My 2016 Retrospective (and my 2017 action plan)

I did this one-hour exercise to honor my successes, highlight my opportunities, and excel this in the new year.

For the past three years, the majority of my coaching has revolved around helping people be aware of the present moment — mindfulness. My awareness is on another level because of my personal and coaching practices.

Some mindfulness techniques involve reflecting on the past or projecting into the future momentarily before bringing your awareness back to the present moment.

Over this holiday season, reminiscing with family and friends, and New Years, when looking forward is the norm, I’ve realized a couple of things.

In my mid-twenties, I was hyper-focused on the future. I did not want to look back. While fun, my early twenties were not very fruitful. The majority of that time was spent either looking for work or doing whatever I could to pay the bills.

In my late twenties, I spent most of my time focused on the past. Particularly, a good run at owning and operating a fitness service business where my staff and I trained client one-on-one and in small groups.

And as I mentioned, my early thirties have been more about the present moment.

The present moment is critical because it’s the only moment we have. It’s here, and before we know it, it’s gone. I know, from my experience, that both the reflecting on the past and visualizing the future, have their benefits.

In this post, I’m going to explore both.

Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forwards.” — Soren Kierkegaard

There’s a lot of quotes that suggest there is little benefit to looking back. People say things like “let the past lie” or “can’t change the past.” Those people are correct.

And — I know — we can learn from our past. In reflection, we can see things, specifically opportunities, more clearly. With this clear vision, we can identify holding patterns, and by breaking them, we can influence our future.

So this year, I’m going to challenge myself by completing a personal reflection. (NOTE: I got this idea from recovered fitness junkie, online health coach, and author, Nate Green — check him out)

What’s a retrospective?

I should note that I started to use the word “reflection” instead of “retrospective” because, even though I could gather what it means from Nate’s context clues, I’ve never actually used that word. I played around with words like “review” and “reflection” before coming back to “retrospective” for a couple of reasons.

First, a “review” is commonly associated with something outside of the self. And secondly, the word “reflection” is a bag of worms with many interpretations in fields of physics, computer graphics, and mathematics to name a few.

On the other hand, a retrospective means “to look back.” That’s what I’m doing here — looking back at events that have already taken place.

Here’s what I learned about myself out of this exercise:

  • What worked
  • What didn’t work
  • Wins to celebrate
  • Weaknesses to identify
  • Ways to learn and adjust moving forward

How to do your personal retrospective:

You can pick either a particular project or a period, and then ask yourself the following:

What’s working? (“What did I do right? What am I proud of?”)
What’s not working? (“Where can you improve? What opportunities do you have to grow?”)
How can I adjust what I’m doing for a better result? (“Specifically, where can you put your attention and energy for growth?”)

Spend about 15–30 minutes writing about each area.

Ambrose’s 2016 Personal Retrospective

I’m taking Nate’s challenge because I didn’t pick three words, like I’ve done with Chris Brogan in the past, get an intuitive reading from my coach Berni Xiong this year, or do what most people do and set New Year’s Resolutions.

To encourage you, I’m sharing mine below.

Question 1: What’s working?

Big Win #1: I kept my word. In 2013 I pivoted my business, taking a job for two years a local non-profit community center. In keeping my word, I ended my time after two years. (I’ll have to elaborate on this on another occasion).

Pivoting like this taught me a few important things:

I’m not a businessman; I’m a business man,” Jay-Z said this best. Let me clarify — I’m not comparing myself to him by no means other than to say — I know understand this mindset at an experiential level. I went from winning Milwaukee’s Best Personal Trainers 2012, as MISPIBO Fitness, in 2013 to directing a youth center for recreation and learning. At the same time, working with a handful of clients as I built my personal brand. While I may never have brand equity of Jay-Z (his estimated net worth is around 610 million), his mindset is precious. I love working with people, as a coach in a team, but I like working for myself as well. Going “corporate” didn’t kill me or erase all the work I did in the past, I believe it’s only helped my brand.

Everyone deserves to have a good coach. For the first three months or so at the new job, I put my head down (at my desk) and got to work. I quickly realized that everyone was coaching someone else. I had a boss who coached me, and he had a boss that coached him, and I, in turn, coached kids who sometimes coached youth younger than them. In the “real world,” companies call it “training” and everybody hates training. In the fitness industry, my clients have always valued training because they see the value in it. At my height, I was charging $150/hour, so when two mindfulness coaches came to teach the staff mindfulness strategies. I was all in. Now, I’m aware that I’ve been blessed with good teachers and coaches, all of my life and especially in 2016.

Sitting down and working late hours probably don’t kill you, but they are unhealthy for you. I’m actively attempting to reverse the effects of sitting down (for approximately 4 hours a day) and working from 1 pm to 9 pm most nights for two years. I was spoiled, spending my twenties walking about Milwaukee with my bag full of exercise equipment or standing in some gym or a patch of grass working with my clients. Getting back into my health and fitness has meant being very patient with myself. First, I’m focusing on re-regulating my sleep pattern to becoming a semi-morning person again. And then working on my mobility — something that came naturally up until my 30s.

Big Win #2: I took responsibility for breathing life into education and my own social/emotional fitness.

Responsibility is taken, not given. From the spring of 2014 until the winter of 2015, I volunteered my time, learning, practicing, and teaching stress management techniques in public schools. My plan was to go back into working with clients, focusing on nutrition (and exercise as needed), in 2016. My time with the Y.E.S. program was going to be “over” as I had known it so that I could go “back into the business.” Then, I saw an opportunity that had been in front of me for two years — to get paid for what I loved doing. I had gained so much, personally, from the program and enjoyed doing it, that I didn’t even think of it as a job. It was something I did because I liked it. Now, I’m the Local Area Coordinator for the Youth Empowerment Seminar program in Milwaukee (and I still don’t feel like working because I’m having too much fun).

You can choose your career, but your calling chooses you. I never intended on coaching. It’s something I feel into when Barno asked me to help my former coach, Pete, with special teams and defense at a high school. I did need the internship, I knew how to play football, and I had a relationship with both Barno as my teammate and Pete as my coach. Almost 15 years later, I can’t get away from it — coaching. After I had graduated I desperately grasped at anything that resembled a possible career and failed. So I took a leap of faith and started my company. And this is back in 2006 BEFORE it was cool to be an “entrepreneur.” I am not saying a job or calling is better or worse; they’re different. I’ve learned there’s total victory in surrendering to the work you were born to do.

A habit I stuck to 80% of the time: performing a targeted breathing exercise, followed by meditation.

Big Win #3: I’m proud of the way I served others.

  • I sent 26 newsletters to a small, but loyal group of readers that I will never forget (because I have saved each of their names and contact information — for what? I don’t know, yet)
  • I published 61 blog posts on
  • I co-facilitated an eight-day mindfulness retreat in Boone, North Carolina for 14 educators looking for successful strategies to better manage their stress and help the schools and communities they work and live in take control their emotions and build stronger relationships.
  • I co-taught stress management practices to over 360 Milwaukee students, during the regular school day, so it was 100% free for them to learn.
  • I also co-taught stress management practices to over 150 Milwaukee school teachers, administrators, and staff, under the idea that “self-care is caring for others.”
  • I successfully prioritized making time for two of my most meaningful relationships (my girlfriend, Teresa, and my “Ma”).

Question #2: What’s Not Working? (“What Could Be Improved? What Are My Biggest Opportunities for Growth?”)

Big Growth Opportunity #1: Continue to reintegrate an exercise practice into my daily schedule. While I “move” mindfully for at least 20 minutes well over 90% of the time, I am going to increase the intensity of my fitness programming.

Big Growth Opportunity #2: Giving away 80% of my best coaching for free.

During the end of 2013 and most of 2014, I contemplated the idea of not charging but giving away my coaching for free.

I was very familiar with the idea because I was the guy downloading everyone else’s e-books, email series, webinar slides and so on since 2006. It wasn’t until 2010 that I hire my first business coach. That same coach then put me on to a guy name George Kao who was talking about giving all his stuff away for free.

It’s been an adjustment for me. First, I decided to just write for free on my blog and in my newsletter. This year, I’m hosting free challenges on a private Facebook Group — Fit for Purpose. Those three projects will take up 80% of my coaching. And it’s my goal to give my audience my very best coaching with no strings attached other than to share my stuff if they find it useful for themselves.

If I can do these two things: improve my personal fitness and help as many people as I can (for free), I’d consider 2017 a huge success.

Question #3: How Can I Adjust What I’m Doing for a Better Result? (“What specific things can I put my attention on?”)

Action Step #1: Complete my morning ritual (stretching, breathing, and meditating) right after my morning bowel movements, brushing my teeth, washing my face, and drinking my first liter of water.

Rationale: I think it’s important to take care of yourself before you try to take care of others. One thing I’ve witnessed during the last year, working with “helping professionals,” is that it’s easy to forget yourself when you are giving so much of your time and energy to other people. Burnout is real and preventable. REMEMBER: self-care is caring for others.

When I spend these 20 minutes, making sure I’m emotionally fit, I’m better socially and in almost every other area of my life. I get more work done. I feel better in my body.

Action Step #2: Host 2–3 free mini health and fitness challenges between January and April.

Rationale: There’s so many fitness gurus and products out there, I understand that people don’t know who to choose. So, I’m dedicated to getting people results on the front end. I want, to be honest — I want you (if you’re reading this) as a client. Does that necessarily mean a paying customer? No. But, I need some of those too.

Some of the stuff I used to do to get new personal training and boot camp clients, won’t work. Primarily because I’m not seeing people in person any longer (80% of my clients are online). I have to adapt and adjust to this new model.

Giving people a chance to get results, before committing to a long-term agreement, makes me feel good, and people feel comfortable with me as their coach.

I’m cool with that.

Write your Personal Retrospective

Boom. That’s mine. Are you going to take this challenge too?

It took me roughly an hour. I took some time in the beginning to walk my dog, Tika, and then time to talk Teresa about her day. But I knew this would be worth the time. It’s already 2017, and I couldn’t let this go into another month.

What are you most proud of? Where are your biggest growth opportunities?

And the “hard work” — “What are you going to do about them?”

Let me know when you’re done. I’d love to read it. Peace.

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