2017 is (finally) over.

I know that people like to think of a new year as a blank slate for a new set of dreams, goals and possibilities. I’ve never been one to think that way. But this year, I hope those people are right.

There were a lot of good things to take out of this year from a business standpoint: Diligentia had its best year yet, which included two of our best months in our nine-year history, and my Master Class on mining open source intelligence (which launched in late 2016) continued to gain momentum and provided some good (much-needed) passive income.

But on a personal level, it was a totally different story. Some personal and family health issues absolutely sucked the life out of me for months at a time. All of this was happening while I was doing a renovation on a new house that we bought back in August, which sucked more time, life and money out of me than I could have ever imagined.

So after taking the past few days to do a bit of a self-audit on my year and my plans for 2018, I’m determined to make this a better year.

Here’s what I am going to do.

Do Less Work

I’m a perfectionist.

And probably a workaholic.

I can’t tell you how many early mornings, nights and weekends I have worked this year. My routine for about four straight months was to be at my office at 6 am and home around 9 pm. Weekends were my downtime – I would put in only eight-hour days. Most of the rest of the year was much better, but not that much.

I justify it by telling myself it’s what I need to do. And that it’s going to pass. But I can’t keep that pace. Nobody can.

I need to delegate, turn down work and focus on the things I need to focus on. And get out of the office more.

Here’s the thing – I love doing the work. I really enjoy running my business as well, but doing the work is what gets me up in the morning. That mentality has probably kept my business from growing as fast as it should, but hopefully, doing less work may actually change that.

More Face-to-Face Time

Yesterday I spent a few hours trying to get a better understanding of where my new clients were coming from. Turns out that 95% of my new client income came from either personal or professional referrals (2016 was at about 80%). That’s a staggering number. I kind of knew that in the back of my mind, but that number just blows me away.
How do I continue to build on that?

Part of it has to do with continuing to build my professional brand via writing (more on that below) and social media, but a lot of that has to do with meeting people face-to-face. Traveling (or just being out of the office) can be a drag, but it’s necessary and I need to make the time for it.


Maybe I have had too much on my plate these past few years, but I find myself not being able to stay as focused as I used to. It could be the 20 times per hour that my phone alerts me about some useless piece of information. Or the dozens of news sites I check daily to make sure the world hasn’t imploded. Or it could be the onset of adult ADHD.

Whatever it is, I am determined to not let that affect me this year. I’m not exactly sure how I am going to do that, but it might be a combination of listening to music for concentration, planning my day ahead of time, breaking my day into smaller chunks and getting more sleep (thanks to my trusty Fitbit, I know that I got about one hour less sleep per day in 2017 compared to 2016).


Two years ago, a week after I turned 40, I decided that I had to do something about making myself a more healthy human being. I joined a local CrossFit gym and have been going pretty religiously since that time. CrossFit is certainly not for everyone, but it fits my competitive, goal-based mindset perfectly.

At times, I have certainly fallen off the wagon, but I need to keep it up. Not just to give me the energy to get through the day, but for the benefit of my future self.

Read Less AND More

I read two newspapers every morning. I check my favorite news websites dozens of times a day. I subscribe to hundreds of blogs. I like to be informed enough to keep up with world news and topical events, but it’s just too much. That needs to be pared down. For the sake of my sanity.

Even though I should be reading less, one thing that I have not done much of in the past year is read long-form articles and books. It’s something I need to do more of. In part, because I find so much inspiration in reading long-form work. And although I mostly concentrate my long-form reading on business and fraud-related topics, it really doesn’t take all that much for ideas to start percolating when I am reading long-form work.

Write More

In 2017, I wrote fewer blog posts (I wrote only eight) than in any other year. I also contributed less to PursuitMag.com, PI Magazine and ACFE than in years past. I used to write a blog post a week and contribute about a dozen articles a year.

Not only is writing therapeutic (it helps me gather my thoughts and ideas), but it has been an integral part of my success over the past nine years. It’s gotten me several speaking engagements and invited to lead some training seminars. It’s put me on a list of top private investigator blogs and produced hundreds of thousands of page views and dozens of clients, and it landed me on the set of American Greed last year – a show that I have watched for years.

So why did I stop?


But that’s not a good excuse. I need to find the time.

Starting with this post right here …

So what are you going to do to make 2018 better?


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8 replies
  1. EJM Investigations
    EJM Investigations says:

    Happy new year to my transatlantic colleagues. I totally agree with you that loving this job can restrict business growth. Wanting to be out on the ground, doing the actual work on every job can really restrict growing your business.
    I must concentrate this year on making time to sit at the desk and actively promote my business.
    All the best!

  2. Frank Bruno
    Frank Bruno says:


    I personally have reverted back to the basics this year and dusted off my copy of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey. In 2018 it’s all about truly living out these habits. And remember “our lives change when our habits change-Matthew Kelly”
    Best of Health & Happiness and Sharpen the Saw (#7) is a must !

  3. Charles-Eric Gordon, Esq.
    Charles-Eric Gordon, Esq. says:

    As always, Brian, you have some great ideas. I will copy some of them myself (especially on limiting constant news intake and getting out of the office and meeting people more).
    If only I had your insight twenty years ago.
    Best wishes to you and your family for a happy, healthy, successful and safe 2018.

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