What You Must Do to Make Next Year Your Best Year

Get Notice When a New Article by John Graden Posts

Because of our redesign and over-haul, we want to make sure that only people who want to get these articles are notified when they are posted. Enter your info to get on that list.

In the mid-1980s, Allstate Insurance hired me for $500 to teach a 20-minute motivational seminar at their sales team’s year-end meeting. So, I put together a show of segments that, for instance, would have a student attack me and I’d sweep his legs out and then turn to the audience and say how important life balance is. It was pretty cheesy, but they loved it. Allstate doubled my pay to $1,000 and booked six more gigs around the state. 

I was shocked. $1,000 for 20-minutes? Wow!

The first seminar was at the Hilton hotel in downtown St. Petersburg. It was one of the nicest hotels I’d been in. Even though I lived ten-minutes away, I stayed overnight in the suite they provided me. I was so excited and inspired that I sat down and started writing a list of goals for the coming year.

Here is the amazing part. Had I sat down in my house or school to make that list 24-hours earlier, I’m confident it would not have been as ambitious as the list I created in the opulent atmosphere of that 5-star suite. 

Because I was in the “high” of nailing my first high paying speaking gig (high paying for me at least), my confidence soared. 

I focused my goal list on:

  1. Income goals
  2. Physical goals
  3. Mental goals


This was the goal of increasing my income by 20% each year. That is considered to be a growth company and I wanted that for me.


These goals included how many times a week I’d run, lift weights and spar. It also included how much I weighed at the end of the year. That seems more like play than work, but 40+ years later, it’s paying high dividends as I still run and lift almost every day. That said, I really miss sparring. But I don’t miss kata. I bet you don’t either. :0)


My mental or psychological goals were centered on maintaining a positive attitude and to eliminate the battles brewing in my mind over a person I’d clashed with or a situation that was stressful. Today, that would be more biblical in nature, but at the time, I was deep into the hedonistic lifestyle celebrated by media and culture. (Quick hint, get out of that world asap.)

All of this paid off in high dividends when the largest martial arts equipment company in the world targeted me for destruction with lawsuits that drove my company (NAPMA) into bankruptcy. 

Frankly, I would not change a thing because I love the life I have with the woman of my dreams. I would do it all over to get to where I’m at now. That mental attitude saved my sanity but it didn’t come by accident. It was the conscious decision to study and learn “how to think” that made all the difference in my life since that first cheesy seminar.

Because of the palatable effects of doing this goal setting exercise in the atmosphere of a five-star hotel, I resolved to make it an annual event. So each year, I’d fly somewhere nice to review and renew my goals. I’ve done this in Aspen (many times), London, Dubai, the Caymans, Los Angelas (my fav) and many other exotic and exciting destinations.

Now that we’re nearing the end of 2021, I encourage you to spend some time preparing for the New Year. 

Maybe it would be a good idea to get away for a few days for a combination of recharging and setting new goals for the New Year. It doesn’t have to be the Ritz. 

It could be a local library, Barnes and Noble, or Books a Million. I love bookstores and libraries because I’m surrounded by the knowledge of the ages on any subject. I find that far more stimulating than a shallow Starbucks.

Here are three frameworks to help you get started. Next, I’ll help jumpstart the process with three rock solid goals specific to martial arts school owners. 

Reflect: What were your targets? Did you hit them? What can you learn from what happened? Insanity, as they always say, is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome. Many of the school owners that I coach are in that loop and come to me to help them break the cycle.

Let’s figure out those things that didn’t work and resolve not to do that anymore. I’m here to help.

Successful school owners fight to find what works and then double down with a razor focus. That’s why you’re seeing an exodus from traditional curriculum to a more modern curriculum for the modern student like Empower Kickboxing.

If you don’t take the time and have the personal integrity to be honest with yourself about what you’re teaching, you’ll never get to that level. Step back and look at what you’re doing objectively rather than through the eyes of a veteran black belt.

Recharge: What did you learn in the past year, whacky as it was? What did you accomplish against crazy odds that you can use to help fuel your motivation and resolve to make the coming year your break out year? 

Reset: If you’re unclear on where you’re going to get to by the end of the next year, you’re still going to wind up somewhere. Odds are, it won’t be where you could be or where you want to be. It’s time to break out of your low results comfort zone. It’s time for clarity. 

Reset your goals and attack! It’s a New Year, regardless of what’s happened in the past, good or bad, it’s time to reset goals

Martial Arts School Owners: 
Are You the Right Person for This Job?

Martial Arts School Owners: 
Are You the Right Person for This Job?

Martial Arts School Owners:
Are You the Right Person for This Job?

One thing I know about professional martial arts instructors is that we tend to be control freaks. 

We love how we can control our classes by micro-managing students down to the position of their pinky finger, depth of breathing, and what they focus on mentally.

As we wrap up 2021, now is a great time to turn that focus inward to answer a simple question, knowing what you know now…are you the right person for this job?

You might be thinking, “What job?” 

Let’s touch on this now and then I’ll go deep next Tuesday in a webinar at 2pm EST.

This starts with, “How are you preparing to make the next year more profitable and satisfying than 2021?”

Here are some questions to stimulate your thinking on that and get a preview of what I will drill down on during the webinar.

  1. What is going to be different next year?
  2. What does your organizational chart look like?
  3. How much of what needs to be done do you do?
  4. How much of that do you enjoy doing?
  5. How much of that are you any good at doing?
  6. Are you spending hours a week creating green belt level results when you really need a black belt in that area?
  7. Are you going to continue to teach the same curriculum without any improvements?

Rather than me trying to sell you on what the best answers are to these questions, let me assure you that there are no “best answers” to these questions.

Everyone is different and some business strategies may align with your personality more than others. 

Mind you, this is not about feelings. Bills don’t care about your feelings. 

However, once you know your natural tendencies, it’s easier to formulate a plan that matches your personal motivations and preferences.

On Tuesday, I’ll help you with that process.