2023: An Annual Review

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This marks my third annual review in this format. Check out 2022 and 2021.

In 2023, I turned 40 years old. I reflected on four things I want to consider as I enter a new decade of my life: gratitude, courage, service, and discipline.

Looking back on the year, I’m once again warm with feelings of immense gratitude. It was a wonderful year, filled with challenges, new beginnings, learnings, and sweet memories.


International Travel: London, Dominican Republic, Barcelona

In January, I took my Dad, along with my friend Reggie, to London. The occasion was my Dad’s 70th birthday. I got us tickets to watch Tottenham take on Arsenal in the North London Derby. We rooted for Korean superstar Son Heung-Min, who plays for Tottenham. Arsenal handily beat Tottenham, but it was a fun experience. We also checked out the home of Charles Darwin, about an hour outside of London. Although the weather in London in January was dreary, we walked around a lot, ate good food, and made the most of a long weekend trip.

I took my Dad to London for his 70th birthday. Along with my friend Reggie, we went to a Tottenham-Arsenal match and also visited the home of Charles Darwin.

The combination of COVID and two kids under 3 deterred my family from taking international trips for a few years. This year, with our kids a bit older, we decided to venture outside the United States for a couple of vacations.

The first was to the Dominican Republic in April, where we met up with Warren and his family as well as our friend Brandon. We stayed at a villa in Casa de Campo, a resort and villa community. The accommodations were very comfortable with a swimming pool that the kids loved and a short golf cart drive to the beach, which we visited several times. Warren, Brandon, and I got a round of golf in at the Teeth of the Dog course, one of the better known courses in the Caribbean.

We met up with friends in the Dominican Republic and enjoyed a week of villa & beach living. I got in a round of golf with my buddies Warren and Brandon.

We treated the logistics of this trip as a practice run for our longer trip to Spain in July. It was quite challenging to pack and bring all the gear necessary for a week away with the kids, but we managed and made our way to Barcelona. We met up with Mel’s parents and the families of her siblings about an hour outside of Barcelona in a town called Sant Andreu de Llavaneres. The house we stayed at had a beautiful view of the Mediterranean and seemed to be a popular spot for mountain bikers.

We stayed in a villa an hour outside of Barcelona with beautiful views extending to the Mediterranean Sea. We visited various attractions in the area and also walked the streets of Barcelona.

There were multiple trips into Barcelona during the week, which in hindsight was probably overkill. I wished we had taken it easy and hung out at the beach more, but there are always tradeoffs when traveling with a much larger group where kids’ ages are vastly different (Grant and Teddy’s cousins are much older). Mel and I ended up staying in with the kids for dinner since Spanish dinnertime starts well after the kids’ bedtimes. We ate way too much cured meats and cheeses. Also, a local chef we had lined up to cook meals while we were there flaked on us. While the trip was hardly relaxing and more trip versus vacation, it was still a great experience for the kids. They got to dip their toes in the Mediterranean and walk the streets of Barcelona’s alleys.

Big Life Changes: Moving to Rhinebeck & Welcoming Xander

In August, we moved out of Brooklyn, our home for nearly 16 years, and moved into our Rhinebeck home full-time. The reason? We wanted more space for our growing family.

The decision to move out of the city came with a lot of other actions. We sold our condo in Brooklyn. We also sold our co-op in Sunset Park where my parents had been living. I found a place for my Dad to live nearby just down the road. My Mom moved into the in-law suite in our basement. We also went from having 1 car to 3 cars with the move. And we put Grant and Teddy into new daycares. I’m still impressed by all the things that went down in a relatively short time period.

We welcomed Xander in September. I love taking him on long walks on weekends.

We welcomed Alexander “Xander” Kang-Lee in September. I never imagined us having three kids, but here we are. It feels great, the house feels full of life. Grant and Teddy are very sweet to their little brother.

I’m super grateful that my family has been around to support us. My sister, who had been living in Portugal, has been hanging up here for the past several months helping out with childcare. It would’ve been so much harder without them.

And of course, Melanie has been a true MVP and leader of the family, always thinking multiple steps ahead and being the calm and competent presence for everyone.

Life in Rhinebeck has been wonderful. We had been coming up here nearly every weekend while living in Brooklyn, so it wasn’t as big of an adjustment to stay here full-time. In fact, we gained about 6 hours a week from not having to go back and forth.

Life in Rhinebeck has been wonderful. Clockwise starting at the top left: Teddy enjoying a popsicle on our deck, me and the kids doing the hike at Bash Bish Falls, the kids with me and their Granddad at Rose Hill Farm on a Friday evening, checking out the Sinterklaas parade in Rhinebeck Village with the kids and their aunt (my sister), roasting marshmallows while enjoying the sunset, weekend trips to various parks to check out the biking situation, dressed up for Halloween and hitting up the local stores in nearby Red Hook.  

While I don’t have the convenience of hitting up a 24/7 bodega for random items or walking down the block for a slice of pizza, I’m super happy to finally have my own office (vs. a corner of my bedroom) and to be surrounded by beautiful nature every day. I’ve replaced my daily walks around Brooklyn streets with a long stroll along the country road where it’s mostly trees and pastures.

There’s an Amtrak about 15 minutes drive from our place, so getting down to NYC isn’t all that bad. It’s a shade under 2 hours. Melanie has been going back to work in NYC, commuting three times a week. It’s not an easy commute, but she’s going to try it out for the year.

It’s hard to say right now whether or not we’ll be in Rhinebeck for the long term. Last year, I had no idea that we’d be entertaining a full-time move to Rhinebeck and yet, that’s what happened. We’ll see how things play out and explore our options. There will always be tradeoffs with location, education, careers, proximity to certain opportunities, consideration for family being nearby, etc., so whatever decision we make won’t be easy but we’ll do our best to weigh the factors and do what feels good.

Two Significant Business Moves: CEO Coaching and Posting on Social Media

I started working with a CEO coach via CEO Coaching International in February. We typically do two 90-minute sessions per month. It started as a one-on-one but these days, Sei-Wook and Lucas join me as we talk through business performance, strategy, and decisions. Our coach Gerry, with his straightforward and calm manner, helped us build out a more comprehensive view of the business and pushes us to prioritize key activities that impact the business.

Every session feels like an intense workout for our minds. There were always so many gaps and areas for improvement that became apparent during our conversations, and we would need to work on before the next session. Throughout the year, little by little, we made progress and pieced together a year that avoided unnecessary mistakes and got to a level of profitability. Coaching has definitely been one of the best investments we made this year.

Note: check out my blog post listing 25 questions that we’ve covered in our coaching sessions to get a taste of what these sessions are like

I also decided to invest in my own personal social media presence this year. I had noticed that Jay Vasantharajah, an entrepreneur and investor I follow on X (f.k.a. Twitter) had been posting more frequently. He mentioned that he had started to work with a team that helped with his social media posts. I was intrigued and asked Jay for an intro. This was how I got started with Deal Bridge Media. Their offering was pretty straightforward: for a monthly fee, they do an hour-long interview call with you every month which they then turn into several X and LinkedIn posts. The client can approve, edit, or rewrite as needed and they would publish these, helping build up a daily posting schedule.

Given that I had a decently large content library on my blog and produce new content every week via my newsletter, I became an atypical Deal Bridge client. Rather than have them write posts on my behalf, I’ve asked them to give me prompts which I then use to write original posts. I don’t think this arrangement would work for everyone and some of the posts they wrote for me early on did quite well, but I found that I was extra particular about edits and doing rewrites, so I decided to do the writing myself.

I view Deal Bridge in a similar way to my CEO coach — where Gerry has kept me accountable and on top of business matters, Deal Bridge has kept me accountable when it comes to creating social media content. Because they try to post every weekday, it’s important to have a backlog of posts ready to go. After enough months when I was able to grow my follower count and get increased reach, we found some success in reposting older content that had done well.

The impact of my social media posting has been very positive. I’ve found more success on LinkedIn than on X although I find both platforms valuable for connecting with other people. On LinkedIn, I was able to rack up over 640,000 impressions this year and on X, I got 1.15 million impressions. LinkedIn’s impressions seem higher quality and the engagement rate and DMs were much better.

While not a huge number versus those who’ve truly cracked the code on LinkedIn, I’m still pleased that I was able to generate over 640k impressions on the platform and feel some tangible outcomes from my efforts.

Through my social media activities, some cool things happened: I reconnected with people I hadn’t talked to in a while, former clients came back to re-engage Barrel on new projects, I got some new business leads, I got some speaking and podcast opportunities, my newsletter sign-ups increased, and many more people than ever before reached out via direct message to have a chat.

I don’t think I’ve even begun to realize the full benefits of building an audience quite yet. My content is very niche and my audience is still quite small (around 6.2k LinkedIn followers and 2.7k X followers), so there’s room for growth. But to see some positive signals already is very encouraging. Social media content is something I’ll continue to invest in throughout 2024. When done right, I think it’s a great way to establish credibility, test out storytelling, and build relationships at a greater scale.

If you’re curious, you can find my LinkedIn account here and my X account here. These were a few of my most popular posts from the year:

Biggest Challenges

Navigating an Up and Down Year at Barrel

I won’t go too much into detail here because you can get the month-by-month story via Agency Journey. I decided to list this as the biggest challenge because there were moments when I felt like no matter what we tried, it was just very hard to win new deals. Sales cycles got elongated and initial budgets with new clients were very small. I’m so grateful that existing clients formed a significant foundation for our business. Our bet is that some of the new clients who began with small projects this year will turn into larger accounts in 2024 and beyond.

Trying to Find Service-Market Fit with Bolster

We launched Bolster this year as a brand design studio offering a fast and affordable service to businesses who needed brand style guides right away for their sales and marketing efforts. We landed a handful of initial client projects to test out our expedited process. These went well enough but we couldn’t quite find the demand to make this a viable business.

We ended up launching our Omakase offering, a 100% free engagement done via waitlist, which provides participants with a no strings attached brand design that they can put to use right away. The twist? What they get is what they get, no revisions. If they want to revise and get additional materials designed, then it becomes a paid engagement. We got through over 40 Omakases and surprisingly a large number of them adopted the no-revision designs as their branding right away. We were also able to turn many Omakase participants into paid clients.

Note: read my blog post on how the Omakase came about

The way Bolster is evolving, I think we’ll continue to leverage the Omakase as a lead gen tool and bank on companies engaging with us for slide presentation and web page designs. It’s been quite a bit of trial and error to get to where we are today, and it’s still not a guarantee that we’ll have a fully stable business just yet. Barrel Holdings has been bankrolling the cost of the business. We’ve had some months close to breakeven, but still a ways off from having a more predictable level of revenue.

Overall, it’s been fun and energizing to work on Bolster with co-founder Henry Alcock-White. Excited to see how things play out in 2024.

Personal Scorecard

I continued my practice of tracking various activities on a spreadsheet throughout the year. Here are some highlights:

  • Sent 52 newsletters (same as 2022)
  • Published 28 blog posts (vs. 31 in 2022)
  • Worked out 245 times (vs. 170 in 2022)

I also taped my mouth every single night in 2023. It’s been a great addition to my sleep routine, and I feel like a much better nose-breather now.

Most Impactful Books

I wasn’t as disciplined in my reading this year, but I did manage to read a few books that influenced me quite a bit:

Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity by Peter Attia was a behavior-altering read for me. I came away thinking about how investing in my health today can set me up to live a higher quality of life decades from now. This book led to me going from 3-4 workouts per week to making exercise a daily part of my routine. I began to devote more serious attention to strength training. I also switched up my diet to increase protein intake, which meant giving up my intermittent fasting practice. In less than 6 months, I’ve put on over 10lbs of muscle and increased my overall fitness.

I recommend listening to the book in audiobook format while going on long walks or jogs and then picking up a hard copy or e-book to reference specific parts.

Lessons from the Titans: What Companies in the New Economy Can Learn from the Great Industrial Giants to Drive Sustainable Success by Scott Davis, Carter Copeland, Rob Wertheimer was a really engrossing and helpful read. It covers businesses such as GE, Danaher, Honeywell, Boeing, Caterpillar, and Transdigm, highlighting the various arcs these companies took along with the decisions and behaviors of its leaders.

A few concepts that stuck with me from the book were:

  • Star employees by definition are rare, and it’s hard to expect everyone to be stars. Instead, get average people to perform at a high level and get rid of destructive employees.
  • Culture is an output, not an input. “Culture isn’t something you can force or even actively promote using just words. It’s purely a result of the concrete directions and examples you give to people.”
  • Embrace simplicity, focus on executing really well. “Keep it simple: find what is critical to your organization’s success, and then measure and compensate around those metrics.”

And one more impactful book I’ll share here: The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by W. Timothy Gallwey. While the sport in question may have been tennis, the principles of this book can apply to just about anything that requires skill.

A big takeaway for me was the idea of “letting go of judgments” in our own performance. Rather than label things (e.g. a swing, a shot, a pass, etc.) as “good” or “bad”, just observe them as they are and try to learn from them. I also found so much value in the concept of learning through experience vs. instruction – when you rely too much on verbal instruction, you tend to overthink and get tight, which hampers progress.

These concepts have been very helpful in the way I think about skills development with my kids (e.g. showing them how to throw a football) and also in trying out new activities (e.g. going clay shooting, trying a new kind of lift movement). No judgments, just trying to get a feel, an emphasis on observing oneself with an open mind.

Beyond sports and hobbies, I think these principles can also apply to the workplace, where it’s quite easy for people to put a lot of pressure on themselves and fall into a mindset of self-judgment. As a manager or coach, it’s an opportunity to nudge people to not be so self-critical and instead help them be more attuned and present in their actions, noticing for themselves how they can improve and experience better outcomes.

My Intentions for 2024

Last year, I picked “going to sleep earlier consistently” and “enjoy travel abroad” as two themes for 2023. Traveling abroad was successfully accomplished. Going to sleep earlier consistently had a good run but after Xander arrived, it’s been hit or miss. As his sleep routine solidifies, I should be able to find my sleeping groove again.

For 2024, I have a couple areas I intend to work on throughout the year.

Improve My Schedule

I’ve got a pretty set routine and a fairly predictable schedule that’s occasionally interrupted by trips. After moving to Rhinebeck in August and taking a little time off for our newborn, I had to adapt to a new schedule that accommodated different daycare drop-off times and a more elongated bedtime process involving 3 baths. Things seem to be working but I’d like to take a closer look and experiment with different schedule structures to see if it allows for greater productivity.

For example, I’d like to carve out more time in the morning to write in my journal. What used to be an automatic habit is now in competition with my morning daily walks (which in Brooklyn used to happen at night). I’ve had weeks where I didn’t make the time to journal, which is unfortunate.

I’ll also be looking closely at my workweek schedule to see if I can do a better job of grouping different types of meetings for different days. I’ve tried this in the past but after a while, things inevitably get mixed up again. I’d like to block out more time for writing and deeper work. Even a couple hours twice a week could make a big difference. More recently, my schedule has been overrun with Zoom calls day in and day out.

And lastly, I can do a much better job of making time for reading. This year, most of my reading took place right before bedtime in 10 to 20 minute chunks. I’d love to have more consistent 15 to 30 minute chunks throughout the week. Anytime I feel an urge to go on social media for a few minutes, I can replace that with a reading habit and use the time to get some more highlights into my Readwise system.

Take My Kids to a Few Different Beaches

The handful of times we went to the beach with kids this year were wonderful.

Some of my favorite memories from 2023 included hanging out with my kids on the beach. Personally, I never thought much of beaches and viewed a trip to the beach as mostly a hassle – carrying a bunch of stuff to and fro, getting sand all over the car, greasy sunscreen, getting too hot under the sun, etc. But seeing the kids enjoy dipping their toes in the water, build all kinds of sand structures, and curiously point out random things washed up ashore, it’s easy to see why beaches are a great spot to spend time with family.

If by this time next year we’ve logged at least three or four beach trips as a family, I’ll be very pleased. Whether it’s Florida, the Caribbean, Maine, Jersey Shore, Delaware, etc., it won’t be easy getting out there but I’m sure it’ll be worthwhile.

Parting Mantras & Gratitude

Throughout the year, I found myself coming back to a handful of mantras that kept me grounded.

“Nothing is easy” is a reminder that there are no real freebies or short cuts in life and that doing worthwhile things like raising children or running a business will always present challenges and hardships.

“Prioritize, execute” is a saying I read in a Jack Carr book in 2022 that stuck with me and was constantly top of mind when the sheer volume of tasks in life and work felt overwhelming. I make good use of legal pads, jotting down even the most menial to do task and crossing them off one by one.

“Something is better than nothing” is a mindset I embraced with my time as I tried to fit in small blocks of writing or quick workout sessions throughout the year. I’ve been able to keep my weekly newsletter streak going and also commit to a daily workout habit. I don’t need my sessions to be perfect, I just need them to happen.

None of these sayings would have meant much without the foundation that supported me all year long: my health, my family, and my friends. I’m especially grateful to my wife Melanie because she makes so many things in our family possible. I also feel very blessed that I’ve stayed healthy, maintaining high levels of energy throughout the year. I don’t take health for granted and truly do believe that health is the most important form of wealth.

With gratitude, signing off on another year.


  1. Jay Mung says

    Beautiful annual review Peter. I enjoyed reading about the various investments you’ve made in yourself, especially the coaching. We could all benefit from such things. Congrats on another year and wishing you well for the year ahead.

  2. Really inspiring Peter!

    Congratulations on the new addition to the family and thanks for sharing so openly. Here’s to continued success in 2024!

  3. Solomon says

    Nicely handled Peter!
    I’m glad we got to connect virtually before the end of 2023.
    I appreciate your thoughtfulness, self reflection, and desire to constantly improve areas of your life.

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