Learning From Failure: Things To Do Better In 2014

things to do better in 2014A bit late I know, but the new year has finally arrived. 2013 was a big year for me. It was the year where I finally admitted that not only was I responsible for my current lot in life, but that I was solely responsible for getting myself out of the dumps. And despite not making a massive amount of progress, the fact that I was making progress on all fronts makes it an immeasurable improvement on previous years.

But it was also a year where I failed, sucked and just in general did a lot of things wrong. But this provides me with a great compass for how to conduct myself in the new year. I guess I’m starting to realize why they say that failure is an integral part of success. Because it shows you what to do. What you need to improve. Where you’re struggling the most.

What I Sucked At In 2013

  • Challenging Myself
  • Following Through
  • Conquering Fear
  • Prioritizing Health And Happiness
  • Doing What I Said I Would
  • Focusing On My Routine
  • Accounting For Life

Things To Do Better

So the hard part is over. Well actually, it is only the hard part in the context of writing this post, because admitting your own failures can be hard at times. But of course in the greater scheme of things, it’s the much, much easier part that now is over.

This is going to be my compass for things to do in 2014. Following through will of course be the real challenge.

Challenge Myself More

One of my major issues with trying to get a job and established in freelancing, is how cautious I’ve been. Sticking to the confines of my comfort zone, despite full well knowing the dangers of doing so. For example I only responded to job ads, I didn’t go and try to seek out better opportunities through making my own connections. Something I know is a real possibility.

The same thing with freelance writing, I only responded to ads, I didn’t reach out to blogs, websites and companies that just might need me, and be a lot more likely to pick me.

When I notice hesitation in doing something, I’m going to make a point of doing it as much as possible. Right now it’s pitching article ideas to blogs. Reaching out to marketing companies and magazines that might hire me as a writer. Even really sitting down, planning and ordering tickets to start on my semi-world travel that I have planned for later this year.

Focus More On My Routine

I failed to follow through on a lot of my goals until the very last few weeks of 2013. When I started the project for a week of superhuman productivity, I started doing things that I would normally put off.

There were some interesting results before my family came back and life happened, and my project got disrupted on the 5th day.

I was able to complete all the tasks that were specific enough and I were familiar with when I wrote a checklist. So I manged to write 2000 words per day, submit one guest post, study Chinese for 30 minutes per day, etc. But not able to “read 100 pages of a productive book” simple because I hadn’t decided on a book. And I was able to reply to lots of job ads for freelance writers per day, because that’s something I was familiar and comfortable with, but not pitch to companies or blogs that didn’t list an opening, because that’s something I was not familiar with. It was quite easy to add things that I was already familiar with to my routine, like language study and writing, and even guest post submitting, but the rest I barely even tried to implement. I found myself making excuses, and somehow falling for them, despite my being fully aware of their invalidity.

So in conclusion, focus on building my routine, and acknowledge that familiarizing myself with a new habit might be a more challenging process than I thought initially. And write checklists by hand, as that was likely part of what made me more productive.

Prioritize Health

I’ve started picking up a few training habits, but I have to admit that I am too easily discouraged. Because of the terrible weather, I haven’t gone for a single walk in almost two weeks, and my training routine is on and off.

On the plus side, I am growing accustomed to cooking healthy meals so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. I need to find a form of exercise that I can do long term, or start slowly building the self-discipline to do so without enjoying it.

Enjoy Myself More

From a standard point of view, the fact that I’ve set aside extensive time to travel this year should account for this. But I’m starting to realize that happiness is a lot about your daily life. Finding little things to do that make me a just a little bit happier.

Another thing is that it’s often counter-intuitive. The more I focus on the instant gratification of entertainment, the less enjoyment I feel throughout the late hours of day, and often I end up having trouble falling asleep because of inner turmoil. Enjoying myself more means sacrificing the comfort of what I’m used to, and tackling new things or revisit old challenges.

One of the cool things I experienced in 2013 was my rediscovery of classical music. Not only do I enjoy it, the right kind helps me focus for long periods of time without feeling as mentally exhausted afterwards.

I have already started revisit old pasttimes, like reading and playing the piano with varied success. I will include some more social hobbies, to expand my network, satisfy need for social interaction and just have some more fun.


This is my theme for 2014. Improve. I will always prioritize improvement. Whether it be my social skills, or economic handling skills. My writing skills, my health or even my happiness. I will prioritize doing things that I know will lead to improvement. Ramit has declared 2014 to be the year of unapologetic mastery, and I need to take a page from his book in a few areas. I need to be upfront with my family and friends about my plans, to solidify their reality, and then proceed to disregard their critiques and worries, as long as they are unreasonable.

Do What I Say I Will

This is important. And I don’t think this is a question of character, or an innate quality, I believe it falls down to simple habit. If you make a habit of doing what you say you will, it will surely become easier. When you have a habit of not doing what you say you will, it is easy to make big claims light-heartedly and not follow up on them.

I like the way Jeff Goins explains resolve in his post about achieving what you want this year without resolutions, where he focuses on strengthening your resolve THROUGH action. Not BEFORE you take action. That is how I feel about motivation for change. You might not even believe you CAN change, before you actually start to. It is a lot more important to show up, than trying to perfect some idea you have of your ability and plan of attack before you even start.

I’m going to make a point of doing what I say I will. And because I know it will probably make me more cautious in what I choose to proclaim, I will make a point of challenging myself beyond what I’m comfortable with. Of course this is likely to lead to failure, but through those failures I’m hoping to continue building on the platform that is forming itself beneath my feet even as we speak. As I write I mean.

Account For Life

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. And I need to learn to not be discouraged by that fact. Stephen guise raises an interesting point in his post about the all or nothing mindset and it’s flaws. While I think it’s healthy to have an idea of where you want to be, there is something to be said about appreciating the progress and momentum you manage to get, rather than putting yourself down for failing to meet your own standards.

My advice is that you keep your high standards, but remember this one thing: You are a work in progress. You do not have to judge yourself based solely on your current merits, remember your ability to propel yourself forward. If you find some of your tendencies overwhelming, like I did with my apparent laziness, realize that you are a step further to fixing the problem now that you’ve noticed you have it. So as long as you are seeing progress you don’t need to give yourself a hard time. Try to find ways to improve your routine, yes, but don’t undermine it by putting yourself down.

What does the new year have in store for you?

Photo credit: Tony Hisgett

6 Responses

  1. Vincent Nguyen January 7, 2014 / 12:22 pm

    No idea what 2014 has in store for me but that’s the way I like it! Adds fun, I think.

    Good to see your reflections on the past year. 2014’s going to be good for you without a doubt!

    • ragnar January 7, 2014 / 4:12 pm

      That’s actually a cool way to look at it. I have some ideas for what I’m doing in 2014, but I won’t reject surprises either.

  2. Razwana January 8, 2014 / 8:37 am

    I say drop the guilt, man ! It’s a new day and anything’s possible (yes, I am writing this as a reminder to myself).

    You ARE a work in progress, Ragnar. Looking forward to seeing how your work progresses this year.

    – Razwana

    • Ragnar January 8, 2014 / 11:27 am

      Hey Razwana, that’s a good point, I wouldn’t want to guilt myself out of enjoying the process! For the most part I am feeling a lot less guilt about past failures, I kind of just try to imagine where it went wrong, but I think it’s impossible or at least hard to remove all of the baggage. Time to focus 100% on the new day before me! ^^

  3. Rob Leonardo January 10, 2014 / 6:40 am

    For the new year, I took plunge with my community and do the 30 day challenge to start a habit. For this month, I shall start the day with a strong self-affirmation 🙂

    Meanwhile, I gotta catch up with my writing goals. Just like you, I struggle a lot and given some change in circumstances (We have a new baby!), it’s even harder because my writing schedule used to be in the night and now the baby competes with this- haha.

    All the best!

  4. Wan Muhammad Zulfikri January 12, 2014 / 4:11 pm

    2013 is the thing in the past now.

    Man…I’m also feeling the guilt. All that wasted seconds. And like you I’m gonna make this year a year of improvements.

    It’s all about skills improvements for me for 2014 and no holding back.

    To your success Ragnar!

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