31: A Year In Review

 Values drive our actions. Our actions are an indicator of our true values, not the ones we claim to hold. I value freedom (of my time primarily, which is underpinned by other things like financial freedom), learning, growing, comfort, and authenticity (among many other things). As part of my values of learning and growing, I appreciate the perspective that comes from stopping every year around my birthday to reflect on the past 12 months, to take inventory on what occurred, to see if it aligns with my values and my goals, and to celebrate the good and help design the future. I’ve been doing this publicly via this blog for the past 6 years now, and I cherish each historic year’s reflections as mile-markers of where I was at that time. It often feels a bit indulgent, especially to make it public, but I realize how infrequently I slow down to be grateful for more than what happened in the recent past. So, this is my annual birthday gift to myself (as well as, apparently, a great learning tool for people in my life to get the wrap-up report on the year). So here goes: a CliffsNotes version of November 13, 2014 –November 13, 2015:

 My personal mantras for the year were abundance, fun, exploration, peace, growth, authenticity, love, wellness, and freedom (clearly abundance was one of them as there are an abundance of mantras). I thoughtfully choose these mantras each year and craft my goals around them, then write a narrative version of those goals, which helps me to envision the integration of them as they will be lived out. In re-reading that narrative, I was struck by this which I wrote, “For years I’ve defined success as freedom: the freedom to make choices because I have the financial ability to do so. The freedom to be myself, and to be confident about who I am in every environment.  The freedom to learn, travel, grow, start and expand businesses, make choices of my time that suit me and not others, and the freedom to love and make mistakes because they are opportunities to grow.” Spot on. I could conclude this annual review with that sentence alone as it truly encompasses my journey during age 31…but I won’t.

During my season of goal planning at the end of 2015, I felt the urge to make a vision board, too. In looking back at in now, I was amazed that to a T, most of the things on the board came to life. I even forgot about some of them like a picture of Macchu Picchu, where I’ll be spending the holidays this year.

When I kick-started 31, I wanted it to be a beautiful expansion of the great year that 30 was.  I settled more into myself and my own skin and came more to terms with the fact that not everyone has to like me for me to be happy.

So what actually happened over the last 12 months? Here goes:

 I kicked off the year with a birthday party blowout at STK and rented a couple rooms at the W to celebrate in style with my friends (after all, some of my favorite things are bringing people together, celebrating, and dressing up). Travel was the contstant this year. Started off 31 in Austin with my family for Thanksgiving. Headed from there to San Antonio to see the Alamo, explore, and deepen my relationship with my Aunt.  Decided pretty quickly never to return to San Antonio. Based on my plan to eventually spend about 3 months each year in San Francisco, I started working towards that goal that by spending a couple weeks there for the holidays. I deeply explored the city, invested into friendships and family relationships, worked, and took a Transendental Meditation course.  I ultimately spent a cumulative month in SF in 2015.  Headed to NYC in January for a girls weekend filled with Broadway, great eats, laughs, and an epic sorority reunion.  Craving a warmer climate, booked a last-minute trip to Jamaica with some of my girls, and this trip included a potentially idiotic ‘adventure’ to the countryside to see the caves with a complete stranger, multiple beach headstands and gymnastics, and glorious sunsets. Soon after, was back Stateside and drove up to the North Georgia Mountains for a Global Shapers weekend retreat which is always a fun time with friends. Next stop Vegas for a whirlwind party weekend for a friend’s 30th. Baltimore beckoned next as the pendulum swung to tragedy, and I flew in to support a friend in her time of need. With her loss still on my mind and in my heart, changed gears and hopped over to Houston for one of my favorite things: an Indian wedding (and even saw the rodeo).  Next up: Curacao with a beloved friend from Oregon to study the oldest Temple in the Western Hemisphere, spend Passover with that community, and play on the stunning beaches. Ready for some more time in San Francisco, I headed back to get deeper in the community there and (much out of character) to dog sit for French Bulldog Sabrina. Sonoma and Scottsdale came next for a long-awaited college girlfriend reunion of hiking, relaxing and catching up. After finding an irresistible $39 fare to DC, that came next to celebrate the birthday of my buddy and catch up with some friends, family and business folk. Straight from there back to NYC for the “second quarter sorority reunion” and for general fun and business endeavors. Hopped a flight from there to Denver and spend a beautiful long weekend in the mile high city, hiking in Boulder and exploring the area.  Was invited last-minute to join a “conference” called Breakout in Detroit in June and did so, open to new people and experiences, and fell in love with the city, the organization that hosted the gathering, and the people involved. Craving some time with the Atlanta girls, we headed to St. Simon’s Island for a relaxing beach weekend. Shortly thereafter, we drove to Nashville to celebrate the 4th of July, honky-tonk style (which is not my style, but I can play the part for a weekend). Wanting to go deeper with Detroit and explore some investment opportunities, headed back there with a wonderful new friend. We even crossed the border to Windsor, Ontario, and got accosted and searched by border police (so much for ‘Canadian nice’). From there went back to NYC to throw a party with said friend and as you may have guessed, host the ‘3rd quarter sorority reunion’ and get some great time in with friends and business contacts there.  Ready for some sunshine (it being August and all), migrated South to Acapulco and spent a week in the sun, on a lazy river, and reading poolside (oh and getting what I like to call ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’). Feet back on US soil, headed to Edenton (a lake area outside Atlanta) for the kickoff retreat for my new LEAD Atlanta class for a weekend of bonding and learning.  Next up Baltimore for the launch of Network Under 40, then straight to Chicago, primarily to celebrate a best friend’s bachelorette. Straight back to Baltimore for a night with my parents, then a train to DC for some quality time with extended family and a nice combo of work and play meetings.  And then naturally, why not go back to Baltimore, this time to celebrate the marriage of my ‘non-biological brother’.  Home for a minute before going back to my birthplace (Philly) for a wonderful few days at the Forbes Under 30 Summit. One night home and back to Baltimore for the next round of Breakout. Ready to be in the South for a minute, headed to the coast to Charleston for the wedding of my sorority ‘big sister’, my first lesbian wedding (so beautiful)! Then a trip for which I’d long-awaited: Rwanda and Kenya to explore, safari, and support a friend’s great work there. Nearing my birthday, took a flight to Miami to board a cruise for Summit at Sea on Friday the 13th, my 32nd birthday.  Tired? Me too. But in the most fulfilled sort of ways. (Which is great because in a matter of days I go off again to Belize, Chicago, and Peru.) Think I value travel (and the relationships I can grow/develop while doing so, as well as the learning and perspective it offers)—you’d be correct!

Even in the rare weekends I was home in Atlanta, I was able to hosts friends from afar and show them (or remind them) why I love my fair city.

Weddings have been a staple every year for basically the past 10 years, and this one was no different, celebrating that milestone with 5 couples (and sadly having to miss one of a life-long friend).

Published something like 15-20 articles with Entrepreneur and Forbes (a fave was this one about the things my dad has taught me as a surprise birthday gift to him).  I even had the #1 trending article on entrepreneur.com at one point. Was the guest on 2 radio shows, a handful of podcasts, and a TV show. Got a mysterious email from a marketing agency in LA, asking me to be a paid speaker for their Toyota Scion event, and shared fearlessly about my failures and the power of authenticity in relationship building.  Spoke on numerous panels as well as to a class of 9th and 10th graders about entrepreneurship. Was featured in the Huffington Post, Inc, and other national publications.

Met Kelly Osbourne (and loved her).

After learning Transendtenal Mediation, work hard to do it 2 times each day.

Met a diamond dealer who let me play with a 7 karat diamond…and ruined me forever on anything smaller.

Signed on 4 new franchises for Network Under 40, launched 3, have had success with 2, and celebrated 1 year with the Atlanta Over 40 franchise. Atlanta Under 40 hit record attendance numbers with 600 (and that was when we capped ticket sales).

Shifted gears from about 80% of my time on Equitable Payments to about 50% (and felt fulfilled by this shift).

Paid a visit to the largest homeless shelter in Atlanta and designed a plan to help with some of their pressing needs.

Got cultural and saw the Nutcracker and Les Miserables.

Invested time with my two nieces who live in SF, spending Christmas with them and taking them on their first horseback ride.

Made a decision to “date like a man” (which means, to me, to keep dating light and not to tie myself to one person too soon, keeping my options open with ‘multiple burners’ going, dating a few people at a time as I see fit–all while being upfront about this with said men).  It was surprisingly liberating, and resulted in a surge of confidence. Have joked that I’m the UN of dating, and this year was no different with 2 Persians, 1 Nigerian, 1 Parisian, 1 Irishman, 1 Israeli, and even a couple Americans.

 Because I had a beautiful white dress that needed an occasion to be worn, I threw a giant white party… and ‘wore it better’ than Caitlin Jenner did.

 Did a 90s flashback and saw Boyz II Men and Counting Crows in concert.

After a year of lazy car shopping, I showed up at the Audi dealership for the first time and wore down the salesman until midnight on the last day of the month to give me a great deal on a new car.

After being mis-diagnosed as having Celiac disease, I excitedly re-introduced gluten into my diet after 13 months G-free. Thank goodness because gluten is delicious.

Felt athletic by proximity when I attended multiple professional sporting events.

Read 28 books (and reread several more), which subsequently is the exact same count as last year and again, all non-fiction books.

Wore a sari (which I learned is impossible to put on oneself).

Went to the best drag show I’ve ever seen.

Along with 3 friends, designed and hosted Atlanta’s first charity comedy roast roasting the city (and sold it out).

 Saw a screening of the new Magic Mike movie (along with Jada Pinkett Smith and a bevy of male strippers).

 Met Bubba Watson’s former coach and semi-successfully convinced him to give my parents a private lesson.

 Welcomed lots of friends’ babies into the world.

 Celebrated 8 years of home ownership, 7  years of being self-employed, and 9 years out of college. Also marked 4 years of Network Under 40 and 6 years of Equitable Payments.

More deeply embraced delegation and outsourcing as I continued to lean on the help of my marketing partner, franchisees, accountant, bookkeeper, pet sitter, and housekeeper.

Stuck to an aggressive financial plan around earning, saving, and investing.

Took thousands of black and white photos.

Cooked more (in the rare times I was home).

Leaned more on writing, not just for public digestion, but also for my own use as a processing tool.

Loosened up a little and starting treating myself to some personal luxuries.

Concentrated on being in the moment and being present.

My yoga practice (quantity) dropped off, but didn’t go away.

Worked to continue to appreciate what is, and not lament what isn’t in life.

Worked on some deep-seeded insecurities…and made progress.

I thought 30 was an incredible year, and it just scratched the surface of 31. Looking much forward to the adventures of 32! Thanks for being a part of this journey with me.


  1. Just seeing this–thank you Tori!

  2. Girl, you never cease to amaze! Wish you all the best in 2016 too!

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