2015 was another big year for me. This is the second year I'm reviewing what has gone on in my life over the past year. 2014's post is here.
This is mostly a personal post. It's for me to reflect on next year and the years following because too often, as you're climbing the mountain, you get caught up seeing how far you still have to go but you neglect to look back and see how far you've already come.
This is my attempt to do some necessary reflection.
In 2014 I dropped out of the Computer Science & Engineering program at Ohio State University. It wasn't for me and I spent a lot of money to be miserable and waste time.
However when I dropped out I told myself that my education wouldn't stop and I'm happy to say that I've kept that promise to myself. In 2015 I invested a decent amount of money and time into continuing my education. I'm a developer so I'm constantly learning new technologies, this year the major technology I learned was React and React Native, especially the latter. These technologies have changed the way I build apps and have given me the ability to build native apps for iOS and Android, something I couldn't do last year.
In addition to the daily learning that comes from my "job". I invested in the following programs:
- Zero to Launch
- This is a program put together by Ramit Sethi, an entrepreneur I have immense respect for. I haven't given this program the necessary time to really see the value from it but the content is there. It's extremely high quality as is the presentation and production. The only short coming on this is my execution and doing the necessary exercises.
- Infinite Prosperity
- This is a program that, on the surface, is about Forex education but goes so much deeper than that. I've given this program a lot of time and energy (investing in some additional member only programs). I didn't get very serious about the Forex components until the end of the year but I saw effects from the course contents in my day to day life, both personal and professional.
This one was a cool one for me - I hit every one of my financial goals for the year. It was the first year that I actually had money. I've always been good with it but this year I really focused on an abundance mentality and this is a category I really saw it pay off.
I don't like discussing detailed amounts but here are a key points:
- 135% of income goal.
- Paid off 87.5% of my student loans. This includes two private loans with 11%+ and 8%+ interest rates. This has been a BIG WIN for me this year.
- Had my first $10k month
- Opened my first investment account
- Bought a car
A few things to add additional detail to:
The loans have been a massive win for me. I'm proud of myself for my dedication towards accomplishing this goal. As it stands I'm scheduled to make my final payment 3 days before my 22 birthday, which was my huge, seemingly impossible, goal when I dropped out of school in August of 2014.
I remember when I first started this journey how I didn't know how I would make the minimum payment on my loans. For the last 6 months I've been paying 6 times the minimum.
Another one I wanted to expand on was buying the car. The car is great - it's a 2013 Ford Escape fit for a soccer mom. The actual car isn't what is cool to me though. What is cool to me was my ability to take out an auto loan, without a cosigner, at the age of 21 with a very reasonable interest rate. This is very different from when I was 18 (and again when I was 19) and couldn't figure out how I was going to pay for school and signing off on student loans with very high interest rates and risking my retired Grandparent's credit on those.
Here's a comparison of my income between this year and last year.
For the first 6 months of the year, and the previous 3-4 years I spread myself very thin on "business". I wanted to try everything, I wanted to be a jack of all (technology) trades. I thought that's how I would become "successful".
In July I started realizing that there are a few things that really brought in money and the other things weren't bringing in the same kind of money but brought me a majority of the stress and headaches I had. I ended up doing a cost benefit analysis and slimming down my company offerings and my client list.
It's been a slow process, some of my old clients had year long contracts that I still had to support but it's been a work in progress and the results are definitely showing on the business revenue side and the depth of knowledge I now have. This is what I needed to do for my service based business.
In addition to my services business (web and mobile app development) I started my Forex trading business at the end of the year. This may not technically be a "business" in some/most definitions but for me to take it seriously I have to view it as a business not a hobby. I'm not just a retail trader but rather a professional trader running a trading business. That's how I set myself up for success.
The trading business will eventually be another income stream of mine. I've put just about a year worth of education and getting mentally prepared for this business but now I'm making it a reality.
This is is another one I'm really proud of. Stephanie and I did a lot of traveling this year, relative to previous years.
In last year's "Year in Review" I discussed a planned trip to Santorini, Greece. I'm happy to say that trip went ahead as scheduled and was even more incredible than either of us could have imagined.
We also took a road trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to meet up with my sister and parents for a few days. It was humid as hell but a great time.
Steph and I also took a road trip to Nashville in October. We're planning on moving there in July/August of 2016 and had some scoping out to do.
A few other trips we/I took were to Detroit, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis - multiple times.
I didn't know where else to put it but Steph took me zip lining which was AWESOME. Definitely recommend.
My fitness has been something I struggled with for a long time. I've never been very unhealthy, slightly overweight most of my life, but I wouldn't say unhealthy. One thing I couldn't do, or refused to do, was run. I felt like I couldn't run - that I was too big and too clumsy to run. I knew I was simply lying to myself and if I actually put the time and effort into it I could run.
I struggled with exercising in the beginning of the year because it was cold and I was being a baby and didn't want to go to the gym. I didn't have that routine in place to help me push through that uncomfortable situation. Then in the summer I lacked discipline to push myself and keep track of my stats. I walked and did a little running every morning but didn't push myself. What I did do though was build a routine. Then, in the fall, I finally got serious and started to push myself...
So, at the beginning of the year, I set the goal to run 1.5 miles, non-stop, at an 8 minute/mile pace. I had never run more than 1/2 mile without stopping prior. I'm happy I accomplished that goal - meeting it made me feel good and so did the actual daily running. However, I started running for 25+ minutes a day and got bored. So I started shifting my goals, but none the less I did accomplish my running goal.
In addition to my first year of consistent exercise I continued to eat incredible homemade food. Steph and I have put a lot of effort and time into planning and cooking great dishes. It gives us time to talk and work together to accomplish a common goal. I love to cook and eat.
Another food related component was a transition to a mostly vegetarian/pescetarian diet. This has only been going on since getting back from Nashville in mid-October. Stephanie has ethical reasons behind it which I have immense respect for and want to support her however I can in that journey. For me though it has, to this point, mostly been about the challenge. Eating vegetarian (and especially vegan) challenges how I've always cooked and how I grew up around food. It's a change and a challenge but I firmly believe you should always challenge things, especially when they're the "norm".
Lastly, I really noticed during the holiday how poor I felt and how little energy I had. I ate a lot of meat while I was with my family. This was the first time I had eaten a meat based diet for a few months and it hit me. Almost instantly after getting back into our "normal" diet my energy has gone way up and I just feel way better.
Also, pizza is incredible and we eat it every Friday.
This has been an interesting one for me because relationships have always been weird to me. Not that I've had weird relationships in the past but just that I didn't know how to do them in a way that felt right for me. When I'm referencing relationships I'm talking about my romantic relationship, friendships, and relationships with my family.
Until I was nearly graduating high school I never had a romantic relationship. I felt weird about that while I was in high school. I also never had a lot of friendships. I was friendly with everyone and have always had a healthy relationship with my family but it was never very deep and I've come to realize it's because I was focusing on the width of my relationships rather than the depth of them.
Over the last year I've put energy into making the relationships I have with Stephanie and my family even better rather than making new friends. I wanted to really engage in conversations with them and be present.
I think I've gotten a lot better. Stephanie and I have always had a very positive and strong relationship based on a solid foundation of communication. This year we made that even better. I've still got room for improvement for communication with my family but I notice a difference in how I communicate with them and I'm grateful for that. I think it's allowing us to have a deeper more meaningful relationship.
I don't know what the next year holds in this area of my life. I know depth of relationships is more important to me over width but I will be moving to a new city where I don't really know anyone so we'll see what happens. :)
The key lesson I learned through 2015 was the true meaning of quality over quantity, or depth over width. I'd heard the saying many times before but this was the year I really applied it to many facets of my life and realized the positive results.
I think you can get the quantity piece eventually (in business, friendships, etc) but if you don't have the foundation in doing those things in a high quality way then the quantity won't mean anything and will simply serve as an area of stress.
I've also realized how important a strong internal reason is when you're trying to accomplish a big or long term goal. It takes commitment and a strong desire to accomplish these goals. This was something I realized through accomplishing some (or getting very close to) accomplishing a few of the big goals I have.
Stephanie has a strong internal reason for why she no longer eats meat. She made it through the holidays without eating meat, not because it was easy and she was supported the entire time but rather due to her strong internal reason for why she was choosing a plant based diet over a meat based diet.
Stephanie and I saved up for a trip to Santorini, Greece. Not on a whim or simply because we thought it looked cool. We felt that we had to go - that it was necessary for our personal growth and the growth of our relationship. It wasn't a choice to go, it was a burning desire from within to go. That's what got us through the savings, the bookings, the flights (which neither of us had done alone before), the international travel (which neither of us had ever done before), the language barriers, the food differences. It was an absolutely incredible trip built on top of a burning desire from within.
And lastly my need to pay off my student loan debt. I had the option to pay my loans out over 10 years but I've had a strong internal reason to pay off that debt as quickly as possible. I knew that I didn't want to have debt that I wouldn't be able to sell off if things went south. I knew that if something did go off the rails I didn't want to risk my retired Grandparent's credit and savings on my student loans. These things were from deep within, they come from the beliefs around money that I've developed. I would feel sick whenever I thought about my loans - not because of the amount but rather that the student loan debt didn't align with my character.
On top of that, I knew that I was more than capable of living on much less than I make and could dedicate a large amount of my income to eliminating that debt.
The ability to accomplish a large goal comes from a burning desire within you.
What Went Well
A lot of things went well for me in 2015. It was the best year I've ever had. I've learned how to accomplish large, long term goals. I've learned how to travel to the other side of the world. I've learned to build stronger relationships. I've learned how to do something I grew up thinking I couldn't do. I learned how to try a different diet than what I had known all my life. I learned how to continue my education outside of the normal paths. I've learned how to develop a skill that is of high value to others.
What Didn't Go Well
However, not everything was perfect.
I set a goal to give a certain amount of money to charity and to get involved in a charity - to give time and energy towards one. I gave some money to charity but not as much as I intended. I didn't give any time or energy towards a charity. I'm disappointed in myself for this. I think the reason for this is that I have always been very vague when it comes to charities. The people I know that are involved in charities are very intimately involved in one or two and give all of their time, energy and money towards those causes. I haven't had that before and I think that's a key to giving back. I need to find a charity to get deeply involved with and addresses an issue that resonates deep within me.
Another thing I realized, partly while writing this post, is that I didn't document very much of my life this year. I don't have many pictures or videos of all the incredible things that happened through my life in 2015. I've already set a goal (and have been sticking to it) to address this shortcoming.
This year rocked. I'm glad I learned a lot and I'm glad I can identify where I fell short and recognized steps I can take to do better next year. Reading 2014's post was exciting and I look forward to reading this post again in a year.