Looking back (An annual review – 2018)

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From the past five years, I’m doing an annual review of my life. It’s the time when every year I take a pause and reflect back on my successes and failures in the past year. I publish it here in this Blog which keeps me publicly accountable for the goals for the coming year. Here is it for this year –

Photo by Michael Skok on Unsplash

This is my sixth annual review, you can access my previous reviews for 2017, 2016, 2015 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), 2014 and 2013. This year also I’ll answer three questions, the same as the past 5 years:

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

Hope it will be insightful and interesting for some of you. Lets cut to the chase.

Looking back (An annual review – 2018)

1. What went well this year?

Business Growth. So Finally I arrived at the idea of working on fewer projects in the past year. Quality over Quantity was the mantra. I executed just 2 projects. 1 side gig and 1 ongoing creative project (Blog and Podcast).

1. Blog – Like last year I focused on my Saturday-Pentacle newsletter (for the new readers – think of it as ‘Best of the week’ newsletter) which I started in 2016. I kept up with publishing it every week, for almost 3 quarters. But at the end of last year, I slowed down on the posting and delayed multiple weeks. This was one part procrastination, but also the point was to focus more on the writing and to enjoy the process while not making it a mere job work. I wanted to push forward in the area of the audio podcast as well. So in the last quarter of 2018, I made progress there, but that led to delays in the Saturday-Pentacle posts. There was one point in time when I told my closest human being that I’m going to give it up for now and focus solely on the story based on quality writing and podcasts. But she said “People like Saturday-Pentacle and you should do it. Don’t stop. I wanna know more about your weekly affairs on an ongoing basis”. So that’s what kept me going. Saturday-Pentacle still lives. Thanks to her. But I want to automate it, I want to automate the nuances of posting it every week. I want to just send the 5 things to someone who would publish it in my templated format. Hopefully this year I will. But overall the blogging part was consistent in growth, if not growing super fast.

Here are some quick stats for my blog for the year 2018 –

  • 52 new Saturday Pentacle Posts published this year
  • 6 regular blog posts which include podcast and articles
  • YoY Growth (2017 Vs 2018)
    • Unique visitors growth – 45.23 %
    • Unique page views growth – 43.80 %
    • New email subscribers growth – 24.44 %

2. Idea execution from last year and new ones – I continued working on the previous year’s business idea (travelling and car rental related) which I executed at the start of 2018. Rest of the year was all about running the operations (which was almost passive). My part was only running the accounts and clearing balances of the labour involved. Finally, I arrived at this conclusion about this specific business idea that – the profit can be made if only the labour personnel work a proper 12 hours shift. But in my experiences it was not the case, I tried 3 workers and they always did 7-9 hours max. Which left me with almost a break-even case of business and in some months a negative margin or loss. I’m still continuing it till this year half, as I’ve started making some profit now. But I’ve set up a target, if that’s not starting to get achieved every month in the first half of the year (2019), I’m gonna exit the business and pursue the next idea which purely online. You’ll see the results in next year’s review.

Writing. 2018 was a good year from the personal writing perspective, I published 58 blog posts. But what is more important is that I started writing my journal again, out of all 365 days I wrote around 188 entries in my journal. I’ve tried with 5 minutes journal (which is like a template of bullet points to write on, check the link), but as per my experience, the free-flowing journal is what I like more. Just start writing about your day and things experienced the previous day and your mind is cleared from the weight of previous days gazzilion things. Plus I got many ideas from this practice. It makes your scattered thought becomes ideas on the paper and which then can be turned into a plan and be executed. But not all ideas are executable.

My pursuit from 2 years to start writing a book still remains, as other things got priority over that. I’m not promising for this year again if I will be able to write but I’m being optimistic. Needless to mention, in this hectic schedule, it’s very difficult to write a book which requires separate 2 hours a day almost every day for months. So I’m unsure if I’ll be able to devote that much time in this year. But let’s see. More focus is on the podcast and becoming free of the 9-5 rat race as of now. That’s what will make me have the time eventually to write the book.

Travelling. I travelled as usual in 2018. No solo trip this past year, but I travelled to multiple places this year as well. I have promised to myself to explore at least a few unknown territories every year. I travelled to a Vineyard in Nashik this year. Road trips to a few places in Maharashtra itself. Experienced many new things. Travelled a little lighter than before. Want to come to a point where I can travel with just my backpack. Even though I’m not too satisfied but at least I could travel to some good places, so it’s good enough.

Few places I visited this year –

  1. Sula Vineyard, Nashik (new)
  2. Goa
  3. Pawna Lake
  4. Lonavala
  5. Matheran
  6. Shirdi
  7. Shani Shignapur (new)
  8. Alibaug

Photography. In 2018 I posted more than 200 photographs throughout the year on my Instagram story. As I discovered in 2017 that I want to put more context and storytelling in the pictures I was taking. So I was taking fewer and fewer shots instead of clicking like a mad man. But I was more and more going through a process before I could take any photograph. Chase Jarvis (the famous photographer) inspired me with this when he said in his interview with Sara Dietschy –

Photography is not more about the technical skills but it’s more about the storytelling. That’s what makes your craft different and unique. It’s the question – What can you put in the picture that other people can’t?

So photography is not about happy accidents, it should be more of a planned affair – thinking about elements of the environment and the characters beforehand, even before you go to that place for the photo.

In 2019 as well, I want to keep refining my process before taking the photograph and putting in the time to think about how I want the results to be and then go take the photo.

Check out my photographs and stories on my Instagram.

Finance. So finance wise the major highlight of the last year was checking off a big item from my list which was – “Buying a house”.  I bought an apartment for our family and moved into the new apartment in the 3rd quarter of 2018.

After this major investment, there was nothing much left to invest additionally in-order to curb the taxes. They were already taken care of due to the exemption we get on House Loan payments and Interest Payments.

Stocks wise this year was not so good, the majority of my previously invested stocks went down or stayed flat. So not a good thing but as they say it’s not a loss until realised. 

So this new year 2019 will be more into investing small amounts consistently into a couple of new areas like medical insurance which I’m yet to take apart from the one my workplace provides. I’m also thinking to invest a little bit in government bonds which is a safer investment but provides more ROI as compared to Fixed deposits. I learned about it in this article.

Becoming Staying a finisher Do-er. Last year I progressed on becoming a do-er and not just a finisher of things. But sometimes being a creative person you face certain emotions like self-criticism and insecurity that if you are good enough.  The anxiety you get from not finding enough success with the work that you put out. I faced those emotions in 2018 at some points in time. But I was able to navigate as I believe firmly in this quote –

The gap between where you are and where you want to be is closer than you think.

– Chase Jarvis (Creative Live)

Why is that? Why this quote made me push through. Because at the core it talks about being consistent and keep putting out the work. Because one day your work will be suddenly recognized at a scale you would have never imagined and that will change everything. I feel one should listen to their gut and intuition for this. If you yourself start feeling like you are not happy with something in particular then that’s a precursor to starting to try and change that. Because if you have a dream then working hard towards making it a reality, only that makes sense and nothing else. Because –

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Deep work. I started the practice of deep work from 2017 (got introduced to this concept from a book – Deep work by Cal Newport) and I continued it in 2018. I added a couple of things to it to get into that deep work zone faster. I started experimenting with listening to Binaural Beats.

binaural beat is an auditory illusion. It is perceived when two different pure-tone sine waves are presented to a listener, one tone to each ear.

A good example is this on YouTube.

Another good app/website I continue using from the past couple of years – Noisli.

Deep work has become a state for me where I produce significantly important work.

Cycling. As I got a road bike in 2017. I wanted to include more cycling in 2018 along with my running. So in 2018, I was able to do more cycling even though that reduced my running efforts a bit.

Highlights of my cycling efforts –

  • Total cycling mileage – 712.5 Kms
  • Longest ride – 55.60 Kms at one go

Nutrition. So as I juggled between tracking my food and not tracking in the past couple of years. 2018 was no tracking at all. But I found myself becoming more mindful of what I would eat and I noticed my overall diet quantity had gone down. I included more quality things into my diet now.

I included flax seeds for Omega-3, Green smoothies (made of Spinach, Avocados and/or Banana etc.) and more things which filled me up on the macro nutrition level.

One major experiment I started on myself at the end of 2018 was –

Going Vegan on my 30th birthday. (Yes I turned 30 in Dec 2018! Damn!)

Of course, I care about animals and that’s why I thought to go Vegan in the first place. But secondly, it was also more to see how my body reacts to it and are there any visible benefits or drawbacks? The major change was the mindset and starting to actually see what goes into our food. What we don’t really see usually. Going Vegan made me see that and helped me detox. I have some findings through my experiences being a Vegan, that I will be sharing in a separate blog post soon.

Meeting new People. In 2018 I was able to meet a lot of interesting and new people throughout the year, mainly because of my podcast series on people who have created a lifestyle of their choice.

I started doing a discovery mode when I research the people online in a specific field and choose one of them who is not ultra successful but still in the middle of the scale of being successful. So I was able to meet entrepreneurs, athletes, coaches and many more interesting people. It has been amazing the past year. I am gonna continue that in 2019 and make the podcast episode every week. Hence will be able to meet at least one interesting person per week.

2. What didn’t go so well this year?

Fitness. Even though my fitness level stayed consistent, the main goal from the previous year’s review, to reduce the tummy fat was not achieved in 2018. I reduced a little bit overall fat but not specifically tummy fat. So it was a downer for me. Otherwise fitness wise it was a fine year.

Running. My running stats declined further from the previous year but that was mainly because I also wanted to include cycling more into my routine –

2018 Vs 2017 comparison –

  • Mileage – 410.4 KMs Vs 610.6 KMs. (Down by 19.85%)

So like every year my goal for 2019 will be 1000 KMs running. But I’m gonna ramp up on Cycling as well and try to do 2000 Kms of Cycling throughout the year.

Reading. Even though my target was to read one book each month in 2018. Even though I did better than 2017 and almost doubled the books read number but I still failed in achieving the target of 12 books throughout the year.

Here are the books I read –

Books in progress books (or which I couldn’t finish) –

Apart from books, I read a lot of articles and long pieces. If I was to number, It would be around 40 pieces throughout the year which really moved me.

A few articles I would like to highlight from my last year’s reading (or re-reading) –

As I wanted to track my progress of reading books on GoodReads and make it publicly available by showing the stats on my blog as well, but I couldn’t do it due to lack of time and a few technicalities. But this new year I’m gonna work on it and inch closer towards finishing the tracking part to make my reading better. Again the target will be 12 books in 2019 (one book a month).

Learning at work. So after joining a new company at the end of 2017, I thought I’ll be able to learn something new and work on a new project in my domain. But I was put back into a similar project I’ve been working on, which lacked newness. That doesn’t mean I became completely stagnant in my learning, I learned a lot in the new workspace in 2018 – building a network with the new company personnel, learning some more automation techniques. But still, the level of new stuff I was seeking to learn was not fulfilled.

3. What am I working towards?

Podcast. As I started my interview series podcast in the final quarter of 2018. I re-branded it, earlier the podcast was just me talking about certain topics. So I shifted from that and removed all the earlier episodes from the podcast and started to publish the interviews only, on the podcast, slowly it’s turning into something really meaningful and I’m really excited and looking forward to doing it more and more. The important part is I’m loving the process more. So in 2019, I’m planning to do one episode each week. So 52 episodes in 2019 is the unwritten target.

Becoming more conscious about what I eat. As I turned vegan on my 30th Birthday (towards the end of the year) as mentioned above, I started putting a serious deal of thought on whatever I ate. Processed food became uneatable for me. I started eating more raw foods as smoothie or seeds as snacks. But my main focus became the fulfilment of macro nutrition. So in 2019 I’m gonna continue on that and make progress. Will be publishing a report next year on this.

The book – Last but not the least “The book” as I mentioned above that I’m not expecting too much of myself to write the book but I’m optimistic that I might be able to set aside few weeks to work purely on the book and create a first draft. I’m not putting 100% money on that. But I’m optimistic.

This wraps up my 2018 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’ve learned so far.

Here’s to an amazing 2019!

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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