Looking back before looking ahead: surprises and lessons learned from 2008

December 29, 2008 by Jared Goralnick

Some things are in focus for my dog, Dagny This is an entry about me.  About a year of change as well as growth, and about what I’ve learned.

I’m going to explore what expectations were met and what themes reoccurred.  Thank you again for your time.

Results from 2007’s Resolutions

First, I want to start with the specifics (if you’re looking more for what I’ve learned, feel free to skip to the next heading).  I began this year with several concrete goals, and I succeeded with many:

  • Almost all the books I’ve read have been ones I really enjoyed, a stark contrast from 2007.  In particular, I’ve read a great deal of Murakami and Fitzgerald…and outside of the election, I’ve ignored most of the not-very-pleasant world/local  news
  • I wanted a trip abroad, and I’ve been out of this country for more than 2 months this year (and of town more than 3), visiting Iceland, Thailand, Spain, Hong Kong, and France
  • I did speak at a national conference (TechCocktail) and will be speaking at SXSW in March

In some of my goals I didn’t exactly succeed:

  • It took longer to launch AwayFind than I expected, which means that we do not have the 5,000 users I hoped for.  But we have a lot of users and I recognize the necessary tactics to grow my user-base in 2009
  • My hopes for having someone handle sales/proposals for SET is no longer a goal—I want the company to remain small and to continue to focus on referrals
  • I have entertained at my house many times but not 6 big gatherings.  At a certain point it related to financial reasons, but at other times it was my state of mind.  I need to figure out what sort of entertaining I want to do in 2009
  • I did not blog 3 times per week, but did post 95 times here (and many more if you consider other sites), which I consider respectable…especially since my goal shifted to once per week as the year wore on.  About halfway through the year I stopped writing for social media and focused just on writing what I wanted to.  That slowed my growth in readership, but I’m still happy knowing that my words do not go unread (the audience here has quadrupled in size).  I also was published twice at Lifehacker, linked by them once, and have written for Dumb Little Man

The one goal where I do not feel I succeeded was perhaps the most important, and probably the reason I still blog.  That goal was “to find a sense of completion on a daily basis.”  I will continue to concoct systems that make this easier for me, and I’ll continue to seek out balance.  But daily completion (or to the extent to which I’d be satisfied) remains elusive.

What I’ve Learned About Myself in 2008

Ha!  Like I could fit that in a few paragraphs.  But I will break it out into a few ideas, all of which were poignant and in some ways new to this year.  I plan to touch on how to apply some of these lessons in my next post, which will be my ambitions for 2009.  But in the mean time, here’s some of what I’ve realized:

  • Clay Collins, Chicago.  Not a great photo, but eerily appropriate for this idea You are the company you keep.  I wrote 5 or 6 articles about this, but this bears repeating: if you want to grow, you need to surround yourself with people who are in that position or are growing toward it.  You will be like your friends, for better or worse.  There’s nothing better than investing in these relationships, but be careful to choose them wisely. People like Clay Collins, Stever Robbins, Lokesh Dhakar, and Tim Koelkebeck are just a few of the people who have inspired me and with whom I’ve been lucky enough to get to know this year.
  • Travel, like people, can change who you are.  I never studied abroad in college, so I’ve been kind-of catching up this year.  But as much as I enjoy learning about other cities, I particularly enjoy immersing myself in a new way of life.  Not just meeting people there, but living that way, if at all possible.  I have spent nearly a month in Barcelona this year, and I’ve fallen in love with the culture.  The Catalan approach to work and relationships are different than those in the US.  I’m not saying I agree with all of it, but it’s changed me, slowed me, awoken me.  Much as the company I keep changes me, the location that hosts the company and the greater context can also play an important role
  • Moving on or giving up are sometimes the first steps.  Even though I’ve put my heart and soul into something, that doesn’t mean I have to continue with it.  Just like not all debt is bad debt, walking away may be the first step forward in a long time.  So I’ve learned to give up, go home, and be especially careful about the necessary evils I hold on to
  • Nothing happens quickly, but everything happens someday.  There are two very important lessons here: however long you expect to spend on a major endeavor (that’s unlike one you’ve completed in the past), it’s always going to take more (sometimes 10x more time and money).  You may be unaware that AwayFind was the smallest of the projects I wanted to take on, rather than the product idea that I’m most passionate about.  But the wisest decision I’ve made was to create AwayFind first, since it’s been a rather long and involved endeavor for as supposedly simple as it was.  The consequences of beginner mistakes on the other project would have come at a far higher toll.  The same thing goes with changing my behavior for specific goals.  In all cases, it’s possible to grow and achieve, but serious growth and serious achievement cannot take place linearly or in a short while, at least not for me.
  • A wonderful 3-course lunch in Girona (more courses are within the link) Even when not tied to a goal or a life mission, some things shape you and should be embraced.  While it’s not always possible to stimulate the senses: eating well, visiting art, experiencing live music, whatever… there are some things that really affect my mood and ability to produce, even without an obvious reason.  For instance, the week of my product launch I had sushi every day, because I feel healthy and energized when I eat good sushi, and I wanted to perform my best that week.  Similarly, dancing or photography are sometimes just the right medicine.  I’m also considering moving to the city, for similar reasons.  These things may cost extra money or defy common sense for what I should be focusing on, but I guess it’s just part of taking care of oneself

So How Do I Feel About 2008?

For most of 2008, I learned a bit about myself while accomplishing some ambitions.  I haven’t found all the answers and there’s a lot of hard work ahead, but even with our current economic forecast, I’m comfortable being idealistic.  I’ll let you know in my next post what I’m hoping for, but I’ll give you a hint: I hope that 2009 is about impact on others (since I think that a lot of ‘08 was mostly valuable for me).

And how about you—is there a lesson learned from 2008 you’d be kind of enough to share?  Feel free to link to your own reflections or resolutions.

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15 Responses to “Looking back before looking ahead: surprises and lessons learned from 2008”

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  1. Looking back before looking ahead: surprises and lessons learned from 2008 | refundingdebt.com
  2. Technotheory.com – One word for 2009: Impact. What’s your theme for the New Year?


  1. Ricky

    Hi I agree a lot with many of your points.

    To give you a bit of insight I have moved from the US to the UK this year to try living and working over,luckily I managed to do it through work, so was not completely on my own dime. my wife and I were looking for a change, and this was a big one. I completely agree with the fact that you are the company you keep, my wife and I are both easy going, and have managed to make friends in a lot of different circles, and you can quickly see how the mentality of people at different stages in their life, and at different level changes, some for the better, some for the worse, I have one friend who always seems to be down on his luck and depressed about life and relationships, and that starts to rub off and bring you down especially if you let it, he is a good guy overall, I try to keep in touch with him but, don’t get together too often especially since moving as his attitude is very depressing.

    As for travel, we figured we would try living here in the UK as the opportunity presented itself, we had been in Italy for about a month last year for work as well. so we moved from Sunny Arizona to rainy old England. Have to say the work life balance is different here as opposed to the US or even Canada (Originally from there). I do like that aspect, especially the Month (28 days) of Vacation time I get. but you kind of need it because the weather is so depressing.

    I hope you manage to meet your goals for 2009, I am working on some of my own, blogging just happens to be one of them…

  2. dawnmarissa

    I was looking forward to hearing how you successfully found a sense of completion on a daily basis, as I’m searching for that elusive sense myself. Congratulations though on partially meeting and exceeding the rest of your goals this year.

    Sometimes I wonder if my day to day experience is meant to feel more unfinished, because my larger goals are too big to be finished in a day, a week, or even a month. I still crave that feeling at the end of the day that I deserve to celebrate because I accomplished something of importance. Here’s hoping 2009 will bring some insight on this!

  3. Vik Duggal


    Great post. Reflections are great when they’re personal, meaningful, and aren’t definitive. A few of the things you wrote definitely hit home for me as a prepare for my write-up on 2008.

    It’s great to see what you accomplished in 2008 and what you learned about yourself.

    Would be fascinated to hear what your goals/resolutions/plans are for 2009 as you continue your journey, stretch your mind, and make things happen.

    Looking forward to following your blog in the upcoming year!


  4. Daria Steigman

    Hi Jared,

    I seem to have found your blog at an opportune time. What a wonderfully insightful post about your journey through 2008. I love your advice about choosing your friends wisely and understanding when to move on.

    Too often we stay comfortably within our little boxes, but it’s when we break out that the real discovery begins. So here’s to a 2009 filled with wonderful adventures.


  5. Jared Goralnick

    Ricky, Dawnmarissa, Vik, and Daria,

    Thanks so much for your insight and warm thoughts here. Yes, it can be tough to put your thoughts together at the end of the year…but that’s my favorite part about new year’s. When it comes to ambitions for next year, I’m just trying to be realistic…as there is so much to hope for. But fortunately it’s great to see all that possibility out there. It sounds like you all are in similar places!

    I hope you’re looking toward 2009 with open eyes, and if you have any posts you’d like to share with me about your looking back or looking ahead, please do so!

    Happy Almost ’09, from back in DC,

  6. communicatrix

    Good review! I do two every year–one privately, and one out loud (broken into two parts):


    But I also learned too late for the lists that you have a VERY cute dog.

    And if you want tips on gathering people at your place for festivities of any kind, we should talk. I’m an old hand at that, but it didn’t come naturally!

  7. Harold shaw

    I liked your that part where you discussed how travel changed your perspective. That is something that I really need to do more, even if it is locally. I am a bit of a homebody and just go back and forth from home to work. Kinda boring really :). But Sushi unggghhhh just can’t do it, tried many times, but different things for different people.

    here are my what my goals are for next year, I have too many lessons learned to link them :) 2008 was a year of change for me.

  8. elizabeth

    Just popping in to say good stuff, as usual. And I def. think you should consider moving into *a* city – the ways that it enriches your life are well worth any relatively minor hassles and expenses.

  9. Jared Goralnick

    Thanks, Colleen, and yes she is super cute. I’ll be in touch soon enough :-)

    Thanks for your link, Harold, I really do think travel (while not necessary every year) allows one to see things in a very different way. Which sometimes is surprisingly helpful.

    Elizabeth, I’d love to move into the heart of DC. It’s one of those very very complicated things right now. Complications include, for instance: dog, owning a house, having (lots of) space for working now, where my business is located (here), having tenants, the price of living in the city, the uncertainty of AwayFind’s profitability and when that will change, the economy’s role on SET Consulting, and how much I hope to travel this year (more than 25%). So yeah, Woodley Park is my psuedo-dream right now, and I have a feed set up on craigslist for it, but it’s such a difficult decision just now…

  10. akahn

    Your dog is gorgeous.

  11. Ricky

    just to let you know here is my latest on the end of the year and beginning of the new one.

    hope you enjoy.


  12. Tim Koelkebeck

    I’ve set up a Google Alert. Very glad to have met you too. And well-composed picture of the lunch!

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