Year in Review 2013



“Looking back, my life seems like one long obstacle race, with me as the chief obstacle.” — Jack Paar

2013.  The Year of the Snake.


It’s been quite the ride.  Let’s take a look back on 2013, so we can use that as input to plan for a more effective 2014.

For me, 2013 was a year of ups and downs, with both some major setbacks and some significant leap frogs ahead.

A Year of Big Numbers

It was also a year of big numbers for me. I reached 210,000 unique visitors per month on Sources of Insight.  In terms of my best-selling book on personal productivity, I had 20,000 downloads of Getting Results the Agile Way in two days.  Thank you everybody for sharing it with friends, family, and the world.

I know people are using it and it’s changing lives.

Since it’s been such a year for learning, I spent a little more time in the insights section below.   I’m hoping that if you walk away with 3 take aways from this, things you can really go and apply, then it’s served its purpose.

One highlight is that I started doing interviews this year, and I think I’ll actually do more.  I also noticed that a lot of my guest posts happen to be CEOs and best-selling authors.  For some reason, I hadn’t noticed that before, but I think that’s interesting.

Let’s dive in …

Top Posts for 2013

Here are my three top posts for 2013:

  • 10 Strategic Questions that Change Your Life – This one went viral.  It’s a set of 10 questions that I think if you strive to answer these well in thought and action, they will pay you back over your life-time, and multiply your results.
  • 50 Life Hacks Your Future Self Will Thank You For — Here are 50 of my best life hacks and strategies that have served me well.  These life hacks are the culmination of life experience, insight from mentors, personal development training, trial and error, and several hundred books.  Maybe this post can help shed some light on the differences that make the difference.
  • Trends for 2013: The Rise of the Entrepreneur — The purpose of this post is to inspire you with what’s possible and help you imagine or re-imagine your future.  It’s the ultimate guide to key trends at your fingertips.

Top 3 Insights from 2013

It’s been a learning year.  I learned and relearned a lot.  And, some things that I knew, hit me harder and sank in deeper, than ever before.  The world is changing fast.

Here are some of my key insights from 2013:

  1. How to measure a life.  Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor and author, summarized it well.  He said we have to choose the right yardstick:  the people whose lives you’ve touched.”
  2. How to make the most of life.  We have the answer thanks to Eric Barker summarizing some powerful insights from the book, Just Enough: Tools for Creating Success in Your Work and Life.  To make the most of life, spend time in each of the 4 key areas each day:  1) Happiness: Feelings of pleasure or contentment in and about your life. 2) Achievement: Accomplishments that compare favorably against similar goals others have strived for. 3) Significance: A positive impact on people you care about. 4) Legacy: Establishing your values or accomplishments in ways that help others find future success.  And, the key insight is that you can’t measure life by just one yardstick and you can’t move through the four sequentially.
  3. Your schedule is your success.   Very few successes are instant.  So WHAT we spend our time on each day, and HOW we spend are time each day, add up to our success.  Most importantly, we need to know WHY we spend our time on things each day.   The more that your schedule reflects your priorities, your values, your strengths, and your WHY, the more empowered, the more capable, the more successful you will be.  It’s your single-best way of reinforcing your habits, spending time in what counts, reinforcing your boundaries, and helping yourself build momentum.  Your daily activities can generate compound interest and it’s how you multiply your results, and amplify your impact.

25 More Insights from 2013

Here are some additional insights that are really helping me shape my story forward …

  1. Strategies are the key to success.   Tony Robbins is a big believer, and he calls himself a strategist.  I am a big believer in strategy as well.  That’s a good thing, since my day job is all about strategy, transformation, and value realization. In my experience, all things being equal, strategies make or break success.  What makes it such a challenging game is that it’s personal, contextual, and specific.  It’s not a one-size fits all game.  To be effective at strategy, requires depth and breadth, and a lot of self-awareness, as well as awareness of the world, and where things are going.
  2. Attitude of Gratitude.   This is the single habit that makes so many things worth it.  It separates the Scrooges of the world from the people who enjoy quiet success.  What goes around comes around.  Long ago, Tony Robbins called this out as the key success habit.  He said, if you don’t practice this, then no success in the world will feel successful,.  You’ll never feel fulfillment.  Interestingly, you can think of fulfillment = achievement + appreciation.   It’s a powerful way to live in the now, enjoy the journey, and look towards the future with hope and inspiration.
  3. Physiology first / body.   For some reason, I never realized just how much all of what Tony Robbins does is rooted in physiology.  He uses his body to empower his mind, and he uses it change his emotions.  Motion changes emotion.   I also didn’t realize just how much my physical condition empowers me.  It’s way easier to have a strong mind, when you have a sound body.  Our energy is our vitality, and our body serves us in more ways than one.
  4. Success and who succeeds.  I’ve been researching why some people fail and others succeed.  I’m finding a lot of deep insights that I don’t think are common knowledge or as obvious as they should be.  I’ll share more on this in a future post, but I think it’s a big deal, especially as I look across the board and see how some people have truly found success, while others have failed or flailed.
  5. Silent conclusions that limit us.    Never again.  That’s not me.  I don’t do that.  These are quiet conclusions we make about the world or about ourselves.   They are quiet, and they are scary.  Sometimes they serve us.  Sometimes they work against us or limit us in insidious ways.  Behind these silent conclusions are often negative beliefs.  I’ve learned a lot this past year in how to squash negative beliefs, and I’ll share more in a future post.
  6. Goal setting vs. goal planning.   As I’ve been trying to understand why so few people regularly achieve their goals, I think I really get it now.  It’s because a lot of people stop once they do their goal setting.  They figured out what they want, so then they depend on hope, chance, and circumstance to achieve it.  Or they do it when they feel like it.  Or they wait for inspiration.   Or they focus like crazy for a small period of time, and then burn out.   The difference that makes the difference is to actually do goal planning.  That’s where you map out the work that’s required.  That’s where you actually chunk your goals down into manageable tasks.  That’s where you prioritize and assign work items to your schedule.   If you schedule it, it happens.  If you don’t, it won’t.  At least, not consistently.  Luckily, as a Program Manager, I learned a lot about prioritizing work, chunking it down, figuring out the effort and the obstacles, and assigning it to a schedule.  It’s methodical, but super effective.
  7. Identify obstacles.   This is where we make or break our own success.  The better we can identify real obstacles that we’ll face in the pursuit of our effort, the better we can prepare for and actually deal with them.   Otherwise, we end up like a deer in headlights.  Or we get blind-sided and the setback knocks us off our feet.  Or we don’t allocate enough time to actually deal with the issue in a way that will succeed.  If we anticipate and prepare for the challenges we’ll face, in a realistic way, we design for success in a more sustainable way, and today’s world is all about sustainability.
  8. New value generation.   Envisioning future possibilities is a skill.   Over the past year, I’ve been helping businesses and people figure out their future capability visions.  Specially, I’ve been focused on helping people identify what’s possible when they combine their strengths with opportunities, and how to exploit technology.  As more things shift to the Cloud, our world will change even faster.  I’ve been lucky to be at the bleeding edge, and I get to see what’s coming.  It’s exciting.  But it’s also scary to see what can happen when people don’t know how to embrace the change or make the most of it, and they get left behind.
  9. Pains, needs, and desired outcomes.    This little frame helps me cut through crap very quickly and get to what matters.  Whether it’s an individual or a business, just identifying the pains, the needs, and the desired outcome creates incredible clarity that’s actionable, inspiring, and truly insightful.
  10. Customer as the North Star.   This was an insight from Tony Robbins.  I was wondering how to stay grounded while focusing on the future and dealing with constant change.  Tony Robbins said very bluntly to use your customer as the North Star.  Focus on creating great experiences, and creating insane value.  He said that will help you cut through fluff and cut through noise and stay on track.
  11. Value realization.    I’m on a team that focuses on Value Realization.  You can think of Value Realization as simply the value extracted from an effort.  The big idea is that value is in the eye of the stakeholder, and when you can identify benefits, costs, and risks, you can really get smart about what to invest in.  The key to Value Realization is driving adoption.  If your effort goes unused, it’s waste.  So if you want to accelerate Value Realization, then flow value faster, and focus on driving adoption.
  12. Change Leadership is hot.    The ability to masterfully execute change is another powerful key to success.   Whether it’s success personally, or success on the job, mastering change leadership will set you apart from those that struggle with change.   And, as I’ve been saying, the cycles of change are getting shorter.  Master change leadership to master work and life.
  13. Stories, challenge, and change.   I finally connected dots here.  Stories are about challenge and change.  Our personal stories are powerful.   The value is in the change.   Our stories of personal change are our stories of transformation and they help inspire others.  Turning problems into challenges is a way to write your story forward.
  14. The value is in the change.  This keeps echoing in my mind because of how significant it is in all that we do.  Change is where the value is.  Otherwise, it’s status quo.  It’s taken for granted.  If we aren’t doing things better, faster, cheaper, than it’s just business as usual and it’s “below the line.”  Change is all of the “above the line” value that we create by making things better, faster, cheaper.
  15. Better, faster, cheaper.   This is such a useful lens.  No matter what I do, whether in work or in life, I can check myself on whether I’m getting better, faster, or cheaper, or all of the above.   This also helps me look at habits.  At first, I might be not so good, slow, and expensive, even in terms of time and energy.  But as I build a habit, I get better and faster at it, and it takes less effort.  It’s such a simple lens, but it’s insightful and revealing.
  16. Behavior changes.   Knowing what to do and doing what you know are two different things.  But the big insight here is how if you can identify specific behaviors to do more of, and when to do them, it’s a big key to success.  The beauty is that if you do this well, it’s sustainable success because you’re creating the habits that serve you
  17. Unique strength + Personal Process.   Create unique value with a twist.   Your personal twist. The world needs more of your unique value.  Otherwise, you get lost among the masses, and the over-crowded sea of competition.  Find your blue ocean.  In terms of Personal Process, our “HOW” is vitally important to how we realize success in a sustainable way.  This is all about sustainable success that’s authentic and brings out your best.  It’s so easy to break ourselves.  Instead, we need to find the process that works for us.  Interestingly,  Jerry L Fletcher wrote a book called Patterns of High Performance.  It’s about discovering the ways people work best.  In his research, we all have a recipe that works uniquely for us, and we have to use it more.  This matches what I learned in my own experience, as well as what I’ve learned from Simon Sinek (Start with Why.
  18. High-value activities.   This is a powerful way to invest our time better every day.  Spend your time in more high-value activities.  Sometimes we have to fight for this, but the more time we spend in high-value activities, the more value we flow, and the more we grow our skills, capabilities, and experience that matters
  19. Effectiveness + Greatness.  Every day I appreciate  Stephen Covey’s focus more and more.  His path of going from effectiveness to greatness was a smart one.  He built a firm foundation and invested in personal capabilities so that greatness was possible in a sustainable way.  Way to go.
  20. Your wolf pack or your “band of merry men.”   It’s always been WHAT you know and WHO you know.  But now, more than ever, WHO you know can make a big difference in your life whether it’s your next job, learning how to deal with specific challenges, or just insights and inspirations for work and life.  Your wolf pack can help you gain an unfair advantage in the world.  And, hanging with the wrong pack, can really hold you back, whether it’s your mind, your body, or your career
  21. Add Reminders to your calendar to adopt and change habits.    This is so simple, but so powerful.  I added a single reminder pop-up to my calendar.  I added simple reminders in terms of how I want to think, act, or feel differently.   It’s a great way to “remind your way to success.”
  22. Sticking with it.   Whether it’s working out or growing skills on the job, or doing experiments in business.  So many things don’t pay off up front.  I’ve always known the power of delayed gratification, but I needed some reminders how valuable it is to stick with things for the long haul.  The little learnings add up, and accelerate over time, but only if you stick with it.
  23. Financial intelligence.  I never had a term that worked for me when it came to learning how to be smarter with money matters.  Personal finance was dry.  I like the term Financial Intelligence.  Aside from a nice ring, it’s an increasingly important topic, whether it’s personal finance or how to be financially and economically smarter at work.  One of the smartest books I’ve been reading here is Financial Intelligence for IT Professionals.
  24. The Golden Age of XYZ.   This continues to surprise me.   It’s easy for great information and great knowledge to get lost, or be forgotten.  There really is a Golden Age for some things.   We used to have higher quality information around some topics long ago.  In other cases, we are making amazing breakthroughs and learning things at light speed, far more advanced than we knew before.  The surprise for me is how much of a roller-coaster it is, instead of a steady path of progress and insight.
  25. Go deep.  I need to do more deep dives and cut loose.  It’s in my nature to dive deep on things. It’s not just my nature, it’s my gift.  I need to share it more with others.

New Quotes Collections for 2013

I added several quotes collections.  In fact, in looking back, now I’m surprised by how many quotes collections I added:

You can access the quotes collections from the Great Quotes page.

Featured Guests

One of the strengths behind Sources of Insight is standing on the shoulders of giants.  That includes drawing from great books, great people, and great quotes.  On the people side, this year I had several featured guests, many of them best-selling authors and CEOs, share their best insights and actions for work and life:

You can find more featured guests on the Featured Guests page.


This was my first time doing interviews.  I might do more in the future.  It’s a nice way of getting to key questions and sharing expertise.

Here are my interviews from 2013:

What’s Ahead for 2014?

2014 will be a year of great changes.   I’ll do what I can to empower you with skill.   I’ll be doing some heavy lifting in several areas, to equip you with some of the best tools for work and life.

Here are some key themes on my mind:

  • Personal Effectiveness.  Can you ever be too effective?  This is the backbone of everything else.  Any investment here pays you back time and again, and it amplifies what you’re capable of.  It’s a no-brainer.
  • Agile Results.   I realize that I haven’t done as much as I could have on helping you master Agile Results as a personal results system.  If I invest in here more it should pay off quickly by helping your triple your productivity, play to your strengths, flow more value to yourself and others, and flourish in a sustainable way.
  • Value Realization.   The more I focus on this, the better off you’ll be.  The beauty of Value Realization is that it’s all about generating and capturing value.   Value of course is connected back to values.  Values are the ultimate lightening rods in work and life.  You’ll see this more and more in the journey ahead.
  • Change Leadership.   I’ve learned a ton in this space on how to drive adoption and change.  I’ll help you build the skills you need to change yourself, influence the people and systems around you, and lead effective change efforts, whether at work or in life.
  • Financial Intelligence.  Financial intelligence is a skill you can develop that will serve you well in work and life.  I’ll draw from giants here to help us learn the fundamentals as well as some of the more advanced skills to get smarter about financial choices in a pragmatic way.
  • Entrepreneurism.   I’m a big believer that entrepreneurism is the cure for many challenges in the world, whether it’s health, wealth, education, or you name it.   There’s always opportunity to innovate and change the game.  This will be increasingly paramount to help you future proof your road ahead, and to take advantage of the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) trends in the emerging digital economy.
  • Strategy.  I eat strategy for breakfast.  Seriously.  It’s my day job.  Let me share my skills with you to help you see work and life in a new way.  One of my favorite definitions of strategy is Erika Anderson, author of Being Strategic:  “Consistently making those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future.”

I hope you’re excited about the future and what’s possible.

The road ahead won’t be easy.

Let’s make it worth it.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for 2014.

You Might Also Like

2009 Lessons Learned

2010 Best of Sources of Insight

2012 Year in Review

Start Your Year in February

Trends for 2013: The Rise of the Entrepreneur

Image by Brian Snelson.


  1. excellent recap of the year. I enjoyed your blog throughout the year. I also would like to see some articles on developing character in 2014. Since so much flows from not only competence but your character.

    • Hey Kwame,

      Thank you.

      I think that’s a good topic. Covey explored this often when he wrote about character ethic vs. personality ethic, and he believed that character ethic is the foundation for greatness.

      • yes he did. I finally read 7 habits of effectiveness last summer and I realised that while I always focused on competency and skills. I never sought to develop my character as much. I subsequently became more interested in philosophy (especially stoicism) and other works addressing character. I am curious about your thoughts on this. It was a major theme in covey’s work and his son’s book – speed of trust.

        • I’ll share more in the future. Here are some quick thoughts for now:

          I think character is a great way to rise above our impulse, achieve freedom, and forge a firm foundation. It’s a way to own our personal power.

          And, the beauty is we get to shape it, through our choices and habits in character-building situations.

          So far, the most interesting work I’ve read on character is Sharon Lebell’s interpretation of Epictetus’ work, The Art of Living: The Classic Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness.

  2. JD,

    Your insights are so helpful for which I can apply in my own life. I went through the 30-day program and re-starting it again so it becomes an ingrained habit since it has made a huge impact in how I approach my daily life.

    Thank you for giving your time and energy to help others. Lastly, I am also working towards a career path in product management and will strive to make significant momentum towards it this year by applying what I continually learn from your posts.

    • Hey Edgar,

      That is truly great to hear.

      Best wishes on your product management path.

      It sounds simple, but the “pains, needs, and desired outcomes” lens is a powerful lens that should help you time and again on your journey. It’s a way to create instant clarity and keep customer focus in mind, in a relevant and targeted way.

Comments are closed.