In last year’s Review post, I shared what went down at the EOFire Studio in 2014.
We had some huge wins, including the creation of our free courses: Free Podcast Course and Free Webinar Course; the upcoming launch of The Freedom Journal; and we had some losses: the EOFire daily blog was not going to survive the test of time, being one of them.
But regardless of whether it was a win or a loss, each resulted in major lessons learned that we were able to carry with us into 2015 – lessons that have helped us make better decisions, avoid disasters, and that have reminded us of the things that haven’t worked well for us in the past.
It has all resulted in an incredible 2015, and we can’t wait to share all the juicy details with you right here, right now!
5 Phases of Reflection
The past 365 days here at EOFire have been amazing, and we’re so grateful for each and every day 2015 has brought us.
We’ve accomplished a lot.
We’ve failed several times.
And as a result, we’ve learned A LOT – again.
But it’s only because we’ve set aside the time to reflect on our year that we’ve been able to pull the accomplishments, the failures and the lessons learned out.
Reflection is a necessary part of our journey; if you haven’t set aside time to reflect on your 2015 yet, then schedule it TODAY.
- 1 hour today;
- 30 minutes tomorrow and 30 minutes next week;
- whatever time slots you can schedule over the next week, set aide just 1 hour to start your reflection time.
During your reflection time, write down 3 headings on a piece of paper (I recommend actually writing this out with pen and paper, but if you must, any online note-taker will do!):
- What went well in 2015
- What didn’t go well in 2015
- My biggest lessons learned in 2015
You’ll see me follow this exercise here – I used this exact outline to create this post for you – and it will also serve as the foundation for setting my S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2016.
This is a major struggle we see amongst entrepreneurs (and non-entrepreneurs alike): setting S.M.A.R.T. goals – Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant & Time-bound – isn’t easy.
What’s even more difficult is actually putting a plan in place and holding yourself accountable to actually accomplishing the S.M.A.R.T. goals you’ve set.
- Want your very own goal setting guide?
- Wish you knew how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for you and your business?
- Want to create freedom in your life by actually accomplishing the goals you set?
As I share our year in review, I’m also going to be walking you through how YOU can do every one of these things in your own business.
So if you answered yes to any of the questions above, then you’re in luck: I’m going to show you how – the exact steps you need to take – to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for you and your business AND create freedom in your life by actually accomplishing the goals you set through the 5 phases of reflection.
Welcome to your very own goal setting guide.
Phase 1: This Year’s Goals
In order to be able to populate content under our 3 headings…
- What went well in 2015
- What didn’t go well in 2015
- My biggest lessons learned in 2015
…let’s start by re-stating the goals we set for ourselves in 2015.
To give you an example, two of my BIG S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2015 that I wrote down for Phase I were:
- Land and DO 3 speaking engagements – on stage, at a conference or event – by the end of 2015;
- Grow my podcast listenership to 30k downloads per month by the end of 2015.
Two of John’s BIG S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2015 that he wrote down for Phase I were:
- Creating The Freedom Journal and having the book ready for launch by the end of 2015;
- Move Podcasters’ Paradise to a monthly / annual recurring membership (from lifetime) by the end of 2015.
Important note: we’ll use our goals to help guide us through the remaining 4 phases of reflection, but what we reflect on overall certainly shouldn’t be limited to JUST our goals.
Throughout the year we’ve made pivots, we’ve taken advantage of unexpected opportunities, and we’ve done a lot of things that weren’t directly related to our goals.
Anything and everything we can think of that had an impact on us or on our businesses in 2015 is fair game and should be considered and reflected upon throughout this exercise.
Phase 2: What worked well
Now that we have our goals to guide us, we have a place to start when it comes to reflecting on what worked well for us in 2015.
Of the two goals I shared for myself in Phase 1, I was only able to accomplish one of them successfully: I landed 5 speaking engagements in 2015!
Of the two goals I shared for John in Phase 1, he was able to accomplish both of them successfully: The Freedom Journal launches on Jan 4th, 2016 (and has been ready since early Dec), and Podcasters’ Paradise moved to monthly / annual recurring on Dec 1st!
As I reflect back on how we were able to accomplish these goals (what worked well), a few things stand out.
Make the ask, put it out there
In direct relation to my goal of landing 3 speaking engagements in 2015, something that worked really well for me is making the ask and putting it out there.
Once I declared my goal, I started talking about it, and I didn’t let my fear of “why would they want ME to speak?” hold me back from asking if I could speak at certain events.
But beyond just this one example from my speaking goal, John and I have found this to be something that has worked really well for us in other areas of our business, too.
The Freedom Journal, one of John’s big goals in 2015, is another example.
There is no way that John could have created The Freedom Journal on his own. Instead, after he had his ‘ah-ha’ moment – the idea for the journal – he put it out there.
As a result, he connected with past EOFire guest Richie Norton, founder of Prouduct, and the guy who single-handedly got The Freedom Journal into the hands of a production warehouse in China.
Richie didn’t randomly reach out to John and say, “Hey, if you’re ever thinking about creating some type of physical product that you might want printed in a warehouse in China, then I can help.”
Instead, John shared his ah-ha moment on his podcast, he talked about his idea for The Freedom Journal during our monthly income reports, we chatted with our mastermind about it, and we told our friends what we were up to.
Only then did John chat with Richie, and a direct connection was made: because John had verbalized his idea for The Freedom Journal, Riche shared his expertise with John, and John made the ask for Richie’s help.
And Richie is just one member of The Freedom Journal team; The Freedom Journal will launch on Jan 4th, 2016 because of a tight team of 6 who have worked incredibly hard to bring this project to life, in addition to hundreds of past EOFire guests who have accepted John’s ask to share The Freedom Journal with their audience on or around Jan 4th.
Every single one of these hundreds of people is a part of The Freedom Journal launch because John made the ask, and he put it out there.
Another thing I noticed in direct relation to my goal of landing 3 speaking engagements in 2015 is by niching down what I could actually present that would add value for an audience I was able to pitch myself in a very direct and specific way.
Instead of going to conference organizers, or sharing my desire with others to speak on stage about “something related to entrepreneurship”, I was able to say I had a presentation on “creating systems that create freedom”.
This makes it a lot easier for:
- me to find specific conferences where I know I can serve the audience; and
- a conference organizer to say yes, knowing that I will be presenting and teaching others how to create systems in their business.
Beyond this example, which is directly related to my goal of landing 3 speaking engagements in 2015, we’ve also realized that being specific has worked well in other areas of our business.
Growing our team is an example.
With us getting super specific about what tasks and projects we needed help with, and from there being able to create a specific role we wanted to fill in the business, we were able to successfully hire 4 new team members in 2015!
And not 1 thing we accomplished in 2015 would have been possible unless we had our team.
There were several projects we spent significant time on throughout 2015 that worked well for us, but that weren’t necessarily “new projects” in 2015.
Our EOFire.com website and Podcasters’ Paradise are two examples.
As we drew from our lessons learned in 2014 to shape what our focus would look like in 2015, we realized that continuous improvement was something we had to stick with, especially if we wanted to continue to grow both Fire Nation and the Podcasters’ Paradise community.
The growth of Fire Nation and Podcasters’ Paradise relies on us being able to:
- listen to the struggles and pain points of our audience;
- create a plan for improvement (a solution to the most common struggles we can help with); and
- implement (do – the – work).
It’s because of continuous improvements like…
- creating a better user experience for our first-time visitors to EOFire.com (think ‘search box’ and ‘leading our visitors’);
- implementing a better on-boarding process for our Podcasters’ Paradise members (think ‘welcome calls’ and ‘clear steps to make the most of your membership’);
- and many more
…that our audience continues to turn to us as a trusted resource on their entrepreneurial and/or podcasting journey.
Another example is our content.
Our content as a whole (our email newsletter, the blog, the EOFire podcast, Kate’s Take) has gone through continuous improvements, too as we listen to feedback from our audience.
Through listening we’re able to tweak the topics, format and consistency of what we share, each time helping us provide the highest quality of content that’s valuable to our audience.
One of our largest income streams of 2015 involved:
- 1 podcast episode;
- 1-2 emails to our list;
- 1 hour of our time.
Sounds pretty crazy, right?
Teaming up with select EOFire guests who have created products, services and communities we believe in, and then sharing those with our audience via a joint webinar, has resulted in well over $217,500 in revenue in 2015.
This wasn’t directly related to any of our S.M.A.R.T. goals, but it did end up creating a BIG impact on our business in 2015.
Our ability to create these partnerships hinges on two major things we talk about all the time here at EOFire:
- building strong relationships;
- knowing our audiences biggest pain points.
None of the partnerships we created were on accident.
From listening to our audience, we know there is interest in learning how to:
- Get Booked and Paid to Speak (Grant Baldwin);
- Create marketing and sales funnels without recreating the wheel (Russell Brunson);
- Write a best-seller and create a business out of that (Kary Oberbrunner);
- Write copy that connects and converts (Ray Edwards).
…and these are just a few of the partnerships we created this year that we knew would be a win/win/win: a win for Fire Nation, a win for the course creator, and a win for us.
Once you feel you have a handle on the major themes and specific actions you took in 2015 that worked well for you, it’s time to move on to the next phase, which is reflecting on those things that didn’t work well for you.
Phase 3: What didn’t work well
Fire Nation Elite
Fire Nation Elite turned 2 years old in July 2015, and a few months later, John and I made an incredibly difficult decision: to close the mastermind completely on Dec 31st, 2015.
Reflection doesn’t have to – and shouldn’t – only take place at the end of the year, and as John and I reflected mid-year on the things that were working and weren’t working in our business, we realized once again that time is our most precious asset.
The time we were dedicating to Fire Nation Elite wasn’t netting us the return we once saw, and I’m not just speaking monetarily here. Our numbers in the Tribe were decreasing, and without an automated funnel or any consistent marketing, which takes a significant amount of time to create, we weren’t bringing in new members.
A lot of brainstorming and many conversations later, John and I decided it was best to close out 2015 strong with our remaining members, and then say good-bye to the mastermind platform.
During the 2+ years that Fire Nation Elite was rockin’ and rollin’, we were able to learn a lot about what it means to lead a community, and creating the mastermind helped us get to know Fire Nation even better than we did before.
With the help of our Community Ambassador, Dean Patino, our last year leading Fire Nation Elite was definitely a great year.
The Fire Path Course
One of my S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2015 that I didn’t list in Phase 1 was to welcome 1,000 members to The Fire Path Course in 2015.
Unfortunately, I never quite found the right way to communicate the value and outcome of The Fire Path Course to our audience, and as a result, this ended up in our “didn’t work well” category for 2015.
This doesn’t mean I consider it wasted time or an epic failure, but it does mean there are several lessons I can walk away from this project with, a few of them being:
- the importance of consistent marketing;
- automation; and
The Fire Path Course was a project I saw as an entry way into the EOFire brand – a beginner’s course on how to create a solid foundation for your business.
What I quickly found out was that no one wants to learn about creating a solid foundation for their business (it’s what they need, but not what they want) – what they want is to grow an audience and monetize.
Without a solid plan in place to automate The Fire Path Course like I had hoped to do (i.e. I didn’t want to be running weekly webinars or doing big launches), welcoming 1,000 members didn’t happen.
It’s one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read before – Essentialism – but I don’t feel we were really able to embrace this mentality in our business this year, generally speaking.
There were months when John and I traveled more than we were home. Attending and speaking at conferences and hosting meet ups is exhausting; it’s also time spent not focused on business-building activities and growth.
But what’s more than that are the hundreds of “yes’s” we gave away throughout the year – for one-on-one chats that would only “be a few minutes”; to talk with someone about a product or service they were pitching that deep down, we knew wasn’t right for us; and afternoon meet-ups that we knew weren’t the best use of our time.
It sounds harsh when I write it, but you simply can’t be everything to everyone, and every single minute we spend on one of these chats, talks or meet-ups is another minute we’re not able to reach thousands more through the business.
Not taking control of my schedule was definitely something that didn’t work well for me in 2015.
Now that we have a handle on the things that didn’t work well for us in 2015, it’s time to take everything from Phases 1 – 3 and package it up into our major lessons learned – this is what we can take with us moving forward so we continue doing what’s working for us, and so that we ditch what’s not working for us.
Phase 4: Major lessons learned
Success doesn’t just suddenly appear
You have to get out there and create it.
Whether that means making an ask, or putting it out there through every channel possible, (your podcast, your blog, your newsletter, in your mastermind groups, in the online communities you’re a part of), do it.
And when you do it, be specific – what expertise do you have that fills a need your audience / avatar has, and that you can offer to them?
It was only when I discovered and declared my love and expertise for systems (through talking with others about my struggles around finding what my “one thing” was) that I realized how big a need existed.
Once I got specific about what it is I’m best at, and I put it out there, I realized that entrepreneurs struggle with creating systems in their business big time because they don’t know where to start, or what steps to take.
And when John had his ah-ha for The Freedom Journal – when he realized that there was a commonality among all the guests he has interviewed on EOFire – he got specific about what that commonality is, and then he put it out there.
He took baby steps, hit a lot of micro-goals, and made a lot of ‘asks’ on his journey to accomplishing his #1 goal: to create and launch The Freedom Journal.
No one finds success on their own, and it doesn’t suddenly or magically appear out of thin air. YOU have to go out there and create it.
Big risks, big rewards
When I think about all the things that worked well for us in 2015, one things stands out the most: they’re all things either myself or John were incredibly uncomfortable with and/or had some type of fear around doing.
We don’t learn or grow when we continue to live today just like yesterday. We learn and grow by trying new things – oftentimes things that aren’t predictable, and that are outside of our comfort zone.
In 2015, I learned to let fear give me permission to move forward, because I know if I’m not scared or uncomfortable about something, I’m probably not going to learn or grow from it, and I want to be learning and growing every single day.
Time out, for the win!
John and I worked incredibly hard in 2015, and so did the rest of Team Fire.
We made sacrifices, we hustled, we worked really long days (and sometimes nights) in order to accomplish the smaller things – on a day-to-day basis – that over an entire year have afforded us the freedom we see in our lives today.
But as I mentioned before, there were a lot of times that we over-extended ourselves by saying ‘yes’ to too many things. It left us feeling exhausted, frustrated (with ourselves), and unable to create space and focus for some of things that were really important to us.
Something we realized in 2015, and that we’ve now started to truly embrace headed in 2016, is that taking a time out is a necessary ingredient for success.
Without time outs, those smaller things aren’t achieved, and therefore, the bigger goals we set for ourselves are never accomplished.
Repurposing is something I know we could be doing a better job of here at EOFire.
The power of repurposing has definitely been apparent, and a major lesson learned for us this year in two major categories:
- Blog > Kate’s Take
- Blog / Newsletters > Email Campaigns / touch points
The continuous improvements we’ve made to our content that I mentioned earlier have only been the first step; we still have a ways to go in order to create a system and consistency around getting what we have to offer out there through multiple channels, and that’s where leveraging our existing content better comes into play.
We already know it has helped us gain traction and awareness for the blog and our business as a whole: leveraging our content on multiple platforms has gotten us noticed in major online publications like Inc.com, FastCompany.com, WallStreetJournal.com and HuffingtonPost.com to name a few.
It has also helped us grow our email newsletter subscriber list by 100% in 2015, because we know that the closer we can get to providing our audience with the content they find most valuable – and then sharing that on multiple platforms – the more awareness and interest we’ll gain.
Without the systems we’ve created in our business over the past 3 years, a lot of what we did see success with this year would not have been possible.
Systems have not only helped us scale and grow our business, but as a result, they’ve given us freedom in both our business and our lives.
This is something I will definitely double down on in 2016; now that we’ve experienced the power of systems first hand in creating the life we want to live, it’d be impossible to continue on the path we’re on today without them.
As we use Phases 1 – 3 to shape Phase 4, we’ll now wrap them all up together to help us start looking ahead at what’s next for us, and also to help set our S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2016: this is our final phase, Phase 5.
Phase 5: Looking ahead
The Freedom Journal
For the entire month of January, The Freedom Journal will be our main focus. This starts with the launch of the Kickstarter campaign on January 4th.
If you’re in or around San Diego, we’d LOVE to celebrate The Freedom Journal launch with you! Click here for more details.
Give yourself the gift of freedom – SET and ACCOMPLISH your S.M.A.R.T. goals in 2016 – and contribute to a global cause through Pencils of Promise today by securing your own copy of The Freedom Journal, launching Jan 4th, 2016!
2016 S.M.A.R.T. goals
Based on my 2015 S.M.A.R.T. goals, and everything I’ve learned from the past year about what worked and what didn’t work, here are a couple of the S.M.A.R.T. goals I’ll be focusing on in 2016.
Develop a content strategy that helps us better leverage our existing content (focus: the blog) by repurposing it on 3 new, set platforms consistently (at least 1 time per week) starting in February 2016 with a goal of bringing in 500 new email subscribers per month directly from these platforms.
*This strategy will include 1st: a selection step = research and select the 3 new platforms we’ll leverage.
Root: I came up with this S.M.A.R.T. goal as a result of learning that continuous improvement has helped us create a lot of really great content, and instead of spending more time creating more content, we have to start leveraging that content in a smarter way in order to continue to grow.
Set up (and start running) a delegation system by March 2016 that allows me to take back time spent on tasks I shouldn’t be working on (those tasks are $10 and $100 tasks). Take back my time, to start = at least 1 hour per day that I can spend doing whatever I want.
*This system will include 1st: a review step = every task that comes across my plate will be reviewed and assigned a $ amount, and if it falls into the $10 or $100 category then I will only be completing it one time in order to create a process to delegate it.
Root: I came up with this S.M.A.R.T. goal as a result of learning that time is our most valuable asset, and if I continue taking on new tasks – and saying yes to everything that comes across my plate – then I’ll never have time to continue to learn and grow myself. To create the day-to-day that I want to live, I need to delegate more and say yes to less.
Accomplishing our S.M.A.R.T. goals
But setting our S.M.A.R.T. goals is just the beginning.
A goal properly set is halfway reached. ~ Zig Ziglar
Now, it’s time to put a plan in place so we can actually accomplish the S.M.A.R.T. goals we’ve set.
If you’re ready to put a plan in place that will help you accomplish your S.M.A.R.T. goals this year, it starts with The Freedom Journal.
The Freedom Journal was created a specifically designed to help you accomplish your #1 goal in 100 days, and it does this through:
- Daily accountability;
- 10-day sprints (to help you achieve micro-goals);
- Quarterly reviews (by now, hopefully you understand the importance of reflection!);
- Recommended resources;
- and so much more!
What stands between us and accomplishing our biggest goals is accountability. We SET our S.M.A.R.T. goals, but then we never put a plan in place or hold ourselves accountable to taking 1 step forward – every single day – towards accomplishing those goals.
The Freedom Journal will not only help you SET your S.M.A.R.T. goal, it will then guide you through accomplishing that goal in 100 days.
The Freedom Journal launches on Kickstarter January 4, so make sure you head over to take advantage of the special bonuses only available to the early action-takers at TheFreedomJournal.com!