It’s the beginning of the New Year, a time for revisiting my goals for 2017. Let’s dive straight into it.
I wanted to put prayer first in my life. I almost succeeded. I prayed more consistently. I even added one more prayer into my daily schedule.
I see the clear connection between my renewed focus on prayer and how many good things happened in 2017. For some of them, I’ve been praying for 15 years.
Verily, put God in first place and everything will fall into the right place.
Of course, it wasn’t without flaws. I didn’t stick to my prayers exactly as I should have. More times than I care to count, I fell asleep with unfinished prayer in my mind.
On the other hand, at the end of the year, I learned something I yearned to achieve for a few years: I can give a specific intention to a specific daily action of mine. This makes me mindfully prayful during the day. In my record day, I could connect about 30-40 intentions to my everyday actions.
Overall, I’m mildly pleased with my performance and consistency. This goal wasn’t a disaster, like most of my goals tend to be.
#2 Quality Time with Family
Well, disaster is a good label for this goal. My plan minimum was to spend at least one hour a week of quality time with each of my family members.
I feel shame when I type those words, but this is the harsh truth: I wasn’t able to do even that much.
Yes, there were some weeks when I spent more than an hour with each of my kids and my wife, but they were few and far between. And I failed to reach this goal at least a dozen weeks in a year (if not more).
The one good thing I can say about this goal is that I tracked it quite diligently. I’m sure that without tracking I would have blown it even more frequently. There were plenty of weeks when I had a look on my wall calendar on the Sunday afternoon and noticed: “Heck, I didn’t spend an hour with two of my kids!”
If not for tracking, this goal would be a full-blown disaster, not just a small catastrophe it was.
#3 Growing My Email List
At the beginning of 2017, about 400 of my subscribers were regularly opening my email broadcasts.
Well, I didn’t do much to increase that number. In fact, I made just a couple of feeble attempts to discover different opportunities to grow my email list. For example, I used NoiseTrade platform. This experiment didn’t end with success and at the beginning of the year I was in a pitiful mental state, so I didn’t pursue any new venues.
In the 2017 goal-setting post, I said I discovered a platform that nicely grows an author’s email list, InstaFreebie, but I didn’t pursue even this venue.
Fortunately for me, I was invited to a few giveaways organized by other authors, and InstaFreebie picked a few of my books and featured them on their blog. Thus I got over 2,000 subscribers from that source in 2017.
Well, the churn-out rate was also quite huge, so this increased number of subscribers converted to only about 50% increase in my open rates. At the end of 2017, about 600 people were regularly opening my email broadcasts.
The 50% increase may sound impressive, but it’s not. If I would have diligently leveraged the InstaFreebie platform, the increase would have been measured in thousands of percent. When you know what you are doing, the progress should be rapid.
One example to give you a clue how hopelessly I wasted this opportunity: at the beginning of 2014, I had 47 subscribers. I had built that list since July 2013. It took me almost half a year to reach that number. On 29th of December, 2017, I got 72 subscribers from InstaFreebie, because one of my least successful books was featured on their blog.
I have also a couple of nice surprises in regard to this goal. I think 2017 was the first year when I got more subscribers via my blog than via my books. Even if the advantage was on the books side, it was by a slim margin. For years, my blog was like an abandoned ghost town, but thanks to my activity on Quora and Medium, plenty of folks were checking out who I was, visiting my blog. In 2017, I installed two additional sign-up forms on popular subpages of my blog, and from that source alone I got 66 subscribers.
Another nice thing was using a dedicated lead magnet in my blog post. I almost never do this, because with my traffic I don’t think it’s worth the effort. And I got seven new subscribers from this post! Then I republished it on Medium and got another two dozen subscribers. Cool beans!
Overall, those were very good results for my half-assed efforts. Frankly, I feel I didn’t deserve them.
Almost identically like with growing my email list, I did almost nothing and pulled out decent results.
I love Coach.me. This platform allows you to be discovered by clients, under one tiny condition: you are a good coach. Their ranking system is based on data: the number of interactions you have with your clients on a daily basis, how long they stick with you – and most importantly – how often they mark their daily steps as done. If you are a good coach, you will get exposure on Coach.me.
Getting the certificate was enough for me to be prominently featured on their website.
At the beginning of May, I was featured also in their email broadcast and I got a few new clients back then. A couple of them stayed with me for a few months.
I also gave three or four phone consultations, relatively expensive (comparing to the standard monthly CM coaching) and it was about 300% increase to the previous year.
For almost the whole year, I had 10+ paying clients.
Overall, I’m very pleased with what happened to my coaching practice.
Currently, coaching generates about 14% of our household income. It’s a great result for something I didn’t put much of my effort to. The only thing I did, besides getting the certificate, was creating a landing page on my blog and putting the link to it in my books. However, I could track only a single phone consultation from this source.
I contributed quite a lot in 2017, but not exactly where I anticipated at the beginning of the year.
I somehow maintained my pace on Quora. I published 216 new answers (well, about 10% of them were old answers given to new questions that were very similar to old ones). I got 2,100 new followers and over 615,000 views for my answers.
I’ve seen the biggest success on Medium. Around April, I finally discovered a way to get traction there: publications. Once I put a foot in the door, my articles there got much more views. Currently, I have over 3,000 followers there and am top writer in self-improvement and productivity categories. And I am a writer in a dozen publications. My articles on Medium get about 10x more views than visits on my blog.
I gave a few podcast interviews; however, almost always they were not in effect of my effort, but rather podcast hosts contacting me in the first place.
With all the things I juggled, at the end of the year I had very little time for contributing. Particularly, formatting posts, looking for and adding royalty-free photos to my posts is time consuming.
At the beginning of November, I joined Jeff Goins’ 30-day challenge to write and publish something every day. I had been writing anyway, but thanks to this challenge, I was diligent in publishing my content on Quora and Medium. It immediately showed in the number of views and followers. Consistency is a big advantage if you want to get better results faster.
Overall, I got very good results for the amount of work I put into this goal. Writing has never been a problem for me; chiseling and publishing my content is another story.
I published zero books in 2017. That was the first year since 2013, when I started my writing career without a new book.
I did only two things in regard to this goal, both of them late into the year.
a) My co-author pushed me to write another 99-stories book, this time about habits. I helped her to collect several stories, but because of my lack of focus, this project was only half-baked at the end of the year.
b) I announced to my subscribers that I would compile my Quora answers into a book about habits. I didn’t provide any deadlines, so this project didn’t go further than creating a book’s outline.
Overall, this was the last priority and it clearly showed in 2017.
A lot of things happened in 2017 that weren’t included in my list of goals from January. Most of them were not even on my radar at the beginning of 2017. I attribute it partly to my general goal-less approach to life. I’m not rigid and obsessed about my goals. I’m open to anything that is in accordance with my personal mission statement.
In part, it was simply how the life functions. We, puny human beings, cannot predict the future even 12 months ahead. I also attribute a big part of those changes to God’s intervention in my life, because I was focused on my prayers this year.
OK, a few examples of the events and projects outside of my list of goals:
1. I created a new venture from scratch.
If you follow my income reports, you know I contacted an author in May and started advertising his book on Amazon in June. We immediately had impressive success, so I chased more authors and invited them to use my services as advertiser on Amazon.
So in January, such a venture didn’t even cross my mind. In fact, for years I was adamant to NOT provide any services for authors. I’ve seen so many marketing gimmicks that provided little results for big bucks, and I didn’t want to be connoted with them. Luckily, advertising on Amazon can be very different from those shady ‘marketing’ services. My ads either work or they don’t. If they don’t, I return money to an author. If they work, an author shares profit from ads with me. It’s as simple and as honest as that. If my clients get results, I’m paid. If they paid great results, I’m paid handsomely.
In July, I got the first payment from my client. Since then, AMS advertising venture experienced a rapid growth. At the end of 2017, I had 11 clients and advertised my 11 books plus 40 books of my clients.
Not too bad for something that wasn’t on my radar, huh? Do you know what’s best about this venture? I resurrect dead books. This is like magic, it’s something unheard of in the industry.
Before I had used Amazon ads, the story went like this: if your book is dead, you’d better start writing another one, because no one can overcome death of a book. Case closed.
Amazon ads is the only tool that can truly bring a book back to life. Sometimes it is a half-life, when a book sells only several copies a month, but it’s still infinitely better than the alternative – no sales at all. I have about two dozen such “zombies” under my belt, including a few books of my own.
The best are, of course, success stories, when a book went from a few copies a month to a few hundred copies a month. This happened with the books I’ve been advertising several times already. I have an immense pleasure in making valuable books come alive.
2. I’m in the ISI mastermind.
ISI stands for Iron Sharpens Iron. It’s a mastermind run by my mentor, Aaron Walker. In September, he announced that he closes The Community that I had been part of for over two years. He offered me in exchange a spot in his mastermind, and he gave me the first month for free. That was a no-brainer decision. I only had no idea how I would afford $615 a month after the first month.
I spoke with my wife about this and she said: “OK. You can do it, if you think it will be worth your money.” Two days later, she asked: “But is this a one-time or recurring fee?” She gave her consent, because she thought it was a one-time fee.
This is how I joined ISI. At that time, I was also a member of another paid mastermind, and it was unexpectedly dissolved. I mean, I was in that group almost two years and suddenly, my friend who ran the mastermind, decided that he no longer can focus on so many things and shut down the mastermind. That was $265 a month toward the ISI fee.
In the fourth month into ISI, I was finally able to get out of it enough to cover the fee. Most probably, I will stay in this mastermind for good.
At the beginning of 2017, I didn’t envision it at all.
3. My wife changed her mind.
My spouse admits her errors very reluctantly; like never. Especially, if those errors concern her husband. I tease her mercilessly about her email from 2013, where she stated that my books are rubbish and I should quit this stupid writing hobby and find a better job. Add some invectives and cussing, and you will have the full picture. 😉
In 2014, when “Master Your Time” became a bestseller and I earned half of my salary from royalties in one month, she softened her approach a bit. But not much. That year, we purchased our first house, which drained our finances to the bottom. We decided to buy the house only because my wife got a new job, and her salary was enough to cover the monthly mortgage payment.
Nonetheless, for several months we felt poor. There was always too much of a month at the end of money. To add insult to injury, exactly at that time I started cooperation with a publisher and for a few months when we needed money the most, I got no royalties payment, because of payment delay that was built into the contract. They needed to publish my books under their accounts and wait 2-3 months for Amazon to pay them.
This experience shaped my wife’s attitude. She didn’t trust that my side hustle could be something reliable. Also, she got from her family job worship. She attached her worth to the fact she earns money and contributes to our household’s livelihood. Thus she was adamant about keeping her job. I persuaded her, many times, that we can afford giving up of her salary that was less than 20% of our overall income, to no avail.
That is, until June 2017. She completely surprised me by sending me a message:
What’s your opinion? Should I hurry up this month or wait till the next month with giving my notice?
Of course, I advised her to give the notice ASAP. 😉
She chose to wait for a yearly bonus first and, because of that, her notice period was extended. But once she gave the notice, our family life revived. Even when she still officially worked, her attitude and behavior significantly softened. She has been full-time at home since the half of September. I had no idea how much household chores were straining my schedule and sanity till she took over most of them.
More changes followed. She started to help me in my business. Because I had more time, I was able to train my sons in some aspects of the AMS business, and they help me out as well.
And she returned to church. I don’t know why. This is a taboo subject; she cuts off all my attempts to discuss God and faith. She certainly didn’t change her negative opinion about the Catholic Church. But she started attending services again.
I cannot express how much this means to me. This is an intimate dream come true.
I didn’t want to extend this post even longer, so I stopped at only three examples of things I didn’t plan for 2017 that happened. There were more of them, and they weren’t less awesome. I’m still in the goal-less camp. You need to give space to the unexpected to fully enjoy life.
Goals are just tools, not the end objective. I don’t mind failing at some of them, especially if I will give space to something even better, but unanticipated.
I will set new goals for 2018, but I won’t rigidly stick to the agenda. I’ll let life happen in its miraculous ways.