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Revisiting 2018 – Do What Your Heart Feels is Right

Last day of the year is always special. It’s the last time I sat down to write in 2018. It is also an excellent time to reflect upon things that happened this year and make plans for the year to come.

It’s been a while since I composed a yearly review, but here I am, documenting some of the moments of 2018 that I would like to remember forever. In the first week of December 17, We redesigned ShoutMeLoud and got a new logo and did some great work there. Sharat inked himself with ShoutMeLoud logo which is remarkable:

I started 2018 just after one of the most amazing trips to Antarctica, and for the first time, Delhi winter didn’t feel as freezing as it usually does. Now, unlike other years, 2018 was different.

It was a lot of introspection and self-learning for me. I had to fight a lot of my inner demons which I knew existed for years but never dared to face them.

It was more like trash piling up in one corner of the room that I knew was there, but I never took action.

The first half of the year unearthed many of them, and I realized that I  had to accept them before I could fight them.

When I look back, I feel I could have done better in the first half of the year. The only thing I could do was to surrender myself to the whole experience and acknowledge my achievements, realize my mistakes and use the learnings to make better decisions in the future.

2018 was the year when I made the most mistakes, which also makes it the year of great learnings.

I will try to put down my experience below so that you can learn from my mistakes and have a better year ahead.

Also, when I grow old, it would be nice to look back at this phase and smile.

Ok then, here we go:

January and February 2018

Last few months of 2017 were super exciting. I achieved things I never thought I would on personal as well as the financial front.

I kept thinking of early retirement as it felt like I had achieved most of my goals.

I stopped growing for a bit and my perspective changed from being a student of life to someone who thought he knew it all.

I had, unknowingly, started surrounding myself with people who were nice to me, rather than those who were honest in my face. Instead of taking actions, my impulse to seek recognition started increasing.

For me, it was a tough one to digest as I never thought I could be such a person. But it was happening!

The first two months of the year were the toughest and also the slowest for me.

Day-dreaming and running away from accountability, I was making my future difficult.

Sometimes it gets hard to see things when you are in the middle of it all. Don’t you agree?

I was almost in the midst of a mid-life crisis, figuring out what to do next.

It was not productive but the questions I was going through paved the way for time to come.

Me and Sharat did a road trip to Chandigarh to meet Chatty who is a smart young chap and was working on a few projects with us.

March 2018

March started with great pace, and the first significant thing that I did was a trip to Hong Kong with my team.

It was a conference that we attended it as an official media partner.

We also tested a lot of new stuff like:

  • Podcasts
  • Twitter chat

Podcasts and videos are going to one of the prime targets for 2019.

I also met Gary Illyes, Abhishek, Honey Singh and Fernando at different venues and events in the month of March:

April and May 2018

These two months were pretty busy with managing my finances and restructuring the company.

By the end of April, I moved away from managing the finances of my company which turned out to be a great decision. I also moved my whole blogging business to the newly formed company rather than managing under my name, something that paved the way for better structuring in the times to come.

This is the time when I shared my intention with my team of stepping down from the role of CEO of ShoutDreams and bringing someone knowledgeable to run the company so that I could focus on things that I like.

I could feel the pressure of increasing demand for growing the company and keeping up with writing content.

Honestly, running day-to-day operations was becoming a challenge. I had never felt so much pressure. Even though I knew the right thing to do, I was not sure what to do.

I could feel it in my heart that I was not enjoying what I was doing and that my business and life required some major changes.

The question I kept asking myself repeatedly were:

  • Do I really need to do this? 
  • Do I really need to build the company?
  • What’s next for ShoutMeLoud?

On the one hand, I knew it was an important thing to do considering the way we do business online was shifting. On the other hand, I felt I was getting too business-oriented and was losing my freedom.

I could feel the requirement of having more key players on my team. Maybe a content guy, a video editor, a graphics guy, maybe an app developer. However, I was not enjoying the part where I had to spend time hiring and letting go of people.

The pressure of running the company was taking a toll on my overall performance. Moreover, I was not sure what I wanted from my life anymore. I had not yet confronted my inner demons and was trying to ignore them as much as I could.

To add to my troubles, Shallu (my wife) met with an accident and hurt her back in April 2018. She was bed-ridden for 3 whole months. When this happened, for the first time in many, many, years, I was really scared. Seeing someone you love in pain is heart-wrenching. I’m sure you can resonate with that.

I was struggling with everything. It was not the best place to be, but I can’t deny the importance of that phase in my career.

I realized I should be spending more time working. Honestly, I was starting to enjoy work again, and I knew it was time to make some changes. I rented a space in co-working office called Regus and worked from there for a month.

It was a boring place to be, but I was still happy as I was breaking out of procrastination and getting work done.

I worked from this space for almost a month. I discontinued with it later because it was becoming too corporate – more like a 9-5 job!

One highlight of April was addressing the audience at MindmineSummit.

June 2018

June is usually an action-packed month for me. In June 2018, I traveled to Helsinki to attend the SummerJam by SEMRUSH. SummerJam is a private event by SEMRUSH where they invite some of the best minds from the SEO and marketing industry.

It was great connecting with like-minded people in Helsinki. Here are some pictures from the event.

I also met Victoria, former affiliate manager of SEMRUSH, who currently works with Supermetrics.

If you don’t remember her, here is the video we did together last year about affiliate marketing for businesses.

Another highilght was this “Blogging birthday cake” sent by my friend, which made my day:

July 2018 – Half cooked Europe trip

After the Summer Jam, I planned to travel to Europe for a month with my family. It was one of our dream trips. From Helsinki, we went to Amsterdam and Prague. The plan was to travel to more places.

However, on the 9th day when I was in Prague, one of my key team member shared his intention of saying goodbye. I already felt I wasn’t doing justice to my role and this news couldn’t have come at a worse time.

We abandoned the rest of the trip and returned to India. I realized how important it was for me to resolve the burning question of the future of the company – putting up the system in place, ensuring everyone gets proper growth and credit for their work. I wish I could have done this more pro-actively a few years back, but as I said, I was no one to complain about how my life was unfolding. More on this later.

August

Half of the year was gone, and I could feel the pressure of not doing anything significant.

It doesn’t matter how well one is doing financially or growing if the ❤ is not in sync with the mind. It’s struggle.

👆🏻was my state of mind, and the first thing I did was change my office space. I found a nice place near my home called Instaoffice where I rented a spot.

It was a dream office and I enjoyed being there from day one.

Instead of planning, I started getting things done.

But I had accumulated a lot of questions in the past few months, and the answers were nowhere to be found. The worst decision one can take is not taking any decision, and I was doing exactly that.

As it is, I was not feeling super pumped up about much I was doing.  Existential crisis along with mid-life crisis, it was a pretty awkward place to be in.

In the past 12 months, I lost two key players from my team, and I was failing to put up system and process. I was facing a new issue every day.

At the stage I was, it was not easy for me to open up to anyone and tell them what I was going through. I was feeling lonely, but I didn’t let anything affect my day-to-day activities. It felt like depression but I’m glad it wasn’t.

I was losing the whole perspective of my journey. I was unsure of what would happen next.

But life always has something to offer.

One gets help when he/she least expects, and this is what happened in August.

I opened up to a few close people and told them what I was going through.

“Are you enjoying what you are doing?”

A friend asked me this simple question, and straight away I knew the answer – No!

I was doing a lot of things that I wasn’t enjoying.

For example, working 9-6 thinking that working more was a solution.

Waiting for weekends to live life!

I was trying to live a perfect life which was not me. I was living someone else’s life.

I was not able to write regularly, because my heart was not in sync and nothing makes me better than journaling.

We discussed things, and after a lot of questions and introspection over the new few days, I realized I was doing the exact opposite of what my heart said.

Working 9-6 was not me, and there I was, forcing myself to work more thinking that was the solution.

Rather than looking at my problems with the lens of solving it, I was harsh on myself.

I was being cornered by my ego. I was not ready to accept my shortcomings.

Instead of keeping my blogging journey fun, being thankful for whatever I have, I was focused more on the things that I wasn’t able to accomplish.

Throughout, I knew I don’t enjoy doing some of those things and rather than asking “How” to solve it, I was looking at “Why” I couldn’t do it.

This is where I started following the mantra“Do what, heart says”.

I accepted the situation, and started to take it easy from there.

I started accepting that I’m good with some things and not so good at other things.

Believe it or not, this mere acceptance changed everything for me.

Working more was not a solution and sometimes taking a step back or slowing down is the best thing to do.

I needed a change. A significant shift in my mindset, and I needed to be at a new place.

What do I really want to do?

From here on, I started making every decision based on the question above.

That one simple thing (“Do what your heart says”) changed the course for the rest of my year and probably my life.

It drastically changed everything!

September – The African Safari and Brighton SEO

I had planned my trip to Kenya a long time ago and even though I had to move major mountains in my business, I didn’t cancel this 9-day trip.

Why?

Because I badly needed a change and deep down I always wanted to experience the Great African Safari.

On the 1st of September, I flew to Nairobi, Kenya, and something was waiting for me.

A new beginning!

Kenya reminded me of India 20 years back. Everything was so raw, natural and pure.

The next few days were full of African adventures.

“The Game Drive”, as they call it, had us travel in the jungle on a safari.

Being in the arms of nature was such an enchanting experience. It reminded me of this famous quote which was part of my social media bio for years:

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.

For days, I completely forgot who I’m. Something was happening to me. I don’t have words to explain those changes. After months of self-loathing, I was truly free!

This is the same time I started practicing Yoga, and I made a commitment to wake up before sunrise. This was another landmark decision of 2018 for me as it positively impacted my health and overall awareness. I would take this moment to thank Rohit for being my Yoga guru.

At the end of the month, I attended the BrightonSEO. It was the 2nd event for me of the year, and I realized how much I enjoyed attending such events.

Apart from learnings, such events are the best place to meet people who walk the same path as me.

October: DMSS Bali and Lasik eye surgery

After returning from the Brighton SEO, I went straight to Bali to attend DMSS. I was particularly excited about the mastermind which was one of its kind and my first ever. DMSS Bali turned out to be more than a digital marketing event. I have written a detailed experience here.

I met so many amazing people and discovered a lot of stuff about running and managing a remote company.  I realized how silly I was by trying to fix things which were not even broken. Another key learning is to surround ourselves with people who are on a similar boat.

Andrea also took me for my first ever surfing experience, and I absolutely loved it.

Lasik Eye surgery 

Another highlight of the year was letting go of my eye-glasses. It’s been more 20 years that I have been wearing glasses, and finally, I got the lasik eye surgery done.

so happy that the surgery was successful and now I’m writing this without having anything between my screen and eyes. A huge thanks to Dr. Dariel Mathur.

November: The Change

By November, I was in the doer mode. I was making quick decisions, and my year-long procrastination attitude was long gone.

To make better decisions in life, we need information. If you don’t have the right information, you will end up trying too many times before giving up or keep trying. DMSS Bali has given me the information which I needed to make better decisions, and I realized it was time for me to step up the game.

My experiment with “surrender to the life” had begun again and from the “why is it happening” mode, I was completely into “how do I solve it” mode. Instead of being in a hurry to reach somewhere, I started living knowing that “I had arrived”.

A bit of planning and more of actions started putting things into perspective.

At the end of the month, I traveled to Milan to address my second international conference. I wish I could tell you how free I was while giving that speech.

All my fears, insecurities were gone, and I was back to my best.

December: ShoutMeLoud’s 10th anniversary & more challenges

On 1st December, ShoutMeLoud celebrated the 10th anniversary, and it was unlike any other year. No blog post, no big announcement but just a simple video showcasing the 10th year of blogging life.

We had plans to throw a party to celebrate our 10th anniversary but it didn’t work out, and I was ok with it. After all, months of being too harsh on myself had taught me a lot. It was ok to let go of some plans. It was ok to slow down and appreciate what we have rather than complaining of what we could have done.

By December, our blog traffic was down by 30% and so was the revenue.

I was back to the time when Google Panda hit us hard. Only, this time it was Keyword Cannibalization and a few other factors.

I knew time had come to change, to re-invent. The months to come is going to be fun, solving these new challenges. After all, we pick our own battles.

Here are the last few days of 2018 in pictures:

How can I not be thankful when I’m so blessed to be alive and enjoy such serene views of nature.

I’m pretty excited about 2019. I can see myself doing more of what my heart says. I’m sure it would be a year of the complete union of my mind, body, and soul. A year of clarity and action.

Books that I read in 2018

In 2018, I started listening to books via Audible. I have not made the complete shift and depending on the books, I still rely on the mixture of Kindle and the audible version.

Here are a few of the books that I read in 2018. I would recommend you the same.

  • Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella
  • The Law Of Attraction by Esther and Jerry Hicks
  • Mini Habits by Stephan Guise
  • Meditation And Its Methods by Swami Vivekananda
  • The CEO’s Mindset by Vinnie Fisher
  • Cryptocurrencies by Dr. Jullian Hop
  • If Truth Be Told by Om Swami

Audible books:

  • Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink
  • The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson
  • Exactly What To Say by Phil M. Jones

How could I have made 2018 better?

Here are a few things that I could have done better:

  • Spending more time reflecting on thoughts and actions. Having the complete clarity of what I want. This is something I would be doing on a regular basis in 2019.
  • Being consistent with writing and producing content.
  • Becoming a student for life.
  • Of all the new things that I started, should have looked at data to make a better decision on carrying it or closing it down.
  • Actions over quick validation.
  • Creation over curation.
  • Acceptance and complete ownership of my present.
  • Daily gratitude.

For now, I wish love and happiness to you and your family. I wish that you fulfill all that you wish for and always do “What your heart truly wants”.

Do let me know how was 2018 for you? Share your learnings and experience in the comment section below.

Happy New Year!

Revisiting 2018 – Do What Your Heart Feels is Right is a post from ShoutMeLoud – Shouters Who Inspires

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