2018 Year In Review

Here I am, lying on my sofa after 4 weeks of intense, chronic back pain, typing away at my keyboard the way I’ve been doing for the past month.

While this isn’t how I envisioned the end of the year going, in some ways, it might actually be a pretty good metaphor for how my 2018 went.

I’ve never written a “Year In Review” before, although I write a lot of things all the time.

Reflection and introspection are core to my being and key tenets of both my work and personal existence, but the whole “let’s tell everyone how my year went” thing isn’t really my style. However, I do see value in looking holistically and honestly at the year as it was, and extracting what lessons, experiences, and memories I can. As such, here I am, starting to think about my year as a whole, and looking for the themes, takeaways, and insights I can compile from almost another 365 days of existence.

What Went Well In 2018?

I created, marketed, and sold my first digital product!

This is something I’ve been wanting to do for YEARS, but never made the space in my life to actually apply myself towards. In 2018, however, things changed. With the help of some close friends and my loving partner Arielle, I was able to give myself permission to make the space necessary to see a creative endeavor through from start to finish.

The jury’s still out on how it is being received, but that’s not really what’s important to me right now. What’s important is that I did the thing I wanted to do, and I validated the two things I set out to validate:

  1. That I could take a creative project of my own and see it from start to finish, and
  2. That if I offered it up for sale online, people would spend their money to purchase what I created.

And the fact is, both of these things are true!

I’ve rarely felt so proud, because I really worked hard on this, and now I have proof that I am moving in the direction that is right for me.

That, is incredibly inspiring.

I turned a house into a home while building some really meaningful friendships

Arielle and I bought our first house in May 2017 and moved in that June. While the buying of a house is a big deal, for me, making the house a home is the more important part. I’m so grateful we were in a position to buy the home, and even more so to have found a beautiful 124-year-old structure that has slowly been becoming “our home.”

[caption id=”attachment_625” align=”aligncenter” width=”768” height=”1024” alt=”Our warm and cozy living room in Philadelphia, PA”]Our warm and cozy living room in Philadelphia, PA Our warm and cozy living room in Philadelphia, PA[/caption]

Throughout the year we’ve hosted parties, holiday meals, social gatherings, game nights, backyard campfires, and so much more. I’ve gotten back to my handiness and fixed things around the house, installed a new fence, built a table, and more. Arielle and I painted rooms and set up our individual home offices, which we love.

Most importantly, though, I’ve been fortunate enough to feel the warm and fuzzies so many times when we host friends and family in our space.

Filling our home with love, laughter, and joy is truly one of the most rewarding and comforting experiences for me, and we’ve been fortunate to do so quite frequently.

I saw many new places in the world

2018 was an incredible year of travel for Arielle and me, both together and individually.

For Arielle’s work-related Buffer retreat we went to Singapore for a week and chose to bookend the trip with a week in Chiangmai, Thailand, and a week in Bali, Indonesia. We had experiences of all kinds: spiritual, social, cooking, meditative, yogic, foodie, adventurous, carefree, stressful, soothing, rejuvenating, and so much more. I could not be more appreciative of the privilege to explore Asia, and I cannot wait to go back and see even more of such a beautiful continent.

A mere 6 weeks after Asia we flew to South Africa for 2.5 weeks in celebration of her grandmother’s 90th birthday! She, and much of her family live in Cape Town and Johannesburg. We started our trip in the Drakensberg Mountains, hiking and exploring an AMAZING landscape of mountains, gorges, waterfalls and more. We then met up with family — some who live with us in Philadelphia, and others who live in Vancouver — for a week-long family reunion in Umhlanga, which is a lovely beach town. I’ve never had a family reunion because my side of the family is a bit…messy; but this experience was so incredibly warming and welcoming I cannot wait to be back! It was a beautiful experience with four generations of her family running around a resort having braai’s (SA’s BBQ), driving the coasts, exploring the towns, and spending true family time.

And to close out the trip we spent a week staying with her cousins in Cape Town where we further explored, hiked to the top of Table Mountain, found delicious local hipster restaurants and cafes, and saw some friends of ours who happen to live in CT.

[caption id=”attachment_624” align=”alignright” width=”1024” height=”1024” alt=””] Arielle climbing her way to the top! Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa[/caption]

To cross a second continent off my list in a matter of weeks is simply incredible.

After those trips, we were so excited to settle back home, yet somehow we ended up with both personal and business trips to Boston, New York, Dallas, Portland, Nashville, Ottawa’s countryside, and probably a few other US cities.

Truly a wild year for travel, it’s nice to be nesting at home right now.

I stabilized my mental health

Long story made short, my mom passed away in 2014 and things have never been the same for me. Shortly after that, I set out into self-employment, which added a whole new level of stress. We bought our house in this time period, which was a crazy new endeavor as well, in addition to other things happening in life that compound the stress.

In short, I spent a few years moving through grief while living with intense periods of depression and anxiety. For a long time, I was struggling pretty hard. Not having a mom after decades of a close relationship is painful. I’ll leave it at that. Starting a business and leaving all the traditional support systems and structures behind is also a challenge, and absolutely elevates stress and uncertainty.

Without too many details, let’s just say I was having a hard time and my regular therapy wasn’t enough. This led me to seek new treatment, which led to medication, which led to me now feeling stabilized, comfortable, and at peace with myself.

If there’s anything I’ve struggled with throughout life it’s my personal mindset that I do not have enough, and my personal fear of losing what I have. While I have not “solved” this in its entirety, I have grown to become much more comfortable and content with who I am, what I have, how I live, and various other existential quandaries.

All I all, 2018 was a really good year for my mental health, as I went from “deep dark places” to “I feel pretty good most of the time.” This, my friends, is a huge win.

I have met so many amazing people this year I don’t even know where to begin

Throughout the year I have had personal get-to-know-you conversations with dozens of people from all over the world, mostly from the comfort of my own home. These people have gone on to become friends, collaborators, clients, advisors, companions, and basically a homemade support system.

Some do similar work while others do the work I aspire to be doing. Some share values and beliefs while others have very different perspectives. Some support me and my work while others actively contribute to my growth.

All in all, I would not be where I am or doing what I’m doing if it was not for all the love and support and friendship of each and every person who has supported me along the way.

If you’re reading this, I hope you know who you are, as I remember each and every one of you. You are invaluable to me, and I thank you for all your love and kindness and offers of support, strength, and companionship.

I’ve become much more comfortable and confident as an independent professional and business owner

Since the day I started my company I never felt like a business owner, and I never felt like I was “doing it right.” I’ve had many clients over the years, I’ve worked on a variety of challenging projects, and I’ve earned income from myriad sources — yet somehow I still never felt like I was being successful in my work.

I said I wanted to run workshops, so I found people to pay me for workshops, but that wasn’t enough. I said I wanted to be a strategist so I found people to pay me to think, but that wasn’t enough. I said I wanted to create and sell products online, so I did that successfully, but that wasn’t enough.

You get the theme.

For me, it’s never enough. And that’s something I’m actively working on improving.

However, throughout the course of 2018, the reality is that I delivered work for some really great clients, worked alongside some really great people, and found ways to express gratitude for the work I was participating in and the life I’ve been living. At this moment, I’ve never felt more confident in my abilities as a creator, a thinker, and an independent worker.

The world is set up with structures, systems, and societal norms, and when we stray from those, they work really hard to pull us back into them. In fact, the further from the mean we stray, the more resistance we meet and pullback we feel — that is, until we break away, stabilize ourselves, and become comfortable being the outlier within a set of normalized behaviors, lifestyles, and desires.

2018 was, for me, the year that I became more comfortable and stabilized as an independent.

I’ve learned to live with the extreme volatility of income and not let it affect me as much as it did. I’ve learned to not care what people think of me as much, and I’ve learned that I don’t need to label and identify myself all the time. Similarly, I’ve learned that I am a Strategist, Writer, and Coach, and even though I don’t always feel like I have the perfect credentials to be these things, the fact is, I cannot not be these things, so therefore by nature, I am. Period.

That feeling of contentment and comfort with myself is so incredibly liberating, I cannot wait to see what happens in 2019 when I fully own who I am, what I do, and how I live.

[caption id=”attachment_627” align=”aligncenter” width=”768” height=”1024” alt=”A small sliver of my office, creative space, and nerd den”]A small sliver of my office, creative space, and nerd den A small sliver of my office, creative space, and nerd den[/caption]

What Didn’t Go Well In 2018?

I spent a lot of time feeling chaotic and unorganized

Even though I have all the tools in the world — apps, notebooks, calendars and more — somehow I manage to still feel entirely lost and unorganized at most moments of the year. When I’m not focused on a project and I’m out there floating around in my world of working for myself, I found it really hard to wrangle up all the writings, projects, ideas, meeting notes, conversations, habits, and all the things I like to keep organized.

For some reason I find myself searching and yearning for this perfect state of organization where I’m on top of every single detail that exists in every facet of my life. Home improvement projects? There’s a Trello board for ideas. Launching my new product? There’s a Things project to track tasks. Organizing stuff around the house? I’ve got spreadsheets for games, plants, books, movies and more. Finances? 5 apps to track them all. And so on and so forth.

I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to organization, and I think it’s become a bit of a weakness these days, as I find myself frequently striving for more organization and more control.

In fact, I bet that’s exactly what it is: It’s me trying to be in control of everything, despite the fact that there are some things in our lives that we just cannot control.

Maybe this is related to losing my mom, I don’t know. Whatever it is, I’d really like to find ways to surrender to the ebbs and flows of life and business, and learn to be more easygoing and less of an anxious controller. I used to be that way, so I’m hopeful I can get back to it.

I might need a spreadsheet and Asana setup to get started, though.


Kind of…

I often feel like I’m not doing enough, or not being enough

Like many, I’ve been insecure since I was born. Insecure, as in insecure to the core fibers of my being, about everything I do and all that I am, and I-don’t-know-why-people-like-or-listen-to-me insecure. I think this might shock some people, but it’s the honest truth.

Add on this whole “internet” thing where we can see into everybody’s lives, read about everybody’s accomplishments, learn as much knowledge as we want about any given subject, track our habits and behaviors and to-dos and should’ve-done’s and so on, and I’ve exacerbated my traits of being insecure and always striving for more.

I mentioned above that I have a hard time being content with what I have and who I am even though I know I have a wonderful life made up of very little severe constraints to complain about. For some reason, in 2018, I really struggled with this. Especially working for myself, where there aren’t necessarily deadlines, or bosses, or structures.

I’ve spent a lot of this year in angst and anxiety about not being enough and not doing enough. Both at work and at home, I regularly feel like I should be doing something and I should be feeling something, even though my therapist of a mother would always say to me “there are no shoulds,” and I know that I am way too hard and judgmental on myself and sometimes it’s best to just relax.

Whatever is going on behind the scenes of my brain and emotions, I really want to find a way to come to peace with how I spend my time, and get rid of that voice telling me I need to be more, do more, and achieve more.

I know I’m doing fine, so now it’s just a matter of being more kind to myself. Which is actually a reminder I get every morning on my phone.

Speaking of…

Even though for years I’ve been an advocate of disconnecting from screens and devices, I think I fell deeper into the hole of always connected, always with a screen

I’m really not proud of this, but I spend way too much time in front of these screens.

I used to have rules such as “no phones in the bathroom” and “no phones in the bedroom” and “no screen time after 9p” and “no phones in elevators, lines, and cars” and sadly, as much as it pains me to say it, pretty much all of these rules have been smashed to smithereens. (Sidenote: that’s a really fun word to write, and I don’t think I’ve ever written it before!).

Last week I started making myself keep devices out of the bathroom. Moving forward I want to have all those rules back, and maybe even get back to leaving the house without my phone, ignoring my email for as long as I want, scrolling on Twitter much less, and so on. I’m happy to say I scrolled Facebook probably <10 times this whole year, so there’s that. Although if we’re being honest, I would occasionally participate in some community groups for my new neighborhood, but that doesn’t really count to me since my intention is to become a part of the community and not mindlessly waste time.

Anyway, you get the gist. Moving forward I, like probably many other people, will be refocusing on clear boundaries for devices and busting my bad habits. I know I’ll feel better about it on the other side—I just need to commit. So this is me committing.

Biggest Surprise of 2018?

I learned that people will actually buy products that I offer up for sale!

I mentioned this above so I’ll keep it short. As I’ve noted, I have a lot of insecurity and fear. Creating something and asking people to pay for it is not easy to do. With the support of many people, I was able to create something, offer it online, and accept money from people in exchange for what I created. And I did that with dozens of people, without any kind of large marketing plan or push. For me, that was a huge surprise, and really validated my faith in myself, my work, and my beliefs.

What Were My Most Impactful Lessons Learned?

The best way to move forward is to do something instead of thinking about what to do

Simple as that, one of my new mantras is “doing over thinking.”

I learned that I can do what I set my mind to

It took me roughly 2.75 years to create a product when 3 years ago that was one of my top goals. The problem was, I never gave myself permission to take the time and focus on this specific project. When I finally gave myself space and permission to create and do what I believe in, I was able to accomplish exactly what I wanted to accomplish. And HOT DAMN does it feel great!

I have more than I need

I’ve always known this intellectually, but feeling it, however, and fully believing and operating with the belief, is a different ballgame entirely. In 2018 I made a lot of progress through gratitude and appreciation for the life I’ve been given. As I wrote to myself the other day, I have a BEAUTIFUL LIFE, and I’d do well to accept that fact and let myself live it, instead of constantly operating out of fear of not having.

Abundance instead of scarcity. That’s my target mindset.

How Am I Framing 2019?

At ease, soldier

Potentially a ridiculously silly thing to say, but honestly, I think it’s what I need to hear.

For YEARS I’ve been way too high strung. While I think I’m a fun, chill, down to earth guy, I also think that I take things way too seriously, and I’d like to cut that out.

Not everything is life or death.

In fact, few things are.

Going broke and not having anything left at all is arguably my greatest fear. Fortunately, my therapist helped me realize that there are virtually zero potential scenarios where I end up going broke, homeless, and starving. I have a fortunate, privileged life, and for that I am grateful. So, I’d also do well to let go of that fear and let myself live my life.

Sadly, over the years, I think this fear has turned me into a bit of a ball of stress, due to my desire to achieve financial security for the rest of my life — even though I’m only 32, and having financial security at this age sounds absurd.

Looking into 2019, I’d like to find ways to approach things from a place of serenity. A place of calm, contentment, and abundance, instead of fear, insecurity, and scarcity.

I’d like to get better at taking things as they come, while not taking myself so seriously.

Life is a beautiful thing, and I’m fortunate enough to have a healthy one full of wonderful people, places, and opportunities, and I do not want to take that for granted.

2019 for me is a year of ease. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and I’ve stressed myself out enough for a lifetime.

In 2019, I’d like to be at ease as often as I can.

I think that will help me get even better at my work, be even more connected in my relationships, and feel even more joy on a regular basis.

Now it’s your turn.

What are your biggest takeaways from 2018?

What lessons have you learned and how will you apply them in 2019?

If you end up writing one of your own, please tweet me @miketnnnbm and include @lovevalgeisler, as she’s the one who created this template.

We’d both love to read yours and support you!