Looking back (An annual review – 2016)

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From past three years, I’m doing an annual review of my life. Cause I want to pause and reflect back on my successes and failures of the previous year and publishing it here in this Blog keeps me accountable for the next year.

Looking back (An annual review - 2016)

 

This is my fourth annual review, you can access my previous reviews for 2015 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), 2014 and 2013. This year also I’ll answer three questions, same as past 3 years:

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go so well year?
  3. What’s am I working toward?

So this is gonna sound cliché but I’m the man of making resolutions and working on them, every year. So this year also I created a list of new year resolutions like last year. Coincidently I’m posting this annual review almost at the end of second quarter of the year like last year.

I think I’m liking this schedule as it gives me some more visibility on the new year’s resolutions and I can add some more context to the happenings of the year. If that doesn’t make sense, just read it as I was feeling lazy!

Just kidding.

After the successful year of 2015, last year was not that successful overall but it was no less satisfying. I also experienced various sort of serendipities.

serendipity
sɛr(ə)nˈdɪpɪti

noun
the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Ok! That was not an editorial mistake I knowingly put that word definition above. Why? Because I’ve fallen in love with this word “Serendipity”.

Serendipity in my own definition is a state when we fall in love with the universe and start accepting and loving the present moment, then the universe starts loving you back in the strangest of ways.

There happened many serendipitous events in the year of 2016. Through which I felt strange new feelings derived from wandering, wondering and affection.

I’m keeping this post as a single post, unlike last year’s 3 part post which took so much time and complexity to get published. Hope it will be insightful and interesting for some of you.

Lets cut to the chase.

Looking back (An annual review – 2016)

1. What went well this year?

Business Growth. I did many mistakes in 2016, but I did something better than last year, which eventually helped me grow.

Even though the journey is long and I know the road is hard,
but If I keep on doing the right things and doing things right, I'll do just fine.

1. Blog – I put a good amount of efforts into my blog compared to the previous year. Most importantly I published more consistently like I had visualised in my last year’s Annual review. I’ve learned one thing, you can only grow if you put consistent efforts and work smarter with the marketing. So 2016 was a better year for HimanshuSachdeva.com. Here are some quick stats…

  • 20 new articles published this year
  • YoY Growth (2015 Vs 2016)
    • Unique visitors growth – 112.14%
    • Unique page views growth – 88.10%
    • New email subscribers growth – 35.13%
  • There is one more metric which I’m really proud of, which is the speed of my site. It’s fast by 33.28% now compared to the previous year (2015).
    • Reduction in Avg. Page Load Time (sec) – 33.28%

I also started a new newsletter in November 2016 called ‘Saturday-Pentacle’. This newsletter contains 5 things I loved every week. It served two purposes –

  • Growing my audience – The number of email subscribers grew after I started this mailer every week. More audience started sharing it with their friends and family through various platforms like WhatsApp or socials. Eventually, It spread organically to my targeted audience.
  • Create something every day – This was on my last year’s Annual Review as something I’m working toward. As I visualised I did achieve it by the last quarter. When I found this strangely beautiful obligation to create something every day. This could be anything creative – A Blog post, A Photograph, A story, A podcast episode, A book I might have read etc. I jot down 5 best things from that week and share it on the Saturday as ‘Saturday-Pentacle’.

It turned out to be a good decision and it helped me grow on the various creative platforms – My blog, My Instagram Gallery, My Podcast show etc and eventually made me a better person.

2. A/B testing of my business ideas – I also tried a few of my entrepreneurial ideas and results showed me that many of them have good potential of turning into successful, side hustles. Can’t share many details now, but I’ll surely be pursuing them forward. Probably next year’s Annual Review will have some good announcements.

Writing.  2016 was a good year from writing perspective, I wrote more than 30 Article pieces out of which 20 were published on the blog. I also experimented with the daily journaling as ‘Morning Pages’. I avoided digital notebooks and went back to my old school diary for this purpose. Over the course of past year, there were many months I would write every single day and it was very effective in clearing my mind. But surprisingly many ideas also came out of that kind of daily writing. Many really good ones, which I implemented and resulted well. Overall in the year of 2016, I wrote more than 70000 words overall.

As my ultimate goal of writing a book, I think If I write a little more, I’ll be able to publish a book in the year’s time. Why not? 70000 words mean a 200+ pages book already. But still, 300 pages books sounds like a good enough canvas to jot down a story on. Goals, Goals.

Learning at work. This February I completed 3 years at my current company. In past 3 years at my current company, I’ve worked consciously to transform myself into a leader from an individual contributor or a manager. What I learned from my last year’s experience can be put into the following quote –

Be stubborn with the vision but flexible with the details.

— Jeff Bezos's (Amazon.com CEO)

Another thing I learned was work will always be there, more than enough to drown yourself into. But It’s you who has to define your priorities and work towards the vision you have for yourself and your team. So the below quote reflects my experience of the last year very precisely –

"Hard work isn’t enough, and more work is never the real answer.”

– Reid Hoffman (Co-founder of LinkedIn)

Travelling. This was THE YEAR of travelling. Like I wanted in the last year to travel more. I actually travelled far more than I anticipated. I travelled around 10 places throughout the year.

5 States –

  1. Rajasthan
  2. Punjab
  3. Haryana
  4. Uttar-Pradesh
  5. Maharashtra

10+ Cities – 

  1. Bikaner
  2. Lucknow
  3. Benares (Varanasi)
  4. Sarnath
  5. Ambala
  6. Matheran
  7. Lonavala
  8. Madh Island
  9. Vasai-Virar
  10. Pune

Visited 100+ places or events throughout the year, but the top spots being the following –

  1. Junagarh Fort, Bikaner
  2. Bada Imambada, Lucknow
  3. Rumi Darwaja, Lucknow
  4. Hajratganj
  5. The various Ghats of Benares, especially the Manikarnika Ghat (scary), Dashaswamedh Ghat (The main Ghat) and the historical Assi Ghat
  6. Sarnath – The place Buddha gave his first sermon to five disciples after attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya.
  7. Scary no light trek at Matheran in the late evening – which was actually accidental.
  8. Awestrung concert
  9. Canon Photo Marathon
  10. Vasai-Virar – Half Marathon event
  11. SCMM – Full Marathon event

Meeting new People. Through out the year of 2016, I travelled 5 states as mentioned above and I met a lot of strangers at various places, some of whom eventually became very good friends and with some, I cherished a lot of memories while being in those moments.

A brave heart Israeli Photographer who became a friend for life. A Manjhi ( a person who propels the Boat) on the Ghats of Benares. A waiter at a restaurant in Hazratganj (Lucknow) who gave a very personalised treatment when I went to this famous old restaurant (Moti Mahal). An auto rickshaw driver in Lucknow who drove me all day long for sight seeing, could you imagine seeing most of the scenic spots in Lucknow in a day? I didn’t. But I made it through that with that rickshaw driver.

A Pandit (priest) at the ghats of Benares who I visited once and had tea with, gave me tilak’s for free whenever I was passing by (almost for a week). A Chinese family in Sarnath, for whom I clicked a picture and they were so eager to click pictures along with me making me feel like I was a celebrity. A few kids in Sarnath, who thought I was a journalist and they made all the possible poses to get featured in the Newspaper (of course I am not a journalist, but I’m going to feature them in my Instagram gallery). An uncle who met me almost every evening in Benares and talked to me like a was her grandchild (so much love, I posted a picture of him with me on my Benares Blog earlier).

A Muslim family who let their kids be photographed by me with a smile when I requested them while shooting for the Canon Photo Marathon in Bandra, they were so generous. A group of vegetable shipping labourers who I photographed on the same day, they gave me smiles and a week’s supply of sweet potatoes. A group of youngsters eating dosas the same day, I asked them to pose for a photograph and one of them started to crack a few jokes, to get everyone laughing so that I can put those emotions in my photograph, oh Mumbai!

There are probably a hundred more strangers whom I met through out that year, I’m sure we shared a few good moments. Travelling made me learn one thing – talking to strangers and having a good laugh with them.

Photography. It was a good year for my photography as well, I shot more than 5000 photographs in the whole year.  Out of which almost 140 were published on my Instagram account with its stories. Photography was also a major part of my ‘Create every day’ regime throughout the year. One of my favourite photographs from this year was “Quintessence of life” which I shot during Canon Photo Marathon 2016. I’m glad I could take so many photographs in the year of 2016 and took a few gems as well in between. I’m really excited for what 2017 brings in.

Finance. In my last year’s Annual Review,  I mentioned I want to make the funding of my travels smooth as butter. So eventually, I could do justice with it. I planned, saved and travelled to as many places as I could (5 states, 10 cities, 100s of places). I’m really happy with that. So this is going to become an ongoing thing now, to save necessarily for travels and invest in experiences rather than materials. I also learned that a minimal lifestyle can give your savings a huge bump over the course of medium to long term. So I’m going to put more focus on decluttering my life/lifestyle.

2. What didn’t go so well this year?

Fitness. 2016 was not as great as 2015. Even though I was fit and healthy through out the year, yet it was not as good as the last year. I exercised less than last year and didn’t eat healthier than last year. Eventually gained 1 Kilo. That’s it.

I’m keeping the bar higher and want to have a fitter self in the year of 2017.

Running. This was not a better year than the last year in all means. 2015 had been the greatest till now. But just to give a few stats, YoY –

2016 Vs 2015

  • Mileage – 761.9 KMs Vs 981.5 KMs. (Down by 22%)
  • Number of Runs – 113 Vs 156 (Down by 28%)
  • Pace – Avg pace improved by 7 seconds (Up by 1.5%)

A few achievements in 2016 – The biggest of all, I ran my first Full Marathon in Mumbai Marathon 2016. Few Personal Best stats which I’m proud of –

  • My fastest Half Marathon – 2:27:55
  • My first full Marathon – 5:13:20

Still, it’s a long way to go but at least I tried and I will keep on trying to run more.

Nutrition. Even though turning vegan was in the list of my 2016 to be items, but that didn’t happen entirely. However, I could let many of the things go from my primary diet, like becoming a pure vegetarian (that means saying No to eggs as well). But I read well and tried to replace things like that with something vegan or vegetarian-friendly. Like instead of consuming fish tab oils for Omega3 I started consuming Flax seeds and included nuts more in my morning breakfast.

Then why nutrition in the “What didn’t go so well this year?” section you ask!

Because, the decision of not tracking my diet last year didn’t turn out very well, even though now I know how much to eat consciously. But still not tracking my meals, lifted the tough block of caloric goal limit per day and I indulged in food sins more this year, eventually gaining 1 kilo even after all the rigorous exercise.

One learning – Even though exercising is a must to get shredded, still I would say below is true if you ask me what to focus on in your weight maintenance journey –

Food > Exercise (period.)

Reading. Turns out reading multiple books was a great idea! But still reading is in my “What didn’t go so well this year?” section. Because I didn’t keep consistent on my reading habit. As some other creative habits like photography and writing took priority or sometimes just laziness.

I finished 4 good books. To name a few – ‘The war of art’ by Steven Pressfield, ‘The Dip’ by Seth Godin etc. But still, I missed my goal of finishing 9 books in the year by a big margin. I touched a total of 10 books but could finish just 4, others are either yet to finish or I just put them down because I found them boring. But I implemented a learning from my favourite person/author Tim Ferriss this year, If you don’t like something you are reading, have the courage to stop and put that fu**ing book/article down. So I did put a few books/articles down because I just didn’t like’em.

A few books I would like to recommend here, even though I may be in the middle of reading a few of them –

  • ‘The war of art’ by Steven Pressfield
  • ‘The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage’ by Ryan Holiday
  • ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill
  • ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemingway

But still, I’m going to set a new target for the new year 2017. Hopefully, I do better this year.

Guitar. As I mentioned in the last year, If I couldn’t practice as I should in 2016, I will give it away to someone. Unfortunately, that was the case. But fortunately for someone, it turned out to be a bliss. I’m giving it away to my sister very shortly (after getting a wire fixed).

3. What am I working towards?

Looking back, It was a good year, not better than 2015 but still very good. I had some big successes (my first solo travel, my first full marathon, actually trying on my business ideas with my own dough (money) ). But I also had a few failures as well (running less than my targeted mileage, reading significantly less than my target number of books). But I saw the fruits of my hard-work which I laid down the year before e.g. running my first Full Marathon (42.195 KMs) this year or my ‘Create every day’ regime opening the gates to a wider audience for me on various platforms.

So in the year of 2017, I visualise my priorities falling into three categories.

Adapting Minimalism into more areas.  As I tasted the deliciousness of minimalism in the year of 2016 which eventually saved me money for my travels. I am looking forward to expanding minimalism into more areas of my life. Like the people in my life, declutter my home and much more.

Becoming a finisher. As I saw myself picking up a variety of things and finishing almost less than half of them (on the creative or entrepreneurial front), I want to become a finisher. Below is gonna be my motto –

Pick up, hustle through and Finish.

But I’ve learned through hard ways that it’s the first part ‘Pick up‘ where we need to put more focus and energy. If you pick up something which keeps you awake at nights, probably you will finish it.

Transitioning to deep work. In 2017, I want to transition into deep work. Where I focus more, for a longer duration of time and deliver high qualty content. Raising the bar and creating more of what can provide better value to my audience. These will be my in-direct goals.

Well, that wraps up my 2016 Annual Review. I’d like to close by thanking you for reading. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m delighted to share what I learn with you along the way. Here’s to a magical 2017.


My Annual Review Archives:

This is a complete list of Annual Reviews I have written.


Special note: Thanks to James Clear for inspiring me to start writing these Annual Review posts and hold myself accountable publicly on my reflections of each past year.

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