The uncommon life realized – 2011 recap & lessons learned

In 2009, amid the economic downturn and uncertainty, I had the peculiar urge to set some large financial goals, which resulted in diving head first into the previously unfamiliar world of real estate investing. I moved to Phoenix, Arizona and worked tirelessly to learn years of real estate insights in 9 months as I bought, sold, and managed a growing portfolio of assets.

2010 was a year of methodical toil, building upon systems and information learned in 2009. Unfortunately, it was not without business turmoil. With my real estate business calculatedly set on autopilot, I returned to school to complete my ‘formal education’ and then quickly started this blog (then called, Learn, Earn, and Don’t Get Burned) as a coping mechanism and outlet for my numerous frustrations regarding conventional education.

In 2011, dissatisfied with the realists’ narrative of the ‘real world,’ I set out to test, challenge, and redefine what was ‘realistic’ – and what a year it’s been.

Some 2011 highlights:

  • Traveled to 9 countries and 40+ cities – visiting many of them 2, 3 or 4 times. Some of these locations were: San Francisco, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Sun Valley, Lake Tahoe, Phoenix, Palm Springs, Dominican Republic, Beijing, Singapore, London, France, Switzerland, Hungary, Mexico, and Croatia.
  • Got married in Hungary in a 1,000 year-old castle and then married once again (same woman, different continent) on the coast of Southern California.
  • Took a full student load at USC and graduated Magna Cum Laude.
  • Started a California-based real estate and lending company, Healo Capital
  • Designed and launched the blog.
  • Acquired after 30 days of negotiation and designed and launched The Uncommon Life blog.
  • Joined the The Young Entrepreneur Council, an invitation-only organization that offers feedback to other budding ‘free range’ humans looking to lead an uncommon life.
  • Wrote and released the new Maxims for Mavericks manifesto.
  • Wrote the majority of my newest book: Be Uncommonly Productive – And released Part 1.
  • Developed the outline and rough contents for 3 more future books due for release in 2012.
  • Started work on the new Uncommon Life store due for launch in Q1 2012.

It’s certainly been a year of adventure, but not by accident. In an attempt to overcome my natural tendency to place rote work over pleasure, I set a liberating theme in January 2011: Adventure over comfort and convenience. As I wrote in this post:

“I recognized it’s all too easy to choose the path of least resistance – so easy, in fact, we often aren’t aware of when and how often we do it. It’s a paralyzing pattern to fall into. Too many people go through life hoping that adventure, excitement, and happiness finds them. Rarely, if ever, does this happen.”

You may not be able to account for and design everything that happens to you in life, but planning for excellence and adventure indisputably increases the odds of both. Realizing this, I have grown accustomed to performing a year-end review and creating a plan for the year ahead. And this is some of the most important thinking I’ve ever done.

[[Wondering where to start or how to effectively do this yourself? Not to worry… I have outlined a methodical process of analysis here: HOW and WHY you should assess your life.]]

One of the most basic forms of analysis is discovering what’s working and what isn’t. And I’m happy to share some of these insights with you. After all, I’ve always believed that “the smart man learns from his mistakes, but the wise man learns from the mistakes of others” … here’s your chance to be the wise person.


What went well:

School: Bringing my college education to a close after 8 years of pin-balling between the classroom and my office was more than a relief; it was invigorating. Unfortunately, my college experience as a whole was underwhelming and frustrating, but I did learn a lot about productivity, how to recognize and adapt to systems, and how to apply atypical rapid-learning techniques. Graduating Magna Cum Laude was a testament to these unusual lessons. I have decided to outline and share these lessons in an upcoming book titled, The Uncommon Student (more details to come in 2012).

  • Lesson: When you fully apply yourself to a demanding objective, expect to discover some uncommon insights that cannot be learned otherwise.

Productivity: Looking back at 2011, I am pleased with what I was able to do while maintaining a healthy balance between work and leisure. I was always busy, but rarely felt overworked. There is a difference and it’s an important one. I did a much better job declining and/or ignoring extraneous tasks and projects so I could focus on what was most important.

  • Lesson: The silver lining of a busy life is that it forces us to reexamine our commitments, scrutinize our strategies, and seek maximum efficiency.

Travel: I was on the road A LOT – an important 2011 goal I had set for myself. In fact, the longest I had been in one city all year was 10 days, with the average being 5 days. My suitcase was my home away from home, but oddly enough, I loved it. Although this traveling was not a vacation for me, I learned that I prefer an ever-changing work environment. With the Internet and countless other devices, apps, and services, constant travel has become a real possibility.

  • Lesson: Mixing travel and work is more gratifying than setting aside rare and infrequent trips with the purpose of idle relaxation.

Technology: I used to believe I was simplifying my life by distancing myself from many technological devices, services, and programs. I was wrong. This past year I spent much of my spare time mastering all forms of technology and have since found myself consulting with individuals and small businesses to help boost productivity, eliminate stress, and simply make life more fun and interesting.

  • Lesson: Becoming technologically curious and competent maximizes efforts, saves time, and allows for, you guessed it, an uncommon life.

Balance: Working for yourself can be tough because there is no clock to punch, no external trigger to help one disconnect from work. In the past I frequently and severely burned myself out. This year I made an effort not to overextend myself in any one area proving that strong habits and ingrained tendencies can be overcome.

  • Lesson: Balance is about prevention, not damage control (read more here)

Health: Some people claim they can work consistently and creatively without exercise and a balanced diet. In 2010, I learned I am not one of them so this past year I made time for exercise and took every opportunity to eat right. This is one of the most important contributing factors to 2011’s productivity and happiness.

  • Lesson: Energy management trumps time management (read more here)

What didn’t go well:

Product launches: As you may have noticed, I really enjoy creating new books, among other things. If time allowed, I’d write a new book every month. Ideas and drive have never been my problem. My personal challenge is marketing what I create so others know they exist. Admittedly, I have not done a good job sharing the Maxims for Mavericks Manifesto and Be Uncommonly Productive with the world. One of the things I will be looking for in 2012 is someone who can help me share my goods and services with the world via a more effective and calculated approach (know someone who fits the bill?).

  • Lesson: I am a creator at heart, not a marketer. I need a helping hand with promotion. I love traveling and bending paradigms. I created this website/blog to merge these topics. I believe it has a lot of potential, but have decided not to launch the site at this time to avoid spreading myself too thin.

  • Lesson: Putting some projects on hold can be necessary in maintaining balance and delivering higher quality work in other areas.

Commentary and interaction: While I have enjoyed seeing thousands of visitors reading my blogs from around the world, I would like to increase reader interaction. As a way to encourage more comments, I’ll be experimenting with ways to make my posts more personal and personable. Do you have ideas here? If so, post them below.

  • Lesson: TBA

Posting frequency: Writing 2 books while maintaining 2 blogs and running 3 businesses is a challenge. I would like to post more than 1.75 times per month, but that would mean less content creation in the form of books and manifestos. I’m not sure how I feel about this, so why not ask you, the reader? What do you think about the frequency of my posting on TUL and M4M? Not enough? Just right? Too often? Do you prefer 500-1,000 word posts over longer, in-depth ebooks? Why?

  • Lesson: TBA

Going forward:

Overall, I am happy with decisions and experiences in 2011 and feel I made a solid effort to embrace my theme of Choosing adventure over comfort and convenience. While I am still searching for my 2012 theme, I remain convinced that selecting a theme is a very important part of creating an uncommon life.

But that’s enough about me. What went well for you? Any lessons learned? Have a theme for 2012?  (Haven’t thought about it? Here’s an outline to help get you started.) Would love to hear all about it in the comments section below.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Stay uncommon,

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