2016 Annual Review: My Honest Perspective on This Year

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 12/13/16 •  13 min read

Can someone please tell me how the hell we only have two weeks left in 2016?!

I swear the older you get, the faster the years go by.

2016 Annual Review- My Honest Perspective on This YearJust looking at the simple fact that next year will mark the EIGHTH anniversary of when I first started this site, is completely mind boggling.

But you know what? Those have been the best eight years of my life, and I can’t wait to see where the next eight and beyond take us.

Each year I do some kind of annual review here at Location Rebel.

Usually it’s in the form “what I rocked” and “what I sucked at”. (See the end of the post for previous year’s reviews)

This post, my 2016 annual review, will have a little bit of that, but mostly I wanted to be as real as I could with you.

In the last few months I’ve been having a lot of conversations with other entrepreneurial friends about goals for 2017, what’s working/what isn’t in our businesses, and just having a lot of conversations about the online landscape as a whole.

I’ve received some really good insights and gotten pretty introspective. These have been the most beneficial conversations I’ve had in awhile, so I think it’s important and hopefully valuable for me to share them here.

“The Business With Personality Wins”

This has been a really common theme.

When I began Location 180 in 2009, it was all about me.

It was about my journey, my struggles, my wins, and it was real. The readers of this site got a very clear idea of the ups and downs that went along with quitting a good job, moving abroad, and building an online business.

Sean Ogle in Bali at the Ubud Monkey Forest

Hanging in Bali during the early days.

Somewhere along the way, I feel like some of that personality has slipped away.

I made a conscious decision to move locationrebel.com (what this blog used to be) to locationrebel.com for a number of reasons. Among others:

Let’s look at that last one a little bit.

Part of what made this site so successful was you could very clearly see the transition I made from being miserable in my day job, to running my own business. (Go take a look at the archives from 2009)

It was relatable, and you could follow along with that entire transition.

Fast forward 8 years. I’ve been very successful with my business, and I think that while aspects of my life can be inspirational and motivating – to others it becomes un-relatable.

I think it came to a head with this video in particular:

Despite the fact I literally only paid $300, I think a lot of people couldn’t relate to it.

And this is part of why I wanted to rebrand from Sean Ogle to Location Rebel, so that I could do a better job of highlighting our community and people who are at different points in their journey.

I think in the process we went too far.

Now we have this slick, professional looking site – and frankly, I don’t write very many posts like this any more. It’s all business this, and tactics that.

There are thousands of sites out there.

What will make Location Rebel successful isn’t more of the same. It’s playing up our unique story and personality – whether mine or our community members.

In 2017 I’d like to get back to our roots more. Less regurgitated crap that thousands of other sites put out, and more honest, real content about both the ups and downs of this lifestyle – while still providing content that helps people make the transition into lifestyle entrepreneurship.

This brings me to my next point:

“Stop Listening to Experts”

I do feel like we’ve put out some really good and useful content this year.

Content that was perfectly SEO optimized, polished, but frankly, similar to what so many other sites are creating.

At one point I really got into tactics and advice from other popular marketers, and kind of went down a rabbit hole of trying to implement their advice.

Here’s the thing, for the most part by the time much of that advice gets to you, it’s too late.

There’s a natural evolution online for many of the advanced marketing tactics that people are writing about:

Sure, it’s important to educate yourself on the basics. Know the fundamental principles of blogging, email, marketing etc.

But for me? I’ve been doing this nearly a decade. I know a lot. 

Rather than putting in a little bit of effort into being creative and coming up with my own strategies, I focused too much on trying to implement other people’s strategies. I was playing their game, which is only going to take you so far.

Again, I think for the total beginner, following other’s training or advice is the best way to start. But the more advanced you get, the more you need to think for yourself.

Jiu Jitsu master Marcelo Garcia posts all of his training sessions online. This means his opponents can literally watch and dissect everything he is doing to train for a fight.

His reason for doing this?

To paraphrase, he says:

If they study what I’m doing it brings them into my game. And no one will ever beat me at my game.

Reference: Josh Waitzkin Distilled.

For the first 5 years of blogging I played my game. Then I got too caught up in other people’s ideas and tactics and got lazy in my thinking.

This led to a plateau:

In 2017 I want to focus more on me. No one else out there has my story or my background. Very few people have the freedom and flexibility of time to get creative and truly do some unique things.

Like this video:

It’s fun, representative of my personality, and even if there hasn’t been a specific dollar amount tied to it, it’s been valuable to the brand.

“I know you don’t realize it, but you’re being lazy.”

One of the most dangerous states a lifestyle entrepreneur can be in is one where you think you’re working hard, but really you’re being kind of lazy.

Being honest? I’ve battled off and on with being in this stage throughout the entirety of my entrepreneurial career.

It hasn’t been until the last 3 or 4 months that I really feel like I’ve been working my ass off.

It’s easy to spend 3 or 4 hours a day doing things like writing blog posts and answering emails. After doing that I feel like I’ve done something worthwhile – and frankly, I have.

But those are things that maintain the business.

It’s these things that grow the business, and for a long time I wasn’t doing these every single day.

It’s been good having conversations about this with others – because I’ve realized I’m not the only one who feels this way.

It’s important to find a balance between working hard and enjoying the life you’ve built. In the last couple months I’ve gotten closer to that balance, but there is always an ebb and flow and it’s important to be mindful of that.

“Always be creating multiple streams”

This is more true than ever. In the most cliche thing I’ll say all month: don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

The biggest struggle I with Location Rebel I have right now is that traffic has been down over the last couple of months.

While obviously I get a good amount of traffic from other sites, and social media – the bulk of it comes from search engines.

Through the process of switching domains, and despite the fact that logically everything we’ve done should improve traffic, it’s gone down and has yet to reappear.

We’ve been doing everything right, and I’m confident that it will turn around sooner or later – but it’s been an eye opening experience.

Whether it’s income, traffic, relationships – always be creating multiple streams or paths. The world is moving too fast to think you can keep doing the same one thing forever – eventually at best it will evolve, at worst it will disappear.

So while it’s not like traffic has completely plummeted, it’s down just enough to notice and teach me an important lesson 🙂

On a More Positive Note…

So far, I’ve focused a lot on the conversations about things I feel like I’ve been failing at or struggling with.

The good news, is that in many of these conversations there’s been a lot of positive things that have been discussed as well.

“Be Real and People Will Notice”

Slowly but surely over the last few years Breaking Eighty has grown. It continues to grow in traffic, followers, and reputation.

It’s pretty wild when you go play a round of golf, get paired up with a stranger, and they actually know who you are because they follow your blog.

Going back to that bit on personality above, where I feel like I’ve struggled with this on Location Rebel, it’s been thriving on Breaking Eighty.

Sean Ogle at Chambers Bay Golf Club

One of my most liked Instagram photos.

Through Instagram and blog posts that really play up the fact I’m just a normal guy, and not one of the big corporate golf magazines – people have started to pay attention. I’ve created something unique, different, and the fact I continue to travel and take pretty pictures helps too.

The bottom line is, I’ve been real and that has paid off.

“The Smaller the Niche, the Easier the Sale”

I talk to a lot of Location Rebel Academy members about their niche ideas, and the advice is almost always “niche down”.

Logically when you’re just getting going you want to cast as wide of a net as possible.

But if you tell someone “we built a site to help people lose weight.” Who is that going to resonate with? Not many people. Even the people who do want to lose weight have heard that message so many times that there needs to be more to it.

But what if you heard “I help 25-35 year old, single, working moms, lose weight without having to sacrifice time with their kid” – that is much more niche, and you can bet that people in that people who fit that description will pay much closer attention to your message.

For instance, in my new business I’m creating something for people who fit this:

Every single one of those narrows down the field even farther, to the point where there probably aren’t many more than 25,000 people in the whole country that fit that mold.

But almost without fail, every single person I’ve told about this new idea has been interested.

Because it fills a need so directly, and is so tailored to them, there’s almost no way they could say no.

I know this, because fit that mold, and I’m creating the thing wish existed.

I’ll reveal more about it in a future post, but the lesson is this:

“Despite every urge you have to cast a wide net, niche down as small as possible and the sale gets easier with each step down.”

“What’s your secret to success? Exercise.”

Nearly every single person I’ve talked to says the same thing. The reason they have the energy and focus to grow their business is because they take care of themselves.

I’ve always been a pretty active person. I walk a lot, I play a lot of golf, and so on, but it’s always been tough to get to the gym on a regular basis and truly work out.

This year has been different. Through the help of Mike Goncalves, I’ve been exercising 5 to 6 days a week, and feeling great about it. The diet is still a work in progress, but I really notice on the days I take the time to go to the gym, my focus increases and my desire to do other positive things for my body and business goes up.

We still have a long way to go, but this has been the most active year I’ve had in a long time, and that feels really good.

To Sum Up the 2016 Lessons

Here’s the more cliche, tl;dr version of this post:

There’s lot of other things I could add to this list, but I think these are the most important lessons I’ve truly learned in 2016.

They’re not unique, they are all things you’ve heard, but hopefully having a little bit of context as to how they have pertained to my life and business has been valuable.

I also know aspects of this post were reflecting on some of the down parts of the year. I think it’s worth mentioning that by and large things are still really good both with me personally and here at Location Rebel.

We’ve had some incredible success stories I’ll be sharing in the next couple weeks, just released our latest blueprint, and we’re continuing to update and evolve to make sure that we continue to be the relevant and insanely useful community that we always have been.

Keep an eye out soon for more on my 2017 goals and plans, and thank you again for being a part of this fantastic community!

Oh, and I had a post about why I think bucket lists are important go live on Huffington Post today – so go check it out if you get a chance 🙂

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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24 comments on "2016 Annual Review: My Honest Perspective on This Year"

  1. Another year in the can! It’s fun watching you grow. Thanks for sharing so much of your life and your thinking process, it’s really instructive.

    1. Sean says:

      Good to hear from you Caelan! Appreciate the kind words, and lets catch up soon!

  2. Jub says:

    Awesome post Sean! I heard that quote from Tim’s podcast as well, had to rewind a couple times thinking it was me mishearing things haha.

    1. Have been thinking a lot about the personality side of things in regards to my travel blog which I never chose a niche for.

    There’s so many Family blogs/backpackers blogs and so on nowadays it wasn’t until a friend mention making ‘me’ my niche. That’s something I’m still getting my head around but thinking it’ll be a key to s

    2. When you started talking about being a follower in regards to other industries that caught my attention. I guess travel blogs in general aren’t really savvy at their SEO game, so I feel like that’s something I can continue to ‘follow’ the strategies that are a bit old but still keep me ahead relative to my market. Whereas if I follow travel bloggers who are like ‘oh, just go unfollow/follow’ others on Instagram and get lots of likes that’s not going to be so effective.

    So many things to think off. Let’s crush 2017!

    1. Sean says:

      I totally agree. The biggest differntiator we all have in our businesses is ourselves, so the more you can play that up, the better. I won’t say it will necessarily make you resonate with MORE people, but it will help you resonate on a deeper level with the people who really get it – and that’s more important.

      1. Jub says:

        Agreed! And definitely notice this among the people I follow most too. Look forward to seeing more of YOU next year.

  3. Smart man for getting away from tactics hell.

    Your site has massive value. Your leverage lies in that.

    Create traffic that gets you results you want, not numbers.

    I’d take a 100 sales over 100,000 clicks and fifty sales any day of the week!

    Keep on moving forward!


    1. Sean says:

      Couldn’t agree more!

  4. dan says:

    It’s the paradox of success i guess – first, everyone can relate and the next minute, you hit another level that feels far away from people discovering the site and wanting to break away from the cubicle

    1. Sean says:

      Yeah and finding the balance to retain that is definitely a challenge – but one worth striving for all the same.

  5. I’ve been struggling with a few of these things and made some of the same realizations. Wishing you another amazing year in 2017 — thanks for continuing to share your journey and thoughts along the way.

    1. Sean says:

      Thanks Jessica! I hope you have a fantastic year as well, and looking forward to getting together on the next trip out east 🙂

  6. Thanks for sharing Sean! I’m about to do this same process and I can totally relate to “stop listening to experts” — I don’t know why we don’t trust ourselves, but I agree, once you’ve been doing this for 3+ years, it’s about relying more on your own instincts and trusting your own decisions. This is something I’ve learned in the latter half of 2016.

    As someone who has learned a ton from you both inside Location Rebel Academy on here on the blog, thanks so much for always being transparent and open, it truly makes a difference 🙂

    I can’t wait to see what else happens for you in 2017!


    1. Sean says:

      You’re amazing, Lise! Thank you for being such a valuable part of the community. It’s been so cool to see you and your business grow in the last few years, and I think you’re totally right. Time to rely on ourselves a bit more 🙂

  7. Minh says:

    Hey Sean,

    Thanks for sharing. You’ve been a huge influence ever since Day 1 for me. I know that whatever you have in store, it’ll be awesome.

    First and foremost, do it because it feels right to you, and because you know that you’re adding value to this world.

    1. Sean says:

      Thank you Minh! I like to hope I’m adding value to the world, but some times it can be tough to tell haha

  8. Thanks for the post, Sean! This has been a good reminder to start thinking about the new year. Even though I know that 1 specific day of the year shouldn’t be the only moment to reinvent myself, it’s hard to argue with the impact of flipping the calendar over to a clean slate.

    I really connected with the idea of “stop listening to experts.” I know I’m still a newbie in the grand scheme of things, but I also know that I’ve spent infinitely more time consuming information and creating plans … compared to actually taking action on them. Insight from experts can be great, but only if I do something with it. (But even then, like you said, we still have to be able to thank for ourselves.)

    It’s taken me most of 2016 to really come to terms with the fact that the LR lifestyle for me is way different than what I first imagined it would be like. 99% of my problems have been self-imposed, and I’m learning the hard way that I can’t spend my time trying to fix everything and wait for the perfect moment. A messy step forward is better than no step at all.

    It’s a little reassuring to know that people who are successful (regardless of their pursuits) have similar periods of struggle; it allows me to recognize that it’s just a part of the game. That I might be going in the right direction, as long as I persist.

    One of the biggest errors I made in 2016 is disconnecting from people that share these similar paths and challenges. Even though 2016 was still an amazing year, I did isolate myself from the support that could have made 2016 even better. Therefor, I plan on going back to the beginning in LRA and reconnecting with the community.

    1. Sean says:

      Yeah I wrestle with that as well. January 1st is just as arbitrary as May 23rd, but there is something about it from a mindset perspective that helps.

      And I can relate to this lifestyle not turning out as I expected. I could have never imagined when I hit publish on that first blog post that this is where it would lead to – including all of the big ups and big downs along the way.

      Excited to hear you’re looking to connect again!

  9. Thanks Sean,

    A very valuable post. I’m about to do a similar thing. 2016 has been a whirlwind for me. Lot’s of progress but once again it appears I set too many goals and spread myself too thins. I have some Airbnb credits in hand and I think I’ll plan a small retreat to reflect, regroup and try and get a laser-like focus on what I want to achieve in 2017.

    All the best for the festive season and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year for you and all your loved ones.

    1. Sean says:

      Ah, such a common theme amongst us Rebels! I like the idea of pausing to reflect – and especially doing that outside of your normal routine or surroundings.

      Have a fantastic year as well, and hope to talk more soon!

  10. Alison says:

    Thanks Sean, great post.
    I’ve been struggling myself with moving my blog from being a personal journey to something more commercially viable. There’s so much ‘expert’ information out there that I’m not sure which way to turn first.
    Love Location Rebel, it’s both inspiring and useful.

    1. Sean says:

      I think the lesson I’ve learned is a personal blog CAN be commercially viable when done in the right way.

      I’d start with nailing down the niche. What makes your site special and what is the smallest group you can get to of people that will see your site and say “Now THIS is my home.”

  11. Mia K. says:

    I think we are all in the ‘year overview’ phase currently and it is good to evaluate what worked and made us happy and what not. Good post

  12. Daniel says:

    The Desk video is awesome. I need to get more creative in utilising the locations I work from! Good work 🙂

  13. Chad Westby says:

    I really like the niche down concept! It seems this is particularly relevant in a niche like golf where all the talk is that fewer people are playing and the popularity is waning. Focus on the sub niche of rabid golf lovers and there’s plenty of room for success!

    Thanks for your post!

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