2016 in Review

2015 ended with me having a panic attack in a restaurant car-park, somewhere in South Bristol.

It’s not as bad as it sounds and in hindsight I put it down to that end-of-year, exhausted-after-stumbling-across-the-finish-line thing where your body gives up a bit and is more vulnerable.

But still, it was a shame, because up to that point I’d been keeping chimp-boy in his cage after making a number of fundamental changes to my life, due to me spending much of 2014 being really ill.

I was seeing strong recovery across the board.

That is to say that this ‘wobble’ notwithstanding, I felt good, I was positive about 2016 and was feeling healthy, energetic and motivated to press ahead with my plans.

As 2016 draws to a close the plan is seemingly starting to work. My life is in good shape. Business is good. I’m maintaining discipline and focus. Things are balanced. I am grounded and apart from the occasional off day that we all get from time to time, no further wobbles have occurred.

So, to round off the year please indulge me as I share a few things from my highlight reel. I also provide links to a few good books & podcasts that you might find interesting.

Whatever your plans are for 2017 I wish you good health and happiness and will leave you with this reminder from Aristotle (more recently adopted by Jocko Willink):

through discipline comes freedom

p.s. I also wrote a companion piece to this post, it mostly goes through some of the dietary changes I’ve made in the last year.

Business

Definitely a year of foundation building & consolidation but we also met sales and profit targets as well as managing to bring some new clients on board.

Siftware enters 2017 with a defined market position and a number of validated – read: people have paid money for them – productised services and the internal processes to back these service offerings up.

I know who I want to be talking to and have a plan to start getting our core message – namely: bespoke web applications require ongoing maintenance and support; without this your business assets will become liabilities – to them, via various channels.

My focus this year will be building a sustainable and partially automated sales funnel, converting promising leads into clients as well as keeping my growing team happy and motivated.

I feel like it’s ours to lose at the moment and I’m chomping at the bit to get started.

Mastermind Group

I’ve been in a Mastermind group with Marc, Andy & Alex for just over a year. We have a call fortnightly, share our goals & progress via Trello and bounce ideas around in a private slack group.

As the year progressed and we all got into our groove it started becoming invaluable.

The main benefit of a mastermind is accountability: you look really lame if you don’t get around to doing the things you commit to. It’s also great having people around to bounce ideas off before deciding on a course of action.

In 2017 we’re splitting the year into four 12 week sprints and we plan to each ‘ship’ something during each sprint.

Writing & other content

I started the year determined to get better at writing, but without a firm plan.

Thankfully Marc’s 30 Day writing challenge came along in April and this really gave me the boost I needed to practice, get feedback and improve. It was a bit of a slog (I wrote a blog post every day in April) but it set me up well for the rest of the year and the writing I needed to get done professionally.

Another aim was to get some experience creating video and screencasts. To this end I produced a number of video podcasts, as well as some OneNote tutorial screencasts. My largest video project was a 45 minute ‘talk’ for an online OneNote conference where I described my planning & journaling workflows.

I’ve learnt enough this year that I now feel confident that I could produce more video, should I need to. I know how to set the kit up, write a simple script, do the recording and, most importantly, how to edit. Not to pro levels evidently, but Good Enough should I need to do something like this again (though I’ve no immediate plans to do so).

In 2017 I’ll be writing a lot of content for work, so should get to keep the writing practice up. I will also be switching to doing my daily journaling with a pen and paper as my initial experiments show me that I get into a better flow state when I’m not staring at a computer screen.

Meta

  • Blog posts: 48
  • Video podcasts: 5
  • Screencasts: 3
  • Video presentation / talk: 1

My First Year of Running

(Not interested? You can skip this bit)

I started 2016 as a newbie middle-aged runner. The previous summer I’d completed couch to 5k, subsequently I’d ran a few Parkruns and to end 2015 I ran my first race, the Telford 10K and was delighted to finish at a time of around 55 minutes.

I was, however, also suffering from a bad case of the shin splints – school boy error: overdoing it on both distance & pace – as well as realising the enormity of the task I had in front of me, having just secured a place in the 2016 London Marathon.

12 months on it’s safe to say I’ve had a good running year. I’m able to comfortably run 20+ miles a week on strong, injury-free legs and I race around once a month. My pace is also starting to increase as I consistently train.

Running works for me on so many levels. I particularly like hanging out with runners, on the whole they are a friendly bunch of disciplined, hard working people who regardless of age, race, gender or ability run not only because they enjoy it, but also because they want to improve some aspect of their performance.

Haruki Murakami in his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running sums it up perfectly:

Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. […] Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life – and for me, for writing as well. I believe many runners would agree

Another great benefit to taking my running seriously is a default requirement to keep my body in the best condition possible. Ensuring that I continue to eat & sleep well, do stretches constantly and don’t duck out on training runs because reasons (cold, dark, tired, etc).

Anyway, as you probably guessed, running was an important part of my 2016.

Best run

Telford 10K – Dec 2016.

The first anniversary of my very first grown up race.

In January I set some arbitrary running goals, one being me to take 10 minutes off my first 10K time (55mins) by the end of the year. As the year wore on  it was looking decidedly unlikely that I’d hit this (PB was hovering at around 47 mins). But from Sept – Dec I trained a lot harder and at this race in December, my last one of the year, I managed to come over the line with a time of 44:57. Yay me \o/

Worst run

Bristol Half Marathon – Sept 2016.

I’d ran two halves earlier in the year, as well as umpteen training runs that were longer than 13 miles and I got a bit complacent. I spent the summer hardly running at all and only realised with 2 weeks to go that I had a race and figured: ‘ how hard can it be?’.

Turns out it was quite hard. I didn’t completely embarrass myself and finished comfortably under 2 hours, but I felt slow and weak. It was tough and most importantly I didn’t enjoy it, which was a shame as it was the first time I had ever ran around the city of my birth.

The upside is that I vowed to not let that happen again. If there’s a race in the calendar then I should be training properly for it. Since this race I’ve kept my training consistent and am now as strong as I’ve ever been, even when compared to me at the peak of my marathon training in the spring.

Goals

In the coming year I’ll be getting a lot more involved with my local club, doing more hilly & off-road running as well as generally mixing the training up more. I will be doing this carefully. Gradually introducing changes into my training regime and then listening to my body before making further changes.

Specific goals:

  • Sub 21 minute 5K
  • Sub 43 minute 10K
  • Sub 1h 45 half

Meta

  • Miles ran: ~840 (1350 km)
  • 1 Full marathon (~40km)
  • 3 Half-marathons (~20km). PB: 1:49:03
  • 9 10Ks. PB 44:57
  • 10 Parkruns (5km). PB 21:55
  • Shoes: 2 pairs
  • Coldest training run: -6oC
  • Longest training run: 20.2 miles

p.s. I was also pretty pleased to get this:

Books

Some good books I’ve read this year.

Steven King’s Dark Tower series

I’d not read any Steven King before as horror is a big turnoff. But it was recommended to me by Steve, so I gave it a go. The best I can come up with to describe it is: mental, dystopian, cyber-fantasy western.

It’s worth noting that King spent nearly 20 years writing the series and it weaves in nods to his other books along the way. If you’re looking for some new fiction then give this a go. Try and read it before the movie comes out in 2017 (starring Idris Elba as Roland Deschain).

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

A great introductory wrapper to Stoic philosophy.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

I don’t suffer with depression so was particularly nervous about reading something that sounds like it could be quite dark, but am glad that I gave it a go. A few of us on Marc’s slack channel all read this at around the same time and Charles Roper sums it up best in this blog post.

Reasons to Stay Alive is an ideal read for the creative soul, especially if you struggle with demons. It’s ideal if you consider yourself non-creative, too (if you really consider yourself non-creative, that’s a whole other issue we won’t go into here; suffice it to say: you’re mistaken.) If you don’t personally suffer, this book is a fine way to get a better understanding of those who do suffer. It’s the sort of book you can gift to someone when you’re struggling to explain what depression feels like; when you need for them to understand. It does the subject justice, in other words. That, right there, is an extraordinarily difficult feat. It is literally a life-saver.

The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza

Go and take a look at your website. Does the copy talk about ‘we’ or ‘I’. Does it focus on your capabilities, your experience, your product’s features?

If so you’re doing it all wrong.

This book is short, easily digestible and is filled with actionable insights.

If you’re looking to write sales copy that converts then you should buy this book.

Podcasts

I’ve not listened to a huge number of podcasts this year but honourable mentions should go to Zen Founder, Tim Ferris and Jocko Willink. Jocko’s interview of Tim Ferris is particularly recommended.

Summary

The foundations are in and I’m getting into my stride; it’s all to play for in 2017.

Keywords for 2016. Commitment, enjoyment, consistency, discipline.