Manuel Marcel Murrenhoff
2019 - What a year! Detailed Goal Analysis.
2018 has been a turbulent year that laid the seeds. 2019 was the time to reap the first harvest creating more seeds to lay even more seeds and take it from there. It was the time of new professional developments in new locations, a travel-dance sabbatical, the start of Expatjournal and the publishing of my first book, becoming Minimalist and Flexitarian, big steps towards financial freedom and much more! What made 2019 great? A portion of luck? Certainly, we all need some of that. Yet the biggest difference to the years towards was ‘bullshit-free goal setting and execution’. In this blog post I share with you the analysis of my goals spiced up with insightful thoughts on the same. Enjoy!
Exactly one year ago I sat on the couch in my best friend's apartment. Geographical distance limits extensive and meaningful conversations and as such making them even more precious.
We have a 15-year tradition of being both counselor and mental sparring partner for each other. Each of us has created lives that developed in different directions. Yet - or probably because we live life with divergent focuses - we look at situations from different angles. Besides the maturity of our friendship and its subsequent level of trust, this play of perspectives enriches our conversations and makes them so valuable.
As we grow older, the depth of our dialogues evolved. Usually seeing each other at least during the holidays at the end of each year our conversations usually focus on our lives' visions and the goals we set for ourselves to continuously creating our lives.
Since turning from boy to man, I had the drive to doing more and grinding that extra mile with persistence. And yet my efforts were accompanied by a certain level of disorientation, which promoted the tendency to lose focus and simultaneously not being able to track and therefore appreciate the progress I was making in life. If we don't know where we want to go how can we define how to get there? We don't order an Uber requesting to be driven around 'getting inspired' until we made up our minds. Nobody would waste money on that. Life is like an Uber ride. We don't pay with cash but with our time. I let you decide which one is finite and therefore more valuable.
Starting to read a lot in 2017, Stephen R. Comey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People gave me the necessary refresher on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's 'A goal without a plan is just a wish.' To even extend this I believe that a plan without measurable short, medium and long-term goals is simply a way to occupy our minds without achieving anything. The differentiator is execution - challenging, repetitive and unglamorous. The power of goal setting is based on the power of habit building. Acknowledging something is the first step. Understanding the dynamics of the same is the second. Feeling it intrinsically as it has become part of yourself and your identity is where the magic of change is happening. It is an ongoing process, which takes time. And once it sinks in you can feed on this infinite source of inspiration and energy.
2019 was the first year in my life where I invested time to formulate and iteratively fine-tune my goals and action plans for achieving the same. Looking back, I believe I shied away from formulating goals because it made me accountable before the biggest critic in my life: myself. I was afraid of failing my expectations - just what my inner bully was waiting for. A simple yet effective trick of our friend the subconsciousness to avoid getting hurt through hiding from exposure and challenges. Welcome to the dead zone. The zone where nothing grows. Success is not some magic formula although many gurus sell it like that (emphasis on the selling point). I don't know any person who makes a positive impact in life that does not set ambitious goals. A dear friend of mine Alexander once told me 'I won't reach all my goals. And yet while failing some, I will fail on a higher level than an Alexander without goals.' The Japanese Hoshin Kanri approach to (self-) management goes in the same direction following the credo 'When you reach all the goals you have not stretched yourselves enough.'
I believe the most efficient way to build a meaningful and fulfilling life is a holistic approach taking into account varies aspects of our existence. The opposite philosophy focuses on going all-in on one core focus while accepting neglection of other aspects in life. While I believe this can be a fast lane to success, I don't buy that it is a sustainable and resilient approach to life. Life is like a scale containing numerous smaller scales that are interconnected. The more scales we have in balance, the easier it is to counterweight the ones where we are struggling with so that our lives as a whole remain intact.
Following this philosophy one year ago, I formulated goals for various life aspects. In one year a lot can happen - to not burden myself with unnecessary temptations to sneak out of my commitments I did not allow myself to change or delete goals. Either I reach them or I don't. No self-bullshitting.
I share the analysis of my 2019 goals for two reasons:
a) I hope it motivates others to define their goals and go after them. It is a major uplift for life.
2018 has been a turbulent year that laid the seeds. 2019 was the time to reap the first harvest creating more seeds to lay even more seeds and take it from there. It was the time of new professional developments in new locations, a travel-, the start of Expatjournal, big steps towards financial freedom and much more! What made 2019 great? Luck? Certainly, we all need some of that. The biggest difference to the years towards was a
My goals are divided into various categories with or without sub-sets: Professional Progress, Sports, Personal Development and Financial Freedom. Not all my goals are quantifiable in an objective manner. I try to give a percentage point from 0 - 100% wherever possible. Comments indicate the reasons for fulfilling or failing my goals.
1. Professional Progress
Goal: Transition into a new international role with career progression.
Assessment: 100% reached
Comment: 2019 presented me with a professional parting of the ways. My delegation in Vietnam ended in July and in the last months I commuted between Vietnam and India due to work reasons. Repatriation or the transition into a new international assignment is a risky period in the lives of expats. The potential career boost from experience abroad can be easily destroyed when you end your work relationship before repatriation. The market often interprets this as proof of failure which can damage your standing.
I was convinced that I could provide the most benefit to my organization abroad while taking advantage of the personal and professional development opportunities when continuing my quest abroad. The alternative would have been a position in the companies headquarters in beautiful Switzerland. At that time this was not on my schedule as I experienced a growing feeling of estrangement to my 'home culture' of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria (in a wider sense). After being able to spend a wonderful time back in Switzerland and Germany in 2019's second half, this position of mine got relativized. One could say I have reconnected with my own culture. A wonderful feeling of belonging - a challenge in the life of any expat.
Back in the first half of 2019, I communicated my plans within the organization: A considerable risk that I accepted at that time. I told myself that I would simply make a longer sabbatical if things would not have worked as planned. But they did and I got my next dream position in the vibrant continent of Africa where I will work across various countries based out of Nairobi, Kenya.
Goal 1: Deadlift 200kg
Assessment: 70% reached (180 kg)
Comment: I made it till 180kg in Q2 2019 and then stopped heavy deadlifting for a while as it comes along with massive physical stress. Additionally, my focus switched to more functional training and dancing. When the inner flame is not burning as big as before you can forget to reach any challenging goals.
Goal 2: Do a split.
Assessment: 70% reached (Front split but no middle split)
Comment: After mobility training, which literally tore me apart, I was able to do the unsquared front split. Nevertheless, I planned to touchdown with the more challenging middle split by end of the year. That didn't happen hence only 70% success.
Goal 3: Run 3000m in 10 min.
Assessment: 40% reached.
Comment: My fastest was 2450m in 10 min. 350m is still missing - a considerable gap. I did not focus on endurance training so I could not expect to perform as planned. Compared to my past running performance (I never ran except behind some kind of ball) I am content.
Goal 4: Body fat content around 10%.
Assessment: 100% reached.
Comment: Running, a lot of dancing and no sweets for four months helped to let the remaining fat melt. I always have been a lean body type. Nevertheless, if I stuff my face with sweet stuff I am normally around 12% body fat - a good value for everyday life. Nevertheless, I wanted to see deeper cuts and challenge myself.
Goal: Improve my Salsa, Bachata and Kizomba social dancing as much as possible.
Assessment: 80% reached
Comment: This is hard to quantify. I gave it an 80% as I am all in all content with the progress. 20% left as there is always room for getting better in a shorter amount of time.
Doing a dance sabbatical in Q3 when I traveled through Eastern Europe from festival to festival definitively helped while being a great experience itself. It totaled up to 15 festivals/dance marathons in 2019. Dancing feels like a Déjà-vu to me. The deep burning passion that I experience I am already familiar with. It is a similar obsession (Fun Fact: Obsesion from Aventura was the first Bachata track I have ever heart) to the one I felt for Fitness Bodybuilding from 2005 till 2015. I simply can't wait for the next training, the next social, the next festival.
Dividing my time and energy between all three dances slows down my progress rate in each dance nevertheless I believe in the long-term it promotes my sustainable development to become a versatile social dancer. More importantly, it suits my open-minded nature. E.g. some nights I simply don't get in the flow of let's say Kizomba so I have a blast with Mambo or Bachata.
Across the globe, many different sub-scenes exist (e.g. Salsa on2, on1, Cubano, Bachata Dominicana and Sensual, UrbanKiz, Kizomba or Semba). When relocating to a new destination this automatically requires adaption, which is always hard in the beginning but even more rewarding once you have overcome your first resistance wanting to continue 'dancing as usual'.
Fun Fact: When I was staying in places where I would have no access to suitable teaching, I simply worked on my shines which can be practiced alone. As the afternoons and nights during the week were filled up with work, fitness and stretching, I woke up early every day, practicing Salsa shines and Bachata footwork in my apartment at 6 am. I am wondering if my neighbors ever noticed the stamping :D
3. Personal Development
Goal 1: Write and publish my first book.
Assessment: 100% reached.
Comment: This project consumed a lot of time from Q4 2018 until the end of Q2 2019. Finally The Thriving Expat - Master Your Life and Career Abroad hit the virtual bookshelves on Amazon in July 2019. There is still a lot of room for Sales to grow. It is again the focus that is missing as I have too many life activities fascinate me. Making money with it was never my first intention but sharing my passion for international lives and careers while motivating others to start their global ventures themselves.
Goal 2: Create expatjournal.org
Assessment: 80% reached.
Comment: The launch was successful and critics, in general, were positive. I am waaaaay too slow with the content creation which is reflected the platform's reach. I plan to improve on this in 2019 with the focus more on YouTube videos than blog posts.
Goal 3: Read 20 books.
Assessment: 60% reached (12 books).
Comment: Creating expatjournal.org and writing The Thriving Expat took a lot of time in Q1 and Q2 of 2019 which resulted in me not reading anything substantial in 2019's first half. Made up for it as good as possible in the remaining six months.
Goal 4: Practice gratefulness and focus on me.
Assessment: 70% reached (hard to quantify though)
Comment: I naturally tend to over-think and over-learn. My subconsciousness usually makes up all kinds of excuses why I should not start something right away. It normally hides under the blanket called perfectionism but its true nature is simply my ego's desire to avoid criticism. Nobody who obtained mastery in any field did so with waiting for the 'right moment'. Mastery is obtained through tedious repetition and continuous failing forward. You can't become an impressive public speaker if you never get on stage. You can pay the best coaches - without getting out there and facing your fears of rejection you will continue to suck. So would I and anybody else.
What helped me is to focus on my own goals and not let myself be distracted by other people's successes and failures. I spend less time following random people on social media (just those I genuinely care about). Simultaneously, I steer my focus on aspects in my life which are going great instead of pondering about things I presumably lack. Gratitude is the key.
It sounds more complicated than it is. It is simply about continuous training to adjust the 'wiring' of your brain synapses a bit to look st the bright side of life. Not fake positive thinking but sober and neutral perspective shifts to create a mindset of abundance and not scarcity. That's what successful people do. They do not focus on other people's lives self-triggering their natural human tendency to feeling envy or even starting to hate. They simply mind their own business as it keeps them occupied.
Goal 5: Become fluent in Vietnamese.
Assessment: 10% reached. Failed.
Comment: When coming to Vietnam, I had the goal to leave the country speaking its language fluently. Unfortunately, two years were not enough. My progress was okay-ish but still slow. With a long-term perspective in the country, I would have continued tutoring but instead, I continued learning Vietnamese 'on the streets' after three months of initial tutoring.
It's a great language in its exotic way and I loved the experience of having small talk with the locals in their languages. It is kinda sad to see my Vietnamese levels dying again but there are simply not many opportunities to practice. And it's definitively not the language you learn on the side. You have to drown in it to be able to slowly progress.
Goal 6: Become Flexitarian & eat organic (milk products).
Assessment: 100% reached.
Comment: Flexitarism means eating very little meat products. Those you consume, you do so in an appreciating manner - it remains something special.
I enjoy my diet's flexibility. My international lifestyle often confronts me with challenging situations when it comes to very strict diet regimes. Additionally, I don't wont to reject any food when I am invited. I do not cook or buy any meat. I am a fan of milk products and eggs so becoming vegan is not on my agenda (yet). As I don't want my consumption to badly affect other living beings, I decided to switch to organic milk products. This guarantees better animal welfare than intensive dairy farming. Eating less meat also reduces my Carbon Footprint, a tiny contribution to leaving a healthy planet to the coming generations.
Goal 7: Become a Minimalist.
Assessment: 80% reached.
Comment: I was never a big spender. I was lucky that my parents taught me from early on what it means to pay yourself first and letting money work for you instead of solely working for money. I had always more fun with the right people sharing a $5 meal than indulging in hedonistic feats in town's upscale establishments.
Nevertheless, I also have my weaknesses where I tended to emotional purchases. Fortunately, those were not the big cash-suckers like cars, bikes, watches, and technology but there was still had room to consume more consciously. E.g. who the heck needs 40 shirts?! I wanted them, I didn't need them.
Additionally, my father was a big inspiration in sizing down one's material needs, which goes hand in hand with staying out of the Rat Race through financial literacy. My materialistic processions have no long-lasting positive influence on the quality of my life. Purchases certainly provide you a high like a heroin shot straight into your veins. And after one week your Rolex is only a watch. The high is gone. Soon after you are feeling unrest again - you need more! Welcome to the Matrix. Welcome to the Rat Race.
Many of our purchases are not driven by our need for the product's functionality but our ego's desire for external validation. - 'She drives a nice car - she must be successful and living THE life.'
Our emotional weaknesses and desires for recognition are mercilessly exploited by marketing. As our ego is separate from ourselves (learn more in Eckard Tolle's books), it is not us who want this or that but our ego - the voice in our heads. The movie Fight Club thought us the absurdity of our society based on consumerism:
'We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like.'
If you would be able to see an indication of consumer debt over one's head, you would ask ourselves if we all lost it. Moving around a lot, I learned that the quality of life is defined by the quality of interpersonal relationships. Or as Adlerian philosophy puts it: 'All problems are interpersonal problems'. Owning less gives you the mental space to identify the really important topics in life and work on the same.
Owning fancy stuff doesn't add quality to my life but freedom does. And one part of freedom is a financial one. And that is the next category.
4. Financial Freedom
Goal 1: Reach a certain net value
Assessment: 110% reached.
Goal 2: Create multiple income streams.
Assessment: n/a (I did not define a certain value for this before)
Comment: In 2019, I generated 60% of my total income through my primary income source (employment), 40% I made in the stock market. This was a big step towards diversification of income streams and building financial freedom.
It was a great year and yet I would be foolish assuming this income stream of capital gains being recession-proof. My approach is to benefit from rising bull markets, taking profits and reinvesting those into more stable real estate assets. When bear markets hit, I wait and then take cash at hand to reenter the financial markets at low prices.
Multiple income streams are the framework that all wealthy people share. No rich person is solely depending on one income stream, e.g. a salary. Multiple income streams mean to invest your disposable income instead of consuming it. This makes your money work for you to generate more without you having to actively work for it.
How do I measure progress in building multiple income streams?
In the beginning, I recommend assessing gains from investments as a percentage of your major income stream (which for most people is compensation from employment). Once multiple substantial income streams are established, another more complex assessment might become necessary. A relative perspective is always more suitable as an absolute one. Starting points, requirements and goals vary across geographies and individuals. But 10% remain always 10% no matter the absolute value.
Goal: Start the first real estate project
Assessment: 100% reached
One of my personal financial freedom highlights in 2019. I waited so long for the right moment instead of jumping on the first train passing by because of FOMO (fear of missing out). We all know FOMO. It can be painful. It's even more painful jumping on the train speeding into the abyss. As I expect a global market correction (maybe even recession) to hit within the next years, I want to feather my own nest (literally...). I see the moment to take profits and shift into a more recession-proof asset class which on the other hand side has lower profits and little liquidity.
2019 was a good one. Let's get to work, 2020!
Did you like this goal analysis? Then like, share and comment. Have analyzed your 2019's goals? Have you set your targets for 2020 yet? If not, what are you waiting for? Get to work!