What I thought of 2015

Around this time of year for the last few years I remember thinking, “Good riddance to this shitty year.” I don’t feel that way about 2015. It was probably the best year out of the last several years.

Last year I wrote about 2014’s accomplishments. Here are some 2015’s accomplishments:

New car for myself

I finally had enough money to buy what I consider to be a pretty good car. I was driving a 15 year-old Saturn my dad had bought me a few years ago, which was very nice of him, but I felt embarrassed pulling up in it to meetings with clients and prospects. I always imagined the other person might think, “How successful could this guy be if that’s what he’s driving?” I know that the popular view is that people shouldn’t judge each other based on appearances but they definitely do. Even if the other person wasn’t judging me based on my car, I certainly felt less legit showing up in it.

What I bought myself is a 2002 BMW 325xi wagon. (It looks like this.) Somewhat funnily, it only cost $3650, just $650 more than the Saturn I had been driving had cost, but zero embarrassment factor. I didn’t realize before that I could get such a good car for such little money. I probably could have bought a similar car way earlier but I couldn’t justify spending that money just because I felt like buying a different car. What prompted this purchase was that Niki’s car died. This was sometime in late spring, I believe.

New van for Niki

Jim Rohn often talks about his early days when he had “pennies in his pocket” and was “behind on his promises”. I feel like I’ve been somewhat behind on my promises for a while. I don’t know that I ever specifically promised my wife a new van, but I did buy her one this October. For a long time I had been against the idea of car loans but for some reason I finally decided to say fuck it, who cares. I bought her a 2011 Honda Odyssey, by far the newest and nicest car either of us have ever owned.

House

The years of 2014 and 2015 are when I finally started making some pretty good money. In addition to buying two new (used) cars, I was able to put away enough money for a down payment on a house as well as some of the other expenses related to buying a house. It took us a long time to find what we wanted but we finally found it: a place with some acreage, not too close to the road and not too close to neighbors, and not too far outside the city. The house itself is nothing to write home about but that’s quite alright.

First international travel experience

In 2015 I left the US for the first time in my life at age 30. I visited Nigeria from mid-January to early February to teach programming with Andela. I have to say that it was very perspective-shifting and one of the transformative experiences of my life. I made a lot of friends there, and even visited someone I met via this blog. (Hi Uzo.) I intend to go back as soon as I practically can.

Better clients

The clients I worked with in 2015 were better than the clients I worked with in 2014. That could easily be taken the wrong way. I of course don’t mean that the people were necessarily better (although sometimes they were!), I mean the businesses were a better match for the kind of work I do.

In my mind, a good client is someone who a) has a problem I can solve, b) has deep enough pockets, c) has their head screwed on right, and d) is sophisticated and educated in the same way as me. By that last point I mean, are you familiar with most of the following people? Stephen Covey, David Heinemeier Hansson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Perry Marshall, Claude Hopkins, Rob Walling, Dale Carnegie. The degree to which you’re familiar with those people tells me the extent to which you educate yourself as a business owner. If you aren’t familiar with the work of any of those people, you probably don’t live in the same world as me, and it’s not going to be as easy for us to work together. Willfully ignorant business owners don’t make good clients.

When I worked for Andela I was perpetually impressed by how well-educated my colleagues were. I felt like the dumbest guy in the room. I almost certainly was the dumbest guy in the room. That’s of course a sign that you’re in a good environment that will help you grow. I hope I can have many more client engagements like that.

Double Your Freelancing Conference

I don’t know if this is an accomplishment. It might just be an experience. Perhaps it’s an accomplishment that I had enough time and money to get myself to this conference.

In 2013 I read Brennan Dunn‘s Double Your Freelancing Rate. This book exposed me to a community of freelancers/consultants who kind of vibrate at the same frequency as myself. It’s a world that overlaps with the micro-ISV/micropreneur/bootstrapper world I had been exposed to some time earlier.

In 2015 Brennan held the first-ever Double Your Freelancing Conference in Norfolk, Virginia. The conference was, no exaggeration, one of the best experiences of my entire life. Every once in a while I have an experience that kind of whispers in my ear, “Hey, life can be way different than what you’ve experienced so far.” At this conference was exposed to people who bill $250K+ per year as solo consultants. I had a chance to ask a table full of people what their most life-changing book was, and not only did they not think I was a crazy weirdo for asking the question, but they had some really good responses including books I had never heard of. (One guy’s response exactly matched mine: How to Win Friends and Influence People and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.)

It’s hard to put into words exactly why the conference was such a good experience. Part of it was just the feeling that all these people were living life “right”. Most of them had healthy minds and healthy bodies and a large degree of freedom over their own lives. They had set their own course in life and then followed it. There’s a quote I like which reads, “A man is educated to the extent he can understand and influence the world around him.” These people seemed to me very educated. They were people I wanted to be around and be like.

Miscellaneous others

These aren’t necessarily accomplishments, just positive things that happened.

  • I took a trip to Northern Michigan in March and stayed at a cabin with some friends. I had more fun than I had had in some years. I had found myself growing concerned that as you grow older you simply stop having as much fun, and life’s highs and lows get less extreme. This trip showed me that it’s still possible to have a fuckload of fun, I had just been living life in a shitty way for a long time and denying myself fun experiences.
  • I took a trip to Beaver Island in October which involved taking a ferry to the island and then taking a long bike ride around the periphery of the island. This was another “mega fun” experience, and was a nice reminder that life doesn’t have to be dull. Life is dull most of the time right now, and full of too much work, but that’s just because I’m doing a shitty job of it, not because it’s some law of the universe or something.
  • I took a trip with my family up to Onaway, Michigan, the place where my dad’s side of the family is all from. The reason we went there was for my grandpa’s funeral but despite the sad occasion it was a positive overall experience.
  • I took Niki on a mini-vacation to Chicago where we went to Pitchfork Music Festival. We were able to stay in a nice hotel and not worry about how much we were spending on food, drinks, etc. We hung out with an old friend of ours from high school. This was another glimpse of what life could potentially be like after I’m able to throw off the shackles of 40 hours a week of work. 2015 had kind of a lot of glimpses of that.
  • I killed Snip. It’s of course not really a good thing that Snip won’t ever be a success like I hoped, but having killed Snip clears the way for the next attempt at a product business.
  • I read a bunch more books, listened to a lot more podcasts, and generally got way less clueless about how to be successful in businesses.
  • I completed my first real “results-based” project where I charged for the project as opposed to by the hour. I intend to do more of these in 2016.
  • I recorded some new music, some of which I consider to be some of the best stuff I’ve ever written. Not very much but some.

I’m looking back at 2015 with satisfaction and good feelings. I’m very glad to be able to feel this way since, as I mentioned before, the last few Decembers have been accompanied by kind of a “good riddance to this year” feeling. I have reason to believe that 2016 will be even better than 2015 in terms of both money and relationships. I intend to post again soon with some 2016 goals.

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