My 2017 Retrospective (and 2018 plan)

Ambrose WB-Personal Trainer-Milwaukee

I did this one-hour exercise to honor my successes, highlight my opportunities, and excel this in the new year.


Last year, I broke tradition. And it worked for me. Check this out because it might work for you too.

As the “Fitness Guy”, I have been taught to assess and measure. Or said another way, look back at what happened before and keep track of what’s happening now. Then, and only then, can I help my clients work towards their goals (the future).

More recently, as the “Breathing Guy” (you can think of it as mindfulness coaching), I’ve been learning about what it means to be present.

It’s taken my self-awareness to another level.

All of us find ourselves stuck in the past complaining from time to time. But the New Year is usually about letting go (all the bad stuff) and focusing on the things we want.

On our timeline, there are three aspects:

  1. past,
  2. future, and
  3. present moment.

This exercise that all of that into consideration.

“Most people treat the present moment as if it were an obstacle that they need to overcome. Since the present moment is life itself, it is an insane way to live.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

(You can check out my previous post here: 2017)

Some mentors and mentees from 2017.
Ryan, Maria, Mary, and Klae (clockwise).

What’s a retrospective?

Last year, when I was feeling sorry about “stealing this” from Nate (thanks homey for this idea), I tried to use words like “reflection” and “review.” But they didn’t work.

A retrospective means “to look back.” That’s what I’m doing here – looking back at events that have already taken place.

Here’s what I learned about myself through this exercise:

  • What worked
  • What didn’t work
  • Wins to celebrate
  • Weaknesses to identify
  • Ways to learn and adjust moving forward

How to do your personal retrospective:

You can either pick a particular project or a period of time, and then ask yourself the following:

  • What’s working? (“What did I do right? What am I proud of?)
  • What’s not working? (“Where can you improve? What opportunities do you have to grow?”)
  • How can I adjust what I’m doing for a better result? (Specifically, where can you put your attention and energy for growth?”)

Spend about 15-30 minutes writing about each area.

(Click Here for a template to get started on your personal retrospective. You have to “copy” this file to use it.)

Ambrose’s 2017 Personal Retrospective

I’m sharing this to encourage you. I also know it’s hugely beneficial to me. After writing last year’s retrospective, I often found myself going back to what I said. It was a great measure of accountability. I’m hoping it supports you in your experience.

Question 1: What’s working? 
(“What do I do well?” What made me proud of myself?”)

Big Win #1: I became a stronger version of myself. I’m on Week 42 of a pretty cool, holistic program called KING. More important than get physically stronger, I was able to apply that discipline to other areas of my life. Yes, I’m looking better and feeling better too. But I found myself my productive all around.

This taught me a a couple of critical things:

I am what I do. That sounds so simple I’m going to repeat it another way: you are what you do. Exercise has always come more natural to me. But after my hiatus, I lost it. After a few minor setbacks, I had to learn how to check my ego and leave it in the locker room. As I sometimes hashtag, “Slow motion is better than no motion.”

My age is not a cage. I stopped giving out my age after reading The MindBody Code, by Dr. Mario Martinez. People typically guess below my biological age. And that feels good. So, what will happen when that stops? Will I feel bad? Probably. So, based on the wisdom of centenarians everywhere (people who live to be 100+), I’m not going to buy into the societal norm around getting older. My mantra has been: “Growing older is inevitable, aging is optional.”

Big Win #2: Mentoring was a vital part of my professional development. I read at least one 18 lessons on leadership from General Colin Powell every morning. Here’s one that applies to this win:

“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”  

I’m thankful for the young trainers and professionals who have come to me, this year for guidance. It’s been an honor that I’ve tried to take on humbly. At the same time, it’s lit a fire under my ass.

Teaching is the best way to learn. I would think I’d know this, after training thousands of people. It’s the way I’ve become a pretty good trainer and good. In fact, it’s the secret to excellence – committing oneself to a specialty and learning everything you know. Inevitably, someone is going to ask you to teach them. And another one. After some time, you’ll be a teacher with students. This is a knowledge I’m going to implement sooner and more often.

Show and Prove. When’s the last time you had to “show” your work? Or prove yourself? I’m reminded of the 1994 record by Big Daddy Kane (with a bevy of guests like Jay-Z and Ol’ Dirty Bastard – click here to listen).  

If student and teacher are apart of a trifecta, the missing piece would be competition. While the word has gotten a bad wrap (particularly in sports), I’m aware of the real meaning of the word: “to strive forward, together.” 

I competed this year. And I didn’t have to. But I wanted to get better.

Just like when Big Daddy Kane got fresh DJ Premier beat. Instead of going solo, he called the best rappers he knew and put them on the track! 

That’s what real professionals do. Declaring openly sets them apart from amateurs. As a results, everyone gets better.

Big Win #3: I was fit for purpose, and I did it my way. Last year, I said one of my big growth opportunities was “giving away 80% of my best coaching for free”. I focused on three areas: 

  1. Writing exclusive content in my newsletter 
  2. Publishing valuable articles on my blog 
  3. Challenging as many people as I could, for free, to improve their health and fitness.

I made all these happen.

Question #2: What’s Not Working? 
(“What Could Be Improved? What Are My Biggest Opportunities for Growth?”)

Big Growth Opportunity #1: Stick to the script, no ad libbing. In 2016, I published 61 blog posts. Last year, I only hit the publish button 34 times.  

This year, I’m going to write every day. If I miss a day, for whatever reason, I won’t miss two days without writing.

I heard from James Clear (who writes about habits) that this is the method Jerry Seinfeld used to write jokes. He wrote one joke every day. The content wasn’t his measure of success. The length of the string of “X’s” on his calendar let him know he was on the right track.

Needless to say, it worked for him.

Big Growth Opportunity #2:  Leaning into my fear of public speaking. I don’t like talking too much in public. Catch me in person, and it’s a different story. 

However, I’ve been doing more and more public speaking. Maybe you’ve seen one of my Facebook Live videos. Perhaps, you’ve seen me leading about 1,000 staff and students in a daily breathing practice over the announcements in the morning on Snap. 

It’s time to lean into to. I’m going to practice this by using this cool, new app – Anchor. Interested? Here’s my…podcast…if I can call it that: Click Here.

Big Growth Opportunity #3: Online Training. At the end of 2017, I admitted – I was struggling. In fact, I was utterly bombing. 

While I’ve done some pretty cool things as a personal trainer, group instructor, and strength and conditioning coach – I still have not figured out this online personal training thing. 

After quitting personal training in 2012, I moved into nutrition coaching. I hammered away at this craft with a couple dozen of my clients until I got pretty good at it. But when it came time to reintroduce myself to the world, I bombed. 

In a few weeks, I’m going to take my test to become a Certified Online Personal Trainer. And in eight years I’ll be able to look back at this and laugh. [Note: I’m a member of the Online Training Academy with Jonathan Goodman]

Question #3: How Can I Adjust What I’m Doing for a Better Result? 
(“What specific things can I put my attention on?”)

Action Step #1: Start charging what I’m worth.

Rationale: Time is the most valuable resource we have. It’s not about the money. When I first started training, I got paid $6 per session. It’s about what people value. I value my time. And my client’s relationship with time is much more personal than their relationship with money. I believe how we spend our time says so much more about who we are than does how we spend our money.

Action Step #2: Apply speed of implementation.

Rationale: Hesitation is the worst of all bad habits. Nothing changes if you don’t, right? I have a tendency to learn a lot, but only experiment with very little. One common characteristic of successful people: they are able to change their beliefs and do something different when presented with new, better information. I’m going to copy what winners do and see what happens.

Write Your Personal Retrospective

And boom…Another one.

Doing this exercise for the second time was interesting. It took me about one hour. And I’m sure it’s going to be one of the best things I do in 2018 (it was in 2017).

Will you try it out?

Yes, I’m challenging you because you’re worth it.

It boils down to two questions:

  1. What are you most proud of? 
  2. Where are your biggest growth opportunities?

Well…three questions:

What are you going to do about it?

(Click Here for a template to get started on your personal retrospective. You have to “copy” this file to use it.)

Let me know when you’re done. I’d love to read it. 


Ambrose WB

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