My Annual Review (2015): The Year We Birthed a Business and a Baby

Unlike most blog posts, this one is primarily for me. It allows me to process where I’m at, and where I’d like to be headed. I share this in the hope that you can benefit from my journey in some way.

John, Rachel, Damien

I’ve never truly done an annual review before, but this year I was inspired by Nathan Barry’s annual review, and then James Clear’s as well.

This is the second year my wife and I have gone through Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever Program.

Day two of the program (“Complete the Past”) helps you process the past year before setting any annual goals. That’s where a lot of this content comes from.

What Went Well This Year?

Business

2015 was the first full year of MeeseWorks, LLC and I started the year working about five hours a week on this blog and a few other projects with the plan to make a little money on the side.

Today I’m only working part-time at my day job (Chick-fil-A) where 100% of income is direct-deposited into savings, while we transition into full-time MeeseWorks over the next three months.

I started this year working alone, but gradually built a team of three others plus a tax accountant. That was the best business decision I’ve ever made.

Working with a team has made it possible to pull off a $10,000 launch, triple my email list, and literally make money while I sleep. That meant some bumps along the way, but we’re creating an incredible culture and our team will help set the vision in 2016.

Once the dust settles, we’ll have an exact figure, but it looks like MeeseWorks generated roughly $35,000 in revenue last year, the vast majority of which came in between June and December.

Family

My wife and I have known each other for just over eleven years, and we’ll have been married for two years as of next week.

We’ve grown much closer in marriage, but we’re still very much best friends―a fact which amazes me, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

On September 2nd, we were blessed with the birth of a son. Damien Clayton Meese has been the joy of our life ever since.

Damien Montage
The many faces of Damien (#MiniMeese)

Reading

I absolutely love reading. When I was 12 or 13, I would often read an entire book in a day. At 15, I started working full-time and my reading habit became a luxury I rarely made time for at all.

This year, I set a goal to read 20 books. I ended up reading 21, with a healthy mix of 11 fiction and 10 non-fiction books.

I read some pretty incredible books in 2015, but the ones which had the greatest impact were (in order of influence):

  1. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
  2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  3. The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan
  4. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

I really like lists that include either three or five things―not four. But all four of those books had an impact on me, and I can’t in good conscience add a fifth for fluff.

So those are the four books I read in 2015 that had the most significant impact on my life!

Church

We stepped up involvement in our Church community of St. Elizabeth’s, where I now serve as Treasurer on the Parish Council and my wife helps organize our after-Church meal each week.

Earlier this year I was tonsured a reader in the Orthodox Church. This has been a bucket-list goal of mine since I was sixteen, and it’s been an incredible privilege to serve the Church in this way.

What Did Not Go Well This Year?

Health

Last year, I set a goal to lose 10 pounds. Instead, I gained five.

Every minute I wasn’t working at my day job was typically spent sleeping, spending time with my wife and son, or working on my business (among other chores and responsibilities).

I ran occasionally, and got a gym membership in the fall. I was so excited that I worked out four times that week alone.

The next week, I could barely move. I went to my friend Dr. Miro, and found out I have Scoliosis and I’d pushed myself too far. I’ve had back pain as long as I can remember, but this year it got a lot worse.

I began regular treatment, built back up to working out two times a week, and then fell at work―hyper-extending my left shoulder and arm.

So yeah… health didn’t go so well in 2015.

Family

My wife is my best friend, and my son is the center of the universe as far as I’m concerned.

Family goes in both the “what went well” and “what did not go well” categories this year because we spent lots of time together, but almost exclusively at home in our PJs.

My wife and I love adventure, yet we never once left the state of Tennessee together last year. No travel, no getaways, no adventure. Occasional date nights at a restaurant within five miles of our house, but that’s about as adventurous as we got.

Dear family… I’m sorry. 2015 was not what you deserved.

Spiritual Life

We’re more involved at Church than ever before, but I’ve somehow managed to turn Church into work (every workaholic finds a way).

On top of that, I started a “Read the Bible in one year” plan three years ago, and I’ve been about 30 days from the end for a year and a half.

I’ve kept up with daily prayer, but next year I want to get more serious about scheduling time for quiet reflection, disconnecting from the world, and a monastery retreat.

What will I change in the coming year?

1. I want to learn with greater focus.

For 2016, I’ve adopted semester-like themes for each quarter so that I can focus on learning about a single topic at a time, and the knowledge will build upon itself.

Ideally, at least 90% of the books, blog posts, podcasts, audiobooks, and courses I consume each quarter will fall into a similar theme.

I’ve already started Q1, and here’s the focused learning schedule I’m planning on right now:

  • Q1 (January – March): Marketing
  • Q2 (April – June): Spirituality
  • Q3 (July – September): Entrepeneurship
  • Q4 (October – December): Personal Growth

2. I want to teach more of what I learn.

I want to get better about sharing revenue milestones and lessons learned along the way, and I plan to do most of that here on this blog.

I’m also launching a strategic coaching program this month, which will allow me to pour more time into teaching to a select few, and having a lasting impact there.

As well, I’m ready to launch more online courses after the success of my first. I’ve learned that I’m a teacher at heart.

3. I want to live a more adventurous life.

Next year, my wife and I are going to plan a few hiking and/or camping trips, and we’re going to celebrate birthdays and date nights with a lot more adventure baked in.

I’m also planning to take one week off each quarter, and we’re considering living in Alaska for a month―just working and adventuring from there.

I’m not good at adventure. But that’s why I bought a motorcycle in college, and it’s why I married Rachel. Both decisions were designed to break me out of my anti-risk shell, and so far only one has ended up with a crash.

4. I want to follow a well-thought-out plan.

Which means first I’m going to have to create one.

For starters, I’m going on a strategic planning retreat next weekend with my mastermind group. We’re planning to hold another retreat every quarter this year, and my wife & I are filling the family calendar with vacations, excursions, and blocked-off empty space.

For MeeseWorks, I’ve set some lofty revenue and email list goals, which means each quarter we’ll be setting smaller goals with action plans, and selectively choosing which opportunities to pursue.

This last year was definitely my best year ever, but I’m excited to excel beyond that in 2016, and then again the year after that!

Consider this a heartfelt thank you to every one of you who has supported us in the year we birthed a business and a baby, all at one time.

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  • Joel

    Wow… hey John. This is really inspiring! Definitely one of your best posts. My wife, son, and I have a family meeting every Sunday evening. I’m going to suggest that we create a yearly plan.

    I really like your idea of breaking the year into themes. Hope you don’t mind if I borrow that and initiate it into our yearly plan.

    Looks like you have set course on an ambitious year ahead. I wish you and your wife many happy journeys with Damien.

    • I’m glad you found the post inspiring, Joel! And thank you for the kind words.

      Please take the theme idea and run with it, I’m already feeling the surge of energy that comes from this kind of focus. I hope you do the same.

  • Debi

    Thank you for sharing and congratulations on a well-done 2015!
    I especially like the thought of “focused learning”. I, too, am a life-long reader but find myself scattered in topics and always feeling behind.
    To borrow from your plan:
    Q1 (January – March): Personal Growth
    Q2 (April – June): Creativity
    Q3 (July – September): Spirituality
    Q4 (October – December): Financial Strategy

    • That’s an excellent strategy, Debi. Thank you for sharing!

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  • Hey John,
    Great post. Thanks for sharing. You’re doing some amazing stuff…..keep it up, but never ever take your eyes off the priority of being an awesome father and husband. That advice comes from a husband of almost 33 years and a father of three twenty-something boys. I feel pretty darn good about the way things have turned out so far, but there is a lot I wish I had known when I was younger, particularly about building strong relationships.
    Here’s to a great 2016 for you and yours.
    Regards, Don

    • Thanks Don! I’ll fight to keep my priorities of family and faith on top. In fact, my wife and I are going on a mini retreat this week for our two year wedding anniversary. Thanks for the inspiration of your example with your family!

  • Congratulations on 2015! Your son is beautiful. I appreciate you sharing this. I’m also working through Mike’s BYE for 2016, and I love your theme idea. I struggle with wanting to do so much that I get lost and never dive deep into any one thing. This should help me stay focused.

    I’m excited to follow your progress in 2016. I wish you great success!!

    • Hey Jenn! Glad you’re a BYE participant as well. I’m convinced that themed, focused learning each quarter will be the key to my success in the next few years. I encourage you to do the same, especially if you think the focus will help.

  • Hey John
    Congratulations on a successful 2015. I am glad you we’re a part of my journey in 2015.
    Nice of you to share photos of your family.
    I wish you a blessed and prosperous year 2016.

    • Thanks for chiming in, Wole, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with you as you got started online this year! I’m eager to see where your platform leads you in the coming year, as well.

  • Andrea

    Congratulations, John, for your son and all you accomplished in 2015! Thank you for sharing 🙂 It’s the first time I see a review of a year in a post, very inspiring.

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