There is only an 8% chance you will succeed with your New Year’s resolution. Well, that’s the average of course. If you are an expert in habit building and know what you are doing—and most importantly have succeeded in the past—your chances are much higher.
But most folks who make a New Year’s resolution are clueless. They have dreams and wishes and they very much lack knowledge about the execution part. They have a vague idea and they just hope it will somehow happen.
This approach reminds me of my relationship with goals. I suppose my success ratio is about 8% as well.
I generally start off right: I write down the goal down. I may even break it down into daily actions, but I don’t follow up. Not surprisingly, one year later the goal is not achieved.
Let’s break down my last year’s goals and what came out of them.
I will start with my private goals, so you will not end up reading this post mortally depressed.
I failed at them horribly. The “horrible” part is not that I failed. I’m used to that. It’s that with the wonderful value of hindsight I see that they should have been my top priorities last year.
And they weren’t.
I wanted to spend quality time with my kids and to date my wife regularly.
Well, it appears that you need two for dating. My wife was skeptical about this idea from the very beginning. I convinced her to try, and invited her to a cinema for a romantic comedy. But I was on stand-by and the phone rang exactly when we were entering the cinema. I left her in the cinema, drove back to home and fix the situation at work. I was back for the last 3 minutes of the movie.
I tell you, she wasn’t pleased with me! From then on she firmly declined any offers of “official” dates.
I was able to disguise our dates in the form of bike rides and other common activities. I was able to do that until July.
Similar things happened when I tried to arrange quality time with kids. I didn’t tell them I was going to spend more time with them, I tried to make it spontaneously happen. My boys are teenagers already. It’s not easy to break them off their computers and mobiles. It took quite a lot of effort.
And I was spread too thin
In the first 2-3 months of 2016, my day job exacted a high price. The pace at work was frantic and the hours were crazy. I was also determined to keep writing and publishing. I published Making Business Connections that Count at the beginning of May. And then I allowed my work and business life to affect my private life.
Desperation is a Bad Advisor
I was desperate to make my business work, but nothing worked! I helplessly observed how my book sales were steadily dwindling to nothing. It was eating me alive. I had dedicated three years of my life to this venture.
I had invested in high-end coaching too. And in the end I had to pay some business expenses from my day job salary. Not only did I only earn about 12-14% of my salary, I had to add another few percent of it to stay afloat.
I had to let go the virtual assistant I hired part-time at the beginning of the year, when my sales were still at a decent level. I stopped supporting my parents with a meager allowance I had been able to fund from my books sales since 2015.
I felt like a total failure.
And I allowed it to impact my life. In August I stopped tracking my activities with my wife and kids. I was too discouraged by how often I had nothing to track at all. From that moment things went progressively downhill.
I doubt I spent an hour of one-on-one quality time with my kids in the last month. The dates with my wife? The closest thing to a ‘date’ I’ve had recently is watching comedies on TV together.
I cannot even convey how much this hurt me. I failed big time in the most important area.
I did not fail everywhere. Now, that I have depressed you properly, I’ll examine results from four key 2016 business goals, in reverse order.
I think I did four surveys in 2016. They didn’t provide me with much data, but they saved me from big mistakes, twice.
The first time I gained from doing a survey was when I asked my subscribers which book I should publish next. Their choice surprised me; they wanted a book about purpose and focus. I was inclined to publish my book about habits.
Well, the client is always right! Directed by Purpose had a very quiet launch, but it did well in the next few months and became one of my net earners. In December it definitely crossed the line of initial investment over return and now every single copy sold means a few bucks in my pockets. And it sells steadily. To my surprise, the print version is doing really well.
The second time I benefitted from doing a survey was when one of my mastermind partners prompted me to create a coaching course based on one of my books. I needed 10 people to buy to make it worthwhile for me. I surveyed my list and only 2 people were interested. None of them pressed the “buy” button in the end. It saved me a ton of time on developing a product that nobody wanted.
Last year I wrote that I need to sell about 90 eBooks a day to be able to quit my day job.
The slow months in the middle of the year were really terrifying, averaging only about 5 sales a day. But the strong end of 2016, especially December, compensated for that and I ended up with an average of around 15 copies a day.
But this is the perfect example of “you can’t plan something you have no idea about.” I had no idea that my paperback sales would take-off a big time. 52 copies sold in August was a happy fluke, as Amazon bought in bulk 35 copies of A Personal Mission Statement: Your Road Map to Happiness. But when I sold 55 copies in September, it was the direct result of Amazon ad campaigns I started that month.
In October and November I sold over 100 copies and December was surreal, with 382 paperback copies sold. Taking into consideration that I revised my pricing strategy and I made on a print copy about 5 times as much as on a digital one, I actually exceeded my revenue goal in December, and in November revenue was about 40% of the original goal.
A lot of that was the result of investing heavy into Amazon advertising, but I’m sure some of this increase was also the effect of all the groundwork I did in the past.
The goal was twofold: to get on one podcast a week and to write one Quora answer a day.
I miserably failed at podcasting. I only gave 9 or 10 interviews in 2016 and it’s still a huge work-in-progress for me. I didn’t hustle consistently enough for interviews to happen. Almost all of the interviews I did get were the result of the contacts I’ve built, or were an initiative of the host.
Posting answers on Quora went much better. This involved writing and a daily action, both things that I’m pretty good at. I published about 500 answers in 2016 and I don’t think I missed more than 30 days in the whole year, AND I posted a few answers a day multiple times.
It all translated into nice momentum on Quora. On 26th of May (exactly three years after publishing my first book, what a coincidence!) I crossed one million views on Quora.
It didn’t translate into many sales. I estimate 100-200 additional Kindle sales during the whole of 2016, but it created some opportunities for me. I was asked to write an editorial article for an Indian personal development magazine. One of my answers was featured on Business Insider!
My Quora activity increased my blog traffic as well. I finally put my manifest on the home page and added sign-up forms to my list on a few high-traffic pages. It resulted in roughly 100 new subscribers. Not a bad number, considering that at the end of December 2016 my original list was smaller than 900 people.
1. Email list.
It’s almost funny how our wording determines our actions. In my goal statement a year ago, I wrote: “Figure out how to grow my list at a rapid pace.” And I did.
But once I figured it out I did very little about it.
Up to end of July 2016 my list building efforts weren’t very energetic. As I mentioned in the previous point: changing my home page and adding a few sign-up forms here and there helped to build my list. The sign-up numbers from my blog were about 10 times better than in 2015, while my traffic grew only 3 times.
But those sign-ups barely compensated for the diminishing book sales. Up till 2016 I had built my list almost entirely via my books.
In July, one of the authors I’d known for a couple of years mentioned in a Facebook group that she’d found a new way to grow her list. She is a fiction author, and was getting a lot of traction with her permafree books on InstaFreebie. Out of curiosity, and in a small part because I still had this goal in the back of my mind, I registered on that platform and uploaded a couple of my books.
I immediately got several downloads and sign-ups.
A few days later A Personal Mission Statement: Your Road Map to Happiness had been featured on the InstaFreebie blog. As a result, I got a few hundred downloads and well over 100 sign-ups. My email list grew by 10% literally overnight.
In August, I uploaded more of my books and I was contacted by InstaFreebie staff. They asked me to keep one of my books on their platform for a few more weeks, so they could feature it. Recalling my previous success, I agreed. I left Making Business Connections that Count available at InstaFreebie till halfway through September. I got a few hundred new subscribers.
I became a paying client of InstaFreebie. I figured out that $20 is a fair price for getting on autopilot a few dozen subscribers a month. That was the pace at which I’ve been acquiring new subscribers from that platform since September.
But I neglected doing anything else. I should’ve tried to feature more of my books. My email list IS my business, more than anything else. It’s the only tool that will keep me at least a tiny bit independent from Amazon’s whims. I need to double (or quadruple) my efforts to growing it.
But, overall, I can report a success on this point. I not only figured out the way to rapidly grow my email list, I grew it to 1,340 people in 2016. I’ve been trying to do exactly that since 2014.