2015: A Year In Review and 2016 Outlook

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” 

–Rumi

Last year I went a little overboard with my year-end goals, especially because one of my biggest ones—quitting my office job in order to go travel—turned my life situation on its head a little bit.

Grand in theory, I had made whole a list of goals in different categories of my life (inspired by Chris Guilleabeau’s Pursuit of Happiness), and then set quarterly reminders on my Google Calendar to check in and see how I was doing. While I did exactly that at the end of March and found it somewhat helpful, the travel goal and everything that went along with it kind of put everything else (including check-ins) on the way side.

Not that I am complaining of course.

Really, my only goal is to make the current year better than the last, and there’s no debate that 2015 was easily the best year of my life (so far).

In the end, as narcissistic as I feel sharing this type of thing, I like doing these self-check ins for a few big reasons:

1. Writing all this down and putting it in a public forum puts pressure on me (the good kind) to actually keep doing things worth writing about and to put in real work toward my goals

2. It’s becoming a sort of digital journal or scrapbook I can look back on for fun someday (2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15)

This year, I reverted back more to semi-following Sean Ogle’s YIR format in addition to giving myself about an hour to write freeflow in my journal about the year just to see what kind of thoughts and details emerged. That included about two-pages worth (meaning about every square inch of the page, dramatic grade-school girl style) of just random memories that I know I will value having the rest of the my life.

Sparing the details of all that though, here is an abridged  and organized version of that freeflow.

Six 2015 Goals I Accomplished

1. More than quadrupled my freelancing income

Keep in mind that this is a 9 vs. 12 month comparison (since I officially started freelancing in April of 2014). Nevertheless, things have developed faster than I ever thought possible, to the point where I am now officially a fulltime freelancer (and I guess no longer have my starving writer cred). In addition to getting to do work for a variety of interesting organizations, I was also lucky enough to be able to edit a friend’s first book.

More than just money though, also improved was my writing ability as a whole—facing deadlines 4-5+ times a week allows little time to procrastinate or have ‘writer’s block’, and I noticed my first drafts of pieces for clients get exponentially better throughout the year, drastically reducing the amount of time I needed to spend editing my own work. Hopefully that will transfer for over to writing things quicker for my own site…

2. Quit My Office Job

As I’ve said before, my last office job was fantastic and I couldn’t have dreamt of anything better for me at that stage in my life. Which is why it was so hard (and scary) to cut the cord and quit so I could write and travel more. Really, I now probably work the same amount (if not more), but the difference is that it’s all on my own terms (and often in my blogger slacks).

3. Traveled Outside My Country For The First Time

Much more will be written about this, but I took a three month trip to Panama, Colombia, and Curacao that helped me shake an irrational, unfounded, and insecure feeling that I was less of a person for never having traveled.  It was everything I hoped and more, and while I don’t think the perpetual ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle is for me (maybe a month-long trip once or twice a year), I think it’s a time in my life I will look back on as a kind of rite-of-passage.

Plus my Spanish is now functional (aka I didn’t starve) and slightly above Peggy Hill-level.  

4. Wrote the Next Book

It’s an extremely (extremely) rough draft, but on the aforementioned trip I was able to write the first draft of my next book in a frantic (manic?) 2-3 week period. It’s in the “sit in a desk drawer so I can distance/hide myself from it for a few weeks then go back and see just how rough it is” stage, but I look forward to slaughtering it with red ink in early 2016.

5. New Habits

In early 2015 I began and stuck with* two new habits that I shamelessly ripped from The Tim Ferriss Show.

The first was keeping what he calls a “five-minute journal” where at minimum, I write answers to three short questions (the same ones every day) each morning and two at night. I had been pretty good about journaling in the past, but it was more intermittent as opposed to a true daily habit. Following the format over at FiveMinuteJournal.com made it so that even if I didn’t feel like writing that day, I knew I could scribble something down and get the task out of the way in two minutes or less. The questions are open-ended enough so that I can also go off on one thing for a page or two without feeling like I am breaking any “rules.”

The second is that I started taking ice showers first thing every morning (*this was pre-trip; there wasn’t a lot of ice water in the pipes to go around in South America). Among the many benefits I experienced from just 30 seconds each morning, I felt that it reduced my need to drink as much coffee (always a goal of mine) in order to wake up. I also didn’t get sick once in 2015 so who knows if that played a part.¯\_(ツ)_/¯

6. Bucket List Progress

Went to five new states, putting me at 35/50 Went to a new continent (now 2/7) To the dismay of many family members and small timid animals everywhere, I grew a beard. Went skydiving

Go skydiving Went to MLS games in two more cities (now 6/20) Went to Ohio State at Indiana, (3/14 Big Ten stadiums)

Five Random Awesome Moments or Memories

1. My First Night Ever Out Of My Own Country

I started to describe what this was like in detail but realized it should probably just be a post of its own. But one particularly great moment was the involuntary ear-to-ear smile that came over me when I was realized I was sitting in a Panama City hostel courtyard 2,000+ miles from home drinking .50 cent Balboas with:

• Two South African surfers who obsessively tracked down to the penny how much they spent each day
• A lifetime traveler from Milan
• Four Venezuelans who came to Panama for work
• A Swiss girl that has the people she meets on the road sign their name, where they met her, and their favorite song
• A guy from Alaska that normally doesn’t stay in hostels, but instead just slings his hammock wherever he can find two secluded poles
• And of course, many Aussies

For the rest of my life, if I am ever in need of inspiration for characters to write about I am just going to check myself into a hostel, for this type of ensemble became a routine encounter at just about every place I stopped.

2. Clean and jerking 100kg (220 lbs) for the first time

I had been chasing 100 seemingly forever so I was extremely pleased to hit it in a competition (and in the 77kg weight class but only weighing in at around 73kg, to boot).

3. Seeing Some Of The Most Amazing Places On Earth

…several with someone I am madly in love with (too much?):

  • The Panama Canal

Canal

  • El Peñón de Guatapé | Guatapé, Colombia

Guatape

Sunrise-at-Maroon-Bells

  • Great Sand Dune National Park | Alamosa, CO

sandunes

  • Delicate Arch | Moab, UT (Wikimedia Commons photo)

800px-Delicate_arch_sunset

…and several others.

4. Kicking It With My Favorite English Major Rapper

Ahead of us going to see him at Warped Tour and as a surprise birthday gift, my girlfriend sneakily emailed one of my biggest influences and favorite musicians, MC Lars, with a special request. During his final song, he welcomed me by name on stage and told me good luck in Panama. One of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me (her and him).

5. The Trip

I wanted to do a solo trip where I just worked from my laptop ever since I read the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss in 2012. While digital nomadism is far from all it’s cracked up to be and I think I have scratched that itch hard and good for the forseeable future, I’m of course incredibly glad I did it for more reason than I could begin to list.

Plus, it gave me a ton of material for new posts, and some ideas which I may even pitch to some travel magazines/sites.

Five Things I Failed (Or Otherwise Sucked Hard) At

1. Social Experiment III

I tried putting it out publicly online so I’d feel pressure; I told friends about it; hell, I even started it—but after about four days I threw in the towel on doing my third social experiment. It was a decent idea, I think—just not for me.

With everything else I had going on, I wasn’t particularly inspired or challenged by it at the time. Maybe I’ll give it—or something even better—another go sometime this year.

2. Being Too Routine Reliant

I love me a good routine. And during three months of travel that was something very hard to establish.

There is something to be said for doing things (in the morning especially) that set you up to be in a good mood for the rest of the day, but I feel that many days I sort of just threw in the towel both socially and mentally because I wasn’t able to eat my five cage-free scrambled eggs and grass-fed potatoes slathered in salsa and sunbutter after my morning sunrise salutations and bed of fire nails walk the way wanted to do it.

In short, I felt like a whiny bitch a lot of the time. The funny thing is I can remember feeling like that in my pre-trip life after three or four days, so it’s definitely something I think I need to “wean” myself off of just in terms of not basing my mood so much off of external sources so much.

3. Social Stagnation

Thanks to things like 90 Strangers and generally obsessing over the topic, I like to think I can talk to anyone, anywhere. However, I feel that sometimes that thought itself has put my actual motivation to do so in a backslide. As in, that just knowing I can talk to anyone is just enough, and that I miss out on starting some could-be interesting conversations simply because my brain is like “Eh, I could chat up this dude with a cat on their head, but I just don’t feel like it right now”.

I am well past the “I HAVE SOCIAL SKILLS I MUST TO TALK TO EVERYONE” stage (which frankly gets exhausting and counter-productive after a while, more on that in my book ;)…), but I think sometimes I get a little too lazy with it.

4. Chilling the Fuck Out

Rarely having issues with motivation (to work on writing and related projects) is a double-edged sword. On one end, I do get a lot done. On the other, I still often feel like I get nothing done, thus pushing me to either want to work on things or think about working on things most of the day.

I am fortunate that I love to work (on clients’ projects and my own) and that it doesn’t really feel like work in the first place. But when it keeps me from being as engaged in conversation with friends or enjoying a movie or whatever as much as I feel like I should be, I think it’s become a minor problem.

5. Not Drinking Coffee After 11AM

I don’t know if I anticipated that I would be setting foot in Colombia or Panama when I made that goal last year. 

2016 Goals

When I was journaling about the year, I felt it was much more positive to write goals in terms of “it’d be awesome if this happened” as opposed to the traditional way which I feel somewhat instills a failure mindset.

So, 2016 will be extra-awesome if I (but if not then totally like whatever)…

1. Increase my freelancing income by 2.5x (you can help me achieve this here…)

2. Acquire a publisher for my new book (or just release it for free)

3. Share more of my personal writing on here and on Instagram–we’ll say 20 posts on each

4. Overhaul AndrewElsass.com (at least the homepage) to communicate my services and products quicker

5. Visit at least three new states (looking at you Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma), three new countries, and one new continent

6. Watch one movie a week

7. Read 25 books (at least five about writing)

8. Never answer the question “how’s it going?” with that awful humblebrag, “Busy.”

9. Continue using the Way of Life app to track a number of daily habits I hope to do for 90% of the year: three cups of coffee or less, no alcohol, meditate 10 minutes, read 20 minutes, journal, complete 100 Anki Spanish flashcards.

10. Call people more for no reason; think less when writing texts; smile more; volunteer for something or several somethings; stretch more; keep the phone in my pants when with friends; don’t feel self-conscious about sharing your work (like this post) with people; nurture the friendships I have instead of chasing ones that I think could be ‘something’ someday; do more things not because they are pragmatic toward any overarching goal but just for the sake doing it; enjoy the familiar and take pride in it; let go; and always keep in mind John C. Maxwell: “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

And more than anything (which goes against much of what I have written above), try and live by the words of Tim Kreider:

2 Comments

  1. Thank you again for inspiring me to improve in every aspect of my life, from relationships and habits to goals and efficiencies.

    • Thanks so much man! I can’t tell you how much a compliment like that means to me, especially coming from someone so successful himself!

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