My 2014 Successes and Failures

By Leo Babauta

This has been quite a year for me: I moved to a new city, wrote and launched a book, traveled, got leaner, and failed at a bunch of things.

I don’t normally do a review of my year, but looking back on the massive amounts of things I succeeded and failed at, I thought it would be useful to share what I’ve done and learned.

The biggest things I learned:

I’d like to note that I’m not sharing any of this to brag or imply that I’m special in any way. I just thought it might be interesting and maybe useful to get some insight into someone else’s doings.


I accomplished a lot this year – this isn’t in any order:

  1. Wrote and launched the Zen Habits book. This was my biggest project all year, and it took most of my year. I spent more than six months writing the Zen Habits book, the last month editing and revising it, and launched it about a month ago. It’s my baby, and I’m proud of it. It still has to go to print, and I have some bonus guides to write, but I consider this to be a huge success for me.
  2. Wrote and released a free ebook. On my birthday, I released a free ebook called The One Skill, about letting go. I spent about a month writing it, and released it as a gift to you guys. I’m proud of it.
  3. Improved Sea Change. Other than the book, probably my biggest accomplishment this year has been continual improvement of my Sea Change Program, which helps members change one habit each month. I implemented a better membership and payment system, made it easier to navigate, created guides and videos to help beginners learn how to use the program, added a Beginner’s Habit Program, made it easier to find accountability teams, hired two amazing Community Managers, and this month launched my best mini-course yet, Mastering Habit Skills. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I’m proud of this program, and it has helped thousands of people change their habits. More great things to come in 2015, including some new habit modules!
  4. Traveled. I traveled with the family to Mexico, Guam, and Tokyo, then with Eva and friends across Japan, and with Eva in Taipei. I had a lot of fun, saw family, learned a little of the local languages, learned history and culture with the kids. However, I did learn that traveling really tires me out, and I’m always glad to settle back into my routine at home.
  5. Moved to Davis. For a number of family reasons, my family and I moved to Davis, California at the end of May. I miss San Francisco, but I go back every 2-3 weeks to meet with friends and do some work. And Davis is a nice town. It’s been great because the kids ride their bikes more, I get to see my son Rain more, and Eva gets to see her parents more. So all in all, a great move. It does mean we’re not car-free anymore, but you can’t have everything.
  6. Helped Guampedia. I helped my mom’s non-profit, Guampedia, relaunch with a faster and cleaner design, and launch a new book (101 Amazing Facts About Guam – check it out!). OK, their team did almost all the work, but I helped in small ways. I’m still happy to put this on my list.
  7. Got leaner. I’ve been working most of this year on a training and eating plan put together by my friend and coach, Dick Talens (who’s excellent, btw), to reduce my bodyfat. I wasn’t overweight before, but I’ve lost some bodyfat and gained a bit of muscle, and am noticeably leaner. Basically, I focus on full-body strength routines, and eat fewer calories with high protein (vegan) and lots of veggies. I haven’t been 100% consistent, but I’ve done pretty well. Thanks Dick!
  8. Helped my kids. I’m not a perfect father by any means, but I do continually try to help my kids with their interests. We’re still unschooling four of the kids. This year, I learned a bit of programming with my 16-year-old son, helped my 8-year-old daughter with her blog and making videos, helped my 15-year-old daughter with her cupcake business, took a drawing class with my now 18-year-old son and helped him with his animation projects, helped my college-age daughter launch an online magazine, had them do some work for my business, helped them all learn to lift weights or do bodyweight exercises, encouraged them to run a couple of 5Ks (we trained together), encouraged them all to learn a bit of programming (the younger kids like Scratch and Lightbot). There were lots of starts and stops with all of this, but it was something I did all year.
  9. Worked on my marriage. Eva and I have a good marriage, and I’m very happy with our relationship … but no relationship is perfect. We don’t always handle conflicts that well. So we decided to take an Agile-like approach to our relationship (just started a couple months ago), and now we have weekly reviews to see how we did during the week and what we can do to improve. We’re both reading and discussing and working through a couple of books that have been helpful: His Needs, Her Needs, and Difficult Conversations. We still have work to do, but I can already see an improvement in our relationship. I’ll blog more about this next year, I think.
  10. Babauta Startup Incubator. Eva and I really want to encourage our kids to start their own businesses, for the experience and joy of it, for the learning that comes with it. So this year we made an offer to our kids, that we call the Babauta Startup Incubator. Basically: we helped them start a business with some small startup funds and a very small salary and some hands-on partnership (at first), and they give us hard work and 10% equity in the business. My daughter Chloe is launching an online magazine, and I think my son Justin is going to start an animation-related business. The other kids aren’t quite ready yet, but they might use the incubator to start a video game studio and a cupcake business, among other possibilities. This might go nowhere, honestly, but it’s a fun experiment.
  11. Might be helping to create a new app. Dick and I and our friend Adrienne are working on a new app that I shouldn’t announce yet, but it has the potential to become something great. They’re coding version 0.1 at the moment, and I can’t wait to start testing it out.
  12. Learned a lot about mindfulness. I asked my friend Susan to become my mindfulness teacher earlier this year, and with a little guidance from her, I’ve been digging deeper into mindfulness practices throughout my life. I share what I’ve learned in my new book, but it’s been a great learning experience.


I consider these “failures” to be successes, actually, in that I learned from them and enjoyed taking them on. I try not to feel bad about failures, but it’s good to show you that I’m far from perfect, and I make mistakes like anyone else.

Some of my failures this year:

  1. Two failed major projects. At the beginning of this year, I took on three new projects: my Zen Habits book, and two other projects that I had to cancel because I couldn’t focus on three at once (plus this blog and the Sea Change Program). I asked two friends to help me with those projects, and made a commitment to them, and then had to really disappoint them when I couldn’t handle all three projects. That was painful, but a good lesson for me about taking on too much.
  2. No Procrastination Challenge. In June, I took on the final challenge in my Year of Living Without: procrastination. It went really well for the first 10 days or so, until we traveled to Guam. I was so jetlagged and tired from the travels that I couldn’t focus on work. Then I really got into watching the World Cup, and my procrastination challenge basically withered away. I was embarrassed by this, and because of that (and some extreme busyness), I didn’t even write a follow-up post or wrap up my Year of Living Without. Anyway, my lesson learned is not to take on a procrastination challenge when I’m traveling, or when the World Cup is happening.
  3. No Flavor Challenge. I did pretty well at the Year of Living Without challenges, with the exception of the procrastination challenge, and the No Flavor Challenge. I struggled with these. I don’t consider this a complete failure, but a learning opportunity. My main lesson here is that if I’m going to tackle something as difficult as going without flavor in my food … I should do it gradually. I don’t know why I ignored my “gradual change” philosophy in my Year of Living Without challenges.
  4. Change Labs Beta. As I started writing my Zen Habits book, I created a group of testers that I called Change Labs Alpha. It was a group of 10 people who tested out my book as I wrote it, and gave me feedback. That went really, really well! But then I decided to expand to a group of 50 people and call it Change Labs Beta. This, again, happened while I was traveling to Guam and Japan, and things didn’t go so smoothly. I didn’t have time to fix all the problems, so basically both the Alpha and Beta programs were dropped unceremoniously. My apologies to both groups. Lesson learned: don’t overload yourself when you travel.
  5. Eating healthy while traveling. I haven’t found a good way to eat healthy while I travel. I’ve tried a few different methods, and some work but aren’t any fun, while others get ignored in favor of indulging. I’m all about indulging, in moderation. But my trips have become more indulging and less moderation, which isn’t good for me. I eat much better while at home, so I need to find a way to match that (somewhat) while traveling.
  6. Eating healthy while Eva & the kids are away. Eva and the kids have been going to Sacramento to help with her sick father, which leaves me home alone for a few days at a time. I don’t mind that so much, but I tend to revert to bachelor habits: eating junk food. I am better these days than earlier in the year, and I get a little better each time. My latest method is tossing out any junk food in the house (not a lot) right when they leave.
  7. Meditation. I’ve been meditating for years, but it’s never fully consistent. Something always comes along to disrupt the habit for me. That’s OK – I don’t expect perfection. I’m going to try to be more consistent in 2015.
  8. Learning languages, programming, drawing. I started learning languages (Spanish, Japanese), programming (Javascript, PHP, Ruby, Python), and sketching at various times. I haven’t stuck with them for very long, for reasons of busyness. I’m going to focus on one at a time in 2015 to see if I can stick with them and get past the beginning stages.

As you can see, none of these is horrible. Overall, it was a great year, and even my failures were great lessons for me, and opportunities to improve. I have lots of areas to experiment with in 2015, which excites me a lot. I really love experimenting and learning.

Above all, 2014 was a great year for me because of all of you. I have really enjoyed blogging for you here at Zen Habits for the last eight years. It’s been one of the most rewarding things in my life, and has given my life meaning. So thank you guys.