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2023 Reflection

2023 Reflection

 “The best way to hear god laugh is to announce your plans.”

Overview

Though I’ve been doing them for years, this is the first time I’ve decided to publicly share my yearly reflection, which is part of my Yearly Ritual. I was inspired to do so by Tiago Forte, after he recently shared his own. As I mentioned in a recent newsletter, writing for an audience shifts one’s context in a powerful way: you go from journaling to storytelling.

There’s a certain courtesy that an author needs to extend to their audience. A good author has to keep in mind that they’re guiding readers through an unfamiliar world. They have a responsibility to provide the tools and directions necessary to help the reader navigate it.

The question is: why does this matter, and why am I sharing my yearly reflection publicly? The main reasons are:

  1. Communication: I hope that this peek behind the curtain of Bullet Journal creates more transparency about us as company and me as founder. I learn a lot by reading these from other small business owners, so I hope this will serve others the same way.
  2. Sharing: It's not often that I run across a way of journaling that really shifts my perspective as much as this new (to me) format. I found it very helpful, so I wanted to submit it for your consideration.
  3. Future Proofing: When I journal, it’s for my current self. It’s easy to take shortcuts, leaving out information because I think I will remember…but I can’t remember what I ate for lunch two days ago. When writing for others, I fill in the blanks, and connect the dots in a way that makes the information evergreen. This matters because it will help who I will become over the next three hundred, or three thousand days, look back and clearly see how far he’s come.

Professional

Last year was a pivotal year for Bullet Journal®. First, it marked our 10 year anniversary. As someone who spent most of their career working in tech and startups, 10 years is ancient. Not only that, it was one of our most profitable years. The combination of the two provided the most encouraging evidence that Bujo continues to play an important role in this increasingly digital age… I’m pretty sure now more than ever.

Business vs Company

In 2023 I went from owning a business to owning a company. Few people know just how small we’ve been all these years. For most of this last decade, it was just two of us: me on content and product, Chandra, head of my sanity and customer success, with the occasional freelance support. Though we accomplished unbelievable things together, there is only so much you can do with two people. As of this writing between full-time, part-time, and contractors we’re at a dozen people! It has added a lot of new possibility…and complexity.

Management

In terms of content output, 2023 was one of my least productive. Instead, I focused on growing the team. Though I was happy to manage that transition, I’m worried about becoming a full time manager. This is a common pitfall where creators become so busy running their business, that they don’t have time to create. Matt D’Avella recently posted a video that hit close to home.

With that said, I’ve enjoyed stepping into a leadership position to support the growth of my team in any way I can. It’s the distinction between being a manager vs leader that isn’t clear to me yet. Maybe its the difference between the person who inspires you to play the game, vs the person who makes sure everyone has what they need to play and show up on time.

This year we’re exploring that distinction by restructuring the company into what executive coach Dan Sullivan refers to as a “self-managing company.” The short version is to set up your business in a way where you stop doing things you’re not good at, so you can focus on what you are good at. Because I create most of our content, this will be an interesting challenge to navigate in 2024.

Membership

Growing the team allows us to provide offerings that have been on my mind for years. The first major project was launching Bujo U, a dedicated platform for the Bullet Journal community. I wanted to create a place where we could share knowledge and learn from each other free from ads, bots, misinformation, trolls, and bad pictures of sad sandwiches.

In early 2023, we renovated the whole thing head to toe. Under the guidance of Jessica —our head of education, community, and…“vibes”— we developed a lot of exciting live programming geared toward learning about powerful tools from a variety of intellectual lineages and how we can integrate them into our Bujo practice/lives. It helped us grow Bujo U to over 5,000 members! The is an incredible number to write.

Certification

We also quietly launched a pilot program in 2023 to explore Bullet Journal® Certified Trainers. By providing a formal Bullet Journal training program, my goals are to:

  1. Empower the community to make a living by teaching others how to Bullet Journal®.

  2. Serve those I’d never be able to reach, from perspectives, audiences, experiences different than my own.

  3. Preserve the integrity of the methodology. There is a lot of misinformation out there about what the Bullet Journal Method actually is.

There were A LOT of learnings. As with any big goal, we learned many lessons we had not anticipated. One being that we needed two different offerings: One for people who want to receive the most in-depth Bujo education possible for themselves. One for those who want to teach Bujo to others.

We also learned how complex and sensitive it can be to navigate creating new offerings to a community that reaches all over the world with different understandings of what Bullet Journal is. We want to create something that is of service, acknowledging that Bujo has expanded to become so much to so many, while preserving the proven core methodology. This is a loving challenge

We’re now synthesizing these lessons into a curriculum that we hope to be offering later this year. More on this soon. Sign up to be notified.

Bullet Journal Community

One of the two offerings mention above also addresses a personal need. I’ve spent years communicating through email, and youtube videos. Going on book tour, right before the pandemic, was the first time I actually met and interacted with the Bullet Journal community face to face. It was a powerful experience that inspired Bujo U, where I get to talk to directly to Bullet Journalists regularly. My experiences in Bujo U led to the idea for what I will be launching next, and I couldn’t be more excited to publicly announce this project when it’s ready this year.

Professional Community

I switched career paths later in life. So for years, I’ve been operating without a community of professional peers. It was a real felt void. This year I’ve been able to connect directly with people in a similar space that I look up to, and it’s quickly become one of my most powerful sources of inspiration. If there were two pieces of business advice I would give, they would be this:

  1. Make a product that solves your problem.
  2. Find your people.

Impact

When I launched bulletjournal.com in 2013, it never occurred to me to turn it into a business. It being free was kind of the whole idea. It was to give back to others who shared their knowledge for free online. That was until I learned something that changed my mind:

Businesses can be force multipliers for supporting anything you care about.

This moved me to a new space of creating a mission-driven company that is sustainable while being able to make an impact in a variety of ways.

For example, I donate 10% of my income to charitable organizations. Bullet Journal, the company, donates 10% of its profits, which is a lot more than my contribution as an individual. This year we were able to provide hundreds of scholarships, and make our most sizable contribution yet to our charitable organization of choice: Giving What We Can. In a world with subjective business metrics, this felt like an objective measure of success.

Lighthouse Goals

The reason to create a self-managing company is so I spend less time tracking product development, warehouse shipments, and sending bill payments and get back to what I really love to do, which is: to learn, to teach, and to keep evolving Bujo to become the most effective framework for conscious action that it possibly can be.

This year I intend to increase my creative output and offer content that is more raw and vulnerable than what I’ve created in the past. Why? Because I think that my personal standard for quality is often driven by fear, not service. The narrative being that if I can’t show up perfectly, then I shouldn’t show up at all. That’s what keeps happening. Then someone asked me a question: Who inspires you?

I find myself most inspired by people who: dealt/deal with something, teach from empirical understanding, they teach what they need because it works for them. The relatability doesn’t come from them commenting on the game, but from being in the arena. They’re candid about what they don’t know, their mistakes, change their mind when someone provides better data.

I also want to better embody what I teach: progress over perfection…beginning with this article.

Personal

Though my personal theme for 2023 started as ‘play,’ it ended up being the year of ‘education.’ Having a team allowed me to focus on my formal development. I find myself in a position of influence, and I don’t take that lightly. I think the best way to serve my community, and myself, is to remain a student and commit to my ongoing education.

Some of the courses I took were planned, some appeared organically. I found myself in an exhilarating rabbit hole of finally finding answers and discovering powerful questions. A lot of this inquiry was motivated by one of the most challenging periods of my life: 2020-2022. It required me to look for a whole new set of tools to navigate a set of conditions that I had never experienced before.

Luckily, I found tools and strategies that were life changing. Unfortunately, a lot of these tools can only be found after crisis. I wondered: why not bring them upstream, greatly simplified, to mitigate or avoid crisis entirely? So that’s my goal! A lot of my new work has been synthesizing this information and my experience into an approachable and practical framework that has taken my Bujo practice to a whole different level. This will be the subject of the first of the two offering we hope to launch in 2024

Here are some of my personal educational highlights from last year:

Byron Katie’s School for The Work

I try to learn from teachers who have been around the longest. Byron Katie is one of them and I see why. This 10 day workshop hosted at a grim hotel, overlooking LAX, was the most intense and eye opening personal development experience I’ve had the privilege to attend. I will digest this experience for years, but here are 3 of the biggest lessons distilled into 3 bullets.

  1. Suffering = arguing with reality
  2. You can’t change your beliefs, but you can question them…
  3. Our choices are limited to our beliefs. Change your beliefs, remove those limits.

Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program (MMTCP)

The greatest investment that we can possibly make into our personal and professional growth is the consistent cultivation of our mental fitness. Towards that end, I have not found more powerful personal technologies than journaling and mindfulness.

My greatest investment in my professional development in 2023 was my enrollment in M.M.T.C.P. It is a two-year intensive program taught by Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield, two meditation teachers who have greatly influenced my thinking over these last 10 years. A lot of that learning will be incorporated into what I’m calling Bullet Journal 3.0. A lot of that evolution will be rolling out this year.

3 biggest takeaway so far:

  1. The importance of understanding the relationship between intention and impact.
  2. Thoughts are not good or bad. They’re just sensory data, like sights, smells, or sounds.
  3. Meditating is not the end, it’s the beginning. It’s training for the game.

Silent Retreat

As part of my teacher training, I was required to go on a seven day silent retreat. No screens, music, books, or even, gasp, journaling. This is something I’ve been equally excited and nervous about.

In 2020-2021 I learned just how powerful, and cruel the mind can be. The idea of spending seven days with nothing but my thoughts gave me real pause. You know how your mind has its Top 10 greatest hits of anxious, angry, depressing, or embarrassing thoughts? This retreat revealed my Top 100 and played them on repeat.

I’m happy to report that, though I had plenty of resourceless thoughts, I was able to navigate them. There were plenty of lovely thoughts, and stretches of intense boredom. It was validating to have developed the capacity to be with all the things the mind conjures to fill hundreds of hours of silence. There was a powerful sense of accomplishment…especially considering I did nothing. Four stars.

Surgery

In December of 2023 I needed to get surgery to fix torn ligaments in my right hand. As someone who makes their living writing, I found myself detached from the very tool I used to navigate my life.

On the one…hand…it had a real negative impact on my well-being because I could neither work nor play. For the first time in my life I felt claustrophobic, trapped in my body. I had all this time to read but no way to process my thoughts or make notes.

Dictation is so inaccurate that I often lose my train of thought half way through correcting the transcription. Many transcription auto corrected words to the point where I no idea what I had meant at the time. One time I sent an email to a community member with the following line “I’m a big fan of Japanese icky guys” (I’m a big fan of the Japanese concept of Ikigai.

On the other…hand, it’s very validating to experience what life is like without Bullet Journaling. When you’ve been doing something for decades, you forget what it was like before you found your solution. You can forget the thrill of discovering the key that leveled up your game. I can’t wait to begin again.

There were a lot of lessons from this time that I will share throughout the year.

Conclusion

2023 saw me in over a dozen cities with half a dozen teachers. In all honesty, I simpy overdid it with the amount of learning. Learning isn’t complete without integration. For me that’s a process of moving the information from my head into my life, and that happens through my body: being in action. In 2024 it’s about staying still and putting it all into play.

There are many other lessons that 2023 has taught me, that I will continue to share as part of my integration process, but I think if it all had to be reduced into a single sentence, it would be this:

Pay attention to your quality of being.

That is my intention for 2024, fortunately I have the perfect tool to do just that…

Let me know in the comments below what you think of this format. Is it useful? Would you try it?

24 Responses

Fiona

Fiona

February 14, 2024

Thank you! Recently I found a journal that I wrote more than 20 years ago and although I enjoyed reading it, there were sections that didn’t make sense. Writing with an audience in mind would have solved this. When I read it I couldn’t see how I would have tackled it differently, your pointers are extremely helpful.

Rodrigo

Rodrigo

February 06, 2024

Hey, Ryder! I`m your fan. I like the way you think and also your bullet journal methodology. Even though I didn`t sign up for your community, I`ve been reading and studying your content. Hopefully I`m gonna be part of your community and improve my method. I`m just curious about your process to switch from bullet journal to storytelling. What are your tips for someone who want to do the same? This year I want to start writing my own blog and helping people to develop their own business.

Carolyn

Carolyn

January 29, 2024

I love this Ryder and thank you so much for sharing. I feel privileged to have read your reflection and inspired by your insights.

MATĚJ

MATĚJ

February 08, 2024

Děkuji a prosím, patří Vám chvála. Je užitečné číst Vaše řádky. Je vzrušující dočíst se, že to co jsem si vymyslel ve své hlavě, Vy už aplikujete :) To jsou čirá znamení, že má mysl jde správným směrem :)

Evelyn Arizmendi

Evelyn Arizmendi

January 26, 2024

Dear Ryder, In my bullet journal, I wrote a prayer for you. I also thanked God for you and the blessing you have been in my life. I’m glad the Lord put you on this earth. Keep being you. 🤗

Peter Bakker

Peter Bakker

January 22, 2024

Hi Ryder,
I am very impressed to see how your personal path is informing your professional plans and vice versa. You have come such a long way since you visited our offices a few years back in Geneve, Switzerland. I cannot wait for you to take the wraps of the “new things” that your mentioning, somehow they feel as meaningful next steps to enrich our Bullet Journal journeys. Thanks for all your doing,

Peter

S

S

January 22, 2024

Another epic post! Thank you so much for your thoughts and links, they were very thought provoking.

Happy 2024!

Shalini

Shalini

January 22, 2024

Dear Ryder Thank you so much for your depth, vulnerability and honesty. It was really refreshing, deeply heartwarming & inspiring to read your reflection. I am so grateful I found your work and the bullet journal, which I am still very inconsistently working my way through implementing.

Reading this made me see how life is messy for all of us and my bullet journal is messy and somewhat chaotic, but I am on the right path of finding order in the chaos. I am also more clearer that staying on this path is what I need to help me ground and grow myself….and running away from my mess or expecting I create the perfect journal, is not useful. Putting it on paper and especially the beautiful emerald green BJ I bought a few months ago, will be my way of releasing and evolving. Thank you so much for who you are and what you do.

Katherine Kelley

Katherine Kelley

January 22, 2024

I’m grateful you choose to share. Your thoughts words, & actions described within the review as well as that serving and gifting it to the world – I am inspired and I learned. Demonstrating showing up not just commenting on the game. Reinforcing some things I feel to be my focus for this present time – progress etc. Took notes – bullet notes of course! Again TY for sharing!

Katie

Katie

January 22, 2024

I began reading this with the mindset of “another corporate reflection I’ll read the first paragraph of.” Instead I was captivated by the authenticity and the journey.
As someone who occasionally gets stuck in the learning and doesn’t switch to integration when I should, this hit. For 2024 my word is execute! I’ll never stop learning, but there needs to be a bias toward action.
Also recommend learning from Cameron Herald – Second in Command Podcast, COO Alliance. I think his content is right for this part of your journey (he meshes well and works with Dan Sullivan/EOS as well:).
Have an outstanding year!

Kevin Ferris

Kevin Ferris

January 22, 2024

Yes, this was useful. In my experience self-disclosure from (and as) a teacher usually is. Once again, you hit it out of the park, dear Ryder. At 71 I can affirm that two practices have had the greatest impact on my human journey – learning to meditate in 1968 and discovering Bullet Journaling in 2015 when I retired. Your intelligence, humility, and lack of narcissism make you a teacher I hope to be following for many years to come.

Sulma Boudreau

Sulma Boudreau

January 20, 2024

Ryder! Thank you for sharing.
I am very grateful for your openness and that you continuously share the tools that help you navigate through life challenges. At the end of the day, this is a dream and we are One, with the ultimate goal of awakening. By sharing you extend your knowledge to us, to help us remember.

Dianne

Dianne

January 20, 2024

Ryder, I greatly enjoyed this! I appreciate you sharing personally. I believe that demonstrating one’s own vulnerability opens others up to do the same and even builds a bond. Thank you so much for sharing.

Peggy J

Peggy J

January 20, 2024

Big kudos for sharing the personal! Thanks.

Nancy Tracy

Nancy Tracy

January 20, 2024

Thank you for this. Lots of food for thought.

Sara

Sara

January 20, 2024

Incredibly useful!

Your way of thinking, and the insight you uncover in that process, reverberates in others. Helping to uncover aspects of our own journey, that we then explore and fill in.

Thank you for sharing your most precious gift… YOU!

M

M

January 20, 2024

Thank you for your openness! It’s encouraging when people like you, who I think have already come so far in life and helped countless people, show themselves to be vulnerable as well.

Crystal

Crystal

January 20, 2024

Hey Ryder,
Thank you for being brave or braving as I think Brene Brown calls it.
For me, this has been an important Reflection from you as it has helped me to own some ideas I have in my personal life. I’ve needed to encourage myself to continue my education and learning with people & organizations without the cost of formal learning. I send you my thanks, Crystal

Vera Misic

Vera Misic

January 20, 2024

Hi Ryder!
It is a very helpful idea to write a (yearly) reflection like this! If we imagine, we tell it someone else or our future self, this can be therapeutic while writing and can give us another kind of insight and clarity about us. I’ll try this out. Thanks a lot for sharing! Words can’t describe how grateful I am I discovered Bullet Journal 3 years ago! To finally have a tool that helps to be aware of my dayly life and to learn to navigate it, it’s so precious beyond words. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Vera

Sharon Wechter

Sharon Wechter

January 20, 2024

Thank you so much for sharing your process. Reading—and beginning to process what you’re saying!—is already confirming my desires and forming of intentions for developing/deepening my BuJo practice. I’m psyched!

Marcelle Doll

Marcelle Doll

January 20, 2024

Feel so honored to be invited into this space of yearly reflection…I have been a Bullet Journal-er for seven years. I start mine each year in September, as I am academic-calendar focused. September is the other January.

Arne

Arne

January 20, 2024

Thank you for sharing!

Jacolien

Jacolien

January 20, 2024

Thank you for sharing this Ryder! I can imagine it’s scary to share it all, but I believe it really adds an extra layer of understanding to Bullet Journaling. I think it’s a great improvement to share more of your life and practice, so we cal learn from it alongside you. The addition of storytelling gives better insight than just sharing facts as education.
Also, I can’t wait to find out what BuJo 3.0 will be and become!

KarenAnn Grace

KarenAnn Grace

January 20, 2024

Enlightening and so very relatable. Pitch perfect. I’m excited to see all the new (especially mindful!) things to come this year. Thank you!

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