What my 2017 meant for my 2018: The Sabbatical

The 2017 year was a year of (mostly self-imposed) difficulties, that have led to amazing insight and changes for the coming year. Read on to find out why.

For many of us, 2017 has been a challenging year. For some, it’s been a challenging year because they’ve been emotionally involved in politics of all kinds (gender, discrimination, state- and national-level political machinations, race, and all other forms of power play). So, what’s mine been like?

Actually, looking back over the posts here this year, it’s overwhelmingly been a year of struggle for me. I started out the year by abandoning goals, in search of a theme of sustainability. You may recall from that very earliest post that this meant:

  • systemising the business
  • applying permaculture principles to life
  • to safeguard my personal time
  • to buy nothing new for a year
  • to read one book a week
  • to reinvigorate the things that make me happy.

Systemising the business is hard work

In fact, it’s much harder than I anticipated, and my inability to see the wood for the trees (and my lack of financial intelligence) caused me to make a lot of really dumb decisions. One of those dumb decisions fed my ego, and was super expensive, while not returning any tangible benefits to me. One was made based on cash in the bank rather than cashflow. Another one was based on chasing cash rather than clearly assessing the cashflow.

See the pattern? Me too.

Decisions ought to be made based on cashflow, not money in the bank. Chasing short-term cash nearly always ends up putting you in a horrible position, because it rarely works the way you want it to.

What I learned is that I had tried to create systems (with others in them) before thinking about the design. This is an indication that I hadn’t understood the permaculture principles to start with: If the system takes more to keep it running than it is generating or yielding, the design is wrong. Oh boy, how mine was wrong.

Much of the effort of the ‘hard work’ had been applied to the wrong things. Instead of protecting and uplifting the capacity to deliver, I’d started embedding inefficient administration, and then directing traffic. So, pro tip if you’re running a business: Don’t listen to the advice given to you by people who are just looking to protect their own downside, especially when they haven’t done it themselves. They might be beautiful people, but you have to make a clear decision about how you are doing things.

Despite the hard work and the almost-failure, I’m exactly where I need to be

Looking back after working out all of these knots and problems, I realised that I’m exactly where I wanted to be at the beginning of 2018: With the systems in place to scale the delivery. The key lesson I learned was that, in order to be able to find the scale, I not only need the products and sales sorted out, but I need the capacity known inside and out. Then, beyond the capacity, to know exactly how to brief others – and the impact it may have on clientele.

So, it’s been a lot of emotional, introspective struggle. But I feel like I had to learn it the hard way. (Story of my life.)

The 100 interesting conversations project

One thing I never wrote about here (amazingly) is my quest to have 100 interesting conversations with people in 2017. This was something that got me some local press coverage.

So, the question is: Did I manage to have 100 interesting conversations? The short answer is YES! I did! Not all of them were over coffee, not all of them were 1:1. Not all of them were with new people that I’d just met. But on balance, I did have 100 interesting conversations.

Here is a handful of the amazing people I have had interesting conversations with this year:

  • Neil Watt, who teaches Legal Ethics at Macquarie University and has a deep and abiding love of music
  • Mike Michalowicz, who authored Profit First (among others) – where do I start! Fascinating, all round
  • Gresh Harkless Jr, who is on a mission to tell entrepreneurs’ stories, and has a community of blogs called CEO Blog Nation
  • Paddy Neumann, who is an actual rocket scientist and is building new fuel systems for rockets here in Adelaide (he taught me a lot about the physics of rockets)
  • Cameron Scammell, who is now the COO of a large law firm, but used to be a pro basketballer
  • Fedja Zulfic, who is the product & UX guy at Accodex but travels the world playing chess (he taught me a lot about chess-as-elite-sport). I had no idea, and I’ve known Fedja for years. It blew my mind.
  • Andrea Turelli, a long-time friend who emigrated to Europe, who now hosts club experiences in Barcelona for tourists. I loved listening to how her life in Spain has changed how she speaks English.

… and so many others!

Reflecting on how amazing this is, I’m considering extending the project out for another year, just because it’s brilliant.

Did I actually buy nothing new this year?

Not for the whole year, no. Six months: No worries. But the whole year was super difficult, it turns out!

I discovered, doing this, that I do have a tendency to buy books to make myself feel better. And that sales are really hard to beat. And that sometimes you just really want a brand new pair of shoes.

What this taught me, though, is that:

  • When you ask a group of people via text message if they have a certain thing they no longer need, they are amused ‘because it’s like before we had Facebook’
  • People are happy to give you things they don’t have any more
  • People are happy to share things (e.g. their fancy dresses they barely wear)
  • Consumerism is in you whether you think it is or not.

It turns out I can be super judgemental about people’s buying habits, which is possibly not helped by the fact that my husband buys new things almost every single day. My house is overflowing with stuff. Stuff that isn’t my stuff. Not buying new things in that environment is really hard.

But, I’m determined to reboot this with a different attitude. Rather than thinking about not buying things, I’m now thinking more about how can I maximise whatever comes in? And given books really are my weakness, I’ve rebooted my library memberships and am going to lean on them much more considerably in the coming year.

Who knows, I might even give a load of things away.

The reading goal fell short, by 22 books

In 2016, I read 40 books. This year, I set a stretch goal of 52, but didn’t get close. I’ve read 29 and have 3 on the go at the time of writing.

While I like to think that this is because I read a load of long books (for example, The Fifth Discipline, The Complete Works of Franz Kafka, a collection of Australian Best Essays etc), I just actually didn’t read every day. If I did, I probably would’ve gotten closer to my total from last year. Still, 29 books ranks in my top 3 years of reading since I started the Goodreads challenges way back in 2012.

If you’d like to have a look at the books I’ve read this year, check out the list here.

Reading e[X]positio might make you think I’m a drama queen

And you wouldn’t be far wrong. Much of 2017 I’d spent in a state of emotional struggle. You can see it in my desperate attempts to lift myself up. For example, the Entrepreneur’s Haiku, the discursive reflections about mindset; in creating change that challenges the ego; and so on. Much of the year felt like trying to roll a giant boulder up-hill, and all because I was doing things the wrong way. I’ve had an idea (probably a misguided idea) that if it’s difficult, it means it’s the right way forwards. So, embrace the challenge.

I still think that this is often the way forward, for lessons that one really does have to learn (like my money lesson, see above). But there are shades, sides, and tones on the lessons. For example, approaching a problem from the perspective of design makes you evaluate it in a different way. And then sometimes there are spiritual and personal aspects that are just aways going to trip you over.

About halfway through the year, my coach asked me what is the big deal if something strokes my ego? I found it difficult to explain, to him why it is a big deal. But I have a sense that dealing with ego is like a life challenge of mine: Something I’ve been reading about since I found the I Ching in a library when I was a kid and felt strongly that I needed to be able to understand it. What I hadn’t been able to articulate until recently is the fact that my ego trips me over. It always has done, ever since my primary school teachers talked about how I set expectations for myself; ever since my dad saw fit to give me little pep talks about pride. All of that was about ego, really. So, I’m learning – slowly.

However, the year has truthfully been utterly beneficial, in all of its shades. I learned loads of things:

  1. how to approach business finance
  2. how to make good decisions, for myself
  3. how to make good decisions, for my business
  4. how to evaluate the decisions I’m being led towards by others
  5. how not to scale a business
  6. where to find leverage
  7. what is really important to me.

One of my mentors reminded me just before Christmas that there is room for everything, and that the common entrepreneurial narrative isn’t valid for most of us. Sometimes things have to take a different shape, and that’s ok.

This is how I’m seeing things, with the glory of 20/20 retrospective vision. What does this make 2018?

2018: The year of just letting it ride

I decided that I’m going to just let it ride in the coming year. I’ve reduced my working hours, so that I can spend a full day every week on my personal creativity projects and writing (follow me on Patreon, or on Twitter using the hashtag #LeticiaWrites to join that adventure).

In a sense, the year will be a sabbatical year: Doing what I can to deliver on promises to clients, overflowing work out to others wherever necessary (now that I know how and why), and not doing anything new. I’ve got 4 weeks of leave booked throughout the year, I have books and ideas already started.

I’m planning to go and study for a Permaculture Design Certificate in 2018, which will form one of my weeks off. Besides that, I’m just going to let things fly, while still putting into practise the idea of resource capture and creation, in all other areas. If nothing else, it will yield some interesting results.

Hilariously, while writing this, my husband came in and whispered, Are you working? Are you on a working holiday? 

No. No, this year I very definitely am not.

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