2013 Annual Review: Looking Back

Hi, everyone—the 2013 Annual Review continues! All posts will be open for comments from readers.

In this post: looking back at the highs and lows of the year.


As explained in this year’s introduction and invitation, when the review begins I first look back at what happened over the past twelve months, making two lists of what went well and what didn’t.

Perhaps it’s a sign of 2013 that when I started writing down the list of things that went well, I completely forgot about achieving the goal of visiting every country until the fifth or sixth line. Whoa! That was only the goal I’d been working on for more than ten years.

Yeah, it’s been a crazy year, with no shortage of highs and lows. The best way to sum it up is that the year was simultaneously amazing and challenging. I experienced more anxiety and sadness than usual. Yet there were also a lot of good things that happened too.

These lists are as best as I was able to categorize them. First up, what went well.

What Went Well in 2013 (abridged!)

  • Completed the journey to every country in the world! (Whoa again! Mission accomplished. And I decided to move this up to accomplishment #1 of the year.)
  • Visited about 15 other countries—fewer than usual, but not bad overall. I also began a new phase of travel, visiting places just to explore and work. (I’ll do a full travel roundup in one of the next posts.)
  • Almost finished writing my third book, this one about quests. (I’m excited about the book and will be planning a big tour for 2014, but see the next section… writing it was more of a challenge than usual.)
  • Hosted the third annual WDS, this time with nearly 3,000 people! (Even better than hosting the event was the fact that the team greatly stepped up this year. We had nearly 100 volunteers and I didn’t even know all of them. I was beyond thrilled with the experience of working with a few key people who took ownership of making it happen.)
  • As part of WDS, set a world record on the Willamette river! (Thanks to Tyler for his leadership on this accomplishment.)
  • Completed the initial planning and early launch of Pioneer Nation, a new event to complement WDS.
  • Without a great deal of effort on my part, the business grew this year. (And finally, in the second half of the year, I began the process of creating more structure and delegating responsibility.)
  • My health and wellness (at least physically) has continued to be mostly good. I realized recently that I usually take my health for granted, so I’ve tried to be more conscious of it.

What Did Not Go Well in 2013 (abridged!)

This was also a long list! I’ll try to be as honest as possible.

  • I write and talk a lot about giving but I don’t think I actually gave very much this year, either financially or otherwise. (I’m trying to address some of this disappointment in the final few weeks of the year.)
  • As mentioned, I wrote a new book and it’s going to be good. But it was also hard to write—much harder than my previous two. The process was unfocused and I had to be rescued by my editor, who sent me twenty-two pages of single-spaced editorial feedback, along with 300 pages of detailed line edits. Yikes! (Thankfully, all’s well that ends well… we’re now back on track.)
  • Generally speaking, things took a lot longer than I expected. I was slow to launch Adventure Capital, a new business course. Along with the book being a struggle, it was a year with a lot of ups and downs.
  • I felt confused, anxious, and sad at different times throughout the year. The roots of these feelings have been hard to pin down.
  • I didn’t always have the sense of building or working toward something. I felt like I was sometimes just building unrelated projects.
  • At other times I felt as though I was doing things merely to do them, not because they fit into a grand plan or long-term pursuit. I’m all about the long-term pursuit! But it sometimes seemed elusive this year.
  • I don’t believe I was always a good family member or friend.


Speaking of things I’m not good at, I’m not good at relaxing. (“Relaxing stresses me out,” I sometimes say.) By nature I always want to be in a state of forward motion, working toward the next big thing. When I experience a setback or letdown, I feel sad but I also try to incorporate it into the greater perspective of what really matters.

I feel like I need a rebalancing of sorts—not more life-work balance, because that’s not something I’ve ever desired. I love what I do and feel fortunate to have found work that is both meaningful and rewarding. But perhaps I need an overall evaluation of priorities, a better gratitude practice, or something else.

I’ll be thinking about this more during the rest of the review. But still, what a year! I’m grateful for new opportunities, meaningful work that’s picking up, a new book next year, and much more.

What about you? What went well and what didn’t in 2013?

Feel free to share your own lessons or comments with other readers.


2013 Annual Review: Introduction & Invitation

*We’ll be publishing a roundup post of reader blogs before the end of the year. Link to any of the 2013 Annual Review posts, and we’ll share a selection at the end.


Image: Henrik

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  • Vincent says:

    2013 has really been an amazing year for me. I made amazing friends, started a website that has led to so many opportunities, became an apprentice for the smartest people I’ve ever met, and about 1,000 other things.

    On the other hand, I got into conflicts with a few friends and family members. Some of it was for the better and the majority have resolved themselves, but it definitely wasn’t ideal.

  • Alyson Stanfield says:

    I love your annual reviews, Chris, and think I might adapt mine to your format. I also love “relaxing stresses me out” because I’ve been telling people this for years.

    You give more than you think, for which we are grateful. Thank you.

  • J says:

    2013 kicked my ass – definitely a tumultuous year. Lots of greats and lots of unfortunate events. Getting hit by a motorcyle in Togo – definitely memorable and not in a good way. Increased income, stabilized myself, moved out, took great leaps, calculated risks and tried to make less stupid decisions. Overall, a great learning year. Literally as well – slowly learning another language. No one said I was supposed to know it all but in 2013, as hard as it might have been at time (multiple breakdowns) the pieces of the puzzles started fitting and the grand picture finally started making sense.

  • Kerri says:

    Chris: I really, really appreciate your honesty in this post. In the past when I’ve finished a big project I get quite sad for a time as I transition to the next project. This is unsettling but very common. I am so pleased that you shared authentically about this experience.

    It’s great to read your lists! It’s great that you are open and real!

    After your last post on the Annual Review I started my 2 lists. The list of what I’m pleased about is LONG!! It includes a 30-day writing challenge I did in November to write 1000 words a day. Totally inspired by you, of course, and some of the amazing things you have written about writing in the past 🙂
    Other things I’m pleased about are my son getting his driver’s license, getting about 40 ski days in last winter, and deepening my relationship with my boyfriend <3
    The other list is pretty short, but includes not getting very many days on my dirt jump bike and traveling to see my family in the summer out of obligation and not enjoying it.

  • Daniele says:

    During 2013 I met a lot of awesome people, most of them during End of the world event in Oslo and for this I’m totally grateful to Chris, by the way I just found myself in the post image 😀
    I failed at execution too many times in a row; so my commitment for the next year is to make it real and stop waisting time guessing if this or that could work, just DO IT!…My mantra will be “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t you’re right”, thanks Henry! (Ford)
    Thanks Chris for inspiring us!

  • Sherry says:

    2013 started my quest to set goals with an end date — that change set me up for success as well as disappointing myself if I did not meet them. This taught me to review my goals every week and make sure I was setting them realistically with purpose — not just wanderlust.

    Walking, Pilates and my ever present Iphone with my downloaded podcasts have kept me current and healthy. Family keeps me honest, loved and respected. Music makes me smile and keeps me motivated.

    My ongoing goal each year — SKIP TO WORK!

  • Malcolm Strand says:

    2013 was a hard year financially after moving to Portland 2 years ago, I never thought this year would end but it did…on a great not. Through making multiple contacts my Art Coalition is slowly growing, I have made great strides in securing funds to open my own pub and I have some cool new job opportunities opening up until I get that pub going. Reading Chris’s blog throughout the year I am going to devote some of my time in 2014 to traveling. So what seems bad at first changes into something cool.

    Chris: Thanks for sharing, here you seem like someone who has it all together, but you shared another side of you. Don’t stop what you are doing, I love reading your blog and learning from your travels.
    Cheers to 2014!

  • Allie says:

    Hi Chris, thanks for this honest review. Congrats on your awesome accomplishments!

    One of the major highlights of my year was going on the Norway tour and celebrating with you at the End of the World party. I also really enjoyed my first WDS. 🙂 And I wrote a novel in 29 days last month, which I’m going to work on editing and getting published.

    This year I can definitely relate to experiencing confusion/anxiety/sadness without always knowing the reason. I’m going to work on some internal goals in 2014 like being more forgiving and honest with myself. Also giving myself more credit and if I’m afraid of doing something, just do it afraid and see what happens.

    I want to say thank you for all the hard work you do in encouraging people to open their eyes and live their lives on their own terms, while still helping others. You’ve been really influential to me, and I know my life will be better because of it.

    Hope you have a great new year!
    Allie 🙂

  • Jason Kallsen says:

    Incredible post, Chris, and it’s good to read that you’re human like the rest of us! My comment will be short and to the point:

    What went well: forward momentum, a feeling of being in better control of my future, and better focus on my own projects. Couldn’t ask for anything more. Oh, but wait …

    What didn’t go well: occasional backward momentum, the two months I spent on a project that I really should’ve thought through better, and the lack of focus that resulted from said two months wasted.

    Learning to totally unplug, zen-out, and release all thoughts or commitments is far harder than most people realize. It’s a cottage industry now, and here in Minnesota we have places in the far north where cell phones and radio reception basically don’t work, and people are flocking to them to relax. It’s fascinating. Anyway, I’m not adding anything here people don’t already know but I wish you luck, Chris, on finding the balance that is needed. As I get older (I’m 43 now) I find that balance to be more and more important. I can’t just GO like I used to.

  • Adina | Gluten Free Travelette says:

    I’m with you on the relaxing part – it’s a challenge for me. My husband says I have two natural states: busy and sleeping.

    2013 was a rough year that pushed me to reexamine my career trajectory – which I hope will end up making 2014 particularly awesome although filled with a lot of work.

    Overall, on the plus side – I redesigned my website and for the first time began to think about the possibilities it might have as a business. After volunteering at WDS this year and getting even more inspired, I’ve also started the process of launching a business that brings all my passions together! Exciting!

    On the negative side – I haven’t been as vigilant about my diet and exercise as I have in past years. Something I plan on making a higher priority in 2014.

  • Linda Hunter says:

    Rarely have I seen such an honest review, being shared publicly, thank you for that Chris. Very refreshing, and I am sure many can identify with similar good and not so good sections. I think that by being fully present in the moment, conscious in all we do, at the time we are doing it, we might be able to end up with fewer regrets upon reflection. Here’s to 2014!

  • Jen Zeman says:

    2013 was a fantastic year for me. Although I gave up on the idea of publishing young adult novels (after much research, publishing wasn’t everything I thought it would be), it was a relief to do so! Funny how that is sometimes. I did finish a novel, but posted for free and decided to move on. Moving on meant coming full-circle back to my original dream of combining my love of the South Pacific, clothing, and environmental conservation. The online shop for South Pacific Bound will launch within the week! I am over-the-moon happy! I now know what it feels like to be fueled with pure passion for the work I’m creating, to actually get up in the morning so incredibly excited to get the day started! I am where I need to be, and I thank you for continued inspiration. The $100 Startup got me going. 🙂

    2014 will rock!

  • Megan Cain says:

    Thanks for sharing, Chris. From the outside you have an enviable business. I think it’s good for all of us to be reminded that there is always more to the story of each person than what is present on their website and blog. I have been transitioning to being more personal and sharing more on my own gardening blog and posts like this inspire me to continue.

    My 2013 was very much internally focused as I worked with my life coach to really dig into some of the ways I wanted to change how I am in the world. I worked really hard and made a lot of progress.

    I also launched my new gardening business and learned a ton. I keep telling people it’s like I’ve been in grad school learning how to run a business and I don’t even have to go into student loan debt.

    I also set a goal to earn enough miles to travel to a new continent. We leave for Chile in 3 weeks for a month. Thanks for that, Chris!

    I didn’t make as much money as I had hoped and that’s my main disappointment of the year. Not bad!

    For 2014 I am challenging myself to think big in my business (especially around money), focusing on deepening my female relationships and continuing to allow myself to be happy.

  • Vee says:

    Your transparency and openness is disarming, and a hallmark of a true leader.

  • Brad Blackman says:

    I wonder if your vague sadness may be related to finally finishing your big goal of visiting all the countries in the world, and now you’re thinking, “Now what?” You’ve pushed hard for that for several years, and it may be time to just relax, even though that stresses you out. You’re obviously very goal-oriented, so now that your big goal is gone, you’re floundering somewhat. Take heart: I know you’ll find something new and worthwhile to work on, though it may not be as intense as you would’ve liked 10 years ago.

  • Ella says:

    Thanks for being so honest. I think that’s the best element of good reflection…honesty.

  • Linda says:

    Thank you for your honesty, Chris. You have not let any of us down. In fact you’ve done us a service by listing it all out for us.

    For me, I have finally let go of my fears about leaving the corporate world and am pursuing my own business; something I’ve wanted to do for two decades. My website about stress at work is launched! I am so much lighter and happier as a result. (I think I look younger too!) I also attended my first WDS & was inspired!

    On the downside, I don’t show people how much I appreciate them. I am being more mindful about that in 2014.

    Chris, you played a role in my success in 2013. Thank you!!

  • Yael Grauer says:

    I turned my year in review into a post!

  • Rebecca says:

    What went well for me was paying off one student loan. Whew. I have one more to go and then I will be debt free. Also, my daughter went on her first airplane ride and loved it so we will be having more adventures and longer trips asap. What did not go well was blowing my budget for the year but, I hope that will improve with at least one student loan paid off.

  • Akshay says:

    25 countries… “Fewer then normal” — I am trying to hit 2 to 5 countries a year ! 🙂

  • Karen Talavera says:

    I see many themes in your annual review I’ve noticed in the world at large in 2013. This was a transitional growth year of “up-leveling” for many of us. While “leveling up” might sound good (and in the end takes us where we aspire to be), it’s a damn uncomfortable and anxiety-provoking process!!!

    To me up-leveling means leaving behind the level of accomplishment we considered normal and reaching to grow to new levels of unknown achievement or actualization. From the outside looking in on your life, that’s what I see you going through.

    For me this manifested as growth challenges all over: in business, marriage, motherhood, money and health. Started with my daughter unexpectedly leaving for the 2012 -13 school year to study abroad in Mexico, and some much needed financial clean-up. Continued with marital issues. Escalated to a ski fall in Feb and a torn ACL in my right knee. Then business growth challenges.

    In the end I surmounted them all and HEALED (knee included). Best of all I grew in confidence, clarity and FOCUS and like myself and my life more (but copious amounts of Rescue Remedy and wine were needed to ride it out).

    No matter what you do I’m a fan: just keep rockin’ it!

  • Ruth Cooke says:

    2013 saw me successfully complete my 9th NaNo, this time with a personal best of 66,800 words, and no days where I didn’t write. The last couple of months have also seen my self-designation change from stay-at-home mom to writer, and believe me, that’s huge. I started a new blog, with a designated topic (poverty, and how to get out of it!), and am committed to updating it twice weekly on a regular schedule.

    I was more successful this year than in the past with my giving, because I put myself on a schedule. I’m not in a position to donate much, but I put a little bit in my church envelope every other week when I get my pay. Those regular little bits have added up to more than twice what I donated last year, and it didn’t hurt a bit!

  • Ciara Conlon says:

    My biggest achievement this year was learning how to relax, to enjoy a slower pace and to realize that although I have many more achievements that I want to accomplish they don’t all have to happen today. I have just started to read Jeff Goin’s latest book The In-Between and it is a great analogy of life in-between the great achievements and that the biggest moments in life and sometimes the small moments, normal everyday life. I had a big year last year, I published my first book, had a number of TV and radio appearances and when a lot of things are happening the gaps can sometimes leave you feeling empty and a little lost. This year has been a lot more mundane and I have been a lot happier. Good Luck with 2014 Chris I wish you continued success and I hope you figure things out.

  • Harry Guinness says:

    Like yours, these shall be my abridged highs and lows.

    I got my bluebelt in BJJ and also competed 8 or 10 times, winning a decent number of matches and a shit tonne of medals.

    I learnt a load of new skills. I am a far better chess player, photographer, designer and even programmer than I was.

    I read better, Martin Amis being a particular high.

    Financially it was a decent year. I had more work in than ever before.

    There were personal relationship issues that I won’t elaborate on here.

    I didn’t leverage my finances to the best effect.

    I didn’t leave Ireland, at all.

  • Emilie says:

    Hi Chris!

    I randomly picked up AONC from my bookshelf and began re-reading it in the bath tonight. Haven’t read it in a couple years and it was really fun to dig in again. Then thought I’d check on what you’d been up to.

    I always love your annual reviews but I especially enjoyed this one. Thanks so much for your honesty! I too have a difficult time relaxing. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of your restlessness and whatever discontent you might have been feeling.

    And I hope to see you in Portland once more. Valerie and I will likely be back there in the next 1.5 years. Chicago is far too “normal” for us. 🙂

    xo Emilie

  • Lucy Chen says:

    2013 has been a big year for me, too.

    What went well:
    – I’ve discovered oil painting and found my art style. I launched my artist website, and I learned to make art videos. I’ve met amazing people like you, Chris Guillebeau, Chris Brogan, Penelope Trunk and more. Business-wise, I think I’ve identified my buyer profile.

    What didn’t go well:
    – I didn’t make enough time to write guest posts. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t sell enough work.

    My grandpa, who was very dear to me, just passed away on 5 December, couple of days ago. He had a very good life and went away very peacefully, so it was not a bad thing. But I still miss him.

  • Emma says:

    Thank you for being so open about the highs AND the lows. The world needs more transparency—it helps us feel less alone!

  • Ellen Bordman says:

    A highlight of my year was reading The $100 Startup! I just finished it last night and am quite inspired. It’s been a huge year of change and re-visioning for me and my husband. We are ready to say goodbye to 2013. Bring on the new!

  • Jeff says:

    I appreciate you taking stock in both what did and did not go well. This was a good reminder to me of how important family is. Thank you, Chris.

  • Lisa says:

    Congrats on getting your mission to go to every country completed. What a huge goal to knock off!!

  • Linda Erdely Pierce says:

    Why do I feel like the chronologically oldest person in this room?

    Your lists sound as if you are going through (natural) changes, especially with the completion of seeing every country. That’s a difficult feat to top. Let the next challenge find you, rather than seeking it out. I’ve found when I stop looking for something it finds me.

    I spent all of 2013 traveling with my husband for his job after leaving my pseudo job in November 2012. I discovered I love traveling, being gone, sleeping in hotel rooms, driving long distances and watching the country roll by, watching RVs on the highway and wondering who’s in them and where they’re going and where they’ve been. I’ve mostly got my view of money to be at arm’s length (I just want to date it, not sleep with it.) Going into 2014 my husband is leaving his job and we’re going to live on a) our good looks; b) a government program for middle-aged slackers or (most likely) c) our savings. I feel a little anxious about that but I’m not going to let that feeling control me. No more waiting, it’s time to move on to the next phase of life.

  • Diego says:

    Hey Cris,
    Your lasts two posts are exactly what i’m needing. Thank you for share how you apply the review and goals processes in your own life, this helps me a lot to think about my goals and review of the year.

    2013 hasn’t been a fantastic year for me, i think i had just two high points, the first , I did my first international travel ( to the US , i live in Brazil, things are not easy here), and, in the same month, i traveled AGAIN to the US, two times in less than one month was an amazing unconventional experience for me and my girfriend. The second point, I’ve been much more engaged with my life and financial plans. I read a lot, write some plans in a paper notebook, and claread my mind about my goals and purposes.

    On the other side, i did not make any more importante progress. I keep working on a place i hate, very stressfull (airport) with no future, ‘ive felt very tired, with no energy, and stressed.

    But i don’t see this as a bad thing at all, because i’m feeling more motivated than ever to get out this boring and in circle life, and built a life full of meaning and excitement. Let’s work hard on 2014!

  • Cathy says:

    Hi Chris:

    As always your honesty is inspiring.

    I have to agree with a few of the other posts here. Going to Norway and participating in the Norway in a Nutshell tour was a highlight of the year. It’s such a beautiful country. I met so many great people on the tour and at the party and still keep in touch.

    I continue to try and grow my blog about solo travel and it’s getting there little by little. I wouldn’t have the blog if it wasn’t for The Art of Non Conformity and your generous gift of the $100 at WDS2012.

    This was not the best year I have ever had but the new year is right around the corner and I am very optimistic :).

  • Jeff says:

    Chris–I adopted your model of Year in Review a few years ago–I’ll be holing up the week of New Years to do mine. One thing you might think about, is that sense of confusion, etc. I have noticed that when I complete a huge project, there is a big let-down. This happened in a huge way when I finally completed a legal case that had been active for 10 years. I’m not sure, but I think the “cure” is a new goal–maybe not as big/all-consuming as the last one, but big enough to have a 3 to 5+ year time line. I’ve struggled with that since my big case wound up. Anyway, keep posting–I’m reading them, and passing them on to my kids from time to time.

  • Cindi says:

    Hey Chris, just a quick thanks for the openness in this post. I so appreciate the ‘not so well’ list mainly because it’s something rare. It’s important people – and by people i mean me-ople 🙂 with online businesses get glimpses into the realities of those they admire. Reading about the challenges helps me recognize these are really human experiences and not something to let derail me.

    Cheers for an amazing 2014 and thanks again.

  • Cynthia Morris says:


    I love your annual reviews. They always inspire me and it’s fun to have a peek inside your process.

    I say let the emotions flow and don’t worry about it. Too often we rush to figure it out or make it okay; I think you’re just evolving alongside your business and there are emotions present.

    I mentioned your annual review process in my annual review. I did something very different and a bit scary this year.

    My review is here:

    Thanks for all you do and all you are. It’s great to know you.

  • kabamba says:

    In April 2013 I joined a band and started playing guitar front of amazing people after spending the last 2 years learning the instrument alone in the backyard.

  • Rodney Washington says:

    Hi Chris, first let me say great post, and secondly, I agree with Alyson you have given way more than you realize, giving isn’t always financial.

    That aside I relate to the feeling you shared regarding working on multiple projects but feeling like they don’t always fit into a bigger picture for your life. What I’ve learned is nothing is wasted especially the things that seemingly “don’t work out”. It all fits into our lives in some bigger way.

    Reviewing 2013 has left me with three goals:
    1. Take better care of my health, (severe back problems in 2013 was my wake up call) so health and mental well being is first.

    2. Financial: Quadruple my income in 2014. In 2013 I worked way too hard creating programs and products that didn’t do well. This year I’m focusing solely on Done For You and Done With You all-in-solutions and building my team.

    3. Experiences: I didn’t travel nearly as much in 2013 and I experienced a big let down when I didn’t make it to Paris to celebrate a major milestone in my life. In 2014 I will make it to Paris and I’m throwing in Italy for good measure:)

    4. Finally I’m removing the term: “I want” to “I’m planning” in regards to goal setting.

    Thanks again!

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