2011 Focus

I seem to have this tradition of making a post at the start of each year to muse about what my primary focus for the coming year will be, so I’ll share some thoughts on what I’d like to explore in 2011.

2010 in Review

First of all, 2010 was a year of tremendous growth and exploration. It was one of the most unusual years for me. Some 2010 highlights include:

  • Adjusting to the separation from Erin in late 2009 and working through many details of that
  • Exploring interpersonal relationships (long-distance relationship, polyamory, D/s, new friendships, unconditional love, oneness)
  • Quitting Toastmasters after 6 years of membership
  • Traveling extensively (on the road for 3 months of the year; visiting many U.S. states, 5 Canadian Provinces, and Puerto Rico)
  • Delivering 4 Conscious Growth Workshops
  • Spending less time on email and more time interacting face to face, including shutting down my online contact form for some months
  • Conducting deeper explorations of subjective reality and inspired living
  • Doing various personal experiments (trying hot yoga, running my business from the road, etc.)
  • Uncopyrighting my work and releasing my blog posts and podcasts into the public domain

In many respects this was a chaotic year. If you place a high value on stability and security, you probably wouldn’t have enjoyed doing what I did. I spent a lot of time pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. This year was more stressful than most, but it was also a year of wonderful new experiences. I feel like I really lived this year, not in the sense of living it up, but in the sense of having a life outside of work.

For me 2010 was a year of exploring, especially in the area of interpersonal relationships. But it was also a bit crazy at times. I did a number of things for the experience because I’d never done them before. It felt good to stretch myself in new directions as I was coming out of a marriage and rediscovering myself as an individual.

I also took a deeper look at my values and considered what was truly important to me in life. I thought more deeply about what I wanted to explore, experience, and contribute. My 40th birthday is coming up in April, so this felt like a good year to pause, reflect, stretch myself, and gain some clarity about the road ahead. I definitely spent more time working on my personal growth this year than I did on my professional growth, and I have no regrets about that.

Expanding Upon 2010

In the coming year, I’d like to continue building upon some of the explorations I began in 2010. I’d especially like to continue traveling. I’d love to visit Europe in 2011 since I’ve never been there. I like the idea of spending a month or more in a new country and immersing myself in the culture and language, but I can also see the appeal of visiting multiple countries in the span of a few weeks to get some rapid exposure and discover places I’d like to revisit for a deeper experience.

When it comes to picking travel destinations, I favor going to new places I’ve never visited, and beyond that I rely on intuition. Since there are so many countries I’ve never seen, I’m mainly interested in going to places that are new to me. It doesn’t matter whether they’re culturally similar to the USA or not. I learned a lot from the 5-6 weeks I spent in Canada this year; the more time I spent there, the more subtleties I discovered.

I’d also like to continue exploring in the area of relationships and social connections. One of my biggest challenges is maintaining a balanced social life. Because of the popularity of my website, it’s easy for me to be socially lazy because there are always fresh connections and invites coming my way. Turning off my contact form for several months gave me space to initiate connections instead of feeling I have an endless line of people who need to hear back from me.

This year I intend to pay more attention to the quality and depth of my connections. I could do with less quantity and variety for a while. I also want to shift further away from online socializing and towards more face to face connecting.

2011 Focus

Because 2010 was such an intense year, I don’t have as much clarity about my primary focus for the upcoming year as compared to previous years. I’m still processing my 2010 experiences and working through the rippling after-effects of separating from Erin. Consequently, I may be indulging in some wishful thinking in this attempt to clarify my 2011 focus. I’ll do my best to share what I can though.

I think the main thing I’d like to explore this year is alternative business models. I feel I’m in a good place to do this for several reasons.

First, I’m not particularly attached to money. I don’t fear experimenting in this area, even if it means taking financial risks and causing swings in my income. I’m much more curious than I am greedy. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 16+ years, and I’ve lived through many lean years and many abundant ones. I don’t see money as a power source, and I’m just not particularly inspired by financial gain. I am, however, curious to explore different ways of generating income this year.

On a practical level, I have plenty of financial fallbacks if things go south. I can write more books or do more workshops to earn more money if needed. This puts me in a good place to explore and experiment without feeling like I have to succeed. But I also get bored easily if I do too much of the same thing. I like to change things up since it makes my business more fun and varied.

I require a certain level of risk (or challenge) in order to keep my work interesting. If my work becomes too easy, I get bored, and my motivation plummets. If I had a guaranteed path to success staring me in the face, I’d abandon it and try something else. Otherwise my life would be like playing a video game in God mode. If there’s no challenge, the game is boring and pointless. I flunked out of university when I tried to go through it in 4 years (too easy, no challenge, pointless), but I graduated with two degrees when I pushed myself to do it in 3 semesters (challenging, difficult, exciting).

In previous years, I’ve done a lot of lifestyle experimenting, especially with respect to working, eating, sleeping, and relationships. I enjoy the growth and learning that comes from such experiments. This year I’d like to do more experimenting in the space of business.

During some of the years that I’ve been blogging, most of my income came from advertising. Then most of it came from joint-venture deals. Then most of it was from doing workshops. I’ve been experimenting with different ways of making my work financially sustainable since I started blogging, but in 2011 I’d like to be more conscious and deliberate about trying different ideas. I think it will make my business more fun, exciting, and challenging and less predictable.

My top priority isn’t to make as much money as I can. If I wanted to maximize my income above all else, I’d prioritize my actions differently. As an end in itself, making money is pretty boring to me. It’s like playing a video game just for the score.

It’s fair to say that my website is grossly under-monetized. I’m pretty sure I could be earning 10x as much money with my existing traffic if I made income generation my top priority. But I don’t feel the sacrifices would be worth it.

I’d say that my priority when it comes to business model experimentation is to maximize my happiness. I want to enjoy my freedom, including the freedom to travel, and not feel chained to my work. I want to continue enjoying and increasing the level of financial abundance in my life. I want to connect with people as friends and not feel that transactions are more important than interactions. I want to provide strong value that benefits people. And I want to express myself honestly and openly; I’m unwilling to conform to others’ expectations in order to get more business.

I like to experiment, and I change my primary business model almost every year. I don’t do this because I’m trying to make more money. I do it because I get bored with the old model. When my methods for generating income become too secure and predictable, I’m drawn to abandon them in order to try something new. I like to drop proven methods even if it means less income because I gain more from the process of exploration than I gain from the income. I learn and grow faster when I experiment often, and life is more fun and exciting.

So for 2011, I’d like to do even more experimenting with my business model. You may see me doing things that look highly questionable — perhaps even foolish — if you’re coming from the perspective that an entrepreneur is supposed to optimize a business around revenue generation. I’d rather optimize for fun, excitement, and challenge. And of course I’m happy to share what I learn along the way.

Happy New Year! 🙂