This is a year in review for Practical Idealist and my business pursuits.

Writing gives me the opportunity to organize and record my thoughts, so I like the idea of reviewing two things:

  • What went well this year? (Positives”)
  • What didn’t go well this year? (Negatives”)

As such, this review is as much for myself as it is a review that I hope may help you in some way.

This review won’t include personal aspects of my life; things like my self-improvement goals and personal milestones. I may decide to write a personal review in May on my next birthday as it provides a good 6 month split between this business review and a personal review.

Instead, I’ll try to focus on business-related matters: the positives and negatives from the year which directly affected my professional work or resulted from my business pursuits.

It’s often difficult to distinguish clearly between business and personal because our personal lives impact our professional aspirations and vice versa.

I’ll do my best.

POSITIVES

Launching Practical Idealist

In 2014, I created Practical Idealist as a way to communicate strategies and ideas that I hope will help others to live an ideal life and because I wanted to become a better writer while building an online business.

I felt a little hesitant to share my writing when it came time to publish my first article. Not because I was worried about what others would think, but because I wasn’t sure if my writing was good enough.

I placed a lot of pressure on myself early on to write excellent articles. And I still do.

Fortunately, I shared some of my early work with two friends who assured me that what I was writing was good and would help others.

The first article I decided to launch with in February 2014 was Depression F-ing Sucks.

It’s by far the most revealing topic I’ve written about to date. And it takes the cake for most curse words, but I’ll definitely crush that record later.

I received an overwhelmingly positive response.

A number of people wrote emails and messaged me on Facebook telling me about their difficulties with depression and how the article helped them.

I knew immediately that I made the right decision.

Depression F-ing Sucks has since been consistently among the top 3 most popular articles on this site. And it’s individually-responsible for more email subscribers than any other article.

Here’s some of the other most popular articles:

As a result of writing for this site, I’ve developed a lot of personal connections I wouldn’t have otherwise developed, and I’ve been presented with a variety of business opportunities as well.

But more on that in a bit…

My best month for Practical Idealist was July when I received 1,356 visitors (or 44 unique visitors per day). This coincides with my best single day, July 13, where I received 292 visitors while I was away in Portland for the World Domination Summit.

I didn’t understand why I experienced this spike because I wasn’t actively promoting anything for my site until I found out that a well-known business leader and author found my article on LeBron James and retweeted it to her roughly 1 million followers.

A Syracuse University Men’s Basketball assistant coach praised the article on Twitter too. As a former college basketball player, I felt like my basketball street cred went through the roof!

My mind is a special place…

Here’s a link to the article

My articles have been featured on the front page of popular blogs such as LifeHack, Under30CEO and Rich20Something. And I’ve been invited to contribute at more popular online publications, which I plan to do in 2015.

Travel

Each year I make a committed effort to travel.

My focus is on building a richer, fuller life that propels me to experience more of what life has to offer NOW rather than “someday” in the future.

A richer, fuller life for me certainly includes travel, which I place a high-priority on because of the multitude of opportunities to grow as a person and the learning that takes place when traveling.

In the past 13 months, I’ve traveled to 15 cities and 4 countries. This doesn’t account for flight layovers or places I stayed at for 24 hours or less.

Here’s a list of the cities I traveled to:

  • Austin, Chesterton, Dallas (x5), Detroit, Koh Rong, Oranjestad, New York, Niagara Falls, Phnom Penh, Portland, Royal Oak, Siem Reap, St. Louis, Toronto and Windsor.

My favorite place was Siem Reap, Cambodia.

My buddy Cedric and I traveled to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat, which is the largest religious monument in the world. The history and architecture is what made this trip truly special.

Angkor Wat is #106 on my Life List.

We were fortunate to see two sunrises at Angkor Wat, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful sights to see.

Angkor Wat Sunrise

Bayon Temple

Bayon Stone Face at Angkor Wat

doing something I shouldn't be doing

Yes, I’m standing on top of an ancient column in Angkor Wat, which I have no business doing. But I had Carpe Diem that joint!

Unfortunately, I had to cancel a cruise and an exciting trip with a group of entrepreneurs to China, but overall I enjoyed my travel this year.

New Friendships, Incredible People

I’ve met some incredible people as a result of creating this site.

I won’t introduce everyone I’ve met, but I’ll include a few that I think you’ll find interesting.

One person I met is Dr. Chris Stout.

He’s the author of over 37 books, the Founding Director of the Center for Global Initiatives, and one of the most cited psychologist in the world today.

I reached out to Dr. Stout for an interview after reading an article he wrote for LinkedIn Influencer—a program which include contributors such as Bill Gates, Mark Cuban and Richard Branson.

I chatted with Dr. Stout about his Life List and I asked him questions about his secrets to accomplishing massive goals, like becoming a best-selling author, serving as a consultant to the White House, and climbing to the top of 3 of the World’s 7 Summits.

Dr. Stout was super kind and we had a great conversation.

You can see my conversation with Dr. Chris Stout here

Another incredible individual I met is John Francis.

You may have heard him referred to by his nickname “The Planetwalker,” or you may have seen him tell his story in his popular TED talk with over 495,000 views.

After watching John speak onstage about his 17 year vow of silence at the World Domination Summit in Portland, I knew I needed to meet him.

His story is remarkable and awe-inspiring.

I interviewed him while he was promoting his Planetlines curriculum. After watching his TEDtalk, reading his biography, and listening to his other interviews of his online, I felt I was prepared to take our conversations in places other interviewers hadn’t.

I hope you enjoy our conversation as well.

My interview with John “The Planetwalker” Francis will be released soon.

I met my friend Daniel DiPiazza, founder of Rich20Something, before I started this site.

I reached out to Daniel for help with starting Practical Idealist. I’m really happy I did because I’ve been able to leverage the insights he’s learned developing his blog to save myself some serious pain early on.

Daniel teaches you strategies to start a business you care about and live a happier life. He’s genuine; he’s always looking to help the members of his tribe; and he’s probably the most accessible online expert in the world. Seriously.

I consider Daniel a good friend and I’m excited to see his continued growth with Rich20Something and the various projects he’s working on. He’s definitely a name to remember…

If you’re not receiving tips from Daniel on how to build your business, you’re making a BIG mistake! To receive updates from Daniel’s blog, just click here.

Last but certainly not least, I kinda met my girlfriend as a result of this site…

No. I don’t have some backroom, online dating forum hidden in this site that requires the password “Sex Money” to access.

That does sounds pretty legit though…

Actually, we went to college together. But we didn’t really know each other at that time. After I published my first article on Practical Idealist, it gained a little buzz within my social circle on Facebook.

We were already friends on Facebook, soI decided to ask her if she had a chance to read the article and, if so, what did she think about it? We’ve been talking nearly every day since.

Who knew a blog could get you fiiine hunnies? 🙂

NEGATIVES

My Dad’s Battle for Health

By far, the biggest negative of the past year has been the struggle to live that my dad has had to go through. This is a personal item, but it absolutely affected my family’s and my professional life.

I spoke briefly about my dad’s journey and why I’m so proud of him in Happy Father’s Day: A Living Tribute.

During a 6 month period, he spent roughly 5 full months inside the hospital, transferring between the intensive care unit, emergency room, and rehabilitation.

In October, he underwent a successful double-lung transplant surgery.

After seeing the extent of damage to his lungs, the surgeon declared he would’ve been dead in 48 hours if the surgery hadn’t taken place.

In fact, over the past 6 months, there were more than a few times where we almost lost my dad.

It was a miracle in and of itself that he made it to the lung transplant list because he wasn’t supposed to. He made the list based off of a technicality.

Then, not only did he make it to the transplant list, but he was immediately rushed to the very top of the list.

He rose to #1 on the transplant waiting list the day after he was added.

This is highly unusual…

And based off what the surgeon told him after the operation, I know that if these things hadn’t taken place, my dad wouldn’t be with us today.

Naturally, as a result of the my dad’s ill health, I allowed my writing and other focuses to slip (I’m sorry guys!).

It’s a scary feeling to know that you may lose your parent at any moment during the day—without any advanced notice.

It’s worse when you understand that because you live far away in another part of the country, you may be forced to hear the worst possible news over a phone call—without being able to say any final words.

Now THAT’S scary.

Especially when you believe you have many years more to say everything you want to.

On January 1st, I moved from Michigan to Texas so I can be closer to my dad.

And I’m excited to say that my dad is now doing better than I’ve seen him doing in well over 6 months.

Missed Business Opportunities

I mentioned before that I had some cool opportunities available to me both as a result of this site and otherwise.

As a result of Practical Idealist, a publishing company approached me with a book opportunity.

I didn’t feel like I was an authority to be able to write a book, but they shared that they really enjoyed my writing and thought it would be mutually beneficial.

After seeing numerous successes for many self-published authors, I began working with an individual on outlining the contents of my upcoming book. And we agreed to a fair compensation plan.

Unfortunately, I allowed this opportunity to slip. I may return to this deal if they’ll have me and if it still makes sense for me at the time.

Another opportunity I missed out on was an exciting trip to China with a group of entrepreneurs to start an importing business.

The excursion included several trips to the largest import and export trade fair in the world, the Canton Fair; tours of the best factories in China with introductions to their owners; and a daily mastermind with successful importing entrepreneurs, including an importing billionaire.

I was really excited at the prospect, but eventually cancelled because of the possibility that lungs would soon become available for my father to undergo surgery. I didn’t want to be out of the country while he was going to be in surgery. It turned out that I was out of the country on the day of his surgery anyway.

I think it was good that I didn’t go to China because I was able to spend a over week with my dad and mom. My mom needed to rest for a few days after she underwent a minor surgery of her own.

Publishing Interviews

Interviews are a great method to meet some fascinating people. And the dialogue can be a lot of fun.

The process for preparing and publishing the interviews, however, is time-consuming.

To prepare for an interview, I like to read my interviewee’s book(s) cover-to-cover, check out other interviews they’ve done, and read related work online.

I feel like I devalue the person’s time who I’m interviewing if I don’t read their material and study their backgrounds. Plus I think once I become more polished with conducting interviews, it’ll make for a more interesting, personal interview.

For both of the interviews I completed, I will have end up publishing the interviews WAYY after I originally promised.

This becomes a real problem if the person I’m interviewing is trying to promote something they’re involved in, which John was.

I feel really bad about both times I’ve pushed back the date to publish an interview. So I’m trying to narrow down where I’ve went wrong.

I either have to change the process of preparing for and publishing interviews to reduce the time it takes, or I can hire resources to outsource portions of the preparation and publishing processes.

I’ll likely look first at where I can improve upon my current process before looking to outsource the work.

Also, I’ll definitely need to change the software that I’ll use moving forward for interviews. While Google Hangouts is a useful tool for video conferencing, it has serious drawbacks for use conducting online interviews. I’ll likely spend the money for quality software like Wistia.

Goals (Meditation and Writing)

After some deliberation at the beginning of 2014, I concluded that meditation and writing would do more for my professional development than any other two single activities.

Meditation and writing are “keystone habits.”

Keystone habits are the habits which have the power to start a chain reaction that, over time, transforms everything, both remaking and improving other patterns in your life.

Exercise is a great example of a keystone habit.

I chose a daily habit of meditation because the mental clarity, focus, and general well-being I derive from meditation allows me to sustain higher levels of productivity and it keeps me psychologically-balanced. This is in addition to the spiritual growth I experience which is, in my opinion, the greatest benefit.

I chose a regular habit of writing because several authors and bloggers each state that they owe their professional success to creating a consistent writing habit.

I committed to a goal of 20 minutes of meditation per day and a goal of 200 words per day for articles beginning in January.

I created a Google spreadsheet to track my commitment. And I used the Google Sheets app to update my progress on my phone throughout the day.

Here’s how I translated the information from my spreadsheet to my wall calendar:

  • If I completed one of my goals for the day, the following morning I’d mark one diagonal line across the day on my wall calendar
  • If I completed both of my goals the previous day, I’d mark an X for the day
  • And if I didn’t complete either of my goals, I left the calendar day blank
NOTE: Choosing 2 primary goals to work on throughout the entire year helps you to become laser-focused on the main activities which will have the most impact on your business and in your life.

It’s often said that “what gets measured gets managed.” Using a Google spreadsheet and a wall calendar, I’m able to record my activity and use the wall calendar visual tool to track my progress over time.

Use this practice if it helps you. I’ve included screenshots below which shows you how I use it.

I have more productivity secrets to share with you. If you want to join the community and have them sent to your inbox when the list is ready, click here.

 

Screenshot from my iPhone of the simple spreadsheet I use to track progress on my 2 main goals for the year

(Screenshot from my iPhone of the simple spreadsheet I use to track progress on my 2 main goals for the year)

My wall calendar. The feeling of marking an ‘X’ after completing both goals for the day is huge and really helps to propel me forward in achieving my goals.

(My wall calendar. The feeling of marking an ‘X’ after completing your goals for the day is HUGE and really helps to propel you forward in achieving your goals!)

My biggest gap between meditating for 20 minutes in a day was 18 consecutive days in October. My biggest gap between writing 200 words was 39 days in late April and most of May.

The most time I spent in meditation in a single day was 10 hours on August 23rd. The most words I wrote in a single day was 4,018 on August 10th.

In total, I spent 11,951 minutes in meditation (that’s a little over 8 days) and wrote 48,901 words for articles on Practical Idealist.

Looking back, I’m still fairly happy with both of my numbers.

I actually spent more time in meditation for the year than I would’ve had I spent only 20 minutes each day and stopped immediately afterwards.

However, because I’m striving for consistency rather than total volume, I realize I didn’t meet my objectives.

I know I need to be more consistent if I want the results I’m working towards.

My work and personal life will improve as a result.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, I’d say 2014 was a success. While I didn’t meet all my goals and there were certainly some negatives, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made so far.

My dad’s health has been an emotional rollercoaster for him and our family, but I’m incredibly grateful to have him in my life still. I hope his health continues to improve as a result of his double-lung transplant.

I have some big plans for 2015 that I’m already working towards, but I’m choosing to keep those a secret for now.

I’ll share them with you later when the timing is right.

Thank You!

Thank you for reading and continuing to support me on this journey!

If you’re reading this and you’re not already a member, I’d love to have you join our community today.

My articles are available for anyone who visits this site, but I share exclusive items (like yesterday’s private letter) only with our community.

Thank you to our awesome Practical Idealist community!


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Robert James Collier is the founder at Practical Idealist where he shares practical ideas to achieve worthy ideals.