When you work a more traditional kind of office job with a more traditional kind of company, particularly in a more structured kind of corporate environment, the annual performance review is a pretty standard practice. Your manager or supervisor will call you into her office, and she’ll go over where you did well, where you need improvement, and where you should try to go in the year ahead.

As a solopreneur, I don’t really get that and I’m not about to hire the two Bobs from some external consulting firm, so I have to give (and receive) my own performance review. In doing so, I need to be honest with myself about my biggest failures and with my greatest triumphs. Turns out, these two categories are inexplicably connected to one another.

I Contributed to a Successful Fundraiser

Back in my university days, the first co-op job that I got was with United Way. I was tasked with managing some two dozen workplace campaigns, acting as the liaison between the rep at each company and United Way itself. We’d talk strategy and manage logistics, and then I’d handle much of the paperwork on the other end too. All said, these campaigns brought in over $600,000 in donations. Pretty good.

This year, I was part of another fundraising effort, this time for my daughter’s preschool. As part of the silent auction committee, I solicited donations for the auction itself, helped to run the night’s festivities, and supported the other members of the team. I don’t think we have the final figures yet, but it’s safe to say that we blew well past our original goal. That’s great. That’s a big win.

But I don’t feel like I contributed enough. Even though I’m well aware it wasn’t a competition, I could see that several of the other silent auction team members brought in a lot more donations. I could see that several of them put in a lot more hours and effort too. I could have done more. I can always do more.

I Published My Third Book

Beyond the Baby Babble, by Michael Kwan

After co-authoring Make Money Online with John Chow and penning Beyond the Margins on my own, I followed up with Beyond the Baby Babble. This progression is representative of my career path these past several years, from working with others to building my own brand and now with fatherhood playing such a big role in my life.

Publishing Beyond the Baby Babble was probably the biggest highlight and greatest accomplishment of the year, at least professionally, and I’m very proud to have been able to do that. It’s a nice little feather in my cap. On the flip side, it took me three years to write (instead of the one year I had planned initially) and the sales figures are decidedly modest at best. I had high hopes and the numbers just have not aligned with those hopes.

But hey, at least it’s there and it’s done?

I Shot a New Vlog Every Week

One year of vlogging

Much like my freelance writing career, my year of vlogging sort of happened “accidentally on purpose.” For the first few episodes, I had specific events lined up that I was going to cover. Then, I decided I wanted to keep it up and what resulted was a new vlog every Monday, without fail, for one whole year.

Some of the episodes were event-specific, like attending the Healthy Family Expo or going on vacation in Mexico, whereas others were shot mainly in my home office where I wanted to discuss a particular topic. You can catch up on all the episodes via my YouTube channel at your leisure. I’m proud I was able to keep up this kind of consistency.

It was a terrific experiment in exercising a different set of creative muscles and it was a part of my ongoing training in self-discipline. That’s good. Unfortunately, the vlog hasn’t been nearly as popular as I had hoped and it’s been much more taxing than I had anticipated. I know it’s not just about the numbers — it never is — but I can’t help but obsess over the numbers when they’re not up to snuff.

Between the book and the vlog, my biggest failures professionally have been “side gigs” and “pet projects.”

I Started Running

Who's going to run this town tonight?

On some level, you could say that many of my biggest failures of 2017 are largely inconsequential. I may have poured my heart and soul into that book, but it’s hardly the end of the world that not as many people picked it up as I had hoped. As long as you’re happy and healthy, right?

Well, I thought I was going to tackle both the “happy” and “healthy” part of that statement when I decided that I was going to take up running again… which was coincidentally documented in the vlog. At the time, I told myself that I’d try to go out for a jog at least once a week, but that fizzled very quickly.

It’s good that I took an active interest in improving my health. It’s not so good that I allowed that interest to wane so soon and so easily.

I Survived

An aging simulation

According to most estimates, somewhere between 55 and 60 million people die every year. Assuming that I make it through the next couple of days, I will not be a part of that statistic. I should be grateful for this magical gift called life, thankful that I’ve been able to stay on this planet for another spin around the sun.

But is that really enough? This year, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my purpose in life, pondering about whether I’ve squandered my opportunity at doing something bigger or being something greater. Is this just hubris? Because, on average, we’re all just average. We’re all unique, just like everyone else… and our greatest successes are usually balanced or tempered by our biggest failures.

Here’s to another year lost in thought, I guess.