Looking Back on 2013

Looking Back on 2013

When I was in the military it was a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for our unit or platoon to do an After Action Review (AAR) once we had completed our mission or training event. The AAR was an effective and extremely valuable tool for showing us how we might have performed our tasks more efficiently or with better success. These reviews would help us to operate better as a team, and ultimately, could provide us with information that would save lives in battle. The discipline of doing an AAR was so powerful to me that I carried it over into my personal business practices.

Looking Back on 2013

I admit that there is some uneasiness about me sharing my year end review publicly. I don’t like people who brag about their accomplishments and I dislike bedtime storytellers. I don’t want to be one of those people.

The only reason why I’m choosing to share my successes publicly is because I want you to know that if I can achieve my goals and objectives, you can too! Regardless of your situation or your circumstances in life, you have the ability to have your best year ever in 2014.

I will also share my failures with you because they are just as important as the successes. Failures define us and make us stronger. They are a part of the process that we must embrace if we are ever to achieve any of our goals or dreams.


  • I celebrated 22 years of marriage to my best friend. For a marriage that started off with a lot of problems, I am proud that Donetta and I continue to have an amazing relationship and that she has put up with me for this length of time. I love that woman so much.
  • I watched my son Tyler graduate from high school. This really isn’t one of my successes but I am proud of my son and what he has done in his life so far. It was an honor to lead the ceremony of his graduation and present him with his diploma.
  • I baptized my daughter Kayla into the family of Christ on her 21st birthday. Again, this isn’t one of my successes, but I’ve dreamed of baptizing my children in their public commitment to Jesus for many years. What a sweet moment I will always cherish!
  • I spoke at WordCamp Atlanta, WordCamp San Diego, and WordSesh. One of my goals for 2013 was to speak on topics that could benefit other freelancers or entrepreneurs. These events provided me with that opportunity, in addition to meeting some incredible people in the WordPress community.
  • I was commissioned to sketchnote a large conference. Sketchnoting is something I absolutely love to do (more than web design) but I’ve never been hired to do this professionally until this year. This is a service I would be thrilled to do more of in the future.
  • I completed an eBook that helped WordPress freelancers to earn more money in their businesses. Writing a book is exciting but the payoff for me was getting emails from freelancers who said their income tripled because of the advice in this book.
  • I started a non-profit for U.S. Veterans. While this vision is still in the early stages, I am so stoked to be leading a new mission into 2014 that will provide training, education, and resources to U.S. Military Veterans in the efforts to help them launch businesses or in finding employment opportunities.
  • I lost 28 lbs and ran my first ever 5K race. Getting healthy was something I had to do for myself. It feels incredible to drop that much weight and to have run a 3k for a charitable cause. Now I have to work on the next fifteen pounds!


  • I missed my financial goals for the year. There was a “magic number” that I wanted to reach in my business and I missed it by $40,000. I believe the reasons are because I started to focus on products over services, I spent too much time offering free resources, and because I had all of my eggs in one basket for my design business.
  • I trusted some people I shouldn’t have and got burned. These situations are always the hardest on me. Despite my gut feelings, I chose to work with some people I should have said no to and it cost me. Sometimes you hear the sweet promises and praises of others only to find out they were using you. This sucks more than anything.
  • I learned that coaching and training freelancers isn’t going to be sustainable. I love helping freelancers, but the reality is that this part of my business isn’t working as I hoped it would. I think it’s time to really cut back my time creating and providing these resources or stop altogether.
  • I tried to do too much.  A lack of focus and a lack of delegating have been my weakest links the past few years. Moving forward I am channeling all of my energy into one primary business focus and then building a team. This means I will have to start saying no a lot more in addition to relying on others to do what they do best.
  • I wasted time on social media channels. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus all are beneficial tools for any brand or business, but I’ve spent too much time on these channels for the Return on Investment. I’d like to have more meaningful engagements and conversations in 2014.
  • I invested in the wrong pursuits. There are plenty of people in my industry who want to transition from services to products and I completely understand this desire. For me personally, I’ve realized I don’t have the Midas Touch for a products based business at this time and I will continue to do what I do best.

Overall, this has been an incredible year and I have been extremely blessed. As we wind down the final days of 2013, I eagerly await getting started on the new goals and the non-profit business in 2014. I’ll be sharing a new post about these pursuits as well.

I hope that you also had an awesome year and that you had your own successes (and failures) in 2013! As always, I thank you for being a part of my small community and for reading my posts.


  1. Patrick Neve on December 26, 2013 at 11:47 pm


    I think this could be one of your best posts (thoughts) yet. Unbelievable. Your honesty sets the bar so high for all of us, but in a good way. We NEED this kind of stuff.

    I wanted to just say how much I also appreciate you starting off with the importance of your marriage. Not many people go here and I think it’s a great example of success. A good woman can inspire a man to push through things he could have never done on his own.

    That’s also awesome about your daughter getting baptized at 21. I have nothing against people who choose to baptize babies. I just believe that a young adult better understands what he/she is dedicating their lives to. It just makes sense.

    Lastly, I actually learned a lot from your “failures.” They helped me to see some things that I’ve bee experiencing more clearly. You validated some stuff for me.

    There is no doubt in my mind that you won’t achieve everything you want to. Whatever path(s) you choose next, I’m sure it’ll be great buddy!

    Thank you for all your help and efforts.

    • James Dalman on December 27, 2013 at 10:37 am

      Thanks Patrick.

      I believe that honesty is one of the best ways we can learn from each other. Sometimes it exposes us to harsh criticism from others, but we need to be more open about topics, especially if it can help others.

      My marriage is something that I don’t talk about much (maybe I will more) online but my wife has been an integral part of my success, personally and professionally. She deserves a lot of credit! There were times when I did not provide for our family as I should have and she stood by my side despite my shortcomings as a husband and father.

      I agree with you on the theological stance on baptism.

      I do look forward to 2014 and doing some things differently. Every day is a new lesson and those failures help us more than we know. 🙂

  2. carrie dils on December 28, 2013 at 11:50 am

    What a great post, James. I’ve been in a retrospective mood lately (always occurs this time of year) and agree that there’s much value in reviewing what worked and what didn’t.

    Congratulations on the good things happening in your family. Here’s wishing you a successful and prosperous New Year on every level.

    • James Dalman on December 28, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks Carrie!

      I agree with you on the timing — this is always a great time to review and reflect, with some amazing coffee of course. 🙂 I’ve found incredible value in taking the time to review what worked and what didn’t. In fact, sometimes I prefer looking at the failures because it motivates me more.

      I wish you an incredible and successful 2014 as well. Loved your post and your goals. Anything I can do to help, please let me know.

  3. Daniel Espinoza on December 30, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Thanks for sharing James! I’d say 2013 was a very successful year!

    Wishing you a fantastic, focused, and fun 2014!

    • James Dalman on December 31, 2013 at 4:28 pm

      Thank you Daniel and I also wish you a God-filled and exciting adventure in 2014 as you live the digital tentmaker dream with your family. Your friendship is appreciated!

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