2023 In Review

Personal Growth

Attempting to capture a year's worth of experiences within a single post has, once again, proven to be a challenging undertaking. I was lucky to share a multitude of moments with family, friends, and colleagues I can’t begin to cover here. However, I've learned not to let the size of the task intimidate me, but embrace it and find joy in recounting a year well-lived. I hope that my efforts do justice to the richness of the experiences that shaped the past year.

In my 2022 in review, I wrote that it was a year ‘full of new beginnings, challenges, experiences, and lessons learned’ and truthfully—so was 2023. In many ways, I hope to say the same every year. But 2023 was very different than 2022.

Dana was pregnant this time last year but we hadn’t shared the news with anyone yet. The journey of becoming a parent and then assuming the role as Dad defined 2023. It forced me to challenge old habits, re-prioritize, focus on what’s most important, and be disciplined. I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned so far and who I’ve become in the process.

Five Takeaways from 2023

  1. We all get 24 hours each day, it’s up to us how we spend them. This became an important theme for me throughout last year. Adding Mylo into the picture has forced me to be more deliberate about how I organize my day and make time for what matters to me and my family.
  2. Lean into discomfort. Over the last several months, I’ve really taken this to heart. I realized how often I put off the stuff I don’t feel like doing, which only tends to create more challenges later. Sucking it up and getting things done has proven to be the right mindset.
  3. Embrace non-negotiables. As my responsibilities have grown and life has gotten more complicated, I’ve narrowed down what I’d consider my non-negotiable habits and rituals (exercise, sleep, etc). By doing so, I’ve been able to make more progress in less time and feel more at ease, although not completely, in the process.
  4. Control the path of least resistance. My investment in building a home gym in 2022 is a good example of removing barriers to ensure I have no excuse not to exercise. Whether it was maintaining a healthy diet or getting my steps in for the day, reducing friction in my life became critical for keeping on track.
  5. Make time for family and friends. I never thought I’d work from home every day but I’ve come to enjoy it quite a bit. The only downside is not getting out and seeing people every day. It was nice to continue impromptu hangs with family, but also, deepen relationships with friends, new and old. We all have a lot going on, it’s easy to put off spending time with family and friends, but is always worth it.


Welcomed Mylo

On August 14, Dana and I welcomed our first child, Mylo Charles Ballasy. It’s been nothing short of an amazing journey, from the moment we found out we were pregnant to where we are today.

Beyond witnessing Mylo's daily growth and development, some of the most treasured moments were those leading up to his arrival. Sharing the news with our parents, discovering that my brother Nick and sister-in-law Paola were expecting their second child just a month after Mylo, cutting into our ‘gender reveal’ cupcake around our kitchen table surrounded by our close family, and lazy Sunday mornings trying to catch a glimpse of baby kicks are all special memories in their own way.

Another memory that stands out is the weekend Dana went into labor. We decided to spend the day in Lambertville, NJ, visiting the Golden Nugget flea market, stopping by a local cafe, enjoying an impromptu brunch, and exploring the surrounding neighborhood. As we walked through the flea market, Dana's belly garnered attention from several strangers who showered us with enthusiasm for our upcoming arrival. The range of comments gave us a good laugh. Looking back, there was something special about that time together as a couple, knowing our family would be growing so soon.

As new parents, there was a lot that Dana and I didn’t know (we’re still learning). Rather than feeling overwhelmed, we embraced the excitement of embarking on this journey together. From shared audiobooks to attending birthing and parenting classes at our local hospital, we consciously prioritized our time, knowing our lives would change in ways we couldn’t imagine once Mylo arrived.

Now that Mylo is here, it’s hard to picture life without his little smile. Besides getting hangry or tired, he’s a happy baby who is always making us laugh. Whether it's demonstrating how I make coffee, watching him giggle at our dog Gizmo sniffing his feet, or opening gifts on Christmas morning, we relish sharing these new experiences with him. Imagining the world through his eyes has given us a fresh perspective on life and a renewed sense of wonder, even in the most mundane moments.

I’m continually in awe of Dana. I had no doubt she’d be an incredible mom, but it’s different to experience the transition to parenthood firsthand. As for me, Mylo has already taught me so much, about my relationships, myself, and life.

I’m heading into 2024 with nothing but gratitude for our little family, Gizmo included, and the life we’re building together. I look forward to the ride ahead.


Related: BL&T No. 147: Becoming a Dad, BL&T No. 154: Mylo

Celebrated 10 years at Barrel

It was a joy to catch up with a friend over the holidays who I hadn’t seen in some time. She asked me how I’ve been and what I’ve been up to—a loaded question when you haven’t seen each other in years! I ended up sharing my experiences at Barrel, expressing gratitude for the ongoing challenges that keep me growing and discovering new aspects of my capabilities.

In July, I celebrated 10 years with Barrel. At this point, Barrel has become a part of my life. I hadn’t thought much about the significance of the milestone until I was standing in a restaurant, staring at gold balloons shaped like the numbers one and zero.

Peter, Barrel CEO/Co-founder, and Dana secretly organized a surprise chef’s table dinner for me at Vetri Cucina in Philadelphia. I couldn’t have been more surprised and confused when I arrived. Having the Barrel partners, current/former colleagues, and family gathered in one room made it a truly special occasion.

The following week, Allison, Barrel Team Experience Coordinator, surprised me with a video of team members talking about their experiences working with me. Once again caught off guard, I found myself at a loss for words.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be on this journey with Barrel and to have the ongoing love, support, and appreciation from the Barrel team and my family.


Related: https://www.lucasballasy.com/posts/blt-no-149-celebrating-10-years-at-barrel

Took a multi-week archery class

Dana signed us up for a local archery class earlier last year. We had no idea what to expect but thought it would be a nice way to break up the week and try something new.

The class welcomed a diverse mix of participants, ranging from spirited kids as young as five to adults in their 50s and 60s. Witnessing the younger generation fearlessly taking on the challenge, side by side with adults still fueled by a desire to learn and explore, proved truly inspiring. As the years pass, it requires a deliberate effort to push boundaries and rediscover the curiosity that accompanies becoming a student again. Yet, I find the impact of such endeavors is immeasurable.

This archery experience was a good reminder to stay open to new lessons, continue evolving and willingly embrace new experiences. Not to mention, it was really nice to spend time disconnecting with Dana and navigating uncharted territories together.

As a coincidence, I started reading a book called With Winning In Mind by an Olympic shooter Lanny Bassham while we were taking the classes. It helped with honing my archery skills, but also took on new meaning in different aspects of my life.


Related: BL&T No. 134: 7 Principles from "With Winning In Mind" by Lanny Bassham

Visited Fallingwater

Having met in the design program at Tyler School of Art, Dana and I share a love for art of all kinds. We both admire the work of Frank Lloyd Wright so when it came time to find a home, he was a big inspiration. Luckily, we found our version of it here in PA.

Knowing Mylo’s arrival was around the corner, Dana decided to plan a trip with friends early last year. In June, we visited Fallingwater, Wright's renowned masterpiece, and Polymath Park, a unique destination featuring homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and his apprentices, Peter Berndtson and John Rattenbury.

We stayed in a cabin deep in the woods. All you could see at night were stars. Our Honda Pilot was in the shop for a cracked windshield, so we were driving a rental. Navigating the rocky, dirt roads leading up to our Airbnb was an experience in and of itself and unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

Dana and I didn’t end up going on a trip together before Mylo was born, so we like to think this was our “baby moon.” It was a great time with friends and left me feeling inspired. I’m excited to see more of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work in the future and to go on future trips with our friends and their kids, although I know those trips will be quite different!


Related: BL&T No. 143: Exploring Frank Lloyd Wright’s Principles

Took on more home projects

The home projects continued this year, but unfortunately, most of them were not planned. We made several small improvements to make our space work better for us, but I won’t list all of those here. Instead, I’ll focus on the key highlights.

  • Roof replacement: In late 2022, one of our skylights leaked. This led to a months-long process of determining the best approach for a fix. We eventually learned that the roof was full of issues and in August, we embarked on a complete roof replacement, including all 13 skylights. For the most part, it went smooth, but of course, Mylo arrived before it was done.
  • Mylo’s nursery: We turned our guest bedroom into Mylo’s nursery and combined my office with the guest room. Dana’s parents and my Dad came to help paint Mylo’s room. It was a ton of work but we made some great memories and love how it turned out. I look forward to sharing those photos with Mylo some day.
  • Radon system: Early last year I was talking to my Dad and the topic of radon came up. I realized we never had our house tested and swiftly jumped into action. Sure enough, our tests came back with relatively high numbers. Not great. We ended up putting in a full system, later adding an additional pipe to further bring the levels down. If you don’t know much about radon and haven’t done a test in your home, I highly recommend looking into it.
  • Generator: The previous homeowners only experienced a few power outages in their several years living in the house. In a matter of a couple of months, we lost power 3 times, one on the night that Dana went into labor. Given that our house is on a well and septic, losing power means the house is virtually unusable. Just after Mylo was born, we decided to bite the bullet and get a generator installed. The funny thing is I’m kind of looking forward to losing power now.
  • PTAC machine replacements: Our house is unique in that it doesn’t have an HVAC system, but is heated/cooled by a series of gas fireplaces and PTAC units. I had never heard of a PTAC unit before living here, but they are what you often see in hotel rooms. In our house, they’re in every room, so you have full control over the temperature throughout the house. Unfortunately, two of them died last year. I learned more than I ever thought I would about PTAC systems when it came time to replace and install them. I even ended up adding a detached thermostat in Mylo’s room, a much more involved process than I expected.


Related: BL&T No. 139: The Tale of Five Roofers

Fitness & Diet

I didn’t participate in any athletic events in 2023 as I thought I might. With a baby on the way, I decided that making time to properly train would take away time from preparing for the real event with Dana. But that didn’t mean I stopped pursuing fitness. I just felt a little lost!

I started the year intermittent fasting, strength training, and doing some conditioning. Mid-year, feeling stagnant, I decided to enter a bulking phase. I ran a hypertrophy program, started tracking calories, ate in a surplus. I gained around 8 lbs and got stronger. By the time Mylo was born in August, I had run the hypertrophy program 3 times, wasn’t motivated by it, didn’t feel great, and overall, needed another change.

Looking back on my fitness journey, I felt at my best in mid to late 2020, during the pandemic. My gym had shut down and started doing Zoom classes. I was working out 4-5 times/week consistently in my small Brooklyn apartment and my in-law’s sun room at their house in Delaware. Glamorous, I know. We didn't have access to heavy weights, so the programming included a lot of HIIT and high volume sets. Given everything we didn’t know about COVID, I was extra conscious about how I ate.

I wanted to get back to a similar regimen, but include strength training. By November, I started working with Ashley, an online trainer, who worked with me to create a program that met my specific needs. It’s been positive so far and feel better than ever.

I’m currently working out 5-6 times/week with a mix of strength training, HIIT, and running workouts. I hadn’t gone out for a run in a long time, but I’m enjoying the change of pace. I’m also prioritizing 10k+ steps per day.

At this point, I’ve experimented with several different training regimens, diets, and fitness pursuits and I don’t regret embarking on any of them. Each has taught me something new and shown me what’s possible when you put in the work. I’ve had a lot of fun and believe they’re the reason I’ve been able to keep up with the new programming, stay disciplined, and make progress.

Adapting to my new routine has been a project on its own, though—I’m getting up much earlier, cooking every meal at home (besides special occasions), and getting out of my comfort zone weekly. I know I’ll need to continue to adapt as Mylo grows up and my schedule changes.

For now, my focus is on building endurance and improving my cardiovascular fitness. Long term, what I’m really after is a long and healthy life—feeling good and staying active as I get older. The way I see it is some things are out of our control, but I’ll do my best to control what I can.

Habits I tracked

  • Workout 3-4 times/week: In 2023, I logged 152 days of workouts, down from 155 logged in 2022. Despite lots of travel, a break after Mylo was born, and feeling fairly lost throughout the year, I worked out nearly as much as I did in 2022. I expect to see this number grow in 2024.
  • Do 25 Push-Ups: I started tracking this in 2021 when I was doing push ups on days when I didn't exercise, was traveling, or could use an energy boost. I stopped tracking this in October 2023. Regardless, I logged 123 sessions, down from 155 in 2022. I won’t track this in 2024.
  • Intermittent Fasting (16/8): In February, I did a 22-hour fast just to see how far I could go. I felt good. But ultimately, I stopped fasting in May when I changed my diet and decided not to commit to it going forward. I logged 77 days of fasting vs. 205 in 2022. I still fast occasionally from time to time, but I won’t be tracking this in 2024.
  • No alcohol: I logged 285 days of not drinking alcohol in 2023, up from 227 in 2022. I’ve continued to enjoy this approach and have found it’s made having a nice glass of wine or unique beer that much more enjoyable.
  • Walk 6k+ steps (new): In January, I started tracking my steps to get a sense of how much I was walking each day. I only set the goal at 6k, unsure how I’d realistically get to 10k. I eventually bought a walking treadmill to put under my standing desk. The first day I got it, I walked 20k steps. So much that my knee was in pain. After that, I cut it back and eventually only used it when I couldn’t get out for a walk. I started using it again in November with a goal to walk over 10k per day. Over the last two months, I’ve averaged over 10k steps/day every week and feel the difference. On days when I haven’t gotten my steps in yet, I feel sluggish. In 2023, I logged 314 days of walking 6k+ steps. I’ll up this to 10k in 2024.
  • With my changes in diet last year, I’m no longer tracking plant-based eating habits. Instead, I’m aiming for a well-rounded diet that includes lots of fruits and veggies, and some plant-based alternatives.

Health & Wellness

I introduced a few new habits last year to help improve my sleep. When I think about my overall well-being, good sleep is at the core. Without it, I can’t think clearly, have less energy, and tend to make poor decisions as a result.

Since I recently wrote about the steps I’ve taken to improve sleep, I won’t go into too much detail here. My main focus was more consistency in when I go to bed and wake up, even on weekends. In addition, I shifted my mindset from trying to get as many hours of sleep as possible to making sure I got the most restful sleep possible.

Beyond sleep, there were some other changes and experiments I tracked. More details on those below.

Habits I tracked

  • Social app downtime from 8 pm to 9 am: I maintained downtime all year long. I started this in 2021 and haven’t looked back. Read more about my decision here.
  • Journal daily: I logged 187 journaling session, up from 127 in 2022. I stopped being so hard on myself about not making the time, but I still enjoy the practice. Dana actually started journaling every night which often inspires me to pick it up and take a few minutes to reflect on my day.
  • No TV at night (new): It’s nice to unwind at the end of the night with Dana and a good TV show. Last year, we decided to limit it to one episode, maybe two if it’s a 20-minute Seinfeld episode. Regardless, I got curious about how often we sit down in front of the TV at night so I started tracking it. Starting in March, I logged 108 nights where I didn’t watch TV. I’ve learned that unwinding in front of the TV was more of a habit than what I actually need to unwind. Sometimes, just catching up with Dana or reading a good book is perfect.
  • Mouth-taping (new): After reading "Breath" by James Nestor in late 2022, I started mouth-taping at night during sleep. Unconventional as it may be, it's known for a wide array of benefits. Personally, it's been great not waking up with a dry mouth. I've also noticed myself feeling more energetic. I stopped doing it for a while when Mylo was first born because there was a lot of communication with Dana in those early nights! But got back to later in the year. I started tracking in March and logged 142 nights of mouth-taping.
  • Listen to Theta Waves (new): Inspired by a podcast I listened to with Bryan Johnson, a former tech entrepreneur turned aging hacker, I started putting on 4 Hz theta waves at night before bed and noticed myself falling asleep faster. I started listening with headphones, and then Dana, pregnant and having a tough time sleeping, wanted in on the action. She also noticed a difference. Since then, I've curated a playlist featuring instrumental 4Hz theta waves tracks I play each night. If Mylo gets restless, it even seems to soothe him. What started as an experiment with me and my AirPods has become a family affair. I started tracking in February and logged 212 nights of listening to theta waves
  • Go to bed by 11pm (new): I set an 11pm bedtime goal at the end of 2022, but without much of a plan to get there. When Mylo was born, that changed. With getting up earlier to exercise, I've had to prioritize an earlier bedtime. As mentioned, Dana and I also realized that our best chance for good sleep is to be in bed by a set time each night, so even when Mylo keeps us up at night, we've given ourselves more time to sleep. Of the 52 nights I logged last year, 30 of them were after August when Mylo was born. I plan to prioritize this more in 2024.
  • 2 min+ Cold Shower (new): I’d always heard there were benefits to cold showers, but it wasn’t until I listened to Dr. Susanna Søberg on the Whoop Podcast that I decided to give it a go. According to Søberg, spending two minutes per day in a cold shower is all you need to see health benefits. I promptly introduced it into my routine and for awhile, it was second nature. I started tracking in February and logged 106 sessions by October. I later learned that cold showers immediately after exercise can inhibit muscle growth. That’s when I shower most, so I decided to hold off for now. I may re-introduce it this year as a recovery tool on weekends.


Related: BL&T No. 171: Getting the Most Out Of Sleep as a New Parent


I continued with my writing practice this year but honed in on my weekly newsletter vs. separate posts on my website. As usual, I published my newsletter content on my website which equated to 90 posts (38 of which were separate posts derived from newsletter content, mostly around e-commerce). Given the focus on newsletter content, my total posts published is down from 104 posts last year. I plan to continue with this cadence for the foreseeable future.

In late 2021, I launched The E-Commerce Corner as a dedicated section to my newsletter to keep myself accountable for staying on top of industry trends as well as sharing the work we’re doing for our clients. I kept this going all year long and last month, decided to launch it as its own newsletter, sent on Fridays.

Here are some other highlights from my newsletter in 2023:

  • 71.3% average open rate, up from 67.3% in 2022
  • Added 29% more subscribers. I hoped to see more growth this year, but admittedly, I haven’t done much to make that happen. My newsletter is more of a means for reflection, so I’m comfortable with slow growth and more interested in building a list of engaged subscribers.

Beyond my writing my newsletter, I also started posting more on my social channels, particularly LinkedIn. I started doing this on my own, but now engage with Deal Bridge Media (along with Barrel CEO Peter). Their model is pretty simple—we do an hour-long interview each month and from there, they draft a pool of social posts.

Since both Peter and I have published so much content to date, we’re unique clients for Deal Bridge. Beyond the monthly interviews, Deal Bridge has access to a wealth of content on my website. Although it would be more simple to approve everything they draft, I invest several days reworking each post. I consider this process an extension of my writing practice and appreciate the diverse topics it’s inspired me to explore.

I didn’t commit to posting on social until the summer, but overall, reached nearly a quarter million impressions last year. I expect to see this grow in 2024 as I build my audience and further refine my content. Some of my most popular posts were around e-commerce, like 5 reasons you should NOT migrate to Shopify Plus and a breakdown of Recharge’s platform. But my post about becoming a dad was the biggest hit.

Between my weekly e-commerce content and Linkedin activity, it’s been cool to see positive impact on various fronts, whether it’s reconnecting with folks, getting new business leads for Barrel, or opening the doors to new opportunities.

In 2023, I contributed to the Wonderment blog and was featured in the Crossing Minds Black Friday guide. I’ll talk more about other opportunities in the next section.

Habits I tracked

  • Writing for 15+ minutes: I logged 86 writing sessions, down from 91 in 2022. Not surprising given my focus on writing my weekly newsletter. I didn’t track social content writing but plan to include that this year.


I planned to do outreach last year to create more opportunities for speaking engagements and podcasts, but decided to focus my attention on other initiatives. Regardless, I was happy to take part in some events and podcasts throughout the year.

In 2023,

  • Our Design Director Christine and I led a talk in New York City with a well-known philanthropic organization. We shared tips for how non-profit and arts organizations can better leverage e-commerce and where Shopify can play a meaningful role.
  • I joined the Performance Delivered podcast, hosted by Steffen Horst of Symphonic Digital, as a guest. I shared insight into the decision-making process for companies looking for an agency and what trends we saw in 2023. Listen here or read my post covering ten lessons for navigating the agency <> client decision-making process.
  • A friend and fellow Tyler School of Art alum, Sean, is an art teacher and invited Dana and I to talk to his students as part of a summer program geared toward the various creative careers one can pursue. It was fun preparing for this and chatting with his students. I wrote about some of the lessons we shared here.
  • Recharge invited me to facilitate a roundtable of merchants and agencies at Charge Up in NYC. I wrote about the takeaways here.
  • I came on the 3 Squares live podcast to talk about how CPG brands can think about leveraging their website and e-commerce and ways we’ve helped our CPG clients. You can check out the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or anywhere else you check out podcasts.


I read 23 books, up from 17 books last year. The biggest unlock for me was leaning into audiobooks. I wasn’t diligent about making time to sit down and read for 30 minutes every day, but turned to audiobooks for long car rides, walks with my dog Gizmo, and even working out.

I still use Readwise to review a digest of highlights every morning from books I’ve read. The only downside of audiobooks is that I’m not able to highlight passages that resonate. I tried to select books that I didn’t expect to highlight much but I was constantly finding myself wanting to pause and take notes. I may end up buying those books on Kindle to highlight down the line.

The birth of my son, Mylo, prompted an exploration into parenting books, one of which I listened to with Dana. This proved to be meaningful time contemplating and preparing for the joys and challenges of parenthood. I finally picked up a piece of fiction with Exhalation and thoroughly enjoyed it, but stopped there. I plan to read at least another fiction book or two in 2024. Beyond that, I enjoyed a mix of personal growth and business books along with memoirs, a favorite of mine.

Here’s a list of everything I read in 2023 with links to relevant posts. If I could go back, I wouldn’t take any of these books off the list. They each impacted me in different ways. I only wish I made time to share thoughts on all of them.

  1. Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard P. Rumelt
  2. A Practitioner's Guide to Account-Based Marketing: Accelerating Growth by Bev Burgess, Dave Munn
  3. All I Want To Know Is Where I'm Going To Die So I'll Never Go There: Buffett & Munger by Peter Bevelin
  4. Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty by Patrick M. Lencioni (related post)
  5. Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang
  6. Work Less, Earn More: How to Escape the Daily Grind of Agency Ownership by Karl Sakas
  7. With Winning In Mind: The Mental Management System by Lanny R. Bassham (related post)
  8. The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be by Armin Brott, Jennifer Ash
  9. Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
  10. Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness
  11. Lessons from the Titans: What Companies in the New Economy Can Learn from the Great Industrial Giants to Drive Sustainable Success by Carter Copeland, Rob Wertheimer, Scott Davis
  12. Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service by Ken Blanchard, Sheldon Bowles (related post)
  13. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
  14. Lifespan: Why We Age – and Why We Don't Have To by David A. Sinclair
  15. Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by Michael Lewis
  16. Madison Avenue Makeover: The Transformation of Huge and the Redefinition of the Ad Agency Business by Michael Farmer
  17. The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year by Armin Brott
  18. The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by W. Timothy Gallwey (related post)
  19. Keep Moving! And Other Tips And Truths About Aging by Dick Van Dyke
  20. The Referral Code: Unlock a Constant Stream of Business Through the Power of Your Relationships by Larry Pinci, Phil Glosserman
  21. Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins (related post)
  22. Endure: How to Work Hard, Outlast, and Keep Hammering by Cam Hanes
  23. Same As Ever: A Guide to What Never Changes by Morgan Housel

See the Reading section of my website for a full list of book I’ve read since 2017.

Habits I tracked

  • Read for 30 minutes daily: I logged 202 reading sessions, down from 216, despite reading more books. This is because I stopped tracking every 30 minute session, only tracking once for reading more than 30 minutes in a given day.
  • Check Readwise daily: I’ve happily kept this practice going, sometimes in the morning, other times at night. As of January 1, I’m at a 1,082 day streak.


It was surreal for Dana and I to finally open a 529 account for Mylo since we’d been talking about it for awhile. Pennsylvania allows for 529s from any state, so we went with one from California, known for solid returns and low fees.

Similar to 2022, I didn’t make any major investments in tech stocks, but did invest in a couple of opportunities via Barrel Venture Partners. Outside of that, I continued to put money in my high yield savings account and index funds. I also opened a high yield savings account that’s linked to my Apple card. It offered a competitive interest rate and used cash back from credit card transactions to grow the account. I thought it was interesting so I gave it a go.

I’m less and less inclined to take bets these days, so I’m continuing to lean into high yield savings and index funds as safe ways to grow my money.

In terms of performance, it was a good year on paper.

  • My investments in index funds saw an average return of by 25%.
  • I haven’t made changes to my Robinhood account but it grew by 47%.
  • Crypto ended the year strong, too. Luckily, I held on to my Coinbase wallet and it grew by 146%.
  • I also have a 401k that I minimally contribute money to but it also saw a 13% return.

I don’t see myself making many changes to this approach in 2024, especially with new expenses like daycare. If anything, I may look at moving money into a 6-month CD to get a better interest rate.


Most of my travel in 2023 was spent for conferences and work events. Luckily, Dana got to join me a few times before it was too close to her due date. While we didn’t make it anywhere special last year, I enjoyed the time we spent exploring our area and attending local events.

Here are the places I visited, not including local travel like NYC or seeing family in Delaware and Virginia. However, I was back and forth to New York on numerous occasions for meetings and events.

  • Los Angeles, CA for conferences, twice. On the first trip, I met Danny Devito.
  • Baltimore, MD for an in-person workshop with a client
  • Las Vegas, NV for (the first-time) to attend a conference! I wasn’t a big fan.
  • Mill Run, PA for Fallingwater.
  • Washington, DC for another conference.
  • Catskills, NY for our annual retreat.

Dana and I plan to get more travel in this year, with and without Mylo. We’re not sure where yet, though!


Summing up an entire year is one thing, summing up an entire year at Barrel is another. Every year, it feels like we’ve come so far and yet, we’re just getting started. I’ll keep this section light, though, because I cover a lot of what we’re up to in my weekly newsletter (read posts) as does Barrel CEO Peter in his Agency Journey series.

My role changed quite a bit in 2023. I took on a more active role in our new business efforts and started managing our tech partnerships. We decided to invest more in attending conferences, which meant I was on the road quite a bit.

It became increasingly difficult to be away from home while Dana was pregnant, but I enjoyed immersing myself into the community and met some amazing people in the process. It’s hard to believe that I met so many of them just last year.

Here’s a list of some key conferences and industry events I attended, including relevant writing.

  • NRF (related post)
  • LA E-Commerce Summit
  • K: NYC
  • Shoptalk
  • ChargeX (related post)
  • Webflow Conf 2023
  • Shopify Enterprise Summit (related post)
  • Charge Up (related post)
  • Okendo Happy Hour (related post)

While it’s hard to gauge the impact of attending these events, I do think the time spent strengthening our partnerships was worthwhile. We’ve made a lot of progress in how we collaborate with our partners and leverage their platforms, which has only served to bring more value to our clients.

In 2024, I plan to spend less time traveling. I’ll be more selective about what events are worth attending and if anything, will look to get more in-person time with our clients.

Beyond all of the travel, last year was a rollercoaster. We saw new business slow down and conversations with prospective clients move at a snail’s pace. Luckily, we saw growth with existing clients and continued to provide add-on services throughout the year. I’m proud of how we managed our way through and grateful for the lessons we learned, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t extremely difficult and frustrating at times.

Early last year, Peter started working with Gerry, a CEO coach from CEO Coaching International. Eventually, Barrel COO/President Sei-Wook and I joined these sessions. Gerry has been helpful in understanding our business at a deeper level, asking difficult questions, and overall, keeping us accountable for taking action and making decisions.

We’re heading into 2024 feeling optimistic but know we have our work cut out for us. There’s a lot we’re looking to accomplish but starting in Q1, some initiatives I’m working on are launching our new website, consolidating new business with Client Services, and experimenting with a few new marketing campaigns.


Related: BL&T No. 126: Narrowing Our E-Commerce Stack Partnerships, BL&T No. 133: Lessons from Attending Conferences

Five Themes for 2024

  • Being present. Everyone told us that Mylo would grow up quick and after only four months, we already see what they mean. In 2024, I plan to make it more of a priority to stay present, especially when I’m spending time with Mylo and family. This means minimizing distractions, whether it’s getting off my phone, turning off the TV, or something else.
  • Building endurance. I’m excited about where I’m heading from a fitness perspective. I may decide to participate in some sort of athletic event, but regardless, I plan to stay focused on improving overall fitness and building endurance, which will look like running a faster 5k or 10k, keeping my resting heart rate low, and staying lean, among other things.
  • Seeing live events. Over the years, we’ve gotten away from attending concerts and other live performances, but both Dana and I enjoy them. I bought Dana tickets to a couple of shows for her birthday last year that will be coming up in a few months. Beyond that, I hope to make this more of a regular outing in 2024.
  • Set a date or it won’t happen! Whether it’s hanging out with friends or doing something I’ve always wanted to try, I’ve come to accept that nothing will happen if I don’t take action and set a date. I’m making this a mantra for 2024. The goal is to do more, whether it’s taking an archery class or seeing friends.
  • Creating more slack in my schedule. It was a busy year. That’s not a bad thing, but there were days at Barrel where it felt like there was literally no room to think. I have some ideas on how I can better organize my schedule in 2024 to create more space. Some involve delegating responsibilities, others involve being more intentional about where I spend my time.


Read my 2022 In Review.

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