Ali Jafarian
Ali Jafarian

2021 was another beautiful year.

There were plenty of challenges with pandemic era life, but plenty of rewards as well. It was a year that taught me a lot about myself, my choices, my relationships and what’s most important right now. I learned to focus in on the things that really matter.

Here’s my annual retrospect –


Family

As usual, let’s start with the family.

New sister-in-law (Viola)!
Amir and his wife, Viola (two on the right)

The biggest news for the Jafarian’s is that my baby bro got married!  He and his new wife, Viola, got married in China back in July.  It was a private event with the intention to celebrate a larger event soon.  Viola is a beautiful soul who will add new perspective and light to our family.

We hope to see and celebrate them in 2022 🙂

Everest

Next is my baby boy, who is no longer a baby boy.  Yep, this was the year Everest started kindergarten.  This was an emotional experience for me as I don’t handle my children’s growth well.  I would rather pause them in a time machine and press play when I’m ready to have them grow up.

Joking aside, Everest continues to flourish into an amazing human with a huge heart.  Some of his 2021 highlights include:

  • Learning to read and write
  • Learning to play video games
  • Joining a basketball team
  • Leveling up his lego building skills
  • Progressing his drawing skills

I often see so much of myself in my son as he grows, which can bring me a lot of natural joy and pride. However, I’m trying to remove my desires from the parenting equation and let him become his own unique self.

Sepia

On the other hand, Sepia is still my baby girl.  She’s sassier than ever as well.  This girl knows what she wants and will tell you directly.  I love that about her.  Sometimes it hurts, especially when she chooses her mom to snuggle and tuck her in every single night.  But… she has total agency over her life and I accept her decisions.

Some of Sepia’s 2021 highlights include:

  • Joining ballet
  • Progressing her painting skills
  • Experimenting with basic makeup
  • Narrowing her diet to 3 foods (P&J, Mac & Cheese and Chicken Fingers)
  • Requesting morning snuggles (of her mother)

As it relates to Sepia and having total agency (decision making) – one of my FRD buddies, Tucker Max, said something that really stuck with me at one of our events this year.  He mentioned how it’s our role as parents to give our children agency over their lives, not take it away.  This struck me like lightning and forced me to consider that there have been instances where I’ve robbed my children of their agency.

For example:

Telling them they’re okay after they’ve fallen or hurt themselves.

No, they can decide whether or not they’re okay. It’s my role to ask if they’re okay and whether or not they need anything from me.

Telling them they should put a jacket on because it’s cold outside.

No, they can decide if and when they’re cold enough to wear a jacket. Their bodies will inform them of this decision.

Telling them they need to eat healthy foods as part of their meals.

*No, they can decide if they want to eat healthy foods or not. Their bodies will inform them of how they feel after eating different foods.

*Note: the eating game has been particularly painful for Gabrielle and I.  We trust that their eating habits will change over time, but currently, our kids can consume sugar like it’s going out of style. They’ve also learned how to conduct master negotiations for specific [high sugar] foods.

Regardless, there is a difference in being the strong, disciplined parent who dictates things versus letting our children govern their own lives.  I intend to continue parenting with the mindset of giving them as much agency as possible.

Gabrielle

My lovely wife is still the backbone of our home.  She manages our schedules, keeps the house in shape, and continues to put others before herself.  In fact, we’ve uncovered that her Sparketype is “Nurturer” which totally supports the way she leads.  This is also her biggest challenge – learning to put herself first at times.

Either way, some of her notable 2021 highlights include:

  • Continuing to optimize our finances as family CFO
  • Ridding our home of toxins and other harmful chemicals
  • Teaching part-time at Sepia’s preschool
  • Taking a girls trip to Scottsdale with some of her besties

I’ve managed a lot of stress and professional responsibility over the years with different businesses and ventures.  Yet I always tell people that my wife’s job is way harder than mine.  I still believe that and appreciate Gabrielle for how she shows up every day.

Dad

My dad lives full time in Dusseldorf, Germany now, so we tend to see him less. The pandemic made it even more difficult with travel restrictions and Germany’s more strict policies. However, he was able to make it back here a few times which was special. He spent a lot of quality time with the kids and helped us with the garden.

Mom

My mom is still active and involved in our lives. She spends time with the kids weekly and joins us for a hike every now and then. She always comes up with a creative craft or game for them to enjoy. She’s also been more curious about the books I’m reading so I tend to share my library with her when she needs something new to explore.

Overall, I’m grateful that both of my parents are still alive and healthy. We made the most of pandemic life in 2021 and optimized our quality time with them.

Brother

I didn’t get to see Amir in person in 2021 due to the pandemic but we had some nice FaceTime sessions to connect. He still lives in Shenzhen, China with Viola and their 4 or 5 cats (I’ve lost track). He enjoys sharing videos of his interactions with these felines, plus the occasional post of authentic Chinese cuisine.

He also has a more professional job which limits his ability to post park workouts with his shirt off. That said, he’s still active on the basketball courts and continues to teach Chinese ballers how to play defense.


Gardening

This was our 3rd year gardening as a family. I expanded our large in-ground garden with the help of my crew (see pictures), and then created a second smaller garden on the west side of our yard. It was another great year of vegetables, some fruit, and enjoying the garden as a family.

Here’s what we grew:

  • Tomatoes (3 variations)
  • Zucchini (green and gold)
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Lemon Cucumbers
  • Peppers
  • Jalapenos
  • Strawberries
  • Red Cabbage
  • Brussel Sprouts

Not everything yielded but we learned a lot and plan to continue fueling our gardening passion. In fact, our potential move from Colorado is largely influenced by having more land and optimal weather for gardening.

I’m a huge advocate for gardening and have gained a lot of internal peace from the process. It keeps me grounded and provides a nice contrast to my daily work as a technologist. It’s also created a lot of value for our family in terms of doing something together and realizing the fruits of our labor. I think most humans have taken food for granted and forget how real food is actually made.


Travel

Next let’s talk about travel.  It was certainly a low key travel year due to COVID, but we still managed to squeeze some new experiences in.

Key West

In April we visited Key West for one of my FRD retreats.  We decided to make it a family trip and include my mother-in-law, Cindy.  She was great support during the 3 days that I was away at my retreat.  The kids had a blast and we enjoyed seeing the southern Keys of Florida.

Some of the trip highlights included:

  • Lots of beach time
  • Spotting iguanas, sharks and other fish
  • Meeting my FRD band mates’ wives
  • And of course, Key Lime pie!

I had a great time at my event as well, which you can read about here [link].

St. Louis

We made our annual trip back to St. Louis for 4th of July.  This was great to connect with Gabrielle’s family and watch our children play with their relatives. It’s pretty cool to watch our kids interact with their cousins, and reminds me of how much fun I used to have seeing distant family as a child.

Some of the trip highlights included:

  • Pool time at the Cardwell’s
  • Trip to the STL zoo
  • Top Golf with my old homies
  • Fireworks at Innsbrook
  • Hot and humid morning runs (for me)

Gabrielle and I also made a 2nd quick trip back to STL for our good friend, John Thompson’s, wedding. John is the one who introduced us back in college 14 years ago. Hanging with him and some old college friends was a nice trip down memory lane.

Chicago

I had a smaller FRD retreat to Chicago with 7 other dads.  It was an awesome event that gave us time to connect and do our dad thing together. We enjoyed great conversation, good food, and of course, some beach volleyball. A FRD retreat is not actually a retreat unless we play beach volleyball.

This trip also included some first-time experiences for me, including:

  • Sauna and cold plunge at a Russian bath house
  • Watching a Cubs game at Wrigley field
  • Morning runs along side lake Michigan

Going to Chicago always brings me nostalgia from my childhood when my dad would take us on his business trips.  So it was nice to visit the large city that I remember well as a kid.

North Carolina

Gabrielle and I both made weekend sprints out to North Carolina in September to scout some real estate.  We’ve been considering a move there and found a couple homes that were worth quick plane trips to see in person.  So we each grabbed a flight on respective weekends to see houses with our agent in Charlotte.

Some learnings from that experience:

  • Weekend flights to see real estate in another city are rushed and stressful.
  • It’s not easy to make a decision on purchasing a home without your spouse there in-person with you.
  • Zillow pictures can be deceiving!

We also got to spend time with the Kirwan’s (Gabrielle’s cousin), who are always fun and gracious hosts.  So it was certainly time well invested.

We haven’t found our new home quite yet… but we’ve accepted that the search may take time and we cannot force it.

San Antonio

My final travel for the year was a FRD retreat in San Antonio, Texas.  This was a larger retreat like the event in Key West.  It was another fantastic experience with brothers from my community.  It was also my first time in San Antonio and I enjoyed exploring the riverwalk area.

A few highlights from this retreat:

  • I got some help from another brother on a large mental block.
  • I played pickle-ball for the first time.
  • Spent some quality time with my band members.
No International travel… 🙁

The Jafarian’s were deprived of international travel in 2021 due to the pandemic. However, we plan to exercise our passports again in 2022.


Health & Fitness

2021 introduced some new things around health and fitness.

Vitamin Deficiencies

The first and most important piece was getting some blood-work done.  It’s been over a year since I’ve had blood drawn and I sensed earlier this year that something was off.  So I had my physician draw blood for all the major things and the results were some deficiency in Vitamin D & B12.

My Vitamin D levels were low like most of the world’s, but my B12 levels were extremely low.  Had I not been in such great shape overall my physician would have been more concerned.  She put me on a supplement plan and suggested occasional red meat in my diet going forward.  That’s when the light bulb went on.  This deficiency made complete sense due to the fact that I quit eating meat 3 years ago.  Not only that, I grew up eating healthy amounts of meat my entire life.  So the side effects of going vegetarian had finally caught up with me.  I’m now eating red meat sparingly to help raise my B12 levels.

More importantly, the learning here is that I’m not invincible.  I’ve been healthy as a horse my entire life.  I’ve eaten well and paid attention to what goes in my body.  I’ve worked out since high school and maintain running + workouts 5 days per week.  I don’t take medicine or pain killers, ever.  I’m proud of my progress and discipline around fitness, and I was telling myself a story that nothing could phase me.

Well, I was wrong.

We are all susceptible to something, and this was a good wakeup call that I need to check my vitals regularly.  I’m now committed to blood-work every 3-6 months.

Sleep

I made a big shift in my sleep in 2021 by no longer setting an alarm.  I wake up naturally almost every morning between 4:30 and 5am.  I feel a lot more energized than when I used to wake up at 4 (or earlier) to an alarm.  I also track my sleep with my Fitbit smartwatch to monitor the quality and type of sleep I’m getting.  This helps me correlate good or bad sleep with patterns in my day.

Mushrooms

I’ve been adding mushroom [powder] to my coffee every morning.  These are lion’s mane, reishi and chaga mushrooms that have scientifically proven health benefits.  I’ve noticed better gut health in the form of less gas, better stool quality, and removal of some minor digestion concerns.  I’m not 100% certain these mushrooms have fixed all my gut issues but I’m going to keep consuming them as things continue to improve.

Powdered mushroom mix from Real Mushrooms
Hiking / 14ers

My family and I maintained our active hiking lifestyle.  We found some new hikes during the summer and revisited some of our favorites.  This is still one of our favorite activities to do as a unit. Rain, snow or shine, you can find us on the trails!

I also summited another 14er with my climbing buddy, Hemad.  We had plans to knock out two this season but weather prevented one of them.  We were able to do an epic hike in Breckenridge instead.

Climbing mountains continues to be an activity that gives me life.  Not only do I enjoy it, but I’m aware that it’s in my epigenetics.  My dad climbed mountains as a young man in Iran.  So my love for them makes complete sense.

COVID-19

Have you ever heard of COVID-19? 😉

Whelp, I got it back in July.  Gabrielle caught it shortly after and our kids were virtually unaffected.  For me, it was summarized as an intense 24-hour fever, then a week of back pain followed by a week of fatigue.  It was basically a nasty cold that came and went.

I wasn’t vaccinated, nor do I intend to become vaccinated (right now), and no I do not want to discuss that with you.  Everyone is entitled to their own decision around C19 vaccination.  Everyone.  And honestly, I think the world would be a lot better off if we stopped talking about it so damn much.

We can continue to live in fear and let this virus consume us.  Or, we can put the fear behind us and learn to live with it, as my buddy Matt Sprang has said.  Either way, I’m exhausted of how much energy C19 has cost the human race.  It’s time to focus on other things.


Business

Business took an interesting turn for me in 2021. It was a great year on paper but I experienced some pretty heavy internal turmoil.  As a result, I’ve chosen to simplify and optimize my business commitments.  I’m paying attention to what my heart wants, as opposed to my mind.

Ultimately, I’ve reached that pinnacle in my career where I’m searching for purpose driven work.  As one of my coaches would say – I’m figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.  I still choose to be an entrepreneur because of the freedom it creates, but I’m shedding a lot of the previous identity that was wrapped up in being an entrepreneur.  More on that in the Personal Development section below.

At this point, I have 3 things in business focus:

  1. I’m still the CEO of member(dev), and plan to continue helping our clients build membership community platforms.  I’m most inspired to work with coaches and educators who truly want to move the human race forward, not just increase their bottom line.
  2. I’m a silent partner in Credo, after being fractional CTO for 3 years.  John and I decided that this role would be best for me and Credo going forward.  I still support the business but the high tech programmer in me needs some rest.
  3. I’m doing some coaching for small business owners who are seeking conscious leadership skills.  This involves more awareness and understanding of how we lead in our every day lives. I want to help people design more intentional lifestyles.

Overall, 2021 was the year that I really separated myself from my businesses.  I was able to look at them as things that can exist without me and truly honor that separation.  As I told my business partner, John:

“I don’t know how hard I want to play the game of business anymore.”

Business is a serious game that can require a lot from us, and I’m starting to re-invest my time in other areas of life that aren’t so serious.  There will always be plenty of work to do, but for now, I’m learning to do less. I’m going back to my roots as a creator. I’m allowing space to see what the next big chapter of “work” looks like for me.

My home office in 2021

Personal Development

Finally, let’s talk about personal development.  2021 was a massive year for me in this area.  I experienced a lot of transformation through learning, coaching and relationships.

Here’s the breakdown –

Learning / Purpose

I read a few books in 2021 that really changed my perspective.  It all started with Naval Ravikant’s Navalmanac, which helped me realize the peace I was trying to attain in my life.  Then I was introduced to another guy named Kapil Gupta, who instantly got my attention with some of his philosophy on truth.  Shortly after I realized that Naval had studied under Kapil.  Things were making a lot of sense now.

The philosophy shared from the writing and speaking of these two men sparked some deeper introspection within me.  Their words influenced me to go deep on my work and overall purpose.  This led me down a path of asking the hard questions.  The questions most people avoid or never ask.

As a result, I went through a Zone of Genius process in September.  This was a humbling experience that helped me identify my true gifts and better understand them.  This ignited a purpose journey that I’m currently navigating.

To further fuel this fire, I enrolled in the BraveLife program with Philip McKernan.  Philip is an extraordinary human that I feel privileged to learn from.  The program kicked off in December and I’m excited to see where this leads in 2022, which includes a trip to Ireland to spend time with Philip 🙂

Conscious Leadership

Simultaneously, I’ve been studying under the Conscious Leadership Group.  I’ve been hooked on their methodologies ever since reading their book back in 2020.  I took their intro course and next level intensive earlier in 2021, which gave me new skills and awareness.  I began integrating these skills and awareness into some private coaching I offer member(dev) clients.

Additionally, I’m currently coached by one of the Conscious Leadership Group leaders.  I can’t get enough of this stuff!  My coach, Erica Schreiber, is guiding me through the purpose journey mentioned earlier, and ultimately helping me unlock my true self.  It’s been a liberating experience so far with all the core emotions – fear, joy, anger and sadness. We’ve done some awesome stuff around my enneagram (type 5), my archetype, and various other personality exercises. She is a true wizard at her craft and I’m grateful to have her guidance.

Relationships

The last piece of the puzzle is relationships.  I made some new connections in 2021 and put energy into spending more time with humans.  As an introvert, too much socialization can drain me.  I need some balance of autonomy to thrive.  However, I’m also finding my quality of life to be dependent on the quality of my relationships.  So I’ve started to prioritize human connection.

Here are random pics with friends and family in 2021.

Front Row Dads

The biggest relationship builder in my life is Front Row Dads.  This is my father community that I blog and speak about often.  This group gives me so much human connection through in-person retreats, online events, and monthly interactions with other members.  It keeps my connection glass completely full.  I’m honored to be a member of this life-changing brotherhood.

Front Row Dads - The Brotherhood

The FRD community really thrived in 2021, which I wrote an entire post about here.  I was also fortunate to participate in a recent Colorado Hut Trip which I recorded a podcast episode for to document the experience.

Podcast

I started a new podcast in November of 2021.  The podcast is called The Pursuit of Something.  This is a passion project that allows me to connect with other people and learn more about their pursuits.  It also supports the inner creator in me by offering an outlet to share my own stories.  I’ve really enjoyed podcasting so far and plan to publish 40-50 episodes in 2022.

My new podcast in 2021

If you’d like to be on my show and discuss your pursuits feel free to reach out!


Summary

I love writing these retrospects because they remind me  of how much life took place in a year.  It’s easy for us to get caught up in things and start muffling things like, “Man, time flies…” or “Same thing, different day…”

But I didn’t feel that in 2021.  I felt alive and present.  I experienced a full year with a mix of emotions.  I started to take on the deep “personal work” and ask the harder questions. I embraced some new commitments and said good bye to old ones.  I overcame fears and made some tough decisions.  It was a rollercoaster year that taught me a lot of things.

As I embrace 2022 here’s what feels most true for me:

  • I’m living a more intentional life that I’m taking time to design.
  • I’m creating space to be still, do less, and surrender more to what my heart wants.
  • I’m prioritizing human connection and exploration.

And that’s a wrap!  Catch you on the other side 🙂


Ali Jafarian

Ali is a father, husband and serial entrepreneur with a deep drive to create. He writes, records, codes and builds things to inspire the artist in all of us.


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