My experiences this year pushed me far beyond my comfort zones and helped me understand myself more than any year before.
Going into 2014 I had many of the same goals that you probably had. Eat healthier, exercise more, make X amount of money. Unsurprisingly almost none of those things went the way I’d intended. Instead, the things I never could’ve planned for ended up making this the best year ever.
Here are my biggest personal growth experiences of 2014.
Moving to Orange County
Leaving the place I called home in search of new opportunities and experiences was challenging mentally and physically. Any time you move states you’re in for a lot of work. From finding a new home, to packing, moving, settling in, getting new license plates and drivers license, new utilities, etc. Like I said, a lot of work. Also, leaving behind your friends and family for a place where you know almost no one can lead to some lonely moments. While it was hard, moving to Orange County resulted in a year of growth. Almost every item on this list wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t moved.
Working with Matthew
My girlfriend and I moved into a live/work loft in Santa Ana, CA. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived. Architecturally inspiring and full of open space for working, playing, and entertaining. Because the space was so large I decided to invite my buddy, Matthew Gallizzi, to share the large workspace with me. For the following year we worked together almost every day. In the morning we’d go for a walk around the nearby park and talked about business and life. We’d help each other work through ideas, creative blocks, and tough decisions. Imagine working next to a business coach, accountability partner and best friend every day.
Recording the Startup Riff podcast
Soon after Matthew and I started working together we started a podcast called Startup Riff. The idea was that we’d freely talk about our thoughts around various topics like productivity, the entrepreneur mindset, idea validation, etc. The response was relatively good for starting with almost no pre-existing audience. We even had a few people that would regularly tune into a live broadcast.
Even though we stopped recording the show after our 43rd episode, the Startup Riff helped Matthew and I hone our public voices and it taught us a lot about how to produce a weekly audio show. We’d also been wanting to get all our thoughts on starting a business out in some easily digestible form and the podcast allowed us to do just that. Now when someone asks me for advice on a certain topic I can point them to an in-depth conversation about it. That alone made this experience priceless.
I’ve got to thank Matthew for this one. His birthday gift to me was setting me up with an opportunity to speak at an event at Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Entrepreneurship. I’ve been deathly afraid of public speaking all my life so even though this was only a three minute “Ubernote”, the experience was a huge growth moment for me. Perhaps the biggest of the year.
A few months later, Matthew and I also got the opportunity to speak at Valley High School, in Santa Ana, about our experiences in entrepreneurship. It was a lot of fun and exposed me to the unique challenges that come with talking to a group full of rambunctious teenagers.
Getting a bunch of dental procedures done
Shortly after my birthday I faced one of my biggest fears, going to the dentist. It was my first visit in years and I knew there was work to be done. I’d been told 6 years ago that I really needed to get my wisdom teeth out and over those few short years a cavity had also become infected.
This year I had cavities filled, a root canal operation, and two wisdom teeth extracted. It was a long and painful year for my mouth. Take my story as a warning. Don’t wait to go to the dentist or doctor, even if you’re a starving entrepreneur with no health insurance. Health > Business = Always.
Going to NYC for Unretreat 2014
For the past two years, Matthew and I have done something we’re formerly calling Unretreats. It’s basically a week spent in an unknown city where we dig deep and work together through our struggles personally and professionally. This year my girlfriend, Josie, joined us and ended up creating some of the most profound moments for me. I helped her recognize things she needed to work on to be a stronger woman and she helped me recognize things I needed to work on to become a better man. We cried together for the first time in a while. It was freeing.
For the past two years I’ve left Unretreat inspired, with new friends, and changed in ways that only a week of deep, vulnerable conversations can do. Can’t freakin’ wait to do it again!
Starting (and shutting down) Kangaroo.io
After attending a Lunch and Learn event in Orange County, Matthew and I had an idea for a company feedback tool. We wanted to test it as a minimum viable product so we set up a basic landing page at kangaroo.io and started testing the idea by throwing up a few ads. Before we knew it we were on Product Hunt and some of techs biggest companies were signing up for our service as we were still mapping out processes and building the back end. It was nuts. We tuned and tweaked the project over the next few weeks and were able to test out some very personal onboarding techniques.
Eventually, we began to question if kangaroo.io fit either of our self-defined purposes. It was tough but we came to the conclusion that this wasn’t the path either of us were interested in going down. I think we both learned to stick with our focus in the future and don’t give into trying every interesting idea that comes along. It’s a sure fire way to waste precious time and feel off purpose.
Making art with Rogue Food Works
Rogue Food Works is an immersive dining club in Denver, Colorado. In August, I was invited to attend one of their events and I was blown away by the unique and high-quality experience they’d put together. Shortly after the event, they asked me to help them create a launch strategy and content series for their upcoming Indiegogo campaign. I said, “Hell yeah!” and we quickly got to work. It’s been a lot of fun working with the creative guys at Rogue Food Works and they’ve pushed me harder creatively than any other project I’ve worked on this year.
Packing up all my belongings and living on the road
My girlfriend and I go on a lot of road trips. It’s one of our favorite ways to travel. So, when our lease was up at our loft in Orange County, we put our stuff in storage and hit the road for a few months. We drove up the coast of California to spend a few weeks traveling through Oregon and Washington before heading back down to New Mexico to spend the Holidays with my family. After this trip, I think I can say that I’ve fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest. The lush and mighty trees of the Pacific Rainforest, the serene Oregon coast, the amazing coffee, and the beyond friendly people. Everything about the Northwest spoke to my soul.
Uncertainty going into 2015
I’m done worrying about how all the seemingly fragmented pieces of my life will fall together. I spent much of the past year trying to come up with some cohesive business strategy that would encompass everything I enjoy but I made very little actual progress towards starting anything. My fear of uncertainty and “doing the wrong thing” paralyzed me. I know this mental discomfort is all part of my journey, part of untangling myself, overcoming my fears, and embracing what I subconsciously know I love to do. And while I may not have made much progress on my own personal projects this year, I do feel good about the number of people I advised and helped grow their projects. I think that’s the direction I’m going. I like using what I’ve learned over the past decade of carving my own path to help others do the same.
As to where I’ll be living next. I’m not really sure. We’re considering making the move to Portland or Seattle, but it’s too early to make that decision. For now I’m relaxing, enjoying my time with my family, and quietly plotting for 2015.
I’d love to know what experiences forced you to grow this year. I look forward to reading your stories in the comments below.