Back in the Saddle: 2018 Annual Review

Sami Keinänen

January 2, 2019

I took a break this year.

For those of you who have been following this site, you’ll notice that sometime around the end of June I took a break from publishing every week. It wasn’t totally intentional, but it felt right.

Up until that point I had been consistently posting every week since December 2014 (with a few sabbaticals) and I’m proud of that. I’m not sure why I needed a break, but I did. Okay let’s be honest, maybe I didn’t need a break, I can’t really know that. I could have just gotten lazy, diverted my energy elsewhere, or both.

Regardless, I’ve decided to get back in the saddle for 2019. I’m going to post every Wednesday like I used to. It’s exciting and a little bit scary, since my essay writing muscle hasn’t been used much lately, so it will take me some time to get back in the groove.

Let’s jump in to the review. Here is what I’m going to cover.

  • What went well?
  • What could I improve?
  • What did I learn in 2018?
  • What are my aspirations and goals for 2019?

What Went Well

1. Finances

The first thing I absolutely want to give myself credit for is my finances. When I looked back at last year’s review, it was the primary focus, and looking back now I’m really happy with the results.

I tracked every penny I made or spent in 2018 in a spreadsheet, and at the end of the year I ended up with a net gain of $6K, not including the Tiny House I bought in cash for $6500 last month.

2. Oh yeah, I bought a Tiny House!

My original plan was to build one, but then as I was searching on Craigslist for a trailer I saw one for sale at a crazy good price, so I jumped on it. The owner had many other offers but I showed up first with cash in hand, and the next day I was towing it home. I’m still doing some renovations, but I expect to move in by the middle of January.

3. I successfully did intentional community.

At the beginning of the year I moved into the Emerald Village, an intentional community just outside San Diego. By any measure, this has been a huge success. I feel close to everyone at the community, I’m able to contribute and add value to them, and I’m having fun. My Tiny House also fits in really well here.

4. I got inspired to return to men’s work.

This is something I’ll talk more about in the goals/intentions for 2019 section, but over the course of the year it became clear to me that it’s time for me to re-join the world of men’s work, and it feels really good.

I was a bit hesitant at first, because I’ve been very critical of men’s work, but it’s actually because I disagree with a lot of it that I feel it’s important to add my voice. I started something called the Better Brother Foundation, it’s a group for men who want to be part of an intelligent, nuanced conversation about how we can be better lovers, allies and brothers. It’s a great place for men to share what’s going on for them and get real, honest reflections from other men.

If you identify as a man, you’re welcome to join via the Facebook group.

What I Could Improve

1. Self-discipline

I’m in the middle of reading an incredible book by Cal Newport called Deep Work, and it’s kicking my ass. He talks about how important it is to free yourself from distraction and make dedicated time to have long, uninterrupted periods of work.

That by itself is extremely useful to implement, but the part that’s kicking my ass is where he talks about how many of us have trained our brains to need distraction and as a result we’re not able to focus on difficult work (like writing essays) for long periods of time.

It’s so true for me. Even as I’m writing this I’m noticing it’s taking way longer than it should. I’m constantly reaching for distraction and I think my lack of mindfulness in this area of life contributed to me posting less.

2. Less Flow, More Structure.

2018 was a very flowey year for me, meaning I let myself follow my inspiration and my feelings a lot. I don’t regret this, but I see now that it’s time for me to calibrate in the direction of more discipline. A week ago I joined a men’s group and started taking jiu-jitsu classes. Morning exercise, accompanied with waking up a bit earlier will be important in training myself to push through discomfort.

What I Learned in 2018

1. Patience

One of the things you get to see living in a well-functioning community is the slow but steady way things improve. Watching a shed get built over the course of a few months had me remember that you can chip away at something every week, and that’s just as valid as pulling a 3-day work bender.

2. I’m good at community living.

I had a sense of this already, but I really needed to test out this theory, and 2018 provided that. The way I’ve been able to seamlessly integrate with the folks at my community really showed me how much I’m meant to be in an environment like that.

Aspirations and Goals for 2019

1. Focus on Men’s Work.

In many ways, 2018 was about spreading myself out. For example, I hosted everything from networking events, to sex parties, to music concerts, to a mini-Olympic games at my community. I did what felt fun, but in 2019 I’m narrowing my focus to men’s work.

Everything I do, with the exception of a few things that make me money, will be focused around helping men. I’m not going to do IntimacyFest, and I’ll be saying no to opportunities that don’t further my goal of creating space for men to grow and learn in the world of relationships, love and brotherhood.

2. I will focus on improving my mind.

As I said above, I’ve noticed my mind getting distracted more easily and I’m not okay with this. I’m going to be reading more physical books, spending less time on social media and training myself to be able to focus for longer periods of time without needing a break. This also includes more physical exercise and pushing my body to go past discomfort.

In Conclusion

I’m excited to get back in the saddle in 2019 and I also know it might be an uphill battle. I’ve gotten a little soft, but hopefully it’s nothing a little jiu-jitsu and hard work can’t fix.

Thank you for following the work on this site, and I’m looking forward to sharing more thought-provoking essays in 2019.

Thanks to James Clear and Chris Guillebeau for the annual review structure.

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