As 2011 draws to a close I decided to sit down and take a couple of minutes to review what has been a pretty interesting year personally. Here are some of my reflections.
The first couple of months of 2011 were spent traveling back and forth between Scotland and California for work. I've always enjoyed California and the San Francisco Bay area and this was the first time I was able to spend a significant amount of time here. Apart from the climate, good wine and food I also love the general outlook to life that many people have here. The folks that move to the sunshine state, whether that's to work in technology in Silicon Valley, to find fame and fortune in Los Angeles or just to generally reinvent themselves have a pioneer spirit about them. In October I decided to make the move permanent and joined ArtistWorks, the world's leading providers of music education online, as Director of Global Business Development. The past couple of months have been the most rewarding period in my business career as we launched the ArtistWorks Academy of Bluegrass, the ArtistWorks Academy of Drums and quietly signed some of the world's greatest music artists with a view to announcing a whole slew of new online music schools in 2012. ArtistWorks is one of the most hotly tipped EdTech (education technology) companies in the Bay area and the company has been growing at a pretty phenomenal rate as it now teaches music online to students in over 52 countries. It's also given me the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented people in the worlds of technology, marketing, music, video editing, sound design and education.
Politics - Well that was interesting!
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. As anyone that knows me will testify, I am passionate about politics and the role of politics in improving the lives of others. In the Spring of this year I was a list candidate for the Scottish Liberal Democrats at the Scottish Parliamentary Elections when my party took a pretty serious hammering. I've previously written about some of the reasons I believe we lost but from a personal perspective I do not find the current political landscape of Scotland particularly appealing. Following the election I decided to take a step back from being involved in any political party and instead focus on areas where I believe I can have more impact.
Thirty Seven Beds and Twenty Cars
After the election I decided I needed to make a major change in my life and the result was that my wife and I decided in the summer to move to America. We did so in a rather unusual way however. Not knowing where in California we wanted to live we exchanged our holiday home in Europe with different families in Northern California using a website called Home Exchange and the result was that over the past couple of months we have stayed in some amazing places. These include two weeks to two months in holiday homes in Mill Valley, Napa, St Helena, Yountville, Guerneville, San Anselmo, Carneros and Sonoma. Exchanging homes in this way allowed us to get to know the area better for when we decided to settle down somewhere longer term, we met lots of new friends and it made us appreciate how to travel in a minimal way. In addition to this we ended up making additional trips to Los Angeles, Carmel, Saratoga, Monterey and Italy. Tallying it up I figured I've slept in a total of 37 beds this year and driven a total of twenty hire cars though!
Zen and the Art of Tea
Living in California has meant some pretty big changes to my diet, exercise regime and general well-being. One of the first things I got into when I arrived here was Bikram Yoga as well as significantly improving my diet by eating lots more fresh fruit and veggies. Lifestyle design and experimenting with different foods and exercise regimes is big here and it's been kind of fun to shake things up a little bit. As a Brit it's also nice to see that California finally has a proper tea shop with Samovar Tea Lounges springing up in San Francisco.
My Top Books of 2011
- The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss
- Poor Charlie's Almanack by Charles T. Munger
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
- 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout
My Top Gigs of 2011
- Jeff Beck at Napa Opera House
- The Infamous Stringdusters at The Independent, SF
- Steely Dan at Mountain Winery
- Russell Ferrante and Bob Mintzer at Teatro Alaleano, Montegiorgio
My Top Tracks of 2011
- Make it Mine by Jason Mraz
- Big Lights Bigger City by Cee Lo Green
- Stratus by Billy Cobham
- You Are by The Punch Brothers
- Alfie by Pat Metheny
A Special Thanks
To finish off I'd like to thank a couple of people who have made 2011 so much fun. First of all my wife for supporting me and having the spirit and good nature to follow me on this excellent adventure. To the team I work with at ArtistWorks for putting their faith in me and inspiring me to work harder and smarter each day. To my friends and family who supported me in making this change. To an old school friend who convinced me to take the plunge and set out across the sea.
Here's to a great 2012.