2021 Year in Review

2021 Year in Review

“Fall seven times, get up eight”

Welcome to our first year-in-review.

(If it is valuable, maybe it will become an annual thing.)

Why am I doing this?

It’s been a unique year, strategically and tactically. I want to review our plans and accomplishments as well as some of our many stumbles. And I want to do it in front of you.

You are our reason for serving.

(This post began as a Responsibility Community Newsletter. It’s about 2300 words and takes 12 minutes to read. Hopefully, 12 minutes of value and entertainment.)

An apparent Japanese proverb says “Fall seven times, get up eight.” This proverb lends a Responsibility-thinking theme to our 2021 review.

2021’s path was set in late 2020

As it did for so many businesses, the pandemic gave us lots of opportunity in 2020 to ask ourselves what we are doing and why, repeatedly. All the fun and easy speaking gigs had dried up. The glitz of international travel was gone.

The pivot to selling virtually-delivered workshops was challenging (read: no fun). In fact, after making substantial investments in marketing virtual public workshops – which at first were successful, and then registrations dwindled – we stopped.

Yet, we believed the world could use the value we offer more than ever.

So, we chose to put our efforts into creating value for the entire Responsibility Community.

Late in 2020 we stumbled across an ultra-high-integrity approach to email marketing from Tiny Little Businesses. We loved it and dove in, reading all their free content, taking some of their courses, and implementing some of the plays in their playbook.

In December 2020 we made a public commitment. We announced The Pivot to a new way of providing value. We also then announced our Declaration of Intention.

(Talk about falling down and getting up. We’re a thirty-year-old company falling down again, and getting up again.)

Our new commitment is to be a serve-first operation.

What does serve-first look like?

We didn’t exactly know what this serve-first approach would look like for us.

(It looked great on the Tiny Little Businesses website and in their content, but we were miles behind in understanding and executing. And, we were facing a total makeover.)

We knew it meant writing.

Writing lots of content, much of it in the form of free email series. These email series are multi-day guided adventures in some aspect of Responsibility-thinking that our community members can choose to take. More about these series below.

We also knew that it meant operating at the highest level of humanity, respect, and integrity regarding what we do with your email address and how we speak to you. So we tightened up our policies and our CRM settings. We removed a lot of unengaged followers from our email list.

And we set out to create content that you want to open, read, and yes, click.

We already had two vlog series that you like (according to the high open and click rate, and your feedback and questions). We chose to continue these at the beginning of 2021.

We produced the following in the first few months:

And then we fell silent.

Life happened

You didn’t get anything from us for nearly three months in late Spring and Summer. Why?

A long-standing cyclical health issue flared and I had limited inspiration, focus, and creativity. My teammate Joseph Thomas and I kept collaborating as we were able on the new strategy. He carried me in terms of remaining inspired and committed.

We just weren’t producing vlogs or email broadcasts.

Finally, I felt alive enough to get back in the saddle.

(Fall seven times, get up eight.)

I wrote the long-form newsletter turned blog post Be Bigger Than Any Problem. In that piece I confessed my health issue and shared my personal philosophy of being bigger than any problem.

(Note: Since all problems are conceived and defined in the mind, you get to determine how big – or small – a problem is.

I can’t think of a more attention-sucking problem in my life than this one. Yet, I am at peace with it. I am not my body’s illness. However, it is mine to own.

It’s been an amazing spiritual journey. I have more gratitude and joy for life than ever. And I have tremendous compassion for myself, especially when I don’t feel well.

I am very easy on myself.

Nor have I given in to the pesky condition. I intend to be healed, whole, and healthy. I surround myself with a carefully chosen wellness team and friends who support me completely.)

From there we produced a long-form newsletter that contains some newish thinking about how to explain coping below the line versus growing above the line. We turned that newsletter into a blog post called Respond or React.

We followed with the vlog Responsibility Answers: How do I say no?, the vlog Space: Be, Do, Have (on the three conditions of existence and how we use them in our thinking and language), and the long-form newsletter turned blog post Breaking Up Well.

You seemed to acknowledge this new approach with higher open and click rates, lower opt-outs and spam complaints (which were already very low), and more questions.

Thank you. That’s rewarding.

Many more vlogs exist in the Space series and in the Responsibility Answers series. It’s fun to go to the Resources page and click the Responsibility Answers tab to see the various questions. You can do the same with the Space tab.

Meanwhile, collaborating in the background, quiet as mice

We remained fascinated with the serve-first approach to marketing and have only begun to scratch the surface of what we are learning. We would study a little, fumble around with what that meant for us in terms of planning and execution, and then create a little.

(Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat. Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.)

We have lived at the edge of our comfort zone all year. This type of significant change is confronting.

And, we know that there is no effective change without disturbance.

Are there results that matter?


For our first project we iterated on our already-existing 2020 email series turned blog post called Responsibility Immersion Why and Who. It became a longer and more valuable email series. We renamed it Responsibility Immersion What, Why, and Who.

That series is now available 24/7/365 from the Responsibility Immersion page.

In part, this new series contributed last summer and fall to one of the easiest and most stress-free recruitment and registration periods ever for Responsibility Immersion. This was gratifying, happening so close to the beginning of our serve-first journey.

Next, we undertook a huge (in hindsight) project with a high degree of uncertainty and complexity. We felt the potential value and learning curve were worth it.

That project was to create a 6-week email course product (supported with live group mentoring Zooms and a Slack space) titled Launching Your Responsibility-Thinking Practice. The project includes all the operational and promotional pieces around it.

This product meets a long-standing intention to offer an entry-level self-study product for busy professionals who have never heard of The Responsibility Process and who want to take charge of their lives.

It’s also part of a social media advertising play to reach every free corner of the globe. We followed a framework we learned from Tiny Little Businesses Momentum Builder Workshop.

And because it is a paid advertising play — and we have no competency in that area — we wanted help from some experts.

It was a good thing that we had been talking with Shore360 for a couple of years about helping us with various activities. Their digital marketing group – ShoreDigital – stepped right up and immediately demonstrated competency. They understood our flows, set up tracking and analytics, and developed a plan for low-cost learning. This way we could spend just a few hundred dollars at a time on advertising and learn what part of the flow was working well and what part required improvement.

It’s been an excellent experience with Shore Digital. They are part of the team now.

(It reminds me of an old partnering principle: Start early. That means start building relationships before you need them.)

As part of the flow we also created a free 4-day email series to introduce the email course. The free series is called Responsibility-Thinking: From Coping to Growing.

We continue testing and iterating both the email course and the free email series. We’ll have more news about these in the Spring.

Lastly, we developed a 4-day Welcome email series for newcomers to the Responsibility Community. The purpose of this series is to build relationships with new community members.

(Start early.)

The Welcome series introduces the Responsibility Community, The Responsibility Process®, The Responsibility Company, and provides a summary of Responsibility-thinking products and services.

This just in

A serve-first approach calls for less click-bait and ethical bribes (that is, freebies in exchange for your email address so we can immediately send you “buy now” emails). So we are starting to evolve this site to reflect this.

In just the last week we have altered the Resources section to eliminate all the ethical bribes. Some of these will reappear as free email series adventures.

And that means we no longer require an email address in exchange for downloading The Responsibility Process poster. We are busily converting all 27 language translations into our new branding. Many are already done and available as an immediate, unprotected, download.

We’re also adding version information in the footer and switching to the three-letter ISO code for country-name in the filename and version statement.

We hope and assume all of this makes it more convenient for you to grab a current poster PDF. It might also be easier to tell a friend about downloading the poster if you know they don’t have to opt in.

If all of these changes are in a positive direction for you, then I think you have more goodness to look forward to.

Looking forward

What’s going to be new and different?

Responsibility Immersion — now in its third year — continues to grow and delight participants as they consciously transform their lives. More on that below.

We’ve only just begun understanding and implementing this new all-encompassing and all-consuming serve-first approach. There are so many distinctions and nuances.

We continue to explore and learn new competencies. We are beginning to see new rhythms emerge.

So, we will continue.

I can only imagine where we’ll be with it a year from now.

I think you can expect more website changes as we re-imagine the customer journey and guide visitors to find valuable information and adventures.

You can certainly expect more free email adventures. We’ve already conceived of more than we know how to prioritize. But you might expect an email series or two around our usual themes of

  • Change and Responsibility,
  • Leadership (and Responsibility),
  • Teamwork,
  • Agility, and
  • Teaching Responsibility

And maybe another email course or two. Who knows?

I hope all of this is worth staying around for.

More delights

The phone started ringing (well, emails started arriving) around March 2021 with requests for virtual keynotes and mentoring. I’ve done a bunch of virtual keynotes for audiences worldwide this year to excellent reviews and participant feedback. I also supported a number of mentoring clients to take charge of their lives by breaking through pesky problems.

I accepted a challenge to support the senior executive leadership team in a global business to come together as a team in this “post”-pandemic environment.

(I’m not sure we are past the pandemic at this point.)

Yes, I’m flying to support clients again after eighteen months of not stepping foot in an airport.

And, I’ve enjoyed being interviewed for a number of podcasts.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this year-in-review. It was therapeutic for me to retrospect.

What have I learned?

Now, a year into this serve-first journey, I have at least one meaningful answer to the question “What does serve-first look like?

It looks like repeatedly catching ourselves being self-serving (which I have a long pattern of indulging in: Hey, here’s what’s great about us and Responsibility! Click now!) and stopping. Then asking the question “What would the Responsibility Community find valuable?” And a few more probing questions:

  • Is this really valuable for our audience? Why?
  • How can this be about them instead of about us?
  • Why would they want to read this?

Dozens of times I would be pairing with Joseph Thomas on a piece of content and discover that we were unconsciously following our pre-pivot scripts (Look at us and our products. Aren’t we cool?!). While each catch was momentarily frustrating and humbling, we simply applied the Catch Sooner game to re-orient ourselves.

What’s Catch Sooner?

Catch Sooner is one of the three Responsibility-thinking tools featured in The Responsibility Process book. Find a brief overview of it from either of these vlogs:

Whatever you want to take ownership of and change, the Catch Sooner game will support you.

Until next time.

Try us

Consider joining the Responsibility Community. (It’s all-content and no-selling).

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