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.

It’s Time For A Change

When I first decided to pursue a career in the web, it was because I wanted to build my own businesses and make my own things and experience the freedom of controlling my own destiny.

The web industry is a wonderful place for the entrepreneurally-minded and I definitely found those opportunities within its borders. I’ve been a freelancer now for almost five years. I built a web design and development shop from the ground up that has supported me well. I’ve had the opportunity to work with (and for) my friends, which has been truly delightful. I’ve started lots of side projects, some of which have actually turned into their own businesses (Lift Themes, WP Theory, Goodstuff), and killed even more before they ever made it out the door.

I’ve really enjoyed my time doing client work and making websites for people. But I’ve come to the realization that if I want to accomplish the things about which I’m most passionate, I can’t do it alone. And I don’t really want to, if I’m honest. The time has come to take the next step.

I’m excited to announce that, as of today, I will be joining the folks at Lift UX and UpThemes as Director of Product, which is a fancy way of saying that I’m going to be spending a lot of time doing the things I love most–brainstorming, strategizing, storytelling, breaking, fixing, building… You get the idea.

I connected with Chris Wallace and Brad Miller (the founders of Lift) over a common vision for a family of products that we’ve all been working on in various forms for some time. We’ve spent a lot of time brainstorming and sharing our ideas with each other. In the end, we decided that it made a lot more sense to join forces and make something truly great, than to go it alone.

So, what exactly is this product we’re going to build? I’m glad you asked. Coinciding with my move to Lift is the acquisition of ChurchThemes.net, the first church-specific WordPress theme shop on the internet. Up until now, ChurchThemes has primarily been a provider of free and premium WordPress themes built specifically for churches. The company has seen nearly 45,000 downloads of its products in the three short years since it opened shop.

We’ve got big plans for ChurchThemes and my primary role will be overseeing and leading the charge on those plans. The long-term strategy for ChurchThemes involves a marketplace where theme sellers can offer their own church WordPress themes. The marketplace will also hook into a new hosted website solution specifically for churches. ((There are number of hosted solutions out there, but we’ve got some cards up our sleeves we’re not ready to share just yet. Think HappyTables or WordPress.com, but blow-your-mind-awesome!))

We’ll be releasing more information in the near future about this new venture and what we hope to accomplish with it. In the meantime, you can whet your appetite here. If you want to be among the first to see what we’re up to, get yourself on that email list.

Building a product is hard. Building a great product that changes people’s live is downright magical. But if anyone can pull it off, it’s the Lift team. They’re a group of people who really believe they can change things. And as Steve Jobs is famous for saying, it’s the people who really believe they can change the world, that actually do.