2016 was an incredibly challenging yet rewarding year.
We accomplished so much in 2016, I have to be honest with you: I put off writing this review simply because there would be so much to write. Even thinking about the number of things we completed in 2016 that I’d have to write about exhausted me.
But I realized it wasn’t so much that I would be letting you down as doing myself a disservice.
While I don’t typically write annual reviews, for many years I did write recap posts on my birthday.
It’s been several years since I’ve written a recap post and that makes me sad. I was 26 when I wrote the last one and now I’m 28. Trust me, I have all the best reasons and excuses. The deadlines, the hours, the stress…
I had every reason in the world for not “wasting” time writing a recap post those years, but in the end I know it’s because it simply wasn’t a priority for me. There were always more important things to do.
This time, I’m not going to overthink it. I’m here, I’m showing up, and I’m going to start writing!
2016 Was a Good Year
If you look for the bad, you will find it. If you look for the good, you will find it.
A lot of people would be perfectly happy with the year 2016 being erased from their minds.
I want to remember 2016. It was a good year. It wasn’t a perfect year, but what year is?
You have a lot of thoughts, ideas, and experiences locked inside of your head and most of them will die with you.
That’s a rather morbid thought, isn’t it? Maybe, but I have your attention.
Most of the experiences and ideas you have will die with you, but not all of them. The things you write will live on.
- The things you write can be shared.
- The things you write will serve as a reminder to you.
- The things you write will be many more times likely to come to fruition.
- The things you write can become almost anything else.
A lot of good things happened in 2016 and I want to remember them. I write this for me (I’m just also sharing it with you).
Here are some of the highlights and things I want to remember from 2016.
We Introduced seanwes membership – Build and Grow an Audience-Driven Business
In 2013, we launched the Community.
The Community is an amazing place with incredible people from all across the world who come together to discuss building an audience-driven business. There’s 24/7 chat, live video and audio broadcasts every week, and phenomenal insights and value being shared constantly.
The majority of our members are listeners of the seanwes podcast.
If you enjoy the podcast, you will love the people in the Community. They’re your kind of people.
You don’t have to do this alone.
What we came to realize several years into running the membership is a lot of people don’t see the value in joining a community—which is a shame because the insights and clarity you’ll get from interacting with the members here will save you years in wasted time. But the fact remains, it’s still an obscure and relatively uncommon thing to join a paid membership.
It’s really hard to convey the value of the membership to someone who has never joined, which makes marketing very difficult. However, we were unwilling to remove the paywall because it serves as a filtration device. We have the best people in the world because the barrier to entry is high. The people here are truly invested and that makes for a high-caliber group.
We faced a conundrum:
- People weren’t joining because they didn’t see the value of a community.
- They couldn’t see the value without joining, and we’re unwilling to lower or remove the filter.
Enter seanwes membership.
We changed what was previously a Community Membership to a seanwes membership. seanwes membership includes access to both the Community and The Vault.
The Vault – TONS of New Training and Exclusive Resources for Members
With seanwes membership, we introduced The Vault. As a starter, The Vault contains all of the 400+ podcast episodes on the seanwes network. 10 hand-selected episodes of each show are free and the latest episode of each show remains free, but you have to be a member to unlock the rest of the archive in The Vault.
In addition to our flagship programs (master classes like Supercharge Your Writing and Value-Based Pricing), we’ve also been producing a number of smaller resources we call “mini courses”.
These mini courses will be released at $99 price points and sold as standalone programs. However, we’ve also made the decision to include all current and future mini courses inside The Vault for members.
We created several mini courses in 2016, which we’ll be launching publicly in 2017, but the members have already had early access to them for many months. This early access for the members also allows us to refine the material and polish it for public launches.
All new mini courses we launch (mini course = $99 course) are included in The Vault and available for free to members.
We’re already working on more mini courses and plans to continue producing them throughout 2017 and beyond!
We also introduced learning paths to The Vault in 2016. Learning paths give you what you need to attract great clients, price on value, launch an online course, sell products, and much more.
There are currently 7 Learning Paths (some are shown in the image above) with 18 more planned so far.
seanwes conference Speaker Videos
All speaker sessions from seanwes conference were professionally shot and edited and are included in The Vault. This is a HUGE value and alone is worth your membership. We could have easily charged $499 for these.
Each speaker video also includes the extended Q&A session after the talk (some going for as long as an additional 45 minutes. You’ll no doubt get plenty of insights from those discussions if you weren’t able to make it to seanwes conference.
Get My Exhaustive Notes From All the Conferences I Attend
I attended something like half a dozen conferences (other than my own) in 2016.
When I go to conferences, I take copious notes from the speakers and make all of my written notes available to members inside The Vault.
Essentially, you get to go to whatever conferences I go to.
I write thousands of words per speaker like a mad man. Think of it like getting to download a swipe file of conferences you didn’t get to attend—you get to glean the very best insights and takeaways I captured.
Live Training Recordings
When we do public live training events, members get indefinite access to the recordings inside The Vault. For instance, in August alone, I went on a teaching spree and streamed seven, 90-minute sessions on a myriad of topics.
They were in-depth training videos wherein I utilized my whiteboard and just shared a huge brain dump of insights.
These were one-time events with no public replays available, so you either caught them or you missed them.
However, we recently made these full training sessions available inside The Vault (which means they’re free for members).
Not only are the full video recordings available, but each is accompanied by exhaustive, seanwes-quality show notes. All 10-hours of training are 100% transcribed with highlights and takeaways to make them easily digestible.
We’re also continuing to bring in experts to lead live workshops for the Community and answer questions on specific topics. These recordings are all available.
Changing “Community Membership” to “seanwes membership” has been much more than just a name change. It’s been a complete overhaul.
Those who are here for the Community now get a TON of additional value inside The Vault with their membership.
Those who never joined because they didn’t see the value in a community membership now joined to get access to tremendous amount of resources inside The Vault. As an aside, they ended up discovering the magic of the Community they’ve been missing out on all along.
Overall, this was a huge success:
- Members have been more engaged.
- More people on the fence have joined.
- People have thanked us repeatedly for finally making changes that incentivized them to join.
- The value of membership has increased tenfold.
- We had a multiple six figure month in August when we launched seanwes membership.
Supercharge Your Writing – Sell More of What You Sell by Learning to Write Effective Sales Copy
I wrote and launched Supercharge Your Writing in March of 2016. Supercharge Your Writing is a copywriting class.
If you sell anything, you will double your sales as a result of this class.
It’s an in-depth Master Class with 14 modules and 68 lessons.
The idea for this class came from some conference talks and workshops the year prior on the same topic that were really well received.
In 2015, I hosted a smaller, 2-hour workshop on the topic of writing. The response to the workshop was big. Not only did hundreds attend the live version of this paid workshop, but the recorded version sold multiple copies a day for months following.
I knew I needed to go deeper.
For the first few months of the year, I planned out the class. During one very focused week, I was cranking out multiple 10,000-word days a week.
There’s just too much inside the class to cover, so I’ll let this screenshot convey the depth:
I’ve honestly under promoted Supercharge Your Writing. I’ve been so heads-down in 2016 creating great programs, I haven’t put a ton of energy into promoting them. Marketing and sales is something we’ll be emphasizing much more in 2017.
The class is actually closed right now because I want to go through it and refine it even more based on student feedback. We’ll be opening enrollment again this year.
(As an aside, I also produced a training called Landing Pages That Convert. Fix your broken landing pages—make one people read and take action on. I rolled it into Supercharge Your Writing as a bonus.)
Value-Based Pricing – Make More Money While Doing Your Best Work
After two years of work, we finished the Value-Based Pricing system in 2016.
Since 2014, Justin Michael and I have been working on this class. Justin is our developer here at seanwes, but we actually go back much further than when he started working here full time.
Justin joined the Community in 2014, showed initiative, I hired him on contract and paid him $50,000 to built the first iteration of CommunityTalk (our community messaging system).
(That’s the extremely short version of the story. If you’re interested in hearing the story of how Justin was able to charge me $50,000 for a few months of work and why I didn’t hesitate to pay him, go to ValueBasedPricing.com and sign up for the free 3-part series. It’s nearly 3 hours of value.)
Through that interaction, Justin and I discovered we had a mutual fascination for Value-Based Pricing.
A lot of people online talk about how you should stop “trading time for money” and start “value-pricing”, but the teaching of every single one of these methodologies had holes.
Every single one of the “value-pricing” theories we came across had problems, unprofessional practices and were based on subjectivity and preferential whim.
We wanted a bullet-proof system. We wanted a pricing system that was 100% logic, 100% math, and 100% objective.
So that’s what we built.
This program took two full years to develop. We would come up with something that sounded like it made a lot of sense on the surface, only to realize after investigation it lead to a subjective or unreliable conclusion. Repeatedly, we would head back to the drawing board.
Value-Based Pricing Six-Month Pilot Program
At the end of 2015 (and into early 2016), we did a soft launch of Value-Based Pricing to a small group who would participate in a pilot program.
For six months, we went through the material with our pilot program students, module by module, accompanied by a coaching call that lasted several hours. We coached each student through the curriculum, refined the material according to their feedback, and then only afterward produced a full video course from the finalized material.
Finally, after two years, we’d finally produced a bulletproof system to doing client work.
What makes Value-Based Pricing unique is that it’s not simply a course. It’s a complete system.
What does that mean?
It’s not just an ideology, it is a comprehensive system that includes access to three custom-developed tools and pricing calculators that accompany the educational material.
You have everything you need to price on value.
You will no longer work with bad clients, you’ll do the best work of your career and finally enjoy what you do again.
Value-Based Pricing Tools – Custom Developed Pricing Calculators
Included in the course are three Value-Based Pricing tools. They work together and the calculations from each tool informs the next.
Written and video instructions are included for each of the tools. We give you guidance on how to use them, when to use them, and how often to revisit them. The Value-Based Price calculator, for instance, you will use on every project.
We could have easily made these tools available for an on-going subscription, but instead make them available to you forever when you enroll in the course—including free updates for life.
Students Are Coming Out of the Program Charging 5-Figures on Client Projects
Repeatedly, our students have come out of this program and within months (sometimes just weeks) they are consistently charging 5-figure rates with clients—and the clients are thanking them for it!
We worked super hard on Value-Based Pricing and the result speaks for itself. I don’t think I’ve been more proud of a program before. It’s truly some of the best work we’ve done and I’m very grateful to Justin for his help, insights, developmental and problem solving skills that went into making this the best, most complete system to doing client work in existence.
Like Supercharge Your Writing, Value-Based Pricing has been completely under promoted. We’ve been so focused on developing these immense programs, we’ve spent relatively little effort promoting them.
This changes in a big way in 2017. We’ll be launching the course again in much more publicly!
Overlap – Get From the Life You Have to the Life You Want
I wrote a book in a month.
More specifically, I wrote a 75,000-word book in 14 days.
Oh, and I journaled the entire process publicly.
And live-streamed a video recap each night.
The daily journal entries are currently still available at OverlapBook.com. Although I may turn those into a lead magnet of some sort… I should definitely turn those into a lead magnet.
If you want to see what it takes to write a book in two weeks, go check out my journal entries at OverlapBook.com.
The book itself has been a long time coming. I started talking about the concept of overlapping back in 2013. Overlap is a step-by-step guide on how to go from soul-sucking day job to doing work you love.
It’s a methodical guidebook to getting the life you want:
- Find what you’re actually passionate about.
- Sustainably make money from work you enjoy doing.
- Get more time in a day.
- Increase your focus and accomplish twice as much work.
- Maintain the habit of waking up early and own the day.
- Get your family on board with your goal even if they’re scared.
- Get out of scarcity mindset and create an abundant life.
- Produce multiple streams of income.
- Build an audience and make a name for yourself.
I’m very proud of this book.
I’ve started writing it and put it on the back burner many times in the past few years. At one point, I was 20,000 words in and scrapped it all.
I actually think it’s a good thing I didn’t finish writing it three years ago. It may have been on the back burner, but it’s kind of like a stew: it gets tastier the longer you let it simmer.
In the past few years, I’ve gotten to know my target reader a lot more intimately, and the book will be much better for it.
In October of 2015, I planned out the entirety of 2016, month by month. Included in that plan was the decision to take off the entire month of July to focus on writing the Overlap book.
Without a doubt, if I had not made the commitment 10 months prior to focus in July of 2016, the book would not be written. I’m very glad I made the decision ahead of time to set aside a month to focus.
As of this writing, the book is still in the editing stage. It will be a physical, hardback book. It will also be available as an ebook and audio book.
You can pre-order Overlap here: OverlapBook.com (there’s some extra goodies in the bundle that are only available when you pre-order).
Overlap will be printed and launched in the first half of 2017.
I attended two mastermind retreats in 2016. Yet again, I find myself wishing I took the time to write public recaps of these retreats (like I did for the first one I attended in 2015).
I took copious internal notes with my takeaways, but still, I wish I’d taken the time to compile them into publicly-shared recaps because it’s always nice to be able to look back.
I won’t go into a tremendous amount of detail here for brevity’s sake, but needless to say, the guys in my mastermind have been hugely instrumental—and that’s a gross understatement.
These retreats have been worth every bit of time, travel, and investment.
I greatly appreciate the advice I get from these close friends and value it highly. It’s good to get around people with a good mindset who are willing to provide candid feedback and unsolicited advice.
Thank you Nathan, James, Caleb, Barrett, Barron, and Ryan.
If you are not yet in a mastermind group, I strongly encourage you to rectify that in 2017.
The Community is a great place to start if you want to find smart, driven, likeminded people.
Since starting the seanwes podcast in 2013, we’ve received many messages from listeners.
The show, which explores the intersection of creativity and business, has been downloaded millions of times and has encouraged thousands to start a business and making a living doing work they enjoy.
People have told us the podcast helped them:
- Quit a soul-sucking day job
- Start a business
- Get financial freedom
- Move across the world
The one-on-one conversations I was having with people over email were incredible, but only the two of us were able to benefit from them!
I wanted a place where likeminded people could come together and share these conversations with one another. The Community was born.
Since launching the Community, we’ve hosted a number of meetups in large cities across the United States—New York City, Dallas, San Francisco, among others.
30, 40, 50, and even more people showed up to these these meetups. They were supposed to last, on average, two hours. People stayed for ten hours! The venues we rented would kick us out and everyone would just go to a restaurant across the street.
We knew we needed to go bigger.
Two years ago, we decided we would host our own conference. In mid 2015, we started planning and at the end of that year we announced seanwes conference.
In October of 2016, we held the very first seanwes conference in Austin, Texas.
There’s no other word I can use to describe seanwes conference but incredible. The event far surpassed and exceeded my expectations. It was a beautiful picture of empowering talented, professional people and the result was nothing short of flawless. It honestly blew me away.
Everyone said it was the best conference they’d ever been to.
People with many different kinds of different businesses came from all over the world to be in one place together for several days, to enjoy some fantastic speakers, great conversations, and famously delicious Austin food.
(Ben and I recapped the entire conference in this podcast episode: e292 A Recap of seanwes conference 2016.)
We specifically designed this event around the in-person conversations we knew people wanted to have. Generous margin was scheduled around speaking sessions with ample time for Q&A and lunch. In fact, after lunch we had an hour long “session” that was really just a time for people to talk. The first speaker after lunch didn’t start until 3:30pm, so no one had to face the “after lunch crowd”. It was very relaxed.
People told us that while after most conferences they felt like they had to recover, seanwes conference actually left them feeling, full, recharged, and rested. Amazing.
It’s hard to describe in words, so watch this video made by one of our Community members:
If the above video doesn’t give you a sense of the conference, how about this?
45% of our attendees immediately registered for next year.
How insane is that?
We’d love to have you join us at seanwes conference 2017. We’ve actually already been planning it since last year and we are no doubt going to top what was already a fantastic event.
seanwes podcast – 300 Episodes
The seanwes podcast holds a special place in our hearts.
What started as a tiny show has now been downloaded by millions.
We are so grateful for every listener.
For each centennial celebration, we have given away more and more prizes. For e100, $1,000 in prizes. For e200, $2,000 in prizes.
For e300, naturally, we gave away $3,000 in prizes and had a blast doing it.
Over 1,800 people tuned in live to watch the video broadcast of episode 300.
The giveaway actually wasn’t even the highlight of the event though.
I shared my vision for the future. We’re building an agency, we’re starting a non-profit, and we’re extending the sabbatical concept from weeks to years.
Moving forward, we’re paying employees to take off every seventh week AND every seventh year.
The Biggest Show of the Year – I’m Giving You the Full Video
I share how I’m changing the future of work and building the best place to work in the world.
I give a tangible analogy for how you can make more money by learning to think in bigger units (starting with sugar cubes). It will completely revolutionize the way you think.
I share the revelations I had recently where I recognized the completely underutilized talent pool we have and how we’re going to pivot that into a full-service digital marketing agency.
We’ll then deploy the agency against the software company we’re launching in 2017 (Community Talk).
The video embedded below will change your life and you’ll come away thinking much bigger than you ever did before.
Watch the FULL Episode 300 Live Video Recording
If there’s one thing I want you to watch out of this entire, massive post, it’s this video:
Normally, we stream video broadcasts just to our members each week. I decided to make the entire video recording above available to everyone (meaning, you don’t have to be a member to watch it).
Take time to watch. It’s worth it.
I mentioned I shared a “building blocks” analogy in this episode using sugar cubes. I explained how you can make more money by learning to think in bigger units.
If you’re short on time, here’s a 6-minute clip of just the building blocks concept.
30 Days to Better Writing – Build a Writing Habit in 30 Days
I’m so proud of this mini course.
We’ll be launching it publicly in 2017 for $99, but as I mentioned before, mini courses are free to members, so seanwes members have had early access to this course since last year.
During my book-writing month (July of 2016), I outlined the 30 Days to Better Writing course—because clearly I did not have enough going on, I guess?
Over the course of August and September, I wrote the course and we launched it to seanwes members.
Just a few days in, our members had already collectively written over 3 million words!
This actually really blew me away.
I’d been so focused on the program itself, I didn’t actually stop to think about the impact it would have. Seeing the results and breakthroughs people were getting was actually really overwhelming to me—in a good way.
I received some great feedback from the members and was able to further improve the course based on the responses I was getting.
We’re actually in the process of going through the course again as a community and started together on January 1st, 2017.
To be honest, I don’t know if I would have written this review if it wasn’t for going through my own course and being motivated by the other members.
Actually, let me put that another way: I definitely would not have written this review if we had not all been going through 30 Days to Better Writing. The motivation is real.
Each day, our members are sharing their results inside the Community. Many of them are sharing the actual words they’ve written which is super fun to see.
It’s HIGHLY motivating. There’s nothing like going through something as a group. You don’t want to be the one straggling behind. We all motivate, encourage, and carry one another.
I want to say thanks to those of you in the Community who have been going through 30 Days to Better Writing and sharing your progress because it motivated me to write this annual review post.
30 Days to Better Writing is straightforward and simple, but very powerful:
- 30 days
- 30 lessons
- 30 minutes a day
Each day, there is a new lesson for you. It will take you less than 5 minutes to read.
At the end of the lesson, you get a writing prompt—you don’t even have to think!
You then spend 20 minutes following the writing prompt, and take the quiz.
People keep saying it’s super fun and highly motivating.
I actually have a really good problem right now: people have submitted literally HUNDREDS of testimonials for 30 Days to Better Writing. There are so many positive reviews for this course, it’s a bit overwhelming trying to organize them.
You can be sure we’ll put these to good use in 2017.
Audience Building Course – Learn How to Build an Audience in the Age of Short Attention Spans
Long-time followers will remember I announced this course nearly two years ago in early 2015.
It got put on the back burner, unfortunately.
I promised the Audience Building Course would be free. 2015 was our biggest year to date, and 2016 was bigger still by a good margin, in terms of revenue. But I hired quickly in 2015 and along with that came a substantial payroll.
I’ve shared about this on the podcast, but in short it’s been a challenging couple of years! seanwes underwent some significant changes in 2016 in terms of our focus and our business model.
Why Audience Building Course Was on the Back Burner for So Long
We’ve made some significant changes to improve short-term cash flow and move away from a launch-centric revenue model. We still have those spikes (and they are very welcome!) but we’ve been making efforts to smooth out cash flow across the year.
For these reasons, we had to put a lot of the bigger “free value” projects on hold. Audience Building Course was one of those projects.
I’m really excited to share that we just completed the shooting of the Audience Building Course on December 30th.
We Finished Production of the Course in December
A couple months ago, I listed out all of the modules and lessons of the course. Several weekends ago, I outlined all the lessons. Over the course of three days, I wrote all the lessons.
Finally, in a single day, Cory McCabe and I (that’s my brother and our full time videographer at seanwes) shot the 20-lesson course in one stretch.
The sense of accomplishment I had from literally CRANKING out this course was tremendously high. The satisfaction of checking off a project that had been on our list for nearly two years was icing on the cake.
I’ve been using RescueTime to track my hours. A lot of the time, we say, “Oh, I wrote for 2 hours today!” when really, if you were to track it, you wrote for only 23 minutes. In between, you were distracted by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and your inbox.
Time Tracking and Writing for 4.5 Solid Hours in a Single Day
Using RescueTime forces me to confront the blatant, honest truth of how I spend my time. I know how much I’ve been writing, because the time tracking app only counts up my writing time when my focus is on the window of one of my writing apps.
There is no cheating.
During the focused week of working on the Audience Building Course, I had one day of 4.5 full hours of writing. If you’ve ever actually tracked your time, you understand how significant a feat this is.
This next part isn’t really relevant to the annual review but a short story I want to share because I’m writing this for myself and I’ll forget this detail if I don’t mention it.
We Had to Shoot the Entire Course Twice
I told you we shot the course on December 30th. I told you we shot it in one day. Both of those things are true, but I omitted something.
The December 30 shoot was the second time we shot the course.
That’s right. On December 22nd, we shot all 20 lessons of the Audience Building Course course the first time—a 3-camera, fancy, professional setup.
I gave it my all. It was incredible. Maybe the best course delivery I’d done to date.
The following week, we found out the SD card for the main camera (Camera #1) had several corrupt video files. I’ll spare you the details: they were 100% unrecoverable.
We had to shoot the entire course again. All of it.
It was tremendously demoralizing. I ran some rough calculations and estimated it to be a $10,000 loss to us in time and opportunity cost. But we had no choice: it had to be shot again.
As we talked about in e238 How to Learn and Grow From Mistakes, there was nothing to do but learn from our mistakes.
Taking Responsibility and Improving Processes
How was a card failing and corrupt video files our mistake?
Well, it starts with understanding that everything in life is 100% your responsibility. Every single thing in life is because of something you did or did not do.
The only other way to live is to live as a victim and I refuse that mentality.
I take responsibility for every problem that occurs in my life and that is why I have total freedom and happiness.
We celebrate when we encounter problems. No, maybe not in the first moment, but shortly thereafter, we recognize problems to be a good thing.
The process is always evolving. Our job is to constantly and continually improve the process. Every job is simply an opportunity to look for new ways to improve our process.
We look for holes, we patch the holes, and we move on. Future focus. We don’t dwell on the past.
Problems you encounter are good things because they are issues you are aware of. What’s worse is problems that are present but you know nothing about.
Celebrate when you encounter problems—they are opportunities to improve your process.
You can bet we implemented processes and put checks in place. We now look at cards after every module. Sure, it slows us down about 5 minutes each time, but it’s nothing compared to having to reshoot an entire course.
I Spoke at Two Conferences
In 2015, I was invited to speak at Circles Conference.
I spoke on the power of writing (you might have noticed it’s something I’m passionate about).
If you weren’t able to make it to that event, you can download my slides at seanwes.com/circles2016.
I think it was my best talk to date.
But then I spoke at seanwes conference the following month. =)
The title of my talk was Think Bigger (which was also the theme of the conference).
(Friendly reminder: seanwes members get access to ALL seanwes conference speaker talks and extended Q&A sessions inside The Vault.)
CommunityTalk – The Best Community Messaging System in the World
As I alluded to earlier, we built our own community messaging system and it’s powered our community for several years now.
Why did we build our own community messaging system?
Because when I hired Justin in 2014 to build it, we spent two months on project discovery scouring the web looking for other solutions so we wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel.
They didn’t exist.
Nothing out there was built for communities. Everyone was shoe-horning solutions that weren’t built from the ground up with communities in mind!
We’ve built the best community messaging system in the world and it’s called CommunityTalk.
We help membership site owners minimize churn and maximize retention with an all-in-one community experience that’s truly remarkable. CommunityTalk completely eliminates the need for Facebook groups, Slack, or forums and gives you control.
- What if you created a community experience so incredible, and so tuned to the needs of your members, that no one ever wanted to leave?
- What if that experience was so great that people would stay for years and years—and you didn’t have to keep cranking out new content?
- What if you didn’t have to build that system yourself because someone else who has been building a community for years already built it and made it available to you?
What would it be worth to never lose another member again?
No more Facebook groups and no more forums.
Is this real life?
It is real life. We would know—we built the best community messaging system in the world and we’ve been hoarding it for ourselves for several years.
Wait… let me put it another way:
We scoured the web for an existing solution that would allow members to:
- Talk in real time.
- Engage in ongoing conversations.
- Tune in to live-streamed shows.
- Receive notifications on subscribed topics.
- Access all of this from any device.
It didn’t exist. So we built it. You can find it at CommunityTalk.com.
The only catch? It’s not ready yet.
I mean, it’s ready in that we’ve been using it for years, but it’s not ready ready for the public just yet.
Why am I bringing it up in this annual review?
Because I always intended to make CommunityTalk available as a SaaS to enable others to build their own Community and deliver an experience to their members that didn’t suck.
I planned this back in 2014 and that’s why I invested so much.
But I wasn’t planning to bring it to market for several more years. That changed in 2016. It changed in a radical way.
2017 will be the year we make CommunityTalk available to others. At first, it will be a closed beta (you will have to apply to join). There are a lot of people who are very interested in using CommunityTalk, but we need people who are not just eager to use it—we need people who are willing to provide good feedback so we can make it great.
If you’re interested in applying to be a beta user of CommunityTalk, sign up for the waitlist at CommunityTalk.com.
Sabbaticals – Paying Employees to Take Off Every Seventh Week and Every Seventh Year
For several years now, we’ve been doing what I call Small Scale Sabbaticals. We take off every seventh week.
I pay my employees to take off every seventh week and we’ve already been doing this for several years.
Real quick background on this (otherwise, check the links below for more context): I worked really hard for about 7 or 8 years. I was working 18-hour days, 7 days a week, pretty much 365 days a year. I regularly worked 5,000 to 6,000 hours a year.
I loved my work, don’t get me wrong, but I recognized I was heading toward burnout. It was inevitable.
I’m an all-on or all-off kind of guy: I’m either obsessed or I don’t care at all. Maybe you can relate.
I recognize the only way I was going to be able to prevent burnout was to go all in on a break.
I’d heard of professors and teachers taking off a year every seven years, and most people take off a day every seven days.
“Why don’t we have something in between?” I thought.
On a whim, I decided to take a week off every seventh week. I would work six weeks and then take a week off. I would work extremely hard for those six weeks (like normal) and then I would go all in on a break.
I would actually schedule nothingness on my calendar and make zero commitments for that week.
The idea was to make time for rest, secondary passions, and travel.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t allowed to work. Rather, the point was to free myself of any obligations. If I wanted to sleep, I did. If I wanted to write, I did. If I wanted to make music, I did.
Sometimes I worked, sometimes I rested, but I always felt recharged because whatever I did was entirely up to me. I had no obligations.
After doing this for several years, I made rule for myself: I could not commit to anything for the sabbatical unless I was ON the sabbatical.
Why? We tend to fill time, us humans. We see empty space on our calendar and we want to fill it. “I have a full week of free time! I can do everything!” I ended up committing to a lot of things for my sabbatical, only to arrive and want to do nothing but rest—only, I couldn’t, because I lined up a bunch of obligations for myself.
Long story short (too late?), I ended up extending this to my employees as I began building a team, and now the entire team takes sabbaticals together every seventh week.
But that’s not actually what I’m here to tell you about. I’m just telling you what we’ve already been doing for several years to set the stage for what comes next…
(Real quick: If this is the first time you’re hearing of sabbaticals, here are a bunch of places in recent years where I’ve written about sabbaticals, recorded podcasts about sabbaticals, and shot videos about sabbaticals):
- 072: Small Scale Sabbaticals
- 268: How to Take Off a Week Every Seven Weeks Even if You Can’t Afford To
- 008: Small Scale Sabbaticals
- 074: Small Scale Sabbaticals
- 158: Small Scale Sabbaticals: The Importance of Rest
- What if You Took a Week Off Every 7th Week?
- From Working 100 Hours a Week to a Sabbatical in the Mountains
- 300: How I’m Building the Best Place to Work in the World
I decided in 2016 to take things to the next level.
We’re expanding sabbaticals:
All employees are paid to take off every every seventh year as well!
YOU Get a Year Off! YOU Get a Year Off! YOU Get a Year Off!
He’s lost it now, hasn’t he…
Every seanwes employee is paid to take off every seventh week and every seventh year.
I’ve also decided definitively with any companies I start, any subsidiaries, and with anything I do for the rest of forever, we are doing sabbaticals. I’m committed.
Committing to this also gives me a lot of context in that it makes me really think about hiring.
A lot of people think that I’m crazy.
But let’s roll back the clock to before the startup boom. If you were to say, “I’m going to put ping pong tables, couches, espresso machines, and free food in the office,” people would have laughed at you.
“That’s going to distract people! They’re not going to get work done! They’re not going to be productive!”
Nonsense. The reality is that no one is doing more than two hours of focused work in a day!
The startup world figured it out. Now most companies have crazy perks. People walk into boring offices and say,
“Where are your ping pong tables?”
Why Don’t More Companies Realize Their Employees Are Their Best Asset?
I shared our sabbatical policy with a friend and he asked, “Why do you think more companies don’t realize their employees are their best asset? Why don’t they invest more in them? Why don’t they give them sabbaticals and time off like you’re doing?”
There are two reasons: internal bureaucracy (stakeholders, investors, complications that mean one person can’t come in and change everything) and the fact that they simply don’t have to.
“Haha, you’re going to leave our company because we don’t have sabbaticals? Where are you going to go??”
We’re Changing the Future of Work—for Everyone
seanwes is going to come in and RUIN it for everyone. In 30 years, EVERYONE will have sabbaticals at every company. They’ll be forced because we’re going to disrupt everything.
Mark my words.
Most people are excited and want to work for me when I talk about this (the good news is there are some big opportunities opening up—more on that later in this post). Others—usually business owners—think I’m more than a little crazy.
They’re skeptical because they say I’m going to lose money. That’s the very reason people don’t implement sabbaticals in the first place: “This doesn’t make sense. We’re losing money. We’re wasting money. We cannot do this.”
I say we’re starting with sabbaticals.
We’re committed to sabbaticals. We start with them and build everything else around them. Why do you have two days that you don’t work every week? It’s because you’ve built your life around that (and so has everyone else).
Have You Really Thought This Through?
Trust me, I’ve thought through this. Here’s the worst case scenario: someone works for the company, they take their seventh year off paid, and they don’t come back. They leave the company and start their own business during their off year, it goes well, and they quit the company. I’m ok with that.
If the worst case is I invest in someone’s life, they start their own thing, leave, and have nothing but good things to say about our company, I’m okay with that.
I’m getting excited again.
I say “again”, because I shared all of this (and much more) in the video of episode 300 I embedded above (what’s that? you didn’t watch it? ಠ_ಠ I gave you a full video recording of a member-only broadcast and you didn’t watch it?!).
The sun is shining through my window right now (which only happens when it is setting because of the direction the window is facing) and that means it’s getting late.
I have so much more to share, but I already shared it in the episode 300 video. I talk about how sabbaticals will change the future of work, disrupt everything, make us immune to competition, attract the best clients, greatest talent, and so much more.
Rather than re-write everything I already shared in that video, I’ll let you go watch that for yourself so I can get into the next section…
seanwes media – The Agency
This is another thing I talked about at length in episode 300. (Last time I mention that video… okay probably not the last time.)
“What are we even doing here?”
That’s all I could think after the six epiphanies I’d just had in the past two hours. I just sit there in silence for two hours, taking it all in.
One evening a few weeks ago, I had no fewer than half a dozen revelations hit me.
Things just started clicking.
I started seeing connections between things that had been there all along but I wasn’t recognizing.
I Realized We Have Everything We Need to Build an Incredible Agency…
We have the greatest talent pool of incredible creative professionals inside the Community.
I just started thinking about our members:
- They have a good mindset.
- They’re on board with our values.
- They’re invested in the seanwes brand.
- We’ve given them all the resources they need to do client work professionally.
- They’re looking for work.
- I’d been turning down jobs left and right for years without even thinking about it.
I don’t know how I could have been so blind for so long, but we have had all the pieces we’ve needed to create an agency for many years now.
I’d had the idea before, but I was thinking it would be something we do in about 5 years. I don’t know why I overcomplicated it, because I suddenly realized: we don’t need a ton of cash to start this agency—clients pay up front!
It sounds silly in hindsight. Why didn’t I recognize it sooner? I don’t know.
But I began to realize I’d been turning down client jobs all the time for years.
Here we are, teaching people how to make a living, helping them develop all of these skills, yet I was turning down work requests from people asking if we did client services.
“Hey, do you know someone who can help me with my marketing and sales funnels as well as with my content marketing?”
I should have been saying, “Yes! We can help you. We have the most talented professionals in the world. They’re happy because we pay them to take off every seventh week—and you know happy employees do good work. We’d love to work with you on your project.”
It wasn’t until I went to a conference in December that it hit me. I was explaining to this guy what we do at seanwes and he was about ready to hire us right there. “Oh, that’s fantastic! We need someone to help us implement all of that stuff.”
“Oh no, I said. You must have misunderstood. We don’t actually perform the services ourselves, we provide the education to help you do that!”
Like an idiot.
I instantly saw the number of times I’d literally turned away money and recognized my mistake.
That’s a long way of saying in 2017, we’re launching a client services agency called seanwes media. We have the best people in the world inside the Community because of aforementioned filtration devices.
That long term thinking has once again paid off.
Imagine if All of Your Job Candidates Had to Pay You $99/Mo to Be Considered?
That’s exactly what we have with the Community. The best, most talented creative professionals in the world who are invested in themselves, on board with our values and principles, and eager to work.
I still kick myself every time I talk about it for not recognizing it all sooner.
As I’ve begun to share my vision for seanwes, seanwes media, and sabbaticals, more and more people have reached out asking if I’m hiring or what job opportunities we have.
I archive every single one.
I have no interest in hiring outside of the Community. Everyone on the seanwes team has been hired directly from the Community and it’s been the best thing in the world.
I’m paying attention to the people inside the Community and watching for those who participate, engage, answer questions, ask questions, and provide value.
When I need people to help with projects for seanwes media, I will approach people from the Community. We’ll start off by doing some projects on contract basis, but I see this quickly turning into a full blown agency with full-time remote workers across the world.
There’s a lot more that goes into this that I shared in the episode 300 video (I knew it wouldn’t be the last time). It’s beyond the scope of this post to write about in depth, but in short: the agency will spin off cash that we can invest into the development our software company, CommunityTalk (hiring more engineers, customer support reps, etc.).
In addition to funding the SaaS, this capital will also be used to give raises to the team in 2017. When we reach points where we have a runway of several months for the agency, we can pause client services and focus the agency’s full-time efforts on creating promotional campaigns for our many ventures (physical products, courses, membership, CommunityTalk, conference, etc.).
Essentially, we’ll have our own in-house media team to create massive marketing campaigns for each and every one of our different projects.
Successful Podcasting – The First seanwes Course Produced Entirely Without Me
I’m somewhere around 7,700 words in at this point and I’m starting to realize why I was so tempted to skip writing this review.
I can also say I’m so happy I didn’t skip writing it.
(Update: Now I’m MANY hours into the editing process and I’m definitely exhausted!)
Successful Podcasting is a course by our very own Aaron Dowd, and I’m excited to share more about it in the coming year.
I actually brought it up not to talk about the course itself, but rather a milestone it marked.
Cory McCabe was the first full-time employee at seanwes in 2014. He and I have worked together over the years to produce a number of courses.
Before Cory joined, I’d written, shot, edited, and produced an entire course myself and it was a big challenge to say the least. Having him in charge of video has been a huge help.
Over the years, he and I have done something like half a dozen courses together. Each time, we get better. With every new course, we improve our processes.
In the summer of 2016, Cory drove up to Fort Worth where Aaron lives and the two of them shot an entire course without my involvement at all. I was 100% hands off for the project.
If you’ve ever produced a course from start to finish, you understand how massive an accomplishment it is for me to be hands-off for the entire process.
This was huge. It marked a significant milestone for us: the team had followed processes to write, shoot, edit, and produce an entire course without me.
It was a great picture of things to come and a great testament to the value of processes.
The two of them went on to produce yet another course called Getting Started With Video. This mini course (to be released very soon for $99) will of course be available to members for free inside The Vault.
We also made headway on some other mini courses (to be launched in 2017) that I’m really eager to share.
The past two years have been the pulling back of the rubber band.
Will this be the year you become a member?