2011 Annual Review: Looking Forward

Merry Christmas and Happy Everything!

Wherever you are and whatever you’re celebrating, I hope you’re having a great holiday week.

This is the final post of the 2011 Annual Review series. Looking back over the year, here’s what we’ve covered thus far:

Overview of the Process
2011 Highlights and First Thoughts
2011 Business Lessons
2011 Travel Roundup

I wrote some of this material in advance (only slightly!) so I could spend much of the actual review week working ahead. I was tired, having literally arrived in vacation-land and meeting up with Jolie a few days after taking a minibus through Somaliland—more on that after the holidays.

After a few margaritas (tequila not being served in Somaliland for some reason), I got serious about looking ahead to the next year. Serious is a good word for the process; I really wanted to think hard about how I can improve and what I want to focus on.

A few things came to mind almost immediately…

TRAVEL. As mentioned during the recent roundup, I’m down to less than 20 countries on my quest to go everywhere. Since I usually visit more than 20 countries a year (in 2011 I made it to 26), visiting only 13-15 should be easier. The challenge, however, is that I essentially have no more backup plans—I simply have to make it to these particular countries. In the past I’ve made numerous adjustments and even big changes while I’m underway. I won’t have that luxury anymore.

BOOK. My next book, The $100 Startup, will hit the shelves on May 8, 2012. Writing it was a herculean effort involving hundreds of interviews and even some actual research (that $32,000 graduate degree may have been worth something after all…).

The book will have a worldwide release, going live in the U.K. and most commonwealth markets at the same time as it goes out in the U.S. and Canada. I’m planning a 30-city tour in North America and an extended international tour as well.

BUSINESS. As discussed during the business lessons post, I have two projects planned for early 2012. The first is the launch of the Unconventional Guide to Publishing, which I’m very excited about. We’re planning to go live on January 10th, and I’ll have a preview available the day before. I’ll begin working on the second project, a sequel to the original Empire Building Kit, soon afterwards.

WDS. In July, we’ll bring nearly 1,000 people together for our second annual gathering of awesome people. Our challenge this year is to preserve the community aspect of a small group, while still opening the doors for more people to be a part of it.

The final wave of registration will happen in late January, offered first to those on the waiting list, and then to the general public if any tickets remain.

Theme of the Year

Every year since 2006, I’ve chosen a word or two as the theme of the upcoming year. In 2009 I had the year of convergence, where I worked to bring together all my different projects into one focus, and 2010 was the year of scale & reach, where I published my first book, went on tour, and ramped up the business. As I finished another book and hosted the inaugural WDS, 2011 was the year of taking flight.

Thinking ahead to next year, I want to get more specific. I want to do more writing, as well as different kinds of writing. Above all, I want to do something that matters and to continue challenging myself—a lot like what I wrote about in The Tower.

As mentioned a couple of times, I do feel somewhat uncertain about how my life and work will shift after I complete my 193rd country, but I’ll keep working on it and will take things as they come along.

With the big book launch and nearing the end of ten years of traveling, I’ve decided that this will be the year of finishing. Throughout this year and next I’ll be moving from one longstanding focus to another, but I want to enjoy the ride while it lasts. After all, I still have 16 countries to visit! And so much more to be done.

Annual Review Roundup – Reader Stories

One of the things I’ve done a poor job at is highlighting many of the great people in our community who are undergoing all kinds of fun projects of their own. I’ve been talking with a couple of smart people about how I can fix that as part of the 2012 plans.

For now, I wanted to show a few of our readers and community who have been undertaking their own Annual Reviews over the past week. I received at least 100 trackbacks to various blog posts, and a selection is below.

Benny Hsu wrote about a busy year of living, including getting engaged and married while starting a new business.

Jermaine Lane wrote about an unrestricted life and his “Poemvember” experiment.

Janelle wrote about losing weight and volunteering.

Milo wrote about a wedding and a blog.

Jill Salahub wrote about her 2012 theme of retreat.

Cynthia Morris created her own end-of-year worksheet that others can download.

Noch Noch wrote about staying alive, getting engaged, and getting a puppy.

Lindsay wrote about joy, working out, and successfully maintaining a long-distance relationship.

Chris Stott wrote about not buying an iPhone and not playing enough guitar.

Ryan Brooke-Bisschop wrote a detailed review of his card collecting hobby and business.

Noah Bonn wrote about letting go of Facebook and compulsion.


These are just a few posts from our community—you can see dozens more in the comments section of each review post (tip: click on the person’s name to go to their website).

I’m grateful for a big year, and eager to get started on some new things for 2012. Thanks for being part of AONC. Because of you, we’re getting better every year.

QUESTION: What’s your word or theme for next year?


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  • Andrea says:

    Sounds like an amazing 2012! I can’t wait to read all the exciting things that come your way in the coming year:) Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

  • Jill Salahub says:

    Holy wow, Chris. Thanks for the mention. I am spending this week working on my own “Review, Reflect, and Resolve” and one of the first dates I put in my new day planner was for the World Domination Summit in July. My husband wrote in the front of the planner “Jill’s guide to the best year ever” and I really think it will be, because there is intention, faith, aspiration, and magic happening here.

  • Chris Stott says:

    Hey Chris,

    Thanks for the link (and providing an annual review structure).

    Looking forward to the International book tour, hopefully the UK might feature on that.

    I like the idea of a ‘word of the year’. I made a note of mine in my review: FOCUS – I like the simplicity of summing up things in one word.

    All the best for a great 2012.

  • Lisa says:

    Have enjoyed your writings throught the year. Many have incited great internal dialogue.

    My Theme for this year is up. Move up. Finish up. change it up. Keep it up. Reach up.

    As I work on being single, yet married, I will work on keeping myself up.
    My work on my doctoral dissertation will be finished up in Noveber 2012.
    My youngest daughter will start up in college and my oldest will finish up her BA.
    My middle daughter will work to keep it up as she transfers to a 4 year University.
    I hope to move up in my career and change it up a bit.
    My life this past year has been down and up and I plan to take it up to new heights.

    All in all, I plan to act up and be a non-comformist in thinking up and doing it up right.

    Best of up to you in the new year.

  • The Shuffler says:

    It’s been great to read about all of your achievements over the past twelve months (and before), Chris, and goals for the next year ahead. I’ve always believed that you only ever can only ever achieve satisfaction from goal-ticking when you truly know what it is that you’re aiming for and most people could only benefit from far better methods of forward-planning. Not in a prescriptive sense, but in my experience, it’s simply the process itself that helps to keep things constantly moving forwards. No matter how small the steps might be, each one is essential for getting you into those random scenarios that life throws up which more often than not provide you with the really juicy bits!

    Best wishes for the year ahead, and in particular, in reaching a significant milestone in 2012.

  • Matt bailey says:

    Im gonna have to go with experience. Next year is already looking insane with a 9 month trip to se asia, a semester of university in malaysia, and a “potential” engagement. Toss in a new partnership for building adsense sites, a new social media consulting biz, and another new online business, and it looks like it really will be a experience

  • Benny says:

    Really have enjoyed your series. Thanks for the link to my review.

    This year the theme would be “the year of independence” because it’s my goal to be fully self employed by the end of 2012. So everything I do this year will be towards that goal.

    I hadn’t thought of my theme till just now, so thanks for the push to think of one.

  • Janis says:

    My one word theme for 2011 was “finishitive” — finally completely long time projects or goals.

    Having a theme helped my focus.

    Now for 2012, I’ve chosen “consistency” as my my theme. As a owner of two different businesses, a global traveler, and a person with a passion for many interests, i’m get excited by the new challenge and opportunity but I don’t do things — like blog posts — with consistency.

    For the upcoming year, I’m going to focus on doing a few things that have worked for me on a regular consistent basis.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share my theme here, Chris. I look forward to following your journey this year.

  • Joy says:

    Thank you for such each well written, very comprehensive section of your annual review!
    I love the practice of picking a key word for a year instead of picking specific intentions; this allows me to tap fully into flow and create far beyond what my original idea in a set of resolutions would be. My key word for 2012 is overall feeling of quality within my internal life as I explore the areas of commitment, patience, simplicity, and expansion.

  • alua says:

    Looking forward to those final countries of yours.

    I only started my blog a few months ago, so both writing an “annual review” or choosing a word to encapsulate the coming year in is not quite on the horizon yet. Never mind that I’m not particularly good about making choices that narrow things down to ‘one’ thing. I can never do “best” or “most favourite” lists, they will always have multiple entries.

    There are things I want to achieve/do next year.

    Like travel to several new countries (one, Romania, hopefully already in January).
    Get my PhD upgrade done successfully (in January also), and continuing on that path to the PhD.
    Expand my film/literature blog, continuing to watch many non-Hollywood films. My focus will be multiple-language films and adaptations (works that come in various reincarnations – books/manga/film/drama form – and are remade in various countries).
    Take language classes.
    More drawing, photography, writing. Since I’m doing a PhD, I figured I should set myself the goal of publishing something book-length (novel, manga, etc.) by the time I finish that book-length PhD (which won’t be next year).
    Start a food blog.

    Perhaps more…

  • Victoria says:

    I’m really looking forward to reading your latest, Chris.

    For the 2012 is the year of citizenship. After nearly 20 years abroad I have decided to ask for citizenship in the other country of my heart, France. 🙂

  • Milo says:

    Thanks very much for including my annual review Chris! Great news about your 2nd book and the latest AONC guide – this year looks great and I can’t wait for WDS too 🙂

    As for a theme, I usually pick 2-3 words but if I had to pick one ‘strength’ would be mine for this year. I need to be strong in order to do the work needed to get my business going and I need to get fit too. It’s a word which makes me pretty uncomfortable too, which I think is a good sign!

  • Joshua says:

    Looking forward to following your travels through the final countries. I hope they are full of many unexpected joys.

    My word for this year is silence:

    Silence in cutting out the noise out of my life.
    Silence in sitting down and doing the work that excites me (writing).
    Silence in being still (meditation).
    Silence in paying attention to the wonders of the world around me.
    Silence in listening to others.

  • Cynthia Morris says:

    Thanks for sharing your process and for sharing the link to my annual review form. I’m learning a lot from how others do their reviews.

    Here’s to 2012 being an amazing year for writing. I can’t wait to read your book and hopefully see you on your tour! Let me know if you need help coming to Denver or Boulder!

  • Kyle says:

    I loved your reviews, very thought provoking.

    My theme for next year is let it be.

    It may sound strange. But I’m too driven and too obsessive about my business. Things are going good. I want to relax and enjoy it and be in the moment. I don’t mean I’m going to get lazy or stop pushing forward, but I want to be able to stop and say, “It is what it is, take a deep breath and be thankful for what you have.”

  • SecureGirl says:


  • Laurie Ann Silberman says:

    Maximizing Potential: maximizing human potential in all things by
    • Participating in the development of applications that extend human potential by being easy to understand and use
    • Allocating time to share my passion for User Centered Design with all interested parties
    • Living with an open mind toward innovation and an open heart toward individuals
    • Helping myself and others to understand that who they are at core is, and has always been, enough; but also that as long as there is life there is room to expand potential so keep growing and developing.

  • San says:

    As always a great article.

    My theme for 2012 is Independence. I’m already making changes towards that goal and it feels great.

    Have a fantastic start into an awesome new year.

  • Patricia LaCroix says:

    Chris ~ Thanks for ALL of your writings on the art of living unconventionally. I’ve been doing something similar since the mid-1980s, and you continue to inspire me with new ways and new ideas. I LOVE your annual review, and I’m putting it in motion in my life as well.

  • Patricia LaCroix says:

    Oh, my theme for next year, in a word: ACT.

    I think that one simple step will change my life tremendously.

  • iktomi says:

    The famous six questions should do it as we seek goals for 2012…quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson…deals with what, where, when, why, how, who? thank you, Chris, for hosting this web site. Good luck with all you dream, wish, pray, and work for, and the assessment of past endeavors. Be kind to yourself.

  • Stephenie Zamora says:

    My word for 2012 is abundance. Financial, social, love, creativity, work, etc. I want to truly experience abundance and I know much of that comes from my mindset and cultivating what I already have. 🙂

  • EmmKay says:

    Freedom through Discipline.

  • Annie Andre says:

    Chris, Great series. It really helped me set some goals up for the next year by looking back. Something i rarely do except in my head. But by writing i think it will truly helped me prioritize and be more intentional in my actions and goals

    Here’s my year in review looking back.

  • Laura Probert says:

    My theme is “What’s Next?” and “Possibility”.

  • Jet says:


  • Jermaine Lane says:

    Thank you for the mention Chris, it is appreciated. My theme for next year is “lean in”. Lean into fear, the resistance, worry, the unknown, etc. to do all the things I want to start next year. Best wishes to you as you finish your goals and start on new projects.

  • Ashley F says:

    Loved your year-in-review, Chris! I love reading about your journey, but I also love using your format for doing my own annual review.

    My word of the year for 2012 is: Compassion. Compassion in my business, in my family life, and everyday choices.

  • Erica says:

    2011 was the Year of Intention for me (just finished my annual review!). Finishing up my post about my 2012 theme this week, but it’s going to be the Year of Presence. Inspired by this quote by Annie Dillard: “Beauty and grace surround us. The least we can do is try to be there.”

    Cheers to an awesome 2012!

  • Clay Myers-Bowman says:

    My theme for the year is “Leverage”, meaning, concentrating on finding the people, resources, and energy to accomplish my personal and work goals. Interestingly, much like your work/life barrier removal, I’m also headed in that direction.

  • Aaron says:

    I’ve been following your structure since last year and am excited to realize that while I had a fun and productive 2011, I have a lot of vision for making things great for 2012. The Theme last year: Perserverence. For 2012: Focus.

  • Dave says:

    I’ve been working through this and the results are fantastic, I’m now focused on 2012 in a way I’ve never been previously.

    I started out with 2012 being the year of Vanquishing the past but having worked through everything it’s now become the year of Transformation as by working through this I’ve realised how little of the past there was to vanquish, how much change i was able to make in 2011 which led me to realise what is possible in 2012!

  • David says:

    2011 was a year of Learning to Live, after years of hard saving i moved into my own house and have hd to learn to look after myself and get into a habit of actually socialising, it’s been a good year.

    2012 is going to be a Year Of DO, i think through everything, i will have loads of ideas, but that is what most stay as. This year i have to follow up my ideas, whether it is to make something or an activity or a trip. I will learn more through doing, challenge apprehension and hopefully have a lot of fun.

  • Jason says:

    Funny, I just picked 2 words. The first is “experience”, saying yes to experiences over anything else. This has always been my way, however I’d really like really go after it in 2012. More experiences, less nonesense.
    The second word is “ship”- the Seth Godin definition not an actual boat:) I’d like to start, finish, and ship whatever I’m passionate about at that particular time.
    Looking forward to the new book and thanks for the insights in 2011.

  • Janelle says:

    Thanks for the mention, Chris. It’s been a fantastic year. Next year, my theme is freedom and creativity (okay, that’s two themes!). And of course, I’ll be working on my ridiculous goal of paying off 45K in student loan debt in one year. Good times! Best wishes to you in 2012 and always. Looking forward to seeing what’s up your sleeve next year. Keep traveling, keep inspiring.

  • Katie Birchenough says:


  • Ashok Vaishnav says:

    Wish 2012 becomes a towering happiness for you, as well as for Europe and USA, and in turn to the whole world.

  • Shu says:

    My word for theme for 2012 is EXECUTION. I have a clear and defined goal but i also have the problem of executing a plan(ESP one of duration like 1 full year). Maybe the fundamental value I need to build up is discipline. I know it will be a fantastic year if I could achieve my goals, so I will be working hard to be disciplined to run the wheels.

  • jan avellana says:

    i usually focus on a word for the year, but this one feels more like a theme…“the year of choosing”. no more indefinite fence sitting, no more agonizing waiting. this will be the year of choosing for me; choosing well, choosing joy, choosing to allow myself to move forward, boldly, even. here we go!

  • Yasmin says:

    My word for the year is HOPE. My husband unwell and unable to work and me struggling to pay my bills, raise our 3 year old and keep afloat in general – these things all make the word HOPE all the more important to me and 2012

  • Kathy says:

    WOW I think I feel a bit anxious after reading you post. I guess it has to do with my word for 2012 “VULNERABLE”

  • Jenny Thomas says:

    same as yours…finishing what I started… 2012…the year I finally pull the whole Desisisters thing together and let it go… 🙂

  • Madelyn Blair says:

    Connecting – connecting with more people, connecting with new clients, connecting with my audiences when I speak — yes, the word is connecting at a deeper level of relationship.

  • Lynda says:

    Are you sure you want the upcoming year to be the “year of finishing”?? It seems too final…..when I read your manifesto (one and two) “final” just doesn’t seem to fit…..thanks for sharing and most of all challenging me to think. Have a great one!

  • Karina says:

    I think my theme for this next year will be ramping up the action! Even though I have lived in 4 different countries, I would like to become more involved and have greater experience where I am.

  • PoemCatcher says:

    My word for 2012 is discernment.

    who i date, where i live, what jobs i apply for, which clients i see, which poems i perform, what time i get out of bed, what choices i make, how i stay motivated –

    so many places to practice discernment.

  • carolina says:

    2011 was the year of letting go for me. Without many specific goals in mind and living life, I had one of the most amazing years ever. I want 2012 to be the year of re-framing and failing. I want to put myself out there with my writing and my business until i can stand on my own two feet withouy my corporate job to hold me up. :o)

  • Ann says:

    Three days before this post went live, I set up my own new blog for my 2012 theme: finish my unfinished business. I got goosebumps when I read your post; thanks for inspiring me!

  • Lindsay Gattis says:

    Wow Chris, thanks for the mention! And more importantly, thanks for inspiring me. I also have the goal of visiting every country in the world (although at probably a slower pace than you) but reading your blogs about the subject always fuel my fire.

  • Robynn says:

    My words for 2012 are Adventure and Letting Go. Adventure because I am moving to Honduras for most the year, without having ever visited. Letting go because this move will require me to let go of everything- possessions, assumptions about life and myself, inhibitions and so forth.

  • Patrenia says:

    My word theme for 2012 is ARISE! I’ve been thinking about it for the last couple of days, but got my confirmation as I was reading my devotional for the day!

    This is my first time picking a ‘word theme of the year’. I’m very excited about it and look forward to a wonderful 2012. Thanks Chris for sharing your life with us!

  • Wyman says:

    Here is an idea Chris. You and your wife move to a different country each month or two to paint and write more deeply about that country. Your 6-12 favorites.

    I have not read all the comments yet so maybe you have already thought about this.

    After the 16 left that is.

  • Deborah Lynn says:

    theme: JUST JOY

  • Charlie says:

    I’m juiced about the idea of naming a focus for a year!
    2012 is the year of Action. I’ve been reading and thinking and planning for far too long. I started the ball rolling in December on 5 crazyawesomehellyeahprojects that I will finish this year. Thanks for adding to the inspiration!

  • Jacqui Lofthouse says:

    Thanks so much for the inspiration Chris. I’ve just blogged about how I launched a new website and ebook, finished my novel which my agent is sending out and have just been accepted on a course to retrain as a drama teacher. 2011 has been a great year. The next post of course will be ‘what did not go well in 2011’… I really appreciate all that you write and have so enjoyed the Empire Building course this year too.

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