2018 - A review

2018 was a huge year for me. I became a father, launched a tech startup and opened my first wine bar, not to mention supporting a number of business consultancy clients and producing three more excellent issues of Tortoise Magazine.

The point of this exercise however is really about returning to my January 2018 goals post in order to reflect on how closely I followed my plan. A gut feeling tells me, that despite a strong start and the best of intentions, I found myself drawn into projects and activities that were not part of my vision for the year. Although I can look back on the last 12 months with a sense of pride, I can't help but feel that I could have achieved a great deal more.

Last January I noted down four things that would guide my year.

Staying focussed on my purpose (I should have written business purpose here)
Eating and living healthily
Writing each day
Incorporating more ideas of minimalism into my business and personal life.

Specifically, I prioritised these projects.....

My profile and reputation as a wine writer and critic
An independent print publication celebrating my city
Further development of a (my) consultancy and communications agency

Looking back at the year analytically I can see quite clearly what worked well and where I succummed to periods of procrastination, low energy and a general lack of focus. Back in January I hit the ground running (literally) as I exercised daily and worked on writing content for my consultancy sales campaigns. I jumped head first into new resolutions and I can look back on a seven to eight week period of working hard, working out and generally staying on track. In addition I made a conscious effort to reduce my possessions and de-clutter. I can honestly say I felt great. I was motivated and excited about where this sustained routine could take me.

In mid February however, the wheels came off. I travelled to Bulgaria to judge in a wine competition. The requirements of the tirp meant that I was late to publish my weekly reflections on this site. I evenutally got the post out but I'd broken my self imposed commitment to my audience. Shortly after that I travelled to Lyon, again to judge in a competion, but again the trip turned into a rather indulgent few days and it took me more than a week to shake off the excesses. Not only had I failed to deliver yet again, I started to questiont the viablity of the idea. Instead of adjusting expectations I cancelled the idea and when later in the year I considered reviving it, feelings of guilt and disapointment turned me off the idea.

This is something I need to work on clearly. These kind of trips are big red flags to my routines of focus and productivity but they also form a key aspect of my international networking as an entrepreneur in the wine industry. I need to travel and I need access to the kind of material and opportunities that emmerge during these long lunches and dinners.

March through to the summer was characterised by a combination of client work and my work on Vinorandum. One piece of functionality at a time, I could feel it moving towards where it needed to be. I also received the news that my wife was pregnant and I resolved to find the solution.

In mid July I made the decision to open a wine bar. The right venue came along and with the enthusiasm of my business partners we decided to go for it. Although not remotely in my plans (I've often wrote about the dangers of being tied to a premises) I was attracted by the possibility of reaching new audiences and attaching additional credibility to my career in wine.  The amount of energy required to convert the unit into its new usage however was huge and the project monopolised my life. I had the sense that everything else was on hold. It was an exciting time, but there was little space for routine and productivity.

By the time late August and September arrived I was beginning to stress. It was time to open. The realities of the responsibility we'd given ourselves started to dawn. A wine bar is not just about selecting nice wines, it's about dealing with the general public, about creating atmosphere, about running a venue day in and day out. It's hard work. We weren't of course naive enough to think otherwise, but it certainly took some adapting to.

While opening a wine bar has been a very positive experience, it was not in my plans for the year. On the one hand this is a good example of seizing an opportunity, but on the other, I could and perhaps should, view it as a huge deviation from my plans and goals for the year. There is a fine line between knowing when to say no, and knowing when to rewrite the goals.

The final quarter of 2018 was a blur. Christmas in the wine trade is always frantic, but the requirements of a new bar partnered with a newborn, not to mention a steady load of client work and Tortoise meant that I don't remember having much time for reflection. There was definitely a sense that I was not in control and events were managing me rather than the other way around.

I've realised that I work best when I'm in possession of clarity and clarity comes from the ability to take a global view of everything going on around me. When things become intense it can be difficult to sepaerate opportunities from distractions. Charting one's own course is infinitely better than being swept along in a fast moving current so finding a branch to hold on to while new plans are made is advice that has served me well.

So, to summarise, some very good things happened in 2o18n but during the second half of the year I found myself slipping back into old and counterproductive habbits.  2019 offers the possibility to build on last year's accomplishments, but with startup activities in different business sectors, the main challenge will be making sure that I manage their progress instead of reacitng to daily moods and sentiments.

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