I’ve been doing yearly reviews in some form or another since 2013 (probably even earlier) as a way to pause, reflect, and process the various experiences that continue to shape me.
The Year of Health + Vitality
Overall, this year had a lot of curveballs, as well as some major highlights.
My theme for the year was Health + Vitality. After an overly busy and chaotic 2022, 2023 was about slowing down, tuning in, and focusing on health and wellbeing. This meant developing a workout habit I could feel excited about, making good food choices, and bringing more awareness to what increases my energy. My commitment was to focus on being more present with both myself and others, improving my communication, and getting better at noticing and naming my needs. It also meant launching fewer things, and publishing less frequently (while finding peace with the pace).
Each quarter had it’s own theme word:
Q1. Refinement (Systems)
Q2. Joy (Culinary School)
Q3. Connection (Masterminds)
Q4. Adventure (Travel / Japan)
Highlights from the year
Incredible In-Person Connections
This was the first year we did any major travel since Covid first started, and these in person connections were some of the highest highlights of the year.
Attending Tiago Forte’s Mastermind and getting to meet so many internet friends in person was truly a heart-expanding highlight. I also had a chance to attend Shawn Blanc’s Mastermind, which introduced me to a whole new group I hadn’t met before. Both experiences surpassed my expectations, and filled my cup. I was blown away at the quality of the people in these groups, from the kindness to the care, curiosity, and expertise. I wrote about my mastermind experiences in more detail here.
I also had a couple who visited us all the way from Germany! Markus told me I hugely inspired his Notion journey through sharing my experience via Youtube, and wondered if we might meet for coffee. That’s a pretty long way to come, so of course I said yes! We ended up spending the next few days hanging out, hiking, and walking along the water, and even had them over for drinks.
Signing up for a two-week vegetarian culinary bootcamp with the Northwest Culinary Academy in Vancouver was one of my favourite experiences of the year. Being able to take two weeks off to fully immersive myself in this learning experience was a dream come true. Food has been a passion and hobby of mine ever since I became vegetarian when I was 19. Whether it’s meal planning, mise en place, pantry organization, or developing signature recipes and flavors, everything around food gets me energized and excited, so this only fuelled the long-burning fire within.
I absolutely adored our instructor, Tarek, who was funny, patient, and clearly so passionate about his role as a teacher, chef, and mentor. Every day was incredibly inspiring, and it was such an amazing way to meet like-minded folks!
Some of the dishes I created throughout the class:
The end of the bootcamp culminated in delivering a 7 course meal to friends and family!
Building the Garden
This year we finally made some progress on the garden, which has been a big daunting project. Every year the deer find a way to ravage the soils of the garden, so we’ve been working toward building an enclosure.
It felt good to start getting some of the pieces in place, including setting up raised beds, weeding, cleaning up old garden beds, and amending the soil.
Ben even started what he called a “nature power hour“; one hour of yard work first thing in the morning to start the day with some movement, a feeling of progress, and getting in touch with nature.
Making time to work together on the garden has made it a lot more fun and a lot less daunting!
30 Days in Japan
Ben and I were able to spend 30 days in Japan for the whole month of November, and this was the trip of a lifetime. I felt incredibly proud that we’ve been able to build a business that can support this kind of experience, allowing us to unplug, and more or less put the business into maintenance mode so we could be fully present in the experience.
We also spent the year learning Japanese, and while we’re still very very beginner, I’m very proud of us for making the effort, and will continue to develop our proficiency in 2024!
We could definitely see ourselves returning for longer periods of time. Japan is an absolutely amazing country.
I created a whole Notion trip report if you’re curious to check it out here: 30 Days in Japan: Trip Report
Deepening our Relationship
This year was really about Ben and I rediscovering our joy, both within our business, and our daily lives. Traveling together for both business and personal events gave us a chance to deepen our collaboration together, find our rhythms, and really celebrate what we each bring to the table in every area.
While I already felt like Ben and I were so connected and loving, taking the Connection Course in the late summer helped us dial it up to eleven. This whole year of exploring what brings us joy brought us to an even deeper level of intimacy than we’ve ever had.
Conversations are deeper, richer, more interesting, and I continue to find Ben to be one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. I’m so proud of who we’ve become together.
Moving my body
This year I captained my own dodgeball team, complete with a team logo and t-shirts. I love team sports, and dodgeball is fun and hilarious, and keeps me on my toes!
I took up mountain biking and bought my first mountain bike (a second hand ebike). This led to plenty of fun excursions with new friends, and me getting out of my comfort zone.
I also played on at least 3 regular season softball teams (Spring, Summer, Fall), and said yes to every tournament invitation, which meant playing on at least 6 different teams over the course of the year! Softball has become a big part of my life, and gives me a ton of joy, which is exactly what I wanted more of this year. I also got my first home run this year!
I also managed to successfully build a workout habit (which was a long-standing often neglected goal of mine) using the Lululemon Studio Mirror (now owned by Peloton).
I have mostly focused on strength training with the occasional boxing and dance cardio classes. The Mirror the next best thing to having a personal trainer, and because it’s in the house, it’s easy to make time for, and hard to make excuses for not doing.
Ben and I also occasionally do weekly in-person pilates classes depending on our availability and timing.
Time with Family
My sister and her kids recently moved to the Sunshine Coast, which means I get to see my nieces and nephews more often that the once every few years we used to see one another. It’s been so nice to spend more time with family, getting to know these growing humans. I cherish our goofy family movie and dinner nights.
Learning + Development
This year I focused on developing communication skills, and did so mostly through two major trainings (my reviews are linked below):
Both of these courses were absolutely exceptional and had a huge impact on my personal growth this year.
I also started learning Japanese using a combination of Duolingo, NativShark, and an online course, Japanese with Yuta. It’s super challenging, but I also really enjoy the language, so I plan to continue learning it with the support of a weekly Japanese conversational group that takes place on Zoom with folks from our local community!
Disappointments and Challenges
Finally got Covid
Well, it was a good run. This summer during our travels we got Covid. I’m honestly kind of impressed we made it this long without getting sick! I suppose it was bound to happen. Mostly this looked like extreme fatigue, coughing, and a splitting headache.
Saying goodbye to Mochi
Mochi, our pup of 14 years passed away after several months of struggling with seizures. This was one of the most profound experiences of grief I’ve felt in recent memory. It was also a deeply connecting experience to go through with Ben. Grief is so complex and unbelievably rich. This experience was so painful and also so deeply connecting for both Ben and I. I’m still adjusting to a house without her presence.
Company / Notion Mastery Updates
One of the things that began to really challenge us this year was the hard truth that our flagship product (Notion Mastery) is very much dependent on a software that is well outside of our influence or control. Being associated with a popular software has had its perks, but pace of feature updates, and various product hiccups this year led us down a brainstorm where we asked ourselves, where are the opportunities to extract the principles away from the tool, while still maintaining the success of the existing product?
We also noticed a huge drop in revenue compared to previous years, which makes sense given what we’ve anecdotally noticed as the course Covid bubble, as well as our conscious choice to “take our foot off the gas.” We began to explore Notion-adjacent workflow concepts and content, while still continuing to keep the evergreen engine humming along behind the scenes.
New Content / Courses
This brainstorming work led to developing and refining a new workshop: Capacity Planning, which started to crystallize some of my ideas around how we think about our time and energy. We decided to make this available as a standalone workshop and used it as an upsell for Notion Mastery, allowing students to apply the cost of the workshop to the course. It’s been a nice way to introduce people to a lower-cost offer, while also priming them for the work they’ll need to do anyway if they do decide to join the course.
Ben also was able to renew his creative spark when Notion released their new Formulas 2.0 language, which he helped influence in collaboration with the product team. This led to the development of a ton of content, and a mini-course that is available both within the Notion Mastery course, and as a stand-alone product: Formula Fundamentals 2.0.
New Automated Onboarding System
Ben did a ton of work to move the Notion Mastery onboarding from an invite-link system (easy to share/steal) to an automated/scripted system.
This allowed us to remove 100+ people from the course who hadn’t paid, so the system is a lot more buttoned up and streamlined!
New Membership System
The course now has a membership renewal option, so students that want to stay longer than 12 months can pay a quarterly fee of $79 to remain in the course and continue getting access to live events and office hours. This added 100 new subscribers in December.
Ben also did a ton of automations here, which you can read about here if you’re nerdy or curious!
Scaling back the team
Part of slowing things down this year and taking major stretches of time to travel meant that we had less and less administrative and operational work for Georgia, our Director of Ops. Our course operations have been well-implemented, systems are streamlined, and the course has been humming along fairly smoothly with very little active input.
It was a really tough decision to make, but as our trip to Japan was quickly approaching, it became clear that our pace and way of working was making it challenging to keep our operator engaged with work. It was bittersweet, but at the same time, felt like a very natural evolution of the company. Georgia had been alongside me since 2019, growing from my administrative assistant to our customer support and head of operations as we grew, and I’m so grateful for the work we were able to do together to grow the course! I know her support impacted many of our students in their course journeys, and many came to love and appreciate Georgia’s caring and thoughtful nature. (We know because they would often mention her in their course feedback!)
While it was a big change, it was the right next move, and time for Georgia to move on to something new where she could really shine. I have nothing but love, gratitude, and respect for Georgia, and I’m super excited for her that she’s now enjoying her new role at ConvertKit!
Then there were two
Going back to a team of two in the last month+ of the year gave us an opportunity to once again re-examine our path, our values, and the future of our work. I can say without a doubt that Ben and I are exceptional collaborators who have been working together in some form or another for nearly 10 years. We are brutally honest about our strengths and weakness, our values, and our needs.
We’re able to express our needs readily, we have a deep respect for one another, and we both value flexibility. We hold one another accountable, talk through things at length, and can spark product ideas and workshop outlines with a single conversation over coffee. I can understand that our ability to take ideas and run with them, and react quickly to the needs of a rapidly changing market probably makes it uniquely challenging to work with us. We pivot quickly, we change our minds, we’re constantly adapting to change. We have creative conversations every morning, and there’s an element of “being in sync” that is fairly challenging to do well with external parties.
There is an ease to working together as a team of two. We have many years of expertise between the two of us, and are committed to 2024 being a year of creative expression for each of us.
We’ll continue to update and support Notion Mastery, while also leaving plenty of room for experimentation and creative practice.
We’re kicking things off with a new podcast that we envision as an opportunity to have the kind of conversations we want to have without the pressure of it being something that needs to be monetized.
Life and business partners Marie Poulin and Ben Borowski explore the highs and lows at the intersection of business and emotional well-being, chatting with entrepreneurs who lead their ventures with a blend of ambition and humanity.
Video experiments – I dabbled with TikTok in the beginning of the year but lost steam once I started to travel. It’s a whole different beast than YouTube! Is it the best use of time/energy? Where will Youtube shorts fall into the overall content strategy? I was using it mostly as a place for self expression and more “off the cuff” content, which I was missing at the time. Moving forward I’ll be sharing video clips from our video podcast, and testing out short form video content.
Podcast – We plan to share video highlights to my Youtube shorts as well. Right now this is making us excited, which I felt was missing in previous years.
ChatGPT – ChatGPT and OpenAI have been incredible for helping give starting points to ideas. I’ve drafted up dozens of workshops and book ideas, but now the key is deciding on which ones are worth executing. I’ve also been using it to help me generate gorgeous botanically inspired images which I’d integrated into some of my Notion workspace designs.
Goals/Outcomes – I’m feeling less drawn to big goals and well defined outcomes than I ever have in previous years, and feel a desire to let ideas emerge from doing good work every day. This is pretty new for me, so I am asking myself, how much structure/intention is helpful or necessary? Can designing my best days be enough for now?
Journaling – I’ve long been a digital journaller, but I picked up a Hobonichi planner while I was in Japan, and plan to use it as a place to do more personal journaling and drawing, including daily food illustrations. JUST FOR FUN.
In years past I have tended toward business obsession, overly identifying with my work and tying my value as a person to my business success. Now that the business has reached a really good level of automated revenue generation, I feel less pressure or desire to grow it (or at least not this iteration of it), and more desire to focus on my life as a whole.
- How can my business be a vehicle to support my own growth, wellness, and joy as a person, and not just a business owner?
- Can the podcast be a relatively low-effort way to have some fun conversations and be creative together?
- How much structure do I need to give myself to provide helpful constraints to my creative process?
- How might Ben and I harness our unique collaboration style to co-create unique products for a niche audience?
- How can we transition our time/energy/attention from the thing that’s making all the money right now, to other endeavours that may have an opportunity to be more aligned with the work we want to be doing?
- What obvious product or marketing opportunities exist that are truly sustainable for me? (person with ADHD…)
What’s coming in 2024?
2024 is the year of emergence:
- Being open to creative serendipity
- Embracing what brings joy
- Openness to interesting collaborations
- Letting long-cultivated ideas come to light
- Experimenting, taking action, and letting the path reveal itself.