2016: My Yearly Review

Intro

What kind of life did you create this year?

Every year, I conduct a review of my year to look back, celebrate what I achieved, what didn’t go to plan and what I learnt. I do this by focusing on three questions: What went well? What didn’t go well? and What did I learn?

I’ve been doing this since 2011 and in 2016, also did weekly, monthly & quarterly reviews in a private mastermind I run.

2016 was a year of growth, pain & transformational change. There were a lot of big changes & transition. Here’s how things went down.

I. Education

Overview

In 2015, I failed to hit my goal of reading 25 books. So in 2016, I decided to double my goal and aim for 50 instead!

Most people who miss a target they set, dial it down then aim lower. I decided the answer wasn’t to aim lower — but to commit more. To make it more compelling and stretch myself to do better.

And it worked. I smashed past 50 and could have done more. This process has helped me become truly invested in studying for its own end. I’m at the point where all I want to do if I have a spare moment is read — instead of what I used to do (watch TV shows, movies etc).

Reading, let alone for pleasure, is a rarity these days. And it was for me too a couple years back. When I say I read 50 in a year, I encounter two common questions — how did you do it? and how much of that did you even retain?

These things are all possible, it’s just a matter of creating & committing the time for it. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Instead of listening to music when travelling/driving/at the gym/walking around/doing menial chores. I replaced it with listening to to audiobooks. Over time, I also changed the speed in increments from 1.25x to 1.3x to 1.5x normal speed and so on. Your brain has the unique ability to rewire itself and this applies here too. I’m now able to listen comfortably at 1.75–2x speed and still retain information.
  2. Building on the previous year, I made sure to write notes as I read. And then convert those notes into a review of my key lessons and favourite quotes. For accountability, I shared this on Goodreads. An unintended byproduct too then being that by sharing these on Facebook (they automatically get posted to my Timeline), I also had more discussions on these reviews and books, meaning my learning was reinforced.
  3. Momentum was key. I knew I had to read roughly a book a week. And there were months (especially in Q3) I didn’t read consistently. When this happened I didn’t give up. I chose smaller shorter reads to get me some quick wins and get me back on track.
  4. I read appropriately. What I mean by this is I was always choosing the book I needed to read at that time. Countless studies show intrinsic motivation is a key driver in learning effectively and this was my experience too. Read stuff that you want to & think you need to. Not just for the sake of what you think you should do.

In addition to my reading, I also started writing a few articles for The Huffington Post, with one of them getting featured on their main page.

My post on the demolition of the refugee camp on the Huff Post site — yay!

Next Steps for 2017:

  • Flashcards, LOCI method & spatial repetition. I want to build on my lessons from last year, so I’ll be going back through my reviews from last year and creating flashcards for each book. From here, I’ll be using the LOCI method to make it stick even more.
  • Maintain. My goal isn’t as much about the result this time, but the process. Sometimes more isn’t necessary. Doing the same but better is improvement too.
  • Less self development & more social, political & business books. I’ve pretty much read most of the ‘classic’ self improvement-esque books. This year I want to expand more into business & entrepreneurship (because of my wealth goals) and social/political books.

II. Fitness

Progress pics: May 2016

In 2016, I found a happy balance and enjoyed the journey a lot more when it came to fitness. The focus in 2015 had been to eat better and get lean. From here it was about maintenance and progression.

As you can see below, I was fairly consistent overall but had dips at two key points — getting injured in Feb & travelling Europe during July & August. Interestingly, out of a possible 192 workouts (4/week) I only did 53% (102 of 192).

I did 102 workouts total in 2016. I do a 4 day split per week, meaning 16 per month and 192 over the year.

My thoughts? Yes I could have done 47% more workouts but ultimately I look & feel good, am doing so on a vegetarian (then vegan) diet all whilst running a business, travelling & reading 50+ books. It’s a good foundation.

Next steps for 2017:

  • I’ve switched back to being fully vegan (after choosing to consume whey/cottage cheese for convenience) so in 2017, I’ll be aiming to develop a sustainable diet based on this and getting my macronutrients from whole foods and less supplements.
  • To turn that 53% into 65+%. When analysing it from this point of view, it’s clear that this would be a big improvement. I’ll be aiming for an average of 10 minimum workouts per month of a possible 16. The reason is 2–3 workouts is a bit easier given my current schedule & commitments than 4.
  • I lost my activity tracker during my surfing trip to Morocco so will be researching a new alternative for that. One thing I did well was increase my average step count to 10k daily last year.

III. YouTube & Content Creation

The cover for a mixtape I put together (left) & a clip from the documentary I made about my travels to Kenya (right)

This year I focused on making my YouTube videos better & more consistent. A big part of this was committing to making videos every single day.

One highlight was a documentary I put together. At the end of 2015, I embarked on a magical adventure (put together by my fave friend Jessica Cruse!) to Kenya to volunteer on grassroots projects run by local people that tackled poverty. I captured the journey in my first documentary called “Superheroes of Kenya”. Check it out below.

From January to July, I put out content every single day on the Revolution Hive YouTube channel, leading to an increase in growth of the channel — views, likes, comments, subscribers all went up.

Over the course of July & August, I released a mixtape of spoken word & speeches called “Dead Roots”. This was a project I’d wanted to complete for a number of years, and this year I finally got it done! At the same time, I passed the milestone of 10,000 subscribers on the Revolution Hive YouTube channel giving me access to the YouTube Space in London.

Track 01 — “Revolution” from the Dead Roots mixtape

Next Steps for 2017:

  • To take the focus away from me on the channel, and more on the community/lessons/ideas. I’ll expand on that below in the Business section but I made a video about it here.
  • To get back to making regular content. Towards the summer, due to family commitments & travels, I didn’t post as routinely so I want to re-establish this consistency

IV. Business

Sitting on a panel of judges for an entrepreneurship challenge (left),some members of staff at Revolution Hive (right)

2016 was a year of exponential growth in business for me, and by extension Revolution Hive. I really turned pro scaling the business in several ways. It has evolved from a one man hustle in a bedroom to something that looks and operates more like an organisation & social enterprise.

This has meant shifting my mindset from being the person doing it all, to thinking more systematically and being an invisible leader/CEO. As a result, constantly thinking more about what the mission is and what I need to do as a team player. I’ve had to essentially evolve everything about the way I work and refine my judgement/instincts as an entrepreneur.

The first step was restructuring Revolution Hive. I wanted to put the mission first, and really develop our impact aims more. And that meant bringing together likeminded people, and giving them a real say in building things forwards. I did this by removing myself as the sole director, and legally sharing ownership with other people. My team & I set up a new CIC — the legal entity for a social enterprise — to ensure our structure matched our intentions for impact.

The second step was finding our own space. Twice. First, I moved into our first private office space (on top of a mechanics garage), and then to one now in London. Alongside this, my friend Shane from Blacktie, created a slick new site for us — which has gone down really well.

And finally, and most importantly, was improving our strategy. I’ve been taking part in an incubator programme called ‘Young Academy’ which helps early stage education ventures to become ready for investment. I’ve been working hard at cracking our theory of change, our business model & what exactly our plan is going forwards.

Some cool moments (left to right): Seeing the team deliver education for real life workshops & sitting in the back observing. Moving into the first RH office & a selfie at our practice pitch day at Young Academy

These steps were incredibly positive, and helped me grow a tonne. But there were some difficulties I encountered too, in what was a challenging year.

  • I increased my salary slightly but not as much as I’d have liked because of debtors. This is down to my own lack of due diligence in making sure that I had planned for non-paying clients properly. I was too trusting that a verbal commitment meant I’d get what was owed for some coaching I provided. The lesson here was to make sure things are contracted properly, and make sure I have very clear payment plans or services are paid for upfront. In addition, using a ‘win’ to get more sales instead of relaxing a little. It was a great #thanksforthecut moment.
  • I temporarily went on a 2 week hiatus to re-focus. And came back to unhappy clients, and stagnation. My thoughts are mixed here, as I really needed the break mentally & emotionally. In mid July, I hit a low point after some disappointing news that affected me a lot. I think it was a case of cumulative stress, and I decided to just reset. I knew I either carried on with lingering unresolved issues, or got back to my centre in a couple weeks. That meant a lot of things would stop. 

    I lost momentum on daily videos, the mixtape wasn’t “released” properly & we also lost a lot of momentum in my business. In retrospect it’s a great problem to solve — it told me things were still too reliant on me as an individual and that’s not the correct way to build a company. I might be doing what I love, but essentially I’d just created a job for myself. I was an operator, not an owner of a growing company.

Next steps for 2017

  • To move from being an operator to an owner. This will take a little bit of time, but its clearly the thing to focus on next. Revolution Hive needs to have better structures, processes & it’s my responsibility to learn, implement & create that.
  • To develop a powerful pitch at Demo Day. The incubator programme I’m on ends with a great opportunity to pitch for 7 mins in front of investors. I suspect it is a bit of a red herring, but the process itself of refining everything down to & making it concise will help us improve our thinking & strategy a lot more
  • Better metrics. How do we know we’re doing well? What are our KPI’s? How many young people are we reaching? What measure shows us we’re making a real difference? I’ll be working on these things to ensure it’s measured & managed properly.

V. Life, Leisure & Relationships

Garba (top left), Kwanzaa (top middle), Walks with Bhim, our new dog (top right), volunteering in Calais (bottom left), and a big family wedding (bottom right)

Last year I said I wanted to be more focused & engaged in less relationships and looking back I did this well. I also said I wanted to work 9 months and take 3 months off. In total, I took around 1.5 months off in the year and “worked” the rest. But in truth, I’ve built a life that I love. It may not be perfect but it’s one I’ve chosen & am continually improving.

I went on a surfing trip to Morocco, volunteered twice in the refugee camp in Calais, went hiking/exploring in Norway & Brussels. I continued to build the team, the career, the life, the relationship of my dreams & beyond.

There were some real lows, my dear friend Jay passing away being one of them but when I look back, this is where all of the self development I’d done in previous years kicked in and protected me. Those moments became turnarounds and I grew not in spite of them but because of them.

It was great to see how all the work I’d put into improving myself really showed up & how resilient it had all made me. This gave a huge sense of empowerment — knowing how I can and would cope well with whatever life threw at me.

In November, to round it off, I did a full “character review & audit” where I sent an anonymous survey asking those closest to me what my strengths/weaknesses are and this was a hugely inspiring thing to do. It helped me build resiliency to criticism (it’s hard hearing your faults from those closest to you in such a raw form) but also realise how subjective those opinions & viewpoints are.

7 Key Lessons of 2017:

  1. You’re going to have problems in life. Nothing is totally win/win. So choose the problems you are willing to deal with (your brand of ‘sh*t sandwich’ in the words of Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic) and the best possible response (not reaction) you can have. Things can be a moment or a story, the choice of meaning is yours.
  2. Manage what to care about and what not to. You only have limited time, energy & resources. Only give a damn about what matters to you most and leave the rest (Thank you: Mark Manson & Samy for the recommendation)
  3. Be pragmatic, realistic and open to the journey. Many of my successes came down to simplifying my focus to one thing (daily videos). By ruthlessly cutting down what you commit to/focus on you can excel more (four burners theory).
  4. It’s not that serious. Don’t take it so. Be curious and see life as an adventure to explore everyday. My bag got stolen this year, and all of my work, money, laptop was taken. And instead of making it a big dramatic moment, I just slowed things down & chose to stay cool about it.
  5. Everything has its time. :) Sometimes. There’s nothing you need to say, or do, or change. Just keep being & becoming the right person. “Those with eyes to see, and ears to listen, will respond”.
  6. Be an invisible leader. Lead from the back quietly. Do whatever the mission requires you to & let go of the need to draw attention to you (Thanks: Stoic philosophy/Chris Hadfield/Ryan Holiday)
  7. Create the space to receive — in life you get what you ask for. Be able to share what you really want, then go make it happen with a clear plan of action.

If you read this far, thank you for taking the time to. I encourage you to write your own — this is my story of 2016. What was yours?

Read my previous yearly reviews here:

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011