2016 Annual Review: a Year of Learning!

2016 has been a damn hard year. Everyone I know is worn out and literally ready to give this year the middle finger.

Don't get me wrong, some good happened this year: the Cubs finally won the World Series. So there's that. 

But for a lot of people, this year was packed with challenges. And I think it's important to acknowledge challenges without being labeled as pessimistic.

After all, the good thing about tough years is that they give you character and teach you lessons. This year was no exception. Here's my annual review for 2016.

What Didn't Go Well in 2016

(Normally I start with the positive. But for the good stuff to make sense, I have to start with the not-so good this time. Here goes.)

  1. Both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer - Yep, this was the big event that set the tone for my entire year. My mom was diagnosed at the end of 2015, then earlier this year my dad was diagnosed. I'll share more about what got us through at the end of this post.
  2. I wasn't consistent with writing or social media - No excuses. I own it.  
  3. I spread myself too thin - Between consulting clients, podcasting, creating content and products for Zen Courses (and learning how to DJ), I ended up doing too much.
  4. I stopped taking care of my health for a period - Looking back, I think the stress of #1 got to me and I buried myself in work. I didn't exercise regularly. I stopped eating well. Not only did I gain weight, I also became anemic. Know what's scary? Sleeping for two days and still being exhausted with no clue why.
  5. I doubted myself often - All entrepreneurs deal with self-doubt, right? I certainly got an extra dose this year. There were so many times when I'd create a strategy, then question it and feel uncertain. Doing that too many times can lead to inaction unless you push through.
  6. I took too long to launch my course - If you have an online business, launch products early. 'Nuff said. I spent a lot of time consulting and not enough time working on my own ideas.

What Did Go Well in 2016

Now that we got the sucky stuff out of the way, it's time to celebrate the highs. There was a lot of good to be had this year!

  1. Both of my parents are now cancer-free - My mom is still going through mild chemo as a precaution.
  2. I worked with some amazing clients - From solo entrepreneurs to entrepreneurial-minded companies, I had some great clients this year. I'm extremely grateful to have partnered with them.
  3. I learned a lot about DIY video and audio - Earlier this year I ran a failed "7 Days of Video" challenge. It was brutal. I didn't know anything about video when I started. Now I have enough hacks up my sleeve to share. It's safe to say I'm a little obsessed.
  4. I ran 7 joint webinars in 6 weeks! - It was madness. I had no idea what I was doing. And I loved every minute of it. 
  5. I realized that I don't have to write - Can I be honest? Even though I consider myself a writer, I've never liked writing blog posts. Go figure. Well, at the end of this year I stopped feeling bad about it. Instead, I decided to focus on what I enjoy doing. For me that's video and podcasting.
  6. I launched my first two products - My online course pricing guide and Jumpstart Your Course
  7. Had my first conference speaking gig - I had the pleasure of introducing a speaker at Podcast Movement here in Chicago to test the public speaking waters. I liked it!
  8. Began taking charge of my health again - In early fall, I decided enough was enough. I caught up on my doctor visits, got my iron back up and started eating right again. Most importantly, I listened to myself when I needed to take a break. There's still a long way to go before I hit my physical goals, but it's a start.
  9. Joined a mastermind group - Without a doubt, this has been the best thing I've done for my business all year. There were so many times when I needed insight or just a nudge to keep going and found it in my mastermind. If you haven't found one yet, I highly recommend it. 
  10. Gained clarity, acknowledged mistakes and took control of my business - Not much to say here. I just had to face it and adjust. 
  11. Made a modest five figures in sales - For my first year selling products and services since shutting down/ rebranding my old consulting agency, I made enough to live off of. If I can do it--after making every mistake in the book--you can too. 
  12. Graduated from Scratch DJ Academy - Some of you have heard me mention that I DJ. It's the one thing that always gives me energy no matter how tired or upset I might feel. This year I graduated and performed at a few gigs.   
  13. I kept going - I'm not going to lie: things got rough over the summer. Several people suggested that I stop working on Zen Courses. But I couldn't shake the vision of what ZC will be. Then you kept sending me great questions about online courses. (Thank you!) I know there's a long way to go...and I'm ready.

Lessons Learned

  • It's not enough to show up. You have to be consistent.
  • You must let go of the past to grab the future.
  • Teach everything you know.
  • The universe doesn't reward the indecisive. Decide, ask, and act.
  • You eat what you kill - To stay in business, you have to focus on money-making activities. Seems obvious but so many entrepreneurs spend all their time making free content.
  • Don't assume people know about your products. Tell them.
  • Vibes over money; if it doesn't feel right, it's not.
  • Engagement is more valuable than the size of your list.
  • Working hard is not the same as hustling. To succeed you have to do both.

What's Next for 2017?

  • More learning opportunities for you - Specifically, a focus on more workshops and products. I want you to feel like you can come to Zen Courses--at any time--and find a product or event that answers your online course questions. 
  • More community - Feel like you're all alone on your online course journey? I get it. And I'm planning something to help. Look out for an announcement in the first quarter of 2017.
  • More partnerships - In 2017, I plan to work with more companies and people who will help you along your online course journey. These will be people I trust to deliver value.
  • More video - That means less writing. Look out for more video posts this year.
  • Relaunch of Jumpstart - I'm updating the course and moving to a new platform. Look for an announcement in late-January / early February.
  • Increase my revenue - I took a financial hit by pivoting my biz and starting Zen Courses. Next year I plan to get back to six figures.
  • A commitment to being more intentional about how I spend my time & energy so that I can deliver more value for you.

Final Thoughts

So that's my review for 2016. If you've read my 2015 review, you can see that this year was more complex. Instead of framing it in a negative light though, I'll say this was a learning year. I'm grateful for all of the lessons.

The biggest lesson learned this year was that, despite the hustle and shine of entrepreneurship, it's relationships that truly matter.

Sitting with my mother for hours while she received her chemo treatment, seeing my father lie in a hospital bed for the second time in 7 years, flying back and forth from Chicago to Atlanta; all of these things forced me to make peace with life, let go of past "mistakes" and just be present.

In the end it wasn't money or the rush of entrepreneurship that got me through. It was friends cooking dinner for me, motivating words from my mastermind members, thoughtful notes from clients, and thank you emails from you.

So thank you for making 2016 a great year. What did you learn in 2016?

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