This article is an exercise in openness. It’s not (merely) a way for me to show off what I achieved in 02019. And you’re not supposed to read about my (mis)fortunes with a voyeuristic eye. This is an honest and public review; it’s unfiltered (and thus wouldn’t fit in an Instagram “best 9” post) and raw (as in, hard to stomach). And as a reader, your role is to help me stay accountable. You have kept me accountable for five years already: 02014, 02015, 02016, 02017, 02018. I am deeply grateful for that.
This review is divided into five sections and one bonus at the end. We’ll start with Business, dive into numbers with Finance, get intimate with Personal, enter my brain in Mind, touch my internals in Body, and then see my impact on the world in the Planet section.
Want to join the ride? Jump in!
Very Bad Numbers
If I had to judge 02019 by the numbers, I would label it a disaster. -65% compared to the previous year, and that after two years of contraction. That resulted in a revenue comparable to 2011, my first year of freelancing.
In the first nine months of the year, I took the liberty of running experiments. I wanted to understand if I could switch from consulting to selling products.
As with most experiments, these did not lead to the results I expected and did not generate any revenue.
The last three months of the year are responsible for most of the revenue. I will go into the details of all this in the next chapters.
Automotive Clients: I started the year exploring the possibility of making my skills available to the automotive sector. As you know, cars are a passion of mine, so why not make them a part of my business? After some very insightful conversations and some calculations on the back of napkins, I realized that in order to become more credible in the sector, I would need to start a small venture, and I didn’t wish to finance yet another project. So for now, cars remain just a passion.
Integral Desk: I built my ideal desk. It’s a beautiful case study of what can happen when my passion for productivity meets product design and woodworking skills. In the beginning, I thought it could also transform into a product, and I invested time and money to start promoting it.
Unfortunately, the more I pushed on the product side, the more it became apparent that the desk is mostly a “material” expression of a consulting approach. An object whose role is to exemplify my way of thinking, but hardly a furniture product.
At the end of July, after a very insightful meeting in Milan, I pulled the plug on the project.
Brick-and-mortar Business: One lingering idea that often features in these reviews of my year is to invest in a brick-and-mortar business. This year I spent some time looking into the opportunity of investing in a gym in Berlin.
I concluded that the margins are way too small to consider it a purely financial investment and that the time commitment it would require would exceed the possible returns. In other words, I decided against it.
Revenue sharing is something I tested in the past few years, but I will give it a break in 02020. I find it hard to deal with the amount of uncertainty that my type of revenue share deal has brought.
Specifically, my revenue share deals involved three parties. And usually, it’s the third party that is less accountable and less punctual in paying up. In the future, I will make sure that any revenue share deal is influenced by fewer parties/factors.
No More Agency. Sorry
One thing that became clear in the tail end of ’17 and in ’18 is that most of my clients wanted the combination of agency work (done for you) and consulting work (thought out for you).
However, none of the clients I worked for in ’18 wanted to repeat business.
When I provide agency services, I need to partner with agencies. This means splitting my revenue. Even though I partnered with the best, and I am very thankful to Made in Com, it increased the complexity of my work. So I was working more and earning less. On top of that, my clients didn’t want to repeat business. To me, that’s a sign that they are not happy.
So more work, less money, unhappy clients. That’s why I won’t be offering agency work in the future. Just consulting and coaching. In what areas? You can find the answer below.
The “Me” Mindmap
After making the decision to stop doing agency work and after exploring various brilliant ideas and projects, I needed to start again. The spark to begin again came from an exercise.
I mapped everything I am “good at” in a mindmap. You can find it below.
Based on this mindmap, I decided to invest my time in the direction of Marketing Consulting and Presentation/Storytelling Coaching.
The mindmap leaves plenty more branches to explore, but I feel confident that I can reach my goals following these two lines.
To best clarify these changes, I’ve updated my website. You’re using it now, so please let me know what you think.
On the homepage, I greet you quite personally:
“Hi, my name is Matteo Cassese, and I’m a digital marketing consultant and entrepreneur.”
I go on by highlighting my main strengths in the form of three pillars: Digital Pioneer, Storyteller, and Innovator.
Presentation Hero Is Back… With a Vengeance
My renewed focus on storytelling and presentations means that my good friend Presentation Hero is back.
It has been my focus since October and is already giving business results. 12.8% of last year’s revenue comes from PH after just three months of focus.
You can read the whole Presentation Hero story in this post I will need to update it with the evolution of the project.
In short: The online course stays in the background, as I am bringing Presentation Hero to companies in the form of live classes, workshops, and coaching. Learn more about this offer on my brand new landing page.
The website grew really well in 02019. The absolute number of visitors increased, but so did the time spent. I also managed to achieve a decrease in bounce rate.
Organic traffic grew 56.5% in 02019. For reference, in 02018, traffic grew with 197.1% compared to 2017.
The general trend, looking at the last three months only, seems to indicate a small uptick from 02018: only 5.6% more organic traffic was captured in the period of October-December 02019 vs the same three months of the previous year.
SEO needs to be an important focus in the first months on 02020, especially making sure that the new site is given a boost in terms of time spent and enjoyment of the pages.
In terms of business, this was our best year so far. 13.8% of my revenue came from this site. There was a large number of returning customers (two thirds of the clients) and a stellar growth: 197%!
The bar for Educazione Globale in 02020 is high.
How Did the 02018 Goals Stack Up?
In 02018, I set some goals. Let’s see how that worked out.
Goal 1: to have a strong acquisition plan. I have been working on it since September. This goal will be achieved in 02020.
Goal 2: to continue with revenue sharing. This didn’t happen.
Goal 3: to relaunch OUT as YOU. This is still on hold.
Goal 4: to work more with my Dream Team. This happened, but it didn’t lead to any dramatic changes. We will continue in the same manner in the 02020.
I need more business in order to achieve a strong long-term sustainability. I have all the cash reserves that I need, but I don’t wish to use them in 02020 like I did in 02019.
Keep Up the Trend
In the last quarter of the year, I was able to generate 95% of that year’s revenue. In that period, I focused on providing entertainment consulting services combined with presentation and storytelling coaching.
This is what I would like to develop further in 02020.
Open Up and Grow
I would like to increase the number of clients I have for traditional teaching, entertainment marketing consulting, and coaching in Berlin and around.
This means that I will focus less on Italy for the first time in eight years. I will look for customers around Berlin.
I am already enjoying a couple of new relationships that fit this method: in recent months, a prestigious Berlin startup and a small new venture in Prague have chosen me and Presentation Hero. Now it’s time to invite more companies to do the same.
Going to Conferences
I will make a plan to be present at more conferences and more networking events in 02020.
My new landing page for Presentation Hero is waiting to get promoted and to bring new customers.
I Enjoy Helping People Communicate Better
Working on Presentation Hero reminded me that helping people communicate better brings me joy.
That is why I want to make the most of my revenue just from that; finding ways to impart lessons from storytelling, presentations, and public speaking in every customer engagement. It is the perfect way to provide real results in a unique way.
Goal: Go Back to 2016 Without Depending on a Single Client
+750% would be the ideal result. However, as I am still in a transition, I must work on a more realistic number. This would be a 400% increase from last year (which would bring me back to the level of 2017).
See you in 12 months to check on that number!
After many years spent trying to understand how best to manage my finances, I finally enjoy some solidity.
Even though I had to use some of my reserves to finance the past year, I’ve never felt stronger about my portfolio structure. This combines conservative investments such as a permanent portfolio and peer-to-peer lending, with a growth component given by two growth portfolios: one managed manually, another in the hand of a robo-advisor.
Stock Market Growth
Strong stock market growth ensured excellent results in 02019. These are the numbers.
Permanent Portfolio + 12.05%
Growth Portfolio + 29.70%
Whitebox + 23.71%
AuxMoney + 6.26%
(links may be affiliated)
Sold a Car, Bought Two
As far as cars are concerned, I didn’t make the most sound financial decisions this year.
I traded in a perfectly good 02018 car for an almost identical model. Plus, I bought a modern classic with way too much power.
My Third MX-5
I bought my third MX-5 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the debut of the small Japanese roadster. When I acquired my 02018, I customized it to my liking, specifically by wrapping it in orange. When Mazda announced the color of the limited edition would be the same orange I had chosen… I had to put in an order for one.
I got a better version of what I’d built myself, certified by Mazda.
The switch didn’t make sense financially. I lost 7,000 euros on 1.5 years of ownership and 23,000 km. That corresponds to renting the car for 389 euros a month.
Financial Impact of a Modern Classic
I got myself a piece of Germany. It comes in the form of a 2+2 with an iconic shape. It places five dials in front of you, a magic stick with six gears next to you, leather all around, six cylinders behind you, and it sings to 7,000 rpm giving nearly 400 horsepower.
It’s the kind of object where passion kills any financial skills.
That said, I decided to acquire the car through a loan. This loan at a 2.5% rate is covered by investments that in the same year made an average of 18% a year. I feel like it was a sound financial decision to keep my money invested while getting the opportunity to drive one of the most advanced and fun to drive cars in the world.
Didn’t Buy Land, didn’t build a house
I started the year looking for a house. I narrowed it down to the eastern shore of Lago Maggiore. There was nothing on the market that would really make my vision come to life, so by the summer, I had stopped looking.
The current business outlook and my reliance on Berlin-based clients could really turn around my plan and see me trying to apply the same idea to Berlin and the surrounding areas.
Stay the Course, Feed the Portfolios
I don’t want to make any changes to my financial plan this year. I just wish to contribute some of my income to the portfolios in order to bring them back at the exact same balance before my personal “three-year crisis”.
Where to Live
Where I want to live is a question that may get an answer during 02020. For now, my focus is on work, so if something moves, it will be after the spring.
No New Cars in 02020
I will not allow myself to even think about acquiring more automobiles in the coming year. I will just drive the wheels off of what I already own.
Sorry, Not Buying New Anymore
I had a terrible experience with dealerships, both at Mazda Meklenborg (for sales) and Porsche Zentrum Berlin (for assistance). From now on, I won’t buy new anymore. And I won’t use any “name brand” dealer network unless needed. It adds zero advantage over a specialized independent expert.
I might tell this story in more detail during the year and it may have given me a business idea or two. Will keep you posted.
As a year of research for business and for meaning, I can’t label 02019 as bad. But I have to admit that it has been a struggle. A creative, positive struggle, yet a rather complicated time.
Imagining new businesses that didn’t fly, a new home that I didn’t find, and the start of a relationship that came to an end almost immediately put a lot of stress on me.
At the same time, those occurrences showed me how essential the creative capability is to my well-being. I am happy to have exercised this creative muscle, and I know what kind of lactic acid it can produce.
Romance and Dating in 02019
As I mentioned, I had an important romantic encounter in 02019 that had me invest a lot in a very short period of time. Unfortunately, while the timing was right for me, it wasn’t for the other guy. My emotional investment meant that I went through a fair share of heartbreak over the summer.
Dating finally felt more enjoyable since I started taking it less seriously. I also reclaimed my time by deleting Tinder.
A Lot More Happy Kilometers
This is the tally: 02018 MX-5 9,272 km, 02019 MX-5 2,517 km, Porsche 12,182 km for a grand total of 23,971 happy kilometers in 02019. I hope I can do even more in 02020.
I managed to go to Spa – which was one of the highlights of my season – but didn’t manage to go to Groß Dölln or the Ring. I want to make plans for these two tracks in the first weeks of the new year.
I did not travel outside of Europe and didn’t go to Asia as I had wanted to do. I took a few planes for work and my car(s) for pleasure.
The Year of the New Home?
Will this be the year in which I clear my head on where I want to live? You’ll only find out next year, sorry!
I want to keep learning more about driving by exploring the limits of the Mazda MX-5 on track and understanding better the handling character of the 911.
I’ll keep dating (lightheartedly) and hope for the best. I feel like that is the wisest course of action.
This year, I’m planning two major road trips.
Road trip 1 will certainly take me to Puglia between the end of June and the beginning of July.
Road trip 2 will happen in mid September and, ideally, should lead me to Spain.
Throughout August, I will work in Berlin. I might make a quick visit to the US, especially if I find the right conference.
Asia and Australia are on my mind, but maybe 02020 is not the right year.
My First Meditation Retreat
I made it. I went on my first two-day residential meditation retreat, and it left me wanting for more.
Third Therapy Period Coming to an End
My third therapy period will end during this year. I feel that I just now got the hang of it, and I have mixed feelings about not having this support tool going forward.
Daily Meditation Discipline
During the year, I managed to meditate daily. During the first few months, I was also able to integrate a second daily meditation session, especially on workdays. But towards the summer and the end of the year, this second meditation session became increasingly impossible. Also on weekends, I was rarely able to maintain the discipline of meditating.
In 02019, I did more long-form reading, I watched more YouTube, and listened to a lot of podcasts. I watched several movies and consumed fewer TV shows.
My Highlights of the Year
Letting Go: a delectable book on a simple concept that everyone should learn to apply Parasite: definitely the movie of the year, if not of the decade.
Billions: my guilty pleasure.
Long Now podcasts: I’m a proud supporter of Long Now and enjoy every speaker at their events.
Spike’s Car Radio: my favorite car guys.
This year I also finished watching the complete Seinfeld. You can quiz me in the comments.
I wrote seven articles in 02019. That’s one more than my original goal. In 02020, I hope to write and publish eight articles.
Writing a book/ebook is always in the back of my mind. And the relaunch of PH makes it feel a bit more urgent. While I’m not sure I will get to this in 02020, it’s good to have it on the horizon.
I sent 7 “monthly” newsletters in 02019. My objective is 9.
GTD Keeps Me Sane
I’ve just finished re-reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. That’s probably the fourth or fifth time I have read this book. I can’t seem to stop getting benefits from my own personal implementation of his method.
Here’s a collage of one year of daily task lists.
Every week, I did my “weekly review”. Quarterly, I dealt with the long-term goals and set objectives for the following months. GTD has indeed kept me sane in the last years.
Screentime: I have no idea how I’m faring with regards to the usage of devices because Apple doesn’t publish yearly stats. Shame, shame, shame on you, Tim Cook.
My only smartphone vacation happened during the two-day meditation retreat I attended. I can do better.
A Good Balance
It seems like I’ve reached a good balance, a conscious media diet, and a certain ability to de-glue from my devices.
More Consistent Daily Meditation
In 02020, I wish to enjoy a more consistent meditation practice of 20 minutes twice a day.
GTD Keeps Me Sane
Getting Things Done is one of the keys to my well-being. I wish to double down on being true to GTD this year.
Since I started meditating, I’ve had a different relationship with anger, with polarizing thoughts, with ideas that seem to colonize my whole mind.
During 02019, I had a lot of negative polarizing thoughts. My mind played a lot with the idea of fighting in anger. I don’t want to carry that with me in the new year.
At the same time, I’ve also had the pleasure of being enthralled by creative thoughts, imagining new things and new situations. I want more of that in the new year.
If I was destined to be a monk, I would suggest that I let go of all sorts of polarizing thoughts and ideas because they disturb the very nature of “just being”. Since I decided to live my life as a creator, I can’t yet dispense of any and all creative thought. Maybe this will be a task for another period of my life.
I feel stronger today, at the end of 02019, than I did at the end of 02018. From September until the Christmas break, I was able to consistently increase the loads each week.
My missing link is now the nutrition. To “feed the gains” would mean to increase my daily intake by 300-500 calories, and I’m still struggling to achieve this change.
This is what happened over the course of the year.
Nine Days of Fasting
I fasted for nine days and hated it. Here’s my protocol. I would not do a nine-day fast again, rather a Fast-Mimicking Diet for a long weekend.
No Intermittent Fasting
I can’t seem to reconcile intermittent fasting (which I love) with the need to increase my normal intake by 300-500 calories. For some reason, it doesn’t compute.
Some More Cardio
I was running throughout the summer, but as the lifting routine became more intense, I dropped this part of the training.
Just like in 02018.
Two Common Colds and One Viral Sore Throat
No tonsillitis, though 🙂
Didn’t See My Abs
My body fat is going more in the direction of 17% than it is going in the direction of 13%. But since I am getting stronger, I won’t mind this for the moment.
My body plan for 02020 is to not change much. I will track my nutrition in order to get the required balance in calories that could lead to more muscle growth and continue following the challenging plan of increasing weights weekly following the progression of Starting Strength.
I will get a dedicated sleep tracker because I would like to take the guesswork out of my sleep routine.
My CO2 in 02019
This is a new section I’m introducing, so this year it’s in beta. Starting from 02020, I will calculate more precisely the impact I have on the planet.
For 02019, I used an estimation tool from the German ministry of the environment. It says that I’ve produced around 22 tons of CO2.
Some interesting contributors are: 3.15 tons of CO2 for heating (renting a flat in a building means I have little control over this); 6.54 tons of CO2 from driving my cars (I had expected this to have a bigger impact); 4.08 tons of CO2 from flights (I should be able to reduce this in the new year).
My Offset for 02019
My offset for 02019 is twice as much as the CO2 I produced using the official UN offset platform .
The contributor project is an active wind farm in China.
My Carbon Outlook
During 02020, I would like to find easier ways to precisely calculate my emissions. I would also like to get better at tracking emissions connected to daily activities (like buying groceries). Cars contribute less than I thought (6.54 tons = 29% of my emissions) and will not go away very soon. This is why they will continue to be offset.
My Business went through a big crisis in 02019, but I expressed my creativity like never before and I have a plan going forward. My Financial strategy benefited from the growth of the markets. My Personal life has been full of ups and downs, and I wish for a simpler and more steady 02020. My Mind has enjoyed a good media diet, meditation, and GTD, but I can be more constant with meditating and my screen time can still go down. My Body is giving me great results, and I want to stay the course in 02020. The Planet has been impacted by my 22 tons of CO2, so I will offset 44 tons and be more mindful about reducing emissions in the new year.
Thank you so much for reading this far. This automatically means you’re an accountability buddy that will help me reach my goals and stay true to the principles of openness for another 12 months. I am very grateful to you, reader, because you make me a better person. With love, Matteo
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