Oh boy, it’s been... Well, it’s been a year.
I think reflection is an important skill to have. Self-reflection, especially. It’s important to understand how you chose to do the things you’ve done and why you made those decisions. Learning about your thoughts and motivations can help you become a better person. Or if not better, then at least a more prepared person.
I want to use that preparation to avoid making the same mistakes I’ve made before. It was George Santayana who first said:
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
I don’t want to be a condemned man in any sense of the word. I don’t want to repeat the same dumb mistakes I’ve made in the past. Who wants to keep reliving that terrible “Best Of” playlist?
I’m not a masochist.
However, there have been events this year that were out of my control. This entire year was focused around death, I’m sad to say. In February, my dad died at the relatively young age of 66.
His death was the first major loss I’d experienced, aside from a couple pet deaths several years ago. It was a sudden loss, so I wasn’t prepared for it in any real way. It was the event that completely overtook my life and has shifted my priorities in ways I wouldn’t have ever expected.
It’s a sad thing and it will never not be. I’m expecting his death to have created a major hole in my heart that will last for the rest of my life.
However, it’s also inspired some wonderful change in myself.
A few months ago, I stepped away from filmmaking to create Dandy Cat Design. I made that decision because I wanted to find a way to be closer to my family and my girlfriend. Having to travel to and from Orange County (where my video company was based) and Los Angeles every day and most weekends was not going allow me to see them as much as I wanted.
And really, who out there actually wants to spend that much time commuting? 1-2 hours each way everyday? Gross.
Dandy Cat Design has been the answer to my wish.
Creating a Squarespace web design company that allows me to be creative while working anywhere in the world each day is exactly what I need for myself at this point in my life.
Plus, I get to work with some really awesome clients.
Time for some self-reflection
I’m going to do this all in a series of questions first asked in a blog post by the awesome Paige Brunton.
1. What did I love this year?
This year has felt like the year when I learned what I truly value in my life. It was a hard thing to walk away from filmmaking; becoming a well-known cinematographer had been a dream of mine for many years.
I learned quickly that what’s actually going to bring me meaningful happiness in my life is being close to the people I love. Yes, being on a film set that’s really cooking is an unforgettable and fun experience. However, creating a life that allows me to be present with my family and friends means more to me now.
2. What did I hate this year?
I think the preamble to these questions made my answer to this one pretty clear. My dad’s death is something I didn’t know would happen, tore me apart when it did, and made me wish with everything I have that no one should ever have to feel that sort of pain.
It’s a great shame that the pain I felt is truly one of the most universal feelings we all share. Actually, forget that word “shame.” It sucks. It sucks so damn much.
I think the important realization to have after losing someone is that everyone that matters will be there for you. You never have to live alone with your pain. There will always be someone out there who will give you a hug when you need one.
3. What did I avoid doing but should have done?
I’ve avoided putting myself out there in uncomfortable networking situations when I could have been mingling with people who could hook me up with some good business.
That’s been a challenge for me my whole life. I’ve never been one to seek out strangers to talk with.
I have been to more of those events this past year than any other point in my life, though. I’m proud of myself for meeting new people and talking with them about my business. I’ve got a long way to go toward being comfortable in those situations, but I’m proud of the progress I’ve made so far.
4. What would have made this past year better?
I wish I wouldn’t have waited so long to create Dandy Cat Design. I spent a good handful of months kind of floating through life when I could have spent it starting this business sooner than I did. I had the idea to get it going back in spring, but I didn’t start it until well into the fall.
I’m going to give myself a little bit of a pass on this one considering how tough this year was. I don’t regret starting it when I did, but I still wonder what it would have been like to get this thing going a few months sooner.
5. What felt like time/money well spent?
I’m currently working on a couple of websites for some friends. I’m creating them for no charge, both to strengthen my portfolio and help garner new business.
While I’m not getting paid by those two for my services, I am gaining a better understanding of my client work process. It’s affirming to see that the hard work I put into building Dandy Cat is paying off where it matters.
Now I know with certainty that I can deliver the goods for paying clients.
6. What felt like time/money wasted?
I don’t feel like I’ve wasted much money this year. I’ve tried to be mindful of where money is going, especially during these early months of my business when money isn’t yet flowing in a steady stream.
I do feel like I’ve spent a good deal more time tinkering with my personal website when I could have been using that time to seek out and make new connections.
I have the personality of someone who likes refining the work I do to its shiniest possible point. Working to overcome that sense of having to make something exactly perfect is tough, but it’s always worthwhile.
7. What was my revenue from product/service?
I currently haven’t created any revenue for my business. That’s a hard sentence to type, but there’s no reason to lie here when it’s not really going to benefit me or Dandy Cat.
This business started a few months ago, so I’m not going to be hard on myself here. 2019 is looking like the year that will get me even closer to the life I’m working on creating for myself. I can’t wait for that.
8. Where did my clients/customers come from?
This year, my clients have come from the personal relationships I already had before starting this business. As mentioned above, I’m currently creating websites for friends. I feel those are well worth my time because of their potential.
One of the keys to networking, earning money, and becoming a company other people long to work with is making meaningful connections. Referrals from clients can spiderweb outward and draw in more work than you know what to do with. Sometimes the best way to make money is by doing things for free.
9. What do I want my life and business to look like in the new year?
I’m not crazy enough to count on every month next year being completely full of work from clients who wish they could constantly throw money at my face. That’s a long term goal I’m working toward, but it’s also important to be realistic.
I would like to have at least one paying client a month next year. That will be a great kickstart to everything I’m working on at this moment. One client a month will also allow me to spend more time with the people in my life that mean the most to me.
This has been a helpful and cathartic writing experience.
I would encourage everyone reading this to take a few minutes, sit down, and answer these same questions with complete honesty.
You don’t have to put your answers anywhere public like I have. The simple act of answering them is all it takes to gain a better understanding of yourself.
It’s often encouraged for people to write down what they imagine/desire to have in the next 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, and so on. I think a lot of people shy away from that exercise because it can shine a light on a lot of hard work they’ll have to do to achieve their goals.
However, success isn’t just handed down to most everyone. It’s something you need to work hard at accomplishing. Answering questions like the ones above is the sort of worthwhile work that will only benefit you.
Give it a try. I think you may like what you discover. The worst that’ll happen is you may not repeat mistakes you’ve made in the past.
See you in the new year, cats! 🎉
Want to read my 2019 retrospective? I think you do... Give it a look-see right here: