My 2016 in Review: Simplifying, Setting the Right Foundations
Hey everyone! Following tradition, today I’m excited to share with you my year end review for 2016. My objectives are to let you know what I’ve been up to, share my plans for the new year, and hopefully inspire you to do the same. As we usher in the new year, I hope you can make time to review your past year and set your goals for 2017. 🙂
Overall, 2016 has been about simplifying for me. Simplifying my work, simplifying my business, and simplifying my life. I just read my 2015 review before writing this post, and I’m glad to say that I’ve moved in line with my previous plans for 2016 (and perhaps some more), and I’m really excited at what 2017 is going to bring.
The Online World
Perhaps I can start off by saying that I got really disconnected with the online world this year. Firstly, there’s the amount of negativity and noise online today as half the world now has internet access. Given that empty vessels make the most noise, and errant and negative people are more likely to react than not, noise basically forms the bulk of online messages today, even though noisy people tend to make up just a small proportion of the overall population. Many internet forums have also become echo chambers, so they are not exactly good places to learn about the world anymore.
Secondly, the online industry sort of morphed into this huge commercial marketplace between 2010 and 2015 where everyone jumped in trying to sell courses and create branded sites. Back in the 1990s when I first started making websites, creating a website was about creating, sharing, and the work at hand, with commerce being a secondary goal. But today, making a quick buck online is the main reason why people even start websites, and the online marketplace we see today is not even a meaningful one — aside from some businesses/people selling meaningful products/services that truly help the world, the rest is just random noise as people are selling all kinds of courses/products/information trying to capitalize on whatever knowledge they can, when skill building and adding real value should be our topmost priorities.
The sad part is the boom of the “make money online” industry as some people buy into the idea of quick online success and riches. This has led to the meteoric rise of online gurus who grow rich by preaching this message, and sell overpriced products claiming to teach people to do the same. But it’s not possible to achieve the same kind of results, not in the same way, because
- A few years in the online world is like a lifetime in the real world. Tactics that used to work in 2010 will not work in 2013; similarly tactics that worked in 2013 will not work in 2016. Most of these folks are just teaching outdated tips, packaged with frills and marketing snazz, that will not help you succeed. Some actually manage to make themselves appear very convincing when doing so, especially to the layman without real insight of how this industry works.
- Many of these folks selling the internet dream had the first mover advantage; it’s partly why they could grow so fast. They also capitalized on a time when people became interested in earning money online, which led to the huge influx of online coaches/gurus/internet businesses. But a new entrant today cannot grow in the same speed with the huge number of competitors today, because there are 10,000 times more people fighting for the same market share than before. Once again, the tips that these people are teaching and packaging as few hundred/thousand-dollar courses are totally outdated and not determinants of success.
- The market has consolidated since 2010 and market leaders have been formed. Many of these market leaders today have professional teams that help them maintain their competitive edge; these people need them or they can’t stay ahead. The online world has gotten a whole lot complicated between the late 2000s and today as the tech has become much more sophisticated and complicated (e.g., websites today are much more sophisticated than in 1998; video editing and podcast editing are like basic skills now; a typical blog needs over two dozen plugins and “hacks” at least to somewhat work the way you want with the different layers of complexities and needs online today). Most of this information is conveniently left out in the marketing pitches of these “gurus.” The truth is people can’t just start a blog/vlog now without a fair level of tech savviness and expect reasonable levels of success; being successful online today is a whole lot more than just “having a laptop and a dream,” or even being tech savvy, or writing good content, or even having a team of staff for that matter.
I have sort of talked about these things before (plus some more), so I recommend to check out:
- 5 Harsh Truths About Blogging (And 6 Tips If You Want to Start a Blog/Online Business)
- Are You Looking for a Magic Bullet to Your Goals?
Ex-life coach and blogger Rebecca Strong perfectly captures what I see as issues in the life/business/blog coaching industry today: Life Coaching For Life Coaches: Why I’m Quitting
The above affects me in a few ways:
- As a web user, many websites I come across today are just empty shells with no real content. Many are just mazes of pre-sales funnels. Nothing wrong with sales funnels, but if your entire site is just this and any information you have is just hooky stuff to sell, sell, and sell, etc. that’s a problem right there.
- As a coach, their marketing messages negatively influence the people I’m trying to help. I have clients and course participants who buy into these magic bullet claims, and I have to work on re-educating them. But it’s not so straightforward as it’s a whole marketing machinery and industry driving this message. I dislike seeing my students and others being led around in circles by folks more interested in closing the sale and padding their top line than what’s right for people, because ultimately the people who suffer in the end are those who buy into these claims, not the people receiving the money or people at the top.
- As a blog owner, I began receiving a large amount of spam starting from the 2010s. This was when the whole “make money online” dream exploded as lubricated and catalyzed by these make-money-online folks, and over-zealous, hungry blog owners began blasting larger blogs with all kinds of sales pitches, boilerplate requests, and clickbait messages to market their sites. These are the people who collect your email address, blast follow-up messages, and circulate your email to other people in the field, who then do this all over again.
- As a business owner, it’s not enough for me to just create high value content. I now have to compete with clickbait and short-term content catering to the monkey mind — sadly effective in today’s ADHD world — and appeal to the hearts and better selves of my subscribers. And with social media sites like Facebook now choosing noise over other metrics, it’s harder than ever to spread my content and drive the message of deep, conscious growth.
So after months of swirling in the above and thinking, I decided… I want no part in the above. My answer is to return to basics. To simplify everything, and to go back to building my connection with you.
So since August, I have
- Axed many of my online accounts. I deleted my Yahoo, Flickr, Linkedin, and reddit accounts and Facebook page in October. This simplified my life by a lot. Read: Why I Deleted My Facebook Page with 20,800 Likes
- Removed all non-core areas of the PE website. This includes the PE quotes section, which got chopped off in November. For perspective, PE quotes contributed to 1.7% of PE’s total pageviews but took up about 50-60% of my mental energy when it came to site maintenance (WordPress multi-site works differently from single sites), so it was clear that it had to be done. This also meant shutting down PE Forums in August which had run its course.
- Removed all non-core products/services. I retired my Blogging and Passive Income courses in 2015 even though they were earning me good income and I was doing very well with them. I retired the PE Book this year, one of my best-selling products, after 6 years of launching it. I retired my Self-Esteem webinar in Oct though past customers can still access it. Doing so has removed a chunk of my income, but I want to focus on building the right foundations first before thinking about money later.
- Simplified the entire PE website, both in coding and design. I launched the brand new PE layout a month ago. Hope you guys like the new look! 😀 I have designed it to be much cleaner and content-driven.
- I am now returning to the basics: connecting with you guys directly through my blog and scale-based channels, and building up my courses thereafter. I’ve been updating my old articles, and will continue to do so in 2017. I also released a new edition of Live a Better Life in 30 Days Program in December (over 100+ new pages, with many new examples and sharper writing) which I’m very proud of. I’m now working on a new edition of Be a Better Me in 30 Days Program and hope to be done next month.
(Past 30DLBL buyers who missed the upgrade mailer in December, you will get another chance to buy it when I release the new edition of 30BBM, so stay tuned!)
As for everything else, I decided to just ignore them. With regards to web surfing, I now practice conscious surfing as detailed in my Disconnect post. I don’t visit low consciousness sites, forums, or news sites with biased writing anymore. I enjoy using Quora to get alternate views, though Quora can be an echo chamber sometimes. Make money industries will always be there as long as people believe in quick results for little work, and I decided not to care anymore as people who choose to believe in magic bullets will simply do so, and there’s nothing I can do but focus on my own thing and keep sharing and educating the world and my readers, clients, and people in a positive way.
My other highlights this year include switching to a new, better webhost; launching The Personal Excellence Podcast; simplifying other parts of my business; coming up with solid anti-noise measures for my business; and re-designing my sales pages to fit the new web 3.0 look.
Simplifying in Personal Life
With this simplification came simplification in my personal life:
- Minimalism. Ken and I started practicing minimalism after being inspired by videos like this and this. We don’t have much stuff to begin with but we managed to pack a huge luggage and a trolley of clothes, books, shoes, old items, food, etc. and donated them to charity this month. We don’t plan to buy any new things from now on, except for productivity and living. We plan to use our money for growth experiences, not to buy stuff and more stuff.
- Travel. Minimalism will make it easier for us to travel from now on. Ken and I traveled for 4 months this year in Eastern Europe (Serbia and Hungary), and I was in Ubud for a month this year, so I was almost away for half the year. I really enjoyed the time away and gained a lot of headspace to do productive work (and hence my above conclusions and plans).
- Remote living. We are looking into simplifying our life. Our home country has become incompatible with our beliefs over the years — too much noise and noise pollution; obsession with materialism; endless focus on earning money and working endlessly (at the expense of personal health and relationships; Singapore has one of the longest working hours in the world) to earn more money for things and more things that do not stop increasing in prices; limited individual freedom; etc. In the short term we are looking at a remote lifestyle as we travel to different parts of the world. We have planned our travels for 2017 and are starting as soon as January. I can’t wait!! 😀
- Waste. I have been working on reducing waste. When I was in Serbia and Hungary, I appreciated how the countries are relatively less wasteful than say, Singapore. For starters, in Budapest, they don’t give plastic bags in shops, and it’s good because it gets people to bring their plastic bags, rather than collect all these bags (or even plastic boxes, cutlery, etc.) and throw them away later. I’ve been practicing little lifestyle changes like bringing my own handkerchief (over using paper napkins), bringing my plastic bags, and bringing my lunch box when I order takeaways. I find this much more meaningful than earning more money to buy more things and throw away more things and just wasting in general.
- Diet, Health. I have further cleaned up my diet. While my initial years of being vegetarian were more about eating whatever (vegetarian food) was available, especially in my country which has a very meat-centric diet, I now know the core food groups I need to have a well-balanced, fully nutritional diet, and how to prepare quick, nutritious, yet tasty meals. This simplification has made it very easy for me to eat healthily despite the very unhealthy local food culture.
2017 Goals and Plans
In short, 2016 has been a year where I cleaned up my business (and life) and rebuilt core foundations for an easy path ahead, so that I can get back to what matters. It has been a year where I came to head with the key noise channels in my life and dealt with them by either eliminating them or changing the way I do things.
I’m really satisfied with my new direction — to simplify rather than to keep up or add more — and look forward to getting back to basics and creating more great stuff for you guys. 😀
So these are my broad goals and plans for the new year:
- Focus on scale. I will continue to update old articles like I did in December, while creating new content. My priority is articles > podcasts > videos. I need to figure out exactly what I want to do with videos because I didn’t create a single one in 2016, but for now I’ll focus on articles and podcasting because they are much more compatible with my working style.
- Finish up the new edition of 30BBM. Once I do, I’ll have more headspace to write new content, since all my energy is going into the book now. I hope to finish it by early 2017. Soon, soon!!!
- Courses. I didn’t do any live course in 2016, and it was deliberate as I wanted to figure out and fix the site fundamentals before looking into courses. In 2017 I’ll be looking at how to take my courses forward — whether to continue or stop them, to have many short courses or a few major ones, adequate price points to make it worthwhile for me and potential students, etc.
- Travel. Ken and I will be traveling and exploring the world. Our goal isn’t to rapidly cover many places but to enjoy, experience the world, and of course to get work done along the way. We look forward to this being a fulfilling, productive, and growth-filled experience. ♥
- Health. I’ve been reading about Blue Zones (read here, here, and here) and studying how I can incorporate the different aspects of these zones into my life (and Ken’s life), if not relocate ourselves to similar places to maximize our quality of life. Blue Zones are the 7 places in the world where people live markedly longer and healthier lives than others, and I recommend you read the links above to learn more and see how you can apply the lessons too as I want us to live as long as possible. I’ll be looking into this further as we travel in 2017.
With this simplification, it means the ability to move ahead fast rather than being tangled in all those messes. And I’m really excited at what’s to come. 🙂
I want to thank you guys for sticking around all these years. 🙂 THANK YOU, THANK YOU, and THANK YOU. Thank you for being patient and sticking around even though updates got slow in some months this year. I’ve been working hard to fight battles behind the scenes and getting things sorted out — and now they have. 🙂 For the new visitors, welcome to Personal Excellence and I hope you’ll stay with me in the months and years ahead. 🙂 Look forward to connecting with you guys ahead! 🙂
How has your 2016 been? 🙂 What are your goals and plans for 2017? Spend 30 minutes to do your review and set your goals for the new year! Read:
- Why I Do Year End Reviews (And 6 Important Questions To Ask Yourself in Your Review)
- 58 Noteworthy Resolutions For Anytime in the Year
For those of you looking to start 2017 on a strong start, check out Live a Better Life in 30 Days Program (30DLBL). It’s my 30-day program where you get to answer hard questions and work on important, Quadrant 2 tasks to live a better life. It’s perfect to do at the end, start, or middle of the year, though you can really do it at any time.
Long-time PE reader Charles just started working on a new run of 30DLBL. Check out his 2017 vision board here after working on Day 4 of the program; I love it! 😀
Read more about 30DLBL here: Live a Better Life in 30 Days Program
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