A Year In Review – 2020 Edition

Table of Contents

I’ve been procrastinating this article. Summarising an entire year feels difficult. But I see the value in looking back. It makes moving forward clearer.

Looking forward is hard. The future is a fantasy. No one knows what’s happening tomorrow. But looking back is tangible. I like tangible. So here’s my look back at the past 12 months. Ups, downs and the honesty in-between.

This article is self-indulgent. If you want value, this isn’t for you. If you like stories and personal insights, read on. This article will cover:

  1. Quitting The Company
  2. Current Teaching Position
  3. New Teaching Position
  4. Writing Well and Creating Content
  5. Family, Friends and Fun
  6. Looking Forward with an Annual Plan

#1 Quitting The Company

After two and a half years, I’ve quit my business. A difficult, overdue decision. In 2018, a group of five of us came together. The intentions were simple, to join skills and become a digital agency. We strived to be transparent, offer fair prices and do high-quality work.

We faced many hurdles. The fall out of one member, time commitment, personal tragedies and general difficulties. This all meant lots of adapting, a typical start-up story. We turned from a digital agency into a marketing referral machine.

After a time, I resented the business and its path. I lost motivation, creativity and the joint focus was gone. I realised the business wasn’t for me anymore. Lessons from The Four Hour Work Week and Company of One we’re opening my eyes. I learnt setting goals brings clarity. The business wasn’t helping me toward my goals.

We all had strong relationships within the business. Conveying my stance and moving forward was smooth. I learnt honesty meets honesty. I stated how I felt and my decision to quit. We improvised an exit strategy, agreed and that was it.

Now, the business lives on. I wish them the best and hope it becomes what we dreamt. I’m happy I contributed, but I’m happier now.

#2 Current Teaching Position

Classroom teaching has been rewarding. As an extrovert, I get energy from others. The environment is perfect for me. I value my team of teachers. I’m thankful to have level headed, honest and hard-working teammates. Our students have been great too. Met lots of nice people and made new friends.

We experienced a complete online transition mid-year. But adapted a blended model moving forward with one day on campus. It wasn’t a jarring transition into online teaching, we loved it.

I attended a two-day workshop dedicated to understanding and developing leadership. It was monumental as I made high-quality connections and fond memories. I learnt the value of authenticity. Heard heartfelt stories of overcoming challenges. Had engaging activities and frameworks which forced us outside our comfort zone.

I learnt the importance of failing. Things go wrong all the time. As a teacher and especially in I.T, I’ve always avoided failure. I was the kid who never asked questions in school. But failing brings an opportunity to learn. When things go wrong, we figure out what’s right.

#3 New Teaching Position

Since March, students are learning over the internet; 70% of students enrolling for my qualification are remote. Online enrollments have increased over the year. My last class was the smallest, ever. It’s worried me. Without enrollments, there are no classes which means no hours i.e. no job. The emotion of fear drove action.

I started to book meetings with people I knew. One teacher led to another which led to a manager for the online department. Within 5 minutes, the conversation turned from informative to proactive. I was being vetted for an online teaching position which I made available. After the call, a week passed and I got the confirmation, I’m in!

I learnt to find and go through windows. I went outside the norm and found a new teaching position. It wasn’t advertised, there was no door in. So I found a window. Going into 2021, I have full-time work across two teaching roles!

#4 Writing Well and Creating Content

2019 taught me I love learning. 2020 is writing. How incredible is writing? I’m writing every day. Morning journaling, daily brain dumps and blog posts.

I’m committed to writing a weekly newsletter. I’m also publishing semi-regular blog posts to better package ideas. I’ll repurpose them as videos or podcasts in the future. For now, the focus is simple – write well. If I write well, I think well. Both thinking and writing are skills I’m nurturing. This impacts teaching material, assessing student work, posting to social media and everything else.

I’ve learnt I need a system if I want to build a skill or habit. Everything gets stored in Notion. I’m building templates to optimise time and databases to organise content. I learnt consuming vs contributing. The internet is our global knowledge pool. Consuming content spurs ideas for reference. Contributing content is fulfilling. I’m finding the balance.

#5 Family, Friends and Fun

Since September 2019, it’s been one year of marriage. I love having a companion I can trust, support and experience life with. I’m much happier now and wouldn’t have it any other way. We celebrated our first anniversary by going inland to a small town called Montville. We spent a few days relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

Throughout the year like everyone, travelling wasn’t an option. We got away to see friends and enjoy small trips. In July we went to the Gold Coast, went camping in August to Kenilworth and in December we stayed in Rainbow Beach.

I learnt the importance of family. With grandparents getting older and an increase in health issues. One of the top regrets in life is not spending enough time with family. I’m so grateful to have my family and my wife’s family in my life.

#6 Looking Forward with an Annual Plan

Vision statement:
In 2021 I’ll have published 52 weekly newsletters, 20+ blog posts and have a backlog of content ideas. I’ll have clearer thoughts on subjects and better package them for others. I’ll grow my newsletter subscribers to over 100. I’ll feel comfortable working in public and confident writing well. I’ll focus on LinkedIn and grow my post engagement to 10+ per post. I’ll take part in online networking events and make higher quality, genuine connections. And I’ll be more comfortable conversing in social settings.

Key indicators:
Build positive habits from writing/thinking well.

  • Writing in my daily journal
  • Publishing weekly newsletters
  • Publishing bi-weekly blog posts
  • Attending monthly (or more) networking events

Focus area:
Write well and think well. I’ll enjoy life by being present and not overthinking. I’ll have a clearer internal compass which improves outward actions, letting me focus on others and helping more.


Thanks to Julian Shapiro for Writing Well handbook. Ali Abdaal for regular, inspiring content. Jack Conte for this video on an annual plan. Guy Raz for How I Built This. Paul Jarvis for Company of One. Nat Eliason for this blog post on starting a blog. Paul Graham for this blog post and this one. And Kevin Kelly for this post about 1,000 true fans.

About The Author
Ashley Ball

Ashley Ball

Hi, I'm Ash. I'm a teacher, web designer and content creator from Australia. I like making things simple. I like staying connected, learning about design and being an entrepreneur. Subscribe for insights via my weekly newsletter.
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