Journal Service Simplicity Strength

Actually, 2016 Was Pretty Awesome

2016 was the best year ever for me. Here’s why.

sgt-pepper-2016I’m sure you’ve seen a friend or two talk about 2016 as a terrible year. So many celebrities dead, so many wars, so many undesirable people elected to office, etc.

Well, I disagree.

While I respect people’s feelings, the world has always been a difficult place, and things don’t go the way we would like to all the time. Celebrities and non-celebrities die every day. Wars have always happened. Idiots are elected to office every year.

We all lived the same 2016. Yet for me (and for a few reluctant friends who dared to share their thoughts in social media) this was one of the best years of my life.

I think the secret to always having a good year is to

  1. Understand what is and what isn’t under your control, and
  2. For what is under your control, have a deliberate plan so things turn out the way you want them to.

If you think 2016 was a terrible year, I’ll risk a guess that you either are

  1. Letting things that are not under your control affect too much of your life, or
  2. Not being deliberate and planning how to tackle the things that are under your control.

The folks I quoted above are the people behind and Social Media Examiner. Leslie Samuel and Michael Stelzner are incredibly successful guys who really understand what I’m trying to explain in this post.

What we can’t control

About the things that are not under my control, like the bummer of losing Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in the span of 24 hours, there’s not much I can do. In this particular case, I may watch A New Hope and Singin’ in the Rain one more time and say a prayer for their souls and for the family they left behind. I may also choose to celebrate the positive effect their work has had in my life and watch one of their movies with my kids.

Carrie Fisher and mom Debbie Reynolds

But in the end, bad things happen. They always do. If we can’t find a way to cope and have a strategy to deal with them, we are going to have a hard time in life.

We shouldn’t let our happiness be a direct result of these out-of-our-control events. Happiness needs to be more proactive, and less reactive.

What we can control

I’m a huge believer of setting goals for oneself. I’ve written in the past about having SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound) as a way to turn their achievement more realistic. That is a great way to come up with a few items for the short/long term which you can have some control over.


This past year of 2016, instead of specific goals, I decided to focus on three areas of my life, and chose three key words to define what I would work on: service, simplicity, and strength. I opened the year by writing this post which delineated how I planned on attacking these areas.

Now, 365 days behind me, I see that I made good progress in all these three areas.  Here’s what happened:


2016 was a year that I made a decision to be more available to help others. Though I still have a long way to go in this area, I think I did better than previous years. I helped friends move furniture, volunteered to teach the marriage preparation course at our local church, helped my dad with his business quite a few times, created a new website for our parish on, cooked a couple of dinners for my family (!), volunteered to teach an introduction to WordPress course at our homeschooling co-op group, and a few other things.

There’s much more to do here. But a year ago I decided to make some gains in this area, and I did.


As a result of working from home and needing only my laptop to do my job, I decided to get rid of things this year.


At first I started weighing all the items that I would donate or sell, with the intent of tallying it all up at the end of the year. That didn’t quite happen, because we were donating and selling so much that it became a nuisance to weigh everything as it left the house.

I’ve also decided to wear simpler clothes on work days, which meant I wore a whole lot of WordPress swag, making my choice on what to put on every morning a lot simpler.

2016 was a simpler year for me. I carried less weight with me, spent more quality time with my family, and did more with less. Just like I had planned it would be. Win 🙂


Besides the occasional jog throughout spring and summer, I joined the local CrossFit gym in October and since then have been working out 3-4 days a week.

I have never been in better shape. I feel younger, stronger, and healthier. I can run 5Ks faster than ever. In just 3 months, my thighs have grown from a circumference of 20 to 23 inches!

It’s hard work, but it is something I decided last year that I needed to do to be stronger.

Here’s me deadlifting 335 pounds last week:

Needless to say I have increase my strength, like I had planned I would one year ago.

Life is what you make of it

In short, your life is a collection of events, some that happen to you, and some that you make happen.

If you learn to cope with what happens to you, and start planning and executing on what you want to make happen, 2017 will likely be your best year ever, just like 2016 was for me.

Stay tuned as I will share what my three words for 2017 will be in a few days.

What will your 3 words be for 2017?

12 replies on “Actually, 2016 Was Pretty Awesome”

Great post! I agree about intention and perspective. I think that this was a very hard year for “the world” but for me personally, it was a really good year. Also, after spending a holiday season with someone undergoing chemotherapy a few years ago, every year looks much much better in contrast.

Thanks for your post, Cesar! First, let me say that I think I understand what you’re trying to say, and I appreciate (and agree with!) many aspects. I’m also so genuinely glad that you had a wonderful 2016. But I have to admit that these lines hurt me, because I saw so many friends and loved ones suffer throughout the year:

“We all lived the same 2016.”

“If you think 2016 was a terrible year, I’ll risk a guess that you either are

1. Letting things that are not under your control affect too much of your life, or
2. Not being deliberate and planning how to tackle the things that are under your control.”

I don’t think we all lived the same 2016. All things considered, my 2016 was pretty good. But I didn’t lose my home. I was not diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t suddenly lose a loved one.

I agree that bad things will always happen, and we need to figure out how to best cope and live through it. But I also think it’s ok to acknowledge and accept when things aren’t great, and to grieve. I’ll leave a couple of quotes from a book I adore, that remind me of how I want to live — I think they’ll also resonate with you given your positive, take charge outlook:

“We have the power to heal what needs to be healed. We get to give ourselves that. We have the capacity to stand before the scorching flames and decide what to swallow and what to cast out.”

“The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherf*cking shit out of it.”

Jenny! Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

I don’t think I disagree with a single thing you said.

I think it’s necessary to acknowledge and grieve our tragedies – precisely so we can eventually be in a position to see them in a more positive light and climb out of the darkness.

When I was growing up, I did lose my home. I also lost sight in one of my eyes, countless family members… I immigrated rather abruptly and lost all my childhood mementos, left all friends, family members, places, and memories behind… I also had to look cancer into its ugly eyes as I dealt with the diagnosis of my father a few years back… I don’t mean to belittle the tragedies we experience, and at the same time, I believe with all my heart that it is through these difficult moments that we grow, become better, and become more prepared to deal with future blows.

This post was mostly a response to the “look at all these celebrities who died and the people we elected into office – this year was the worst!” posts I see popping up everywhere.

I think it is legitimate to think 2016 was the worst year of one’s life. Hopefully the battle wounds and the painful pruning will help us get up again and mold our perspective so next time we are beat, we can still acknowledge and mourn, but be stronger as the countdown to a new year begins.

(Love the quotes by the way… What is the book?)

Thanks so much for *your* reply, and for sharing.

I think sometimes those who have gone through the worst can be the most appreciative or have the most positive perspective on life… but like with anything, I can’t say for sure, as I only speak from my experiences. Life can be tragic and beautiful, and everything in between.

The book is called “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” — it’s a really easy read (in its structure, and in the sense that you can fly through it, not necessarily the subject matter) and I can’t recommend it enough. I think you’d really enjoy it!

(Thanks again for posting and engaging — I love conversations like this.)

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