My 2011 Annual Review: A (Very) Detailed and Mindful Look Back

“I live and I learn
And I lose and I win
But it’s better than ever
Whenever I’m in,
I thank you girl
For everywhere that we’ve been.”
– Red Hot Chili Peppers, Meet Me at the Corner

Happy New Year!

I’ve done things a bit backwards so far this January by posting a mega-post on some unconventional New Year’s Resolutions, followed today by my Annual Review mega-post that looks back and explores just about everything that I learned, accomplished, failed at and much more in the year 2011.

After writing this post, I really appreciate how much of an incredible year it was in 2011!

I went skydiving, made some incredible friendships, moved, traveled, wrote and published a book, created digital products, released manifestos, admitted a secret history with depression, wrote more than ever before, got new ink, collaborated, saw my face on national television, built, spoke, laughed at myself, shared and grew.

2011 was incredible, but for all of those successes, it was still filled with hardships, heartaches, missteps, failures and confusion. That’s life, right? :) But what I learned years ago is that all of those “negatives” simply expedited my forward momentum in the proper direction.

In this revealing expose, I want to fill you in on everything I learned in 2011 so that you and I can both accelerate into the New Year with positivity, strength and the willpower to flourish. I’m so thankful that you shared the year with me, and I cannot be more excited for what 2012 holds!

 

7 Best Moments of 2011

1.The Boston Experience (September 2010 – September 2011)

The Boston experience that began in September 2010 and ended one year later in 2011 was all about direction and acceleration. When I moved to Boston, I was still largely without strong direction — although my writing and outreach finally began to head in what felt like a good and healthy direction by the end of 2010.

Within weeks of moving to Boston, Art of Nonconformity author Chris Guillebeau was swinging through Boston on his book tour. Even a year and a half ago, it was actually very uncharacteristic of me to bother through the anxiety — or, pre-emptive failure — attending such an event.

It was even more uncharacteristic for me to stick around to try to say hi to Chris — whom I had only tweeted a couple times — after walking for over a mile in a thunderstorm in search of the bookstore, moments after spending more than an hour looking for a parking space in car-hell (aka Cambridge, MA), and after being pulled over by a cop for accidentally driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

Thank goodness I did.

Chris’ simple encouragement in our 5-minute exchange — which I chronicled here in a blog post in March 2011 — was worth its weight in gold. And, it led me to discover a litany of amazing bloggers, writers, entrepreneurs and world-dominationeers.

By the time 2011 came, some pieces fell into awesome and miraculous place: bits of luck, chance and circumstance — if we want to borrow a term from Buddhism, “auspicious coincidence” — led me to chat live on the phone with Jonathan Fields and Danielle LaPorte in front of 500 others.

This then led to dozens of incredible connections to men and women all over the world, brilliant people and fans of Jonathan and Danielle, who had all suddenly had met me in a matter of life-changing seconds.

Bernadette Jiwa was one of those people, and her incredibly gracious offering to consult with me on branding and business from halfway across the world is a testament to the power and outreach of social media, yes, but far more than that, to the power and outreach of good hearts uniting across oceans to help people succeed brilliantly — and for all of the right reasons. (Thank you, Bernadette!)

 

2. Running my first 5k (March 2011) and 9k (May 2011) Road Races, Raising $1200 for Charity

I entered 2011 as a runophobic: a really uncreative word that I just made up to represent my irrational “fear of running.” As I wrote months ago, I realized that the reason I so passionately hated running since high school was that it was purely a defense mechanism — simply because I was so terrible at it.

In 2011, I challenged myself to defeat this fear — the good ol’ fashioned way: pushing my ass across the pavement, starting with a brutal run in the freezing rain in February 2011 (below):

Taking baby steps and building forward momentum, I emerged on the other side a bona fide runner. During the summer of 2011, I was running upwards of 4 to 5 times per week at Castle Island in South Boston, striding to rhythms of Explosions in the Sky and greeting each morning fully bathed in energizing sunshine.

In March, I ran my first 5k at the Ras na hEireann U.S.A. road race in Somerville, MA — which was, in fact, the longest distance I had ever run at a time without stopping (yikes!). I completed the 3.2 mile course in a cool 27 minutes (photo, right).

In May, I fundraised $1200 for disabled and wounded military veterans and ran the Run to Home Base 9K Road Race — a solid 5.6 mile course — in 49 minutes! A couple of weeks earlier, I had run 6 miles (without stopping), which was actually the best run I’ve had in my entire life.

Fear, defeated. Excuses, gone. Running, fun! Me, only gettin’ better at running from here :) Marathon some day? We’ll see…!!

 

3. My First Speaking Appearance at Holy Cross (April 2011)

Serendipity panned out again in early 2011, complementing the seemingly miraculous turns of events as all of the people, places and things that I could have only dreamed of suddenly appeared in front of me. Fate took me from Boston through Worcester on my way to New York, stopping at my alma matter Holy Cross when, coincidentally, the leadership council at my old college was meeting for the first and only time in months.

I pitched my alternative leadership philosophy, and we scheduled a speaking appearance — my first ever — in the following weeks.

I understood these auspicious coincidences as signs — indicators from God, Spirit, or the Universe — that told me that Lead Without Followers was finally due to emerge after two odd years of pursuing a literary agent and publishing contract on behalf of this nonfiction book idea.

Big breaks kept unfolding, but every time they would ultimately benefit Lead Without Followers. Coincidences kept piling up. More and more, I realized that self-publishing my book was something I had to do. And the next few weeks would only reinforce that…

 

4. BlogWorld NYC + Appearing on CBS News Sunday Morning (May 2011)

In late May I decided to attend my first conference, BlogWorld New York City, at the behest and encouragement of my friend and fellow blogger, Farnoosh Brock from Prolific Living.

The conference was a fun flurry of networking, interviews, hand-shaking and running around. At the side of my buddy Srini Rao from BlogCastFM and Skool of Life (aka Mr. Popular & Crazy-Busy During Any BlogWorld Conference!), I got to meet a wonderful array of awesome people whose blogs I had not yet discovered.

Oh yeah, then there was appearing on national television a few weeks later!

At BlogWorld Expo, I was interviewed by a crew from CBS News Sunday Morning and, although I figured the interview would never see the light of day, both Srini and I ended up in a feature story on the world of blogging just weeks later. Although our air time totaled a mere handful of seconds, hey, it was a pretty cool experience :)

 

5. World Domination Summit + Skydiving in PDX (June 2011)

BlogWorld was the perfect introduction to the conference dynamic: hectic networking, people overload, and fun.

As far as conferences go, the World Domination Summit was a whole other beast: “conference” sounds too stuffy and corporate — amalgamation of incredible awesome, friendly, open-minded people doing world-changing things would be more accurate!

I’ve ranted and raved for months about #WDS, and so have all other attendees. It’s easy to understand why. Literally hundreds of amazing connections were made over just a few days in Portland, thanks to the networking power and vision of Chris Guillebeau, the conference organizer, and his team of volunteer helpers.

The weekend in Portland started with open mic karaoke, evolved into skydiving from 12,000 feet near Mount Hood, opened up into incredible sessions and inspiring speeches, and ended with a journey into hell — well, a crazy weird and hilariously fun place called Dante’s Sinferno. It’s a long story. :)

Like BlogWorld, the WDS experience was all about the people.

And, the more I spoke to new friends and strangers alike about the ideas behind Lead Without Followers, the more and more I was encouraged to take a leap: to make my blog solely about alternative leadership and to self-publish my book. Momentum was growing within — in my own head and heart — and without — in the enthusiasm and interest of everyone I spoke to about it.

All it would take was one more domino to fall before I would announce my intentions, finally, to write my book. After all, how tough could it be, anyway…? :)

 

6. How to Lead Without Followers: The Speech I Never Gave Gone Viral (June 2011)

After a sleepless 6-hour red-eye flight from Portland, Oregon to Boston, MA, I rifled off a loose and semi-planned blog post that I called, How to Lead Without Followers – the World Domination Summit Talk I Never Gave — an imaginary speech that I would have given on stage at the World Domination Summit, had I been selected to speak there (I was a finalist, which was a whole other accomplishment in itself!).

Some 200 ReTweets and Facebook Likes later, the blog post attracted thousands of readers — many fellow conference attendees — and prompted me to not only enlist the design talents of Lisa Valuskaya to create a free e-book for you (which you can download immediately when you subscribe to DaveUrsillo.com here), but to begin writing my book, Lead Without Followers.

A single blog post was the straw that broke the camels back — finally prompting this big, life-shaking change. How cool is that?

 

7. Lead Without Followers: Writing, Self-Publishing + Launching (June – September 2011)

In my mind, for all the incredible accomplishments and ups-n-downs of 2011, the year will probably be forever remembered to me as the year of Lead Without Followers — writing my first, and certainly not last, book.

By the end of the World Domination Summit in early June, I had manned up and publicly announced my intentions to write and self-publish my book. I had no idea how long it might take.

Just three months later, it was written. One month after that, it was published and released to the world — to what some observers called a “perfect book launch,” with guest posts and interviews going live on three dozen blogs and websites on September 26, including zenhabits and Leadership Now.

In the first three months that it’s been on sale, Lead Without Followers has sold well over 300 copies — I can’t believe that number. It’s certainly not an Earth-shattering statistic, but for a job-quitter turned blogger turned self-published author, I’m pretty blown away as it is. :) And, best yet, it’s only just the beginning!

 

20 Bits of Accidental Wisdom in 2011

1. Why Counting ‘Followers’ Gives Away the Only Power You Really Have, August 2011

“If your success depends upon their showing up and their reactions, you’re choosing to allow others to dominate your own sense of worthiness. You’re not actually measuring power that you possess over others: only what power they have over you.”

2. I Want You To Bleed With Gratitude, July 2011

“Nurture gratitude within, sow it among those in your life; what you reap is true Happiness, simple contentment. Inner resiliency to see light in times of dark. Radiant ability. Limitless opportunity.”

3. How to Turn an Early-Morning Bee Sting (Right Under Your Eye) Into an Epic, Excellent Day, July 2011

“I’ll be honest. Getting stung by a bee in the face was not an awesome way to start the day.”

4. How to Make ‘More’ from ‘Less’ and the Unseen Dangers of Measuring Success, July 2011

“You can’t always measure what you perceive to be ‘success’ and ‘progress’ by counting quantities and comparing your pace to the pace of others. Yeah, we live in a competitive and material world that tells us that more is better, less is failure, and if you’re not keeping up with the crowd then you’re not worthy of their company. That’s the plight of measuring your success: more ain’t always better.”

5. My 2-Year “I Quit” Anniversary and Why, Eventually, You’ll Leave MeMay 2011

“You, in as little as simply Being can and will shimmer with positive light and determination to do good. And each step you take upon a broken sidewalk will shake the world with vibrant, rippling waves of life-changing energy and  resonate in every soul you pass; each smile to a stranger a brilliant spark of earnest chance and focused hope for our world.”

6. The Fundamental Essence of Life: An Incredible Truth, April 2011

“Each being is not separate and alone, but permanently interwoven with and in the universal and eternal presence of God or Spirit — we are the very thread that binds the weave, and are each woven from it, ourselves.”

7. Power from Within: The Manifesto (2 Years in the Making)March 2011

“We may choose to live this life immersed in our world and among all its people, or die having lived in spite of them. The latter is perhaps the greatest regret of all; the former promises a wealth of richness and joy that can — and shall — forever flourish.”

8. A Domino in the Sea, December 2011

We may be dominoes, but we are not the board game pieces of a punitive minority. Not so long as we remember what leadership truly is. Not so long as we forever recall that by our simple humanity, leadership exists in each of us.

9. The Joyful Frustration of Indefinable Being, March 2011

You don’t know what you’re doing. …but if you trust, then knowing doesn’t really matter. If you allow the pace and Will of your heart to guide your sails with intuitive winds, you begin to rely on something stronger than simple ‘knowing.’

You don’t know what you’re doing, and that’s perfectly fine. Will you ever give up the illusion that life is an equation that can be mastered? Will you admit—if only to yourself, if only for the sake of humbling your ego—that there are no answers to life’s biggest questions?”

10. Depression + Me, April 2011

“…that March day was both the first and last day that I took prescription anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication as it had been prescribed to me by a physician — without anyone else’s knowing. The first day quickly became the last because of the sharp reaction my body had to that the anxiety med, in particular: I can barely remember what happened.

The tiny little white anxiety pill prescribed to calm my nerves turned me into a totally zonked out, medicated zombie. The day was a complete blur. I have about 5 distinct memories from the day. Maybe a minute of total recollection.”

11. How to be Happy, March 2011

“Happiness is not buried in a secret location. Happiness is around us every day; it is within ourselves. We just need to let it come out. Happiness, love, compassion engulf and surround us always. Stop looking, and you will see it. Stop searching, and it will find you. Being happy is about being. Being. Not being any thing, not being any one… it’s about Being.”

12. 11 Cities, 7.5 Thousand Miles and 38 Days Later [PHOTOESSAY], November 2011

“Social media, blogging, the Internet are facilitators. Mere tools. Means, not the end-goal. The human connection is the end goal. Within simple human interactions, friendships and love are born, empathy and compassion are reaped, bonds are cultivated.

The human connection possesses the power to overcome archaic divides, differences, and debates that subject us all — individually in our everyday lives, and collectively upon this Earth — into the throws of anger, injustice, ego and conflict.”

13. How to Burn a Mind-Cloud: Sparking Light in Times of Darkness, April 2011

“I believe that darkness of the mind stems from the feeling that your life is misaligned from your personal sense of purpose, fulfillment and happiness. When we are out of sync with what we truly feel we ‘ought’ to be doing in our hearts, we feel lost, unhappy and hopeless. With the power of choice you already and always possess within you, choose to change your life and to follow your heart.

When in alignment with purpose and fulfilling living, happiness will follow — the flame will be lit, and the world will share your light.”

14. mistakes are inevitable; it’s a matter of how you make themOctober 2011

“Making mistakes for the wrong reasons or causes — when your actions, words, or decisions are derived from a place of ego, ignorance, anger, jealousy, hatred, greed or some ugly source within that makes you feel like ‘I’m not myself’ — will cripple your heart and spur long, painful bouts of attempting to rectify the wrongdoing.

but when you make a mistake from a place of goodness — not a place of ‘I’m right, you’re wrong,’ but originating from a place of love and caring, good will and good intentions, mistakes are hardly life-long impasses. there is little burden, only fleeting regret. few causes for tears and heartbreak, only a frown and a ‘sorry.’ a lesson learned. new growth. needed experience.”

15. Every King Shall Fall, December 2011

Leaders seldom remember their leadership’s mortality until it is too late. They forget because of the seducing allure of worldly attachment; because of outright addictions; because of a blinding ego. They forget, beyond all else, that leadership originates within them — and not from what they have that others (‘followers’) are without.”

16. Only Love Endures, September 2011

“Fame fades. Money is finite. Power is an illusion. Only love endures. ”

17. The Run to Home Base: Defy Limitations and Escape Excuse-Making for Charity, May 2011

“This road race was not only a physical challenge, but a mental one that afforded me the opportunity to practice what I often preach: that giving liberally actually and literally provides you with immediate and long-lasting reward. My experience on Sunday helped to reaffirm the incredible life lesson about ‘giving’ and ‘receiving.’ You truly do ‘get’ what you give. I don’t know how or why this works. I just know that it’s the truth.

And a relatively simple shift in mindset from ‘zero sum’ to ‘million sum’ — from ‘I don’t know if I can do this’ to ‘I know that each of us can and will accomplish this’ — was enough to help propel me to the finish line in a cool 49 minutes flat, at a modest pace of 8 minutes and 46 seconds per mile (beating out my goal of 50 minutes and 40 seconds!).”

19. How to Spark Change in the World (in 1 Minute or Less), May 2011

“The wonderful news is that the more connected we are, the more power we possess to radically influence happiness, goodness and positivity in our world. In this brilliant day and age — for all the problems, conflicts and difficulties our species has created and that we must work to solve and overcome — each of us possesses the chance and ability to spark change in the world in 1 minute or less.

20. How to Lead Without Followers: the World Domination Summit Talk I Never Gave, June 2011

“In a system that requires you to play games with real human beings, encourages to throw out your moral character and your values…. who even knows if by the point where i could have possibly done some good by elevating my way through the system, reachign some place or position of genuine power and status and influence… who knows if I’d even still be a shred of my former self… or if I’d just be another corrupted, compromised ‘player’ who cut corners and cheated himself out of who he truly was… just to get ahead.

 

Just for Fun, Some Numbers

Unique Visitors: 60,296 (+402.76% from 2010, compared to 11,993!)

Pages read: 135,529 (+403.021% from 2010, compared to 26,943!)

Email List: 404 (+infinity% from 2010, compared to, well, zero — I just started it this year!)

Top 3 Biggest Months in 2011:

  1. September 2011 – 7,000 readers – (Lead Without Followers book launch!)
  2. June 2011 – 6,535 readers – (#WDS Speech I Never Gave gone viral!)
  3. December 2011 – 5,776 readers – (Blogging again after November hiatus!)

Top 3 Most Popular Posts:

  1. What Does Love Mean to You?
  2. How to Lead Without Followers: the World Domination Summit Talk I Never Gave
  3. 25 Things I Never Told You (Or, a Writer Upping the Ante)

Reader countries of origin: 174 (!)

Top 6 reader countries:

  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Australia
  5. India
  6. Philippines

Top search terms:

  1. what does love mean
  2. dave ursillo
  3. what does love mean to you

End of 2011 Monthly Reach: 404 (Email subscribers) + 202 (RSS subscribers) 2700 (Twitter followers) + 830 (Facebook likes) + 6,000 (unique visitors) = 10,136 rockin’n’rollin’ revolutionaries!

 

To you, my reader and friend, thank you.

Thank you for spending what was an amazing 2011 with me. Whether you’re a quiet observer or active commenter, a newbie or a long-time veteran, a once-in-a-while’r or a pop-by-and-never-again’er, thank you.

It’s an honor for me to borrow a precious moment of your busy life and to share a word, a thought, and hopefully some positivity with you — in your corner of the world, wherever you are. Readers from 174 countries over 2011? Holy moly. And, once again, thank you.

2011 was an incredible year of movement and progress, patient regression and overflowing change — and both fear and fearlessness. Your support, whether passive or forthright, meant the world to me during the last 12 months and I can’t thank you enough for it.

Here’s to 2012.

My goal, personally, is to help you to feel the exact same way that I do come this time next year.

Let’s do it. Happy New Year.

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