Today’s post is a little more intimate than my normal stuff…..less fart jokes and more serious talk.
At year’s end I enjoy reflecting back on my accomplishments, my failures and the lessons I’ve learned. It’s one of two times that I enjoy looking back. The other is on my birthday in February.
There’s a difference, however.
In February I’m far more morose. I think it’s a combination of the weather and the fact that I’m learning I’m not going to live forever. It never ceases to amaze me how I’m shocked every year that some day I might die. Every birthday means another year of opportunity lost. It’s pretty depressing.
During the holiday season, though, I somehow can do this same exercise and be totally happy about it. Weird, huh? Maybe it’s the promise of a new year around the corner. Maybe it’s the fact that pretty lights put me in a better mood. New Years is one of my favorite holidays, though I often am a little moody on January 1st. I’m sure this has zippo to do with alcohol or staying up until 3 am. Zero.
2013 was the year of follow through.
While I didn’t experience many firsts, I moved forward on several lifetime goals. I like this feeling. I like closing loops. It’s fun to see that I’m finishing things instead of just opening new opportunities.
When I was younger I would start a ton of new stuff but I wouldn’t finish any of them. Now I always worry that I won’t finish a task, or that I have too many things going on at the same time. It’s interesting to see this difference in myself. I like it.
2013 was the year that I realized that I’ll probably never catch up again as a writer. Sure, I enjoy the process of writing, but in college, I was a master. Now, I can get the job done reliably well, but nobody comments on my writing now like they did at that time. Maybe it’s because I’m good enough that my writing is utilitarian. It gets the job done. I know that my writing style isn’t flashy, so it doesn’t draw attention to itself. I actually learned this in college, too. Sometimes my English major comes in handy. But, without significant practice, I won’t be the next F. Scott Fitzgerald. That’s a bummer.
In 2014 I’ll continue to hone my writing, but I’ll know that it isn’t the only way that I’ll make money. In 2011, when I started blogging, and in 2012 when I dedicated more time to it, I’d get frustrated when I’d read some other blogs and see that they clearly had a gift that I didn’t have….prose that just popped off the page. Now I still find myself working too hard at it. I’ll keep working in 2014 on being a better writer, but that’ll be a side-project instead of the main focus. I’m smart enough to know when to hang it up.
Wow. 2013 was THE YEAR for me to figure out that podcasting is probably the backbone of Stacking Benjamins. Early in the year I’d be happy if 120 people downloaded our show on the first day. Now, over 650 people download the show on day one, and we set a new record nearly every month. Our podcasts have a really long tail, also, which amazes me. Every day a new person goes back to the first episode we ever did and downloads it….then begins working through our back catalog.
Podcasting is a double-edged sword. I’ve found it to be great for social proof. Stacking Benjamins is “on the map” with a bigger set of people than ever before, and I sense that it has a good reputation as a quality product. I hope it is, because we put a TON of time into getting the show right. Some people might think that “getting it right” would look different than our podcast. However, I’m incredibly happy with the tone of the show. If you want serious financial talk, you should look elsewhere. Our podcast is meant to be a more relaxed series of discussion, presented in an ADD format….
The downside of podcasting is that it’s hard to give people a call to action. They’re in their car, or jogging, or working on something else while they listen. Few people remember to go click that link. So, I’ve realized that podcasting is a great way to get the word about Stacking Benjamins, but it probably can’t be the only product.
I can’t have a post like this without saying how happy I am to also be surrounded by a fantastic team on the podcast. I feel lucky that voices as strong as Len Penzo, Paula Pant, Greg McFarlane and PK join us every week. It’s an honor to work with these people, as well as some amazing guests who joined us throughout the year. I’m especially grateful for Sandy Smith, Barbara Friedberg, and Philip Taylor who all made multiple appearances. I also have two great critics of the show that I talk to every week. These guys just rip the podcast to shreds, and it’s because of them that we improve nearly every week. Doug and Tony (Doug you hear on the show….Tony has yet to make an appearance) are the best critics a guy could want. They’re on my team but aren’t afraid to tell me when something stinks.
I’d love to thank everyone, but when you’ve decided to build a community-based show, I’d be here all day. Thanks to all of you who listen to or appeared on our podcast.
This was a year of transition. My kids went away to college, which made me far more emotional than I expected. As I write this, my son is home for the holidays and I can’t begin to express just how happy that makes me. I’m even happier knowing that in two days I’ll head to Fayetteville to pick up my daughter and we’ll all be together for a month. Parents of young kids: hold them tight.
This had an unexpected benefit. My relationship with my spouse, which has always been strong, became even stronger. A short story: when we were contemplating having children, Cheryl won me over by telling me how we’d still be young when they were in adulthood and we could enjoy each other as friends. However, my point had been that I really enjoyed spending time with her and that was going to get sacrificed in the process. It’s true: we did spend less time together.
But now things have changed. I make us dinner nearly every night. We get to spend lots of time together, and that’s been fantastic. I’ve enjoyed spending more time with Cheryl.
This was the year that I continued “The Streak.” In two days I will have run 450 days in a row. As I mentioned earlier, the streak isn’t difficult to maintain. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass when you realize at 10:30 pm on a cold night that you STILL haven’t run, but all-in-all it’s a fun little diversion….figuring out when I’m going to run every day.
I ran two marathons. The first I ran with my sister in Washington D.C. to help her celebrate her good health. The second was an attempt to run my fastest time ever, in College Station, Texas. I beat it by twelve minutes!
2014 will be the year of many more marathons (probably three). I really enjoy running them, though running for a fast time is difficult and leaves me tired on many days.
My biggest concern is making sure my kids get through college without interrupting our retirement savings. Luckily, in 2013 we were able to maximum fund our retirement account while also ensuring that this year our kids won’t have an trouble completing their studies. While theoretically there’s enough money for college, I always worry about future years….I know exactly how the rest of their freshman year and their sophomore years will be funded. I have trouble looking past that because at this point I’ll have to sell some of their college funds and I don’t know which I’d sell first.
Part of successful money management is to be comfortable with the fact that opportunities are going to come to you. Stick to your plan, but also be fluid enough to make changes as new ideas present themselves.
This year I’m all about building out my business plan. If 2013 was about closing loops and continuing on a path, 2014 is going to be about now building on this infrastructure. Here’s a look into my future:
– I’m finishing a book. I think it’s pretty funny. I’m going to have my first draft done by the end of March.
– We’re working on multimedia. The Stacking Benjamins brand will move into video and webinars in 2014.
– I’m growing my social media attack. Instead of being a brand about “the blog,” my goal is to interact wherever my readers are at currently. I’m working on better relationships on Facebook, Twitter, and in 2014….Pintrest, which I think will be a ton of fun.
That’s my 2013 look back. What’s yours? Give me the highlights in the comments below.