I discuss my successes in 2016 and how I design, find time for and stick to my New Years resolutions year after year. 

Subject: New Years Resolutions

Length: 1756 words, 12-15 minutes read

Diogenes PepeWelcome back! 2016 was quite a year, wasn’t it? Brexit, Trump and countless celebrity deaths, a true rollercoaster of year. But remember, if you’re not riding the wave you’re drowning under it. If you feel like 2016 kicked your ass, here’s the secret to turning a tough year into a plus. And believe me, you’re going to need it for 2017. It’ll make 2016 look like a cakewalk.

For me, 2016 was the first year of running my business and competing in the free market. It has been exhilarating. I finally feel as though I’ve found a path for myself, an occupation that is both challenging and rewarding in equal measure. Not to say that I’ve mastered it, I still have much more to learn and accomplish. But they say most small businesses fail in the first year, so I’ve at least passed the first hurdle.

And the secret to my success? Failing almost every New Years resolution I set for myself. No really.

I reject the “SMART” model for goal setting, specifically the A – attainability. I intentionally set hard mode goals. Having achievable goals leads to complacency. An artist should never be wholly satisfied with his work, or he’ll never advance beyond that point. It’s cliche but true: aiming for the moon is the best way to reach the stars.

Maybe you think I’m just making excuses for myself. But reserve judgement until you see the list of stats I’ve compiled on my successes in 2016. I had two major directions for goals in 2016: improve my business and improve my education.

Business successes

  • Formed Bancho Ltd
  • Designed and built the company website, www.bancho.co.uk
  • Designed and built this blog, www.strangemoderncowboy.bancho.co.uk
  • Wrote 20 blog articles (including this one, which was written in 2016)
  • Designed and built our first app, Self Discipline Sensei
  • Launched Self Discipline Sensei on 4 platforms: PC, Mac, iOS and Android
  • Designed, built and wrote the Self Discipline Sensei sales page, www.selfdisciplinesensei.com
  • Set up sales system so PC and Mac versions are purchasable directly from the sales page. Set up merchant accounts with Apple and Google.
  • Set up A/B test system for sales page and tested variations
  • Started Google ads campaign
  • Created mailing lists and newsletter campaigns
  • Made money! Survived 1 year!

Educational successes

Japanese study

  • 3088(!) new Japanese words memorized via Anki
  • 81 new kanji memorized (bringing total from last year up to 1841)
  • 84 grammar rules memorized


Drawing stack

4 sketch books filled with practice, 50 sheets x 2 sides covered x 4 = 400 pages of drawings.

Compare this page from the start of the year, with this page from the end, to see the improvement. And here’s a comparison with two finished pieces, left from Feb, right from Dec.

Lecture series completed


– Maps of Meaning – Jordan Peterson, University of Toronto

– Personality and its Transformations – Jordan Peterson, University of Toronto


– An Introduction to Formal Logic – Steve Gimbel, Gettysburg College


– Soren Kierkegaard  – University of Copenhagen

– Thinking Through 3 Dialogues by Plato – University of Singapore

– Free will, empiricism, the works of Aristotle – Stephan Molyneux

– Buddhism and spirituality – Alan Watts (various)

Game Design

– Gamification – University of Pennslyvania


– Linear Perspective – Marshall Vandruff, Fullerton College

– Character Design for Video Games – California Institute of the Arts

– Fundamentals of Graphic Design – California Institute of the Arts


– Foundation Trading Programme – Academy of Financial Trading

– The History of Fiat Currency – Stephan Molyneux


– Diploma in Digital Marketing – Shaw Academy

– High-Impact Business Writing – University of California, Irvine

History and Mythology

– Understanding Japan – Mark Ravina, Stanford University

– “The Truth About…” Historical figures series – Stephan Molyneux

– “The Curriculum” Series 1&2 – The School of Life

Other areas of independent study (countless books, articles, etc)

– Memetic theory, politics and political history, motivation and productivity, self determination theory, storycraft and the monomyth, writing, game design, marketing, persuasion, copywriting, SEO.

– 483 Anki cards memorized from a bespoke deck, containing every cognitive and social bias, every logical fallacy, the master suppression techniques and the laws of power.


You must admit, that is not an insignificant list for 1 man over 1 year.

But, you protest, you have so much more free time than I do!

Consider that I’ve only listed completed projects here. Much of the work Bancho does can’t yet be discussed. Being able to freely arrange my time is certainly an asset, but I still put the equivalent hours of a full time job into Bancho.

And this year was restorative. I came out of a job that was draining the life from me and making me sick. At the start of the year, I had a persistent stomach ulcer, shingles and ulcers all over my tongue. I was able to do this much whilst getting plenty of rest and plenty of exercise. I’m approaching 2017 with more energy and none of the ailments that I began 2016 with.

So no excuses. If I can do it, anyone can. And here’s how.

Consider your life’s mission

In “I want to become stronger!” I talk about the importance of having a life mission, or an ideal, that you aspire to and constantly seek to move towards. It can be something abstract like ‘to become a brave person’, ‘become a well loved person’. Or something measurable, like ‘become rich’, or ‘become a great artist’. It is likely to be complex and multifaceted, these examples are intentionally simplified. It just needs to be very personal and very motivating. The thing you care about more than anything else.

Once you have your vision, you can set out a small set of steps that you can take that will move you towards your ideal in 2017. Start with an impossibly large dream and then lay out the smallest steps that you can take right now that will get you closer to it. Remember, we’re not getting to the moon this year, we just need to keep it in mind as our ultimate destination.

Having this supreme desire at the forefront of your mind will help you stick to your goals. Whenever you cringe at the thought of having to do some seemingly insignificant task for your new years resolution, remember that is is all in service to a much greater ideal.

Find the time or find the fun

One of the biggest issues people seem to have with achieving resolutions is finding the time. Those same people usually also spend 4 or 5 hours a day watching TV or playing games. The arithmetic always reminds me of the tweet to the right. The solution is right under your nose, if you can bare to look.

And I know, you’re tired. Work drains everything you’ve got and once you’re home, you’re a husk that can do little more than veg out in front of the TV. Expending more effort seems impossible, you just want to have some fun.

But here’s what you’re missing: working on these goals can be just as fun as watching TV or playing games, even more so. The trouble is that you’re facing your personal goals with the same grim determination you face work with. Try to consider ways of approaching your goals that aren’t painful.

Want to lose weight? If you hate the gym, don’t go. Take up a sport that you enjoy instead. Or rather than trying to eat less (which is impossible – you decide what you eat, your body decides how much), take up cooking and research healthy ingredients. You can lose weight without eating any less.

Want to get better at drawing? Don’t buy a tome of arcane knowledge you can barely parse and force yourself to study. Just draw whatever you feel like drawing and do it every day. You’ll improve much faster and you’ll have a good time.

This is the intrinsically motivated approach to work that I describe in “How to beat procrastination – join it!”. By finding the fun in tasks, you’ll suddenly find it much easier to invest time in them. Rather than draining your energy, these activities will increase it. And you’ll start to feel happier that you aren’t wasting so much time on meaningless consumption.

Even if you aren’t spending huge chunks of time on leisure activities, there is still a good chance you have time you aren’t considering. I mentioned in my stats that I’ve memorized over 3000 Japanese words this year alone, but what I didn’t mention was that most of that was done on the toilet. It is insane how much progress you can make just by making use of the 20 minute microbreaks in your day. Find a way to fill those tiny gaps with activity and stick to it everyday, it will add up quickly.

Sticking to it

Finding the fun and having a mission are the two biggest keys to sticking to your goals. But if you need additional assistance, you can check out our app Self Discipline Sensei. In January we’ll be releasing the totally free 1.1 edition update. This update will contain new features specifically for helping you figure out your mission and sticking to it. You’ll be given a quiz to help you discover desires and motivations that may not be consciously known to yourself.

You’ll also be guided in creating a personal mantra, a daily affirmation that will help you stick to your goals. The effect of affirmations has been described by many as ‘magical’, seeming to create opportunity from nothing. It almost seems as if repeating your mantra daily slowly changes the world until it becomes true. I highly recommend trying it.

And remember, Self Discipline Sensei already contains many features for helping you stick to your goals. You can define a list of goals and order them by priority. As you work on your goals, the timer will calculate your effort values and give you reward points. These points can be used to purchase prizes and treats that you choose yourself. Treat yourself to a meal out or a new video game once you reach a certain threshold. Rewards like this are a simple way to supercharge your motivation.

But you needn’t keep adding new rewards to stay on task. Self Discipline Sensei uses the latest research in self determination theory and gamification to make use of the app itself addictive. Know how games like Candy Crush or Puzzles and Dragons seem to grab a hold of you, making it hard to put down the phone? Well Self Discipline Sensei uses the same addiction mechanics to get you addicted to achieving your own goals!

Check out our sales page at www.selfdisciplinesensei.com for more information