I made it another year! This will be my 4th annual review, and you can read 2016, 2015 and 2014 if you're curious. I do these as a way to stop, process and reflect the previous year to figure out what went well, what didn’t and how best to move forward in 2018.
Disclaimer: I write reviews mainly for myself to learn from, to show people what’s possible in a year and also to hopefully help people learn from my mistakes.
Spoiler alert: 2017 was the hardest year of my life
This review will probably be my most in-depth and revealing as it was a hectic year. In fact, typically I discuss the things that went well before what didn't go well... but much of the year was shaped by the unexpected.
This post is divided into sections:
- What didn’t go as planned in 2017?
- What went well in 2017?
- My Hit List (favorite books, movies, products, etc.)
- Goals from 2017 review
- Big Learnings
- What’s my plan for 2018?
2017 was very busy on the travel front, I calculated between business and personal travel I was away from home for 140 days last year, approximately 36% of my whole year!
That was over double what I traveled in 2016!
I visited 3 new countries, Australia, Fiji, Thailand.
- Australia — Jan 2017 (10 days)
- Palm Beach, FL — Jan 2017 (7 days)
- Poconos, PA — Feb 2017 (3 days)
- Powder Mountain, UT — March 2017 (6 days)
- Europe trip — April 2017 (17 days)
Ireland (10 days)
Belgium (3 days)
Barcelona (4 days)
- FiDi, NY - May/June 2017 (19 days)
- Austin, TX — June 2017 ~ DC Talk (5 days)
- Boulder, CO — July 2017 (5 days)
- Ireland— July 2017 (10 days)
- Austin, TX — August 2017 (4 days)
- Nashville, TN — August 2017 (4 days)
- Boulder, CO — August 2017 (5 days)
- Denver, CO — August 2017 (7 Days)
- Fiji — Sept 2017 (9 days)
- Austin, TX — Sept 2017 (4 days)
- Key West, FL — Oct 2017 (5 days)
- Austin, TX — Dec 2017 (4 days)
- Thailand — Dec 2017 (16 days)
What didn't go as planned:
2017 was a rollercoaster year, experiencing high-highs to low-lows, from one day to the next.
A perfect anecdote for this was the day I'd found out we'd won the Build a Bigger Business competition.
It was the 9th of August, and I was having coffee with a friend I hadn't seen in a while, the conversation was emotional for me as we discussed my recent breakup (more on that shortly). Right then my phone started ringing, and the screen showed it was a caller from Canada. Typically I'd let calls go to voicemail, but I don't get many calls from Canada, so I picked up.
It was Harley Finklestein, COO of Shopify, telling me that we'd won the contest and would be going to Fiji next month. I went quickly from tears of sadness to ecstatic!
Like I said, from low lows to high highs.
After 7.5 years together (4 of them married), my husband Keith and I separated, and have since gotten divorced.
As you might imagine, this was a significant drain on my emotional and mental wellbeing. Despite it being reasonably amicable (as far as what I'd believe divorce typically goes), it was the most challenging experience of my life.
At first, I was in denial, pretending everything was normal because I didn’t want to be perceived as a failure (because that’s how I felt.)
It took a while for it to sink in as I was traveling a lot around the time of the breakup. I did this as when I was away I could easily compartmentalize everything, essentially making my problems 'out of sight, out of mind'. It was particularly when I was back in New York that I'd have to face everything, which I did between all of my trips. In retrospect, it wasn't a smart way to handle it as I'd lose any progress I'd make with every trip and felt like I was starting over when I got back.
I don’t think I understood the grieving process until I was deep in it.
When I was home in New York, everything would sink in, and I fell into a mild depression — there were many days where I didn't even want to get out of bed. It was a considerable burden personally and also slipped into my professional life as I felt unable to perform at the same level, both for myself or my team. I wasn't able to be creative, and it felt like all my energy was being used for merely maintaining.
I realized after sharing experiences with others who’ve been through it that it’s all part of the grieving process, and the only way out is through it.
Don't judge your blooper reel by everyone else's highlight reel
The irony was that if you were to judge by social media my life looked like it was beyond incredible. It only occurred to me whenever I bumped into someone I hadn't seen in a while, and they said "You're doing amazing!" how warped social media was.That's when the saying, "Don't judge your blooper reel by everyone else's highlight reel" became real for me.
After five years of entrepreneurship, I finally hit burn out.
Between the travel, working and my personal life in disarray I ended the year feeling mentally and physically exhausted. In fact, I was at a conference in Austin in December when I had to fly home a day early due to feeling mentally wrecked. I didn't feel like I could show up another day and put on the same facade.
The advantages of running a remote team were that I could work from anywhere. The disadvantage was that I had done just that, worked from everywhere and never felt present as my mind was always thinking about work — for five years.
As the holidays approached I had people asking me what my plans were now that I was "alone". As it was my first holiday season single, I wanted to skip the family stuff and go away on my own to regroup and refresh. So I did.
I booked a solo retreat in Thailand, and it was the best present I've ever given myself.
What went well:
1. Business growth + Team
We grew our team significantly over the past year. We went from a 6 person team at the beginning of 2017 to 13 people strong by the end of the year!
Growing the team has been the most challenging yet rewarding thing I did in 2017. I love investing in our people and seeing them grow as people as we simultaneously grow the business. I can’t wait to do more of it this year!
We completed two team retreats where we bring everyone together for team-building, planning, and fun.
We implemented a reading program.
Our mission is to help people become their Best Self, and that starts with creating a company culture that allows for the same personal development. We got this idea from our friend Jeff of World Wide Cyclery who does it with his team.
2. Shopify Build a BIGGER Business 2017
In 2016 we won the Build a Business Competition, I wrote about the experience here.
Then in 2017 Shopify announced a new competition, the Build a BIGGER Business competition with Tony Robbins, which is for not new businesses but existing businesses that have scaled and grown.
We ended up winning the second year in a row (the only company to ever do that!). As part of the prize, we got to ring the NYSE opening bell again! So we got to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity twice!
As part of the prize we got a 3 day New York experience, private jet flight, a trip to Fiji to stay at Tony Robbin's private resort for a week and then mentorship from Tony Robbins, Tim Ferris, Daymond John, Marie Forleo, Tobi Lütke, Jon Steinberg, Debbie Sterling, Harley Finklestein and Tom Farley.
3. New apartment + new hobbies
At 30 years old I'd never lived by myself before, I'd gone from flatmates to living with Keith so living alone was an adjustment.
I moved into my new apartment in Long Island City (LIC) in June 2017. LIC is one stop from Manhattan (about 5 minutes) and is by the water with great views of Manhattan. It's a two bedroom apartment with one bedroom being used as a home office.
My first guests and dear friends, Katya and Roel of Space Refinery, helped me making the place feel more like home. This is what we did in a day:
I moved across the street from a climbing gym which I joined shortly after moving and have been going an average of 2 times a week since September. It's a great workout and a great spot to meet people outside of my usual circle.
4. Retreat in Thailand
When I hit burn out, I booked myself a personal retreat in Thailand.
I set an out of office for my email (first time ever!), I deleted Facebook, Twitter, News, Email from my phone and brought only fiction or mindset books with me. I didn't want to think about work, so I forbid myself from reading any business books.
It was the first time in 5 years since I got into entrepreneurship that I 100% unplugged from work and felt truly relaxed. I used the time to focus on myself and even bought some artist materials to get back to being creative again. This was a quick watercolor on the beach and was the most relaxing 30 mins I'd had in years:
I used the time in Thailand to do a complete detox. I completed an 8 day cleanse, which meant not eating and giving my body a much-needed rest to repair itself. I took a month off drinking and followed a vegetarian diet — it was the most healthy holiday I've ever had and as I said, the best gift I could have given myself after the year I had.
I met a lovely bunch of people who were also traveling solo, and we enjoyed a lovely Christmas Day together, on the beach, in the water and eating delicious, healthy food. It was incredible.
My Hit List:
A collection of my favorite "stuff" from the year, in no particular order.
- A New Earth - Eckhart Tolle
- The Four Agreements - Miguel Ruiz
- Principles - Ray Dalio
- How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big - Scott Adams
- Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
Best TV Shows:
My SONOS speakers were my Christmas gift to myself - they are incredible. I first experienced them when I traveled to Belgium last year, and my friends had them all over their apartment.
I picked up speakers for my office, my bedroom, bathroom and the living room. It’s sick!
I’d never invested in great luggage before and always felt like I’d arrive, and everything would be a mess. Then my friend showed me her luggage and wouldn’t stop talking about how amazing it was. When she showed me the space to hang clothes, that it was expandable, separate sections… I was convinced.
I love this bag - I’ve had this luggage for only six months, and it’s been well worth it. The best part is how much you can carry and still have it as a carry-on.
Taking advice from my friend Bryan who said: “If you were a lumberjack, would you buy the cheapest axe they make? No. You’d buy the best, take care of it and keep it sharp. Same goes for your computer. Don’t go cheap here. It is your tool.”
I upgraded to a desktop computer this year (still use a laptop when I travel), was a hefty investment but not one regret.
I barely leave the house without this thing, it’s fantastic. If you have an iPhone you know how quickly those batteries die - this charger will keep your fuel up. Highly recommend.
5. Gravity Blanket
I’m a serial early-adopter for cool ideas, and also always see products that improve my life as an investment — so I preordered this sometime last year from only a Facebook ad. I received it a few weeks ago, and I’m digging it.
My heat was broken when I returned from Thailand (when it was 6°F outside), and I think this blanket saved me.
Goals from 2017 Review:
When I review my goals for 2017 that I wrote in last years post I see I was woefully off target in some of them. Although in all fairness, when I wrote my goals for 2017 I hadn’t expected the turbulence in my personal life so I won't be too hard on myself.
- $X million revenue goal ✔
- 2 Retreats with the team ✔
- Speak at 3 events ✔
- 3 x workouts a week ✔
- 2 x Obstacle courses/or races (didn't do any this year)
- Write a fiction book
- Get my driving license
- Plan a weekend trip away every quarter (need to specify 'relaxing weekend away' for next time)✔
My 2017 work goals were on track. However, my personal and workout goals took the backburner. I would usually be embarrassed by publicly missing my goals, however considering the year I had I feel like I had a good reason for taking a different path. This year I'll be prioritizing my personal and health goals.
I'll be getting my license in Q1 this year so I'm not making it a goal, it's just happening!
1. Schedule time for creativity & new things
Less time on travel and consuming content, more time on creation!
Whether it was design or fun experiments, I used to be much more creative than I have been the past 18 months. As I've gotten caught up in business and entrepreneurship, this has taken a backseat and has caused me to not enjoy life or work as much. It only occurred to me when I was in Thailand and was painting and sketching for fun. There was no agenda for myself or for anyone else; it was just for me.
2018 = Create more than I consume
2. Relentless Focus & saying NO
I have a hard time saying no to people that ask for my time, especially as I have a tendency to want to help people — so if I get asked to meet for lunch or coffee, I often say yes. This leaves me feeling stretched thin as I'm prioritizing other people's agenda over my own.
I've realized that the people who want to meet often do so because they appreciate the cool stuff I've done, therefore if I stop doing the focused work that got me here, then I am no longer the same person that they wanted to meet in the first place.
2018 = Relentless focus on what I want to do, achieve, have.
3. Less Travel, More Work
This goes along with relentless focus. Travel throws me off my routine, and the start/stopping is disruptive to my work, my team and life. I'm going to be much more picky about what events I choose to go to in 2018, so I can hit every milestone I'm aiming for this year. It's also important that I scale the creative side of the BestSelf Co team so that it's not dependent on me, that was a big issue with the travel this year.
My goals for 2018:
- Scale the product team to work without me
- Speak at five events
- Visit China - factory visit & Canton Fair
- Bike 1000 miles
- 3 x Obstacle courses/or races (signed up for one so far)
- Follow vegetarian diet 4 days per week. Limit alcohol to a maximum of 3 times per week (typ 1-2).
- Do something creative 2X Weekly (drawing, painting, writing)
- Write and publish a short story
- Unplug for 2 weeks during the year and explore a new place