Last month, I decided I wasn’t going to write this review.

At the time, I had really great reasons.

You see, I have not been focused on my personal brand or blog this past year. In fact, this is my first new article since my previous annual review.

I told myself that my life had turned some mythical corner where annual reviews in public no longer served me.

Thankfully, I realized I was full of crap.

All it took was a week stuck at home with COVID-19, paired with reading annual reviews from friends I admire like Cathryn Lavery and Syed Balkhi.

When I read through my own annual reviews from the past, I’m grateful for the snapshot of my life including what I was learning at the time. I also love reading the comments on each review!

Still, that last review was… difficult. It’s not my best-written review, but it was the hardest one to write.

I think I was secretly afraid to review this past year, because I was afraid of more pain or regret.

Of course, I do have some pain and regret from this past year (just like every year) but I also have so much to be grateful for—so much to celebrate and so much to learn from, while moving forward one day at a time.

In past years, I’ve reviewed my year through the lens of wins and lessons, finding the major themes in what went well and what didn’t go well, so I could plan what to change.

That framework served me well, for a season, but I need a new lens to make sense of my life. This year I decided to review my life with an honest assessment of the three major spheres of life:

  1. My Health
  2. My Wealth
  3. My Relationships.

My Health

After suddenly becoming the oldest male in my family tree, at thirty-one, I knew I needed to take immediate action to prioritize my health! God knew it too, so He made sure that I won a trip to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (the tallest free-standing mountain on the planet).

Spoiler alert: that trip was actually canceled due to international travel restrictions, but I spent the year preparing for it and now I’m planning on going in October of this year!

To keep myself physically fit, I knew I need accountability. I’ll also exercise more often if I’m having fun with other people, too. For all those reasons, I tried CrossFit, but it wasn’t my style, and then Profectus Jiu-Jitsu opened a gym on the same block as my coworking space!

I knew absolutely nothing about Jiu-Jitsu, but I tried it anyway and got myself and my whole family hooked for life. It’s a family affair! My wife and I each train in adult classes, but I also help coach the kids classes now so I get an extra chance to bond with my kids and break a sweat.

In July, I climbed Mt. Timpanogos in preparation for Mt. Kilimanjaro. Due to a surprise hailstorm at the peak, that was the most physically demanding adventure I’ve ever been on, but I completed it!

Unfortunately, I did have my first Jiu-Jitsu injury in October when I sprained my entire left foot, and had to withdraw from my first Jiu-Jitsu tournament. After a few months of physical therapy, I recovered well and I'm training again, back on the mat.

Incidentally I had that injury the same week I was supposed to be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, so I'm glad I had that injury near home, rather than climbing a mountain on the other side of the world!

My year’s health journey ended with a double slap of a rough case of the flu, then a respite for Christmas break, and then I got COVID-19 after the first week of the new year! That was rough too, but I’m back (still a bit tired) and raring to go.

I kept up with monthly counseling sessions all year, which helps me get mentally stronger and smarter every time. My wife and I have already scheduled marriage enrichment therapy for every month of this coming year.

My Light Phone was a great way to keep myself grounded, offline, but I recently switched to the Wise Phone and been a lovely upgrade. It has many of the same benefits (no browser or social media apps) only in a more elegant design that’s enjoyable to use.

We moved a bit farther from my office this year, so I got a car which promptly shattered my habit of walking or biking to work everyday. Comparing blood work, that meant this year I had a much higher cholesterol level and a severe shortage of Vitamin D.

My Wealth

Until I started writing this review, I forgot that I accomplished every single one of my financial goals for this past year, by the end of July!

The only problem was… I didn’t reset focused financial goals for August – December, so I ended the year feeling unsatisfied with my progress, as if I was falling behind.

This is the first year my wife and I have maxed out our Roth IRAs, and we also opened investment accounts for each of our kids, with a small initial deposit to start off. We used M1 Finance to manage all of this, and I’ve loved the simplicity and power of that platform so much we’ll likely use it for most of our investments from now on.

I also invested in a bit of cryptocurrency (mostly Ethereum), which I’ve been excited about for years (see Bitcoin 101) but the world is finally interested too! I tried a few different platforms this year, but centralized my investments to Coinbase for simplicity’s sake.

I’ve always wanted to invest in startups I care about, and this year I tiptoed into that by investing $500 in Maybe Finance via Republic. It’s a small start, but I love watching the behind-the-scenes work of the Maybe team from the perspective of a supportive investor (and I look forward to using the product too, when it’s complete).

I got to work on some incredible consulting projects this past year, including helping Beth & Jeff McCord’s Your Enneagram Coach launch a free video series called EnneaWhat? and a paid membership site called Your EnneaPath.

I also got to advise Brian Dixon’s Hope*Writers through optimizing their membership site—and I got certified in Mike Michalowicz’s Fix This Next framework so I can use that with future clients as well.

It’s not my wealth, technically, but St. Anna Orthodox Christian Church purchased a five acre property where we plan to build a Church building from scratch! This was my last year on the parish council (for now) after starting the Church as founding Chairman, and that’s an exciting win.

We loved the blue house as a starter home for our family, but we bought it before we knew we were going to have a third kid. Our kids are growing, so we rented a larger house better suited for our family and sold our last house, profiting more than eighty-five thousand dollars after all said and done.

The IRS owed us nearly ten thousand dollars, but someone tried to steal my identity so our refund was caught up in paperwork and processing for most of the year. That was no fun, but we finally got the money back in October and I don’t plan on overpaying the IRS in future years.

Cowork Columbia became Cowork.Inc when we reformed as an S-Corp with new business partners, Justin and Suzie Barbour. That’s been a rewarding partnership, and we’ve since expanded into a new facility twice as large as our last one, and hired a full-time Operations Director (Integrator).

Cowork.Inc is now my full-time focus, in addition to coworking memberships all of my consulting, publishing, and even this blog are now part of Cowork.Inc! We’ve got grand plans for new books and new training programs in this year, and the next few to come.

Speaking of books, I released my first book Survive and Thrive this year and it became a #1 bestseller twice! I initially published the ebook in March, when the book became the #1 New Release in Marketing for Small Business and then #1 bestseller in Direct Marketing on Amazon. I celebrated with the first (and for now, last) banana sundae I’ve had in years!

A few months later, in July, I published the paperback and audiobook versions of the book with a book launch party and a preorder campaign. Once again, the book became a #1 bestseller and has since won two awards. First, as a winning finalist for the Independent Author Network’s Book of the Year Award and second as a Gold award winner from the Nonfiction Author’s Association.

The numbers are still trickling in from different sources, but the book sold more than a thousand copies in 2021 which is more than 80% of authors sell in their lifetime.

Beyond that, 80% of people on the planet want to write a book in their lifetime but less than 1% actually do it. That’s incredible, and means I’m in incredible company after my first book, and it hasn’t even been out a full year!

I’m preparing for a full launch of my second book, Always Be Teaching, and I’ve got plans for many more books so I expect I’ll publish at least one new book each year for the foreseeable future. What can I say? I’m hooked!

While I didn’t write any new articles on this blog, I did publish twenty-two issues of my new Thrive School newsletter and I published forty-eight episodes of the Thrive School podcast as well.

This coming year, I plan to restart regular writing on this blog along with the Thrive School newsletter and write more content on a regular basis for LinkedIn (follow me there).

More and more, I’m going to focus on writing—which means that I’m pausing the Thrive School podcast, for now. I actually have episodes scheduled through mid-March, but I’m not recording new episodes until I’ve got a team who can own the podcast without my heavy lifting (and I can justify the cost of producing a high-quality podcast to the quality I want).

I’m grateful for the last eighty episodes of the Thrive School podcast, and the dozens of guests who’ve gifted me their time and care. I’m confident the podcast will be back, in the near future, but I need to practice essentialism and do less but better rather than spread myself thin.

That also means you likely won’t see any new YouTube videos from me, at least for a while. I need to focus on writing, and get that flywheel moving with momentum before allowing myself to experiment with other types of content this year.

Relationships

Honestly? This was the sexiest year of my life, so far!

I thought about keeping that to myself… but I hear too many couples complain about their love lives (especially with kids in the mix). I get it, and Rachel and I have worked through years of conflict in therapy with the plan to keep growing together, year after year.

This year, after eight years of marriage, Rachel and I have unlocked an amazing connection that includes epic, indescribable sex on a regular basis. There, I said it! I won’t get into any more details… but just know that we are both enjoying this season very, very much.

In past years, the Enneagram has led to break-through empathy and personal growth for both my wife and I. This year, Attachment Theory was the new framework that helped us grow the most.

Learning about our Attachment Styles helped us each process deep wounds with new clarity, and extend extra empathy to each other whenever we had conflict, to recover more smoothly.

If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend the book my therapist recommended to me: Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—And Keep—Love.

After paying off debt and growing our emergency fund, we rewarded ourselves with an epic family adventure to Legoland! This was a magical experience, and one all of us want to repeat (according to our kids, we’re planning to back every year).

Sharing the experience with my wife and kids was incredible, and I also appreciated the nostalgia because I went to Legoland once as a kid and both my brother and I remember that trip as our best family adventure with fond memories of my dad, who passed away last year.

Since that trip, our kids have graduated from Paw Patrol to the wonderful world of LEGO, which is fun for all of us so I hope they keep a love of LEGO alive forever!

We also introduced our boys to Avatar: The Last Airbender and Pokémon, which has been super fun—and an unexpected opportunity for my kids to think I’m the coolest dad ever, because I have years of Pokemon knowledge I haven’t used since I was 12!

Despite the rewarding relationships, this year was still hard because it’s the first full year without my dad or my grandfather alive on the planet. I miss both of them, and I’m especially grateful for the decades of memories and wisdom my dad shared with me, while he still had time.

We also lost a family member to COVID-19 (my brother-in-law’s mother-in-law) which was tragic and still hard to believe.

Just before that, Rachel and I lost a good friend who died in a climbing accident in our small town. Around the same time, one of my best friends lost a baby (and nearly his wife) when she had a bad case of COVID-19 six months into her pregnancy.

I always suspected grief would hit me hard when it hit me, because I was blessed not to know death for the first thirty years of my life. Sure, I knew of people who had died but never anyone close to me—except for one friend who disappeared in college, and it was years before I learned he had died.

Now, grief is a constant companion I’ve accepted with humble tears that reminds me why life and love matters, and inspires me to love those I see daily even more.

On that note, this coming year I’d like to get better at nurturing relationships. I have a great community, with lots of friendly acquaintances but very few true, close friends.

I cherish the empathy and laughter I share with friends but I’ve never been consistent or intentional with my friendship, because my family and my work always came first and I didn’t have more to give. This year we’ve turned a corner where I can prioritize regular connection with friends.

Porchtime has been a foundation for most of my consistent friendships, which I have enjoyed. I share coffee and conversation with a group of guys on Wednesdays and I’ve done that nearly every week for five years.

Both family and work are important, but I can trace all of my professional success back to one key relationship or another, yet I’ve always treated those relationships as ad-hoc or spontaneous occurrences, which isn’t strategic or smart.

The good news is my Cowork.Inc leadership team is made up of some of my closest friends, including both my business partners and my integrator, Danny Coleman. Like most people, work is where I spend the majority of my waking hours, so it’s a joy to work alongside close friends!

On New Year’s Day, I spent a few hours exploring and comparing options before ultimately setting up Dex to manage my circles of relationships so I have regular reminders on who I need to reach out to in order to stay connected with the relationships I plan to prioritize this year.

How I’m Planning to Live in 2022

For My Health:

  1. Continue to ground myself in my faith, and lead Byzantine chant.
  2. Keep learning Jiu-Jitsu, training at least three times a week.
  3. Take frequent family hikes to build my endurance, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
  4. Design a new meal plan that helps me get healthy and lose weight.
  5. Bike to work more often, since I only live a mile and a half away!

For My Wealth:

  1. Pay off personal debt (for the third time).
  2. Write daily to publish more newsletter content, and books!
  3. Acquire equity as an advisor in two different startups I care about.
  4. Max out Roth IRAs and HSA, investing primarily in ETFs.
  5. Invest further in cryptocurrency with a focus on DeFi cash flow.

For My Relationships:

  1. Spend more elbow-to-elbow time working with people I care about.
  2. Take my wife and kids on another grand adventure.
  3. Take my wife on four quarterly offsite retreats.
  4. Meet with a therapist monthly, for marriage enrichment.
  5. Connect with close friends every week.

I primarily write these annual reviews for my benefit, but always discover that sharing them creates conversations that lead to growth. Do you have any questions about my year, or insights to share from your own? Please comment below.

About

John Meese is the author of the #1 bestseller Survive and Thrive: How to Build a Profitable Business in Any Economy (Including This One). An entrepreneur himself, John is on a mission to eradicate generational poverty by equipping entrepreneurs with the tools and training they need to build thriving businesses from scratch. He is the CEO of Cowork.Inc, co-founder of Notable, and host of the Thrive School podcast.

2 thoughts on “My Annual Review (2021): The Year I Became a Bestselling Author

  1. Thank you for being so open with your year-end summary. It’s a great framework that has inspired me to do the same. 🙂 I’m sorry for your losses and extend a heartfelt congratulations for your successes.

    John, I first came across you and your work through your relationship with Advance Your Reach, and have been following you ever since. Your down-to-earth nature coupled with your wisdom has been so refreshing. I’ve enjoyed your books and look forward to more in the future.

    As for your health goal to “design a new meal plan that helps me get healthy and lose weight,” I’d like to recommend to you the plan that I followed in 2021 which allowed me to lose 60 lbs in 6 months and I’ve kept it off. If you’ve never heard of “Bright Line Eating” before, do yourself a favor and check it out. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anything healthier.

    Best of luck to you in 2022! Can’t wait to see what the year brings to you and your family.

    1. I appreciate your kind words, Vicki, and I’m glad you enjoy my writing! Thank you for the advice. Keep up the good work yourself, and I hope the annual review habit serves you well.

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