My 2018 Year in Review

“Study the past if you would define the future.”
– Confucius

Welcome to the second installment of the Mindful Ambition Annual Review! I’m grateful to have you as a part of the Mindful Ambition movement.

Writing about myself can feel self-indulgent at times. But the Year in Review is an important exercise.

Here are a few of the reasons why I share this:

1: Celebrating wins is important for maintaining momentum. And for a year, we can only gain clarity on our growth by zooming-out.

2: Owning my faults and shortcomings is the first step to growing through them. Awareness is the seed of all positive change. (And if I’m sharing it with you, I’m certainly aware of it.)

3: Vulnerability is one of my growth-edges. I know it’s the key to building amazing connections, and I’m seeking more ways to lean into it. Sharing more about my life with you in this post (and not withholding while writing it) is one way of doing that.

4: Accountability. I pursue my goals for my own fulfillment. But social accountability helps too. I know the review is coming each year, and I want to have great results to share.

Also, this year I wanted to help YOU do a kickass year in review and plan for the year ahead. So I created a workbook to facilitate an in-depth personal reflection and planning process.

You can grab a copy by dropping your email in the box below.

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Or read more about them here in these posts:

Taking some inspiration from James Clear, this review is broken up into three sections:

  1. Celebration — What went well?
  2. Growth Opportunities — Where can I improve?
  3. Major Lessons and Insights — What did I learn?

I’ve split these sections down into four sub-categories:

  1. My Energy (The Fundamentals)
  2. My Relationships
  3. My Business
  4. My Growth

These are the main vectors on which I think about how I’m progressing in life.

And as a bonus, I peppered-in recommendations of resources that have been most helpful to me on my journey. I hope they help you evolve into the next-best version of you!

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Celebration: What Went Well?

1: My Energy (The Fundamentals)

Sleep. This is my #1 self-care habit. Without quality sleep, everything else suffers. I learned more about sleep this year, prioritized mine at a high level. I also started taking daily power-naps/napitations. And I can’t remember the last time I snoozed an alarm. I still have room to improve here. But I slept better this year than ever before.

Favorite resource: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker + Optimize.me

Meditation. My practice continues to grow. It’s a non-negotiable, every day habit. Building on the morning practice, I started adding afternoon napitations and some evening meditations as well. I also hold my formal seated practice more loosely than before. I missed a couple days throughout the year while traveling. But I simply began again the next day. I’m also using my breath to access states of mindfulness more often in every day.

Favorite resources: Sam Harris’ Waking Up course + Oak Meditation and Breathing

Meditation is a non-negotiable for me. And it should be for you too.

Nutrition. I notice a clear difference in my physical and mental performance based on what I eat. This year I got even more curious about exploring different ways to fuel my body. This led me to do a month-long experiment with both a vegetarian diet and ketogenic diet. Now, I’m eating a mix of my own design that’s high in fat, high in veggies, moderate in protein, and low in carbohydrates.

Favorite resource: I encourage you to experiment on your own. I don’t have one best-resource. But I’ve learned helpful stuff from Dr. Mark Hyman, Mark Sisson, and Brian and Alexandra at Optimize.

I became a green smoothie fan this year. They’re awesome.

Movement. I decided I wanted to be a morning exerciser this year. So I did that! And I absolutely love starting the day with movement. This consistent routine made me even more consistent in my training. I don’t know the specific # of workouts from my year, but at the end of the year I learned I was the member at my gym with the most check-ins. (Lol + awesome + #thatslikeme.) I’ve also grown as a mover. Climbing and yoga are still a big part of this. But I also started testing new training protocols to help me reach my goals.

  1. I focused on gymnastics rings training in the winter/spring. This helped improve upper body strength and balance through both pushing and pulling motions.
  2. In the late summer, I started prioritizing handstand work. And I started working with a coach to support me with this.

I’ve always been fascinated by gymnasts. So this year I owned my honest desires to move in these new ways, and committed myself to the long road of mastery. It’s endlessly rewarding and excites me every day. (Even when I’m tired and don’t totally feel like training.)

Favorite resources: Rings 1 from GMB Fitness and Balancing the Equation by Yuri Marmerstein.

Working on my handstand line against the wall

Breathing. I learned more this year about the importance of breathing. (Fun fact: Most people actually over-breathe.) I’ve improved at breathing through my nose, into my diaphragm, and extending exhales slightly longer than inhales. This helps balance the oxygen to carbon dioxide ratio in  body. I notice that it influences my performance and emotional regulation.

Favorite resource: Optimal Breathing 101 from Optimize.

2: My Relationships

Building Community. I took a more proactive role in shaping my social life this year. I built a habit of  introducing myself to new people. Especially as I began to frequent certain places—my gym, coffee shops, etc.—and continued making introductions, I found myself running into people I knew far more often than ever before. This led to a feeling of connectedness that can be hard to come by as a solopreneur.

Micro Moments of Positivity Resonance. After a significant relationship ended in February, I began exploring how to cultivate a life of love and connection outside the context of romantic partnership. One way I did this was through practicing (and tracking!) what Barbara Fredrickson calls “micro-moments of positivity resonance.” These are little daily moments of love and human-to-human connection. They happen when you share eye contact, presence, and genuine warmth with others. Each one is small, but aggregated over time, they make a difference.

Family. My Grandma died this year. We were sad to lose her, but her death created new opportunities to connect with family. I also took a number of trips with my family. And I leaned into my opportunity to be a leader within my family. Family relationships can be supremely challenging. But my time living in Minneapolis has given me ample opportunities to shed old habits and grow in relationship with my family members.

Smiling despite the rain in Hawaii

3: My Business

Coaching. In 2017, I started focusing on 1:1 coaching. Which means 2018 was the first full year that I was focused on growing my coaching practice. It didn’t happen on the timeline I expected, but my practice grew. I worked with more clients than ever before. I made bolder proposals. And I continue to increase the level of service I can provide to my clients.

As a reminder, Mindful Ambition exists to help world-changing leaders amplify their focus, energy, and confidence, so they can bring their fullest selves to their most important work.

My clients are high-achieving entrepreneurs, business leaders, young professionals, and professional athletes. They’re hungry to level-up in their career, in their health, and in their relationships. And my clients know that investing in themselves is the fastest way to make that happen.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces of feedback from clients this year:

  • “I’m so much more confident, intentional, and at ease…And I’m staying on course with how I want to act and who I want to be every day.”
  • “As a result of working with you, not only do I feel like a different person, but most of my close friends and family members say that I have changed. I am much more relaxed, at ease, and comfortable with the turbulences in my life. I am now more comfortable in accepting the unknowns of life…but I’m also more active in approaching the areas I can influence.”
  • “What was a big change in the beginning is now just a part of the routine. And I’ve finally given up on the hunt to be perfect.”
  • “I’m a nicer person, better to live with, and have taken full responsibility for my business and my life. I don’t always make the right decisions or hit every goal, but I’m far more present and intentional because of working with you.”
  • “There’s nothing revolutionary about coaching, but yet, there is something magical. Patrick has that magic. If you put in the time and effort, you’ll see rewards. I can feel them in every bone in my body, every action that I take. Try it, you might feel the magic too.”

(Side-note: All positive change starts with self-awareness. If you aren’t aware of your habits of thinking and behavior, you’ll never be able to change them. I help my clients shine a light on their blind-spots, and master their inner game so they can perform at their peak. If you’re ready to make 2019 your best year yet, and want me in your corner to make that happen, click here to apply for a clarity session, and we’ll see if I’m the right fit to support you.)

Reach. Mindful Ambition reached more people than it did the previous year. Considering that my content marketing took a back-seat to coaching this year, I’m pleased by the steady growth.

  • At the time of writing this, 1,622 people are subscribed to the Mindful Ambition email community.
  • 1,316 new subscribers joined the community in 2018. (I delete inactive subscribers, and many people opt-out because Mindful Ambition is not for them.)
  • 37,812 different people visited MindfulAmbition.net
  • These visitors came from 182 (!!) different countries

Entrepreneurship. Building a business on your own is difficult. And as much as I wanted to, I wasn’t able to progress at the rate I wanted to all on my own. I invested in multiple lines of support and coaching to help me further my business goals. This has made me a more effective and confident entrepreneur (aka leader + marketer + salesperson + strategist + writer + …) and has contributed to the growth and success of my coaching practice.

Partnerships. I established my first working partnership with Michael Balchan and efive partway through the year. This has been a great co-creative compliment to running Mindful Ambition, as I missed the experience of co-creating with others.

Jamming with Michael (+ Gus!) in Chicago.

Writing. I shared a Mindful Monday Mornings note every week this year. Most of them were new content, but some were repeats. I wrote 20 new articles, plus a number of additional new Mindful Monday Mornings notes that didn’t go on the blog. The line between an “article” and an “MMM” became blurred this year. That’s okay. What matters is sharing helpful stuff. And I continue to do that.

4: My Growth

Learning. I’m insatiably curious. So continuous learning was a high priority throughout the year. This took a number of forms. By order of impact, I:

  • Invested in powerful coaching, both personally and business-wise. (Including joining a couple masterminds.)
  • I participated in courses to expand my mind and learn from great teachers.
  • I read and listened to a lot of books.
  • Attended two in-person events/retreats.

Favorite resources: Optimize.me, Jason Goldberg’s Playful Prosperity program

Favorite books:

On retreat in the Colorado Mountains

Identity. Behavior change starts with identity change. I’ve evolved how I see myself in all the roles of my life: as a friend, brother, entrepreneur, coach, writer, etc. I’m more self-aware, and more connected to the highest version of myself, and have more routines and tools to help me show up as that person every day. And I continue to expand the vision of what I’m capable of.

Euthymia: A sense of energized tranquility

International Travel. After failing to leave the country in 2017, I made up for it with an extended international trip at the beginning of 2018. My 10 days in Italy also marked my first experience solo-traveling. I loved it and plan to travel alone more in the future.

Countries visited: Denmark, Italy, and Portugal.

Feeling pretty excited about the view from Castelo de Sao Jorge in Lisbon, Portugal.

Domestic Travel. I took a number of trips through the year with both family and friends. Highlights included a week on Kauai with my family, a business event in DC, and a weekend retreat in Colorado.

States traveled in: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Washington D.C.

Journaling. My journaling practices grew more disciplined and impactful this year. It’s now a non-negotiable. My notebook goes with me nearly everywhere I go. Every morning, I use it to get primed and focused. Throughout the day, I use it to capture notes, insights, ideas, and thoughts. And at the end of the day, I use it to unpack, debrief, and wind-down. I plan to share more about journaling in future articles.

A year’s worth of journals before completing my Year in Review.

Growth Opportunities: What Didn’t Go So Well?

1: My Fundamentals

Sleep. My digital sunset was very inconsistent much of the year. I also didn’t regularly create larger windows of sleep opportunity. I get 7+ daily, but know an increase would make a difference in recovery and performance.

Meditation. After my pre-work morning routine expanded to include exercise daily, I found myself shortening morning meditation sessions in an effort to dive into work.

Movement. I injured my hamstring this Fall and it’s been limiting my movement ever since. I didn’t maintain a regular stretching regimen, which led to more tension in the body, and not meeting my flexibility goals. And I’m still in the early phases of my handstand journey—I didn’t reach my goal of consistent 10s holds with good form.

Nutrition. I didn’t conduct my ketogenic diet experiment with appropriate rigor. Which means I didn’t actually learn as much about its potential as I could have. I also exercised terrible willpower in any situation where sugary treats were present. And I often ate dinner on the later-side, which doesn’t help sleep and digestion.

2: My Relationships

Avoiding conflict. More often than I’d like, I failed to lean into conflict and candidly express concerns that were present for me in romantic relationships. Withholding is mentally taxing, and never serves a relationship. Practicing more candor and directness in my communication is a fruitful growth area for me.

Shrinking instead of leading. In a number of group and family social situations, I failed to own my opportunity to be a leader. I got ungrounded and shrunk to a smaller version of myself. (Which for me means staying quiet and withdrawing from connection.)

3: My Business

Revenue Targets. I didn’t hit my revenue targets for 2018. Mindful Ambition grew a lot last year. And it’s in as good of a place as it’s ever been. Yet I still failed to reach my goal. This is how growth goes sometimes. And I’m re-committed to reaching my targets in 2019.

Marketing Clarity. As Mindful Ambition grows, I haven’t been great at evolving how I communicate and share it with others. I want to help others quickly understand what MA stands for and how they can benefit from my work (whether through my coaching or writing.) I failed to do that on many occasions last year.

Organizational Systems. I have great physical systems for working each day, but haven’t succeeded in implementing consistent digital systems for longer-term tracking.

Workshops and Trainings. I didn’t create any new courses, workshops, or trainings this year.

Writing. I didn’t write nearly as much as I did in 2017. This was a result of shifting priorities. But writing helps me grow. By sharing more articles, I become a better coach and can help more people grow. And I have such an abundance of articles I want to write, that it’s hard at times to not give it more space.

Journaling at a conference in September.

4: My Growth

Reading. I’m still working to improve my daily reading habit, and decrease time spent on screens. The new algorithm I’m installing: IF I have finished eating dinner, THEN I will read at least 1 page of a book.

Walks. Amazing for the body and mind. And I didn’t prioritize them as much as I’d like.

Outdoors time. I know I’m at my best when I’m spending time in nature on a consistent basis. This didn’t happen nearly enough this year. And I only went on one real camping trip.

Enjoying a swim on a camping trip in northern Minnesota

Major Lessons + Insights: What Did I Learn?

1: My Fundamentals

Sleep is a big deal. Like, REALLY big. When I’m underslept, life is an uphill battle. My Daily Bookends help me maintain quality sleep while still waking up earlier.

Morning exercise makes the whole day better. Every time. Even when I don’t feel like it. Even when I’m tired. Always.

Operationalizing energy management makes life better. When doing the things that are good for you is what you do by default, you can focus your decision-making on higher leverage challenges.

I have a fairly low carbohydrate tolerance. I feel and perform best on a higher fat diet.

Sugar is one of the worst things I can put in my body. It nearly instantly changes my state of mind. I’m foggier, more impulsive, and generally worse in every way.

2: My Relationships

Proactive, authentic expression is always worth it. It can feel scary in the moment, but it always enriches the relationship.

True relationships are about authentic alignment. Without bringing my full self into a relationship, I can never be sure about the truth of our connection.

“Knowing” someone is an illusion. Most of the time, I know only a fraction of the depth of an individual, even if they’re a close friend. Lack of curiosity destroys relationships. So I try to assume that I only know a little of what there is to know.

Every action I take with others is a vote for the type of relationships I want to have. The way to create the types of relationships I want is to lead myself in modeling the types of behaviors I want present.

Family relationships are both challenging and fruitful. They are a tremendous vehicle to develop self-awareness and self-mastery because they bring up countless habituated patterns of behavior and thinking. These can be changed with mindful effort.

3: My Business

Everything takes longer than you expect. Acting urgently and being quick to forgive are the keys to making sustainable progress.

Clarity matters. Inward clarity of “What’s important now?” sets the stage for bold action. And communicating clearly with others is the key to building understanding.

I will only ever understand a fraction of my impact. I noticed this first with my writing—only a tiny fraction of people impacted by an article will reply to say that. But it’s true in coaching as well. Even my closest and most communicative clients will have their lives change in way I can’t fully understand.

“New” can become “normal” quickly if you act on it. Sometimes, change is marginal. Other times, you can make your prior best the new baseline in a matter of days or weeks. Lean into this.

All that matters is doing the next most important thing. You run a marathon one step at a time. Same with building a business (or doing anything, really.) There will always be more than you can handle. The to-do list is never-ending. Focus on doing that one most important thing next. And, on being your best through each step in the process.

Journaling to get clear on “What’s Important Now?”

4: My Growth

When I do what I fear, I feel alive and give myself opportunities to grow. Fear contracts us. Moving through it is expansive. I never regret stretching my comfort zone. I’m trying to make a sport out of it!

There’s always a payoff for holding onto negative feelings. I learned the power of letting go this year. It’s not to be understated.

I have an unlimited amount of love and light to share with the others. When you give love, you don’t have less love to give. You usually have more. The only thing that will prevents me from sharing it is myself, and fears of vulnerability.

Sometimes it’s your map, not your growth, that needs fixing. In times where it feels like you haven’t progressed at all, it might be because you’re working with an inaccurate map of what “growth” actually looks like. You thought the journey was just a few miles, but in reality, it’s a few dozen miles, and you weren’t seeing it on the right scale.

You can bring playfulness to everything. And it’s a very wise thing to do so. You know what it feels like to be playful. Incline your mind in this direction.

Empathy for your future self is the key to maintaining momentum. Instead of trying to squeeze as much as you can out of something, it’s more valuable to set up what comes next to be as good as possible. (e.g. Instead of trying to cram more into today,

Your life is precious. You have no idea how long you’ll be alive. Don’t squander this opportunity. Enjoy it!

Onward!

A lot happened in 2018 both personally and professionally. It was a year of big growth. And it helped me set the foundation for 2019 to be even bigger.

I’m as fired-up about Mindful Ambition as I’ve ever been.

And I wake up each day excited to learn, grow, do, serve, and be just a little bit better.

Thanks for being a part of this movement.

With love,

and on purpose,

Patrick

PS: If you feel inspired, I implore you to conduct a Year in Review of your own, and follow it up with creating an intentional plan to make 2019 the year you want. Grab a copy of the workbook and get started!

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