2016 My year in review

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In 2014 I started a tradition. I began openly reviewing my year, analysing, in the most candid way possible, 5 aspects starting from my business, my financial plan, continuing to what has given me joy and grief personally, diving into the mind and concluding with an exploration of what happened with my body.

This is an intimate document. But please read on if you wish to learn: – how my business grew in the last year – how a new flavor of openness is my guiding principle for 2017 – why buying a sports car was the best decision ever – how I progressed with my “no zero days” body policy

And thank you in advance for being my “accountability buddy” by reading this report.

Business
The result

Let’s start with a bomb. I did it again. I doubled my business. Here’s the story: in 2014 I was able to increase the revenue of my consulting business by 52%. The following year I grew an additional 88% and adding to that some other unexpected financial upside I went over 100% growth. For this year my forecast was very conservative: I wanted to grow 10% over last year’s figure. A good friend and fellow entrepreneur was disappointed: he expected me to have more ambitious goals. And he was right. Counting just the revenue from work, in 2016 I 10x my forecast: revenue grew another 99% or, as near as makes no difference, I doubled my business again.

screenshot-2017-01-07-18-19-34

I decided to graph it out and what surprised me is that what you see there is a hockey stick. Now you should not think that this can go on forever. But this graph demonstrates that hockey stick growth is possible also in a consulting environment. Growth can’t be infinite. But my message to you is that what you’re making now as a consultant is way below what you can potentially make.

During 2016 I’ve focused more on my core strength: digital marketing for entertainment. The lesson I learned is that no matter how much I like to explore many different fields, I enjoy the maximum success when I do what’s deeply rooted in my experience.

This has also helped me to finally narrow down the positioning of my business with a clearer definition: La Fabbrica della Realtà is an innovation laboratory that focuses on digital marketing for entertainment, product design and business innovation.

This year I was finally able to shut down 100% of the operations of filmizer, my first startup dated 2009. The whole story makes a separate blog post.

Shutting down my earliest venture showed me the power of closure and invited me to tidy up and cut unproductive branches.

The bad

Speaking of branches that need pruning: only 0.2% of my revenue this year came from products. Nearly all of it came from consulting. Already in my 2014 review I was saying: “I would like my income to be more balanced: part from consulting and part from product sales.” This clearly wasn’t the case in 2016.

I bow and accept my lesson: I am – at heart – a consultant, and what I should do is consulting. Along the path I may find some products and will develop them. But it all has to work around the core of La Fabbrica della Realtà: a consulting business. This is also why I’m also shutting down Presentation Hero, my 2015 product that doesn’t have any more space in my business lineup.

The future

La Fabbrica della Realtà started as a book project. Not many people know this. It was first and foremost an exercise in openness. I started by being open from the inside out. I decided to broadcast my thoughts and the effect is starting to come back in the form of signals sent back to me.

The future of this business is to intertwine even more with the destiny of other individuals that are becoming part of my network. Openness needs to work both ways.

I’ve always had allies. Specifically Andrea, Livia, Nicola, Davide, Tommaso and Maria, just to mention a few. Now I am building even stronger ties with Made in Com, a small communication agency in Rome founded by Silvia and Francesco. With Alessandra I’ve started the first La Fabbrica della Realtà internship. In the future I will further define these relationships and allow them to grow.

In 2015, I was still thinking that I would lose my superpowers if I needed to manage people. I was a people manager in my corporate past. It was always hard for me to work with other people. Especially inside the traditional company structure and rhetoric.

Now I realise that I can work with people, that I can start thinking about the first full time employee of the company and not dread the thought of it. Because I can craft with them a different relationship, shaped around the principles of La Fabbrica della Realtà.

Last but not least, the forecast. My goal is to double again. 100% growth also for 2017. See you next year for the actual result.

Financial
The result

Doubling the revenue means that this year my most powerful financial instrument has been pure work. As usual, I’ve been able to save most of what has been coming in as revenue.

What I’ve increased are business expenses. Although I believe in the welfare state, I’m still not a huge fan of taxes. So if I could get a black car rather than a taxi, a 5 star hotel rather than a 4 star, I did.

I re-balance and check my investments every 6 months and the last check in November shows 1.19% overall value increase across all the asset classes. This year, the markets have been a roller-coaster and I feel good about the end result. I’ve fine tuned the assets that I invested in and feel pretty safe with my investment structure now.

The bad

In 2014 I said “My plan is to maintain my lifestyle as it is now.” I also expressly wrote that I didn’t want to buy a car or motorbike. Too late: I’m moving to a new flat that is 35% more expensive than the previous one. Plus I bought a car. This will be further explained in the next section.

I have new costs, but I haven’t changed anything else about my lifestyle and this still allows me to save most of what I make for a rainy day.

The future

In 2017 my aim is to continue to stay on track with my financial plan. I will also enjoy more peace and quiet in my new flat, and thus increase my overall quality of life: a priceless metric in my opinion.

I also bought a car. Although financially that’s a big decision, we’ll talk about it in the next section.

Personal
The result

Boys need their toys. Introducing “Buddy” aka my 2011 Mazda Mx-5 2.0 hardtop.

Sure, I don’t need a car in Berlin. Hear me out, though. Since I was a little child I have always loved cars. Each month I was an avid reader of Gente Motori (a flamboyantly written car magazine, competing with the more sedated Quattroruote). I had the whole lineup of cars committed to memory, including engine size, power output and maximum speed. As a kid I drew cars endlessly. Actually I thought that I would design cars as an adult. At some point I specialized in dashboards. I started creating even more detailed dashboards and I would play with a makeshift steering wheel and I would pretend drive. I would do that for hours sitting at my desk. It was my favorite past time.

In the last few years, each time I went on vacation I found an excuse to rent a car and do some kind of road trip. In the past I expressed my need for speed with motorcycles, but on the brink of 40 years of age I chose a car.

I bought a small 2 seat, rear wheel drive car because I have a dream that needs to come true: I want to learn how to drive properly. In 2016 I started going to track-days (that’s when you drive your car on a circuit but there is no actual race) and do all sorts of driver trainings and I had a ton of fun. My friends joke that each time I talk about my little sports car I have this massive smile. I think it belongs to baby Matteo, playing pretend driving in front of a paper dashboard full of gauges and lights.

So, getting the car was the best idea ever.

The bad

I couldn’t stick to my 2015 resolution about not using the cellphone at night and after waking up. I couldn’t find a way to stay accountable. And even though I see the benefit of not being reactive – especially in the early morning – I still can’t resist the urge to check what’s new right after waking up.

I didn’t do much dating in most of 2016… I reported about my breakup in the last yearly report and I’ve thus been single since then. To be honest, I’ve had a bit of a fallout with the whole Berlin going out experience recently. There’re a few reasons, some superficial, some more profound. All of them too lengthy to discuss in this post.

Lots of work, no boyfriend, no mood for going out meant that 2016 has been pretty lonely up in party-town-Berlin.

The future

It’s very hard to plan for one’s mood, one’s social life or sentimental adventures. But there is a way to influence the future, and that is your own posture and attitude towards the world. I’ll stay open to new opportunities and do that thing that we call dating.

Finally I will continue to explore the world of motorsports from the driver seat of my Mazda Mx-5, aiming for some winter adventures as soon as possible, and some really cool track days in 2017 including Spa and the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife.

Mind
The result

In 2016 I’ve continued reading more long form, more fiction, less news than in the previous year. Pocket still maintains that I am part of the top 5% of their users, but it seems to me that I’ve read fewer blog posts and articles this year.

I’ve added a ton more podcasts to my media diet. Anything from The Economist, a lot of NPR, everything Dubner & Levitt, the BBC documentaries, and many more voices have become the usual soundscape of my long walks, me washing dishes or brushing my teeth.

In the past year, overall, I have functioned well, had tons of focus and quite a bit of flow. The number of conference calls has increased though and they have crept into my mornings (that I usually keep conference free in order to do creative work).

My productivity routine has been pretty strict, but I have also taken a ton of weekends off during the last 12 months.

I’ve also been writing a ton. For the first 100 days of 2016 I’ve published daily on my Italian blog. After switching to longer form, my production has slowed. But now I am back on track and have ambitious plans for 2017.

I’ve also started meditating, although quite irregularly. I’ve started using Mindfulness Daily, a really simple app that doesn’t require a lot of effort to follow a minimalistic mindfulness routine. And for the first time I’ve found real benefit in meditating.

The bad

As I’ve written more in Italian, I’ve realized that my writing style has suffered in the last few years of not exercising this specific craft. I’ve focused a lot on my English, both spoken and written. I’ve read mostly in English for the past 10 years. I’ve also jammed some German in my brain at the same time, with mixed results. But all together I haven’t written or read enough Italian to allow me to have a decent style today. This has to change in 2017.

Also on the negative side, I haven’t done the amount of open and aimless research that I was hoping to accomplish. I’ve had to focus my mind most of the time on work projects or chores, and this hasn’t allowed me to pursue strange avenues & topics that nourish my mind.

I’ve suffered a bit from anxiety in the last few weeks of the year. The culprit is too much work, too many appointments and certainly looking for a flat and moving (I am unpacking boxes as this article goes live).

Quality of sleep is the primary symptom of anxiety, especially waking earlier than I need to. I am confident that in January, now that I’m fully moved in the new flat, I will have a different outlook on things and will enjoy much better sleep. I plan also on using meditation more in order to keep anxiety in check.

One thing I really miss is real time off. For the entire 2016 I didn’t get a full vacation, one where you don’t take your laptop with you. While I am happy about the results work-wise, I don’t think I can function in 2017 without taking the appropriate time off. I am starting with not working for the Christmas holidays until Jan 8th. I will travel to the states in March, but that won’t be a true vacation.

In 2017, I will plan some more time off than in 2016. Long weekends will be a start. Track days are certainly a great excuse. I will also execute on the plan of a Scandinavian vacation, and start exploring eastern Europe starting from Poland.

The future

I would like to take meditation more seriously next year. I have the intention of reading more about TM and trying to integrate it in my daily routine. A course or a retreat could also be a possibility.

I won’t work less in 2017 but I will work better. I have already started to delegate and train more people around me. The goal is to increase the quality of my work.

Also I’ll read fiction only in Italian. I can’t completely forego books in English, but I will try to limit those to non fiction.

The next point belongs to multiple sections but I will write it here: I want to go to the cinema more in 2017. I have missed too many important movies because I was either too busy or too tired to go. Berlin’s Imax+English language theater is 10 minutes by bike from my new flat. It’s no excuse.

Body
The result

I am not ready for the famous before and after photo, but it’s a serious consideration for next year’s post. Working with my body has been amazing this year. I was not without injury, as you know from my previous reports, it looks like I’ve had at least one injury or one surgery per year. I guess this is somewhat a normal effect of age. Nonetheless, if I could avoid them in 2017 it would be awesome.

Whenever I was not injured, I rigidly followed a routine that I introduced last year as “no zero days”. On each day of the year I’ve done something with my body. On some days, even just a walk. I’ve had coach Nico at Spree Crossfit tailoring personalized monthly training programs for me. I’m still at Spree Crossfit and if you’re looking for a great place to train in Berlin have no doubts: that’s it.

Due to my injury – more on that later – I’ve added a new member to “Team Matteo”. It’s Dieter, who has been my physiotherapist and has helped me overcome the injury.

The Bad

Starting from March and ending in October, I’ve had issues with my shoulder. A tendon rubbing against the shoulder cap, most probably due to the posture forced by computers in the last 33 years of my life. Yes, even using a standing desk you can get injured in front of a computer.

Since October I’m back on track with an incredibly challenging program set by Nico and I am looking forward to the results.

Last year I proclaimed that I would follow mostly a paleo diet for the whole year. I didn’t succeed. On one hand, it’s really complicated to avoid every single sugar while remaining sociable, on the other I sometimes need a bit more variety. Also Paleo did wonders for me in 2015, but in 2016 it really didn’t perform as well in terms of fat loss. I’ve also experimented with ketosis. It works, but not if I want to gain mass. So as my routine has intensified, I’ve also allowed carbs again.

The idea of having 15% body fat or lower is still on my mind, but is something that I would like to do after I’ve gained a bit more muscle mass.

The most important thing is how all of this makes me feel: great!

The Future

Copy. Paste. This is my hope for the future. I would like to continue exactly with the same routine. With no zero days. With tons of strength training and a bit of crossfit workouts. This year I was able to shift my focus from the exterior benefit (look at my bulging arms) to the pleasure of strength (those 80 Kg feel heavy, but I can manage them cause I’m strong).

And while I am still vain enough to say that I am not ready for a before & after shot, the transformation that I can feel and that you can see is already astounding.

Conclusions

It hasn’t been the best of years. The moments and memories I am most fond of are related to my work, my passions, the people I love. That’s what I will carry into 2017. I am approaching 40 years of age in just a few weeks and I have made peace with the prospect of entering this very different decade. I am glad that I can count on good health and a consistent financial base that will allow me to expand my business and also allow some extra peace of mind. I see myself in 2017 doing more of the same, with a slightly different mix. More writing, more working “on the business” rather than “in the business”. More companionship, the same body plan.

Thanks for reading this far. You, my dear, are my hero. Let’s keep in touch.

I blog most irregularly here in English and in Italian on matteoc.com. You can signup to receive the next posts via email.

  • pandemia75

    I love Your candid review Matteo. It shows many things. Among them a) You can change what You believe and You will be a better person b) it is not easy to find the right balance between work/business/money and leisure/body/mind/health but that does not mean that we can improve and try to be a better person. 40 years are a turning point, at least it was for me. I wish You a year full of good movies. Have fun!

    • Thank you so much. Your attention and support means the world to me!

  • Matteo,

    Reading your “annual report” took me right back to the mid-90’s when I was a self-employed management consultant in my late 30’s, looking for my niche, newly divorced and coming to grips with mid-life with all that entails. See the similarities?

    All I can say is enjoy this time of your life – it’s a rich time when the real you is emerging. My meditation practice saved me from the insanity of trying to do too much and the inward focus is a great discipline. And being able to speak with the authentic voice of “who I am” is the most invaluable gift for you to give your clients.

    I wish you a wonderful year – I am sure that in a few years you will look back and this time really set you up for a huge leap in your life, whatever that looks like.

    All the best, Roger.
    PS i know you don’t know who the hell I am! I signed up for your presentation list – I will sign up for this one instead.
    PPS Good luck to you and Bud at Spa and the Nurburgring!

    • @rogermutimer:disqus I am deeply thankful for your reflection. When I write my review I don’t have the desire to get such an open hearted and insightful feedback like yours: your comment is a gem and I am treasuring it.

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