13 min read

2023 Review

2023 Review

It's that time of the year again where we watch our own game tape. I've been doing annual reviews and sharing them publicly since 2014! Read here.

✍️
Disclaimer: I do these (mostly) for myself as a way to stop, process, and reflect on the previous year. I share them publicly because someday it'll be good to look back on. And I love seeing other people share theirs!

What went well
What didn't go well
What I learned
Challenges & Experiments
Bests of the year (books, products, etc)


What went well

Motherhood

Being a parent has been a huge joy, now I understand the cliches. While it's been challenging (which I expected) it's been worth it to see a tiny human grow up. I find myself having more fun now than when she was a baby as her personality comes out more and more.

Every week or so you get a software upgrade where they learn a new skill. Like last week my daughter got the okay upgrade. Another cute thing she does is sign and ask for "more mama" when she wants the other mom not with her.

Last note: I used to think babies/toddlers cried or were fussy for no real reason. Now I realize that there's always a reason — you just have to figure out what it is.

(Is it always rational reason? That's a different matter 😜.)

0:00
/0:01

First birthday party

Pro tip: I used the One Second Every day app to document the first year and then we played the video at the birthday, it was a big hit.

Built out our dream backyard

In 2017 I saw this video of Tony Robbins starting his mornings jumping into an in-ground cold plunge. Since then I've wanted one. I did the DIY chest freezer version... but a life goal of min was to have something I could jump into.

When we moved into our new house I got to work on creating our backyard oasis. I bought a sauna from Costco and then designed a custom in-ground cold plunge. I hired a guy to dig the hole and build the deck, but everything else we did ourselves. It's 5' wide and 5' deep and it's amazing 🤩

It was the first time I had the time to do a lot of DIY work that previously I'd have hired out for. I learned how to do electrical work, plumbing and a bunch of other handy skills. We were really living up to the lesbian Home Depot stereotypes 😅

The Before & After:

@cathrynlavery 9 months later and countless trips to Home Depot #backyardvibes #diy #sauna #coldplunge #lgbt🌈 @EmmyC ♬ original sound - Cathryn Lavery

Health & Fitness

My biggest priority going into 2023 was getting back into shape after having a baby in 2022. I had gained 40lbs and struggled with losing it.

If I hear “breastfeeding will help you lose weight” one more time. This is big lies by Big Breast 🤨. It took me around 5 months postpartum to feel like my body was my own again and only then could start losing weight.

In 2023 I lost a 18.7lbs, making a total loss of 41.6lbs from August 2022 to December 2023. I'm officially 3 lbs lighter than I was pre-pregnancy.

My fat loss 80/20:

• Tracking all food intake (I used Cronometer app)
• High-protein diet (approx 0.8 gm per lb of body weight)
• Daily hydration (.8 oz of water per lb)
7 hours+ quality sleep
• Walking 10k+ steps p/ day (more on this below)
• Strength training 3x p/ wk using Tonal

I walked 35% more in 2023 than 2022! My daily goal was 10,00 steps, while I didn’t hit it everyday my average for the year was 10,302 — my only rule was never miss two days in a row.

My Tonal stats for the year:

Short-term rental success

In my 2022 review I mentioned we kept our old house (for that sweet 30-year mortage at 3%) and converted it to a short-term rental. I spent February getting it setup so it could be rented out by March.

Ramping up and getting reviews takes a bit as well as figuring out the processes for cleaners etc.We self-manage and since setting up processes I can have my assistant handling most of it now.

superhost status on airbnb

While we had some slow months as we were getting started, it still brought in $43k in revenue from March — December and it has over 30 five-star reviews. We got superhost status within 6 months.

✨ Grow my personal audience & brand


This area went well given I didn't have any strategy for growth beyond posting interesting things when I felt like it. I had a throwaway tweet go viral and Buzzfeed even posted an article about it.

Overall stats:

Stats across Twitter, IG, Tiktok and LinkedIn — metrics via VistaSocial

I finally surpassed the 10k number on Twitter 🥳.

Twitter growth over 2023. Metrics via Typefully.


What didn't go well


Feeling lost and lack of purpose 😔

People warned that after selling your business you might slip into a lost feeling. Given I'd been out of the day-to-day of business I didn't expect I would... but of course it happened.

It's weird when you exit. You have more money than you've ever had, but it also feels like it's going to run out. Like a bucket of water that's slowly dripping out. Likely because when you have income from your business, the bucket is being refilled. And you always have the opportunity to sell it one day in the future.

Once that's gone it felt like "ok what now"?

I struggled with identity and personal value when I didn't have a business to work on. I figured that because I wasn't making "income" then I wasn't being valuable.

My wife would come home some days and I'd be doing a random house project like learning electrical and installing outlets. Useful but not monetizable, which in my mind meant my day was wasted.

I wish I could say I have fixed this part of my brain but I haven't. It's a constant battle that I'm still working on. I shared a little bit about this on this newsletter.

TLDR; I still don't know know what I want to be when I grow up 🤷🏻‍♀️

Learning to code

My ADHD was on overdrive this year with coding. Some weird version of shiny object syndrome. Rather than focusing on one language and going deep before moving on I'd get distracted. I'd get to a point in a project where it mentioned another language and somehow I'm jumping over to that.

So over the last year I've been learning: Python, Javascript, React, Ruby on Rails —but have nothing to show for it.

This changes now! More on this when we get to 2024 goals.

New business 💀

I toyed with the idea of starting a new agency-style business this year. I even had a test client come on board for a few months and I hired a couple of contractors. I realized quickly that it's not what I could see myself doing long-term.

My friend Mike Brown gave me great advice to "try on" the business but don't be afraid to quit it if it wasn't a fit. The old version of me would have kept going with it because I started it.

Whatever I do next needs to be pulling me out of bed in the morning excited to start. Especially at the beginning. If it feels like a slog early, it's not the one.


What I learned

1. Don't count your chickens before they hatch.

Narrator: there's a reason this is a saying already 😁

When I sold, part of my deal included an earn out tied to revenue target over the next 12 months. Due to some operational mishaps and the general retail environment being down they missed they target. This meant I didn't get that part of my earnout.

While I've learned this is pretty commonplace, I should have negotiated harder for more money upfront, even if it was less overall. Or a prorated option with tiers.

2. Give your mind space to rest & think

I stopped listening to podcasts every spare minute. I realized that if my brain had no downtime then it had not time to think. To get bored and to be creative.

When I took a walk without listening to anything, or did a monotonous task I found my brain filling the blank space with ideas. I noticed when I started my day with a short walk without technology my output for the day was always better.

3. Create boundaries with your email

If you're ever thinking of selling your company, a word of advice:

Don't use your company email for any personal or important communications you'll need access to post-sale. While you can download your email archive to review if you need, it's a pain in the ass and you'll always miss something.

4. Babies can't talk, but they can communicate!

Our daughter started learning baby sign language at around 8 months old. This allowed her to communicate things she wanted like milk, food, water, please, all done. This made it easier for us as parents because we didn't have to guess what she was fussing over. Highly recommend.

Sidenote: I've put close captions on TV (during limited screen time) as I believe it will help her learn to read faster.

5. The resistance of not doing

I learned about the resistance between what’s right and what’s easy.

For me taking action is easy. This year I learned that pausing and not doing might be what's best in the long term versus "doing" in the short term.


Challenges & Experiments


75 Hard

I find challenges a great forcing function for new behaviors so I did 75 Hard in March with a group of 14 people. If you're not familiar these are the daily rules:

• Read 10 pages of a non-fiction book (no audiobooks)
• Two 45 minute workouts (one must be outside)
• Follow a diet w/ no alcohol or cheat meals
• Take a progress picture
• Drink 1 gallon of water

It was a great kickstart for my weight loss and even after the challenge I tried to keep up most of the activities. Not the gallon of water everyday tho 😝

Spain family vacation (rich-life experiment)

This was one of my best decisions of the year. We spent 3 weeks in Spain where we rented a big house and had family and friends visit us. It allowed us to get quality time with more people, while also enjoying a break ourselves. I wrote about this more in-depth here.

White water rafting trip

I spent 5 days rafting down the Salmon river in Idaho with Baby Bathwater crew, also known as the "The River of No Return". It's the longest undammed river in the contiguous United States.

We flew in and out on small pond jumper planes. We would raft 10-15 miles during the day and camp out in tents at night. Because there was no cell service everyone was present in body and mind. It was an incredible experience.

100 Days Doing

I published 1 video a day for 100 days. I don't think I've ever done anything for 100 days straight. From Sept 21st → December 31st I posted on TikTok, Instagram and/or YouTube.

I didn't have a strategy going into it, my only goal was to get the reps in and publish. I did it as a forcing function to get reps in and create more than consume. Full backstory behind the challenge is here.

Making a daily video whenever you're not used to doing it was hard. I stuck with it but was tired by the end and not having a content strategy or even batching made it worse. This challenge was what made me learn my lesson around the resistance I have of not doing.

I'll share more insights on what I learned about that on my newsletter.

Get on the newsletter here:

progress > perfection

Playing with AI

In Q3 & Q4 I spent 7-8 hours a week playing around with ChatGPT and AI tools. I built custom GPTs, used it to help me with code. Built bots with custom content and created some automations. It was fun. I even used it to help me lower my property appraisal by $270k.

I realize how much more powerful it will be when I can apply it to my next business venture.


Travel

• Denver
• Amsterdam
• Frigiliana
• Barcelona
• Bloomington, IN
• Sedona
• Boise
• Salmon River, Idaho

Bests of the Year


Books:

Mad Honey
Same as Ever
The Pivot Year
Driven to Distraction
The Practice — Shipping Creative Work
101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think
• How to Live: 27 Conflicting Answers and One Weird Conclusion

Media

🎥 Silo
📺 Hijack
📺 Jury Duty
📺 The Last of Us (HBO)
🎥 Killers of the flower moon

Favorite purchases

A theme amongst my favorite products has been removing friction in my day-to-day. From setting up house automations to improving simple things like making espresso.

Auto Face Tracking Phone Tripod
One of the best things I bought under $50 this year. Super helpful for recording my videos for the 100 Days Doing project. Here's a video of me using it.

Portable Tire Inflator
Never again will I be searching for a working air pump at gas stations again. Everyone should have one of these, especially women — gas stations are not safe.

Keyless fingerprint smart lock
I am a total liability with keys. With technology improvements my need for keys is obsolete. My car key is my phone and all the locks on our house are fingerprint / code reliant so I never need to worry about losing them.

USB-C outlets
In another mission to remove as much friction to my life as possible I installed a bunch of these around our house when we moved so we would never again be searching for a block.

Really Loud Librarians and Poetry for Neanderthals were two very fun games we played on our Spain trip that our friends brought. So fun!

Bidet attachment
If you're not using a bidet I question your life choices. Once you have one it's hard to remember how you went through life without it.

Espresso machine & grinder
After having a Breville machine for 4+ years I finally spent $200 to take an espresso classes at a local coffee shop on Espresso 101. Turns out I was clueless and doing most things wrong. Here's how to level up your espresso game.

🤔
Made me think: What other parts of my day-to-day could be improved with a few hours of dedicated focus / learning?

After learning more about espresso I got red-pilled on Reddit and upgraded my machine. I got a Ascaso duo and a Eureka grinder. My drinks are so much better — and I've reduced buying coffee out by 90%.

Sidenote: Due to inflation I sold my old machine for $ I bought it for in 2018.

my coffee station 😍
💡
Curious about my 2024 goals? Stay tuned and I'll be sharing them next week. Make sure you are on my newsletter 👇🏻

Get on the newsletter here:

Photo dump

Epic Game Show night for my birthday

Hope you enjoyed! If you have an annual review, I'd love to read it too. Say hi on Twitter, IG or just respond to one of my newsletters (I'll respond).