Annual Review For 2017: The Year Of Scaffolding


Each year I conduct an annual review. This process allows me to look back at the past year, answer a few key questions, and then set my intentions for the year ahead. And it's a process that I always look forward to.

3 Reasons Why I Do An Annual Review

The first reason I do an annual review is because otherwise I would just keep bashing my head against the wall. I look back at what didn't work last year so that I don't make the same mistakes this year. Then I use what I learned to adjust my course and continue making progress.

The second reason I do an annual review is because it allows me to stay focused throughout the year knowing that I'll have an opportunity to change course at the end. As an entrepreneur, it's often tempting to chase the next strategy or tactic instead of working to make your current project succeed. This is the reason why most coaches fail. But by having a regular time each year when I give myself permission to make a change, I'm able to push through the hard stuff the rest of the time.

The third reason I do an annual review is simply because it allows me to acknowledge everything that's happened over the past year. If you're an ambitious person, you probably spend more time looking at the gap between where you are and where you want to be than you do looking at the gap between where you are and where you were. It's very hard to feel content in life if you don't regularly take stock of your progress.

With all that said, here's the basic structure of my annual reviews:

  1. What went well last year?

  2. What didn’t go so well last year (and what did I learn)?

  3. What am I working towards this year (and how will I make it happen)?

  4. What is this year's theme?

Without further ado, I present you with my 2017 Annual Review...

What Went Well Last Year?

1. Got married. After 6 years together that included pushing through a long distance relationship, starting our own businesses, and moving to our home in West Virginia, Emma and I finally tied the knot this September. We got married on our farm property surrounded by people we love and ready to grow even stronger as a couple. It was amazing.

Got married to this beautiful lady on our farm in West Virginia

Got married to this beautiful lady on our farm in West Virginia

2. Built a scalable course that gets results. One of my big goals at the beginning of 2017 was to add an entry-level offering to my mix of services. Up until that point, my main focus had been on offering high-end coaching programs (small group and 1:1). What I realized was that there were a lot of coaches I wanted to support who weren't able to make such a big financial investment yet in their business. Also, those high-end offering didn't scale very easily as they were too attached to my personal time and energy.

The solution that I came up with was Coaching Business Bootcamp - a six-week online course that teaches coaches step-by-step how to consistently attract their ideal clients. The first round of Bootcamp launched in November and I'm excited to say that it's already created a number of success stories (which is actually really rare with most online courses). I'm looking forward to sharing some case studies later this year. 

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3. Spent time with friends and family. It's the quality of our close personal relationships that determines our well-being. With that in mind, I made a concerted effort last year to take regular trips to visit friends and family, including a weekend trip with each of my parents. I was also fortunate to have a lot of people visit our farm this year, both during the wedding and otherwise. What I realized is that depth is much more important to me than breadth when it comes to relationships.

It was a good year for strengthening my business connections as well. I enjoyed spending some time with Jacob Sokol of Sensophy in his NYC apartment and later participating in a mastermind with him. I also got to know Leo Babauta of Zen Habits after meeting him at Camp GLP and chatting with him about a new coaching program he is starting.

Hung out with my friend Jacob Sokol in NYC

Hung out with my friend Jacob Sokol in NYC

4. Learned to bowhunt. Hunting is polarizing. I used to believe that most hunters were insensitive and cruel. Now I believe that if you're going to eat meat, killing it yourself is the most ethical option. I spent my first season in the woods this year and was fortunate enough to harvest my first deer. The process has given me a lot of respect for animals and it's been part of a gradual transition Emma and I have made to eating meat that is locally sourced, ethically harvested, and not wasted. Hunting has also taught me a lot of life lessons (more on that in the next section).

5. Gained muscle and strength. This time last year I transformed our basement into what I now jokingly call "The Dungeon" - this was after a period of being bored with my bodyweight workouts, having trouble working around a long-term injury, and feeling like I was stagnating with my fitness. Well, I've put The Dungeon to good use this year and it's paid off. I'm probably the strongest I've ever been. I think these two pictures provide a good comparison:

May 2016

May 2016

September 2017

September 2017

Stats for 2017:

  • 31 books read (including lots of Harry Potter - see my reading list here)

  • 46 "Five Minute Friday" newsletters

  • 4 contributions to articles in Forbes

  • $22,326 in sales during the month of March

  • 17 amazing coaching clients (includes small group programs)

  • 8 weeks of hard work (and 3 years of learning) to build my new course

  • 222 registrants across three webinars for Coaching Business Bootcamp

  • 3 coaches or contractors hired to support various aspects of the business

  • 621 miles traveled to lead sales training in Atlanta, Georgia (thanks to Jason Connell)

What Didn't Go Well Last Year?

1. Felt uninspired a lot of the time. This made it a hard year for me. I'm used to feeling motivated all the time, without really having to do anything. So when I wasn't feeling passionate about my work this year, which happened a lot, I didn't really understand what I needed to do differently. I thought a lot about changing things completely, even starting a new business. I'm glad I pushed through this feeling and stayed focused, because that focus is what ultimately allowed me to create what I think is my best offering yet in Coaching Business Bootcamp.

WHAT I LEARNED:  When I don't feel productive, I don't feel motivated. One of the best books I read this year was So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport. The thesis of this book is that if you want to love what you do, you need to adopt the craftsman mindset. It's tempting to think that if you just switched to something you were more passionate about, like a new business, all of your current problems at work would go away. But Cal argues that passion comes from creating rare and valuable skills (or, in my case, a rare and valuable offering) which will then naturally lead to work you love.

2. Didn't grow my audience much. This is something I had resolved to fix last year that I just didn't do a good job of focusing on. I continued to publish valuable articles. I even put together an expert panel and round-up post that did grow my email list to certain extent. But I didn't commit myself to mastering Facebook Ads until much later in the year. It was only until I had a conversation with one of my friends and readers, Tanya Connor-Green, that I finally decided to run more ads for my business.

WHAT I LEARNED: Don't keep your gifts to yourself. It's all well and good to serve your current clients and your current group of fans, but you also need to consistently ask yourself how you can be helping more people. I already understood this perspective, but I'll be leaning into it more this year.

3. Had a steady year financially. The business had only a nominal increase in profit for the year compared to 2016 and total revenue actually went down slightly. I sort of anticipated this, since I spent a lot of time focused on building assets like my course and my systems instead of just doing more of what I knew how to do in terms of getting clients. So in some ways this is a win since it's moving me closer to my bigger goals. But I also have high standards. I'm competitive and I want to keep growing the business each year. I'm excited to see how some of my "scaffolding" work pays off in 2018.

WHAT I LEARNED: What got you to a 6-figure business is not going to get you to a 7-figure business. And in order to make that transition, you may have to sacrifice some short-term income. Keep balancing what you know works with the new things you're learning.

4. Missed shots on two deer. In the process of learning to hunt this season, I took three total shots on deer. The first one was a clean hit right through the heart and killed the deer almost instantly. My next two shots, though they were made at a distance I felt confident at, grazed each of the deer I was aiming for. In both cases I followed the blood trail until it ran out and didn't recover the deer. They're very resilient animals and I'm sure they are both running around living their lives now, but these non-fatal shots made me feel awful. I don't want to cause unnecessary suffering for the animals I hunt.

WHAT I LEARNED: After wounding those deer, I did a number of things to reduce the chance of it happening again, including getting my bow re-tuned and practicing on a more realistic 3D target. But perhaps the biggest lesson was that there are real consequences when you become overly focused on external results. In hunting, you really can't hack the process. You need to learn to enjoy the long stretches in the woods and the time spent mastering your technique. This has given me a huge perspective shift in the rest of my life and I recently wrote an article about how it applies to getting clients.

5. Put cardio on the back-burner. In a lot of ways this was an intentional choice. I wanted to get stronger and there is a physiological tradeoff you have to make when you pursue strength or cardio gains, since they each place conflicting demands on the body. This is why you'll never see someone who can bench press 500 pounds and run a four minute mile. Still, I paid for my lack of cardio when my guy friends and I went on our annual mountain biking trip. One of them had just hiked the Appalachian Trail, and the other bikes to work every day. Needless to say, I would have enjoyed the biking more if I wasn't so focused on my leg cramps. Still had a blast though.

WHAT I LEARNED: I want to spend a bit more time on the bike this year leading up to our trip. I'll actually be training for the PanMass Challenge with my dad in August, a 192 mile bike-a-thon that raises more money for charity than any other race in the country. So while I still want to continue making strength gains, I'll obviously need to work in more cardio this year.

I'm smiling in this picture but I promise I'm exhausted

I'm smiling in this picture but I promise I'm exhausted

What Am I Working Towards This Year?

1. Having my best year ever with Emma. My marriage is the #1 priority in 2018. This is a foundational year for me and Emma so I want to set the bar high in terms of what we can expect from our marriage going forward. Money, business, health - all of these thing come and go but a marriage has the potential to endure. That's why I want to create a habit of putting our relationship first.

HOW I WILL MAKE THIS HAPPEN: Make the time we spend together really fun, do our "weekly reviews," show my appreciation for her contributions, keep my ego in check.

2. Doubling my email list and income. These two goals are related since the people on my email list are typically the people who pay me. While I'm not all about the numbers, it's important to me that I continue to support more and more people on a free and paid basis. It's also important to me that I keep growing the business because it will force me to learn new skills and grow. Finally, I want to provide for my wife and contribute to our future together.

HOW I WILL MAKE THIS HAPPEN: Using my Productivity Planner and monthly reviews to focus on the most important things, continuing to improve my Facebook Ads, launching the offerings below.

3. Enrolling 100 new students in Coaching Business Bootcamp. As I've mentioned a few times already in this write-up, I'm really proud of this course and I want to share it with more people. I also want to continue to improve the experience of the course so that my students get better results each time.

HOW I WILL MAKE THIS HAPPEN: Growing my audience (see above), giving affiliates more time to get on board and cultivating those relationships, improving my marketing and delivery systems.

4. Putting on a profitable and inspiring live event. I was kicking this around a bit last year but it just didn't happen. I want to put on a live event because it will help me avoid feelings of isolation and burnout and I hope it will help my participants do the same. Not yet sure what the focus of the event will be but you'll hear about it if you're on my email list.

HOW I WILL MAKE THIS HAPPEN: Hiring Patsy Culp to help me design a great experience for attendees, talking with my colleagues who have done this successfully, putting a date on the calendar for the spring.

5. Becoming completely confident at 50 yards with my bow. This is important to me so that I can continue to be an ethical hunter, and also because I'm hoping to take a trip to Idaho in the fall to hunt elk and I want to make the most of it.

HOW I WILL MAKE THIS HAPPEN: Establish a daily practice ritual, keep equipment tuned and accurate, figure out what the process of mastery has to look like for you to really enjoy it.

What Is This Year's Theme?

2017 was the year of scaffolding. In my business, fitness, hobbies, and relationships, I felt like I did a good job creating a solid structure to grow from.

2018 is going to be all about the process. I want to put my focus less on results and more on becoming a craftsman. I'm hoping this will allow me to keep improving and achieving while also enjoying the journey.

In case you're curious, here are all of my previous Annual Reviews: