Grading my 2013 Resolutions

I made a lot of resolutions public on this blog for 2013. Lets see how I did…

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Move my family to Ireland for at least a month

This fell under the concept of scaring yourself with one big goal for the year. My big goal was to try out the “New Rich” concepts of location independent work + life experiences. Easy if you are single… a lot more challenging with a family. How did it go?

We spent a month living and working in Ireland and it was a blast. There’s going to be a similar goal set for 2014 if we can ever decide on a location. Of course there are improvements that could be made, it could be done cheaper, but what we did was approachable for just about anyone.

I’ll give myself a solid A- on this goal.

Simplify life in 2013

In order to make room for big goals we have to let go of the physical and mental distractions that keep us from making real progress. I’m going to say I succeeded here with room for improvement in 2014.

I killed off virtual distractions

  • Killed off the Evolvingwe and Ledgards.com websites and simplified down to this domain and blog. I also killed those email accounts.
  • I have 50% fewer apps installed on my phone.
  • I stopped selling my app development training series and now just give away the iPhone apps I developed. For some reason I couldn’t let go enough to sell those businesses.
  • We no longer have cable TV in the house.
  • I unsubscribed from the blogs, newsletters, and searches I had setup to monitor our competitors. I care about our success and if they do something interesting my customers tell me about it anyway. :)

We finished 2013 with less physical stuff than we started with

This was no small feat with two small children that are showered with presents on Christmas, birthdays, and other random events, but I believe we did it.

  • We donated a good percentage of our clothing and found it liberating.
  • We sold off Skis, Snowboards, TVs, TV Stands, baby stuff, and just about anything we could find in our house that didn’t have a purpose.
  • We employed friends and relatives to focus their gift giving on higher quality toys with a higher lifetime value like legos.
  • We cleaned out our kitchen and sold/donated anything that hadn’t been used in months. Same for the garage and the utility room. This makes what we do have easier to find. :)

I’d like to go further in the next year. Living with fewer, higher quality, things is liberating. I’ll give myself a solid B here.

Outsourcing life in 2013

My goal to outsource more personal and professional tasks in 2013 was a mixed bag.

On one hand KickoffLabs was able to hire a great support engineer, designer, and someone to help with marketing by the second half of the year. Without this my trip to Ireland would have been a LOT more difficult.

On the other hand personal outsourcing didn’t go well at all. We did find a friend to handle some of the initial research on our trip to Ireland, but ended up doing too much of the work ourselves. My “honey-do” list remained a “honey-do” list and is still a distraction.

Professionally I’ll give myself a B for removing myself from a lot of basic tasks. Personally I’ll have to give myself a D-.

Learning Writing, Photography, & Guitar in 2013

This set of goals would have been better off unspoken.

Writing?

You can tell I didn’t write much on my blog and the general goal of “publishing” something every day just became un-interesting. Yes, I wrote a LOT of copy and marketing emails for KickoffLabs, but I don’t think it was a big or specific enough goal to be motivated. Just wait for the updated version of this goal in 2014.

Photography

I didn’t end up taking a class. I did take a lot of great pictures throughout the year and I’m enjoying seeing people create KickoffLabs pages with some of my shots as background images.

We did a great job taking pictures around Ireland… but the concepts of shooting in raw mode, post production in lightroom, etc just became overwhelming. Not sure what I’ll do here.

Guitar – Finishing Rocksmith

The less I write here the better.

Bonus Goal Achieved – Better Health

I was sick for months at a time last winter and topped out at 17% body fat. I resolved that something had to change so I could survive having two small children that are effectively mini-biological weapons living in our house.

No more diet soda

Or soda of any kind really. Working with Scott has the effect of becoming a better eater through osmosis. The big thing was just to realize that crap in is crap out. Most sodas are crap and diet sodas aren’t healthy for you at all. I’m onto teas, coconut water, and just more water in general.

Switch to more high intensity workouts

Last winter I topped out around 17% body fat and I’ve made it down to around 13%. A lot of this probably comes from eating a little better… but honestly I haven’t changed my diet much other than the soda change and perhaps being a little more “paleo”.

It’s not that I wasn’t putting in the time to workout so I decided to change HOW I worked out. A crossfit box opened up down the street and the research on high intensity workouts was compelling.

The difference in muscle strength and endurance is simply amazing from three to four 5 to 15 minute workouts combined with some lifting every week. For example: I was lucky to have been able to hit 3 proper pull-ups at a time before and now can knock out 20-35 without assistance in most workouts.

That’s it. Look forward to seeing my 2014 goals soon. Did you look back on your goals for 2013? How did you do?

I wish I’d thought of that. Operation Starbucks.

I should have thought of it first. I walked into Starbucks one afternoon. Ok. Ok. I do this every afternoon, but something was different this time. Something really neat was going on.

At a large wooden table sat a man with a laptop. I’m sure you can picture that. But this man had a stack of Starbucks gift cards laid out neatly to form an arrow. The arrow pointed to an iPad that was being used as a sign. The sign read “Test my App and Coffee’s on Jim.”

coffee

I’ve never been shy of giving people feedback. I don’t have a great filter and before KickoffLabs made any money free coffee sounded good to me. Jim saw me coming out of the corner of his eye and stopped what he was doing to introduce himself. He was working on an educational iPad app to teach kids basic math. He asked me to play through a couple of levels and tell him what I thought.

He got an earful. I hope it was useful for him because I enjoyed the free coffee. It was such a great idea. I watched him go through the same process with about 10 people including some parents with kids that afternoon. So, for $50, he got a ton of great feedback and only had to drive to a local Starbucks. Everyone should do it, but if you do…

1. Don’t forget to get email addresses for people that come by. They could become customers and evangelists.

2. He never asked if I’d give him money today for it. He got feedback from someone he didn’t know would be a paying customer or not. He didn’t even ask me if I had kids.

I’ve also heard this works just as well before you write any code. Use the cards to get people to take a survey and validate some of your assumptions before you build anything. I wish I’d thought of it sooner.

Where do you find the best advice?

I work at home alone so it’s not lip service to say that I have to go outside of the office to get the best advice.

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I learned, launching Kickofflabs, that you need to avoid your personal networks at all costs. Those people are too nice to tell you the truth. Even my wife. I could tell Gretchen was skeptical.  She was too nice to tell me what she thought about our business. I think she believed that my silly experiment would just end one day and I’d be back to a normal job.

Even strangers are too polite to tell you what they really think. So… who can you trust for advice?

People voting with their dollars.

Someone can tell you that you have a great idea or they could pay you something for it. Which tells you more? That’s why I’m happy we launched KickoffLabs without a lengthy free beta. Talk to the people voting with their dollars and find out why they did. Then find out why others didn’t.

Investors.

Kickofflabs is not a funded company, but we’ve had a lot of investor meetings. What I love about pitching and taking investors through our pitch is that they don’t hold back the punches. Perhaps I’ve just met good ones… but I wouldn’t describe them as polite. I think they are just understand how to vote with their dollars.

People who’ve been there before.

If someone has done what you’re working towards and is close enough to your stage that they remember what you’re going through and the solutions that worked for them well enough to dispense advice.

Beyond that you should have a hard time trusting what people tell you. They may have good intentions… but you can’t sell good intentions.

Learning in 2013

I already talked about my goal of learning to delegate and outsource more in 2013, but I have three other specific goals.

1. Become a better writer.

My goal is to publish something I’ve created (I’ll get to that) every day in 2013. That could be on this personal blog or it could be for KickoffLabs in the form of a blog post, marketing copy, newsletters, automated emails, etc.

So much of selling a SaaS product, writing instructions for outsourced labor, or even working with your co-founder comes down to clear, simple, communication. I need to get better by doing.

2. Take one photography class in 2013.

It could be a one hour lesson. I just want to know how to use our fancy-pants camera better. As a way to simplify my writing goal I’m going to allow a picture posted in a day to represent the requisite “thousand words” and count. Taking good product screenshots is also an art. :)

3. Finish Rocksmith (Guitar learning game)

I could have put learn guitar here, but I’ll settle for this game where you use a real guitar as tabs flow down the screen. I’m under no illusion that this will teach me to be a good guitar player… I simply think it may be fun.

That’s all for my posts on 2013 personal goals. I’ll be working with Scott on goals for year 3 of KickoffLabs soon. Perhaps some of those will be posted as well.

Josh