The Year Without Passion (2014 year in review)

The Year Without Passion (2014 year in review)


I used to be a copious journal writer. I still am, but now it’s all digital in a text file, and I never go back through it. I can’t pick it up like I can with notebooks and flip through, rediscovering my younger self. Instead, as of 2014, I have Facebook’s “Year in Review.”

At least I thought I did, I glanced at it once but now it’s disappeared under the torrents of activity. But that in itself is a good starting point for reviewing my own year – because that’s exactly how I feel it went; a blur of activity that disappeared quickly, leaving nothing behind.

What did I accomplish in 2014? Not much.

What have I got to show for all my hard work?

Almost nothing.

At least, on the surface.

Looking back at the goals I had set for 2014, I hit most of them, sort of.

We started the year in Taiwan, went to the Philippines for a month in February, back to Oregon for three months for the summer, and then spent a month in Thailand in October. As far as travels go, that’s pretty tame for us.

I published a few more books, but nothing major. Not one of the big, serious non-fiction books I’ve planned, nor any of the novels I’ve mapped out and want desperately to finish. I didn’t finish my thesis, or publish any academic articles (a necessary requirement for my PhD).

I did speak at a few conferences and meet a  lot of people. I’m not doing visual art anymore so I don’t have  thick stack of paintings filling up my apartment. I don’t order print versions of my books. So the only visual referent to my productivity is the massive hard drives full of thousands of graphic design files.

On the other hand, I know that a lot of what I did this year won’t result in concrete, measurable success yet – but in a couple of years I’ll be invincible. I bought a dozen valuable url’s and am building separate but linked businesses and services on them. I figured out how to manage my businesses better. I figured out what makes me happy and what I need to focus on. This year was for sowing seeds, and next year will be about developing assets, increasing traffic and income, and building my platforms.

Financially, I didn’t do that bad in 2014.

According to PayPal, I received over $60,000 in payments; probably closer to $80,000 through some of my other accounts. For a one-person online business, that’s not bad. But only about 1/3 of that was profit. Most of that money went directly into my businesses, either paying staff or freelance providers, buying digital goodies like website templates, tools, hosting or photoshop goodies. My monthly operating costs alone are nearing $500; and now that I’ve just taken on a handful of employees, it’s closer to $1500.

That’s pretty scary, but it also makes me focus on the income and on building things that will earn money, rather than wasting a lot of time on projects that won’t.

I didn’t save any money (again), and now that I’m well on my way to 40 (I turned 35 on Dec. 22nd), my total lack of savings is a little more threatening than it was mere days ago.

The Year Without Passion

I woke up on Christmas day and realized what was wrong with myself this year. I wasn’t excited about anything, and I mean really brimming with enthusiasm. I get that way when I’m researching cool things to write a book, or maybe doing art, or starting a new business.

This year I’ve mostly been taking my own advice with Creativindie and doing things that people want or need (services) but very, very little work on my own projects. It’s hard to feel relaxed enough to enjoy reading or writing when you know people are waiting on you to finish their projects.

But having a year without passion has shown me it’s not the way to go.

Passion doesn’t automatically lead to success. That’s the lesson I learned in my 20’s.

But success without passion is vapid and empty – that’s the lesson I’m learning in my 30s.

My hobbies have become my work, but I need to learn to take more time to do things that excite me; that I have fun doing. And along with client work, I need to be building passive income assets that will bring in revenue for years to come.

My plan was to build up enough passive income to stop “working for a living” and focus 100% on my passion projects, but unfortunately I’m not there yet. This online business stuff isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Still, I’m getting closer.

This year I went from Zero to about $1500 in passive income per month, (which I then killed when I redid the DIYBookCovers website, but I’ll restore it back soon and try to get sales back up to where they were).

It’s also nice to know my platform is always growing. Even when it seems like “nothing is happening,” I know more and more people are discovering me. I get dozens of thank you emails a month from people I’ve helped, and I’m getting 300 signups a month to my email list.

2015 will be about applying what I’ve learned, polishing up all my new sites, streamlining my businesses, creating passive assets and boosting traffic. I need to cut out as much stuff as I can, outsource the small stuff, focus on the tasks I need to do to keep growing my business, and spend a big chunk of my day writing books that matter.

If I wasn’t happy in 2014, that’s my fault. But I don’t regret the year either; it was necessary to get to where I’m going. Luckily, it’s mostly my lifestyle I’ve been dissatisfied with, and I have the luxury of being able to change everything.

 “Life is simple. Are you happy? Yes? Keep going. No? Change something.”
– Unknown

My current unhappiness is an opportunity for a radical shift, to transform my life into an epic adventure of soul-tingling awesomeness.

2015 Goals

I’ve learned the best way to set goals is to pick a future point in time and focus on where you want to be.

What does your future self look like? What are they doing? Make sure you pick a future self that is happy (as opposed to “successful” or “rich”). Life is a series of decisions, and there is inherent violence in choosing which leads to follow and which to give up on. You don’t have time to do everything.

Some things get sacrificed. Pick the big things that really matter.

Also, pick goals that stretch you; that seem possible but also challenging.

This is what I hope 2015 will look like for me.

$10,000 a month in book sales.

That number represents a significant success. I’m only at $500 a month right now, so that’s a very difficult goal to accomplish in one year. It will depend on the number of high quality books I can finish.

I plan to finish 5 novels and 5 more non-fiction, about 1 book a month. I have them mapped out, and I have the book covers, so it’s just a matter of spending the time and doing the work. Luckily, my schedule is very flexible, and I control how much time I need to work to make a living.

Write 2 hours everyday. Publish a book a month.

This is my main goal for next year. Nothing else matters. 2 hours should be about 2,000 words, which will be at least 50,000 words a month. I hope I can write twice that, but a fixed, mandatory writing schedule is a good start.

Everything else on this list are secondary considerations.

Live somewhere beautiful

We’ll move to Prague in March, and spend some time in France and Spain this spring. We’ll be castle-shopping, of course, as I still plan to Kickstart a castle to use as a writer’s retreat. Europe is more expensive than Taiwan, and being tourists isn’t cheap, so I’ll need to boost my income quickly over the next few months. Then home to Portland for the summer. In the fall, we’ll either head back to Europe or return to Asia.

Finish my PhD

I need to publish articles, soon, and then write my thesis.

Get 1000 super fans

What good is having a big list or a lot of traffic? How does it benefit me? What I need to focus on is making connections and helping people, and doing amazing things. I need to improve my autoresponders to provide long-term, ongoing value, so when people sign up on my list they are rewarded and look forward to my emails. I probably have 100 super fans right now, (and I love each and every one of you!)


I need to start producing YouTube videos. I’ve been saying this all year, and I haven’t done it yet.

I can be making videos on book design and other cool stuff. The YouTube videos will lead into Udemy course and make it easier for people to follow all my directions or use my templates or tools.

What are your main goals for 2015? Please join the conversation!


  • Léonard Belmont Posted

    I feel it too Derek

  • TNae Wilcox Posted

    Thats TONS of writing, but if anyone can do it it’s you;) My goals are to get over myself and publish 4 books this year, and build a list. I’ve done about six projects in 2014 and only one short story has seen the light of day. Last year has been my year of fear and doubt. 2015 will be the year that I break out of it.

  • Melissa Yuan-Innes Posted

    Derek, I like your navel-gazing. You’re living a totally different dream that I’d like to try (location-independent freelancing), so I want to hear about the nuts and bolts about what does and doesn’t work, and frank discussion about success that isn’t all based on cash. Keep it up and good luck.
    My goals: write and publish; nothing radically different except serious financial independence by 2024 and a big family trip to Asia in 2016.

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