2010 Impossible Review: Gaining Context

ContextThis is the first part of my annual impossible review series. This focuses on what sort of impossible things I accomplished in 2010. Part 2 will focus on what impossible things are coming up in 2011.

2010 was a year of establishment. A year ago, everything from using WordPress to running triathlons to writing on a consistent basis was new to me. I had some background in each of them, but I had never immersed myself in it. This year I did. I made lots of mistakes, started over a couple different times, but I figured it out, I adapted, and I survived.

Here’s a quick rundown of how things went:

Athletic Challenges

13 months ago, I had never run more than 3 miles. In the last year, I’ve run a 10k, a half marathon, two sprint triathlons [1st race, 2nd race], and an olympic distance triathlon. I also threw in an indoor triathlon and an adventure race for good measure.

This was a huge step for me. I went from knowing nothing about triathlons to establishing that I can swim a mile, run 13.1 miles and bike 20+ miles. I needed to give my body a little bit of a break since November, so over the last month training has slowed. But, in the next week, I’ll be shrugging off the cold and snowy Indiana weather and picking up the training. I’m going the couple extra months of practice if I want to finish a… nevermind…that’s for Thursday’s post. Moving on…


I’ve written 88 posts in 2010. Thursday’s post will be number 89. I also wrote a short guide that members of the League got for Christmas [Note: If you’re not a part of the League and missed out on this one, you can sign up here for more goodies on the way]. I had the opportunity to write several guest posts for blogs I enjoy and respect , including one at Think Traffic about doubling your comments [the article got over over 100 comments so I guess the strategy works]. I did really great on guest posting for a 2-3 month stretch in July-September, but since then I’ve focused on other things. That’s something that I both want and need to get back to doing.

When I started BIT, I didn’t have any writing goals other than to keep doing it. Blogging had been an off and on hobby, but nothing more than that. That’s definitely changed since I’ve started. I’m quite happy with the progress I’ve made and the consistency I’ve maintained throughout this last year; however, I want to be more deliberate with the direction I’m taking my writing. This is something that will be constantly evolving as I continue learning how to live and tell great stories. I’ll be sharing more specifics here  about what this means exactly on Thursday.


I’m not planning on “monetizing” BIT in the traditional sense. A lot of people think that means that I  don’t plan on making money at all, that’s not really true either. Here’s my two sentence take on business – Do great work. Get paid well for it. End of story.

Even so, without really trying, I’ve made a little over a thousand dollars this year because of this blog that I wouldn’t have made otherwise, mostly due to relationships I’ve built with different people through it. That’s not a ton of money, but that’s totally okay with me. I’d much rather grow other businesses and let this blog serve as a place to share that journey and experience, just as I would do with a triathlon or any other of the goals on the list.

Peak Moments

Some of the few moments this year that were really big highlights for me:

Of course there are a lot more things I could list out, but that would just be another list and this is more than just a list of impossible stuff I’ve done this year.

Gaining Context

As I said in the last weeks post, often when I look back on the year, I’m tempted to focus on the stuff I’ve still got left to accomplish. While that’s good, but without context, my reaction tends to be “that’s it?” rather than “wow, look at what I’ve done.” It’s good to push forward, but not at the expense of gaining context and understanding the broader scope of things. Gaining context is the main reason I’ll be conducting these impossible reviews. Context allows me to enjoy the things I have accomplished and reminds me why I’m doing what I’m doing. Context gives a list meaning and turns a string of accomplishments into a story of improvement, and evolution, success and failure into something that draws you in.

When I look at this year in context, I can see that I established a lot of things and I laid a lot of groundwork for the future. Looking back a year ago this time, I was unemployed, I had never run more than 3 miles in my life and barely knew what three events a triathlon consisted of. 365 days later, I get to do work I enjoy, I’ve dominated several races, and I’ve built up a modicum of success in the blogosphere. More importantly, I’ve got a better understanding of what things actually are impossible and what just seems so in my mind. The best part? Everyday the things that are impossible seem a little less so. I’m continually amazed at what can happen in a year and you your life can change so drastically in one year.

2010 has been a great year, thanks for being a part of it. :)

How was your 2010? What impossible things did you accomplish this year?

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  1. says

    Great job Joel- mad props to you for your commitment in turning the impossible, possible!

    Looking forward to reading more to come in 2k11 bro!

    Me these things I thought would be impossible that I’ve accomplished.

    • Had my first child! Never thought I would see the day I wanted kids and now I’m a proud father. Crazy!

    • Puttin’ an end to my panick attacks and reducing my anxiety. I’ve dealt with that shit for over a decade!

    • Selling our second vehicle and biking to work, gym and errands every single day. Didn’t think I could do that and it’s been 5 months now and still going strong- booyah!

    • Sharing so much of myself in my blog. I never thought I could put myself out there for the world to judge as much as I have and I love it… all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly!

    Keep inspiring Joel!


  2. Kurt Swann says


    You focus on the stuff you still you’ve still got left to accomplish? Know what you mean! Am guilty of that too . . . thanks for reminding me of “context”!

    In the past year I climbed Kilimanjaro, was a finalist in San Francisco comedy competition, traveled to Italy and Ecuador, and have worked on training for mountaineering such as snow camping and other related stuff.

    Best wishes in the New Year!


    • says

      Are you serious Kurt? Congrats man. That’s epic! Congrats on an awesome year.

      p.s. do you know about Tyler Tervooren? He’s currently set on climbing the seven highest peaks on each continent. If you haven’t see his blog, you should. Good stuff :)

      Congrats again. Best of luck in ’11!

      • Kurt Swann says


        I did look at Tyler’s blog and it has lots of good info! Thanks!

        Also, I just got the Million Miles In A Thousand Years book. Like it lots and over half done reading it. Thanks for the recommendation! One of the best quotes from the book so far is when he’s talking about the death of his uncle and using your life as a way of telling a story. . .

        “If you aren’t telling a good story nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died.”


        • says

          Haha. So many good quotes from that book. Glad you liked it Kurt! When you’re finished, shoot me an email with your final thoughts. Hope you enjoy the rest of the book!

  3. says

    Your Hawaii trip must have been before I started following your exploits. If you’re gonna make the trip again, let me know; I’ll add “buy Joel a beer” to my Impossible Things list!

    • says

      I will have to take you up on that! I went back in March as well as 2x a few years back. Been to Big Island, Maui & Oahu…So beautiful. Got some photos you can see here from the trip a couple years ago –> Flickr

  4. says

    Hey Joel – That’s some epic shit to accomplish in just one year. Congrats, man! It’s amazing what you can do in a year when you decide to intentionally do awesome things.

    My list for the past year included:
    – Starting my blog and gaining over 50 subscribers in just a couple of months
    – Ramping up to over $10 a day in passive income
    – Backpacking around Mexico for 5 Weeks
    – Getting married (for the 2nd time)!
    – Running my first 10K
    – Seeing my two favorite bands (The Arcade Fire and Coheed and Cambria)

    I’ve got plans to make 2011 at least 9.3 times as epic as 2010. Looking forward to hearing what you’ve got in store for the coming year!

  5. says

    Thanks for sharing what you’ve accomplished. You inspired me to make my own list:

    · got married for the first time!
    · ran my second half-marathon
    · 41 posts, along with numerous articles and newsletters
    · finally paid a designer to give my blog the look and functionality that it deserves
    I enjoyed reading about what you’ve accomplished this year, and I took a little time to make my own list:

    · started writing my first full-length manuscript
    · finished my first short book about writing
    · edited a book for someone else for the first time
    · helped a friend quit a job he hated and start his own web marketing business
    · helped one of my clients increase revenue by 25%
    · celebrated one year anniversary as my own boss
    · got my own office for the first time
    · finally getting a handle on my finances by paying off all my debt and starting a Roth IRA
    · visited the Abbey of Gethsemani for the first time
    · attended my first horse race (Foxfield Spring Races in Charlottesville, Virginia)
    · went to Marlins’ spring training in Jupiter, Florida
    · visited Charleston, South Carolina for the first time
    · caught my first Brook trout in the Great Smoky Mountains
    · caught my first Greenback Cutthroat trout in Colorado

    Writing down what I have accomplished was interesting because it showed what I remembered—obviously. What I mean is that what we remember tells us what’s important to us.

    I’m surprised by how many people I talk to who don’t immediately know what’s important to them. Thomas Merton says that “Becoming a saint is becoming yourself,” so when we know what’s important to us—whether it’s model rockets or fashion—we can’t help but help other people at the same time.

    Joel, I hope the New Year exceeds your expectations!

  6. says

    Congrats on a great 2011 buddy!
    For me, my biggest TOP FIVE achievements were:
    1. Becoming a father to a beautiful healthy boy (after a devastating miscarriage in 2009).
    2. Taking off the summer (2 months) from work on parental leave.
    3. Losing 18 lbs. of body fat.
    4. Surrounding myself with awesome people and cutting off relationships with those who drain my energy and optimism.
    5. Starting and maintaining my blog RevolutionaryAlternatives.ca

    Thanks for the constant encouragement to do things I perceived as impossible!


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