Get it on Google Play
Download on the App Store

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.


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.


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
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