2020 was... something.
Here's a quick recap of my experience with 2020. It's not comprehensive by any means, but gives you a glimpse into my life along with being an effective reflection tool for myself.
I like to follow James Clear's annual review template, which leads you through answering three questions:
If you have a question about any of this or feel like there's an important piece of information missing, please do let me know and I'd love to fill it in as it probably a simple oversight.
I honestly can't even believe it, but I launched my B2B SaaS marketing course Refactoring Growth in January of 2020.
To this day, it's still one of my proudest works. I've never put so much time, thought, and planning into something before.
The first month, combining pre-launch sales and launch sales, it made just over $10k. Since January, a few sales would trickle in here and there but nothing significant until I switched both Refactoring Growth and Mental Models For Marketing to an open/close enrollment model instead of the "evergreen" sales model of being available 24/7.
I'll share more stats later, but needless to say, I'm very proud of Refactoring Growth and how well it's done thus far. I've intended to write about both courses more in-depth but just haven't yet. Maybe 2021...
It all started with a tweet.
As David Perell says, the internet creates serendipity.
You can read about the full story in this article I wrote for Webflow.
When I launched Swipe Files back in late April, it got its first 10 customers the first day. More members trickled in along with some nice subscriber growth as well.
One teardown even went semi-viral for semi-obvious reasons (Stripe):
Since then, I've added a private community, paused the teardowns, and began planning for the next phase of Swipe Files that includes a newsletter, massive curated swipe file, and bundles in the courses.
As of this writing, it has 169 members, which is 16.9% to my goal of 1,000 members. 1,000 members would guarantee I can do it full-time without having to do any consulting. Given I started it on a whim, worked on it part time for months, and only seriously started working on it the last two months, I'm very happy with the progress.
Through the pandemic, it started to become clear to me that my days at Baremetrics were numbered. It was mostly a mismatch in expectations and what the business needed. Regardless, it made me start to seriously think about what I wanted to do next.
And one thing was clear: I did not want to go back to a full-time job.
That led me to take a more serious look at my current projects: Hey Marketers, Refactoring Growth, Mental Models For Marketing, and Swipe Files. Could one or all of these sustain me full-time?
The conclusion I came to was no. Or at least not yet.
But I could see a future where they did in the next 6-12 months, if I could buy myself some time.
September 11th was my last day at Baremetrics. Bittersweet, but again serendipitous as Baremetrics would go on to be sold to a PE firm just 6 weeks later — a transition I'm glad to have skipped.
Thanks to Refactoring Growth and Mental Models For Marketing, I had saved enough to feel comfortable. Still, it's been no easy task. But I'm so glad to be out on my own again.
It's a relatively large step that unlocks so many opportunities.
Before departing from Baremetrics, I was seriously stressing about consulting. Since my current projects weren't/aren't paying the bills, I need to pick up some gigs that could.
And most consulting gigs are not marketed publicly. The unknown makes it stressful.
I actually had a really great consulting gig I was doing on the side and hoping to ramp up by the time I left Baremetrics, but that hasn't panned out.
What has panned out, however, has been an enormous amount of inbound consulting leads. Honestly, I can't believe the amount of opportunities thrown my way once I announced I was no longer at Baremetrics. I'm very grateful that I got to do some picking and choosing to work with consulting clients I was most excited about.
Coaching/mentoring has also been a lot of fun. Given it's a relatively small dollar amount for the client and a relatively small time commitment for me, it's a win-win. Advisory work is a ton of fun for me and I'm equally grateful to get to be the "marketing brain" for a select few founders and marketing leaders.
For my wife and I's wedding anniversary, we made a trip to one of our bucket list destinations: Italy.
You can see a few pics from our trip on my wife's Instagram.
Our anniversary is February 24th and we stayed in Italy through the 28th... just in time to escape the pandemic. Just a few days later, the country stopped all travel. We would have been stuck.
It was on our way to Venice that we learned about Covid-19 and found out that the annual carnival was going to be cancelled. By the time we made it to Milan, the city was beginning to lockdown.
Thankfully, we had already spent the majority of our time in Rome and Florence in covid-free bliss. We're dying to go back.
We also managed to make some sneaky trips to Big Bear and Lake Tahoe with family as well as a trip to Colorado with a few friends for my wife's birthday.
In April, my wife and I were really starting to feel the effects of being stuck at home. We were eating terribly, sleeping terribly, working terribly. We were at our heaviest weights. We needed a change.
I started reading Ryan Kulp's Fitness For Hackers and my wife started reading up on some keto blogs.
We decided to mix both a "clean keto" diet that prioritized healthy foods instead of foods we could technically eat along with intermittent fasting. We were very disciplined, hardly ever cheated, and managed to stay in ketosis for extended periods of time — sometimes weeks — without breaking. I mostly stuck to eating twice a day between noon and 8pm and then alternated between twice a day and once a day. My wife quickly moved to once a day and then eating two meals, but every other day.
The result? We each lost 30 pounds.
And to be honest, it wasn't that hard.
We found meals that we really liked, had healthy vices, and trained our bodies to the new regimen.
Previously, I had been eating a smoothie for breakfast every morning since I was 5 years old. I had a limiting belief that I needed to eat three times per day, otherwise I'd starve or go crazy.
My wife also had a similar epiphany that she realized she didn't need to eat based on what she was craving, but instead based on what's good and healthy.
The past few months we've strayed from keto, but we've kept the intermittent fasting, and that's allowed us to keep most of the weight off. Although, we do have plans to do another run with keto and generally like it as a default for our diet.
One of my "resolutions" from 2019 was to build a habit of not going to bed with my phone. It creates disconnect with my wife and I, is a huge waste of time, and made it hard for me to fall asleep.
I stuck to this ruthlessly. I think I only slept with it by the bed twice or three times this year, more out of laziness rather than because I was using it.
This has had a tremendous effect on my sleep. It used to take me about an hour from the time I climbed into bed to the time I fell asleep. Now it takes me about 5-10 minutes.
The key has been replacing my phone with my Kindle. Reading relaxes me, makes me forget about the time, and I can just shove it under the pillow when I feel myself dozing off.
Now, I wouldn't have it any other way. Reading in bed is one of my favorite routines.
This one feels a bit silly to write about. Since we live on the 2nd story of an apartment complex, we had to use a puppy pad to potty train our dog Remy. It just takes too much time to put the leash on and walk down to see if he had to go. I'd walk him once a day in the morning and then he'd have the pad to do any other business later on.
But eventually we got sick of it and I set out to train him to do all his business on walks — once in the morning and once in the evening.
It took a couple of weeks, but he caught on. And the real win has been just walking twice a day. I walk a mile or two a day and it's one of my other favorite routines.
I really should do a better job of keeping track of what I read but I read lots of books at the same time, so it gets messy.
Here's the list in no particular order:
I'll be able to share more soon...
From January 1st to September 11th, this was all "side-hustle" money. September 12th, it became "business revenue."
I'm not trying to pat myself on the back but it's pretty astounding to me, honestly. The majority of this revenue came from the two courses, Refactoring Growth and Mental Models For Marketing. The rest from Hey Marketers, Swipe Files, and mentoring/coaching.
2020 was supposed to be "the year of travel" for my wife and I. In January, we had booked trips to Italy (barely made it out before lockdown), Switzerland (cancelled), New York (cancelled), and Mexico (postponed).
As each trip approached, we were hopeful that the pandemic would be under control and that we could still travel. That didn't happen.
Before the pandemic, I had a good thing going with my exercise routine. Despite my diet failures, which weren't too extreme anyway, I went to the gym about three times a week and played basketball with friends once a week for a few hours.
I like being active. I don't like doing mindless exercise. So basketball + weightlifting was the perfect combo for me.
I tried to do some workouts at home but it's just not the same and I ended up giving up on it completely. I don't think I've ran since February...
I've always struggled with this but I had began to build a good habit of doing some reading, prayer, and mediation in the morning before starting my day before the pandemic. Once we went into lockdown, I felt so distracted that I just forgot about it to be honest.
Instead of leaning more into it, I completely faded away from it.
I would often put in early mornings and late nights when I was working at Baremetrics. That took a toll, for sure.
And then when I went out on my own, this only got worse.
Between my own projects and consulting, I've never worked more. And I'm tired. Like really tired. Even as of this writing (and not just because I have Covid as I write this haha).
It's probably a false hope and limiting belief but I'm working to get things to a place where I can minimize or even stop doing consulting, consolidate projects, and really build a habit of working less.
It's the constant anxiety of feeling behind, the ambition of wanting to get to certain milestones, and my own personal impatience that's driven me to work so much. And it's lame. I'm not living the days I'd design ideally.
San Diego is a high cost of living area. Food is expensive, gas is expensive, rent is expensive.
It was bad timing, but I'm glad it happened this way in hindsight. In January my wife left her job to be a makeup artist full-time. That was swiftly shut down once all events were cancelled.
That left me to be the sole provider. And while I made a good amount of "side-hustle" money that went to savings, beyond that, we were basically just breaking even every month.
In May, my wife began working on her own new business called Joycraft, which has turned out to be amazing and far better than any other job she's had.
Still, it was stressful.
A decent amount of my compensation at Baremetrics was tied to revenue growth, which didn't happen the first half of the year.
We've worked hard to not have any student loans or consumer debt. I don't know what we would have done if we did large debt payments to make every month.
I think I've learned this via negativa. I'm pretty spread thin right now and I want to be able to focus.
I mean focus in a couple of ways:
The importance of savings
The only reason I could make the leap is because of the humble savings I've built. It represents security, bought time, and optionality.
Once I reached a certain (meager) milestone, it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I knew that, no matter what, I always had it to fall back on and figure out what to do next.
Network = net worth
I'm more convinced now than ever that who knows you is one of your most important assets in life. It's not just about who you know, but also about who knows you. It's the key to landing your dream job, landing consulting gigs, getting subscribers to your newsletter, and even retweeting your tweets.
It wasn't intentional, but perhaps as a byproduct of the pandemic, I got to talk face to face (over Zoom) to so many people online. I made a huge amount of friends, acquaintances, and allies this year. I plan on doubling down and leaning into this even more.
Really want to get into "creative mode"
Minimal meetings, minimal obligations to others, minimal deadlines — that's the goal.
I crave deep work.
I'm just not built to be in meetings all the time.
Writing = thinking
I didn't do nearly as much writing as I originally wanted to, but even with the small amount of writing I did do, the relationship between writing and thinking finally clicked for me.
I'm not a naturally eloquent speaker. I can't just talk about something on the fly and figure it out.
Writing has always been the most natural way I've processed my thoughts, but I've only just realized it.
Thanks to Roam, I'm building a Zettelkasten and a journal. I've never felt more organized and clear in thought.
“Love, joy, and peace are at the heart of all Jesus is trying to grow in the soil of your life. And all three are incompatible with hurry.” — John Mark Comer
I'll leave it on a slightly spiritual note.
My favorite book of the year was The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry and this quote from it resonated so deeply with me. The premise is how hurry and busyness hurt us spiritually. And the encouragement is to cultivate a slower, more deliberate walk in life.
Whether you're religious or not, Christian or not, I think the principle applies.
While I haven't exactly implemented anything from this book yet, it's absolutely the most important thing I learned all year and it will continue to haunt me until I do something about it.