Earlier this year, I publicly stated a list of goals I wanted to accomplish in 2013. I stole this practice from author, entrepreneur, and a personal hero of mine Chris Guillebeau, who has been exercising this for years. In his Annual Review,  he reflects honestly on his year past and makes goals for the upcoming year.

I figured if I intended to become a great artist (which I do), then I had better learn to start stealing like one.

I was reluctant to do this. By publicly stating goals, I risked publicly failing at goals. And by standing up and expressing my intent to do some big, crazy, or weird things, I opened myself to criticism. Mostly internal criticism — writing down or verbally stating any sort of ambitious intent unleashes the dragons of doubt.

Yet I laid my faith in something I learned when I started writing publicly — whether it be writing, goal-setting, or any other initiative, I’m best motivated when the stakes are made public. I could never write just for myself. I could never take photos for my eyes only. I’m best motivated when I think someone is expecting something from me (even if that expectation only exists in my head).

I write because I think (and hope) people are reading and will gain something from the words. Maybe it’s an innate inclination to teach. Chalk it up to my fear of disappointing others. Whatever the reason, I execute my best work when that work is for something bigger than just me. I perform best when I know the performance is a public one. Goal-setting seems to be no different.

Looking Back: 2013 in Review

Here were my goals for 2013, along with my personal 1-to-5 star assessment and some color commentary:

1. Read and review 50 books.

Purpose: Learn more & keep growing; share influential books to help others grow.

[usr=4 text=”false”] I fell about 20% short of my goal, having read only 40 books in 2013. Yet even at 10 books shy, I happened to read more this year than I ever have. I’m proud of this.

Where I really fell short was reviewing books. When I started GiveLiveExplore, I had the intention of creating in-depth book reviews (see my first, The Monk and The Riddle by Randy Komisar). This proved to be really time consuming. So instead of reviewing all the books I read, I decided to do a quick teaser to the books I loved this year. The result was the blog post My Favorite 21 Books Read in 2013 (So Far).

I also started using Goodreads to track and give a 1-5 star rating on the books I read. If you’re on Goodreads, feel free to follow or friend me.

computer books
Armed and dangerous


2. Meet and/or interview 50 inspiring new people.

Purpose: Connect with inspiring like-minded people; share their stories to inspire others.

[usr=4 text=”false”] I set this goal because I believed that in order to become the person I wanted to become, I needed to surround myself with the great and inspiring people I most admired. This is a goal that will persist each year, whether I write it down or not; in essence, it needs to become a habit and part of my lifestyle.

While I can’t quantify this quite like I can the books, I’m proud of my progress here as well. I met and worked with (virtually or in-person) people I’ve long respected. Some of my writing was even read and shared by some of my biggest heroes. The highlights of this year include:

  • Meeting NYT best-selling author and entrepreneur Ramit Sethi in New York City (author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich).
  • Connecting with one of my biggest heroes, Tim Ferriss (entrepreneur, investor, and best-selling author of Four Hour Workweek, and others), as he shared an article I wrote, skyrocketing it into ‘viral’ status.
  • A similar story with Gary Vaynerchuk (author, entrepreneur, and social media genius), as he shared my most recent article last week with his 1+ million twitter followers:
  • Speaking alongside and becoming friendly with Patricia Shultz (author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die), Pauline Frommer (owner/author of Frommer’s Guidebooks), Sucheta Rawal (writer, entrepreneur, and founder of Go, Eat, Give)  at the .
  • Spending a couple days getting to know Amber Rae (founder of Bold Academy, former Seth Godin understudy, Fast Company contributor, and just an all-around inspiring badass).
  • Meeting Charlie Hoehn (book marketing guru behind several NYT best-sellers) and helping him with his forthcoming book Play It Away.
  • Working with Adele, Rob, Dom, and the other great people behind Escape The City in London.
  • Having lunch with the community manager at the Airbnb.com office in San Francisco.
  • Making fantastic Icelandic contacts as I promoted Tales of Iceland, including author Alda Sigmundsdóttir, the staff at the Reykjavík Grapevine, the marketing team at Icelandair, and the Promote Iceland team (Iceland’s tourism board).
  • Attending 3 major conferences this year (99U’s Pop-Up School, Michael Hyatt’s Platform University, and the Travel & Adventure Show) where I met and connected with some fantastic people, like Lauren Kay of The Dating Ring.
Lauren Kay actin' a fool at 99U
Lauren Kay actin’ a fool at 99U

Where I fell short was the interviewing of these inspiring people I met. This is something I plan to explore more in 2014 (in the form of a podcast or perhaps for my Huffington Post blog column). But I’ll forgive myself — even better than interviewing people is actually connecting and becoming friends with them. All in all, I’m pleased with my progress on this goal.

3. Spend 50 days abroad.

Purpose: Maintain a traveler’s mindset and keep exploration a high priority.

[usr=5 text=”false”] Somehow I knew I’d go above and beyond on this one. I spent about 80-days abroad this year:

  • About 5 weeks in Europe, including Italy (Let’s Blog Abruzzo blog conference, visiting family), Serbia (visiting friends I met last year), and Iceland (promoting Tales of Iceland).
  • About 3.5 weeks in Ecuador living out the forthcoming Tales of Ecuador.
  • About 2.5 weeks back in London working with the startup Escape The City.
Quilotoa Crater Lake, Ecuador.
Quilotoa Crater Lake, Ecuador.


4. Write 50 posts on GiveLiveExplore.com.

Purpose: Share my story with those who care; Provide inspiration, information, entertainment for those on a similar journey; Improve my writing skills.

[usr=2.5 text=”false”] I’m disappointed at my progress here. My goal was to contribute once per week on GiveLiveExplore, yet I only wrote 28 piece. Still, 28 is better than zero. But if I want to become a professional, I need to start acting like one.

5. Write or make another contribution to 50 other blogs and publications.

Purpose: Share my story and amplify my voice.

[usr=2.5 text=”false”] Wow. I fell embarrassingly short of this goal. I contributed less than 10 guest pieces to alternate, non-GiveLiveExplore platforms.

I give myself a generous 2.5-stars because what I missed in quantity of posts, I made up for in quality and impact — the ripples of those few non-GiveLiveExplore posts had tremendous reach. And if amplifying my voice was the point, I think I succeeded.

While I didn’t contribute as much writing as I would have liked, I did have the opportunity to speak at a few great conferences this year. I’ll consider that success toward this goal.

Let's Blog Abruzzo Speakers: Marco Allegri (Non Solo Turisti), Alessandro Di Nisio (Paesaggi d'Abruzzo), Katie Parla (Parla Food), and Matt Trinetti. June 2, 2013. Photo credit: Alessandro Di Nisio of  https://www.paesaggidabruzzo.com/
Let’s Blog Abruzzo Speakers: Marco Allegri (Non Solo Turisti), Alessandro Di Nisio (Paesaggi d’Abruzzo), Katie Parla (Parla Food), and Matt Trinetti. June 2, 2013. Photo credit: Alessandro Di Nisio of https://www.paesaggidabruzzo.com/


6. Perform 50 acts of kindness.

Purpose: Give more; develop a lifestyle of giving.

[usr=2 text=”false”] You know, I probably could convince myself I performed 50 random and intentional acts of kindness this year. But did I really? I can’t tell, because I didn’t track it.

Giving is a mindset, not a scorecard — so why did I try to quantify this? What gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed hopefully improves. I suppose this is why I tried to quantify something that shouldn’t really need to be quantified.

I give myself 2-stars not because I didn’t give enough this year (although I do feel like I didn’t give enough this year); I give it to myself because I didn’t consciously track it and dedicate myself to it.

I think maintaining a perpetual giving-mindset is like meditating, working out, or writing daily — it’s hard. It needs to develop into a habit to make lasting impact. I certainly feel like I could have given more than I did. Maybe giving is the kind of thing you always feel like you can do more of.

7. Attract and build a community of 500 deliberate journeyers.

Purpose: Inspire and encourage more people to become deliberate about their journey, in travel and in life; establish a tangible connection with fans and readers.

[usr=4 text=”false”] When I set this goal, it was a stretch goal for me. But thanks to the recent Tim-Ferriss-social-media-share-leading-to-Huffington-Post-blogger-thing, I almost achieved it. We have just under of 450 “deliberate journeyers” subscribed to this GiveLiveExplore email list. Thank you all for being here!

I send a postcard to every new subscriber who provides their mailing address: https://eepurl.com/iURIj


8. Publish and promote a book.

Purpose: Learn a new skill; create a digital, profitable asset.

[usr=5 text=”false”] I did it! I learned how to publish, market, and sell a book! In April, GiveLiveExplore published Stephen Markley’s Tales of Iceland, debuting as a #1 category best-seller on Amazon.com, and eventually being stocked in the two largest bookstore chains in Iceland. This is probably the achievement I’m most proud of this year, one that I leveraged into other opportunities.

Not only did we publish a book, but we hit our 2013 sales goal of over 1,000 books sold, with 4+ months to spare.

To purchase Tales of Iceland at Amazon.com for Kindle and Paperback, you can do so here: Tales of Iceland by Stephen Markley.

Tales of Iceland in Iceland's IDA bookstore.
Tales of Iceland in Iceland’s IDA bookstore.


9. Write a book.

Purpose: Attempt to create a longer-form piece of writing; share the complete story of my trip through Europe last year.

[usr=2 text=”false”] Blah. Over the past year, I’ve written about 30,000 words of a forthcoming book I plan to publish — the complete story, in every wonderful detail, of my European wandering last year. What’s disappointing is the overwhelming amount that’s still left in my head versus on the page.

But maybe I’m succeeding more than I give myself credit — after all, I’m learning firsthand what it feels like to be a miserably unsatisfied writer. I’m learning how to confront firsthand the Resistance that every writer, artist, creator, or doer feels. I’ve gotten great at internalizing the lesson: writing is a sonofabitch.

Yet I know I must make good on this goal, even if it takes years. It’s a book I think about every day. It’s inside me and it needs to come out, bloody mess and all.

“What do I feel growing inside me? Let me bring that forth, if I can, for its own sake and not for what it can do for me or how it can advance my standing.” — Steven Pressfield, from The War of Art.

10. Design and develop a physical product.

Purpose: Learn a new skill; take advantage of my attention to detail and technical know-how to create something tangible.

[usr=4 text=”false”] This may be a cop-out, but I’m going to count it, and proudly — I designed and produced the paperback version of Tales of Iceland. Instead of paying for an interior designer to design the paperback interior of the book, I decided to do it myself. I downloaded a trial version of InDesign, taught myself alongside a $50 video InDesign course, and employed Google as my 24-7 help desk. I give myself only 4-stars because I wanted to create a separate product, aside from the book.

11. Generate enough money to fund my ideal lifestyle.

Purpose: Create a lifestyle of financial freedom, doing things I love.

[usr=2 text=”false”] Ah, the money issue. Well, I’m still alive, not sleeping in gutterish things, nor dumpster diving for scraps, so I guess I didn’t fail completely at this…or maybe I just have the best friends and family in the world who let me sleep on their couches and spare rooms.

Yet the money issue is something I continue to struggle with.

Yes, we’re profitable with Tales of Iceland. Yes, I’ve hired myself out for a few freelance projects. Yes, I have some more promising prospects for 2014. Yes, I believe I’m sacrificing my earning now for the potential to earn more later. But I’m still generating a small fraction of what I use to make as an IBM consultant.

I need to get better at embracing a money-making mindset. Not for the sake of money. But for the sake of living and perpetuating the lifestyle I intend to lead. I need to get better at defining my services and selling myself.

That’s it! 2013, warts and all. Hope this candid approach to goal reviewing is as useful for you as it is for me.

Later this week, I’ll share my goals for GiveLiveExplore in 2014.

How was your 2013? Please share in the comments below.

Scotland jumping

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