For the past two years I’ve written a behind-the-scenes, take-a-peek-under-the-hood kind of annual review so you can see what it is like to be both immersed in talking about having a happy family but also trying to have a happy family. (You can see my 2018 and 2019 Annual Reviews by following the links.)
The review is meant to be short and simple, and it follows nearly the same pattern that our family uses on a weekly basis when we have our family (and couples) meetings. Why?
I believe in being intentional about my choices. The more intentional and purposeful I am, the more likely it is that I’ll create a strong focus to move forward with, fail, learn, and ultimately improve.
As always, I’m going to review three key questions:
- What went well?
- What didn’t?
- What was learned, and what will I do with what I learned?
In each review I’ve mixed the personal and the business side of things – and it’s pretty straight-up honest. I’m not doing it to impress. I’m doing it as a matter of transparency in the hope that it is useful. That’s my only purpose to sharing it publicly.
So let’s dive in!
What went well?
I’ll start with the work stuff, then move to the family and personal stuff.
The book was finally published and released. Miss-Connection was really well received and the feedback was wonderfully positive. I have LOVED being able to talk about how we can connect better with our tween and teen girls. This book has been a blessing to me and my family, and to so many others.
Believe it or not, COVID-19 hasn’t genuinely interrupted my speaking overall this year. There were some very, very quiet moments where I was nervous… but COVID created a range of challenges that I was ideally suited for. And the best part? I got to speak from my home office. This means that I was able to earn a living to support my family and team without all of those flights, hotel rooms, airport meals, and nights away from my family.
Reach and Influence
My goal is to reach as many people as possible to help make their families happier. And this year has been my best year ever in relation to reach and influence.
At the start of 2020 there was 115 148 people who had liked my page and 123, 789 people who followed the page. As of Dec 1, 2020 that had risen to 146 125 people who liked the page and 169, 123 people who follow.
Instagram has risen from 13 896 followers to 22, 300.
And 27 000 people have viewed my TEDx talk on YouTube (but I have no idea how many views the video on the TED site has had).
In addition, Goalcast has asked that I be an ambassador so I’m providing regular content to them and reaching more people than ever. What an opportunity!
My highlight, as always, remains the delightful feedback from people all over the world who appreciate what I write and share. It makes such an impact on my heart.
One of the biggest highlights of the year has been the relaunch of the Happy Families Podcast. In October I teamed up with my wife, Kylie, and we began a daily podcast routine. It’s fair to say it’s gone super well! At the start of the year, my podcast had around 15 000 monthly downloads. We’re edging in on ten times that now – about 120 000 per month!
My Team Expands again
It’s been a remarkable year for my team. We have lost a couple of truly valuable employees (one due to COVID, one for health reasons, and another who scored a dream job in a different role). But we have attracted amazing people to replace them.
Evelynne, who has been with me for close to 3 years, takes care of all of the Happy Families marketing. She has hired Abby as a marketing assistant. Elizabeth is our admin person (and wears several other technical hats as well). And Caroline is looking after client relations and business development. The team is on fire, highly skilled, and super committed to the mission of Happy Families. Everyone is full time or close to it, and we are really making a difference. I love my team.
Happy Families Membership
The scariest thing for us this year was COVID. We thought we might lose the business. Instead, COVID accelerated a plan that we had been building and we developed and launched the Happy Families Memberships.
It has been a delightful success in that it meets my two main objectives: first, it makes a meaningful difference in people’s lives; and second, it’s commercially viable which means we can keep it going, keep investing in it, and keep making a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
The feedback on the membership has been amazing, and I can’t wait for the upgrades and changes that are coming to it in 2021. Our members are going to love it even more!
COVID messed up the quarterly getaways Kylie and I try to enjoy. We were fortunate to be in Brisbane, so we only missed one – but we really felt it.
We camped at Yeppoon in winter and Bribie Island in September, so the family holidays are going well. They’re cheap. They’re easy. And they are happening! (Japan was on the cards for April, but… COVID.)
Our second daughter graduated high school.
Our third daughter had her “Sweet 16” getaway (January) to New Zealand! This is a tradition we aim to continue for all of our children. A few nights to really talk about what matters in life and create memories… and it was a treat.
And I’ve been home all year. I literally haven’t caught a flight since March! It’s meant that I’ve even been consistent with my riding: a touch over 10 000 kms on the bike! That’s 170 rides this year at an average of around 120kms per week – but given I essentially didn’t ride in Feb/March due to travel, I’m ok with that.
In a nutshell, this year should have been a disaster. COVID-19 destroyed the speaking industry and left us reeling. But the business and our family have never been stronger.
That’s not to say we didn’t have our challenges.
What didn’t go so well
Each of my previous entries (2018 and 2019) have been honest about the challenges we have faced and the things that haven’t worked out so well. This year it’s actually a bit harder to identify issues. Let me be clear: We HAVE had challenges. BIG ONES!
The thing is, we’ve worked so well as a team that we’ve managed to work through them, grow because of them, and do better or do more because of what we’ve learned.
If anything hasn’t worked out it’s writing. This year COVID ended my weekly columns in the busiest newspaper in the country. That is disappointing as I love being able to help families in such a visible way. In addition, I’ve barely put pen to paper on a new book this year. While I have reached an agreement with an agent, I’ve not touched the work I told her I’d do. This has been an epic failure, due mostly to the work involved in overcoming the challenges below.
We had to put out a lot of fires. During lockdown and beyond we worked at twice the pace we usually do. The entire team put in enormous hours at incredible intensity. I found myself working from 5am until 9:30pm several days a week for a couple of months. It was exhausting, unhealthy, and unsustainable. Like so many others, desperate times called for desperate measures. But it took its toll. We were blessed to see it all work out in the end, but we had to work for it like never before.
We have a membership that is working to help so many people in so many great ways. But… the platform is not up to the job. There are technical bugs that aggravate us and our members. We are working on fixes for this, but the ongoing challenging day-to-day tech dramas, small though they may be, are something that is not going well. (To fix this, we must build a custom-made platform at a cost that is eye-watering… but we’re going to take on the challenge in 2021 and keep working too hard so we can make sure it works!)
While I am delighted with the team I now have, I cannot emphasise just how painful it is to have staff leave. All that knowledge and experience walks out the door and we have to go through the challenge of sifting through resumes, interviewing, praying we’ve selected the right candidate, training, and then watching them leave. I don’t blame them. I just highlight that in a small business staff turnover is painful and this year we’ve been through it far too much. Once again, we’re fortunate and blessed to have seen it all work out in the end and I think it’s fair to say that we have a stronger team than ever before. (And that’s with no disrespect to the wonderful staff I’ve had previously.)
Watching all my work disappear was a challenge. It was something that I can honestly say did not “go well”. It was beyond our control, and we wrestled control back, found ways to work, and got things going… but wow.
Lest anyone read this (now far too long) summary and think it was easy, please know it was anything but easy. This year, we’ve achieved positive – amazing – outcomes. But it has been the hardest year we have ever worked through. There have been times I was sure we could not possibly make it. We’ve worked harder than ever before. The challenges have been relentless. It’s all been out of our control… but we’ve made it in spite of – or perhaps because of – those challenges.
What I’ve learned
A few days into the March lockdown, a successful friend (who runs a multi-million dollar business) spoke with me. “Shut it down now” he warned. “You’ll never be able to stay afloat. You’ll go to the wall if you keep your staff on.”
The next day the phone rang. A client offered me work. Lots of it. 20 minutes later another call, another offer, and I knew we’d make it. I felt like those two calls, back-to-back, were the miracle I needed.
Those miracles continued throughout the year. A key learning: have faith and keep moving forward.
They said we couldn’t do it
Another key learning: don’t listen to the naysayers. I had a LOT of people tell me that a parenting membership couldn’t work. Others had tried and failed. What makes ‘you’ so special?
I don’t think I’m special. But I do think that putting members first, giving them my very best, and adding value to their lives has been the difference. We have learned a great lesson: keep your eyes fixed on your goal. Don’t deviate. Prove them wrong… but don’t do it because of them (the naysayers). Do it because you believe in it and it makes a difference.
Hardship drives innovation
In our home we have a saying: You’ve gotta love the hills. This year has been a big, hard-core hill. But that hardship has made us stronger. We’re more dynamic, versatile, agile, and service-oriented. We’re bigger and better than we were before – and it’s because of the hardship that we can say that. We simply wouldn’t be where we are without the hard times we’ve had this year. The hardship has been a gift.
The future is always uncertain
This year has taught me that you can never take the future for granted. Therefore we have to do all we can do invest in the now – with our kids, with our work, with our lives. It’s been an important learning.
More than anything, this year I’ve felt the need to be generous, to serve, and to be responsive to other people and their needs. As I’ve done it, life has been full. It’s been enlarging.
If you’ve read this far, can I please thank you for following along, being intentional about your own life and that of your family, and allowing me to do what I can to support you as you build stronger family relationships. It’s a privilege and a responsibility I’ll never take for granted.
May 2021, as uncertain as it is, contain plenty of hill, that make you stronger.