As 2015 comes to an end, I find myself taking time to write a retrospect and reflect on the year. And after thinking about all the ups & downs, it all boils down to two things, Family & Focus, in that order.
I started out the year with a new year's resolution to "not complain as much". This fits under Family since it's so easy for me as a tired father to bitch and moan about my days with everything in-between, however the goal was about all things. I caught myself complaining last year way too much and realized no one wants to hear that crap. Everyone has their own challenges, and some who I selfishly threw mine on must have had worse. How is that fair or appropriate for anyone? It wasn't. Instead I tried my hardest to take situations that would warrant a complaint and find the good in it, or shrug it off as more of a self-directed joke than have it come off as a weak release for pity. Not only did it garner more smiles on my end, I found myself better aware of what needed to change for it not to happen again. It wasn't a perfect streak, but I'm proud to say four out of five times I nailed it.
Valerie picked up a shiny new job this year, working for the City and is almost out of her insanely long probation period. I couldn't be more proud of her and finding [as she calls it] her Life after Mommy. Now it's no longer required she discuss the importance of Mickey Mouse's latest adventure at 2p each day, rather she can have adult conversation and scale her brain in a productive manner while looking forward to coming home each night to see the kids with me. Yet even with this Monday - Friday, she needs a break as well. I was fortunate enough to get us to a trip to New York in September (more below) that gave us a great chance to waste away some days in wanderlust and even a private performance with the one and only John Legend for the Gala we attended. We hold his music close to both our hearts in a special way that brought us together. It was a personal goal that one day I wanted to find a way to get us in a room with him & a piano that was more than only a concert, and it happened. That evening was a one in a million kind of night, and brought us closer than ever.
Watching my two little ones (now 3 & almost 5) grow is the epic adventure of my life. My kids are more than a handful, it does take a village. Or better, two grown adults, a dog, and a couple iPads at a minimum. Even so, little wins like watching my oldest show me how she leaned to tie her shoes & singing movie scores together. Or having a surprising accurate and scarily educated conversation with my little one about burritos and princesses warm my heart. Not long ago I would work until 4a and sleep in until 11a most days, do as I pleased when I wanted and frequent happy hour. Now I'm a regimented father with more rules and standards than I though were possible and no room for error. It's fantastic to see how your soul can mold for the ones you love, and while I do wish I could sleep through the night more than once or so every 30+ days, I can't wait to see what next year holds for them and the life we experience together.
2015 was the year I dropped everything but what I cared to professional grow in my life. No more random freelance nor side projects without clear plans and monetization or equity in sight. My goal was to see explosive growth with Giving Assistant & ship at least one new product that mattered to me. I'm so proud to say I overachieved on both.
In 2015 for the first time in my life a company I co-founded reached profitability. Not only is it profitable, we got it to black in under a year of launching the product. Giving Assistant is a mission driven venture. We felt that if we made it ridiculously easy for others to save for their families or give to the causes they love, then millions more would. So far the verdict says we're right. We're doubling our company size next year, working towards converting to a B-Corp and on track to donate over $1,000,000 to our members charities by EOY 2016. If this is what success feels like while being socially responsible and caring about the work we do, bring it. [Link]
VSporto, and the complete overhaul of our mobile and web apps. Since day one in 2011 I'd written almost every line of code for our technology. Platform, backend, scalability, mobile, analytics, you name it. We decided it was time to pull in some dedicated resources that could give platform, native mobile and mobile web the love that was needed with some funding, and the results were astounding. After grueling planning and overhaul, we're now getting more listens and traction than ever while being syndicated and shared in more channels than ever. The team loves what they do, and we're 21 stations strong with sights on expansion. [Link]
KinShip, is a way to give moments that matter to those you love now and in the future. Not every photo needs to be on Facebook, and few need hearts and to be re-shared when you think about it. What started as a goal to leave a legacy, turned into something personal and meaningful, and I'm proud to have shipped it. So much, my partner and I even filed a provisional patent for the tech. Where it gets different, and fun is that last part above, locking them for the future. With KinShip you can privately share a personal timeline with your closest family and friends, and even share a birthday wish for the years to come. I'm excited to see what's next. [Link]
For Purpose Causes.
RYOT, what a team, and what amazing growth. When I started helping the RYOT team a few years ago, the site was clunky and page loads averaged 12s. Over the years I've engineered a stack that scales Wordpress to millions of sessions and 400ms median load times under scale. 2015 was the year of the White/Black - White/Gold dress madness. RYOT hit front page of Google + Google News that day and we scaled to 30k people on the site in 10 minutes with no downtime. RYOT is focusing now more on VR and I'm proud to be part of that, trying new things and writing the rules. We launched an immersive VR app showcasing documentaries and 360 news. [News Site Link / VR Link]
Pencils Of Promise. Last year, Bryn (cofounder of RYOT) recommended The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun (co founder of Pencils of Promise) and while I'm not a big reader, I picked it up and couldn't put it down. So much that it inspired me to change my professional career and life focuses to work on more things that mattered to me. Early this year I reached out to them when I saw some website issues and offered to help fix them up. In my mind, it was the least I could do in paying it forward for the inspiration I received from the book's message. Emails turned into calls, calls into hangouts and deep chats on growth, and then to an advisory role on the marketing team that was being built. Already as a big believer and advocate of primary education, I was thrilled to accept the role to be part of their close-knit team to bring literacy to millions of children worldwide. With this, we attended the Gala a few months back on Wall Street and raised almost $2mm for education in one night. This year I laid lots of foundational pieces for tracking and in the platform for growth, and can't wait to see what we can do together in the new year. [Link]
So, that was my year. Am I crazy to say I still feel like I should have worked harder? 2016 for me isn't a cliche quote or some magical mirage I'm reaching to grasp. It's another day and another challenge to face and overcome. Luck is a derivative of sweat and I'm pumped to roll the dice and run the marathon. The coming year is going to test my limits more than ever, and I can't wait.
Happy New Year! 🎉