2017 Year in Review

I used to write year-in-review articles every year, but stopped a long time ago. I don’t remember why.

But I’ve really enjoyed reading other people’s this year, and have been particularly inspired to start doing it again by Justin Jackson’s recent post.

I’m not big on resolutions. I never make them. Probably because I never keep them, but anyway… I do think there’s value in thinking about the previous year, what worked and what didn’t.

When I worked at Apple, we did a “postmortem” after every project launch. And while I’m not big on meetings, they were always really helpful.

So, with that, here’s a look at my 2017.

Changes

This was a huge year for change. In fact, the last three years have been full of constant change, but 2017 had more ups and downs than just about any other year of my adult life.

Social Media

I quit Facebook in January, stopped using Twitter as much, and started to focus almost exclusively on Instagram. It’s still social media, but I like that on IG, people are mostly posting about the mundane shit of their lives, rather then the seemingly endless political arguments that seem to dominate Twitter and Facebook.

Speaking of IG, I started making (almost) daily IG Stories. For me, it’s a method of self-documentation. It’s almost like a video diary, but one that anyone in the world can see. Some people don’t like that part of it, but I do. It adds something to the experience…

It’s become part of my morning routine to go get my coffee, drive over to the park and have some quiet time and record a few videos.

I’ve never done much with video, but I have loved getting into it. Obviously podcasting and audio have been huge in my life for the past five or six years. I’m new to video, but I’ve absolutely fallen in love with it. I’d love to start a real “vlog” and challenge myself to post daily, though I doubt that will actually happen. Regardless, I can honestly say that video is here to stay in my content creation toolbox.

Job

I left Apple at the end of February and we decided to move back to Tennessee to be closer to our families. While we all miss California terribly, I think it was the right move. And when it comes to employment, it was *absolutely* the right move.

I’ve had an article in draft mode for a long time about my decision to accept an offer from Apple in 2015, uprooting my kids and pregnant wife and heading to the west coast, only to quit a little less than two years in and move back to our home in Tennessee. I’ve been hesitant to publish it, for some reason. It’s pretty personal, I guess.

The employment experience taught me a lot about myself, what I want, and what I don’t want.

I hadn’t had a “job job” in almost a decade. And I found it to be as miserable as I had assumed during all those years of self-employment. I am a terrible employee. I don’t mind copping to it.

With rare exception, every job I’ve ever had has not gone very well. I have a really hard time being a “worker bee”. I care about the “whys” and the strategy and just can’t seem to force myself to “shut up and do what I’m told”. Which is what most employers want.

But the same things that make me a bad employee, make me a good entrepreneur. I like wearing all the hats. I like the control. I like the freedom to organize my day how I see fit. And if I learned anything from my experience at Apple, it’s that I’m just so much better at doing my own thing. Everyone’s happier.

But it took me a long time to see this. When we first moved back to Tennessee, I was convinced I needed to find another job. I didn’t believe I could go freelance again. Despite having been very successful at it for many years, I lost a lot of confidence during my time at Apple. I left that job feeling like I wasn’t good at anything.

So I spent six months trying to find another job. Which was even more demoralizing. The tech hiring process is completely broken and I went through it all first hand.

Finally, at my wife’s behest, I decided to just go back to doing what I really wanted to do all along, freelancing.

It hasn’t been easy by any means. And starting a freelance career from scratch, takes a lot of effort and lots of patience before your efforts start to pay off. But it was absolutely worth it. It was great. For the first time in years, I once again looked forward to Monday, instead of dreading it. And that’s something money just can’t buy.

Location

As I mentioned, we moved from about as far west as you can go (our house was literally on the beach just outside of San Luis Obispo), to Chattanooga Tennessee, which is pretty much the “buckle” of the southeastern bible belt.

We had lived here before, but coming home was bittersweet. We were close to our families again, but nothing can beat Central Coast California. It really is paradise.

In the end, though, it was the right decisions. And we’ll always have the memories of two years in CA, where my newest baby girl was born, and where we had so much fun as a family.

Pain

2017 was also one of the most difficult years in recent memory. Lots of emotional pain and baggage was drug out into the open, and I had to deal with it.

It’s long and complicated, but the gist is that I lost a friendship that meant a great deal to me and it’s been very hard to deal with. Much harder than I thought it would be.

Also, in case you didn’t know, marriage is hard. Really hard. But the effort and sweat it takes to develop a good and healthy relationship with your spouse is so worth it. I feel like we’re only beginning to see that, but we have plenty of time ahead of us. And we’re working on it.

Work

I relaunched a lot of stuff this year. I moved Irresistible Podcasting (my podcasting course) to Podia, my friend Spencer’s amazing platform. I also dropped the price by 90 percent to $50. I really wanted people to get value out of it and I honestly was never comfortable with the higher price. I did that because that’s the advice I was given. But I’m much happier with this price point and am extremely confident in the value it delivers.

I also re-designed/re-launched avclark.com and thegentlymad.com. And I’m in the middle of re-designing wptheory.net and bottlerocketcreative.com. I pretty much stopped working on my personal sites while I was at Apple and it’s been great to get back to them.

Podcasting

As I said above, I relaunched my podcasting course. But I also relaunched The Gently Mad, my main podcast. What’s great about this is that I removed all the pressures I put on myself in the past. It didn’t have to make money. It didn’t have to be regular. It could be whatever I wanted it to be and there were no rules.

This type of pace is a lot better and lets me have a lot more fun with the show.

I also started working on a new podcast (launching this month) with my friend Aaron. It’s a show we’ve talked about doing for years and finally decided to do. I don’t want to reveal the details until we launch, but it’s been a lot of fun to make and I think it’s gonna be a great show.

Travel

I did very little traveling, unless you count moving 3,000 miles. But I was able to take a trip to the gulf coast to hang out with my buddy Nate Currin and his brother Aaron. It was a great time away and really helped me clear my head on a number of things.

I discovered I love that part of Florida way more than I thought I would. So much so, that my wife and I are considering a move down there next year after I’m over the startup phase of my new business. I really loved it and think my girls would love it too. It’s not a definite, but I’m really hoping it happens. I miss the beach.

What’s next

2018 is going to be insane. Lots of plans for this year. The biggest of which, is the launch of a new business with my business partner, Jonny Nastor.

I can’t divulge the details yet, but we’ve been planning out this thing for the better part of six months and it’s going to be a game-changer once it launches (hopefully by the end of January).

So much effort has gone into this business. And it’s the first business I’ve ever launched that wasn’t just another “job” for myself. This is a real business with goals and business plans and employees and scalability and all that stuff.

If I’m honest, it’s really scary. But it’s also really exciting. I don’t know how I’m physically gonna get it all done, but it will be worth it. This is a business I’ve wanted to start for a long long time and I couldn’t do it without someone like Jonny as a partner. We’re both really excited and you will definitely be hearing more about it in the coming weeks.

My hope for this year is that I’ll be able to develop some healthier work habits in order to spend more time with my family, be much more intentional about how I work on my marriage, and make this new business a success.

I guess all of that boils down to intentionality. At 38, my life could easily be described as reactionary. I tend to bounce from crisis to crisis. But that’s a really hard way to live. I’ve felt the weight of it physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I want to be far more intentional in every area this year.

Here’s hoping…


Also published on Medium.

Binge Working

A few nights ago I was working in the late evening, as I like to do, and noticed myself doing this “just one more task” kind of thing.

I’ve always thought of this as a bad thing. As something I need to overcome, or outgrow.

But now I’m not so sure.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we’re all wired differently and we’re so much happier and more productive if we play to our strengths rather than try to conform to some external system.

I know some of you are thinking, “Geez, that sounds terrible. I could never live that way…”, and that’s ok. My point is that I don’t believe in a “one-size-fits-all” way of working anymore. And you shouldn’t either.

This is what frustrates me about so many companies and why my few experiences with employment have largely been miserable. I’m not sure I believe anymore that productivity can be forced.

I used to. I saw my lack of ability to force myself into the 9–5 as a character flaw, as laziness. I just needed to put on my big boy pants and get shit done, just like everyone other grown-up…

Not anymore. We live in an age that affords us nearly unlimited possibilities. It’s more possible than ever to create your own future and mold it however you see fit.

And that’s fucking awesome. It’s not entitlement. It’s not laziness. It’s not a problem of extended adolescence or a poor work ethic. It’s a different world. And why the hell would I not take advantage of it?

I’m so tried of always trying to conform and fit into a system that always leaves me miserable. Don’t even get me started on modern job hunting (that’s a different, much longer, and profanity-laden article).

I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the term “binge working” anywhere, but it’s exactly the way I work. And it’s a completely valid, productive way of working. And, best of all, I’m … happy. Yeah, I totally am. 

Here’s the cool part. My struggle with procrastination has gotten so much better. I still procrastinate (let’s not get carried away)… But now, I don’t feel so bad about it.

Don’t feel like working? Fine. Don’t work. I know that sometime in the next 48 hours, I will feel like working, and I’ll get far more accomplished during that binge than I ever would trying to force myself to be productive right now.

I hope you’re listening, employers. If you’re so concerned about employee retention and (as you say) employee happiness, maybe start giving your employees some freedom. Treat them like, oh, I don’t know … adults? Yeah, that’s the word. Adults. If I can raise three daughters, I’m pretty sure I can figure out how to get my work done in a way that doesn’t ruin my life. And if I can’t? Fire me and hire someone who can!

Did that sound angry? Yeah, that sounded angry. Moving on…

The reason this makes so much sense to me is because I’ve noticed this pattern all over my life. Everything is a cycle of effort and recovery. I sprint and then I rest.

Think about it. Sleep, exercise, food, fun — it all follows this pattern. Well, duh, you say. But none of those things I force to happen. I eat when I’m hungry. I sleep when I’m tired. Why not work when I feel energized to work?

I know, I know. What about the guy that said “I only write when I’m inspired and I see to it that I’m inspired every morning at 9a.m.” Cool. Good for that guy. If that works for you, then do that.

But, if you’re part of the little (maybe not so little) tribe of people who like to focus on one thing at a time and milk the shit out of it (binging, I believe it’s called), then just do that and don’t feel bad about it!

This is a long way of saying, you be you. But, I think there’s actually some merit to the idea of binge-working, beyond personal preference.

Maybe it’s all semantics and I’m just rearranging the furniture. That’s possible. But, for me at least, giving it a name and embracing it, has made a big difference.

So many of our ills are self-imposed. I hereby give you permission to work how you see fit.

Now go forth and get shit done.


Also published on Medium.

The No. 1 Super Secret Ninja Rule of Rockstar Success

How many emails do you get with stupid subject lines like that? I get a lot of them and I hate them. I made a whole website making fun of them.

Nonetheless, this article is actually about The No. 1 Rule of Success. I just threw in the useless bullshit buzzwords because I think it’s funny.

OK, you ready? Got your rockstar pants on? Here’s the rule:

Stop caring so much about the fucking rules. 

Most business advice comes in the “slow and steady” flavor. Which, in my opinion, tastes terrible.

Skim through the typical entrepreneurial book or podcast and you’ll get something along the lines of, “research, plan, start slowly, save money, take baby steps, etc.”.

That has never worked for me. I don’t have the patience. I’m not saying it’s bad advice. It’s just bad advice for me. And it may be for you too.

I’ve wasted years of my life because I was so obsessed with doing everything the “right” way, the way I was told entrepreneurship had to be done. I would get hours of advice, do months of research and planning, only to burnout before I finished or launched a single thing.

One day I finally realized, there are no rules. Everyone’s path to success is different. All those people we put up on pedestals? They don’t have some sort of magic 8 ball telling them what to do. Most of the time, they’re winging it. Just like the rest of us.

But if there’s one thing they do have in common, it’s this: they don’t let the “unknown” keep them from doing it anyway.

I’m not afraid of taking big risks. I’m definitely a dive-in-and-hope-I-learn-to-swim-before-I-drown kind of guy. I love the thrill of learning on the job, so to speak.

I know that doesn’t work for everyone, and, before I get yelled at, I’m not suggesting you leap blindly. But, if you’re anything like me, you can easily get sucked into an endless cycle of preparation and not actually do anything.

I’ve had to painfully force myself out of this cycle. Only you know how much preparation you actually need. But I’m willing to bet it’s less than you think.

For almost two years I’ve wanted to make a podcasting course. TWO YEARS. I planned, I researched, but always managed to talk myself out of it, for one reason or another.

One night in November, I was up late doing my usual “dream and scheme” thing, and I thought, What if I just did it? What if I stopped all this talk and actually did it? 

So that’s exactly what I did. I quit doing client work. Literally, I just stopped. I had no savings, no way to pay the bills, no massive audience and no experience making a product. On top of that, I had a family to support and my fair share of student loans and debts to pay.

But I decided, in that moment, that the only way to change my future, was to just… change it.

The first thing I did was get an accountability partner. Someone I could call on when I was feeling overwhelmed and who would keep me moving when that all too familiar fear of failure started to creep in.

The next thing I did was launch a landing page for my course. That was December 16 and, at the time, I still didn’t know what would actually be in the course, I just knew I could make it, whatever it ended up being.

Seven days later (I gave myself one week to outline the course and put that information on the landing page) I opened it up for presale. This was two days before Christmas, which, if you don’t know, is the worst time of year to launch anything.

But, four days later, I had 100 preorders and an extra $5,000 in my bank account. 

Get to the point Adam!, you may be thinking.  OK, here’s the point: I’m telling you all this because I’ve spoken to many of you and I know how easy it is to overthink something to death and never actually do it.

Deciding to end that cycle has changed my life and it can do the same for you. I didn’t achieve these “successes” because of some secret knowledge or super power. I simply deciding to stop thinking about it and just did it.

It’s the start of a new year and you may be thinking about that thing in the back of you’re brain that you’ve wanted to do for a long time, but still haven’t.

You know the one I’m talking about. Yeah, that one.

Just do it. Seriously. Stop the planning and the thinking and the obsessing and just get to it. Make 2015 different.

I recently had a conversation on TGM with Donald Miller, one of my favorite authors. You can listen to the episode here, but one thing he said really stuck out to me:

“You don’t have to win, you just have to compete. And the bottom line is, most people aren’t competing. If you just get up and do the work, you end up in the top 10 percent fairly quickly.”

Our conversation was filled with stuff like that, but that particular bit really hit me.

I talk a lot about “just doing it”. But that’s because I so quickly forget it. If I’m not careful, I slip right back into planning and research mode because that’s my comfort zone. But if my past is any indication, my comfort zone tends to get me nowhere.

Here’s the bottom line: I’m not exceptionally gifted, a special case or an outlier. If I can do this stuff, anyone can. As Don said, you just have to get up every morning and do it.

And, as always, if you need a little help, don’t hesitate to ask.

There Are No Rules

I'm trying something new again. I decided to record this week's newsletter as a short episode of my podcast, The Gently Mad.

 

I’ll go ahead and tell you the secret: no one knows what they’re doing. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but you’ll have to listen to the episode for the extra goodies.

If you feel like subscribing to the podcast, you can do that here. And if you’re feeling extra nice, a review and rating of the show would be most appreciated.

Are You Trying to Build a Personal Brand?

Man, what an insane week. It's been crazy getting caught up from a short, but unexpected stay in the hospital. But on the positive side, Fall is in full bloom here in Tennessee and it's one of my favorite times of year. I hope you're having a great weekend.

Instead of the typical article I send out, I wanted to share a piece of content I heard on the #AskGaryVee Show.

If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a short video show (and now a podcast) where Gary answers the questions people send him.

In the latest episode he answered the question, “What would you do if you were starting all over building the “Gary Vaynerchuk brand”?

His answer hit me like a cannon. Seriously. I resonated so completely with what he said that I just couldn’t not share it with you.

If I had the ear of everyone I’m connected with online for only one second, I would tell them to stop what they’re doing and watch this five-minute clip:

In this five-minute clip Gary answers the question and it’s hands down the best advice I think I’ve ever heard related to the whole issue of “personal branding” that has consumed most of the conversations about online business.

I hope it resonates with you like it did me.

Do The Work You Love

Do you yearn to do work you love, but struggle to take the next step or even know what the next step is? I want to help you. Here's why.

So many times, the things I really want to do are the things I’m most scared to do.

Like most of you, I’m curious and I love learning. I have tons of interests and could probably be happy pursuing many different things. But if I’m honest, it doesn’t take much soul-searching to find the things about which I’m truly the most passionate.

But for some reason, I can’t even let my mind GO there. Because those things? Those are the things that are truly impossible. Those are the things at which I will absolutely, undoubtedly fail.

Or so my mind tells me.

For me, those things are creating content (podcasting, writing, making videos, etc.) and helping people. Specifically, helping people through my content creation.

But I’m afraid. And if you’re afraid too, then I want you to know you’re not alone. I know what it’s like to doubt myself on a level so deep it’s almost impossible to reach. I know what it’s like to spend YEARS standing on the dock and never diving in because I’m afraid I will fail, or worse, end up looking foolish. I know so deeply what it’s like to yearn to do work I love, but just can’t bring myself to do it, because I don’t think I have anything unique to offer. I’m an echo. Not a voice.

A very famous (and smart) guy was recently quoted as saying, “Be a voice. Not an echo.” And I understand what he meant, but it was so discouraging to hear, because my deepest fear is that I’m nothing more than an echo.

Whether or not that’s true is for another newsletter, but even if it is, I want you to remember this: History has proven that sometimes the echoes rang louder and truer than the original.

So DO the things that scare you. Face your fears. In all likelihood, the things you’re afraid you are, you probably aren’t. But even if you are, embrace them and do them anyway. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’ve missed the boat on doing the work you love. Or that too many people are already doing it, or that the “market is too saturated”, whatever the fuck that means.

For me, that means I’m going full speed ahead building my business of helping people overcome their fears and do the work they love. Are other people doing that? Yes. Am I just an echo? Maybe. But I’m going to be an echo that rings so loud and so true that no one will care.

And you can too.

A Failure Isn’t Always A Failure

A couple of months ago I wrote an article about how it was time for a change. In fact, the article was titled, "It's Time For A Change". Clever, I know.

In that article I talked about how, after five years of being a solo entrepreneur, I felt like it was, well, time for a change. I had been given an opportunity to join the amazing team at Lift UX as Director of Product. My role was going to be leading the charge on a new family of products related to the the company’s acquisition of Churchthemes.net.

There were a number of terms to the deal, including the acquisition of some of my products and a partnership in the company. Since we had been attempting to build very similar products in our spare time, I decided, along with Chris Wallace and Brad Miller (the co-founders and owners of Lift), that it made a lot of sense for us to join forces.

However, after a short two months together, we have decided to end our official relationship. I still respect the hell out of Chris and Brad and the team at Lift. They are doing some amazing things and I hope I was able to help start what Churchthemes will eventually become.

Nevertheless, it became clear to me over the past few weeks that my vision for Churchthemes and my role in that vision differed in some significant ways from Chris’s and Brad’s. There are no hard feeling between us and we parted ways amicably.

However, I’m still tempted to look at this experience as a failure, even though it wasn’t. And it has taken several days of clearing my head and writing down my thoughts to figure out why. My hope is that sharing this with you may be of some benefit as you examine your own experiences and decision-making-process in regard to employment, freelancing, entrepreneurship, etc.

So here goes…

I realized very quickly that there was a reason I have been self-employed for so long. I LOVE working for myself. I just do. It’s in my blood. The freedom and flexibility that comes with self-employment is something I knew I valued, but didn’t realize just how much I valued until I didn’t have it anymore.

Sure, there are myriad stressors involved with self-employment:

  • Work/life balance is hard to achieve.
  • You have to wear many hats and be good at a lot of things besides your main craft.
  • An often irregular income can be very hard to deal with and lead to mountains of stress.
  • You must have a high tolerance for risk and the ability to stay calm and productive in the face of lots of uncertainty.

But, the truth is, I never minded those pressures. At times, like any normal human being, they would get to me and I would find myself overwhelmed. However, those “risks” are also part of the thrill. There’s a thrill to waking up every morning and knowing you are the master of your domain. You can make this day anything you want it to be. The possibilities are endless.

If you can’t tell by now, I’m a wide-eyed, whole-hearted dreamer. And I’m ok with that. I embrace it as part of who I am and find no shame it.

In addition to the control over my schedule, I love being able to choose the projects and/or products I work on. And I found that losing that freedom took a greater toll on my well-being and general happiness than any of the stresses of being self-employed.

You may not agree. Maybe for you, a steady paycheck and the sense of security that a job and a regular schedule brings is where you thrive. And that’s completely fine. We’re all different.

But for me, I found the wind quickly drained from my sails. I realized that the job I thought I’d been hired for and the job I actually ended up doing weren’t exactly the same and my path to partnership in the company was not as clear as it had appeared.

Again, this is not a criticism of Chris and Brad. If I were to choose to be employed at any time again in the future, it would be with those guys. They are some of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of working for.

But that’s just it. I don’t want to work for anyone. As I said above, I just plain love working for myself. And that isn’t something on which I can put a price tag.

So, why wasn’t this experience a failure? After all, it would be easy to look at that way, since it only lasted for two months before I decided to move on.

First, I learned a lot about working with a team. It was a huge struggle for me, but I now have a much greater understanding of exactly what it takes to run a successful team.

Second, I learned a lot about myself. I discovered the things that are truly important to me in my work. When I agreed to take the position, I viewed is as an experiment. An experiment that I hoped would be successful, but an experiment nonetheless. I had never been employed in the web industry other than a short stint with an agency when I first started out that I don’t think was a good representation of a modern web shop. So I had no idea what it would be like. There was a chance that I would love it. It was something new. But, as I’ve been saying in the last 900 words or so, I discovered that it just wasn’t for me. I am happiest and at my best when I am working for myself.

Third, I learned that decisions (even big ones) aren’t irreversible. I’m a baptized, grade-A over-thinker. I tend to obsess over even the tiniest decision as if my entire future depended on making the right choice. But this simply isn’t true. And this kind of over-thinking often leads to doing nothing out out fear of making the wrong choice. I have missed out on many opportunities because of this fear. But I hope this experience has helped me see the error of my ways, at least a little. I tried something and found that it wasn’t for me. There’s nothing wrong with that. I hope I will now have an easier time trying new things, knowing that if I change my mind, the world will not collapse around me.

So What Now

As of this week, I’m back to my freelancing ways. I have five or six products that I really want to launch, as well as some client work to wrap up. In addition, I’m looking for new projects, so if you know of anything, I would appreciate any referrals you send my way. My focus is on WordPress design and development, custom WordPress themes and responsive website builds.

I plan to take a small sabbatical to plan out the next six months and the paths to version 1 releases of several new products. In addition, I am doing lots of podcasting and have several new shows in the works (one of which is being prepped for public radio distribution through PRX, which I am beyond excited about). Another of my new show ideas is about relaunching a freelance career and all the sweat and thought and strategy that goes into that. I have a lot of plans to do things differently this time around. If you think you’d be interested in a podcast like that, please let me know. If I get enough interest, I will definitely make that show a reality.

A few things to keep an eye on:

I am super excited about my immediate future. I feel like I’ve rediscovered, in some ways, who I am and what I truly value. I don’t know what the next few months hold or where exactly the work will come from, but I’m going to be doing the work I want and in the way I want. A blessing for which I’m truly thankful.

W. Clement Stone on Integrity

Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.

How to Have All the Time in the World

Busyness. It's a sign of pride these days. The problem for most of us, is that even if we don't take pride in being workaholics, we don't know how to change. Especially for those of us who are entrepreneurs, there's a never-ending pile of stuff to get done. I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about.

I read an amazing post this week by a guy named Austin Grigg. In it, he talks about the problems with always being busy. I couldn’t agree more with what he wrote and it was a real punch in the gut at this stage of life, precisely because of all the chaos that fills my days.

I loved this bit:

“I want to live like I have all the time in the world. I want to slow down and savor the beautiful things of life. I want to give myself away to what is truly important. I don’t want to be someone vexed in spirit, always busy.”

First of all, what a freaking beautiful sentence. Second, I want that too. And I’m feeling the weight of time as I get older. My kids are growing up. There’s a limited amount of time that they will call me “daddy” and want to crawl into my arms every day for a snuggle.

And, to be completely honest, that alone is worth more than all the fame and success a business could ever bring.

My encouragement to you is to follow Austin’s advice. Slow down. SLOW. DOWN. Take notice and really experience each moment. It sounds completely cliche, and I know that. But it’s true. It’s the little moments that make up a life. And they are so valuable.