As each year concludes I work through a public audit of the previous 12 months. I put it out there for everyone to see: what went well, what didn’t, and what I’ve learned. (Here you can find 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.) And this year I’m adding a fourth component: what I’m looking forward to.
These years in review are a personal process, but I share it with you to emphasise that I’m trying to practise what I preach, and to hopefully inspire a similar process for you in your life. The reviews are designed to help me live with intention, and to be accountable.
I say this each year, and I’ll re-emphasise it in this review:
- This is not a PR stunt. It’s not about vanity. I’m not oversharing with any desire to highlight brilliance or pretend to be humble. Some things in life are awesome. Some stink. I’m sharing the lot because it’s real and I like to be transparent about the ups and the downs.
- Please don’t use this review as a way of comparing your life to mine. Unless you have 6 kids, run a couple of businesses, and live a life like this, it’s an unfair and unhelpful comparison - and if you do, you know that the comparison game won’t be helpful anyway..
- I’ll review what went well, what didn’t, and what I learned. That’s the format my family meetings take, and it’s a format that serves the purpose of this review.
So let’s get started on this one.
What went well
Parental Guidance Season 2
The TV show that got Australia talking has been recorded for a second season. Channel 9 loved it, and it will be shown in the early part of 2023. The families we worked with were diverse. Their parenting approaches were unique. And we got to see that parents can do parenting in all kinds of ways and still help those kids feel loved. Season One was great. This season is going to be so much stronger though. I’m so proud of this show.
The Happy Families Podcast
In October we crossed the two-year mark with the podcast running in its daily format. Kylie and I love the conversations we have, and the ideas we can share. When we began, we had about 25 000 downloads per week. We’re now comfortably hitting well over 50 000 downloads per week and remain the #1 parenting and family podcast in Australia. This year we hit the 3 million download mark. Phenomenal!
We Bought “Parenting Ideas”
In addition to running Happy Families, I made an offer to buy Parenting Ideas, a business that has been run by Michael Grose for the past 25 years or so. After some discussions, the purchase was finalised in February 2022, and we have added the Parenting Ideas offering to the Happy Families stable. This means we get to help more people in more communities through all of the schools who purchase a Parenting Ideas Membership.
Social Media (Vanity) Metrics
We continue to reach and influence on our social networks boosting from 190 000 Facebook followers to over 220 000. An improvement of 30 000 means an extra 600 followers per week. Instagram also lifted from 32 000 to 40 000, which is almost an extra 150 per week. While I don’t disclose newsletter numbers, we’ve seen exceptional growth there too, and are so grateful to reach so many hundreds of thousands of families across our platforms.
These numbers represent real people with real families. It’s humbling to have the responsibility to try to help so many. I continue to feel immensely grateful for the trust people have in what I share, and the amazing feedback I receive from people who have been helped by my parenting advice.
This year we launched a revised and updated version of A Dad’s Guide to Pregnancy for Dummies, written and rebuilt for 2022 by yours truly. It was exciting to work on the Dummies series and I’m delighted with the outcome.
And I also completed writing a book to be published in 2023 about parenting styles. The book will be called “The Parenting Revolution: The Past, Present, and Future of Raising Children”. It’s a really exciting book, and I can’t wait to share it with you. Every time I write a book I feel like I get better at it, and I’m so excited for the new research, learnings, and insight I’ll have the chance to share in this book. It will be a valuable addition to any parent library.
We’ve moved to the Coast
After 5½ years of Brisbane-living, we had a holiday on the Coast in January. On the way home I shared with Kylie that “if I found out I was going to die, the first thing I’d do is leave Brisbane and live on the Coast.” Kylie asked me, “Well, what are we doing?”, and within a couple of weeks we had moved. I stayed in Brisbane to pack up the house, sell the house, etc. Kylie took the kids and got everything established on the Coast. We moved into our new home (about 1km from the beach) in May. And we have never been happier.
The move to the coast prompted a new purchase: a surfboard. And it had a real workout. I forgot how much I love surfing. It’s been amazing to be in the water so often.
As the COVID-related restrictions have wound down, speaking opportunities have built back up. This year I did more in-person speaking than I’ve done since 2019. And while I honestly hate catching planes, I love the opportunity to be face-to-face with people and to share ideas and help families.
This year I caught 64 flights, spoke to 67 audiences, and delivered content to literally tens of thousands of people in-person. That’s not as many flights as my pre-COVID days, but it’s vastly more than the past few years have allowed and I’ve been grateful to have the opportunity. Hoping that 2023 will be twice as busy!
Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without my team. They are simply extraordinary. Evelynne, Caroline, Anna, Elizabeth and Mim help me so much. Craig and JR are amazing in the way they keep the podcast going - and the external team at iheartradio headed up by Corey are simply awesome. These people are the unsung heroes of the work I do. I’m so grateful they choose to work with me and do it so passionately and effectively. It’s an honour. (And then there’s the Wiley team behind the Dummies books I’m writing, and the ABC/HarperCollins team that support my other books. So many people come together to help me. I’m grateful.)
Photo: A Happy Families team lunch.
What hasn’t worked so well
The more we are intentional about what we’re doing, the better we feel life is moving. As our children get older, as we become more effective in managing ourselves and our business, and as we gain more life experience, we feel a continual improvement in the control we feel over our lives and the options we have when things don’t go to plan. But… in spite of all that, adversity doesn’t discriminate. Life happens. Things get tricky. Here are a few things we are being more intentional about in 2023 because they didn’t go quite right in 2022:
Between buying a business, selling a house, buying a house, travelling a lot for work, writing two books, and running two businesses, our time together as a family really suffered a lot. We pulled it together really well in the second half of the year, but I barely saw my family for the first six months of this year when most of these things were happening.
We typically have at least one annual holiday as a family. This year… nothing. The move to the Coast - and the costs associated with it - killed that. Fortunately we live at a holiday destination now so the impact of missing the holiday was minimised. But we must remedy family time in the New Year.
Furthermore, all of the stuff we’ve done took a toll on me at a personal level too. I all but stopped cycling for a few months, quit the gym, and gained weight. Diet suffered, and wellbeing slumped a little. And my faith/spiritual practice dropped right off as well. Balance was way off and it’s going to take a lot of systematic intentional practice to pull it back together.
The Happy Families Website and App
We worked with a company that took more than $300 000 from us to give us a new and wonderful integrated platform to bring you our website, membership, and more. The work they did was not what we needed or paid for… and after some very painful behind-the-scenes challenges, we left for someone new.
The tech headaches continue. And the costs are rising. It’s stunning to me that these very expensive companies who claim to be helping are the reason we are not thriving. We should be… but instead, we have ongoing struggles. Hoping to see a level of delivery that you will love very soon. The new group we are working with are far better to work with. Results are just around the corner, I promise!
Most years I read about 40 books. Sometimes more. This year, not so much. Again, there are only so many hours in the day and only so much I can do. I’ll remedy that in 2023. (Check out my annual book review here!)
I’m going to be honest, I’ve watched way too much TV this year. Without cycling and gym (and with a choice to not be reading), I didn’t have to get up early, so I stayed up too late picking up bad habits by watching way too many series online. Must do better. Think I’ll unsubscribe from all those providers.
My perpetual dissatisfaction
It’s hard to put into words how strongly I feel that I’ve been put on this planet to make a difference for families. At my core, I’m convinced of it. And while I’m overwhelmed with appreciation and recognition for the great stuff I’ve written about here, I feel a degree of never ending frustration that I’m not reaching more people, moving the needle for more families, and pushing the conversation further forward. I’m ongoingly challenged by the fact that parents still yell, smack, and parent hurtfully. I’m broken-hearted that abuse and neglect still occur. I want to help parents raise kids who are safe, and treat one another well. I feel like I can’t do enough. And so even though I have so much to appreciate, it’s never enough. And I don’t know how to reconcile that.
What I’ve learned
The power of decision
This year we’ve made decisions and it’s been incredible. Moving to the coast. Buying a business. Expanding different ways that we work. There is power in making a decision and taking action. We don’t always get what we want, but when we make a decision (which literally means “to cut off” other options) and start moving in the direction of those directions, results happen.
And I’ve been working on being decisive. Gather information. Consider the timeframe. If a decision is needed, make the call. By removing dithering and being decisive, we’ve made errors but they’ve all been recoverable. But we’ve also progressed further and faster when decisions have been right. And mostly, they’ve been good decisions.
Saying “no” to too much social media, too much commitment, too much dessert… it doesn’t matter what it is. Saying “no” is hard, but it counts. It highlights that you know what you value. Saying “no” to something that is not so important means saying “yes” to something that is vitally important. In some ways this ties in with the power of decision: when we know what we want and what we stand for, it’s so much easier to move in the direction of our dreams.
Hard things and hard times bring us together
This year most of us have experienced hard things at a personal level (like moving house, for example), at a community level (such as the floods at the beginning of the year), and at a global level (Ukraine and Russia). And yet as I’ve watched things at every level, I’ve been amazed to see that disasters present both oppression and opportunity. As Rebecca Solnit eloquently described in her book, A Paradise Built in Hell, “Horrible in itself, disaster is sometimes a door back into paradise, the paradise at least in which we are who we hope to be, do the work we desire, and are each our sisterʼs and brotherʼs keeper.”
Doing the work
I’ve been impressed by the simple reality that we just have to get the work done and that means putting in the time and getting it done. Reducing wasted hours increases leveraged hours. Time and intentional focus create incredible results.
Our natural impulses are wrong (often)
Doing hard things rarely sounds appealing, particularly once you get over the initial enthusiasm of making a decision. But doing hard things makes life worth living. It’s pushing through challenges and doing the impossible that satisfies me more than words can say. This year - and for the past 10 years - we’ve been doing some hard things. Really hard. So hard that I’ve procrastinated, delegated, ignored, and done everything I could to get out of those hard things. Yet when I’ve embraced the challenge and worked through it I’ve felt complete and delighted.
What I’m looking forward to
2023 is around the corner now. And there’s so much more to look forward to; so much to learn; so many people to help.
- In 2023 my next book will be released (The Parenting Revolution). My next Dummies book will also come out! And I’ll wrap up the writing of my 10th book for a 2024 release.
- Parental Guidance Season 2 will launch. I’m so excited to see what happens.
- More speaking! I’ve given the go-ahead to the team to book as many speaking opportunities as possible. I LOVE being with audiences and sharing ideas that will make their families happier.
- Camping. We didn’t do it at all in 2022. Next year, we’re getting dirty.
- A completed website. Please! Heaven help me if this thing doesn’t get fully sorted.
- Saying goodbye to my 2nd daughter. She’s leaving home, set to serve an 18-month mission for our church in England! So excited for this next phase of her life.
- More surfing and more cycling
- Welcoming more people to the Happy Families podcast. Hoping we can get to 4 million downloads in 2023!
To all of our Happy Families members, followers, listeners, and stalkers - thank you for being a part of this great community. I wish you a wonderful Christmas and end of year season, and the very best start to 2023.