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2015 Annual Review: Reflections on Growth and Chaos

9 Clouds Annual Reviews

My two year old daughter remembers everything.

Everything that ever happened to her and everything that was ever said to her. She should. She only has two years of events to remember.

For the rest of us, we occasionally need to stop. Breathe. Reflect.

If we want to work and live with purpose, we need to run the right way. We need to find our North Star and focus on what matters.

For the past three years, I have ended the year with an annual review. Every year I discover that I completely forget (or block out) many of the highs and lows. The annual review forces me to learn from the past and prepare for the future, both personally and as a business owner. This year, you should try it.

Here’s how to do it: reflect, plan, brand.

Conduct Your Annual Review

I shared the complete guide to conducting an annual review here. Get started by asking yourself two simple questions:

1. What went well for me this year?

2. What didn’t go well for me this year?

These questions start the reflection process. The longer you can focus, the more you will uncover from the year that was. I’ll share more on this first step in this article.

After reflecting, identify the year’s highs and lows to appreciate the past year and make a plan for the year to come.

I use the past year as a launch pad to plan goals in different aspects of my life including family, business, travel, health, spirituality, etc. (If you want to copy the template I modified from Chris, you can download it here.)

Finally, summarize all of your goals for the coming year in one word or brand for the year. Yes, just one. The problem with goals is that we forget to look at them and often forget what they even are. By summarizing all of your goals in one word, you create a North Star that is easy to remember (or paste all over your computer). It will jog your memory for all the goals that make up that word and keep you moving in the right direction.

Phew, enough with the logistics. Let’s get on with the review!

What Went Well in 2015

I like to share my review so you can see it in action and conduct your own review. It also is public accountability for me and a way to celebrate with you, our readers on the past year. It’s hard to admit that not everything is as perfect as our Instagram feeds, so here’s my chance to spill my guts and help you do the same.

At a high level, much was accomplished in 2015. I hold myself to a high standard both personally and with 9 Clouds, so it’s nice to look back at what I was worried about last December and realize many of those issues have either been solved or simply gone away.

Here’s what went well in 2015:

My family grew. We welcomed a new baby girl peacefully into the world and are having a blast now having a tribe. She is calm, loving and far too advanced for her age.

I deepened my involvement in the community. In the spring of 2015, I was elected to city council and have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about my community and sharing ideas to make it better. I opened a coworking space, hosted TEDxBrookings, 1 Million Cups and Creativity Week among other events. It felt like a year of momentum in the community that I am proud of.

9 Clouds grew in skill and size. We are doing the best work in the history of our business. We have focused our services around a key industry of automotive dealers and our team has established themselves as true leaders in the industry. We’ve now grown to nine employees, which was always the number we joked about reaching. We will quickly blow past that as our team’s hard work pays dividends in the new year. I couldn’t be more proud of the work of everyone at 9 Clouds.

My wife finished her education. Sure, this one isn’t exactly me, but I am excited for her to start her professional career. She did unbelievably well in school and clinicals, and now, she gets to do what she loves, which means everyone in our family will be happy and proud.

Reading, writing and traveling continued. This newsletter was consistent, and consistently better in my opinion, throughout the year. This was partly due to my ability to continue to read and travel, both activities which spark ideas and inspiration.

What Did Not Go Well in 2015

A feeling of death surrounded me. Last year ended with tragedy. This year, the feeling of mortality and remembrance has stuck with me. This can be both good and bad, but more often it was on the sad end for my mental state. Family is a savior in this regard, helping to direct these feelings in a positive way as we remember to enjoy every moment we have together.

Scattered headspace and living space. This year saw our family moving around throughout the year. Beyond the geographic changes, the amount of events combined with the growth of the business stretched me to the point of unhealthy stress. The plate is full. I now know how much it can hold and will work on clearing it in the year to come.

Lost connections with long-time friends. The tragedy in Paris suddenly connected me with many friends I had not spoken to in years. This experience forced me to realize that I have not done a good job keeping in touch with important people in my life. The need to live each moment to its fullest goes hand-in-hand with the need to stay close with those who matter most.

Stress from time and money. It was a big change growing our family. Both my wife and I felt an immediate change in how we parented. We also had to recalibrate our budget. The strains on time combined with the increased responsibility and financial pressures led to stress in our family. A bit of calm will be welcomed as we settle in to a routine in the new year.

Looking Forward

The lows are always easier for me to remember. This felt more true this year than previous years. I had to dig through my calendar and look at last year’s goals to remember the highs from the year.

I’m glad I did.

2015 was a fantastic year. Had I not paused to reflect, I might have been ready to turn the page. Now, I feel a bit nostalgic for the days with one little girl running around, just a handful of employees in the office and waiting anxiously for my wife to return from a night shift.

All of the work in 2015, however, has set the stage for 2016. It will be an incredible year full of new opportunity for our business, for our family in a new community and for myself as I focus in on what matters most.

Take a moment to conduct an annual. Send me a link or a tweet if you post it publicly. Then, join me next week in creating goals and choosing a word for 2016.

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