I’m not going to lie. 2017 was HARD.

It absolutely was one of the toughest years of my life, and what may seem like rainbows and unicorns from the outside wasn’t anywhere near that on the inside looking out into the world.

Here are some of the LOWlights of the year

— which is important to note, as these aren’t often shared on social media (or even on Medium) from people. There’s a tendency towards the shiny, happy people taking selfies posts (I’m guilty of that), and not enough of the, “this is what’s REALLY happening in my life,” type of thing going on. So, here is a list of rather dire things in my life this past year:

  • I had a stroke at the end of January, and it was the scariest thing that ever happened to me. There were physical and mental deficiencies, many of which I didn’t even acknowledge that messed with my entire world for much of the year.
  • I sold my business of 20 years. Wow. Although I got a healthy check for it, and I wasn’t happy working in it anymore — I still lost a very comfortable income without replacing it first.
  • I severely underestimated how I’d feel after selling the business, and how much of my self-worth was tied up in being, “the Supreme Commander,” and getting that nearly hourly dopamine hit from being the boss, and running a business operation (though I’d kind of already ‘checked out,’ several months before the sale happened).
  • I got caught in a literal fire-fight with bullets and gun fire while visiting a car dealership early in the year. It’s so weird that I often don’t even think about it — but it was very traumatic at the time.
  • My passion project, JoeVolunteer ran out of money for a while, and I lost two prestigious pitches that would have funded the operation for the next year despite preparing for them, getting the right mindset, etc. I do NOT take losing well.
  • My Mom, Brenda spent much of the year fighting stage 4 cancer. That was scary, and weighed on a lot of minds. You really need to be supportive with that, but it’s hard to watch.
  • This is intensely personal, but it can help others that may be in the same situation: I didn’t treat my marriage as well as I should have, and took my beautiful wife for granted for many months of this year. It was on me, as I didn’t do the things I should have to keep my marriage as loving and supportive. In 20 years of marriage, the first half of this year was the hardest.
  • I suffered the most acute depression of my life between April and May. Probably tied to the stroke, the business sale, stopping my daily rituals due to pneumonia, and NOT ASKING FOR HELP. It was bad…my doctor even prescribed medication for it, which I did not take, but it was there, and it was pretty shocking. I had gone through a prolonged period of mild depression back in 2014; but this one was intense, and the best word that can be used for how I was feeling on a daily basis during the time was despair.

Whew. I know. Looking back on that, the first inclination is to say that 2017 was a terrible, no-good, very bad, rotten, awful year. And in many ways, it was.

But it was also good. A lot of good things happened this year, too:

  • Most importantly, I worked with my beautiful bride to straighten out and strengthen our marriage. As bad as the first several months were, the last half of the year has been pretty magical…and I think I’ve helped to ‘crack the code’ for that (I’ll talk about it soon).
  • Related to that, my Angel and I took a trip of a lifetime throughout Italy to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Everything about it was storybook perfect.

My sweetheart and I at the colosseum at the ruins at Pompeii.
  • I FINISHED writing my first book! This was a complete labor of love, and if you follow me you probably know about it, because I won’t shut up about it. It will be available in March!
  • I stopped a crippling addiction to sodas (specifically Coke Zero), and was able to help several people do the same.
  • I’ve recovered completely from the stroke, and am literally better than I was before I had it.
  • My Mom has seemed to recover completely from her cancer, like the champ she is! She set an example that the doctors wanted to share with other cancer patients because she handled it so well.
  • I’ve also learned SEVERAL skills that made me a better, more effective person in the last year. Some of which I’ll talk about in the lessons learned from the year.

The thing is — and this is a big concept to understand:

Life isn’t just happening TO us, it’s happening FOR us.

That sounds a bit cliché, but that mindset makes all of the difference. I can look back on the year and wallow in self-pity — which isn’t the slightest bit helpful for any one.

Or I can choose to get up, dust myself off, learn from it and iterate. A phrase that I heard this year that stuck with me was,

“There is something remarkable about a person who won’t stay down.”

Part of the learning process for me is this — writing it down. To help quantify what happened, and then to pass on the lessons to others where it can hopefully help them, too.

Which brings us to this year’s LIST. These are the biggest lessons and insights I’ve gained over the past year. I’m hoping by sharing that you’ll get something from this, as well. Really, as best as I can tell — we’re here for each other, and I hope that this serves you.


****LESSONS LEARNED IN 2017 BY Chip Franks*****

10. “ALL LIFE IS PRECIOUS” has become, “YOUR Life is precious.”

I was at a Mastermind in June, and a speaker, Patrick Gentempo asked, “What is your stand? What do you believe so strongly that it defines you?”

The thought that came to mind for me was, “All life is precious.” It gripped me so tightly that it made me emotional just thinking about it. I’ve always believed that, and especially since having a son with Down Syndrome, and seeing people terminate their pregnancies when they find out their child has it.

My boy, The Amazing Alec. His life is precious. All of ours are!

But the clarifying thought that came later wasn’t JUST that all life is precious. More specifically, YOUR life is precious. It is sacred. It’s an opportunity, and it’s much too valuable to be spent just biding time and doing something meaningless.

You deserve so much more than that. We all do.

Our life is precious, and it needs to be treated as such.

9. Active Appreciation

The simplest, easiest…but maybe most profound way to improve your life is Appreciation. Specifically, getting into ACTIVE appreciation and out of entitlement (which is the exact opposite of appreciation).

Appreciation is greater than gratitude, which was my previous favorite word. That’s because appreciation is proactive versus reactive. It’s actually going OUT to be thankful for things in your life versus waiting for them to come to you.

If you take time to appreciate the miracle that is this world, it makes everything in your world better.

But that’s just an idea. It’s not real unless you actually DO it each day, and you translate this theory into reality.

This is what appears on my iPhone every night at 7pm, along with the sonorous tones of Louis Armstrong.

So, what I’ve been doing regularly that has been wonderful in my life is setting up rituals and habits to make sure that Active Appreciation in part of my life.

  • I set my iPhone to play, “It’s a Wonderful World,” by Louis Armstrong every day at a set time. When it does, I just take a mental walk through of the miracles of life, and realize what a wonderful world it truly is.
  • I also write out three things for which I’m grateful (appreciate) in my 5 Minute Journal each morning to start the day, and write out several things that I appreciate before I go to sleep at night.
  • I keep a penny in my shoe, and when I feel it move around (I never get used to it, even after three years of this now), I choose to be mindful — I think of the wonder of it all and I remember to be kind.

These are so easy to do, and also easy NOT to do. If you’re reading this and it makes sense to you, set a daily alarm on your phone as a reminder to appreciate. Just a few days of this, and you’ll feel better. It helped pull me out of the funk this year.

8. The Proper Care and Feeding of a Marriage.

This was the biggest lesson for me this year. It’s so easy to take your closest loved one for granted. We get too familiar sometimes, and can treat them worse than we would strangers.

You have to remember the love that started it, and love your partner like THEY want to be loved. “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate,” book by Gary Chapman helped with this. We tend to express love like WE want to be loved, rather than like our partner wants to be loved.

My Angel. I know, I am BLESSED (and a great salesman)!

An example of this is that I like physical affection and words of affirmation…so that’s what I had been “speaking,” to my Angel…but she prefers quality time spent together and acts of service.

If you have some misalignment in your relationship, find out which language your partner prefers, and try that with them. Just the effort will be appreciated, and you can revolutionize the way you show love to your loved one. A way that resonates with them and lets them know you care.

The second idea around this is a daily cadence, which I learned from my friend Alex Charfen. That is, a conscious effort to CONNECT each and every day, without fail. Don’t let the day go by without asking them about their day. Find out what’s going on in their world, and where they need protection and support. Move beyond the superficial.

I think the key to this is consistency. Again, it’s easy to remember this, but it’s tougher to keep it going.

If you need to do this with your spouse or loved one, I’d set a trigger to remind you every day. Laura and I have our phones set to play, “Cry to Me,” by Solomon Burke (listen to it, it’s awesome) at 8pm every day. If we’re apart, we call each other. If we’re together, we have a conversation.

Laura told me today when we were talking that relationships go in cycles. Good and bad, and that’s true, but I think these two concepts put into practice with each other can help smooth those out and make the good that much stronger. Also, if you take the advice on Appreciation above, use some of that for your spouse, and how wonderful they truly are.

7. Inflammation is at the root of most dis-ease (when the body is not ‘at ease’), and you have to fight it to stay healthy.

Having the stroke led me to some answers about health. When I had the stroke, my numbers were pretty much optimal in all regards as judged by traditional medicine. My blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate and function were all great.

But a friend, a brilliant functional doctor Thaddeus Gala said to check my inflammation level by having my doctor give me a H-CRP test (high reactive protein). A healthy number is under 1. Over 3 is high risk, and my number was a 5.6.

The theory is that chronic inflammation in your body causes a host of health problems which can include heart disease, lung problems, increased risk of cancer, skin issues, and a lot more. Check out what Health magazine says about it here.

I found some of the causes of inflammation, and it turns out that soda is one of the culprits…and that was a huge, crippling addiction of mine. Since July I’ve cut the soda completely, I’ve been eating much better, and I feel better than I have in years. I’m having another test done this week, and I’m certain that my number on that is better.

I’ve also started working with Viome, a company started by Naveen Jain that gives you the exact foods that work well with your body, and which foods you should avoid like the plague. I recommend checking them out on the web, too at Viome.com

This is a big deal, and I don’t expect you to take what I say as Gospel, but I recommend you do some research on inflammation. It can mean a lot in your life.

6. Functional Fitness and Burpees.

This year, my love/hate relationship with burpees started, thanks to my friend Joe Polish. I try to do 30 every day, usually in the morning as a part of my daily ritual. They’re the most efficient exercise I can think of — and they combine push-ups, squats, jumps, getting up and down off of the floor…if you don’t know what they are, here’s a quick article on them.

Just 10–15 will really get the blood pumping. If you can’t do 10–15, then you need to change that soon. It’s functional fitness and it keeps us viable as humans. It also starts the day off right, and you feel great for doing it.

Along the same lines, I started doing what’s called a “Primal Squat,” this year. Alex Charfen introduced them to me. That’s just squatting, all the way down near the floor, with your feet as flat as you can keep them. Do that, and hold it for increasing lengths of time. I try to do at least five of them, for a minute or so each. I can now hold them for over 5 minutes at a time, and for the first time in memory, I can touch my toes.

Functional fitness is supreme. Be able to handle your own weight with the burpees, with pull-ups (which I’m working on now) and lots of push-ups. This is so good for you. Get strong and handle your weight.

These are all easy to do for even a few minutes each day. But like things that are easy to do (burpees aren’t really all that easy, and I’m a little scared every time I do them), they are easy NOT to do.

If this resonates with you, please set a goal to start the burpees, or the primal squats each day. Try them, and put them in your schedule if you feel the benefits like I have.

5. Don’t Just Send “Thoughts and Prayers.” Really HELP your brothers and sisters in humanity.

When I was in the hospital from my stroke, I was more scared than I ever have been in my life. I was worried for me and my family.

While I was there, my family was extraordinarily sick from the same flu that caused my stroke and they weren’t able to visit me in the hospital.

I got a lot of “thoughts and prayer,” comments on Facebook…over 400 comments’ worth of them. But there were precious few actual phone calls, and there weren’t any visits from anyone until two dear friends came to my room as I was being released on the third day.

Here is my lesson from this…

I will do everything that I can do to actually HELP friends and family that need it, rather than just commenting on social media.

And it’s not usually enough to say, “If I can do anything, please tell me.” Because, 1) most people won’t want to inconvenience you, and 2) that puts the onus on them, while they’re likely not in their right state of mind to come up with things for you to do for them.

Just do a real thing:

  • Pick up the phone and call. Let them hear the care and concern in your voice.
  • Bring them their favorite meal.
  • Send them a hand-written note.
  • Visit, with the caveat that if they don’t want visitors you can leave — but they will appreciate the effort.
  • Send a gift or flowers.
  • Do something for their family who may also be worried out of their minds.

When a friend of yours is in trouble, if they’re hurting, if they have a health scare, or lose a loved one…whatever it is — reach out and actually help. They will remember it forever, and you’ll probably feel great for it, too.

Help each other. It’s what we’re here to do.


It’s cliche to say that anyone can do it…but it’s possible (well, it may not be good unless you work at your craft), but you can DO it. I’ve learned all about Amazon self-publishing, about the art of HOW to write (I think I’ve gotten better), hiring the right people to help make it professional, and some of how to actually put it into the world.

I’m excited about this, because I’ve wanted to be an author and help people through my writing since I’ve been in third grade and I sold my stories for friendship beads.

This was the year that I actually DID it, and I get to cross that off of my bucket list.

The book, “Life Lessons from Dad: 101 Ways to Lead an Exceptional Life,” (which is written a lot like this article, actually) will be released in March of 2018. If you’d like to know when it’s available for a free download from Amazon, then click this.

Also, if you have aspirations to also write a book, there’s a course that got me started and it can be found by clicking here. It’s an affiliate link, but it starts with a free course that’s valuable in and of itself. It finally got me up off my butt to actually DO IT.

3. Don’t Let go of the Last Trapeze until you have the Next In Hand (Side-hustle to full-time.)

This one is tough for my ego to take. I thought since I did well with my last business, that making money in AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT ARENA must be easy as well. Especially for…ahem…this guy.

Well, it’s not that easy. The transition is and was tough from being a full-blown business owner with a big office, employees (I prefer the term team-members), and skills I’ve learned over many years to something completely new.

Although I had specific plans of what I wanted to do, I didn’t have an already established INCOME from these side-hustles that I wanted to make full-time.

This was a mistake, and I caution those that are reading to keep this in mind.

Here are the steps I’d recommend:

1. Start a side-hustle WHILE working full-time.

2. Make it something that you feel passion in doing. Something that you were drawn to as a child, that you’d WANT to do if you had millions in the bank.

3. Pour your heart and soul into it, and see how it juices you.

4. Fail (and know that it’s a probable, and completely okay).

5. Iterate and get better.

6. Repeat the last two steps as often as needed.

7. Get checks and money coming into your account.

8. Wait for that income to replace a good 75% of your current income for a sustainable period of time.

9. Then, switch careers.

10. Don’t burn your bridges, and be able to return to your ‘bread and butter’ income if you ever want to or have to.

Mind you, I did NOT do this. Please learn from my mistake in this, and do it the right way.

2. Refine and Improve Your Daily Rituals.

Wow, this is so important. I’ve already practiced a “Miracle Morning,” from my friend Hal Elrod for several years, and I do a Daily Practice (a lá James Altucher) as well.

I thought I had it all figured out, and I was wrong.

This year, my journaling and meditation were taken to all new, and exciting heights. I also implemented what I call my Ideal Night Routine, and it’s made the perfect bookend to my day and helps ensure the next day is spectacular. It’s good, and can be found by clicking here (Warning: it will ask for your email…but it’s worth it, I promise).

I truly love my daily rituals. Here are some of the things I try to do each day:

My copy of the Five-Minute Journal.
  • Write down my dreams and downloads.
  • Fill out my 5 Minute Journal (co-created by my friend UJ Ramdas, you can get one at IntelligentChange.com)
  • Drink LOTS of water.
  • Meditate and do my ‘download.’
  • Burpees.
  • Journaling.
  • Daily Planning and Solitude.
  • Shower (where I have my laminated affirmations).

Yes, I realize that this is not normal, and I’m completely cool with that.

This year, I’m excited that I’ve learned the art of the download.

During my morning meditation, I use my journal to write down my intention for that session, and I write out what I’d like my ‘download’ to be.

The download is a direct communication from a higher source, whether you call it God, the Universe, or something else. It works with your intuition to put ideas in your head and to help with clarity.

I do it two specific times a day. Once during my morning meditation, and at night, before going to bed.

Thomas Edison famously said, “Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” I write out what I’d like to ‘download,’ for the morning, and like magic it appears for me.

The journal is key to this. Keep it nearby and write down what you’ve received.

If you give this a try, I think that you’ll like it. For me, I literally felt like I was gaining a super power.

1. Don’t Friggin’ WAIT.

“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. ‘Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you.” — Tim Ferriss

When I was being carried away on a stretcher, 1,392 miles away from my home (I checked), not knowing what was happening, scared of my mortality and whether or not I was leaving my wife and children in this world alone…

What was on my mind was, “Did I do enough? Did I leave them with something to help them?”

Life is so precarious. We like to think that WE are the ones that are immortal, that we’re the ones that can escape what’s been inevitable for everyone else in the history of our world.

And that thought keeps us from having a sense of urgency to do it NOW. It makes it okay to push the important to another day while we binge watch Game of Thrones (I do that too, so I’m not judging).

Worse, it makes it seem okay to just play along with the world and its outdated rules of how to curate a well-lived life.

Don’t Friggin’ Wait! Break free of the TRANCE of the everyday deferred life plan. Realize that the, “get good grades to get a good job to spend 40 years doing something you don’t like to FINALLY get to do what you want when you ‘retire,’” is an extremely FLAWED plan.

It’s what my friend Tom Bilyeu calls, “The Matrix.”

It’s time to break out of that.

The number one regret of the dying is that they didn’t live a life TRUE to themselves. They played by someone else’s rules their entire life, just to get to the end and realize that they don’t like the game.

My daughter Aly Googled me once in the office, and THIS picture came up. It was a little unsettling. And a wake-up call.

Don’t let that be YOU.

You know, deep down inside if you’re doing what you were meant to do on this Earth. You understand on a soul level whether you’re being true to yourself.

Sometimes, we are lucky and have a wake-up call that sets us on the right path, and helps us to start our Hero’s Journey.

If we’re not that fortunate, we just go on doing the same things, year after year and expecting a different result.

One day, there won’t be a tomorrow. And you’ll look back and wonder if what you did really mattered. You’ll have a rush of regret when you realized that you could have been so much more, and done what was in your soul to do.

What is it that YOU are supposed to do? And how can you get started?

Until you figure that out, these questions should be on the forefront of your mind.

And you need to get after it:

* Start that business.

* Have that difficult conversation.

* Write the book.

* Pursue that talent.

* Quit the job you hate (see the “Trapeze” advice above).

* SCHEDULE time with your loved ones, and create perfect moments with them.

Imperfect action and actually executing trumps the best laid plans that never get put out into the marketplace. You’re going to fail, but what happens THEN is what defines you as a person. Do you learn, iterate and try again? Or do you curl up in a ball and admit defeat?

Here’s what I think: trying and failing is better than never having the fortitude to get to the starting line.

So get there.

If you need some help or inspiration along the way, I recommend learning about, “The Hero’s Journey,” a concept coined by the famed mythologist Joseph Campbell. A great starting point in this is the movie, “Finding Joe.” Watch that, get away for a little, get still and do some thinking. The best place to get it is the website.

You may already know what it is that you can’t NOT do.

But if you don’t, then keep searching until you find the thing that sings its siren song and you have to follow.

Don’t wait to do it.


That’s it for the top lessons I’ve learned this year. I truly hope you’ve found something here that might help you.

If you have, please comment what you found most valuable. It would mean a lot to me.

Want more like this?

If you’d like more life lessons, habits, tricks, tips, and hacks, here are a couple of ways that I can help when you’re ready:

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Originally published at medium.com