Becoming An Annual Review Guy & "Retiring" My Supporters | #210
January 14th, 2023: Greetings from Austin and welcome back to the normal weekly Saturday edition of Boundless. I plan to continue this indefinitely though will likely take a month off in March when my daughter arrives.
This past week I wrote a whole bunch of posts. On Monday, I shared my annual review, on Tuesday I shared how I made $249k in income (🔒), on Wednesday I shared the books I liked, Thursday I did a roundup of links from the newsletter in 2022, and Friday I talked about the year-long book journey and how I ended up selling 10,000 books.
If you’d like to become a paid subscriber and join find the others, you can do that on circle or by subscribing (gift options are also available if you are in a lower-income situation, email me)
#1 Becoming an Annual Review Guy
The new year is a natural inflection point. For indies like myself, they are doubly important.
Over the past few years, I’ve slowly drifted from being an annual review skeptic to seeing it as one of the essential parts of the year. I resisted it because it seemed too similar to the performative “performance” reviews that would create heaps of work across every corporation in November and December in my past life. No one gave a damn about performance, of course. Everyone was playing the game and trying to cash in as much as possible.
Indie life is weird though. You not only have to care about your “performance” in a real way, but you also need to get dig into what that word actually means. And if you don’t like the word performance, what is the word you like? Goals? Achievements? Aliveness? The word doesn’t matter as much as going through the exercise. And what do those words mean to you, and how do they shape your day-to-day reality?
The annual review is the time when you can take stock of the daily and weekly and monthly tinkering and ask yourself, what are the big things I got right? What are the ones I sense are wrong? What do I still not understand about myself and my work and how am I dealing with that?
I think this is one of the underappreciated differences between working for a big company and working for yourself. When you are employed and working for a company you don’t really need to care about what anything means. If you are lucky, “performance review” means an appraisal of excellent work but in many cases, it’s a measure of following the rules, political gamesmanship, and strength of relationships.
In the indie world, you have to do good work eventually so the annual review is a good time to take a hard look at your work.
I don’t think my writing was the best it could be last year and that’s why I’m making some changes and trying to aim higher this year.
The big unlock for me that converted me to the cult of annual reviews was writing it in the second week of January last year. That was because my book took longer but it was really nice to kick things off in the middle of January. Something about the endless year-end reviews unleashed into the stream in late December makes me want to run away. And that’s what I did this year, shutting it down from December 19th to January 7th. I’ll likely repeat that most years going forward.
Counting today, I’ve written newsletters seven of the last eight days and it feels amazing. A nice way to jumpstart an inflection point. A week ago, I launched the Find The Others community and wasn’t sure if it was the right thing. It was a bet that I needed to lean more in the direction of The Pathless Path and see what might happen.
By midweek, as I wrote and wrote, and with nearly 55+ people joining and alive energy in the group, I am feeling inspired about this year. The annual review is a chance to stop, start, and quit things. And while its hard to be hyper-specific in the way that a performance review at a company might demand, I did my best to try to set my own direction and vibe for 2023.
On Retiring Some Of My Supporters
In 2019 there were probably 35-40 people that supported me with small micro-gifts on patreon, substack, and purchases of my reinvent course. It was a small number of people and a small number of dollars but the gratitude that came with those payments was incredible.
People underestimate how amazing it can be to make even $5 working for yourself. This is why I try to support people early on the path. You don’t know how much of an impact it might have on someone’s courage to keep going.
I’ve always felt like there was an imbalance. I was receiving far too much life force from these small votes of confidence and I’d never be able to gift back something to these people in return.
So this inspired me to “retire” my longest supporters.
Last week, I announced:
Existing Patreon Supporters & Substack Supporters >2 years: Instant lifetime access and I’m shutting down your payments. Most of you were early in supporting me and I appreciate it and I want to pay you back for that support.
And this is what I did over the last week. I shut down my patreon and turned longtime “patrons” into ”lifetime” access supporters.
So thank you, Ali, Dino, Peter, Jam, Robbie, Venkatesh, Ben, Charlotte, Diana, Noel, John and Stephen, Andrei, Mike, Brian, Jordan, Greg, Chris, Andrew, Stan, Christian, Robm John, Erv, Jeff, Stephanie, Mustaga, Juliet, Rachel, Jan, Mishi, Kyle, Simon, Liz, Martha, Tricia, Greg, William, Nathalie, Giulia, and Kyria. You rock. Congrats on the “retirement.”
Part of this is also ritual maintenance as part of my annual review and shifting to this new chapter in my work journey and personal life.
It’s also an acknowledgment of real financial success. A few years ago the money people pledged was powerful and a non-trivial part of my income. Now I’m lucky to make money from a number of different things AND I feel more at home on this path and have a lot more confidence. When I realized I wasn’t paying as big attention to the small gifts, I knew I was taking them for granted and should make the shift.
Launching Find The Others still provides an opportunity to support me but much of that I hope to reinvest in others to run events, host things, and perhaps even hire someone to manage the community. It’s a shift away from “support me generally” to pay for this and I promise to provide value.
I’m still figuring what this looks like but I am excited to offer a lot to this emerging community (more below)!
Some Good Reads
A friend Connor Swenson shared his annual review two years into indie work and shared his financials too
- annual review was great too and this ode to a friend who passed was better
Khuyen Bui on thinking “beyond ambition”
This ode to coffee was awesome on
- gives me credit for quitting his job. The Pathless Path might get banned soon
- on the lack of seriousness
“As I got older it became clearer to me that not many people are really serious about anything. Some people go their whole lives without ever having met anyone else who I might describe as actually serious, so they find it hard to believe that anybody could really mean what they say, since everything everyone says is bullshit. I remember feeling like that myself at some of my low points in life, when I was at my most depressed.”
- on quitting academia
- writes powerfully on the challenges of growing up Asian
Isabel on why she writes in"I want to understand my mind, and streaming thoughts onto this screen is the most effective method I’ve found to do so. Conversation, reading, learning, thinking away from the keyboard help too, of course. But this is where the synthesis happens. This is where it all comes together, where I see how everything stems from a set of first principles, where the commonality that ties it all together reveals itself."
And my 50+ links from 2022:
Events In Find The Others
Kick-off party on Monday at 5pm CT
Live Coaching Call With Freelance Consultant Chris Donohoe who wants to lean more into the creator economy (Q&A to follow)
Co-Working/Writing Sessions: TBD
You can join us and a growing group of pathless pathians (55+ people now) for $20/month, $225/year, or $350 for lifetime access. All plans get access to my courses, coaching sessions, future creations, paid substack posts, and a signed copy of my book if you want it.
You can join on Circle directly (and I’ll make you a subscriber here) or upgrade your subscription here by clicking this beautiful blue button.
See you next week!