg each (snatch would be at 85kg/187lbs; C&J at 108kg/238lbs).
  • Compete in at least two more weightlifting competitions.
  • Swish water after drinking coffee to avoid staining.
  • Stop drinking coffee after 11AM.

Learning:

  • Read 25 books, at least three of them writing-related.
  • Gain reasonable proficiency in another style of dance.
  • Read one long ‘classic’ (e.g., Atlas ShruggedAnna Karenina, Catch 22).
  • Learn three new semi-elaborate recipes, to the point that I’d feel comfortable making them for a friend or on a date.

Overall Theme for 2015: Here & Now.

This theme of course encompasses mindfulness, staying present, and all that. However, it also extends to my current life situation. No matter what happens this year, I am learning to enjoy where I am now while still focusing on the processes and actions that will one day allow me to move on to another location, instead of just being so obsessed on rushing away (to the point where I was refusing to buy furniture and decor for my apartment). In 2015, I would like to continue to find new ways to challenge my growth like I did when I first moved to Colorado, even if the challenges aren’t as obvious as making myself go out and meet new people when I knew no one.

Here & Now means enjoying what I have at this time, in my twenties, every day: great friends from a wide variety of circles and backgrounds, the mountain view from new apartment’s balcony, an interwoven and robust social network, bars and coffee shops I love frequenting and where they know me by name, great weightlifting coaches, a unique-ass office job that allows me to travel frequently…all these things I have right here, right now.

Favorite Go-To for Quick Motivation in 2014:

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