My 2016 in Review

My 2016 in Review

You know that feeling you have when you put something off for a very long time? Something that if you got around to it you would be feeling a lot better, but you keep putting it off because it’s been built up to something so big now that you don’t even know where to start?

I’m not talking about cleaning the house, or taking on a gym membership, although both of these fit the profile. I’m talking about writing, my need to write specifically, and how over time I’ve let it languish and sputter and dissolve. I feel like I’ve lost a part of me, and so here is an attempt to bring it back.

Allow me to backpedal.

I blogged before the term blogging was popularised. I maintained an OpenDiary for almost a decade before the site was taken down. I committed 10,000+ posts to an online dance music forum sharing all sorts of personal nuggets. I dipped in and out of blogging more conscientiously, with presences on Marshwah.com, WordsToLiveBi.com, before settling on this resting place of LukeMarshall.net. I crowdfunded and self-published a memoir four years ago, trying to share things about my mental health and sexuality in a way that shone light on issues dear to me, while also achieving some sort of catharsis.

I share this not to big note myself, or to talk about one presence over another, but to share that it’s in my nature to share. A lot.

So that nagging feeling that I hinted at above, the sensation that I should be writing more, originates from a long history of sharing, and that’s what I intend to do in my review of 2016.

I’m going to share more than I have in a long time, and then I’m going to reflect on it, pore over it, give it to my wife to read, and then potentially release it into the wilderness. I’m going to talk about my health, my commitment to change, where I fucked up, what I’m going to do about it, and why I’m fortunate. This is an honest appraisal of my year, and I’m recording it in the vain hope that I:

  • start writing more
  • learn something and not make the same mistakes again
  • grow as an individual – so I can be a better husband, a better family member, a better friend, and a better person.

As this is going to be a big share – I’m going to provide you with a table of contents.

How this idea came about

Career: What I learned quitting two jobs this year
– Quitting Facebook
– Joining an agency and lasting 6 months
– What 3 months of job hunting feels like

Life: It happens
– Things change in a snap
– The best day of our lives

Family and Friends: Ebbing and flowing
– The ups and downs of family planning
– Our family is close
– Relationships drift

Health: A line in the sand
– Where it needs work
– My commitment to myself

Personal development: Making the right investments
– Investing in myself the wrong way
– The write time
– The itch that won’t go away

Spirituality: How its important
– The unshakeable sense that there’s a greater something

Where to now?

How this idea came about

Chris Guillebeau is a writer that I’ve admired for a long time. I remember reading his Guide to World Domination manifesto and being inspired. I went on to follow a lot of his work, absorbing The $100 Startup, and attended his annual World Domination Summit a few years ago.

I was even lucky enough to have lunch with the guy when I worked at Google:

Having followed Chris’s work for some time, I was surprised to see that he was struggling with his annual review this year. This is something he’s done for 10 years, and something I have done sporadically during my time online and writing. In the article, Chris suggested trying your own method of review and seeing how it goes.

Given my frustration over my lack of writing of late, combined with that nagging feeling that I need to share, I thought that I should do a review of 2016.

So with that in mind, let’s start with how I quit Facebook (the company, not the platform).

Career Lessons: What I learned quitting two jobs this year

Quitting Facebook

In March 2016 of this year, I decided that I was leaving one of the best employers in the world. I had one of the best managers I’ve ever had the privilege of working for, was surrounded by a gun team, and was responsible for building relationships with some of the top advertisers in Melbourne.

The role had its ups and downs (like any role does) but it just wasn’t aligning with the internal drive engine that I’ve come to rely on throughout my career. Since then, I’ve reframed my desire to work with businesses that I can help take from 0 to 10, or 10 to 100, rather than a well-established entity like Facebook.

While this framing sits well with me now, there’s a number of things I can draw from it that I can only appreciate with hindsight.

I didn’t leave every stone unturned. My role was challenging in that we had sales targets and had to constantly invent new ways of meeting them. I had a quarter where my numbers were sliding, and rather than adopt an inventive mindset and accept the challenge for what it was, I looked for reasons I didn’t want to be in the role and found them. Since then, potential future employers had raised the question of grit and staying power and my answers for them and myself haven’t been satisfactory. This realisation led to me thinking long and hard about my next move and required a lot of soul-searching. I do believe you can outgrow roles and should chase opportunities that present themselves, but there’s a difference between that and generating your own opportunities because you’re currently frustrated.

Leaving a big tech company is a very big deal. I remember departing Google. I was feeling very raw from a bad experience with a manager and was glad to be parting ways. At the time, I wrote about my experience, hit publish, and quickly took the article down as I realised I was still too emotionally involved. Reflecting on what I said about it this year it’s nice to see I’ve got a more rounded perspective.

With Facebook and the time I’ve had away from it now, I can write with such perspective too. In my decision to leave, I was saying goodbye to a really generous salary, generous commission, stock options, private health insurance, extended paternity leave, and an array of smaller perks that make me cringe with deprecation. Combining that with my acknowledgement that I could have done more to make myself stay is a bitter pill to swallow. Leaving such an employer is a very big decision, and while I still accept and am glad with what I’ve learned from moving on, I have a newfound appreciation of the gravity of that decision.

I jumped out of the frying pan, into the fire. In my eagerness to generate opportunities outside of my role at Facebook, I started speaking to a number of trusted contacts. Did I canvass the market and take a measured approach to selecting the next opportunity? I don’t think so, I jumped into the next opportunity I created with both feet and barely looked behind me. Which leads me into my next career lesson.

Joining a creative agency and leaving after six months

 Chatting with my manager at Facebook, she recounted the role I’d been offered:

“So it’s biz devvy, working within a creative agency, and working with startups?”
“Yep.”
“This is perfect for you!”

On paper, it was.

Throughout my career I’ve dipped in and out of the startup world. I have attended meetups like Silicon Beach and Pitch Nights. I consulted with startups Pozible and YourGrocer to assist with their digital marketing efforts. I’d worked with tech companies and excitedly followed that world from within and afar.

So imagine my delight when I was brought on to work at a creative agency and help build out their startup department.

CHE Proximity Spotfires Gig

The role was new, challenging, and required a lot of learning and disrupting. The learning came with absorbing the ways a creative agency operated, the disrupting stemmed from having a healthy disregard for these ways and adapting solutions to meet the needs of a startup.

This was a tough brief. I struggled with pushing work through like a suit, connecting creative ambitions with startup budgets, managing the world of digital production, keeping stakeholders happy, and overseeing a P&L. Also over this time period, my fiancée smashed her ankle and we postponed our surprise wedding (more on that later).

All of this was pretty trying and my enthusiasm ebbed and the output reflected that.

After my decision to leave, it was acknowledged that taking me on for the role was a bit of an experiment, and I had my own vision and ideas for what the role could have been. Despite this, something senior management said has stuck with me and has me looking at things with more perspective.

“Ultimately you’ve got to take responsibility for what you do.”

Looking back on how I handled things, I definitely could have been clearer about how I managed that responsibility and what I did with it. I’ve since read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and there’s a concept in there that builds on what the manager was saying.

Effective people are those who focus on events they can control. Ineffective people focus on things they can’t control. Things like what people say, what other people are doing, or reasons why they think something won’t work.

I don’t want to dwell on it, but I could have focused more on the former and got busy with the elements I could control.

The experience overall however, was incredible. I was gifted a hand-painted watermelon with a wealth of signatures from an array of awesome and talented people. We shipped some great work, including the Unpitch event we co-hosted with Startup Victoria:

Most importantly, and what I consider a cornerstone for my ongoing development is the fact I learned more in the six months of that job than I did in the preceding 12 months with my former employer. The learning curve was that high, and I appreciate the understanding I gained of what it takes to run a leading creative agency.

When it became obvious that the gig wasn’t working for me, I very quickly decided I wanted out, and did something that was risky. I left without a job to go to, and relied completely on my safety net. Which became the next career lesson.

What 3 months of job hunting feels like

Around two weeks into the job search, I wrote an article called When Life Gives You Melons: a week in the wilderness as a digital job hunter. The article did a great job of capturing what it felt like to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after leaving your employer. I shared some of my newfound wisdom, got a good response on LinkedIn, and then went three months without netting a job. It sucked!

I may be oversimplifying things here, but looking for a job when you’re unemployed is hard, and even harder when you’re being fussy about what you want. Given I’d had a short stint on my resume, I wanted to be really, really sure of my next move and needed to articulate ‘why’ I wanted to work there (and did I want to be employed? I cover that chestnut later on too).

Fortunately, I found my why. It was spurred on by a comment from an acquaintance:

It was a fair line of questioning. I could write about job hunting. I was probably even talented enough to secure interviews and convince people I was right for their job. But what was my why?

Enter Simon Sinek.

Simon has one of the most popular TED talks of all time and has built his name on helping people and organisations find their ‘why’. I enjoyed his talk so was already primed when I saw an advertisement for his Start With Why course and was on the hunt for some purpose.

“You don’t need a course to find your purpose love”, said my fiancée.

I’m sure there are other ways of getting there, but I ploughed ahead and purchased the course. It worked.

The course is about 9-10 hours of work on major life and career experiences. The course prompts you to reflect on what happened in those moments and recount them with a partner. The course advocates grabbing a friend or someone impartial to you to run through it with but I found that to be a tough sell. I contacted a few friends at short notice to commit to a 3 hour or so exercise to help me find me but strangely enough I couldn’t entice them.

So, despite the course suggesting otherwise, I went through the exercise with my partner. This wasn’t light content. I recounted my hospitalisation with bipolar disorder, the death of my father, winning my first client, my first trip to Tokyo for work, and many other pivotal life moments that ranked -5 or +5 on the scale.

Ranking life moments

Over those few hours, my partner and I took time outs every now and then to talk real, and then go back to the exercise. As part of the exercise, my partner was searching for patterns in the way I spoke, watching my body language as I explained things, and other emotional cues that would point to things that light me up.

We then recounted things and workshopped some themes from those findings, eventually resulting in me workshopping my ‘why’. The result:

To inspire, create and collaborate with people so that we can bring more awesome into the world.

It fit. I was deep in the process with an offer for one company yet turned it down as it didn’t ladder up to my why.

The next three months were hard, as opportunities didn’t follow a linear smattering, they clumped together and ebbed and flowed. I had to be clear about what I wanted, and also be very disciplined in chasing down opportunities that didn’t fit.

Around the time of our wedding, I had generated a number of opportunities I was excited about and had an enticing offer from a startup called 90 Seconds.

I asked for the honeymoon to think about it, and they were very accommodating. By the end of the first week of our holiday, I had done enough thinking. I had a good vibe during the recruitment process, the company’s mission is to help more businesses create more content, and this laddered up wonderfully up into my ‘why’ statement. I emailed them and let them know I would accept the offer.

The last month or so of 2016 career-wise has been fun. Throwing myself into a new and challenging role. Coming home and excitedly telling stories to my wife. The thrill of putting myself out there and closing deals. If you’re looking for video content to be created let me know!

It was a tough year, but what happened in my career was only a fraction of the story… 

Life Lessons

Things change in a snap

I remember my friend’s tone of voice. We had been partying the day after a wedding and it was getting later in the night. I was begrudging the music stopping soon, and my friend said:

“Marshy, you better go over there.”

My fiancée was on the floor surrounded by friends. There was a bit of commotion, and some debate over the severity of the injury. She seemed to have rolled her ankle on the way to the toilet, but the amount of pain she was in seemed disproportionate to the assessments being thrown around.

We were in a really remote campsite, but were fortunate enough to have a cabin in which she could rest. My friend drove us up the hill, and we tried to rest with the ankle raised, some Panadol, and the wearing off of the alcohol. Only it didn’t work. My poor partner was in pain the whole night. It became unbearable by 6am, and against better judgment, I had to drive her to the nearest hospital, which was 30 minutes away and in Lorne.

It was a long weekend, but somebody was on standby and let us into the hospital. A doctor was called in and x-rays were taken. The doctor was incredulous.

“You need to take her to emergency for surgery right away.”

That was a 2.5 hour drive away back to Melbourne. We’d both had very little sleep. There was a chance I could still be over. We looked at each other. This story was getting worse and worse.

I regrouped, grabbed a coffee for both of us, and drove the car to the city with my fiancée in the backseat of the car in a cast. On the outskirts of Melbourne a breathalyser unit flagged us down and I legit browned my pants. I blew negative and kept going. I could have broken down crying with relief.

We got to the hospital’s emergency department and the professionals took over. My partner was put on all sorts of drugs as they did their best to assuage the pain. None of it was helping. The low-point was when they tried to reset the dislocation, and the swelling pushed it back out.

It turned out to be a very bad accident for her. Broken in three places, dislocated, five days in a hospital, and four weeks off work.

Partner with broken ankle

We learned a lot about each other over this period. We joked about the “in sickness and in health” clause for our impending wedding. We cried. We fought. We helped each other navigate what was a really tough scenario.

As I mentioned in the career section – work was tough, but more importantly, we had to decide what to do about our planned surprise wedding. I suggested we postpone it and my partner agreed. It was becoming too hard basket to pull off mid-year and we thought people would understand if we moved it.

The experience brought with it a lot of sobering up and appreciation for what it means to be able to walk. The accident itself seemed so innocent yet the resulting after-effects impacted our wedding plans, our day-to-day, and our work lives.

The best day of our lives

After the ankle incident and deciding to reschedule, there were a number of phone calls and international people to notify. The dynamic of our wedding changed significantly. We didn’t feel right obligating international friends to make the trek for an engagement “surprise” wedding, which actually worked in our favour after the accident. It did jerk around our interstate friends, some of whom had already booked flights to Melbourne. We did the call around, and here’s how the phone calls went:

“Hey there, you know how Vanessa’s broken her ankle?”
“Yeah.”
“And you know how we were going to have our engagement party?”
“Yeah.”
“Well it was actually going to be a surprise wedding and we’re checking if you’ve booked flights and we’ll pay for them to move and we’re checking what dates might work for you if we moved it and…”

It was a hot mess. Enter one of the groomsmen who works on a very tight schedule in a very senior role and was taking a month’s worth of leave later in the year.

Then combine it with the availability of the celebrant, the availability of the venue, and the fact I was out of a job and looking!

In the end, despite our best efforts, we couldn’t make everything align. One of the interstate groomsmen missed out, but we did get the venue date moved, and did get our original celebrant. As we were making it a more “official” wedding now, we also skipped having just a reception and added a ceremony across the road from St Andrew’s Conservatory at Melbourne Museum.

There’s a lot that goes into planning a wedding, so much more than I ever previously gave credit. Another special shout-out to my wife for carrying the baton and being a stickler for detail. We had some really testing moments in the lead-up to the big day, and I’m lucky she had patience with me and I’m glad I pulled my finger out.

It all melted away on the day. I was advised by various newlyweds that the day just goes like that. I wish it could have gone forever.

We spent the night before away from each other and I had a few quiet beers with my groomsmen the night before and must have woken up at 4am primed and ready. I settled back down, brunched and reflected with my friends, and slowly got ready with a camera pointing at me.

“You’ll have to get used to this!”, my friend stated, and somewhere along the way I let it flow.

That flow transcended every emotion I’d ever imagined. There was a delicious combination of butterflies, delight, ecstasy, and assuredness that came with knowing you were marrying the one.

We arrived at the venue and it was not without drama. There are a few things I didn’t know about being the guy that is getting married. One thing is that everybody you’ve invited wants to wish you well and personally greet you on arrival, which I wasn’t expecting and was more flustered than I would have liked. Another thing is that you can’t control the weather – and the impact this had on arrival times caused mayhem. The rain inflicted as much tardiness as it could, with guests arriving at the last minute, my sister almost missing out completely (a random stranger finally drove them to the venue when they couldn’t flag a cab or Uber with a little one), and the resplendent bride arriving and needing an umbrella.

After that, the drama dissipated. My wife looked amazing, handled herself with grace, and was more composed than me. We floated down the aisle to an overwhelming feeling of love in the room. We had handpicked the people we wanted in the ceremony and you could feel the warmth.

The ceremony had our personalities written all over it. In-jokes, acknowledging that love should take place between two people (not a man and a woman), the odd pun reference, and laughter all over the shop. It was so pleasing to declare our love in front of this audience, and it felt like a privilege to be doing so within the confines of the museum.

The Best Day of our LivesPhoto Credit: Karl Grenet Photography

I remember the kiss, the walking down the aisle, and the celebrant shouting, “raise the roof” for the married couple. It was uproarious.

The rest of the night blended together. We took photos in and out of the rain (it was pissing down), got to the reception, and danced and mingled with as many guests as we could. I never thought about it before, but you don’t get to spend that much time with your partner at a wedding reception. We divided and conquered. One of the good tips we received was to break away and have the odd private moment, so you could soak up the occasion and savour it. Another was to have friends fetch you drinks – you’re talking so much that you barely give whetting your whistle a thought.

The speeches were exceptional. Ours was a cocktail wedding, so we didn’t want to keep them for too long, and there was the right blend of acknowledging and thanking people and moving right along. My mother outdid herself. Calling out mental health specifically and how it’s an issue that should be discussed – not swept under the carpet – I really appreciated it.

There was great music, ample food and drink, and dancing, but it all wound up sooner than I expected. My wife and I bade our farewells and got back to the hotel in an Uber.

We spoke and recounted excitedly long into the night. It was such a fun and unique experience to absorb. I couldn’t believe how magical it felt and it was such an honour and privilege to share it with my wife. The elation on the day was palpable and the escalating tension in the lead-up was released like a pressure valve in the best possible way.

With my job movements sorted we took the honeymoon and I’m very glad we did it straight after the wedding. The two weeks following were very special and just the right kind of relaxing. It had all the ingredients you’d imagine a honeymoon would, which is probably a good segue into family.

Family and friends: Ebbing and Flowing

The ups and downs of family planning

Late in 2015, we went through a miscarriage. This was an awful experience to go through and the highs you experience in looking forward to something were ripped away. People don’t talk about miscarriage, until it happens and you learn that others close to you have been through the same and then it’s not spoken of again. In our initial excitement, we grappled with who to tell and who not to tell. Ultimately though, you want your support network around you when these things happen so we shyly revealed what happened to those who mattered.

This spilled over into 2016 with my working life. I didn’t handle things very well and went back to work too early. I was short with clients and finding fault in things I ordinarily wouldn’t – which isn’t my style at all. It took a while to find my head again.

A lot of 2016 has been about recapturing something we lost and for want of a better term we’ve been trying. This has taken some adjusting to. Up until this point my adult life has revolved around gigs and where we are drinking this weekend. Yet, in order to make things happen something has to give, and in this area I’ve decided to give things up – more on that later.

As the year ends we’re exploring our options. IVF is something that I’ve always heard vestiges of yet never really explored. This is now becoming a reality and while the thought of setting ourselves up for disappointment is there, I see no other option other than to do everything in our power to realise our wishes.

Hopefully 2017 brings some good news in this department. Family is important to me, which is what I’m going to talk about next.

Our family is close

There’s a huge amount I could say about family, and on this subject this sharer gets a bit reticent. It’s all well and good sharing what goes on within my immediate world, but it’s another compromising the privacy of others. I haven’t helped things in the past by writing a book about my earlier experiences and there’s the added complication of having my wife’s family on board too.

I will say this. 2016 was a trying year. I try to carry my head high and be there where I can but it’s hard sometimes. Families come with long histories and sometimes it’s hard to navigate the relationships that are most important you.

My Nana passed this year after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. It’s an absolutely awful way to go. In some ways, with the loss of her mind, I’d already said goodbye. Yet in other ways, and seeing the impact she had on friends and family, it was a new kind of farewell. I delivered my first eulogy, and I’m glad we were able to help let my Nana finally rest.

There were other things that happened this year that I’ll leave – in reviewing the year it’s enough to acknowledge it like that and move on. Which leads me to my wonderful friendships…

Relationships drift

Having a wedding is an odd time for friendship. At any other time in your life you can let relationships ebb and flow, yet when it comes to dishing out invitations to your big day you need to take stock of where friendships are at and make some calculated decisions. I have a broad group of friends and pride myself on keeping in touch. Yet the costs and practicalities that go into making a wedding make tough decisions inevitable. This wasn’t fun.

That’s not the only way I’ve been forced into evaluating the states of relationships however. My adult life, and my social circle, has largely been built around parties, drinking, and clubbing. This mentality and approach, which has been very kind to me over the years and crafted all sorts of wonderful friendships and memories has started to change. It’s not overt, and it’s not like flicking off a switch, yet priorities are shifting and you start to notice who is buckled in for the long haul and who you’re allowing to drift.

I was talking about it with one of my besties the other day. They pointed out that the impact of this shift is probably more pronounced for someone like me given how much I’ve prioritised parties and good times in the past. This is probably true. I was also single for a lot of this time and keen to meet people.

I don’t think family aspirations are the only catalyst for this shift, there’s only so many late nights you can take before you start to think there might be something else. It’s just taken me a while to get there. My Summer used to feature gigs, festivals and strategic days off work, now it’s building towards something with a different focus, and this pleases me.

So I’ve got family goals, and my friendships are shifting. For me this means I need to take a long, hard look at my health.

Health: A line in the sand

Where it needs work

I’ve been a heavy social drinker since my late teens. A night out is 6+ beers. While it started in my teens, I’m now early-mid 30s and it’s still been the default approach. I love a wine, a whisky (I just paused my monthly subscription) and am quite partial to a dark stout. I have an app my friend got me onto called Untappd, that lets me track the various beers I imbibe.

I’ve never thought of any of this as a problem. Working in tech/advertising/sales it is par for the course. Sure I could lose a dozen kilos but the two are unrelated right? I’m in the midst of trying to create a family but the odd night out wouldn’t hurt would it? I’ve got cabs home as the sun is rising on Sunday morning but that’s not going to hurt my work performance is it?

I have no doubt there are people out there that can carry off all of the above and still bring their A-Game. I’m not one of them. With my ambitions, both family, career, and personal development-focused, I can no longer afford to be running sub-optimally.

2016 was no different. Parties, drinks, overindulgence and all in the midst of trying to find myself, and take my career up a notch. There’s been a dull nagging in my mind that something isn’t quite right here. I’ve caught myself Googling terms like “giving up partying” and “dry July” and “surviving without alcohol”. There was an article I read in VICE (of all places) where I found myself identifying with the author an uncomfortable amount.

Marshy Drinking

I remember a conversation I was having with the same bestie I mentioned earlier, a guy I’ve partied unhealthy amounts with, and joked about – how somewhere along the way – I overtook him and I was the one pushing the limits. His nod of recognition was frightening.

“Yep, if we went to a warehouse party tonight I’d be more scared of what you’d push me to do!”

What have I become? To what extent do I draw a line in the sand and say “today I’m going to get my shit in order”. Well I no longer need to, because that day has arrived…

My commitment to myself

The year was messy. My weight is not where I want it to be. We’re trying to maximize our fertility chances. I’ve partied too much. If I were too look at all these things together and try and isolate one thing I could do to improve all of this – it’s to give away the alcohol for a while and watch the impact.

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to getting your life in order, but I think this is a damn fine round in the chamber. By taking it away, and seeing where improvements can be made, I’m hoping to see some movement in the areas that are important to me.

I’m committing to three months away – and am seeing how it goes. I’m secretly hoping I’ll love it and it will be longer, but only time will be able to tell that. Enough is enough. I’ve done enough living large for now!

So far my review has been filled with admonition. I do this to grow, and to reflect on the year as it was. Personal development is a huge area of focus for me, but sometimes I can focus too much on it.

Personal Development: Making the right investments

Investing in myself the wrong way

I have spent an inordinate amount of money on online courses. In the two years leading up to the wedding, I had spent around $9,000 on courses on side business ideas, fitness, and copywriting. I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can invest so much. I’ve enjoyed the content, applied some of it, and have failed to act on a lot more. My wife jokes that I’m easily sold to, and if there are the right triggers I certainly am.

The side business courses I’ve purchased are the most interesting to me, as I’ve long harboured ambitions of starting a business online. Earn1K on the Side, Zero to Launch, and its respective Accelerator are courses I’ve purchased and fizzled on much to my own dissatisfaction. During my time out of work, this dissatisfaction took on a whole new meaning.

Some consulting work started to come my way, and I began entertaining the notion that maybe I should go do this line of work full-time. I’ve got the skills, my debts were gone, and I was gaining confidence in my capabilities and what I could achieve.

I was absorbing more content than ever, which lead me up the garden path of consulting coaching. There was the name of a coach whose name kept reappearing everywhere I looked. I listened to this coach share his stories, give advice, and it all made a tremendous amount of sense. This led to me booking a free 20-minute chat with him that went for about an hour. He shared all sorts of pointers, gave me loads of advice about what I could be doing, and essentially – sold me the dream.

A year of coaching from this guy was going to cost almost $10,000. I sat on the offer. It was four weeks before our big day. I needed a job. It’s a crazy amount to spend when we’ve got a wedding to pay for. Then, without speaking to my fiancée, slowly talked myself into it. I looked up consultants the coach had mentioned and checked them out. I cold-called one and spoke to her about the value the coach brought. I did the math in my head and even did projections about what I could be earning consulting in the future. I grabbed two of my paid-off credit cards, and said “yes” to a purchase that I should not have been making.

I don’t know what I was thinking. I jeopardised the finances of us. I breached my fiancée’s trust. Had I even considered what the meaning of a wedding is? I selfishly put my own personal development and ambitions ahead of what was important.

This was really treacherous waters just weeks out from our marriage. When I did tell my fiancée, it was battle stations. My flimsy defence was that it was on my credit cards and she didn’t have to see that debt. She correctly pointed out that when you get married (if we did!) that it’s our debt, and what I had committed to was stupid beyond even wildest expectations.

I cringe as I type this. I put it here to pause, sit with the discomfort, and learn. There are things we could have spent that money on. There are things we’ve foregone since. The timing couldn’t have been worse. Getting married and starting a new job is not the time to get coaching on consulting.

I was a dingleberry, and I’m fortunate to have been forgiven. I spent so much on developing myself that I didn’t even look at what was enveloped around me. So where do I go from here?

The write time

Like I said at the start of this piece, somewhere along the way I lost my way. When I look at what happened with my career turns, my overinvestment in me, and my failure to embrace writing and reflection, I see someone who isn’t being true. There are two things I can do to remedy this: one is to get back into writing, journaling, and reflection, and the other is to disentangle the ego. The latter I’m covering later so for now I want to address the writing.

Writing is a habit. It’s in my nature and something I enjoy doing. I’ve been speaking with one of my writing buddies for a while and have been threatening to take on a major project for some time. There’s been an array of excuses for not moving forward with this and they’re really starting to dissipate and sound pathetic.

One thing I really struggled with in my first book was reconciling the partying with the raw experiences I went through. I’m eternally grateful for the friends I’ve made, the deep and meaningful conversations we’ve shared, and the inhibitions that have been melted while under the influence. Similarly, the amount of healing and appreciation of life I have as a result of my psychedelic experimentation is something I wouldn’t trade in for the world.

Yet there’s conflict with that attitude and the mental health recovery playbook. It’s something that doesn’t sit right with me as I look into my future. Maybe the line in the sand comes at the right time? Maybe planning a family is the catalyst I need to make peace with this conflict? For someone with my history, hanging up the partying boots is something that can only be good.

Coming back to my writing buddy, and her encouragement to take on another project, I think addressing this conflict will be key. I’ve got ideas about how the next writing project could look and writing an article like this is a step in the right direction.

The idea that won’t go away

So I’ve started a new gig, indicated I want to do another major writing project, and am in the midst of trying to become a Dad. There’s still that niggle that I want another stream of income. I’ve been a wantrepreneur for so long now (and overinvested in it to boot) that it’s become quite the thorn in my side. It’s almost like I enjoy talking about it more than doing it.

Given my investment in courses and coaching, I think that’s crazy. I’ve always got ideas brewing of course, the latest few being: an app for knowing when to keep in touch, a networking mastermind for side-projects, and simply creating some video content to get comfortable with recording my thoughts on camera.

Just like my writing, I’ve let the effort behind these ideas languish. I’ve got everything I need to execute on an idea other than perseverance – in 2017 it’s time that changed.

Spirituality: How it’s important

The unshakeable sense that there’s a greater something

This year, my spirituality suffered. My meditation was less frequent. I over-identified with what I thought. There was an unhealthy level of influence from my ego. Rather than detaching and dis-identifying with particular events, I doubled down, or even tripled down, on why they affect me and only me.

This isn’t my knack. While the term God makes me uncomfortable, I definitely believe in something. It could be called Source or The Universe or a simple acknowledgement that there are other realms of consciousness with a level of interconnectedness. I’m incredibly sure of this. I’ve enjoyed having this faith and whenever I tap into it things seem to be simpler, more enjoyable, and more in touch.

I’m not sure how I’ll explore this next year but I definitely want to, because it feels like it’s right. With the renewed focus on family and health next year, I feel like embracing my spirituality will be a critical part of my development.

Where to now?

So I’ve just recounted what happened this year. For those of you who scrolled down to the bottom to see how long this was, I’ll summarise it for you:

  • I broke down what it meant for me leaving two jobs this year, and finished with a big move to an exciting startup
  • I shared some insight into how much havoc an ankle injury can wreak, but ultimately only delayed the best day of my life occurring
  • I noted how my friendships and family relationships have ebbed and flowed this year, both styles of relationship being extremely important to me
  • I’ve committed to at least 90 days off alcohol – for my health, for my family aspirations, and to embrace some clarity
  • I over-invested way too much in personal development this year, and need to figure out a way to scratch the itch that doesn’t have me constantly spending inordinate amounts of money
  • I finished by looking at spirituality and how it needs to be a more important part of my life moving forward

I wrote all of this so I can learn from it. 2016 was a challenging year, and so if I look at my goals of sharing this in the first place, it was great to write more, it is an exercise I can learn from, and for sure it will help me grow as an individual.

With this in my mind my goals for 2017 are quite simple:

  • be the best husband I can
  • start a family
  • commit and fulfil the 90 days without alcohol and then re-evaluate my situation
  • create more
  • reconnect with my spirituality
  • continue to cultivate the relationships that are important to me

Thanks for reading, and if you’ve got any feedback drop me an email and let me know.