The 2016 Annual Letter to the SJO Family

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Few things are more critical for future success than taking a moment to pause and reflect on what happened.

As such, I’m a big believer in taking a look back at the past year to learn what worked, what didn’t, to figure out what others did (to learn from their mistakes), and then modify your behavior.

Inspired by Warren Buffet’s Shareholder Letters, I give you my first Annual Letter to the SJO Family.

Let me reiterate that SJO.com is not a vehicle for revenue generation. It as an outlet for me, where I can talk about my experience being an entrepreneur, pontificate on what’s worked (and what hasn’t), and cover case studies to help you learn from my mistakes.[

You may not be spending your money with me (and to be honest, many have offered), but you have spent your time and trust on me.

This support is incredibly important to me. And this letter aims to strengthen that support by being open and transparent about what conspired in 2016, and what to look forward to in 2017.

(I’ll be slightly cheating and considering the year to be from Nov 2015-Dec 2016).


Traffic and Impact

SJO.com started off with a bang. My initial post on how we used segmentation to make $100,000+ garnered quite a bit of traffic, clocking in at almost 25,000 visitors over the year. It was evergreen content that not only still gets us traffic, but begat a sequel post one year later.

Overall, I am happy with the amount of traffic the site generated, especially factoring in that I only posted a total of five blog posts over the entire year!

I am most happy that over 4% of traffic converted and became part of the SJO.com Family. All without a single annoying modal popup or welcome gate

SJO.com is connecting with its audience


Guest Posts & Being Quoted

My original goal with SJO.com was to only do long form content on entrepreneurship (more on that later). I thus used guest posts as a quick way to churn out content on reputable websites to get my ideas out there.

Though I did only a few guest posts, the overall reception was incredibly positive. For example, my article on re-engaging your email subscribers got hundreds and hundreds of shares.

These guest posts will be expanded and make their way on to SJO.com You’ll be seeing the article mentioned above on re-engaging your email subscribers fleshed out and on SJO in 2017.

I was also quoted all over the mainstream – from Forbes to Inc to Entrepreneur Magazine. These quotes helped develop my social proof (more on that under Networking)

In a bizarre twist, I somehow became the token 30+ year old in articles on Millennials. As a proud crotchety curmudgeon, I’m still dubious on being associated with all of these young bloods!

In 2016 I did a few guest posts on large sites to broaden my reach. I will be doing similar in 2017


Podcasts

I did a lot of podcasts in 2016. Brian Dean mentioned that when he was getting established, podcasts were a great way for him to connect and build up his audience.

It’s a bit of a shame that I appeared on two of the most popular entrepreneur podcasts (mixergy and EOFire) before I even had SJO.com. If you’re thinking about going on any podcast, I highly recommend you have a landing page setup so that people who are interested can follow you directly.

A few of my favorite podcast interviews include:

I was on a lot of podcasts in 2016. I’ll be on a lot less in 2017 due to my Hiatus 2017 approach (more on that later)


Facebook

Facebook has continued to be an enjoyable source of community building for me.

I do (yup, “do”) Facebook a bit differently than most people. I don’t have a fan page. I don’t use it as a place to talk about my personal life or post pictures of my life (I have posted one picture ever of my lady and zero ever of my dog).

Instead, I use Facebook as a place to throw out opinions and thoughts. A place for me to muse freely and see how people interpret my thoughts (as is the human condition, people often take umbrage in very personal ways I could not have even imagined; I often think of this song when they comment).

Facebook lets my personality come through – irreverent, sarcastic, opinionated, and also curious. And of course, the #cookielife.

The people I find who do best in community building on Facebook use it as a vehicle to be themselves. Guys like Derek Halpern, John Romaniello (I will forever take credit of nudging him back into being active on FB), Ramit Sethi, Maneesh Sethi, and more… look at their posts, and you’ll notice they barely pimp out what they do. They never post inspirational or motivational garbage.

No – instead they expose themselves in a way that connects with people. Oddball experiences while working at a cafe. Thoughts on pop culture. Dealing with customers. Completely random thoughts.

Stop trying to be some run-of-the-mill lame-ass guru who motivates and inspires. Be interesting. Be useful to others (see #3)


#cookielife

One year ago, the #cookielife did not even exist.

The original Chocolate Chip Cookie Off happened on January 9, 2016. Eleven days later, I got my first cookies from Laura Tourand.

Since then, I have received roughly 75 batches of chocolate chip cookies.

I have steadfastly refused to make it anything more than what it is – an ad-hoc oddity stemming from the Internet; a quirk in the matrix.

What makes the #cookielife special is the constraints I’ve placed upon it. These limitations help spark creativity, and I have no desire to change that. Thus no Instagram. Thus no website.

This has, in turn, driven attention. An article on Entrepreneur.com talks about four ways chocolate chip cookies helped me become a better leader. Then there’s an article on how the #cookielife gives you lessons in networking. And finally, I even wrote an article for Men’s Health about how I lost significant weight while chomping on cookies.

Next up is the Chocolate Chip Cookie Off 2017. On January 14, roughly 75 people will be gathering to feast on cookies, with 25+ pros having committed to bringing their best chocolate chip cookies for us to judge.

The #cookielife was an unexpected but amazing ride. 2017 will likely amp it up even more


Networking

If I had one goal in 2016, it was to build up my network. I wanted to connect with peers.

Before my article went up on Forbes, few people knew who I was. After Tim Ferriss shared that article, saying something to the effect of “this man is living the four hour work week,” things started to heat up.

Side note: I failed as I had no way of collecting emails at this time.

If you’re reading this and do not have an email list, you need to create one now.

Subsequently, as I became connected to more successful people, these people opened up other doors for me I never knew even existed!

As an example, earlier this year I bought my first piece of art and wrote an email about it. It turned out that the Banksy’s broker was also on my email list. He popped me a quick email and said if I ever wanted to buy a piece, to let him know.

Networking became a means to an end of my ultimate goal: to live an exciting life

If I was successful at anything this year, it was building up my network. From meeting people at coffee shops to Skype calls to attending a few remarkable events, my Rolodex exploded.

Mind you, networking was relatively easy because I was accomplished. Examine.com became a juggernaut in 2016, surpassing 27,000,000 pageviews. I acted as a digital advisor to Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was quoted all over mainstream media. I was verified on Twitter and Facebook. There was an entry about me added to Wikipedia.

There was social proof that I wasn’t a dreamer but a do-er, and that made networking 100x easier

When I say networking, I don’t mean just saying hi to someone and adding them to Facebook.

People who know me will vouch that I think hard on who I can connect them to. My network became their network, and I’ve been happy to act as a hub and facilitator for many people.

I’d estimate that I did 750+ introductions this year. Every single one targeted and personalized.

Its downstream effects have been tremendous, as people have started to associate me with someone who can help you find an expert on any issue possible (and I’d like to think I can).

With all that said, I’ve pulled back on networking. I know enough humans now that the higher priority is getting to know them better, not just getting to know more of them.

My network blew up in 2016 as I spent energy developing it. My goal in 2017 is to make it go deeper, not to expand it


Speaking

I spoke quite a bit in 2016. Roughly 2x a month.

I’m a big believer in the power of communication, and I realized to level myself up, speaking was the smart choice.

As I mentioned earlier about working with constraints, public speaking delivers a unique problem: you are forced to communicate ideas and actions to others without the benefit of them being able to give you feedback. How do you do that in a way that thoroughly convinces them the utility of what you’re espousing?!

Thanks to my network, I had access to some amazing speakers, whom I was able to hire to coach me on becoming more effective. Their collective expertise was a boon in my development.

Here’s a random example: eat an apple before you go on stage. It keeps your mouth moist so you don’t have that unfortunate “smacking” sound when your mouth gets dry.

While by no means am I a great speaker, I feel confident in saying I’ve evolved into a solid speaker.

As I have nothing to sell on stage (nor do I have any desires to become a professional speaker), this is another thing I will be taking a hiatus from in 2017.

I spoke roughly 25 times in 2016. It helped me develop that skill, but it is something I will be taking a hiatus from


Emails Away!

While I only managed five blog posts this year (writing that out makes it sound even more pitiful), I did send out 39 emails to the SJO Family.

This was my strength for 2016.

My overall process is simple – take a thought I have in my head, flesh it out slightly, and post it on Facebook.

Next, take the feedback into account, let that initial thought marinate into a reflection, write about it, and then send out an email on it.

That was a successful approach. My open rates were firmly in the 40s, and my unsubscribe rate was very low.

Best of all, people would respond. I’d get tangential ideas, unusual links, and more.

And it’s this feedback that leads me to…


What to Expect – Hiatus 2017

My original mission with SJO.com was simple: speak about the various facets of entrepreneurship, go into great details on them, and adhere to the constraint that it is not something to generate revenue.

For example: Auditing Thank You Pages.

As I pondered over New Years Resolutions, I realized that I wanted to expand from only entrepreneurship. I realized that the emails I sent in 2016 and the impact they had was what I was most proud of, not the traffic I got writing about entrepreneurship.

So my overall goal for SJO.com for 2017 is to take what was previously email-only, and converting them into mini-essays I publish online.

I aim to write once every couple of weeks, and some examples of what I’ll be writing about include:

  • How to manipulate the media via Twitter (oh man this one is gonna be so frighteningly easy)
  • Why I’ve never had a mentor,
  • The amazingness of GPS (one of the few systems in the world that use both relativity and non-relativity mathematics!)
  • Why I don’t use Instagram

By taking a hiatus from podcasts, from speaking, and from networking, I free up the time and mental space to write more.

Consider this SJO’s evolution from just entrepreneurship to “entrepreneurship & more.” My aim is to do this once every couple of weeks, with the idea that you grow, learn, and think alongside me.

Enter your email below and join me in the journey.

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