As 2013 draws to a close, it's time to take stock of the year gone by and look ahead to the fresh year ahead.
I love this time of year. New Year’s Eve has long been my favorite time to release the old year and open myself to the fullest potential of the next.
New Year’s Eve is also the time when I pick one primary focus for the upcoming 12 months. This simple practice allows me to immerse myself within the chosen area of focus and spur more growth as a result of it.
In previous years, my yearly focus had shifted from extreme fitness to freedom creation, to RTW travel, to last year’s focus of wealth diversification. This year, I decided to take things in a different direction.
But before I get to that, a few reflections on the past year.
2013 was a year of transition for me. After close to 4 years of non-stop world travel and location independent living, my partner and I made a home in the picturesque seaside town of Newport, Rhode Island.
The beginning was not easy, to say the least; We moved from place to place throughout the winter as we searched for a suitable state, town, and finally home. For a long time everywhere we stayed or looked felt isolating and far from a place I could feel at home in.
Until that one fateful day when we drove over the picturesque Pell bridge into historic Newport. Almost immediately, everything felt just right. I was taken in by the awe-inspiring landscapes, spectacular beaches, scenic countryside, and perhaps most importantly at this point of my life the rich cultural and social life that Newport seemed to boast.
All the stars must have aligned properly that day because we managed to nab this gorgeous rental apartment that ticked all the boxes - Secluded but not isolated, incredibly spacious, well maintained, reasonably priced, walking distance to a delightful sandy beach on one end and downtown on the other, and perhaps best of all, a large private veranda that offered 360 panoramic views of the dozens of green trees and the large garden below. Needless to say, we signed a one-year lease on the spot.
Finding the perfect location was one thing. Acclimatizing to my new life was another.
The primary challenge I set for myself before moving was to cultivate local relationships and make friends - real friends, true friends. In Australia I built a thriving network of close friends, my surrogate family, who made my life much richer. I wanted the same thing in the US.
I expected it would take time but that didn't stop me from being impatient and even a little bit upset in the early days. Being an online entrepreneur can be lonely endeavor at times, especially if you are working entirely on your own and from home. But as I had learned from my early days of living in Australia, I figured that getting out of the house and being social rather than hiding away with my work was key.
Socializing became a priority and I started to commit more time and resources to building relationships. A good example for that priority was flying to Montana to visit a fellow entrepreneur named Chris baggett. Up to that point we had only collaborated online and through this trip I made a conscious effort to transition our virtual relationship to a genuine offline friendship status. It was a fun and meaningful visit and Chris and his family have since been down to visit us in Newport.
The other main challenge was the weather…In my past life, growing up in the desert-like climate of Israel and in the more temperate climate of Australia, I hardly experienced snow and below zero (Celsius) temperature. The New England winter brought both! I knew that if I wanted to adopt Newport as a home, I’d have to do something else beside bundling up with tons of layers and hibernating throughout the long winter. That just wouldn't work for me.
So, I changed my mindset and took some action. The first thing I did is I stopped talking about the weather altogether. It’s truly a local pastime here in New England to have a big groan about the weather during winter. I realized that by doing so - by labeling the weather as “bad”, “too cold”, or “too wet - I only reinforce the negative feelings and experience.
The second thing I did, which some labeled as both insane and crazy, but it has been working wonders, I started to wear flip-flops and shorts outside all through December, even when it was snow and icy condition. The idea is to get the body adapted to the cold by going for brisk walks in minimal clothing and protection from the elements.
It sounds a bit crazy, doesn't it? Well, after getting over the initial shock of the cold and frigid air, the human body has a remarkable ability to regulate heat through thermogenesis. This is similar to how, when taking a cold shower, it takes a short 1-2 minutes for the water to stop feeling cold. Within reason, if you do this on regular basis, you’ll probably experience a noticeable increase in tolerance to cold.
These days, I hardly feel fluctuating emotions in relation to the weather; A grey cold day is a good day, like any other. In fact, I’ve that adjusted so well to cold weather that, nowadays, I’ve become more sensitive to the feverish heat of the Israeli summer.
Location challenges aside, 2013 was also a year where I diversified my online portfolio and income further.
This past summer I experimented with creating and delivering online courses for the first time. I partnered with my friend and fellow entrepreneur, Chris Badgett, and launched two courses on Udemy, the largest marketplace for online courses. So far, they attracted 700+ students, mainly using free and discount promotions. I expect this number to grow over the next 12 months as Udemy generates its own traffic.
I’m currently working on a new and much longer online course that will better fit my PassivelyFree.com audience. I made this decision based on the feedback and results of the current courses. In my opinion, nothing speaks louder than quantifiable results from previous projects.
Beside online courses, I continued to strengthen existing online income sources.
In the eBooks department, I wrote and published 4 new eBooks this year: The online business Checklist (which is free to Passively Free Subscribers), The Great Bucket list eBook, Begin with a blog, and 1000 subscribers. Sales were consistent, but small, maybe 1 or 2 a day, sometimes 3 on a good day. As a result, I don’t plan to write as many eBooks in 2014. Instead I have chosen to take a different angle to writing and publishing eBooks - But more on that later!
This year I also I launched my new Goals Software, a handy online tool I use myself to, set, manage, and track big goals. It has done well since its launch with close to 500 adopters in just a few months, including my first ever business client who paid a larger yearly fee up front to use it with his personal training clients. This purchase validated my assumptions about the software value and in 2014 I plan to further develop it and market it as a business product.
What else? As in previous years, I continued to supplement my income with coaching and web design services. They have now grown to be my 2nd biggest income source and an important element in my strategy of income diversification.
The only new development to report in this arena is my new responsive web design service that allows websites to respond and self-adjust to fit different platforms, such as mobile devices and tablets. I have acquired this new skill while working on a new design for my PassivelyFree site and have since added it to my service list. As they say, the future is looking more and more mobile.
2013 was also the year where I further built my affiliate income stream. I took quite a few initiatives - the biggest one involved the creation of a whole new business called Spending Hacker, (currently intended only for the Australian audience). I partnered with my long time friend, Michael ginzburg, and together we built a business model that rely solely on affiliate income. Time will tell how successful it is...
In sum, it was a busy year. I did diversified my wealth in areas that I absolutely love and believe in as committed in last year’s reflections. Even if a few initiatives didn't go exactly as planned, overall, there was a continuing progress in the direction I desire.
I also achieved my goal of creating a happy, settled, and comfortable home base. It was not easy to say the least - much sweat and quite a few tears were spilled in the making of it - but we made it and the setup we built serves as a solid foundation for the future.
This brings me to the year ahead.
Turning a page to 2014
At some point halfway through 2013, I started to re-recognize the importance of relationships in my life. And, when I say “relationships”, I mean ALL relationships. That includes not only personal relationships like family and friends but also business ones - partners, clients, peers, followers, subscribers, and anyone in between.
What I came to re-realize was that, essentially, all businesses, even those built online, are human enterprises - owned by people, managed by people, designed to serve people. It's so easy to get caught up in the numbers game and lose sight of the people behind those numbers.
I now know that building and nurturing strong relationships is far more effective way to grow a business than hard-sell tactics and short-term marketing efforts. One key relationship with an influencer, for example, can transform a lackluster business or product into an impressive growth story. And if you’re in the employment world, one quality relationship with a well-positioned colleague can land a dream position.
The same goes with personal relationships. One wise friend can do more good than twenty self help books. One loving relationship can bring more healing than dozens of prescriptions and expert consultations. One close family member can be more helpful during tough financial times than multiple academic degrees or career achievements.
In other words, relationships are one of the best investments one can ever make. Literally.
For this reason, I've chosen relationships as my primary focus for 2014.
As in previous years, I’ve spent a week or so laying some groundwork to carry me forward into my journey.
I began with setting some clear, measurable goals for myself including reaching over 10,000 email subscribers, engaging in 10,000 interactions with business owners and bloggers, and conducting at least 100 interviews with influencers in my digital space by the end of the year. These goals will lay a foundation for ongoing, stronger relationship.
Perhaps more importantly, I started to adjust my daily routines and form new supporting habits. Here are my primary habits for this year.
- Daily Engagement - Blog commenting and email approaches to business owners
- Daily Social - Being social locally (Go out or host)
- Daily Writing - At least 20 min a day (I’m on day 74. So far, so good)
- Daily Stretching - Morning Yoga routine (Currently on day 74)
- Daily Fitness - At least 20 min a day (Currently on day 29)
The last supporting habit on my list is something of importance to me. During my financial freedom journey, I found a direct correlation between fitness and productivity. So, this a year I plan to take my fitness level up a notch with a few half marathons and Ironman triathlon races.
This is just part of the plan. I won't go into too much detail now. The main aim is to be more social and have stronger and closer relationships in both my professional work and personal life.
If you're interested in learning more about my step-by-step goal and habit setting process, have a look at my free e-book, Design Your Dream Year - It breaks down the process of setting goals and taking the actions to achieve them in a concise, simple, and easy to implement way.
What is YOUR 2014 focus?
Where are you going to put the majority of your effort this coming year? Are you going to commit to a plan that will help you achieve your goals without sacrificing your happiness?
As I have written previously, setting an intention only once is not enough... It's perhaps the main reason why most New Year’s resolutions fail – we expect to undo years of emotional and behavioral patterns with just one night of resolution.
Wherever you are, however you’re feeling, and whatever your plans are for the New Year, I wish you blessings of joy in your journey.
Live Out Your Dreams!
Tal Gur is a location independent entrepreneur, author, and impact investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has set the stage for his new mission: elevating the next generation of leaders to their true potential.