2015: A year review, plus a few things I liked & learnt

Where to start?

2015 has been an eventful year. Anna and I celebrated our first (or second depending on how you look at it) wedding anniversary.

We sold our first house (twice), bought a new one (twice), and 5or6 broken new ground in many different areas.

I started a new bi-monthly event for local entrepreneurs and creatives in Loughborough called Cake and I rattled through a few books and personal goals.

All in all 2015 was a solid 7.5 out of 10. Or a 7.75 at a push.

This years goals

At the end of 2014 I made a list of 7 goals to complete last year. Some where harder than others to complete, which I guess was always going to happen. But the whole experience was incredibly fun and rewarding.

  1. Get to 10% body fat – Before the start of the year I had been working towards this so I was fairly sure I could complete this, but I didn’t realise how hard it would be. The last few weeks of my cut felt pretty brutal. I had 5 meals a day which all pretty much consisted of turkey and asparagus, with the odd bit of peanut butter, steak and rice cakes thrown in so I didn’t go insane.
  2. Competing on the track again – This was one goal I really screwed up. At the end of 2014 I was running well(ish) and really thought I was on target to compete at the end of the indoor season, but I pushed it to hard and things fell apart. Well my knees did. 3 days before I was due to compete my knees went. The pain I felt when running was far to much to bear and I had to bail on the event. The conclusion? I was so focused on competing that I started to ignore all the pains I was developing in my knees and carried on instead of taking some time off and pushing back my event.
  3. Meditate – I was sceptical about meditation and it’s actual effects yet out of all the goals I set this year, this had the biggest impact on my life. For the last 4 months or so, near enough every day I have taken time out to meditate using the Headspace app and it’s been an eye opener. I’ve always had a bit of a temper plus a tendency to react with anger to situations where I have let myself down, yet meditation has helped. I’m not saying I cured, I have good days and bad days, but the good far out weigh the bad.
  4. Present at a design conference – Out of all the goals I set, this was the one I really went for. Balls to the wall and all that. At the start of the year I sat down with Pete and we put together a idea for an event and then I went ahead and did it. So far we have run 5 events culminating with me presenting at the very last one of the year in December.
  5. Write for another blog – Do you know what, I never even attempted this one and I don’t know why. It certainly wasn’t the hardest to achieve, but I never focused on it at all. My focus seemed to shift fairly early on to everything else on my list (especially the previous challenge) and I never go going. Food for thought.
  6. Take on another physical challenge – As soon as the new year rolled on I signed up to a Tough Mudder with friends and it was great fun. If you don’t know what one is, its a half marathon obstacle course that requires team work, persistence and no fear of ruining everything you are wearing that day. You need to give this a go.
  7. Volunteer for a charity or a worthy cause – After starting up Cake this year, I felt it would be an ideal environment to help a local charity out. For the last event we raised over £400 for a local homeless charity that needed to raised £2500 for 3 emergency beds over the festive period. Our little event raised of 15% of the cash they needed, which felt pretty darn good.

A few books I liked

This year I have begun to expand my horizons on the book front. I went through around 30 of the little bastards and taken something away from all of them. Even the shit ones.

Some of the highlights have included The Art of Being Brilliant by Andy Cope, The Expanse Series by James S.A. Corey, Legacy by James Kerr, It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be by Paul Arden and Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. Yet if you’re putting me on the spot, as I know you are, the books below would have to be my favourites from last year…

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday – This book blew my (tiny) mind. I have read both of Ryan’s previous books but this one was a step up in my opinion and I honesty couldn’t put it down. This is probably the only book that I have read that every sentence delivers useable information. Accept Harry Potter.

The idea behind the book is in the title, the obstacle is the way. Or to put it more simply – that what is in the way, is the way.

Using Stoic philosophic principles from the likes of Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, Ryan guides you through everyday situations that you can turn on their heads by a simple mindset switch. It was powerful stuff, and I couldn’t recommend this book enough. If you are someone (like me before this book) who scoffs at philosophy, then this book could be a game changer for you. Stoicism is a philosophy that you can use in every day life and gives you tools to think, act and live a more productive, happy and helpful one at that. Basically this book is a big thumbs up from me.

The Fish that Ate the Whale by Rich Cohen – Ever heard of Sam Zemurray? No? Neither had I before this book but he lived the American Dream to the extreme. And then some.

Sam was a Jewish Russia immigrate who arrived in the States at the turn of the 20th century and didn’t look back. He built a million dollar fruit-selling company off the back of peddling rotten fruit, becoming a capitalist revolutionary, philanthropist and kingmaker along the way. But this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of his influence on the global events and the immensely intriguing character he was. It’s truly an incredible story that Cohen writes beautifully well.

Think Forest Gump meets Bill Gates, or as the book description explains, ‘it was a twentieth-century epic, and standing at its core is a man unlike any we’ve seen before or since, who, for good or ill, looked at what was, but saw only what was possible.’

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – I’m a Game of Thrones, Star Wars kinda guy, so when I was recommended this by a friend of my brothers last year I added it to my reading list instantly. I’m so glad I did.

This is a badass book and a great start to a series (the Stormlight Archive) that has only just begun to unravel. Brandon Sanderson is a great writer who respects the reader, with storylines and native elements are teased out with just enough revealed to allow the reader to create the rest. It’s magical.

Set in a medieval world ravaged by super storms, with a history of epic recurring global disasters that have fallen into myth and legend, the book follows a soldier come slave called Kaladin and the daughter of struggling highborn family, Shallan who is tasked with saving their reputation and lives.

A few things I picked up along the way

  • Happiness, like every other emotion can be a choice, it’s how you choose to be and how you choose to react.
  • People want to help others, you just have to find the right connection.
  • Listen to my body/gut instincts.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a step back if things aren’t right.
  • I can persevere with tasks that are unpleasant if they need to be done.
  • My quote of the year – “What is on the other side of fear?” – Jamie Foxx

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