2017 Annual Life Review
Reading Time: 9 minutes
As 2017 ends and 2018 approaches, I wanted to share my first Annual Life Review.
This review is an extension of a Quarterly Life Review that I conduct every 3 months. I was inspired to post it publicly thanks to writer James Clear.
The review is intended to be a big picture reflection on my year. In it, I celebrate victories, break down challenges, and distill key learnings. There are three sections: 7 Victores, 7 Challenges, and 7 Learnings.
I am publishing this publicly for two reasons: to hold myself accountable and to encourage you to conduct a similar reflection. Regular and structured reflections are a great way to gain additional clarity on where you are now and how to get where you want to be.
I hope you enjoy the insights and stories you find in the review. Feel free to use this structure to reflect on your own life.
Launching calvinrosser.com – In 2017, I was hyper-focused on learning, writing, and finding new ways to contribute. I launched the site in late November in an attempt to bring my efforts across these three areas together in a structured and impactful way. My primary objective is to share what I know to help us all live a better life. I am very committed to this mission and recently left my full-time job to pursue this endeavor.
Traveling to 22 countries across 4 continents – I have been traveling and working remotely for 18 months now. For me, the lifestyle provides a tremendous amount of personal growth, creativity, and joy. It’s not always easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding. A few of the highlights from this year include: attending Carnival in Rio de Janeiro with my best mates, visiting a live Volcano in Nicaragua, learning how to surf in Lagos and Bali, hydrospeeding and canyoning in Slovenia, taking an ad-hoc trip to Oktoberfest in Germany, touring vineyards in Argentina, hiking and yachting in Croatia, and climbing waterfalls in Thailand. I visited the following 22 countries:
- Argentina, Austria, Bosnia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Portugal, Scotland, Serbia, Slovenia, Thailand, United States, Uruguay.
And I’ve met many incredible people along the way. I’m very grateful for having the opportunity to do this while simultaneously building my career.
Reading and summarizing 37 books – I bought a Kindle in mid-2016 and began reading again for the first time in years. This was the best decision I’ve ever made. I believe reading is the single best way to improve your quality of life and accelerate your success. In 2017, I read and summarized 3 books a month, greatly exceeding my goal of reading 10 books in the full year (you can find the summaries here). I focused on personal finance, entrepreneurship, personal development, psychology, and negotiation. The 3 best books I read were Sapiens, Awaken the Giant Within, and Shoe Dog. I’m always happy to receive new book recommendations, so please share what you are reading.
Began personal and professional coaching – Early in life, I learned the importance of paying it forward. One way I personally practice this principle is through working 1-on-1 with others to help them unlock their potential and live more fulfilling lives. This year, I worked with individuals aged 20 to 40 on areas ranging from enhancing performance at work and identifying and working through limiting beliefs, to career searches and salary negotiations. I really enjoy this work and look forward to continuing it in 2018. If you are interested in working with me, you can learn more and sign up here.
Improving my financial health – A big injustice in our education system is the lack of training on the basic, but essential principles of personal finance. This year, I spent significant time independently learning about the topic and developing strategies and models that I could share with others. Personally, I was able to establish a simple and automated wealth accrual strategy and finished 30% ahead of my net worth goal. This was the result of learning to live with less, success in my career, and living outside of the United States with an average rent of $786 per month. I will be publishing a comprehensive guide on personal finance this year. Please sign up here if you want to receive that guide.
Developing a morning routine – Prior to 2017, I had no routine in the morning. Most days, I’d check email and start working immediately. This year I discovered the power of a good morning routine. A morning routine grounds you and ensures that you are doing the essential actions that will enable you to be the person you want to become. It’s the daily small actions that compound over time and have a great effect on your life. After a lot of experimenting, I developed this morning routine for myself. It includes reading, journaling, meditation, and exercise. This is what works for me. What works for you might look similar or very different. The important thing is to start small and be consistent. Start reading 5 minutes every morning, writing 3 things you’re grateful for, or doing 10 pushups. You’ll see what works for you once you start.
Experiencing more learning, joy, and gratitude than ever before – On the whole, this was a phenomenal year. And it’s not because of what happened to me, but rather how I consciously chose to live. I prioritized travel, learning, and excelling in my career. I chose to spend lots of time in nature and trying new things. I chose to spend time building new relationships around the world. I also chose not to do a lot of things. All of these actions were aligned with the person I wanted to become. And in living in line with my values, I felt a more consistent level of joy and appreciation for life.
Writing – I set out to become a better writer in 2017. While I came close to hitting my metric-driven goals for the year, I did not achieve what I was really looking for: confidence and momentum in sharing my ideas with others through writing. My failure was driven by a single limiting belief: my belief that I wasn’t ready yet. Because I thought I wasn’t ready, I got stuck in a cycle of perfectionism. I spent far more time thinking, organizing, and reading than writing. I know that to become a better writer, I need to write. In 2018, I am going to do just that and overcome the limiting belief that held me back this year.
Attempting to do too many things – I had a superhero syndrome in 2017. I thought I could do it all — travel the world, become a great writer, be a top performer at work, be in top physical shape, read dozens of books, build a global network, and so on. While I was able to achieve a lot in all of these areas, I directed my energy in too many directions. This led to multiple periods of burnout and less progress on some of the more important areas. In 2018, I will accomplish more by focusing on less, both in my personal and professional life. I will do this by getting full clarity on what I want and selecting the essential few things that will get me there.
Maintaining a routine – While traveling to 22 countries and working full time was an amazing experience, I found it challenging to maintain a consistent routine. I experienced many unexpected interruptions and had a highly irregular schedule. I found myself constantly adapting to new places – checking in to a new home, getting familiar with the local cuisine, and identifying places to work and exercise. The constantly shifting landscape created certain periods where I fell out of any routine. For instance, there was a period from early March through April in Nicaragua where I lost my routine completely. Later in the year, I was able to be more consistent by developing a morning routine and leveraging new learnings about the science of habit formation from the Power of Habit.
Physical health – My physical fitness was all over the map during the year. I went through periods where I was working out multiple times a day and others where I went weeks without doing much. During the summer, I also developed a bad habit of overeating and snacking during periods where I was working long hours or unusually stressed. This problem was compounded by moving to a new city every 2 weeks and not having a set place or routine around exercise. In 2018 while I continue to travel, physical health will be a top priority.
Focusing on things outside of my control – Candidly, there were periods where I let circumstances outside of my control frustrate me deeply. Fortunately, these were rare cases, but they did happen and I did not always maintain the emotional equilibrium that I strive for. Each time this happened, I took the time to reflect and learn something from the experience. No matter how much you know or practice the right mindsets, there will be setbacks and times where you let the noise and fog creep in. I will continue to work on this moving forward.
Meditation – Regular meditation helps me maintain a more calm, reflective, and present-focused mind. I think it’s a great tool for anyone to try. I set out to meditate 80% of days in the year, but only achieved 60%. The periods where I didn’t meditate for a week or more were those where I experienced the most mental turbulence. On the positive side, I experimented with a few new forms of meditation this year, including transcendental meditation. I’m still understanding the style that I like best. I will continue to pursue meditation as a daily practice in 2018.
Staying in contact with close friends – Since I began traveling and working remotely, I have struggled to find the optimal balance between living fully within my present reality and maintaining important relationships with friends and family. During the first half of the year, I failed to communicate regularly with the people I care most about. I recognized this during my Q3 reflection process and made a concerted effort to address the problem. Moving forward, I will do better in this area.
7 Key Learnings
Slow down, enjoy life – I took my first ever vacation this year to Thailand. On the plane over, I created the theme for the trip, “slow down, enjoy life.” This is a theme that came up repeatedly throughout the year. For ambitious and driven individuals, often the hardest thing to do is relax and enjoy what’s in front of you. It’s easy to get caught in the cycle of trying to accomplish many things in a short period of time. That is okay, but at times, it can come at the expense of enjoying the beautiful nature, people, or things that you already have. So relax. Keep working hard. But remember to slow down and enjoy life as it is now while you have the opportunity to do so.
Prioritize and execute – In both your personal and professional life, one of the most important things you can do is ruthlessly prioritize what you focus your attention on. Narrow down your focus to the few essential things. Your time and resources are limited, and focusing on the vital few things that matter will greatly increase your effectiveness. Moreover, you will reduce time spent doing unnecessary things that you don’t enjoy. And once you have your priorities, execute. Take action. Action makes ideas and priorities a reality.
Ask quality questions – The questions you ask have a profound impact on how you think, act, and feel. For example, if every time you encounter a problem you ask yourself “why is this happening to me?”, you will feel that the world is working against you and likely not have a solution. If instead, you ask “how can I work to solve this?” you will feel in the driver seat and be in a position to tackle the problem at hand. This is the power of questions and it permeates every area of your life. When you meet someone new, ask yourself “what can I learn from this person?” When you wake up in the morning, ask yourself “what are three things I am grateful for?” Asking solution-oriented and empowering questions can have a dramatic impact on your life. Try it.
If you’re not pink and eating grass, you’re okay. – This simple rule has its origins in Pai, Thailand. Along with some friends, I watched a dog hobble by. He was in bad shape. In fact, he was pink and eating grass. From then on, I decided that if I was not pink and eating grass, I may not be in a perfect situation, but at least I was okay. Things will go wrong in life for all of us. When this happens and you start feeling a downward mental or emotional spiral coming on, just ask yourself if you’re pink and eating grass, and if not, you’re okay.
The distinction between responsibility and fault – Successful people take responsibility for everything that happens them, even if it’s not their fault. Did your boss yell at you for a mistake made by a coworker? Did a family member fall ill unexpectedly? Did your significant other cheat on you? Even if none of these situations are your fault, it is your responsibility to accept the reality of the situation and choose how to respond. When you do this, you can move beyond your initial reaction and identify potential solutions and paths forward.
The relationship between action and motivation – Most people take action only when they feel a certain level of motivation or inspiration. The problem is that motivation is not predictable. If you rely on it to take action, you might never accomplish your goals. However, an often overlooked reality is that action can actually cause motivation, rather than simply being the effect of it. So take action. Just start. Don’t wait for the motivation if you want to make an important change in your life. It will come with action.
Communicate, communicate, communicate – When negotiating, presenting at work, discussing issues in your personal life, and so on, effective communication is essential to achieving a successful outcome. When things are not going well between people, it’s more often than not a communication issue. Take the time to get feedback from others on the positive and negative aspects of your communication style. Work through the challenges you have and begin observing how different situations and people require different styles of communication. Becoming a better, more dynamic communicator will enhance every area of your life.
And that’s it! Hasta luego 2017. Thanks for reading. I’m excited to continue sharing. I wish you a phenomenal 2018.