The act of reflection continues to be the most impactful habit I’ve developed over the years. I’m continually amazed by how much growth can be seen in some areas of life while others seem to shrivel. I’ve broken down my Annual Report into the areas that matter most.
Also, pardon my typos. I had a lot of ground to cover and my usually proofreading process was too much mental energy.
Our family has seen a lot of changes in 2018. From our immediate family, to extended family, it’s been marked by births, moves, and big announcements.
Our little red-headed bundle of smiles was born on May 21, 2018. She LOVES her big sister. Major milestones at the moment include sitting up on her own, eating real food, and a veracious smile.
Despite some early resistance, we made the move to Smyrna. Walkable to specialty coffee, the grocery store, and local restaurants it’s been a welcome change. The ride to and from work has been somewhat grueling, but I’ve hit my annual target for audio books and arriving home is worth it.
School for Avery
Avery started at a school down the road from our house (about a 10 minute walk) two days a week. It’s allowed her to meet a new group of friends, level up her sharing skills, and increase her immunity to communicable diseases. It’s had the added benefit of allowing Megan to meet other local parents.
My brother has been serving in the United States Marine Corp for about the last decade. This year, he shipped out of his third overseas deployment. I continue to be proud and inspired by his committed service. So much of the liberties I enjoy as a husband, father, and entrepreneur are a direct result of people serving to preserve our freedom.
Founded in 2012 with Josh Wood, Polar Notion welcomed new team members, structural changes, and new service offerings.
New Team Members
In late 2018, we welcomed Kevin and Miruna to the Polar Notion team. Kevin is apprenticing within our engineering team while Miruna is rounding out our design team as a design apprentice. Their fresh perspectives and positive attitudes have raised our average and leave us eager to see what 2019 holds.
As our Leadership Team has dove deeper into operational excellence, we were led to reevaluate compensation and how we handle professional growth within the organization. Pushing the limits on human centered business, transparent compensation felt like a natural next step. The goal was that each person could defend their salary and understand exactly what’s expected to move up.
We’ve defined the levels of growth and mapped key behaviors to categories such as Values, Culture, Evangelism & Sales, Leadership, Client Facing Skills, Industry Involvement, and Knowledge. We learned a lot in the process, but have been pleased with the results.
Friends and Family
Our design team has launched a monthly design program called Friends & Family. It provides a low cost, low commitment, friendly way to create a better brand experience. This is a major milestone because it allows us to continue serving small businesses while our skills and rates increase.
Near the end of 2017, a client defaulted on an invoice costing us over $100,000. It created a grueling start to the year, but through creative problem solving and team buy-in, we’ve made it through the worst of it.
In the summer of 2018, I eclipsed my second year at New Story at CTO. The most notable changes surround our rapid growth. Ten team members have started at New Story within the last 12 months.
I have the fortune of leading the Tech Team alongside Matthew Marshall, but we’ve seen growth in every department.
3D Home Printer
This was a HUGE milestone as a company and for the home construction industry in general. You can read more about that moment here, or watch the video.
Originally meeting from the Polar Notion office, New Story is now in a space of their own. There is still room, but it’s filling up quickly.
Saas Product (Spoilers)
We haven’t shared a lot publicly, but we’re packaging up our learnings as a housing organization and rolling out a Saas (software as a service) product to allow other organization to experience the same efficiencies that have been driving our organization forward. We’ve set our sights on ending global homelessness and are equipping other organizations and governments to join us.
Apparently there are certain fish that never stop swimming. Asleep or awake, they never stop moving. I’m not sure if that’s true but love the notion. As humans, we have a remarkable ability to collaborate and adapt. This section highlights person changes or milestones this year.
Board Chair for Entreprenuers Organization‘s Accelerator Program.
Mentor for Founder CEOs at Atlanta Tech Village
Since running cross country in high school, I’ve always defaulted to water over any other beverage. On top regular trips to the water fountain throughout the day, I’ve added more thorough hydration to my morning ritual.
To get my blood flowing in the morning (inspired by Own Your Day), I’ve started doing 100 of some type of movement each morning. Squats, trunk twists, overhead press (unweighed), etc.
The whole process takes just a few minutes but immediately gets oxygen pumping to my brain.
Most business people have a solid followup cadence for meetings and appointments. I took it up a notch by sending a direct message to the person who introed me to the person I met with and intro-ing that person to 1-3 other people. Example: I had a 30 minute coffee with Adam. Later that week: Send followup to Adam. Send thank you to whoever introed me to Adam. Make 1-3 intros to other people in my network Adam should meet.
A virtual whiteboard. I have never fallen so fast for a product. It does exactly what you’d hope and the collaborative nature is excellent. Personally, Polar Notion, and New Story are all using it now.
Wow, this tool has taken over my life. Best in class organizational structure for documents. It’s everything I wished was possible with Google Docs but couldn’t wait any longer.
A native app for recording thoughts and meetings. I use it while I’m driving to riff on ideas and convert into articles later.
After a year full of Uber scandals, enough was enough. Yeah, it’s more expensive but our dollars are votes.
In no particular order.
- Las Vegas, NV
- Tahoe, CA
- Austin, TX
- Chicago, IL
- San Francisco, CA (2x)
- Seattle, WA
- Chattanooga, TN
Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
A great read if you looking to clarity your business’ message and position to customers. Also, the author has a worthwhile podcast that combines anecdotes with actionable insights.
Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World
A must read for founders. Whether you’re on your first business or fifth, it’s dispels common myths and resets expectations around starting a business, especially a tech startup.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
It’s a reminder of timeless truths that continue to yield extraordinary results. There is a lot of complex advise and insights, but Covey boils it down to the fundamentals. Likely worth revisiting each year.
Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets
Great read for marketers and founders about the art and science of creating a ‘Category’. Rather than trying to compete with the noise of a crowded marketing, creating a new Category and becoming it’s king has a proven path to success… if you can do it right.
The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time
Creativity isn’t magic. We are all creative creatures and it comes back to a balance of consuming and trying stuff. Great for people who view them selves as ‘non creatives’ or other who think they have some magic ability. The brilliant minds we elevate as a culture we’re too different from us, which is worth remembering and this book breaks that truth down well.
Own the Day, Own Your Life: Optimized Practices for Waking, Working, Learning, Eating, Training, Playing, Sleeping, and Sex
Rather than complicating health, Aubrey Marcus breaks it down into focusing on just one day. Planning the perfect, thoughtful day. A lot of great health and fitness tips, combined with a casual yet scientific perspective. Our life is merely a serious of choices, he simplifies the importance of choosing well.
Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results
In listening, it reminiscent of The Power of Habit (from my 2016 reading list) but the tips and principles are worth repeating. Listening to Atomic Habits around the same time as Own the Day really drilled home the point. They compliment each other well. Also, the author (James Clear) has an active twitter account full of great habit-forming wisdom.
Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World
Our team at New Story has long admired Charity Water. Ironically, Matthew and Brett both applied to joined their team. Fortunately for the earth’s homeless population, they didn’t get the opportunity. 😉 Scott Harrison’s journey and life transformation is inspiring. It provides useful wisdom for nonprofits of all ages. Not a nonprofit leader, if you have a pulse you’ll likely connect with Scott’s inner wrestlings and vulnerability.
This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See
Seth Godin continues to rank among my favorite authors and thinkers. He connects dots that others don’t see and continually challenges others to think differently. To think better. Make things better by making better things. I bought the preorder, the special edition, and some other thing associated with the launch.
Dear Seth, take my money.
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
A Polar Notion team member helped me climb aboard the Brene Brown bandwagon in 2017 and Dare to Lead prompted me to settle deeper in my seat. Her practical approach to human psychology provides a need voice and her unapologetic pursuit of breaking down the walls between people is motivating. If you lead people, this will challenge commonly held beliefs. If you don’t see yourself as a leader: read this book, change your mind, and get started.
Alie Heenan your confidence and courage led me to give Brene a chance. For that, I’m grateful.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work
Jason Fried and DHH provide an extreme anchor to the hustle-grind-madness that has come to define startup and entrepreneurial ventures. It’s easy to reject their position at face value, but when you hear their passion for a better style of workplace it’s worth the dissonance. It’s unlikely any business can implement everything they mention, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Their investments in human-centered work are only the beginning of a massive shift we will experience in the next 10-20 years.
Matthew Marshall, thanks for the advance copy. I’m love building a world class company culture with you.
The Great Game of Business, Expanded and Updated: The Only Sensible Way to Run a Company
Rather than keeping team members in the dark, The Great Game of Business showcases what’s possible when you trust people to show up with their whole selves. Exemplifying a transparent business, it’s refreshing to hear how successful their unique recipe of trust and openness has become.
Thanks Adam Walker and Shantel Khleif for the recommendation here.
The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership
If you can’t make time to read this annually, you should start by reading it daily. It’s a powerful story about leading from a place of submission and servanthood. Tim Dorr turned me back onto it and I continue to be challenged and inspired.
To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others
As humans, we’re always selling whether it’s in our job description or not. When my daughter brings me the remotes and says, “watch Muana”… she is selling. Rather than rejecting the notion, To Sell is Human adds new color and clarity to how we bring our ideas into the world.
Never Lose a Customer Again: Turn Any Sale into Lifelong Loyalty in 100 Days
Customer experience is more important than even. If you’re a business owner who thinks sales is the key to growing your business, pause for a moment. Customer retention is the backbone to business growth and this book provides tips, strategies, and a way of thinking about customer advocacy.
Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook
Tony Robbins simplifies basic financial strategy. He breaks down wealth creation, retirement planning, personal spending and more. If you’re ‘playing the stockmarket’, this conservative approach to playing the long game might be just what the doctor ordered.
The Thank You Economy
Gary Vaynerchuk has strong opinions shared intensely, but his predictions and understanding of how human connections have and will shape the economy is impressive. What’s most impressive is how well the content has help up so many years after publication. So much is still right on point.
The Art of Significance: Achieving the Level Beyond Success
I’ve been heavily focused since September on developing a personal purpose statement. This book gave some helpful tips and insights. Nothing comes to mind off the top of my head, but was worth nodding along to.
Great by Choice
Jim Collins scientific approach to business analysis is illuminating. A great read for founders and business leaders working to build a lasting business of significance. Spoiler: It rarely happens by accident.
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery
The New Story team read through this book together and we’ve engaged in dozens of meaningful conversations. It describes each personality type of the Enneagram. I’m an eight (challenger) with seven (enthusiast) tendencies. This book was the origin of a lot of reflection and self discovery. It also sparked great conversations between me and Meg.
Thanks Annie Brannon, fellow 8, for pushing this forward like only a Challenger would. 🙂
No More Cold Calling: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust
I’m not the ‘cold call’ kind of salesman. I’ve always found it to lack empathy and pretty inefficient. This book talks about the value of investing in current customers to drive referrals. It lands on the importance of relational business.
If we’re the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with: Kara Brown, you continue to raise my average. Thanks for the suggestion.
Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal
A helpful guide for getting and keeping people’s attention. It’s easy to assume people say ‘no’ because they don’t want something when more often than not it’s because we’ve poorly engaged them.
Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too
A firehose of social media insights and marketing expertise. It’s on the other end of the spectrum from It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work but gives some helpful advise for building a business. Especially in the early years, the lift is often quite heavy.
Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise
Perhaps my favorite book of 2018, Peak talks about the effort required to achieve mastery in almost anything. Unwilling to settle for the idea of ‘natural ability’, he presents compelling evidence that supports the thoughtful, consistent student. As someone who never really excelled at anything growing up, I’ve felt the compound effect of his insights throughout my adult life. The importance of consistent, deliberate practice rings load in this book and it’s value has been felt thoroughly in my own life.
Managing Oneself + The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done
I lumped these together because they’re so similar. Akin to The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Peter Druker has a succinct, straight forward way to hitting the essentially for personal growth. Special thanks to the Dave Gerhardt and David Cancel from Drift for recommending.
Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs
Intent on finding a better process for tracking goals, we read through Measure What Matters with New Story Leadership this year. Stilling looking for a tool that’s not Excel to track progress but the shared vocabulary and simple framework has proven helpful. We’ve bounced around a little with the best way of breaking annual, quarterly, and monthly OKRS into personal, department, and company items but it’s a work in progress that’s picking up steam.
Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success
I’ve always struggle with the idea of social norms or unwritten rules. Smartcuts spotlights entreprenuers and innovators who found broke these cultural constraints to achieve extraordinary results. For myself, I’ve begun referring to the idea as ‘coloring outside the lines’, and this book echos that ethos.
Sarah Lee, I own you one here. The mention of DHH put me over the edge.
Sell or Be Sold: How to Get Your Way in Business and in Life
We’re either selling something (a service, a widget, a preference, an idea) or being sold by someone else. It can create a paradigm shift for most people but seems ideal for founders or sales people.
The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
As I mentioned in my personal recap from 2018, we had some major challenges at Polar Notion. This book came at just the right time and served as a reminder that challenges are part of the journey. Rich with stoic principles, it’s a worthwhile read for anyone who has felt the urge to complain about almost anything.
Be Obsessed or Be Average
Grant Cardone is a madman, but a great reminder about the importance of finding something you enjoy and throwing your whole self into it. I have a tendency to obsess things, so left me feeling like I was in good company.
Principles: Life and Work
I enjoyed hearing Ray’s thoughtfilled approach to almost everything. Rather than viewing life as a random series of events, he provides a wealth of knowledge and insight about distilling thoughts into repeatable processes. Instead of relearning, his approach to principled living was impactful and has led me to think more about the ‘why’ behind decisions.
Annual Reflection Framework
Bringing Humanity Back to Email
Work Life Harmony
Purpose Eats Work for Breakfast
I attended two funerals this year. Two men whose legacy has had a lasting impact on my life. I’d spent little time with them personally but their children and grandchildren have marked my life beyond compare.
I came to know Bob Ardell through his son, Jason Ardell. For years, Jason has been a close friend and early mentor as I began a career in technology. Through stories shared, it was evident that Bob was an avid reader for decades and continually invested in his family.
I met Warren for the first time in middle school. He was grandfather to Josh, one of my longest friends and business partner. Warren’s son, Mike, continues to display an advanced work ethic and stoic resolve that seem to have been a direct result of Warren’s leadership and modeling.