2012 Annual Review: Overview

2012! WTF!


Every year I devote an entire week—and usually several weeks of blog posts—to an Annual Review, where I look back on the previous year and make plans for the coming year.

Many of our readers now do the same thing, some by following the same structure I use and others by modifying it to suit their own needs.

This year the review is considerably abridged, mostly due to my recent tour of India. When the option came to decide about the trip, it was a tough call. I don’t think it would always be the right decision to shorten the important Annual Review process, but in this case I was so excited to visit India that I decided to switch it up a little.

Anyway, enough preamble. Here’s how it works:


For a good overview of the Annual Review process, see the original outline I wrote way back in 2008. An additional overview from 2009 may also be helpful. In short, I look back on the year and ask myself a series of questions, journaling the answers in a paper notebook. The questions start very simply:

What went well this year?

What did not go well this year?

The main part of the planning session focuses on the year to come, but before looking forward I spend at least one of the days reflecting back on the year that is ending. I can usually identify a number of answers for each question—successes and failures, times where I was happy or proud and other times where I knew I fell short.

Next, I’ll review all of the goals that I set the previous December, and write out the results. Did everything happen as I expected? Probably not, but it’s interesting to compare results with expectations and see what overlaps and what diverges. In addition to personal lessons, I’ll also write down a list of business lessons I learned during the year, and a roundup of all the countries and cities I traveled to.

This leads to the next, longer stage of the planning process where I look ahead to the forthcoming year, carefully thinking about which projects I’d like to pursue and which actions I need to take to ensure their success.

What Went Well in 2012

Since this is an abridged review for me this year, let’s start right away. 2012 was another big year! Looking over my notes, I was surprised at how much we packed in. (But as I’ve said before, when you do things you love and regularly challenge yourself, you shouldn’t be surprised that you can do a lot.)

Here are a few highlights from the year:

*The launch of my second book, The $100 Startup, and the tour to 30+ cities (so far!). I’ve worked on this book for more than three years, and I was thrilled to see it debut well. Thanks to the support of our great readers, the book was a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller, staying on each list for at least five weeks. The book continues to sell well, and more importantly, every day I continue to hear from readers who have applied the lessons from the book to their own projects.

*The local team and I hosted our second annual World Domination Summit in Portland, this time with 1,000 attendees from at least two dozen countries. From start to finish, all of us were very proud of the results. (You can see the trailer here. The final ticket sale for the 2013 event will be held in January.)

*At the end of WDS, we gave away $100,000 in cash as a $100 Investment in each attendee. WDS would have been a success without this surprise (and we won’t be repeating it in the future), but I’m glad we took the risk on it. We’ve been hearing many stories from attendees on how they’ve put their funds to good use, and we’ll be featuring some of them for next year’s WDS.

*I’ve almost finished visiting every country in the world! File under: Whoa. I haven’t even counted up the new countries I made it to this year, but I’m sure it’s at least a dozen. In addition to the dozen new countries, I visited at least another dozen countries I’ve been to before.

*I signed the agreement for writing the next book, which is all about QUESTS. I’ve now begun the research process and am looking forward to the writing process in 2013.

*I ran the Chicago Marathon despite chronic undertraining. All’s well that ends well, I suppose.

*As mentioned, I got the chance to tour India in support of the book. Meeting readers over that way was great. I’m glad I took the trip, and it was especially good to travel with Jolie to a country we have both long admired.

What Did Not Go Well in 2012

Thinking about what did not go well is just as important as reviewing the highlights. As with the successes, this list is somewhat abridged, but I do try to share openly and transparently with those who follow AONC. Therefore, here are a few things I regret or feel troubled by.

*Poor follow-through on a few business projects. I don’t feel like every aspect of my business is fully aligned with my life, and this bothers me.

*Though I love it, I’m exhausted from the few previous months of travel. Getting to Guinea Bissau (and back) was especially rough. More than once I thought: if this were country #150 instead of #191, I’m not sure I could continue at this pace.

*It’s been hard being away from home more than I’d like, and sometimes I feel that I’m not the greatest friend and family member. As mentioned in The Goal recently, I want to be in harmony with all relationships, and constantly being “everywhere” is tough for that.

Pretty much all of these things relate to the same core issue: I’ve become somewhat frustrated with myself even while fulfilling some pretty big goals. I feel like I’m not doing the best job with convergence, something I write about fairly often.

I’ve never been interested in life-work balance, but I am interested in overall alignment. That’s what convergence is about, so as I look ahead to next year I’ll want to pay attention to these concerns (while still pursuing big goals, of course).

That’s My Story … What About You?

Please let us know a few highlights and—if you’d like—a few challenges.

Reader comments here.

Oh, and Merry Christmas Eve / Happy Everything to each of you!

While thinking through the Annual Review, I’ve also been thinking about what a big honor it is to have the chance to write for so many amazing people. More on this later. 🙂

– Chris


*Another great (and also free!) yearly planning resource comes from Susannah Conway.

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  • Meecho says:

    “If this were country #150 instead of #191…”

    That’s a big “if”. There’s a reason #191 is #191.

    Big accomplishment this year was getting out of debt for the first and second time. My big disappointment was not leaving on my backpacking trip to South America in August. But the extenuating circumstances were out of my hands. Instead I’ll be starting my long-term travels at the End-of-the-World Party in April!

  • Noni says:

    One of the most satisfying accomplishments was getting back to India for deepening process at the Oneness University. Temple there is living yantra with so much grace. Friendships with people in this community all over the world.

    Also completed process to become single again and bring life more into resonance with what is inside wanting to express more fully outward.

    Not accomplished yet is well-planned marketing of my international transformational health coaching business. Just beginning to tie in FB with Pinterest and will add Blog for internet reference. Want to get out and physically network more. Working on Wellness Tips e-book.

  • Marian says:

    Thank you for the spark.

    What went well? I created a space in a writing studio and drew together the beginnings of a community who like that space. I did good work for my clients- writing, editing, mentoring. I published
    a very nice little book that can help people. I had my novel read by a major publisher.

    what did not go well? I did not complete enough of my own writing. I did not travel. I have not met my target to have a new interactive website and brand by mid 2012 although it is close to ready. I have not ended the year feeling financially covered .

    Like you, I find it an honor to write for many people and to help people with their writing. All best for 2013.

  • Leslie Forman says:

    Fascinating list. I love reading people’s annual reviews and I’m in the process of writing my own. My biggest accomplishments this year have been creating a university course about social entrepreneurship, living with my boyfriend for the whole year (and making it work, despite a bunch of cultural and other differences), and being published in a lot of different places online. I’ve also struggled with convergence: I’ve gone in too many directions and this has led to a reactive state of mind, which is really stressful. I’m now taking some time off to figure out what it is I want to focus on in the new year. Merry Christmas to you!

  • Fairhope Supply Co. says:

    Thanks for this list. It’s a great challenge to think about, putting everything into perspective, but thank you for the year of inspiration! I’m glad to see you admitted to some rough travels. I thought you had smooth sailing hopping from country to country and I was the only one with jet lag! I feel better now.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours from Fairhope, Alabama!

  • Philip Finlay Bryan says:

    Started my plan to take over the Internet in 2010 and made some progress. In 2011 I got cancer with 5% chance of survival, lost everything.. After operation and chemo was given the all clear in April 2012. Joined a cybercommunity called Second Life. Nothing worked tho as I lost my main email address so couldn’t recover passwords. I wrote an article on Cyberculture for hubpages. In November I re registered the domain I had had from 2001. It was still there. I then started up my hosting company that I began in 2010. Last week I watched a TED video about Collaborative Consumerism (Time magazine listed it in the top ten of things most likely to change the world) and some RSAnimate movies on networks, choice, motivation and capitalism. The next day I registered 21stCenturyNetworks both as a dot com and as a business.Its looking good. I’m back. I will never give up.

  • Mike says:

    Thanks as always, Chris. Very much looking forward to hearing about your next quest: visiting every planet in the solar system! (Art of Non-Gravity?)

    I’d say my biggest challenge this year was starting to work toward self-employment. I’ve always been a good worker bee but (thanks in part to WDS and $100 Startup) I’m realizing that I will never feel completely secure about the future unless I take control of my own income. I’ve never done anything like this before, so it’s quite scary, but I’m not letting that stop me.

    And as cheesy as it sounds, my biggest successes are the relationships I have with the people in my life. I feel very grateful.

  • Denny says:

    I set aside last week for my annual review and ended up with pneumonia! As frustrating as that set back was, I didn’t let it stop me. I’m VERY excited about the coming year.

    Last year:
    -Bought a triplex, giving me a “base of operations” that pays for itself in Phoenix.
    -Moved to China to begin traveling
    -Quit full time job – teaching ESL 20 hrs/wk to make some money while focusing on entrepreneurship
    -Grew an incredible amount from a personal development mastermind
    -Lost 40-50 pounds
    -Learned basic mandarin

    -Lock in lifestyle business income
    -Move mandarin to fluency
    -Visit 15 countries
    -Lose the last bit of fat

    Those are the big meta-accomplishments and goals, with many mini goals underneath. Catch you on the flip-side!

  • Jill says:

    What went well this year? I decided at the beginning of this year I needed at least six months off, to recover from a stressful unsustainable work pattern and find a new path. I got the time off and I’m finding the new path. I won’t be going back to Stress City.
    What didn’t go so well? I totally underestimated the time and effort needed to break out of a comfort zone – even a dysfunctional one. But I loved this year. 2012 was the year I rediscovered creativity and passion.

  • Ryan Chatterton says:

    -Landed a full-time marketing job with no degree via a random connection (I still don’t believe it)
    -Fell in love
    -Finished the first draft of 1 book and about 25% through with the 2nd (multi-tasking ftw)
    -Took an option on a section of an old pickle factory downtown in Salt Lake City’s warehouse district (finally found a good deal)
    -Started a successful book club at work
    -Coached another local book club toward better monetization
    -Started Get Any Job, where I’m (slowly) helping college students and recent post-grads hustle their way into jobs (something one of Chris’s blog posts helped me connect the dots on). I realized I was actually very good at ending up in jobs I have no business being in, ha ha.
    -Began a working routine to do what I love before I go to work (love it)

    -Began feeling trapped by the job
    -Dealing heavily with doubt, comparison to others, and judgement of myself and of others
    -I’ve discovered my family probably thinks I’m crazy and wishes I’d just be normal
    -Let the love move to NYC
    -Been feeling a little isolated

    -Experiment with new space and different UVPs
    -Develop products for Get Any Job (and make a sale!)
    -Hopefully, quit said job

  • Aecio says:

    Now, it’s time to make my annual review!

    Happy everything to you too Chris!


  • Chel says:

    Thanks for the nudge. My usual end of year review is a cursory look back and a thankful I’m still living approach. You, and the others here, push me properly deep.
    I’ve had intellectual knowledge of what I like/what I would do/ et al for a couple of years. I’ve partly done something in developing skills through a Fine Art ourse to follow my dream. That has also been a delaying tactic as in: not good enough to sell yet. Finances have been pressing and taught me the hard lesson of Get On With It. Now.
    In the past few weeks I’ve started the process of self-employment, commandeering my son’s old bedroom for space and formalising core business/marketing ideas. I have been made redundant a couple of times and been unemployed for a couple of years. There is no security in working for someone else. Alone I can have any number of customers for my skills. That gives potential security. I just need to find them.
    On my fridge door is this adage: Its not the speed but the forward direction that matters.
    Merry Christmas and have a great year.

  • ATANDA says:

    What went well this year?
    My accomplishments are outstanding though it was rough than expected
    I got my professional registration as a registered surveyor with Surveyor Council of Nigeria.The pursuit started 2009,now i have accomplished it.
    I broke out from a relationship that made me feel unwanted and inadequate.
    I changed my mind about myself!
    I learnt the power of positive thinking and doing
    I paid my debtors

    What did go well this year?
    My financial income was drastically affected in order to focus on my professional registration.

  • Cynthia Morris says:

    I love your annual reviews. Your transparency sets a standard for honoring the full reality of what it takes to live an unconventional life.

    My highlight this year was launching my novel. The approach, the liftoff, the party and the follow-up was all so creative and dynamic. I love hearing how people adore the book and can’t put it down. HUGE win all around.

    Other wins – a lot of unexpected things happened this year. I’d say 50% of what I did and where I went was NOT on the radar at the beginning of the year. That’s pretty cool for someone who likes to think and plan.

    More great peers and friends in my corner. LOVE this and them.

    An increase of 33% in my gross income. That means I am serving more people, which makes me happy.

    What didn’t work: I still do too many things. I don’t take enough breaks. I don’t separate myself from the business enough.

    I’m making some major changes for 2013, which feels scary. The more I look outside me, the more scary it seems. The more I tap into what is true for me and what I want for those I serve, the more solid I feel in taking risks.

    Thanks for modeling an unconventional life and for your always-encouraging voice.

  • Dana Leavy-Detrick says:

    Cheers Chris, and congratulations on a fantastic year! It’s also refreshing to see people being open to transparency, and sharing some of the challenges they too experienced & learned from. So kudos for that as well.

    2012 is where I really feel I came into clarity with my own true value – offering things to people (products, services, information, writing) that were my real talent and sweet spot, instead of what I felt was resonating out there for everyone else whose business overlapped mine. I rebranded, started something new even (which felt uber-risky at the time). Personally, professionally, & financially, it was a great call.

    I also realized the importance of maintaining my “identity” as an artist, something that I let fall through the cracks during years of starting up a business. Now I treat the creative process as as big a priority as anything else I do that brings in the income. I’m hoping to do more commercial illustration work in 2013.

    Cheers to everyone, and best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2013.

  • Megan Cain says:

    I am writing this from Kumasi, Ghana! This past March I became fed up with several patterns in my life, took some action, found a great life coach and at the end of 2012 I am here in Africa. I quit my job, started my own business and am taking a two month solo adventure volunteering in Ghana.

    I am in the middle of doing my annual review. One thing I know for sure for 2013 – it’s time to make more money!

  • Melanie says:

    What went well:
    – I successfully transitioned out of an eight-year career in teaching and academic administration.
    – I am successfully transitioning IN to a career in full time writing and travel (yay!)
    – I left the east coast, where I have lived my whole life, with all I own and no intention to return (to live, at least). I feel pretty badass.
    – I was financially both the richest and the poorest in my life at points this year. I learned a lot from both states.
    – I am no longer trapped in an unhealthy marriage.
    – I am finally into a regular meditation practice.

    What didn’t go so well:
    – I know I said hurtful or careless things to people I love this year. Always hate that.
    – I lived at my parents’ house for too long between leaving my career and beginning to travel. I stayed out of fear. I should have catapulted myself smack into the middle of the fear and gotten it over with.

    For 2013:
    – Establish a thriving writing career, build a kick-ass website, have my book proposal accepted by a publisher.
    – Get divorced.
    – Travel through as much of Asia as possible.
    – Learn to trust more in the gifts of the universe and less in my own control.
    – Say yes.

  • David Pita says:

    What went well for me was really unexpected. For me it was the release of negative emotions and poison I had been holding onto for too long. I went on a 10 day silent meditation retreat and it really transformed my life.

    Another was acting on the inner calling to study graphic design. It revolutionised my life- bringing me into contact with people like me, giving me awesome work that I love doing, as well as opening a gateway into my blog project.

    My challenge has been taking on board too many projects- becoming diluted in energy and letting a few people down. Definitely taking that lesson into the new year!

  • Patrick says:

    Hi Chris,

    My highlights this year were becoming a father for the second time, passing my driving test and negotiating with my employer to work from home, which will save me money and allow me much more time with my family.

    Another highlight was meeting you at the London meet up for the $100 Startup book launch, I was the guy who made gluten-free cakes.

    My lowlights however are that I am not fully debt free yet, and continue to be good at planning but not so hoton action.

    Thanks for another great year of AONC.

  • Natalie the Singingfool says:

    I always benefit from your forthrightness – it helps me to more honestly assess my goals and failures.

    I’ll be doing a more comprehensive assessment later, but the biggies are:

    – Started my blog
    – Met every goal I set for myself, as far as readers, daily postings, page views, etc.
    – Helped people through my writing

    – Still in my hateful job
    – A bit unsure how to proceed from here
    – Life balance is out of alignment – still working on it!

    For 2013, I’m aiming to have some freelance work published, and a novel written! Yippee!

  • Brandy says:

    I second what Cynthia said, I value your transparency.

    What went well:

    —I lost 30 pounds and fully prepared for a 5K. I’ve put a little back on since the stress of my son’s seizure, but I’m still lighter and stronger than I’ve been in 4 years and that feels amazing.

    —I met some inspiring people. Looking forward to deepening those relationships in the new year.

    —I launched The Bomb Shelter after my WDS epiphany. Learning now how to combine the brandyglows/editorial-style writing that I’m good at with the good news, kick-bum journalism I want TBS to be known for.

    —I surpassed my goal of breastfeeding the bebé for a year—and we’re still going strong at 15 months. I’m not motherly/nurturing type by nature and generally speaking, I like to keep my personal bubble away from all people most of the time. Bursting it has been incredibly healing.

    What didn’t go so well:

    —I’m a big picture person and details find me befuddled. I *know* what I need to do to move forward with many of my dreams, but I let lost in the lines. I want to work on the daily rhythm. The little things that are oh-so important.

  • Rene says:

    My friend is working on his annual review and just like he did last year, he’s sent me a link to your website. 🙂 Thanks Chris and all who leave comments for the inspiration!

    What went well:
    -I became a vegan.
    -I uploaded a satisfactory version of my playing Debussy’s Clair de Lune.
    -I met and am still very happy with my artistic, creative girlfriend.
    -I started playing soccer again after 10 years of hardly having been physically able to.
    -I went on hunger strike in Colombia for stray animals I was working with that were maltreated by the government with successful results.

    What went wrong:
    -I couldn’t sell the apartment in Bogotá my parents had lent me the money for, because my ex-wife is trying to steal it all.
    -Even though I felt I had to get back into teaching high school English and I love my students, the system got me down again.

    -I will quit my job in February and will start living in Colombia again with my girlfriend.
    -I will try to get my parents’ money back.
    -I will start selling awesome lesson plans online, for teachers don’t have time to create the lessons they would want to teach. I plan on calling it Teach (with) Passion and Compassion.

  • Lisa says:

    I’ve written more details on my blog on looking back and looking forward but in a nutshell:
    What went well:
    Grew blog readership
    Gained several opportunities through the blog that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred.
    Strengthened my knee from debilitating injury
    Joined OA and realized areas of strength and weakness.
    Launched second adult child (only 3 to go ; )- both adult kids are educated, debt free, non conformist and living independently!
    Began developing biz with dh- it’s gonna happen!!
    Continued to beautify and restore our house (re-building a 1920’s craftsman from house fire).
    Read 63 books
    Creating a work flow system based on AONC, GTD and ZTD that both linear, logical, sequential scientist dh and random, global artistic me can both live with (this is SO MAJOR!)

    Not so well:
    extended family relationships
    still battling some health issues
    $ hit hard this year

  • Lisa says:

    Thanks for the inspiration, Chris! Your book and site have been a blast and a kick in the pants all at once. Ds 18 is reading your book, taking notes and re-thinking his life. Are you sure you’re not a Jedi master?

  • Guest says:

    Good stuff: Lived in Costa Rica and Spain. Woo hoo! Traveled to Germany and England. Finished off with the U.S. and Canada. Got personal insights and learned how to say “no” to stuff and people who are wasting my time. Turned 40 and LOVED IT!

    Stuff that didn’t work: Living in touristy areas because it seemed more convenient at the time. I’m actually working online while I travel, so having the party scene on 24/7 is too much for me. Housesitting for strangers: too many unreasonable demands. Also, not following my instincts and desire to start my own business = not working in what I want to be working … yet.

    But that’s what the new year is for. Learn from your wins and your loses and follow your heart and instincts to where it is that you really want to be going.

  • Michele says:

    Thanks for sharing, Chris. An interesting thing happened when I performed my annual review: It was easy to list “what didn’t go well” and difficult to come up with more than one item to place on the “what went well” list. I guess that means it’s time for a change!!!! Thanks for the kick in the pants!

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