First I need to say, “thank you, thank you, thank you” to a bunch of people. Without them, there would be nothing.
My parents. I literally can’t put into words what they do for me. Amazing.
Family. For the unbelievable support and continual love.
New Story Co-founders: Mike, Allie, and Brett. Again I’m speechless at the hustle, hard work, and passion from these people. They inspire me continually.
Friends: Geez, too many to name. Fernando, Barrett, Oliver, Hill Hall Hustlerz (best friends since freshman year at UGA), Atlanta Dinner Club (a dinner party that turned into best friends), too many awesome people. I’m sorry I can’t list everyone… if you’re reading this you’re probably one of them.
Mentors: For pushing me to work harder, think differently, and go bigger.
And to everyone else and for every random, small act… thank you!
I am extremely grateful.
Why do this?
This is my first ever year-end review. It makes so much sense. I’m not sure why I haven’t done one before. My main motivations are so I can see what went well, what wasn’t so hot, what I created, and the stories and places I went. Major inspiration and a big thank you to Nathan Barry for leading by example.
How do you know you’re better today compared to three years ago? You don’t unless you’re keeping track. –The Five-Minute Journal
What Didn’t Go So Well
Fitness. Building deeper relationships. Personal goals. Spiritual. Morning routine. Discipline. I need to improve in these areas, but to get better we first need to ask the question, “Why?” What caused a lackluster performance? After thinking for some time, they can all be traced to one principal: not having a system in place.
I struggled because I had no goal, no plan, and no system. The car metaphor works best. Your goal is your destination/where you want to go. It needs to be specific. You don’t have a destination of Atlanta, GA, you specifically want to go to Antico Pizza at 1093 Hemphill Ave NW, Atlanta, GA 30318 (because it’s the best pizza in the USofA). The plan is Google Maps/the directions to follow and your system is the road that keeps you on track. You are the car. With no goal, you are at the whim of the traffic and it’s flow — where you end up no one knows. And with no system, you will struggle to stay on course.
An example: Let’s say you want to set a goal this year of writing five hand written cards each month. Maybe you want to write to a long lost friend or to thank your Aunt for that nice gift. So, your goal is to write five cards per month. Your plan is to order a nice pen and enough stationary, envelopes, and stamps for 60 letters (12*5). This ensures you remove any barrier to writing. Your system, the most critical part, will keep you on track to hit your goal. So you create an Evernote/iOS Notes called, ‘Monthly Gratitude’ and each time you’re given something, remember someone special, or for any random reason, you add that person to the list. Then you add a monthly recurring calendar event for a time that works for you to sit down for 30 minutes (maybe the last Sunday of the month). As an extra layer to your system, you could tell a friend your plan and ask them to keep you accountable (highly recommended). If you set this system in place, you’ll greatly increase the chance of actually accomplishing your goal instead of just saying or thinking about it. Just know this takes a lot more time and deliberate thought.
What Did Go Well
What started as a side project with a couple friends in December of 2014 has grown into a global charity. Maybe global is strong — we’re working in Haiti and El Salvador. I could write an entire post just on New Story, but thank goodness Brett already has here (a short read). Just a couple highlights: 200 homes built for families, 1,000 people whose lives are changing, $1,200,000 raised in donations, Y Combinator S15 (the story behind that), completely funded a new community in Leveque, Haiti,started work in El Salvador, rang the NASDAQ stock exchange bell, and funded 100 homes in 100 days. Whew… a blessed year! Thank you to everyone
I love to travel, who doesn’t? Amazing people. Delicious food. Gorgeous nature. This year was beyond awesome. Here are some the places I got to visit: Smithgall Woods, GA, Blood Mountain hike, mastermind retreat in Bryson City, NC, Haiti (3 times), Las Vegas, Augusta, GA for Masters Tournament, San Francisco (where I’m currently live as well), New York City, Muir Woods and Oakland Redwood Regional Park hike, Sonoma county, Yosemite, Athens, GA for UGA football, and El Salvador (twice!). PS: I got to surf in El Salvador #epic
During the fall, I read The Blue Zones Solution by Dan Buettner (highly recommended). It’s an easy-to-read book about a study that identified the world’s healthiest and happiest people. It’s great because the researchers identified 9 traits that each of these places shares. One of the traits is eating with a plant slant. I don’t want to completely remove meat from my diet, just to reduce the % I eat. My favorite vegetable dishes: roasted brussel sprouts, black beans, pan cooked asparagus, roasted sweet potatoes, lentils, and sauteed kale/mushrooms with garlic.
A Better Cofounder
I think as a team, the co-founders at New Story all have been much better founders. The mentorship and advice during Y Combinator were invaluable and 100% the catalyst behind our transformation. Just one principal, that’s now a value of ours is: Think big, break down, execute. In other words: set big measurable goals, formulate a plan for the month, week, and day, then execute the plan with relentless focus. It’s simple but extremely effective in pushing something forward.
I started keeping a journal, but not a traditional one. The Five-Minute Journal only takes five minutes (3 in the morning and 2 at night). The objective is to easily allow you to document what you’re grateful for, what would make today great, a daily affirmation, reflect on amazing things that happened, and how you could have made the day better. It’s like a snapshot history of your thoughts. HIGHLY recommended.
Another example of this: As the year went along I documented stories (big and small) so I would remember them at the end of the year, next year, and when I’m 80. See the full list below. Without this, the year can seem like a blur. The best short filmmaker in the world, Casey Neistat, does this with his daily vlog. It’s amazing. See his 2015 recap (worth the 5 mins).
I recently looked back at a book I read in the spring and in it I listed out what, at the time, where my current projects/work/responsibilities. They were as follows:
- Personal freelance work
- UX contract work with the wonderful and extremely talented Sophia Voychehovski at RewiredUX
- New Story
- Global Shapers — Atlanta Hub
- 10–4 Social Entrepreneurship meetup
What? How in the world was I suppose to do a great job at any of these with five things pulling at my focus? Here’s what my current projects/work/responsibilities looks like:
However, I do believe it’s healthy to have one side project (ideally something physical like learning to cook or training for a marathon).
Books read (all recommended):
- Moneyball by Michael Lewis
- Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
- And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
- Never the Hope Itself by Gerry Hadden
- The Racketeer by John Grisham
- The Alchemist by Pablo Coelho
- Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
- Killing Patton by Bill O’Reilly
- Good to Great by Jim Collins
- Read this Before Our next meeting by Al Pamtapalli
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Zero to One by Peter Thiel (audio book)
- The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
- The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
- The Blue Zones Solution by Dan Buettner
- Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood (for the 2nd time because it’s so dang good)
Web things created:
Some stories from the year:
- NYE at Casa Augusta
- 4 Hour dinners with Fernando and Barrett
- Gatlinburg, Tennessee with Atlanta Dinner Club
- Bryson City, NC mastermind w/ Barrett Brooks, Nathan Berry, Caleb Wojcik, and James Clear
- Orpheus brewery and then Varuni Napoli in the Spring with Atlanta Dinner Club
- Amazing trip to Haiti
- Home Brew night at Casa Augusta
- Masters 2015
- Ben Hoffer wedding
- YC interview
- Muir Woods trail hike
- Haiti Vision Trip in late May
- Hiked Matt Davis trail with New Story team + epic picnic
- Met Joe Montana, Ron Conway, and the founders of airbnb
- Hiked Redwood Regional Park with YC group
- Enjoyed the Famers Market on Saturdays in SF
- Case Study Interview w/ Webflow
- Reality SF every Sunday
- Late nights at 1 Sutter office w/ the New Story gang
- YC Demo Day Practice Week
- YC Demo Day Pitch (video)
- Dim Sum in Richmond w/ YC gang
- Land’s End hike w/ Allie and Pranshu
- New Story Launch Party
- The best dinner of my LIFE @ Lolinda (Argentine) to celebrate Brett’s bday
- SF trip with my parents: the city, Muir Woods, Wine country, and Yosemite
- NASDAQ bell ringing in NYC
- Epic dinner at Lupa (Italian) in NYC
- Amazing Japanese NYC dinner with Mary Kate and Ross — Ootoya
- UGA vs South Carolina football game
- Birthday dinner for my mom. I cooked Swordfish Agrodolce and a tofu chocolate dessert.
- Morgan’s birthday + MJQ with Ross, Sarah, Will and Morgan
- Moving full time to San Francisco
- Allie’s birthday dinner at Chapeau! (French) Top 10 meals of my life. So frickin good.
- Fleet Week in SF watching the Blue Angels
- October Haiti Vision Trip
- 1st YC S15 Unofficial Dinner
- Epic El Salvador trip
- UGA vs Georgia Southern game with Bowen, Ryan, Aunt Kathy and my mom
- Thanksgiving 2015 in Macon and Milledgeville
- Long Munchery Dinner with Allie, Oliver, Brett at 2843 Folsom St.
- El Salvador December trip and surfing in El Salvador
- Warm and Rainy Christmas in Eatonton
I’m already looking forward to creating a review of 2016. It’s going to be an amazing year!
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. -Helen Keller
Random Photos from this year:
Y Combinator Phone Call (it was indeed good news)
A Haitian family moving into their new home :)
The team in El Salvador.
A family in El Salvador that will soon move into a new home.
And the best photo I’ll ever take #lucky