In 2014 I wrote a transparent and honest review of my year for everyone to read. I always wanted it to become a tradition. So here I am with the 2015 review.
The yearly review is something I publish here on my blog. But my aim is not to count the page-views and twitter retweets. I rather enjoy the accountability of having even one single person read these words. Every one that reads them make my commitment more solid and becomes my little helper, my partner and accomplice of all the goals I set here.
This is a 3.000 words monster. So you really must love me or my style of writing to read it till the end. But it’s full of lessons on
– how to manage a consulting business;
– how to manage your finances;
– how to try to be happy every day;
– how to be productive but not a slave to a to do list;
– how to sleep consistently better and much more.
Like last year the review is divided into sections. In the Business section I will predictably talk about work, in the Finance I will focus on money, in the Personal section I will try to see what emotions and feelings have been predominant over the year. Finally I divert my attention to the brain in my Mind section, where I tap into the rational part of my persona and finally I dive into my Body to tell you how it felt, how it changed during this past year.
Let’s dive into the review.
Chapter One: Business
This year was truly exceptional in terms of business results. My plan was to increase 50% over the previous year (2013 to 2014 I almost did 100% growth already). The billings are not yet all accounted for but the result this year is staggering: I’ve made +110% in gross revenue doubling the goal.
I did this going from 5 clients to 4 so I definitely increased the amount of overall billings per client while retaining 3 clients from last year and adding a brand new one. I’ve never sold so many consulting hours like this year and never had happier returning clients.
One very big impact has been helping Netflix as an external marketing strategist for Italy. This has been not only an opportunity to grow my business, but also to learn the ways of one of the smartest marketing teams on the planet and adapt their strategies for the country I know best.
Last year my plan was to diversify my income. I didn’t want to just count more billable hours, I wanted to have some product based income. I launched Presentation Hero in January as a downloadable product and it made up only 1,5% of my revenue for the year. All together my offering under the name “Presentation Hero”, between the course and some presentation consulting, counted for only 4,1% of my revenue.
This is a clear signal for me that the market is way more interested in my entertainment marketing expertise rather than my excellent presentation skills. So in 2016 I should focus more on this sector. I will not decide today, but it’s possible that my next online endeavours will focus on that, and not on presentations.
Moreover over the course of this year I have realised how hard it is to sell digital products online through advertising, email marketing and content marketing. It’s really, really hard.
I still believe that I should balance my income so that it doesn’t lean 96% towards consulting. To do so I have established some strong partnerships and will start in 2016 to run webinars as the only marketing channel for my online course offering.
In terms of consulting revenue I would like to stay exactly on course next year. So my goal would be a 10% increase of overall billings including a decrease in consulting and in increase in product sales. After two monster years I still want to be optimistic, but don’t want to aim too high.
Chapter Two: Financial
If you recall last years report I was still playing with the theory of both how to save and how to handle savings to make them grow.
I’m happy to report that in 2015 I have a fully implemented my plan.
First: I have a spreadsheet that, based on the amount of money that’s in my accounts, tells me every month how much I should set aside, how much I should put in a savings account, how much goes for a longer terms investment. I’ve set the rules and the computer tells me each month how I should act. The only manual effort is to to move the money around between the accounts.
Second: I implemented a permanent portfolio that loosely follows Bogle’s advice of slicing your investment pie in 4 parts. One slice is cash, one slice is gold, one slice is made of bonds and one final slice is invested in stocks.
The Bogle philosophy says that your investment should not beat the market, but rather follow the market. All investments are long terms (e.g. you plan to keep your assets for more than 10 years), portfolios should be rebalanced so that this asset allocation is kept constant (so if the stock market grows a lot you should sell so it goes back to an even slice), you should always choose the assets that have less costs (in the current market scenario these are ETF funds).
I implemented such a portfolio but added a fifth slice for peer-2-peer lending. One sad note: it took me forever to understand the tax laws here in Germany and the taxation of asset classes and capital gains. If there was a service here in Germany that would relieve me from that pain I would be happy to pay them a small fee.
It was not a good year to start investing as most of the financial indicators went down. So I start my investor career with losses. By my estimates I’ve lost all together around 2% of the invested money, which is not to be judged too harshly compared to the general climate.
I’ve become more sophisticated in my investing and I am researching more and more assets with a clearer view now. Of all the investments I’m particularly happy about the results of the money that I’ve invested in the peer-2-peer lending platform AuxMoney.
2 years into financial research and 1 year into implementing a financial strategy and I am still a rookie and a candidate for doing all sorts of mistakes. Probably the biggest mistake that I’ve done this year is to follow too closely the permanent portfolio advice to invest 1/4 of the portfolio in gold. Now gold is an asset that I don’t understand, I don’t understand how it fluctuates and it was probably not a good idea all along to pick up an asset class that I know nothing about.
I’ve decided to re-balance my portfolio yearly. This puts less pressure on immediate results and fosters long term thinking. In 2016 I will invest some more of my savings – but also plan to keep in place all the investments previously made. Let you know in 12 months how it goes.
Chapter Three: Personal
I’ve had a good amount of personal stability this year, although not everything was perfect.
I have struggled with sleep for the first months of the year, but I have also understood the cause and found some countermeasures.
One thing that was impacting my overall sleep is surely working 7 days a week. And it wasn’t impacting only that. After June I’ve become more disciplined and tried to work weekends less and less. For instance I haven’t worked in the last 4 weekends: a big luxury.
I’ve also understood that I need to enforce my time without devices before bed and early in the morning. Because these devices heavily impact the sleep quality and patterns. I know, I need, I should, but I still don’t… yet.
I’ve spent too much time on airplanes in 2015 and I’ve hated every minute of it. And I’ve obsessed about them quite a lot. This year Easyjet cancelled my “bus” between Rome and Berlin and led me to using the horrible AirBerlin. Plus having a partner a world away (10.000km) has led me to flatten my ass on too many cheap seats.
Speaking of partner… I went through a breakup and I am single again (and looking!). I invested a lot in a relationship and I learned a lot about myself and my partner. It’s over now and it’s for the best. Time to move on… Next?
My last relationship has made me realise that I function well when in a couple. I prefer one partner to multiple ones. I prefer the same date every night to something new and thrilling every day. I prefer waking up with the same person than waking up alone or in a different bed every night.
So I am on the hunt. Beware!
In 2016 I would like to enforce the “no device 1 hour before sleep at night and absolutely no device and no internet for 1 hour after waking up” rule. I am guessing I will not be motivated enough though, but if you join me you will make it easier. Will you help me reach this goal? Will you do that as well and be my accountability partner?
Chapter Four: Mind
During the last year I have progressively read fewer and fewer news articles, blog posts and online guides and devoted more time to longer form books and audio books. I’ve also re-introduced fiction in my diet and have mostly read at least one fiction book for every 3 non fiction books.
I’ve started listening to the collected lectures of Joseph Campbell on Spotify. This is a free collection of lectures on the themes of mythology, religion and they span from the prehistoric man to the moon landing. They are just awesome! Take this away from my 2015 review: if you understand English, you must listen to those lectures. They are gold!
During the year I’ve also produced more writing. I’ve had almost every week a tight schedule, posted quite regularly to my blog and produced more material in a more planned and scheduled way. Having a weekly plan done in advance has done wonders in this sense.
In 2015 I have been as organised as possible. I’ve started again with writing emails to my future self: I will send myself an email 3 to 4 months in the future to check on short term emotional states and life goals.
I’ve stuck with my GTD routine and during the last few months I’ve also made myself less of a slave to my to do list.
This has been accomplished by checking the to do list only once a day and actually writing each day on a piece of paper the goals that I wish to reach by night and crossing them over with a colored marker progressively throughout the day. This gives me a clear idea of where the day is headed, and the amount of color on the notes provides me with a great visual feedback on what I’ve accomplished. Viva the analogue media!
My mind is also feeling great because of a body thing, but this is for another chapter.
I didn’t do as much open ended, relaxed and aimless research during this year. I haven’t fed my brain with enough new stuff that does not relate to anything, that is not connected to any specific goal and task. This year I’ve also totally given up on the idea of meditating.
I haven’t been constant in my language learning and I’ve finally realised that, at 38 years old, my language learning has to be organic, has to happen in conversation or by reading and writing. The time to sit down and study language for me has passed.
I clearly said it already: I would like to have some more time and space for pure research. May it be reading non fiction that is totally off topic with my field, reading random magazines and blog posts or just aimlessly browsing the web, I would like to spend some more time feeding my brain with randomness.
I also want to keep the same routine and schedule of 2015 for GTD, for writing and certainly for reading.
Chapter Five: Body
2015 was the year that I stepped up my body game. Even though I had a small injury in January I was able to mostly follow some kind of fitness routine for the whole year.
An important thing happened this last April. I was at the gym and I was doing my routine between the “machines” and some kettle-bell training that I learned through youtube videos. I started looking at the bodies of the people that were doing the same thing that I did and I realised I did not like them. They were mostly not in shape, some too thin, some too fat. I am also a runner and one thing I always noticed is that I don’t like the body of runners, too thin and nervous.
All the nicer bodies that I had around me at that time were coming from athletic activities or from a different gym: one where crossfit was practiced. Long story short I started crossfit in April and I couldn’t be happier about this decision. Not having any machines (apart from a rower) has put me in the critical position to have to grow my core strength. Having expert trainers that are also athletes helps me in not becoming a fitness expert: I just need to ask for their advice and the occasional personal training session and I have all the info I need on routines, nutrition, correct positions, etc.
I’m happy to offer this space to endorse Nico Peschke and Spree Crossfit as a place where even the differently muscled (I’m still pretty tiny compared to most of the girls in attendance at the mythical Workout Of the Day) I’ve found a training home.
As far as diet goes I’ve tried lots in the year and my final choice goes for Paleo with intermittent fasting and with dairy included. I find it easier to stick to strict paleo for longer periods of time than any other eating plan.
Having noticed that I feel much better on the days I do a workout and that working out in the morning gives me a better energy boost for the whole day, I’ve got now a routine where I go either to the gym or on a long-ish walk every morning before working. Doing something physical every day (No zero days, that’s the principle) is probably the best mood leveler, happiness inducer and efficiency booster that I’ve found in my life. Try it!
I’ve grown around 10 Kg since April on a controlled “gaining” diet and I’m quite happy of the gained mass. I’ve also got my first reliable measurement of my body fat at 21% (last November) and my aim is to go down to 15% by my birthday in February. More on that in a bit.
I will write it here so I can stick to it and, more importantly, you can help me stick to it. I will tell everybody that I am on a low carb diet and stick to it for the whole of 2016. I will have one cheat day a week: Saturday. Every Saturday will be an epic feast of pasta, chocolate cookies and assorted cheesecakes.
I will cheat on Christmas, New Years Eve, Easter and cut myself a little more slack during the summer while I’m in Italy to eat some beloved pasta. The rest of the time I will stick to eating mostly stake and veggies.
Other than that I wish that the future looks a bit like the past:
– no zero days: always something physical every morning no matter the mood or the weather.
– a year of paleo: I would like to keep in check my carbs and the way to go seems eating a protein rich meat diet with a ton of veggies and good fats.
The goal is very vain. I would like to get to see a six pack when I look at my belly. And keep it there with little effort. Will you be an accomplice and help me reach this goal as well?
It’s great to be able to re-read last years review and see how far I have come on the objectives that I’ve set for myself.
This year I reached and surpassed my business goals: I know how to work my ass off plus I have an healthy dose of luck that supports me. I’ve got a financial plan: this is one of the biggest innovations in my life and I feel like I need to spread the word to everyone I love that they need a financial plan too. From the personal emotional perspective it hasn’t been the best of years. But I feel that my rational mind has been well nourished and my body has blossomed.
If you’re reading this is because you care. Will you prove it to me during 2016 and be an ally that helps me reach my goals? If so let me know in the comments.
Also, if there is one piece of writing that I want to read from you this year is your review. Send it over to me. You can find me here and on twitter I’m @matteoc.