Last year was my first year jobless since I dropped out of university to pursue gainful employment in 2011. It was a year full of highs, lows and tremendous personal growth, punctuated with business trips all over the world.
I started the year back in Australia visiting with family. I was freelancing, building a freight and logistics platform while servicing smaller customers and stress was high. Balancing an almost full-time commitment to the logistics project with other clients and seeing family and friends was a challenge that I spectacularly failed to rise to.
I ended my trip back to Australia with a visit to my favourite whisky bar with an old friend before jumping on a plane back to Vietnam.
February I finally decided enough was enough and I pulled the plug on business for a weekend with a trip to Mui Ne/Phan Thiet. A weekend away with a private villa by the sea sans laptop was just what I needed to recharge. I was so intent on staying offline that I don't even have any photos of the destination.
In March I started tracking my life with Gyroscope. I took my first trip to Hong Kong courtesy of the freight and logistics startup. A backstage tour of the ocean freight terminal and countless meetings with freight forwarders gave me a new insight into just how complex moving boxes around the world can be. Unfortunately the weather was pretty terrible so I didn't get to see much else of the city.
I did run into a friend whose ship came into port on my last night in town and spent the night catching up and watching his band perform. Serendipity.
Fed up with constant construction noise at my apartment in Saigon and stressed out by the constant madness of the city I decided to head to Japan for a week to de-stress. While I was there I had a little reminder of my temporary home:
A rollercoaster of emotions in April as the logistics startup decides to shut down a week after a friend comes over from Australia to join the team. We commiserated over lunch and I hung out my shingle as a full-time freelancer. With a ticket to Hong Kong paid for (and no reason to be working there) what would otherwise have been a business trip turned into an unexpected holiday.
With better weather, I finally got to see the place in all its glory.
The sudden loss of what was a remarkably stable and quite sizeable contract was a sudden shock, but in retrospect I think I handled it well. The day the news was delivered I started reaching out to my network and as a result within a couple of weeks work started flooding in. All in all, things could have been a lot worse.
With more clients rolling in I finally decided to get serious about my business and Web Artisans was born. My lease was finally up on the apartment adjacent to a building site, so I moved to one of the outer districts of Saigon in search of some peace and quiet. At the time it seemed like the perfect course of action. In hindsight the 12 month lease was not a smart move.
I also designed and commissioned my first piece of custom furniture. A few hiccups during the process, but ended up with a final product I could be proud of.
I was getting restless in Saigon and wanted to get out of town for a while. I took a weekend poker trip to Phnom Penh with a friend and got to take my first tuk tuk ride around town. It was a somewhat luxurious weekend with minimal stress and I've been meaning to go back ever since. For somewhere so close the airfares are quite expensive though - a side effect of there only being one airline on the route.
I took a trip to Japan for my 24th birthday and ended up celebrating with a couple of friends who had their party on the same day. The trip was a healthy mix of classy...
...and slightly less so.
Regardless, it was a lot of fun, followed up by a trip to Tokyo to catch up with the crew over there. Japan's countryside is beautiful in the summertime.
After all of the birthday travel in July it was finally time to head down and get caught up on work. The only notable thing about August was the number of times I bashed my head on the upper deck of this damn motorbike-park.
Continuing the trend of hard work set in August I rented my first office space here in Vietnam. Unfortunately the orientation and dysfunctional blinds meant my desk was impossibly warm in the afternoon, so I took to heading out to a local cafe in the afternoons to work. It was also on one of the most ridiculously congested streets in Saigon.
After a month in the new office I was finally ready to hire my first employee. After considerable capex and innumerable no-shows I finally found the right man for the job. During this process I learned how important it is to hire for attitude, rather than aptitude. This lesson has served me well in the months since.
The highlight of November was my business trip to Thailand, where I caught up with a customer for a fortnight of on-site work. I also closed a deal I'd been working on for the previous four months. November was a pivotal month in the development of Web Artisans as a company and also a much-needed bit of fun after a few months of focused, intense work.
Towards the end of November the needs of Web Artisans outgrew our sublet desk in a friend's office, so we moved into a new facility at Dreamplex, a brand new co-working space in Saigon.
We got our name on the wall and I finally started putting in place systems and processes to take myself out of the more mundane aspects of the business. I also hired my personal assistant who has been pivotal in freeing me up to run the show more effectively.
2015 came to a close in a rather fitting fashion, with a whirlwind tour around Asia. A week in Hong Kong wrapping up some business followed by New Year in Japan was a fitting close to a year which had, in a lot of ways, revolved around those two countries.
The final minutes of 2015 were intense, counting down at what was arguably the biggest party in Tokyo at Club ageHa, right in the middle of Tokyo Bay.
Last year was a year of business. I grew Web Artisans from a one-man show to a real company with four full-time employees and two contractors. That came at a cost though. Work-life balance and personal relationships took a back seat. My personal development (intellectual and physical both) took a back seat and I put myself under a lot of stress. All of this had a big impact on my health and happiness.
2016 is going to be a year of focus on myself. Developing healthy habits, reading more and doing more things I enjoy. Particularly writing and skiing. So far I've started the year by leaving my laptop at the office every night and being out of there by 6pm at the latest. I'm aiming to read two books per month and review at least one here on my blog. I'm also going to sleep and waking up earlier so that I can properly plan my day.
I'm looking forward to sharing more of my strategies for getting my life in order over the next few months. Thanks to all of my friends and family for their constant support and I'll see you all throughout this coming year!