Corey Haines
January 1, 2024

2023 Year In Review

2023 was a year of extreme highs and lows.

I already affectionately refer to it as my quarter-life crisis. I feel like I lived a decade in ‘23.

I like to follow James Clear's annual review template, which leads you through answering three questions:

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go so well this year?
  3. What did I learn?

If you have a question about any of this or feel like there's an important piece of information missing, please do let me know and I'd love to fill it in as it probably a simple oversight.

What went well

The crowning achievement of the year was starting Conversion Factory, an agency-on-a-subscription with my friends and cofounders Zach Stevens and Nick Loudon. The launch in July went magnitudes better than I could have hoped. We have an awesome client roster, are doing work we’re really proud of, and having fun with it all.

In August, I attended an in-person bootcamp in Atlanta to learn to code. I wrote about my experience and what I learned here. Learning to code had been a goal for a few years, and a live bootcamp was the catalyst I needed to jump in. It’s pretty amazing what you can learn in just 2 weeks if you’re willing to focus and burn the candle at both ends for a short time. I built an app called Work User Manual while I was there and am now working on another app that I pre-sold a subscription for shortly after returning from the bootcamp.

I picked up a new favorite hobby: Jiu Jitsu. I did Tae Kwon Do as a kid and always wanted to get back into martial arts eventually. After doing some Krav Maga for a few months, I decided to switch to Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai. But Jiu Jitsu has been my main passion, training 2-3 times a week. It’s an amazing sport and I’m absolutely obsessed to the point of trying to get all of my friends and family into it too. I wrote about it here.

In a similar vein, I’ve gotten into a really good rhythm with my fitness routine overall. Lifting weights a couple times a week, playing pickleball and volleyball, doing more stretching and mobility exercises. I completed my first Murph on Memorial Day and finished under an hour (without a weighted vest).

For reasons I’ll get into in the next section, I did a lot of therapy and counseling this year. Processing thoughts, emotions, and experiences has never been a strong suit, so I’ve always avoided it either directly or indirectly. Investing in it has been a game-changer, though. My perspective changed when I realized it was like building a muscle. It’s uncomfortable and hard at first, but then you feel yourself making progress and appreciate the improvements you’re making to keep getting stronger.

What didn’t go well

In February I discovered that my (now) ex wife had made some very poor choices, resulting in us separating immediately and ultimately filing for divorce in June. We were together for 8 years, married for 5. Every time I try to find another way of saying it was a tough time for me feels like a massive understatement. I’ve never experienced so many different emotions — anger, sadness, confusion, depression, stress, anxiety — all at once.

I got some advice from a mentor of sorts early on in high school: “Success is mostly avoiding big setbacks: accumulating a lot of debt, getting screwed by a business partner, getting divorced.” So I graduated college debt-free, have been very careful who I go into business with, and intended to marry someone I would be with for the rest of my life. My family has been riddled with divorce, so I was especially set on never getting divorced. But despite by best efforts to reconcile, there are some things that are impossible to recover from.

I realized that I was in a haze the last couple years. I lost my sense of self. I was an unhealthy version of myself. It tested my faith, identity, confidence, and resilience. Everything. But I’m proud of the way I’ve handled it.

And I’m absolutely a better, truer version of myself on the other side of it now. I’m more authentic — closer to who God created me to be — than I ever have been. My therapist related it to the idea of resilience: the ability to withstand and recover, even become stronger, from difficult conditions. “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…”

I’ll likely write more about this at some point.

When it rains, it pours. And the same week I filed for divorce, I got laid off. I had been freelancing and doing my own thing the last couple years until I decided to go back in house to work at a friend’s company. Long story short, the vision I was sold didn’t pan out and it was short lived. It all worked out, because that lead me to starting Conversion Factory.

However, the combination of a bunch of investments and big expenses put some serious stress on my finances. Late business tax payments, divorce, getting laid off and going without a paycheck for two months while Conversion Factory got off the ground, investing in a coding bootcamp, Lasek, a minor hair transplant. I’ve made it work, but it was a giant reset button on progress I’ve made the last few years.

What I learned

My counselor recommended that I read a book called No More Mr. Nice Guy. I never say this, but it has changed my life. The nice guy believes (1) If I’m nice everyone will like me, (2) If I meet someone’s needs without asking, they will meet my needs without asking, and (3) If I do everything right, I will have a smooth problem free life. The nice guy is like a chameleon in that if they can hide their flaws and become what they think others want them to be, then they will be loved, get their needs met, and have a problem-free life. Even though it seems fairly harmless on the surface, the problem is that it’s dishonest, manipulative, and completely detached from reality. It leads to being passive, codependent, and suppressed. I was all three, and my goal is to never be that way again.

I was reminded this year that faith and purpose are #1. Faith above work. Faith above your spouse. Faith above family. Faith above friends. Faith above money. When your faith is your foundation, nothing else can rock you. But when it’s #2, something else becomes #1. And that #1 thing will never satisfy you the way that you need it to.

I’ve had to be very intentional in learning to be happy single. It’s easy to idolize marriage and put it on a pedestal as a source of happiness. God says that’s not good for man to be alone, but that doesn’t mean you should rely on it as your source of joy and fulfillment. I believe I’ll be happier and more fulfilled married, but I can be happy and fulfilled regardless.

I finally learned to cook a bit. At first I started with a Hello Fresh subscription so I wouldn’t have to shop for everything. Then I started eating carnivore and mostly focused on cooking meats. Now I eat animal-based (mostly meat, some fruits, and raw dairy) about 80% of the time and have picked up a few go-to recipes for “normal” meals. I also learned I love dates. Medjool dates in particular. I eat a lot of those now.

I also did a surf lesson. Being born and raised in San Diego, it’s always been a little embarrassing to admit that I’ve never even tried to surf. I wasn’t very successful in my first try, but I had fun and plan on surfing again.

I did a blood panel and consultation with Marek Health to learn what I can be optimizing about my health. You can see the full report here and the summary here. The main thing it did was confirm that this crazy diet of mine is actually conducive for me and my lifestyle. The other thing it did was establish a baseline for a few markers that I can look to improve. Working from home, energy is a big deal. And I’ve seen a huge improvement this year not having as many mid-afternoon crashes, waking up super tired, and being able to recover after hard workouts.

Here are the books I read this year:

  • No More Mr. Nice Guy by Dr. Robert Glover
  • The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida
  • The Biblical Masculinity Blueprint by Stephen Casper
  • Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa TerKeurst
  • Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson
  • The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger
  • Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn
  • Rule of Two by Drew Karpyshyn
  • Dynasty of Evil by Drew Karpyshyn
  • Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno
  • Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn
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