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My 2014 Successes and Failures

This has been quite a year for me: I moved to a new city, wrote and launched a book, traveled, got leaner, and failed at a bunch of things.

I don’t normally do a review of my year, but looking back on the massive amounts of things I succeeded and failed at, I thought it would be useful to share what I’ve done and learned.

The biggest things I learned:

  • It’s easy to take on too much, because everything sounds amazing.
  • It’s painful to simplify after you’ve taken on too much, but the alternative is worse.
  • Growth is gradual, continual, and messy.
  • Flexibility is an amazing tool for dealing with all of this.

I’d like to note that I’m not sharing any of this to brag or imply that I’m special in any way. I just thought it might be interesting and maybe useful to get some insight into someone else’s doings.

Successes

I accomplished a lot this year — this isn’t in any order:

  1. Wrote and launched the Zen Habits book. This was my biggest project all year, and it took most of my year. I spent more than six months writing the Zen Habits book, the last month editing and revising it, and launched it about a month ago. It’s my baby, and I’m proud of it. It still has to go to print, and I have some bonus guides to write, but I consider this to be a huge success for me.
  2. Wrote and released a free ebook. On my birthday, I released a free ebook called The One Skill, about letting go. I spent about a month writing it, and released it as a gift to you guys. I’m proud of it.
  3. Improved Sea Change. Other than the book, probably my biggest accomplishment this year has been continual improvement of my Sea Change Program, which helps members change one habit each month. I implemented a better membership and payment system, made it easier to navigate, created guides and videos to help beginners learn how to use the program, added a Beginner’s Habit Program, made it easier to find accountability teams, hired two amazing Community Managers, and this month launched my best mini-course yet, Mastering Habit Skills. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I’m proud of this program, and it has helped thousands of people change their habits. More great things to come in 2015, including some new habit modules!
  4. Traveled. I traveled with the family to Mexico, Guam, and Tokyo, then with Eva and friends across Japan, and with Eva in Taipei. I had a lot of fun, saw family, learned a little of the local languages, learned history and culture with the kids. However, I did learn that traveling really tires me out, and I’m always glad to settle back into my routine at home.
  5. Moved to Davis. For a number of family reasons, my family and I moved to Davis, California at the end of May. I miss San Francisco, but I go back every 2-3 weeks to meet with friends and do some work. And Davis is a nice town. It’s been great because the kids ride their bikes more, I get to see my son Rain more, and Eva gets to see her parents more. So all in all, a great move. It does mean we’re not car-free anymore, but you can’t have everything.
  6. Helped Guampedia. I helped my mom’s non-profit, Guampedia, relaunch with a faster and cleaner design, and launch a new book (101 Amazing Facts About Guam — check it out!). OK, their team did almost all the work, but I helped in small ways. I’m still happy to put this on my list.
  7. Got leaner. I’ve been working most of this year on a training and eating plan put together by my friend and coach, Dick Talens (who’s excellent, btw), to reduce my bodyfat. I wasn’t overweight before, but I’ve lost some bodyfat and gained a bit of muscle, and am noticeably leaner. Basically, I focus on full-body strength routines, and eat fewer calories with high protein (vegan) and lots of veggies. I haven’t been 100% consistent, but I’ve done pretty well. Thanks Dick!
  8. Helped my kids. I’m not a perfect father by any means, but I do continually try to help my kids with their interests. We’re still unschooling four of the kids. This year, I learned a bit of programming with my 16-year-old son, helped my 8-year-old daughter with her blog and making videos, helped my 15-year-old daughter with her cupcake business, took a drawing class with my now 18-year-old son and helped him with his animation projects, helped my college-age daughter launch an online magazine, had them do some work for my business, helped them all learn to lift weights or do bodyweight exercises, encouraged them to run a couple of 5Ks (we trained together), encouraged them all to learn a bit of programming (the younger kids like Scratch and Lightbot). There were lots of starts and stops with all of this, but it was something I did all year.
  9. Worked on my marriage. Eva and I have a good marriage, and I’m very happy with our relationship … but no relationship is perfect. We don’t always handle conflicts that well. So we decided to take an Agile-like approach to our relationship (just started a couple months ago), and now we have weekly reviews to see how we did during the week and what we can do to improve. We’re both reading and discussing and working through a couple of books that have been helpful: His Needs, Her Needs, and Difficult Conversations. We still have work to do, but I can already see an improvement in our relationship. I’ll blog more about this next year, I think.
  10. Babauta Startup Incubator. Eva and I really want to encourage our kids to start their own businesses, for the experience and joy of it, for the learning that comes with it. So this year we made an offer to our kids, that we call the Babauta Startup Incubator. Basically: we helped them start a business with some small startup funds and a very small salary and some hands-on partnership (at first), and they give us hard work and 10% equity in the business. My daughter Chloe is launching an online magazine, and I think my son Justin is going to start an animation-related business. The other kids aren’t quite ready yet, but they might use the incubator to start a video game studio and a cupcake business, among other possibilities. This might go nowhere, honestly, but it’s a fun experiment.
  11. Might be helping to create a new app. Dick and I and our friend Adrienne are working on a new app that I shouldn’t announce yet, but it has the potential to become something great. They’re coding version 0.1 at the moment, and I can’t wait to start testing it out.
  12. Learned a lot about mindfulness. I asked my friend Susan to become my mindfulness teacher earlier this year, and with a little guidance from her, I’ve been digging deeper into mindfulness practices throughout my life. I share what I’ve learned in my new book, but it’s been a great learning experience.

Failures

I consider these “failures” to be successes, actually, in that I learned from them and enjoyed taking them on. I try not to feel bad about failures, but it’s good to show you that I’m far from perfect, and I make mistakes like anyone else.

Some of my failures this year:

  1. Two failed major projects. At the beginning of this year, I took on three new projects: my Zen Habits book, and two other projects that I had to cancel because I couldn’t focus on three at once (plus this blog and the Sea Change Program). I asked two friends to help me with those projects, and made a commitment to them, and then had to really disappoint them when I couldn’t handle all three projects. That was painful, but a good lesson for me about taking on too much.
  2. No Procrastination Challenge. In June, I took on the final challenge in my Year of Living Without: procrastination. It went really well for the first 10 days or so, until we traveled to Guam. I was so jetlagged and tired from the travels that I couldn’t focus on work. Then I really got into watching the World Cup, and my procrastination challenge basically withered away. I was embarrassed by this, and because of that (and some extreme busyness), I didn’t even write a follow-up post or wrap up my Year of Living Without. Anyway, my lesson learned is not to take on a procrastination challenge when I’m traveling, or when the World Cup is happening.
  3. No Flavor Challenge. I did pretty well at the Year of Living Without challenges, with the exception of the procrastination challenge, and the No Flavor Challenge. I struggled with these. I don’t consider this a complete failure, but a learning opportunity. My main lesson here is that if I’m going to tackle something as difficult as going without flavor in my food … I should do it gradually. I don’t know why I ignored my “gradual change” philosophy in my Year of Living Without challenges.
  4. Change Labs Beta. As I started writing my Zen Habits book, I created a group of testers that I called Change Labs Alpha. It was a group of 10 people who tested out my book as I wrote it, and gave me feedback. That went really, really well! But then I decided to expand to a group of 50 people and call it Change Labs Beta. This, again, happened while I was traveling to Guam and Japan, and things didn’t go so smoothly. I didn’t have time to fix all the problems, so basically both the Alpha and Beta programs were dropped unceremoniously. My apologies to both groups. Lesson learned: don’t overload yourself when you travel.
  5. Eating healthy while traveling. I haven’t found a good way to eat healthy while I travel. I’ve tried a few different methods, and some work but aren’t any fun, while others get ignored in favor of indulging. I’m all about indulging, in moderation. But my trips have become more indulging and less moderation, which isn’t good for me. I eat much better while at home, so I need to find a way to match that (somewhat) while traveling.
  6. Eating healthy while Eva & the kids are away. Eva and the kids have been going to Sacramento to help with her sick father, which leaves me home alone for a few days at a time. I don’t mind that so much, but I tend to revert to bachelor habits: eating junk food. I am better these days than earlier in the year, and I get a little better each time. My latest method is tossing out any junk food in the house (not a lot) right when they leave.
  7. Meditation. I’ve been meditating for years, but it’s never fully consistent. Something always comes along to disrupt the habit for me. That’s OK — I don’t expect perfection. I’m going to try to be more consistent in 2015.
  8. Learning languages, programming, drawing. I started learning languages (Spanish, Japanese), programming (Javascript, PHP, Ruby, Python), and sketching at various times. I haven’t stuck with them for very long, for reasons of busyness. I’m going to focus on one at a time in 2015 to see if I can stick with them and get past the beginning stages.

As you can see, none of these is horrible. Overall, it was a great year, and even my failures were great lessons for me, and opportunities to improve. I have lots of areas to experiment with in 2015, which excites me a lot. I really love experimenting and learning.

Above all, 2014 was a great year for me because of all of you. I have really enjoyed blogging for you here at Zen Habits for the last eight years. It’s been one of the most rewarding things in my life, and has given my life meaning. So thank you guys.

Zen Habits

Leo Babuata
Chapters
Neither Averting Nor Craving in Each Moment
How Taking Care of My Finances Changed My Life
Tips for Traveling with Kids
My Grand Travel Experiment
The Parent I Aspire to Be
The Best & Less-than-Best Motivations for Learning
The Miracle of Suspending Mis-Belief
7 Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People
Finding Motivation on Important But Non-Urgent Tasks
Learning Tips for the Top 8 Learning Challenges
The 30-Day Learning Challenge
The Place Where You Are
Feeling Determined to Change
Practicing Non-Judgment
Hold Your Own Feet to the Fire
Don’t Waste Your Opportunity
How to Beat Procrastination with Daily Training
The Time When We’ll Be Present & Content
A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method
When Others Frustrate You
Your Internet Habits Create Your Reality
The Case for Replacing Exercise with Play
Leave Yourself Wanting More
Fail Faster at Habits
The Anti-Bucket List
Getting Started with the Discipline Habit
The Case for Caring About Your Work
Questions of Priority
The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to Be More
Pare Down with the Declutter Habit
You’re Not Doing Life Wrong
Getting Lost in Just Doing
An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit
The Source of Contentment
Savor Discipline: Merge the Interests of Your Future & Present Selves
What You Can Say Instead of “I Don’t Feel Like It”
The Things That Get in the Way of Doing
The Girl Who Saw Through the Illusions
A Gradual Approach to Healthy Eating
Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself
My Typical Day: How I Get People to Think I’m Productive
The Contentment Habit
The Delightfully Short Guide to Reading More Books
In Praise of Limits
The Art of Being My Dad
5 Ideas to Create an Amazing 2015
Essential Zen Habits of 2014
Karate Chop
Practicing Slowness & Being Present
Overwhelmed by All the Changes You Want to Make
My 2014 Successes and Failures
Finding the Motivation to Change Your Entire Life
When You’re Lonely
The Brain’s Fast Mode
5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays
The Zen Habits Holiday Gift Guide
The Four Hidden Habit Skills
The Power of Delay
Overwhelmed & Rushed? Do a Stress Assess
Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book
Please Support the Zen Habits Book
Are You a Lift or Drag Force?
When Resistance Smacks You in the Face
When Your Plate is Too Full
The Quickstart Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit
The Zen Habits Book is Almost Done
A Quick Guide to Gaining Confidence When You Socialize
The Empty Container
The Realization
A Guide to Changing Self-Destructive Behaviors
Pushing Past the Terrifying Dip in Motivation
It’s Not Too Late to Change Bad Habits
The Smart Way to Stick to Habits
My Most Effective Learning Tools
What I Do When I Fail
How to Put Your Writing in Public
The Productive Sprint
The Biggest Reasons You Haven’t Changed Your Habits
Seized by the Thunderhold of Fear
What to Eat for Fat Loss
The Heartbreaking Cruelty of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Brief Guide to Overcoming Instant Gratification
How to Get Motivated After a Vacation
7 Strategies for Facing Your Internet/TV Addiction
How to Breathe
7 Discipline-Mastering Practices
7 Rules That Keep My Life Simple
An Education in the Majestic Sierra Nevada
The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes
How to Believe in Yourself
Don’t Waste a Moment
How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach
How to Be Great
Making Yourself Work
Inhabit the Moment
How to Master the Art of Living
The Delusional Fantasies We Live With Each Day
Living the Simple Life
How to Be Prepared for Anything
Turn Toward the Problem
The End of the Day Philosophy
The Painful Beauty of Impermanence
How to Change Other People
Pursuing Happiness When It’s Already Within You
The Quickstart Guide to a Decluttered Home
Parental Zen: How to Keep Your Cool as a Parent
Looking for Love
How to Stop Your Habit Changes From Getting Derailed
Why We Have Regret
The Essence of Fatherhood: 6 Simple Lessons
A Call for Revolt: Advertising is the Anti-Minimalism
The Frustratingly Slow Pace of Making Changes
My Struggles with Eating Boring Food
The No Procrastination Challenge
Creating a Lovely Morning
A Father’s Manifesto: Raising Young Men Who Respect Women
Turn Inspiration Into Action
Coming Back From a Setback
The Gift
A Guide for Young People: What to Do With Your Life
No Excuses: Minimalism with Kids
How to Make a Marriage Work
Love Notes
Flavorless: My Month of Food Boringness
The Letting Go Ebook, Free
The Miracle of the Self-Compassion Habit
How I Tackle a Big Writing Project
The Habit Action List
The Reality of This Moment
Confidence in Your Business
10 Ways to Do What You Don’t Want to Do
On Making It Through Tough Journeys
The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most
What to Think About During Exercise
You’ll Be OK
The Most Important Two Minutes of Your Life
A Call for Compassion for the Defenseless
The Cure for Your Distraction Syndrome
You’re Not Worse Than Other People
Being Mindful of Your Stress
What if You Didn’t Have to Worry About Yourself?
The Universe of a Single Task
Simplifying Is Painful
Becoming Emotionally Self-Reliant
How I Cleaned House & Simplified My Work Life
The Busy Person’s Guide to Reducing Stress
My Month Without a Smartphone
What I’ve Learned as a Writer
What the Exercise Habit Did For Me
Fear is the Root of Your Problems
This Moment
36 Lessons I’ve Learned About Habits
The 3 Do-What-You-Love Conundrums
How I Conduct My Business
Constant Task Switching
The Habits of Five Amazing Founders
The Incredible Importance of Sleep for Habits & Motivation
What Really Motivates Us to Stick to a Project?
I Tried to Quit & It’s Too Hard!
Unwired: A Month With Limited Internet, & Now No Cell Phone
Procrastination is a Mindfulness Problem
Letting Go of Judging People
Don’t Scratch the Itch
Become Happy in the Face of Physical Misery
How Repetition Can Kickstart a Habit
Zen Productivity
When You’re Feeling Self-Doubt & a Lack of Motivation
The Child That Holds Us Back
Stateless Mindset
My Month of (Almost) No Internet
12 Changes for 2014
Essential Zen Habits of 2013
The Fear of Being Alone
The Calm Approach
Things Every Man Should Own
Family Gatherings: The Ultimate Mindfulness Training Ground
Letter to an 18-year-old on the Career Path Less Traveled
A Method to Find Balance
16 Surprising Lessons from My First 50-Mile Ultramarathon
The Simple Fitness Habit Holiday Challenge
Struggles with My Morning Internet Fast
Surrender, Mindfulness & Entrepreneurship
How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating, & Love Letting Go
Finding Focus
When You Run Out of Ideas
The Necessary Art of Subtraction
Jealousy & Suffering
How Creativity Works, & How to Do It
Self-Discipline in 5 Sentences
Make It Your Job
Developing Selfless Compassion
Lyrical Learning, & Why We Learn Habits Wrong
A Month Without Sugar
Why I Read (+ a Dozen Book Recommendations)
12 Indispensable Mindful Living Tools
Burn Down the Farm
My Most Minimal Travel Setup Yet
The Exquisite Habits of the Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee
3 Little Tricks to Deal With People Who Offend You
My Healthiest Travel Routine Yet
Startup Founder Megan Casey’s Habits of Priorities
My Pursuit of the Art of Living
A Month Without TV or Video
The Way of No Debt
Letting Go: How to Live With the Loss of a Loved One
The Way to Be
Ramit Sethi’s Entrepreneurial Habits
The Time to Shut Down
The Pain & Beauty of Life Changes
8 Creativity Lessons from a Pixar Animator
Zen Mountain: Leave It All Behind
Overcoming the Social Costs of Being Different
Finding Quiet and Mindfulness Through Food
My Failed Month of ‘No Sitting’
The Thinking Habit That Changed My Life
Liking Healthy Foods is a Choice
Unschoolery: My New Blog on Unschooling
My Advice for Starting a Business
Creating Your Habit Environment
Travel Lessons with My Family
Easier Decision-Making: Conduct Experiments
Simplify: Let Go of Your Crutches
The Fear of Being Found a Fraud
The Flexible Mind
Declutter Your Life
A Month Without Coffee
The Healthful Vegan Diet
Living the Quiet Life
The Art of Tasting Chocolate Mindfully
Why Fear of Discomfort Might Be Ruining Your Life
The Habits of Happiness
How to Keep Habits Going During Travel
A Year of Living Without
The Key Habits of Organization
I Failed
Vegan Guide to San Francisco
The Futility of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Secret to Dad Greatness
Habits: A Simple Change in Mindset Changes Everything
The Worry That You’re Doing the Wrong Thing Right Now
6 Steps To Being More Creative
How I Finally Faced My Weight & Debt Problems
Working with the Obstacles in Your Path
9 Rules for a Simpler Day
The Little Book of Contentment
The Obstacle is the Path
5 Lessons in Contentment from Billionaires Warren Buffett & Charlie Munger
Smile in Each Moment
A Guide to Practical Compassion
6 Steps To Healing Yourself
The 7-Day Vegan Challenge
Why You Should Write Daily
Achieving Without Goals
Flowing with the Stresses of Kids (or anyone else)
Habit Mastery: Creating the New Normal
Defeat Distraction: Refocusing with Purpose
Expanding the Envelope: A Method for Beating Anger
A Guide to Practical Contentment
The Practice of Work Mind & Vacation Mind, Simultaneously
How to Eat Real Food Without Spending Hours in the Kitchen
Quitting Your Habits
The 38 Best Methods of Successful Exercisers
How To Make It Impossible To Fail
The Not Knowing Path of Being an Entrepreneur
How to Change Your Life: A User’s Guide
Getting Your Family On Board with Life Changes
How to Stick to a Habit When Life Falls Apart
Zen Mind in the Middle of Chaos & Stress
Create a Sacred Space in Your Heart
Meditation: The Most Fundamental Habit
Creating the Genuine Connections We Long For
Tremors of Psychitude: One Little Trick to Find Purpose and Motivation
Create the Habits of Being Lean, in 7 Years
Walled-in: Life Without Facebook
The 7 Habits of Calmness
The Four Habits that Form Habits
Advice to My Kids
My 10 Essential Email Habits
The Daily Checklist
Sticking to a Habit: The Definitive Guide
The Meditation Diet: How I Lost 60+ lbs. by Savoring
The Power of Habit Investments
Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe
The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early
Do Less: A Short Guide
How to Savor Life
What We Lack in a Hyperconnected World
Simplify the Internet
12 Rules to Live By
The New Rules of Fitness for 2013
52 Changes for 2013
The Unprocrastination Month, and the Relaunch of the Sea Change Program
Essential Zen Habits of 2012
The Other Person is Never the Problem
The Do Plan, or Why We Know But Don’t Do
28 Brilliant Tips for Living Life
The Clutter-free Holiday Guide
The Little Trick to Make Any Moment Better
Tim Ferriss vs. Leo Babauta Showdown: On Whether Goals Suck
The Work You Love is Waiting For You
The 7-Step Method to Find Focus for Writing
The Buy-Nothing Holiday Survival Guide
Challenge: Buy Nothing Until 2013
How to Learn Anything
Shaken By Life’s Beauty, Shaken
Untrack: Letting Go of the Stress of Measuring
15 Great Excuses Not to Form the Fitness Habit
How to Make Health Insurance a Bad Bet
Why the Fitness Habit is More Important Than the Plan
The Willingness to Think Differently
Create a Superhealth Community
A Vegan Tour of NYC