2022 is over, and I can say with certainty: it was the most difficult year of my life, punctuated by moments of deep joy and gratitude.
Just like with my 2021 year in review, I will be answering the following questions to the best of my ability:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go well this year?
- What did I learn?
- What do I want 2023 to look like?
(You can read all my year in review posts here: 2021 | 2020 | 2014)
Peaks and valleys are the best way I can describe this review, so buckle up! I promise you won’t lack for a thrilling ride.
What went well this year?
Yellowstone + Jackson Hole Trip
In July, my family went on a trip to Yellowstone with some dear friends. I’d never been out to that part of the country before, and it did not disappoint! The scenery was beautiful.
And it almost didn’t happen.
If you recall, Yellowstone experienced severe, once-in-a-lifetime flooding in June. Three weeks before our trip was to begin, the park was completely shut down. We almost cancelled our trip, but a week before our flights were set to depart, the south park loop opened up again.
We adjusted our plans since the northern part of the park wouldn’t be open, and we pressed on with the trip.
We visited Geyser Falls, Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic Spring, the “Grand Canyon” of Yellowstone and so much more.
While visiting the Grand Prismatic Basin, I had one of the coolest experiences as a business owner.
I was walking over the bridge to start the stair climb up to the site, and I instinctively blurted out, “OptinMonster!”
What did I see? I saw an OptinMonster customer wearing an OptinMonster T-shirt on his vacation to Yellowstone!
What a small world! We took a picture, talked briefly and exchanged contact information. We’ve been in touch ever since.
As our time in Yellowstone came to a close, we drove through the park and headed toward Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Jackson Hole is one of my favorite destinations. The scenery is stunning, the town is lively and full of great food, and there’s plenty of adventure to be experienced nearby.
We did a 4 mile hike up Jenny Lake (with Jude on my back!), swam in String Lake (it was frigid), went to the top of Jackson Hole mountain to eat waffles, and white water rafted.
Oh – and my wife Laura paraglided off a mountain! 😱
The trip was great, but there was something that happened during the trip that made it unforgettable.
This next section is a long story that I shared in an email. I’ve copied it here in its entirety, because I believe you’ll be amazed by what you read.
It had already been a long day.
When we first began the trip, I journaled that I wanted to invite God to be a part of it. It’s easy to pray to God that he would bless our day, but it’s harder to ask him to be a part of the day. The same was with this trip, but I had an urge to pray for that very thing – that we would invite him to be part of the trip.
The night before, Jude woke up with a fever. He was restless and didn’t feel good, so at 2am, he decided to let us know. He didn’t sleep the rest of the night, and we had already gotten to bed late. We had a busy day the next day. We planned to leave at 7am sharp, but now because of his sickness, we were going to have to delay getting started until after we could get a prescription for a suspected ear infection. The pharmacy didn’t open until 9am.
Once we got his medicine at the pharmacy, we proceeded to enter Yellowstone.. only we didn’t know that the tour groups would come at 9am, so traffic was insane. It took us 45 minutes to get into the park, and it took another 1.5 hours to get to our destination that day. Jude was crying and moaning the whole time, leaving us frazzled for our first hike.
We had borrowed a child backpack carrier from a friend, and that day was the first day using it. I would strap Jude to my back as we hiked around the Upper and Lower Falls at Yellowstone. What we didn’t realize was that the backpack was partially broken, and the mechanism to keep him off my back wasn’t working properly. So, for nearly a mile, I basically carried him on my shoulders, and he was plastered to my back. It was hot, and neither of us were particularly happy. I was incredibly frustrated that this would be happening, as I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete the second hike with him.
We were traveling with friends, so we decided to take turns on the hike down to Lower Falls so someone could keep Jude at the top. Fortunately, he fell asleep, but it doubled the amount of time it would take for us to do the hike…. and we already had a busy day on top of delays.
By the time it was all said and done, it was 2pm, and we had only done 1 of the 4 planned stops that day. The first stop was supposed to be completed by 9am.
To pile on, it began to rain as we were ending the hike. I remember thinking to myself, “God – what are you doing?”. Clearly this day was not going as I intended, but little did I know it was going exactly the way God had planned.
As we proceeded to exit the parking lot in the turnout, it began to hail. Apparently hailstorms are common in that area, but it seemed pretty dangerous to me. We saw lots of hikers and tourists running to get out of the hail pelting them.
There were two parking lots and a one way road between them. We drove slowly through the first parking lot, and as we neared the end of the one way road to the 2nd parking lot, we saw a group of about 8 people running out in front of us. It looked like a tour group, and their bus was parked off the side of the road beside us.
We stopped to let them go by, and as we did, a girl appeared to trip and fall in the road. I assumed it wasn’t anything serious, and I couldn’t tell if one of the other girls with her was laughing or crying. But after about 5 seconds of her not moving, my friend and I decided to get out of the car and check in on her. When we got to her, the other girl was hysterical. She kept saying, “She said she didn’t feel right and then just collapsed.”
The rest of the people with her were shell shocked, like deer caught in headlights. They were standing around doing nothing. So my friend Jake and I immediately got down to check her pulse and breathing. She had neither. Not only was she out cold – she was not breathing and her heart was not working. We immediately instructed the people standing around to start CPR, and I called 911 and began running around yelling for a doctor.
There’s no signal in Yellowstone. Period. But for that brief moment, I had 4 bars, and I had just enough time to tell the medics what happened and where we were located. As soon as I told them the position, the call failed and I never got a signal again.
I began frantically running and yelling to all the cars I could find, “Is anyone a doctor?” I found a nurse and directed her to run in the direction of the girl. On the hiking path up, someone who drove a big tour bus said they had a medic kit and AED, so they ran to grab it and get to her. I found one other nurse and then ran back to the girl.
(side note: it’s hard to run at 9,000 ft above sea level)
When I got back to the girl, she was purple and blue. It had been at least 3 minutes, and there was still no pulse/heartbeat and she was not breathing. They had been doing CPR, but it had been unsuccessful.
Just a couple seconds after I got back to the girl, the guy driving the tour bus brought the AED and opened it up. We placed it on her, yelled “clear” and then fired it off. Her body convulsed, but nothing. We did it again. Nothing.
On the third time, her body convulsed, and then her eyes opened and she made a loud gasp. She was still out, but the AED kicked her heart back into beating. She began making labored breaths every 10 or so seconds as we continued to do CPR. But, at least in this moment, she now had a heartbeat, pulse and was struggling to breathe.
The ambulance arrived a couple minutes later, and they immediately hooked her up to a breathing machine and their other vitals machines. After asking what happened and us explaining, they remarked, “You saved this girl’s life.”
We don’t know what exactly happened. It looked like she just tripped over some rocks and fell, but clearly something else was going on.
And as the ambulance left, Laura and I and Jake and his wife all looked at one another with tearful eyes. We no longer had to wonder why Jude had gotten sick, why we had delays, or why we had to take turns hiking.
We planned to go hiking and exploring. God planned for us to save a life.
I still get chills thinking about that day. Nothing went according to my plans, but everything went according to God’s plan.
I had a goal to read 6 books this year, along with reading through the Bible chronologically.
I am pleased that I accomplished this goal.
Here’s the list of books I read in 2022 (outside of the first one, in no particular order):
- The Bible. This was my 3rd time reading through the Bible chronologically in a year. It’s amazing how life circumstances draw different applications out of the same book. This is why I am convinced that the best books should be read over and over again, and there’s no better one than the Bible. Given the year I had, I don’t know how I could have made it without reading and praying through the Bible every day.
- Principles by Ray Dalio. I loved this book. The very first principle shared was “Embrace reality and deal with it.” AMEN! If you are not willing to face the man in the mirror and the situation as it is, you’ll never make great decisions. Once you embrace reality and deal with it, you can be an excellent problem solver and builder of great things.
- Atomic Habits by James Clear. This is my 5th time reading this book. It’s a modern classic, a staple for anyone serious about pursuing self mastery. Consistent, tiny changes over a long time horizon produce astounding results. I’ve witnessed the compounding nature of this principle many times, and I need to be reminded of it’s power and potency frequently. If interested, you can read my brief book summary here →
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. This is a must-read for anyone who wants live a truly effective, imitation-worthy life. I had read this book in 2021, and I decided to loop back and read it again in 2022. I needed the constant reminder to remain steadfast and principle-centered during a year where it seemed far easier to run from problems instead of deal with them.
- Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. I re-read this book again in 2022 with my assistant, and I loved finding new ways to apply the tactics he shares in the book about communication and negotiation. This book has transformed the way I think about approaching conversations, and I believe it has been effective in teaching me how to be both a better communicator and listener. If interested, you can read my brief book summary here →
- The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. I love the no-nonsense, extremely honest approach that Ben takes in sharing wisdom and advice about running growing companies. There’s no formula for dealing with complexity and trouble — and the reality that both are always changing. How do you fire a friend? How do you survive when all the signals say you’re drowning? How do you make great hires? And maybe most importantly, how do you move forward after you’ve screwed up over and over?
- The Four Agreements by Don Ruiz. This book was very interesting. While I don’t necessarily agree with the mysticism espoused in the book, I do believe some of principles and ideas around self-limiting beliefs are powerful. “Be impeccable with your word”, “Don’t take anything personally”, “Don’t make assumptions” and “Always do your best” are the four agreements shared in the book. Each of these agreements, when lived out in congruence with personal integrity and conviction, are superpowers.
- Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell. I flipped through this book and read pages, sections and chapters at different intervals throughout the year. I found it to be a helpful rudder to keep my mind focused on the right things as it relates to leading others.
This quote from Maxwell’s book amplified the “Embrace reality and deal with it” principle from Dalio’s book:
The pessimist complains about the wind.John Maxwell
The optimist expects it to change.
The leader adjusts the sails.
In 2022, it was a constant fight to remember to adjust the sails.
In my 2021 year in review, I talked about the transition out of my role running the day to day operations of OptinMonster.
In 2022, I transitioned out of that role fully.
That was a huge milestone accomplishment for me. It’s taken nearly 10 years to get here. Most business owners check out and exit or move on to something new before this point.
I’m glad that didn’t happen here, because now I get the joy of mentoring and empowering other people and watching them step up and take ownership and responsibility in the company.
So what do I spend my time on now? Well, you might think I could sit back, relax and take it easy for a while…
Guess again! It’s more work now than ever before.
At some point in your life, you realize that if you don’t grow, your company or organization will outgrow you.
And the reality is all growth is cyclical: as you overcome old challenges, new challenges surface and you must begin the growth cycle again.
I’m ready to embrace the new challenges and next stages of growth with Syed, Jared, Chris and the rest of the partners at Awesome Motive. I continue to mentor, lead and train people in the company to run product divisions, and I continue to help onboard new companies as we acquire them.
Psstt..our newly redesigned site looks amazing, and we’ve got some pretty cool acquisition announcements coming in 2023. 😉
Speaking of growth – Awesome Motive hit an impressive milestone last year. Our software is now on over 20,000,000 websites across the world!
This is far beyond my wildest dreams. God has been kind to bless the works of our hands, and I’m grateful to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime ride.
With so many products in the Awesome Motive family, I can’t possibly give updates on them all, but here’s a quick recap of some of the updates that dropped in 2022:
- We acquired Charitable, a top donation and fundraising plugin for WordPress website owners.
- After a couple years of remote retreats, we finally met up in Orlando to do an in-person retreat once again. I didn’t realize how much I missed these. I had a blast meeting and connecting with so many new faces. The energy was amazing, and I somehow came away with no injuries despite some serious ultimate frisbee action!
- OptinMonster launched revenue attribution, which allows you to track and attribute sales to your campaigns. It’s amazing to see how much revenue OptinMonster drives (hint: it’s a lot!) and recovers. We also launched field mapping into public beta, which was one of our most requested features ever. I can’t wait to see the final launch of field mapping in early 2023.
- AIOSEO launched an amazing link assistant tool. I love using this tool. It is so powerful and makes internal linking a breeze on your site.
- Easy Digital Downloads launched their long awaited 3.0 update. I’m proud of the EDD team for working so hard to get this in the hands of users and customers. They drastically improved reporting and have added a slew of new features, including email summaries, block support and a managed hosting plan with SiteGround.
- WP Simple Pay added support for automatic tax calculations, purchase restrictions, payment pages and support for BYPL (buy now, pay later) payment processors. It also got a brand new site design that looks stunning!
- SeedProd launched a brand new WordPress theme builder. It’s pretty slick and easy to use. If you want to see it in action, I used it to create the entire T214 website.
- WPForms passed 5 million active installs and launched the new Google Sheets addon. This is one of my favorite addons, and I’m already using it on multiple sites that I run. It vastly improves the visibility of contact form entries, which is especially helpful when you have many people who can be contacted from a single form.
- We launched two brand new products, WP Code and SendLayer. WP Code is the best code snippets platform for WordPress, and SendLayer is the best way to send transactional emails (and get them delivered to the inbox) on the web.
- Interested in all the news updates? You can click here to visit our Newsroom where all of our product updates are shared.
It’s a true blessing to have so many amazing people working at Awesome Motive. They are the real heroes, pioneers and innovators of solutions to help small businesses grow and compete with the big guys.
If you are looking to work at a great company with great people and great leadership, come apply to work with me, Syed and the rest of the amazing people at Awesome Motive.
I had a goal to hit “Publish” 6 times in 2022. I did it!
I published these 6 pieces of content on my website this year:
- Reflections on Greatness (And How to Become Great) – My musings on what the path to greatness looks like and how you can get there.
- The Better Leader Newsletter (Good Leaders vs. Bad Leaders) – My thoughts on what makes a good leader vs. what makes a bad leader. I’ve been told by many people that this is the best piece of writing I have created to date!
- The Better Leader Newsletter (Striving for Simplicity) – Everything drifts toward complexity. It’s hard work to make things simple.
- The Better Leader Newsletter (Your Personal Mission) – You have a personal mission in life. Have you discovered your purpose?
- How to Install the Outline Knowledge Base & Wiki on Ubuntu (The Easy Way) – Easily my most technical, detailed and thorough how-to article I’ve ever written… and I loved every minute of it!
- How to Exclude the Home Page from Google Analytics Saved Reports – You’ve got to be working with correct data to make the best decisions, right?
Here’s how my traffic compared this year vs. 2021:
Unique Visitors: 82,003
Unique Visitors: 77,455
My traffic decreased slightly from 2021, primarily because my content on mission statements is not ranking as well as it did. That set of keywords is highly competitive, so unless I rewrite and update the content routinely, I’ll always be battling for the top spots.
My most popular article by traffic was how to enable HSTS Strict Transport Security in WordPress (the same as 2021), and the article with the biggest improvement in traffic and rankings was how to communicate effectively.
I enjoy writing, although most of it is done internally or in private. I journaled nearly 300 days out of the year again. It’s a habit that I attribute the majority of my growth as an individual, a husband, a father, a leader and an athlete.
My plan is to continue writing on a semi-regular basis, publishing both newsletter and article updates as time permits. I would like to publish at least 6 pieces of content again in 2023.
On January 1, 2021, myself along with 4 other guys began T214, a year long discipleship intensive that focuses on growing your character, faith and calling by refocusing your life on God and His mission in the world.
At the encouragement of some men and approval of the elders at my church, Exodus Church, I tweaked T214 and made it ready to be deployed to the men across the church.
I had no idea what to expect. I thought maybe we’d have 20 guys sign up. By January 1, 2022, we had 82 men signed up and assigned to groups to read and pray through the Bible in a year. Amazing!
And, what I believe to be even more amazing is that more than 80% of the men that started on January 1 finished the intensive! This is evidence of God’s great power and grace working in the lives of these men.
Was it perfect? No. There were lots of hiccups and changes that had to be made along the way. But I have heard story after story about how this has radically changed lives, and I’m grateful to be a participant in that change with them.
In September, I began thinking about what T214 might look like in 2023. One of the most frequently received pieces of feedback was to have additional reading plans to chose from.
So, I reached out to the people at YouVersion and threw a “hail mary” request to create some Bible reading plans on their platform. Much to my surprise, they replied to my email, we talked over Zoom and I was approved as a global content partner!
That opened the door to create new Bible reading plans for our men… and to have additional reading plans for people around the world to use.
In all, with the help and approval of the men’s ministry team and elders at Exodus, we published 4 reading plans on the YouVersion app.
In 2023, more than 100 men across multiple churches are reading and praying through the Bible in T214 groups. And at the time of this writing (January 8), more than 6,500 people are reading a T214 Bible plan.
My desire is to see the lives of men changed as they read and pray through the Bible, and it’s a joy to see evidence of that happening at Exodus.
If interested, you can learn more about T214 here or read the official 2023 T214 PDF here.
I’ve been working out regularly (minimum 2x per week) for at least 8 years now. Occasionally I work out 3-4x in a week, but it is always a minimum of 2x. I kept this rhythm in 2022.
And, I ran two 5k races! The first 5k I finished in about 32 minutes, but the second one I beat my goal by finishing it in just under 27 minutes (without stopping).
Additionally, after I discovered last year that drinking lots of water each day cured my high blood pressure, I added drinking 75oz of water per day into my health plan. I did this 66% of the time. If I had to guess, I would say I drank at least 50oz of water in a day more than 90% of the time.
In June, I added in drinking Emergen-C every day to boost my immune system health. I use the Streaks app to track my habits each day, and over the last 6 months of 2022, I averaged drinking it 73% of the time. It’s not perfect, but it’s far better than 0%!
I also fasted multiple times throughout the year for a variety of reasons. Each time, it had an immense impact on my mental clarity. During 24 hour fasts, the mental fog always seemed to lift during hours 18-24.
I’m sure there’s science behind it, but now I more fully understand why prayer and fasting are often combined together in the Bible. And apart from the spiritual and mental benefits that came from fasting, it also gave my digestive system a much needed reset each time I did it.
In a year where it was easy to spiral, these habits kept my body capable and my mind sober.
What didn’t go well this year?
I Lost My Dad
This is exceedingly difficult for me to write about.
I was playing golf with my dad one Thursday afternoon in late September. As I got my golf bag strapped into the golf cart and sat down beside dad, he said “Son, I don’t feel good, but I’m going to try and make it through today.”
Little did I know it’d be the last time I would play a full round of golf with him.
He complained about some pain and swelling in his stomach, and he said he had an appointment to visit a GI doctor the next week. As the round progressed, he became sick to the point where he couldn’t finish the last two holes. I was concerned but glad he was going to visit the doctor.
Over that weekend, his health deteriorated rapidly, and when I saw him that next Monday evening, he looked very sick. He had gone to urgent care, and the doctor said his liver count was high. The prevailing thought was an infection of the liver.
I got a call from my mom late Wednesday afternoon, September 28. She and dad were going to the ER.
I journaled right after that phone call:
Father – please heal my dad. He’s being admitted to the ER right now. His symptoms have gotten worse quickly. I just don’t have a good feeling about it in my spirit. Please comfort my mom and my dad, and please comfort me. Give the nurses and doctors wisdom as they run tests to determine what is happening. And please Father, let it not be cancer.
I arrived at the hospital once he had been placed in a room. He had developed jaundice, and he was being prepared to go into a scan to determine what was going on.
As he went into the scan, I stayed with mom. We talked and prayed, wondering what might be going on. We talked about cancer, but cancer happens to everyone else, right?
Dad came back from the scan, and we talked for a while. Around 9pm, the doctors still had not come back with any information, so I left the hospital to go back home.
I had just sat down to eat a bowl of chicken noodle soup when the phone rang. It was 9:38pm, and it was my mom. I could tell she was upset.
“Son, the doctor just gave us the news. Your dad has pancreatic cancer.”
I was shocked, and after I got off the phone, I immediately began to weep. I didn’t know much about cancer, but from the little that I did know, pancreatic cancer was of one of the most lethal and painful.
The tumor they discovered was blocking important functions in his digestive system, so they scheduled him for surgery the next day to place a stint to relieve some of the symptoms.
We prayed that it wouldn’t be serious, but in time we learned my dad had stage four pancreatic cancer. Most pancreatic cancer is diagnosed at stage four (>50%) because it grows largely unnoticed until it manifests itself elsewhere in the body. It had spread all throughout his stomach.
The next couple of months felt like a blur.
We planned a trip up to our property in the mountains with my family the weekend following the diagnosis. It was a gift from God that for two days dad felt well enough to do things with us and the grandkids. We made some sweet memories (and videos) that I won’t soon forget.
But, during the course of that trip, I wrestled with the thought that my dad might not be around. At one point as we were fishing in the river with the kids, my dad came up to me, hugged me and began to weep, saying “Son, I’m not ready to go yet…there’s too much left for us and the grandkids to do”.
That weekend was the last weekend that my dad was able to do any real activities with his family.
We tried to play 9 holes of golf in November, and while he made it to the course, he was too weak to really play. He would hit a ball or two and then just ride with me as I played. The cancer had robbed him of his vitality, and although he was fighting hard through chemo and diet, his body wasn’t holding up well.
Not long after Thanksgiving, dad’s sickness began to worsen. He had already lost so much weight, and now the digestive damage that pancreatic cancer typically inflicts was manifesting itself in full force. He couldn’t eat, and if he tried, he couldn’t keep it down.
He eventually had to be checked back into the hospital in early December, and he would never come home. He passed away on December 12 with my mom, my brother, my sister and myself holding his hands and praying over him.
He’s in a far better place now, eternally healed with Jesus. But it’s still painful.
I miss my dad. I wish he were still here. I’m sad for my kids because they loved him so much, and he loved them so much more. And I’m sad I will have to the navigate the next seasons of my life without him in it.
I love you dad. Our shared hope is in eternal life with Christ, so I’ll see you again one day soon.
It was so bad, I tallied up the weeks.
Between the surgeries and subsequent recovery periods and episodes of sickness in our home, we had a total of 5 healthy weeks out of 2022. We had two separate stretches of two week periods without illness, and then another stretch of one week without illness.
I do not remember a time in my life that has been plagued by more illness, pain or recovery from surgery than in 2022. In fact, as I write this today, my oldest has a cold and my youngest has a cold while recovering from a sinus infection.
And I just recovered from a head cold a week ago.
I had covid twice, the flu, multiple colds, sinus infections, bronchitis.. and that’s just me. It’s the reason why I picked up drinking Emergen-C in the summer and stuck with it. I was desperate to find relief from the revolving door of sickness in our home.
I don’t know when the sickness ends. I pray it ends soon. I consider myself a relatively healthy person with a relatively healthy lifestyle, but 2022 was so beyond anything I imagined I would experience, and I confess I don’t fully understand it.
I’m hopeful that 2023 brings better health and less sickness and pain.
Brief Battle with Depression
I won’t go into all the details that led up to this, but as an elder at Exodus (I just began serving in that role in October 2021), I walked through the most difficult and painful period of interpersonal conflict in my life.
My decisions, motivations and character had never been questioned quite like this before, and while I am healing on the other side of it now, I was bruised deeply in the process.
On April 16, I journaled this:
Father – for the first time in my life, I feel depressed. I have no energy or desire to do anything. I have been emotionally drained by everything going on as well as all the various responsibilities at work. I feel like I cannot do anything well, and so I am unfortunately trending to just doing nothing.
It was raw, open and honest. I had never experienced this before, and from my best guess, it was the onset of depression. I never lost my agency or cognition or desire to fight against it, but for two weeks, I felt shackled and immobilized by its presence.
I can’t imagine what it’s like for those that battle against depression for longer periods of time than this.
At the end of April, I journaled this:
Father – I feel back to me! Thank you for restoring some semblance of me once again. I beg that you would keep depression away from me in the future, but if you use it to glorify yourself and teach me, then so be it. You will give me what I need to weather the storm, and you won’t give me more than I can handle with your strength.
I never want to experience depression again. I certainly pray that I don’t. And for those that do struggle with depression, I have a newfound empathy to walk with you as work to find your way out of it.
I set a few golf goals for 2022:
- Average 72 or better across all my rounds of golf.
- Shoot even par or better in a competitive tournament outside of my home course.
- Shoot one round of -7 or better.
I averaged 73.96 for all my rounds of golf in 2022. I played less than half the amount of times I did in 2021, and I practiced even less than that. Between sickness, conflict, work and my dad’s battle with cancer, golf had a very small place in my life in 2022.
I still enjoy golf, but my joy in it was frequently robbed by life happening around me. I consider the golf course a sacred space for me personally, and even it was infiltrated and desecrated for most of the year.
I didn’t play a single competitive round of golf, and although I did manage to shoot 62 during one summer round (a pair of 31s, 10 birdies, no bogeys), it felt more like a fluke than a culmination of skill and small improvements over time. Look at this comparison:
Rounds in 60s
Rounds Under Par
It’s interesting though. While I did not play nearly as well as I did last year (or even the year prior), I played far more consistently — even if consistently poor for my standards.
I’m hopeful my scores will improve in 2023. My goal is still to average 72 or better across my rounds of golf in a year.
Spiritual Warfare on a New Dimension
If I shared all the ways in which I experienced spiritual warfare in 2022, you’d probably think I was crazy. Like actually crazy.
Paul says this in Ephesians:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6:12, ESV
I believed this before. I experienced it vividly in 2022.
At times, it was frightening and scary. I had nowhere to turn but to Jesus and ask for help, and I am still here standing today, grateful for his protection over my life.
There’s much more I could share, but it’s hard to do in public and in written format. If you’re curious, you can always reach out to me via my contact form to ask more.
What did I learn?
I am so weak. God is so strong.
I’ve considered myself a “pick yourself up by your own bootstraps” kind of guy. This year, I didn’t even have boots on.
At numerous points in 2022, I felt the painful reality of my weakness and inability. While I can look back and can see that much was accomplished, I know it was not because of anything in me.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV
Often this verse is used as a salve for those who have underdeveloped character or self-discipline. It is used to gloss over the reality of laziness, idleness or some other manifestation of sloth in a person’s life.
I don’t believe that applies here. I work hard, harder than most people I know (except Syed, whom I would be hard pressed to find anyone who works harder than him) — and yet it is not I but Christ in me doing the work. It’s just that in 2022, I had an intimate sense of my own weaknesses and limitations like never before.
I want to continue to work hard, but I want to do so with the knowledge that all my weaknesses are not limitations for God. They are the exact kind of tools he uses to do his work in his way.
Leadership starts with private character victories.
I still stand by this tweet I wrote in 2021:
The older I get, the more I just want to be a man of my word: that I would do what I say I am going to do when I say I am going to do it, and if for some reason I cannot keep my word, I’ll tell you before you tell me.— Thomas Griffin (@jthomasgriffin) November 10, 2021
It is impossible to say those words and lead by example in them without developing a history of private character victories.
Let me break it down:
- Man of my word – before you speak your word, you think about it. And most of your thinking happens when you are alone. Are you winning the battle from within that nobody but you can see?
- That I would do what I say I am doing to do – before anyone ever sees you doing anything in public, you’ve planned and prepared in private to do it. Are you setting aside time to plan and prepare, or do you rely on the 11th hour to be your master?
- When I say I am going to do it – before you ever appear in public, you make the commitment to do it somewhere in private. Are you setting yourself an example that you will follow?
- I’ll tell you before you tell me – this may be the most hard fought private character battle to win. Can you be someone who admits to failing at their word before others remind and accuse you of it?
During the course of 2022, I was reminded over and over again that leadership starts by winning the war within, facing the person in the mirror and taking action to develop a oneness of character in private. Only then can you be a leader who wields great influence and makes a great impact for good in the world.
So, I want to be the man I’ve described in that tweet, because the more I become like him, the better leader I will be to others.
The hard thing about hard things is they are hard — but they don’t have to make you hard.
It sounds silly, but it’s true. Hard things are hard.
There’s no way around hard things. You must go through them.
But going through hard things doesn’t have to make you hard.
You can develop thick skin and a soft heart. I want both.
For all the pain, sickness, stress, depression and difficulty I faced in 2022, it would be easy to grow hard and cold and cynical toward people, places and things.
But, I want to move on from 2022 knowing that my skin is far more difficult to pierce while my heart is far more soft and tender than ever before.
It’s the only way to grow and face the new challenges of life without becoming a victim of them.
What do I want 2023 to look like?
In short: I don’t want it to look much of anything like 2022, if I am being honest!
My word of 2022 was faithful. That was put to the test, wasn’t it?!
My word for 2023 is teachable. I believe the danger in experiencing hardships and difficulties in life is that you fall into the trap of the “nobody understands what I have been through” mindset and justify it with the egocentric response of being unteachable.
I don’t want to be unteachable. I want to be teachable. I want to be humble. I want to be open to learn new things, even if it means they are uncomfortable and painful.
I have just a few specific goals for 2023:
- Break my addiction to sweets. This is probably the most difficult goal I have set for myself. I have an unhealthy relationship with sweets that must change. On the Streaks app, I have set a goal that when I do eat sweets, I only eat one at any given time. My issue is not that I don’t need sweets; my issue is that I will eat 8 cookies in one sitting, and that is not good. If I want a cookie, I need to eat just one — and no other sweets — in a given meal.
- Get our foundation off the ground. I had planned to do this in 2022, but God had other plans. I would like for this to be up and running full steam ahead in 2023.
- Memorize one verse of Scripture per week. I want to implant Scripture into my heart by putting it to memory. I’m using the Fighter Verses app to do this.
- Simplify my life. There’s a lot going on in my world, and “stuff” only makes it more stressful. I don’t have a particular way to measure this other than always asking this question first before I buy something: “Will this make my life more simple?”
- Clarify and write down our family values. We already have a family mission statement, but we need to clarify and write down the values that we live by. I want to be clear on what it means to be a “Griffin” and how that reality impacts the way we operate as a family.
Additionally, I have many healthy rhythms that I want to maintain, such as working out, spending special time with my kids and going out on dates with my wife.
BONUS: My Favorite 2022 Pictures
These are some of my favorite pictures from 2022!
Thank you for reading my 2022 year in review. If you enjoyed it, comment below and share it with your friends.
And I’d love to know about your 2022. How was it? What do you want 2023 to look like?
To a better 2023,
Thomas, thank you for sharing such a personal and vulnerable year-end review. You are such a blessing to this world and His church and we are blessed to share a church home with you and Laura. While 2022 was hard, He was clearly at work in a mighty way in you and through you. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for you in 2023! I’m saving this review for regular reference. It’s chocked full of great resources and wisdom. Thank you for sharing your testimony and faith with us! Praying for y’all as you grieve.
Thank you for your kind and gracious words and prayers, Megan! Laura and I felt those prayers in very real ways in 2022. Glad to have you and your family at Exodus. 😊
Amazing. Life is never strawberries. I pray you find joyful peace and happiness.
Thank you Ezekiel!
Thanks for sharing this Thomas. It touched my heart watching some of these events happening, the good and not so good. You handled all of these as a man surrendered to our Father in Heaven. I am lucky to call you friend and so much more. Thanks for being a blessing to our family.
Love You, Tom
Thanks and love you too Tom! You and Sandra are such a blessing to us and the boys.
I am always encouraged and challenged by your year in reviews. You are a blessing to our family, community, and the Kingdom at large. Your influence led me in 2022 to journal, read through the Bible with a T214 group, and pray for the leaders in my life. Praying that God’s pruning in 2023 will have an extra measure of mercy for you and your family. Soli Deo Gloria!
Thank you Kris! You and your family likewise are a blessing and encouragement to my family as well.
And thank you for the prayers about pruning. I pray they continue (I certainly need it), and maybe in God’s mercy they won’t be quite as painful. 🙂
Loved reading everything you wrote. Especially your trip to Yellowstone and seeing pictures of places we got to see. I must admit I was confused reading certain sections, but that’s because I’m not that smart and digital stuff really flies right over my head. I’m proud of all the things you’ve done Thomas. Keep up the great work you do for your business, your church, your family and our God.
Thanks Phil! The Yellowstone trip was amazing – I know you had a great time out there when you visited!
I appreciate the encouragement, and I’m glad to be part of your family! 🙂
Thomas, always encouraged when reading your year in reviews- the good, the not so good: wow what a year 2022 was! Praying for a much better and blessed 2023. With a whole lot less sickness! Blessed by you, Laura, and the boys!
Thank you so much Claudia! We are so grateful for you and all you do for our family. You are a gift!
And indeed…praying for much less sickness in 2023! 😀
Congrats 🎉 Condolences 💐 and Contemplations 💭
Thank you for sharing your successes, losses, lessons & musings from a bittersweet ’22.
My favorite habit is perhaps your ’23 motto: continuous improvement! You’ve set goals for yourself & family, and I believe y’all will crush’em & then-some! 🏋🏻
Then again, perhaps a teachable ’23 is really habits 4, 5, and 6: winx2, understand/stood, & synergize – and (for me) these are reminders to take every opportunity to be generous, patient, and create safe environments for people to learn in (and make mistakes in too!)
Whatever God’s plan for our ’23 is, you will naturally make it better for everyone. 💫
Thanks for the comment John! I enjoyed our chats at the retreat this past year and look forward to more in-person conversations on future retreats!
And I think you are right — teachable is a combination of habits 4/5/6. Great insight there!
I hope your 2023 is one of teachability and continuous improvement too. 🙂
I admire your honesty and openness. Truly, 2022 was a year with full expressions of lessons, growth, loss, and joy.
When we first engaged OptinMonster many years ago, I knew a believer was behind this. We have that sixth sense, right? Awesome leadership, brother.
I don’t know all that’s going on — and this isn’t the place to discuss —but I would suggest that with the full plate you maintain, marriage, and (especially) your elder role … don’t discount the possibility of spiritual warfare. I have a feeling you are aware.
Jim Mueller | Growthtrac
Thanks for the comments Jim, and thanks for being a loyal OptinMonster customer and user all these years! I appreciate the vote of confidence and support in that way!
I certainly believe spiritual warfare is indeed at play, and by the power of Christ in me, I want to fight hard so that the enemy will flee!