My first ever year in review, 2015

I’ve never done this before, written up and made public a “year in review.” But after writing a deeply reflective entry in my journal (which I write to at least once daily), I decided that it would be worth sharing. I guess that’s for you, the readers, to decide.

Either way, below you’ll read a lot of my inner thoughts and reflections on five different major areas of my life:

  • work
  • health
  • balance
  • living (location and space)
  • leisure

For each area, there’s a summary (sometimes broken into subcategories) and a 1–10 rating of how I felt about my accomplishments in that designated realm.

I hope you find something useful or, at the very least, relatable by reading through my contemplations.

Work (7.5/10)

Accomplishments & metrics (7/10)

All in all, it was a pretty solid year for work. Looking back, it feels a bit haphazard, but I accomplished more than I’ve given myself credit for.

For concrete accomplishments (and metrics):

  • [April] transitioned to the Self-Taught Coders brand and domain
  • [June] launched From Idea To Launch v1
  • [December] launched From Idea To Launch v2
  • Grew from 1,260 -> 1,860 subscribers (48% growth!)
  • Grew from 600 -> 10,000 mostly unique visitors (1,500% growth, WOW!)

That’s great traffic growth! Plus, it’s been a steady incline. I’m guessing — and looking through Google Analytics confirms a lot of these — it’s attributed to: consistent writing; addition of a lot of new Laravel resources; the rise of Laravel; CodeIgniter resources; sharing my content. (I just wrote a “what makes my business grow” document outlining all of these items, for future reference.)

I also:

… and a hell of a lot more.

In general (8/10)

Beyond the tangible tasks-completed, I also want to reflect on how I felt about my work in general.

First, I got to know my audience better. I connected with more people in more places. There’s still a lot of work to be done here, but I did make some significant progress. And I honed my overall direction and the focus of Self-Taught Coders (STC). Everything more specifically targets a specific type of people and the results are encouraging in general so far.

On the other hand, I’m still working to refine my paid offerings and to do a better job of conveying their value. I think From Idea To Launch (FITL) is a steal at the current price, and I know a handful of others that agree (including course members); it’s just making that value very apparent to potential customers. (Reworking the pricing from subscription-based to one-time cost should alleviate a good deal of confusion, I think, and boost sales. More on that soon.)

As far as how I feel about the work I’ve been doing, well, pretty good! I’ve focused almost all my energy on helping other people, and that has always been the goal.

I’ve been a little anxious with what I feel has been slower than desired progress, but that will probably always be the case. I know I can still help more and in better ways, it’s just a matter of tapping into those hows, wheres, whens, and whys.

Health (9.5/10)

I feel pretty damn good about my health accomplishments this year!

Diet (9/10)

I started Tim Ferriss’s Slow-Carb Diet® early in the year and have done a fairly good job sticking to it, with notable exceptions coming around trips and traveling.

It’s been great to have a health default diet. As Ferriss says (paraphrasing), “Even if you don’t call it one, everyone is on a diet.” I’ve been very pleased with this one. It’s kept my energy level way up, which is by far the #1 goal. The body is used to power the mind.

Exercise (10/10)

This has easily been my most successful year to date in terms of exercise and physical fitness.

I’ve exercised all year long, probably an average of 3+ days/week, trending upward to 4.5-5 days/week since moving to Phoenix in late July.

Most recently, I’ve taken up running with a serious passion and am currently training for a marathon, which I’d always said “I’d never do.”

It was all kickstarted by having an easily accessible pool in Phoenix for swimming. I love swimming, and it was amazing to get back into it over the summer. That led to “Hey, I want to get into triathlons!” I love swimming and biking and knew I could at least gut out the running. (Since then, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the running.)

That led to my first “Splash + Dash” (just the swim and run portions of a triathlon), and now I’m planning to do a half-marathon and a sprint triathlon in the first quart of this year.

I’m extremely proud of my health commitments and accomplishments this year.

Balance (8.5/10)

I used to this of balance mostly in terms of work vs. play. But this year it’s grown to be the #1 most important concept in my life, word in my vocabulary.

I think of balance in terms of everything. Food I eat (or don’t). Drinks had (or not). All activities performed — work, play, self-development, family, social.

Everything requires a balance. And focusing on, doubling back to, that concept all the time, with everything has been the #1 biggest win in my life this year, and possibly in my life ever.

It will continue to by my top focus. I will be having a reminder tattooed on my arm in the near future. Balance is everything.

As far as how I’ve done with it? Pretty well, as far as the entire year is concerned. Extremely well over the past ~2 months.

I’ve focused on really maximizing all of my time and energy and have been the most impactful ever in nearly all domains. That’s a pretty huge accomplishment. It was Seneca that said:

“Life is long if you know how to use it.”

(Which is right on the cover of On the Shortness of Life, sitting next to me on my desk as I write this.)

Living (location and space) (8/10)

Location (8/10)

Last year (July 2014–2015) we were in Aurora, IL. And that sucked. It was out of necessity due to my wife’s big doctoral internship. It was “outside of Chicago,” but just far enough outside that it was a huge pain to get to/from. (On average probably an 1hr 15min drive; train, including going to the station, waiting, ride, ~2 hours.) And we didn’t have any friends in the city nor much disposable income, so we were restricted to day trips, which we only made 3-4 times. So, not my favorite, but I learned a lot about other aspects of living, which I’ll talk about in just a second.

This year, back in July, we moved out to Phoenix, AZ, right to Downtown Phoenix. And it’s been pretty great so far. It’s great to be back in the city and out of the depressing suburbs and to have easy access to all kinds of things again. I love getting to walk to/from places again — missed that a ton in Aurora.

The weather is beautiful, albeit a bit hot in the summer (but the dry heat, in my opinion, really isn’t that bad). So what, there are ~3 months where you stay inside more often than not. Huge improvement over the ~6 months you stay inside in the Northeast (and Chicago)!

And winter is like (Northeast) fall here. It’s so great to (easily and enjoyably) get to do outside activities all year round here. I’m in love with that. It’s also sunny 300+ days a year which has had a very positive impact on my overall disposition and outlook on everything.

Space (8/10)

While Aurora the location sucked, I got a chance to learn a whole lot about myself personally and what I liked about our living space and my work space.

I kindled an enormous passion for reading, which is now easily one of my most-enjoyed activities in life.

I also gained an incredible dedication to the value of self reflection and have increasingly used it to better my life since.

Those were both borne from our living circumstances and our living space, so I thought they deserved mention here.

I also, for the first time, had my own office! This has had a hugely positive impact on my work and life in general — having a space dedicated to my work that’s mine alone. I don’t have to share it and I don’t have to struggle with the physical transition from living/relaxing space into work space. When I enter the office, my mind clicks in work mode, which helps me optimize my time and be as effective as possible.

So the extra room, the office — which I also have in our apartment in Phoenix — has been the most impactful regarding living space.

Having a 2-bedroom apartment has also helped my wife and I reflect on, and refine our vision for, what we might ultimately want in a future living space. The current amount of space we have is nearly enough. (Well, it’s certainly enough, it’s nearly what we would call ideal.) We would like a few additional things (e.g. yard, garage), but being in a smaller space has helped us weed out previous desires that may have been superfluous.

Leisure (non-work) (8.5/10)

I used to regard a lot of leisure time as a chance to party or just lounge around and relax.

This year, particularly in the last 2-3 months, I’ve changed my outlook and gotten back to my roots. And it’s been refreshing and great. I like doing things. I don’t really like sitting around. Or wasting time. Both of which drinking seem to breed. I like reading, and hiking, and playing music, and going on adventures. SO I’ve recommitted all of my non-work time to those types of endeavors.

I want to explore and keep exploring. And there are sure as hell plenty of things out there in this world I’ve yet to turn over.

And there are also plenty of things about myself that I’ve yet to learn.

This is exactly what I want to focus on in the near year: doing and exploring. This accidentally turned into the perfect segue to my year of 2016 dedication:

My 2016: the Year of DOING & EXPLORING

Here’s to 2016! I can’t wait to see what it has in store.

What’s your year of 2016 going to be dedicated to?


Alex Coleman helps others learn to build web applications with Laravel. His articles and courses have helped over 10,000 developers level-up their PHP web development skills and learn to build and launch their own web applications to the world. If you enjoyed this article, then join his free newsletter.