How 2015 Surprised Me

Who doesn’t love the sound of ‘a new year’? For me, 2015 brought new experiences and accomplishments, and I like to acknowledge wins as well as set new goals each calendar year. The new year can bring a fresh start and provide optimism and momentum, and reflecting helps sustain that momentum throughout the year. After the holidays, I like to reflect upon the previous 365 days and identify what I did well and what I’d like improve upon. 


In February 2015, I joined my local Toast Masters chapter, a group dedicated to teaching public speaking and leadership skills.  I enjoyed this new opportunity, and after a few months, I became a club officer. Toast Masters has taught me to speak confidently and effectively in front of an audience, and I used those new skills in a talk I delivered to a small group of professionals in my hometown. Communication is key in both professional and casual settings. Joining Toast Masters was one of the best decisions I made in 2015. Join Toast Masters. 


Before 2015, I didn’t consider myself a writer. Sure, I’d written the occasional blog post, but not consistently, and my words weren’t read by more than a few people. In 2015, however, that changed. In 2015, I wrote more than 50 articles, averaging around 2500 words each, primarily about design. I also managed a mailing list which allowed me to share my articles and build a relationship with a focused audience; as a result, my writing has improved and has been published globally. Writing about what I know and care about has helped me foster a supportive network of talented professionals. 


In high school and college, I was not a reader (thank you SparkNotes), but in 2014, I began reading self-improvement books, and in 2015, I read and listened to more books and audiobooks than I ever have. I read about discipline and habits, self-improvement, strength training, design, writing, focus, balance, prioritizing, business, finance, and to help me relax, I read fiction. I made my way through nearly 70 books this year, and I am inspired to continue this practice in the new year. For the busy professional like me, Audible has been a life-saver. Try Audible for 30 days—free! 


I was more charitable in 2015 than the previous year. It’s easy to become distracted by our own needs, goals and obsessions, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to neglect others. This year, I did some pro bono design work for clients who wanted my help but couldn’t afford it. I was charitable by purchasing and assembling adoption kits for foster children. I also donated money to aid in the building of a school and playground in Laos, and I helped plant trees in my local community. You don’t need to be wealthy to be charitable. Even your time is valuable to those in need. You can help build schools here. 


Hoping to build an online business, I joined in January 2015. From Fizzle, I learned how to: build websites and email lists, write copy and build launch strategies, build a minimum viable product, pitch ideas and sell services, network, understand businesses and how to take action. Fizzle is a community of awesome, like-minded entrepreneurs who help you build your business. In addition to being the most affordable online business education you’ll find, Fizzle has a supportive community to keep you accountable. My participation earned me the title of ‘One of the Top 25 Indie Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2015’ by Try Fizzle free for 5 weeks here. 


I began freelancing in late 2013; eight months later, I left my full-time job at Felt Bicycles and moved to PA. 2015 was the first full calendar year I spent being self-employed, and that has been both difficult and uncomfortable at times. It has, however, been gratifying and I’ve learned more than I thought possible. I wrote many articles about freelancing in 2015 because it was the source of both frustration and joy for me. I enjoyed helping other less-experienced designers with freelancing. If you’re looking for design help, here’s 7 Reasons to Hire a Freelancer. If you’re a freelancer, here is How to Find Freelance Clients.


In November 2014, I injured my back which resulted in 2 herniated discs in the lower lumbar region of my spine. This is a serious injury and almost always leads to permanent damage. I spent the first half of 2015 working with general practitioners, physical therapists, chiropractors, internists and orthopedists with very little improvement. All of these doctors recommend that I stop weight training to avoid further spinal injury. Out of frustration, I formulated my own regimen of healthy, corrective habits and smart lifting and now six months later, I’m pain-free, much stronger and less likely to re-injure my spine. This was a long and complicated issue to treat, and recovering from a back injury was one of my biggest accomplishments of 2015.


When I graduated college, I weighed 130 pounds (59 Kilos) and was 5’10. I was unhealthy and had a poor diet. From 2012-2014 I gradually got stronger, began weight training and learned how to eat for an athletic build. For much of 2015, I did not exercise as my doctors had advised me not to, but now that my back is mostly healed, I’m back in the gym. My current regimen consists of weight lifting 5 days a week with 15-minute cardio sessions and 30-minute cardio sessions Saturday and Sunday. As a result of this routine, I’ve never been more satisfied with my physical health and by being active daily, my optimism, energy and quality of work have also increased. I’m following Kris Gethin’s 12-week Muscle Builder program and highly recommend it. With daily videos, nutrition and exercise plans, it’s one of the best free programs available. Check it out here.  


I have a degree in industrial design, and as a freelancer, I have mostly solicited industrial design services. Although I have enjoyed helping clients design new products, this past year, I found a new passion in CGI. I recently wrote an in-depth article, Everything Business Owners Need to Know About CGI in 2016. As a photographer with experience in marketing and product design, I discovered a niche, and I offer clients high-end photo-real imagery and animations of products (even ones that don’t exist yet). This CGI is often used to win investor capital, build effective presentations, speed up product development, improve crowd-funding campaigns, websites and e-commerce. The highlight of this new interest was when one of my images won an award. I plan to focus on this more in 2016.


I’ve always been able to juggle many interests and priorities because planning and follow-through have always come easy to me. However, being a high-acheiver means that I get frustrated when I don't progress quickly or compete at a high level; unfortunately, there isn’t enough time in the day for me to accomplish everything I would like to. Fortunately, this past year, I learned to focus. I stopped pursuing multiple interests and poured my time into priorities. Reading a book called The One Thing taught me how to accomplish more by focusing. Read my full book review here. If you want to make serious improvements on your work, career or life as a whole, read The One Thing and learn to focus. 


So, what’s in store for 2016? Despite 2015 being a big year, I can tell that 2016 is going to be even bigger. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve for the upcoming 365 days, so join my email news letter to learn what comes next.