Revisiting 2019 – Simplicity is The Ultimate Sophistication!

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I’m Harsh Agrawal

Blog Scientist & a passionate blogger. Love minimalist life & talk about things that matter. Adventure from heart & doer by action.

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There are only 52 weeks in a year, and even if we live a life for 70-years, it would be only 3640 weeks.

Out of these 3640 weeks, I have already completed 1700+ weeks. So, to be precise, I have close to 2000 weeks left to contribute my life for achieving my goals, my family and the work that I contribute for my extended family, that is you.

This post is a reflection of my entire 52 weeks that I spent in 2019.

Every year is special, we win some, we lose some, but we can’t live our lives afraid of making mistakes. Most importantly we learn things that help us live a better and more meaningful life in the days to come.

Well, this yearly review post is all about this.

  • How was 2019 for me and what all did I learn?
  • My mistakes and my goals for 2020

Grab a cup of coffee and read every sentence like you reading someone’s autobiography.

If you want to revisit my last year, here is: Revisiting 2018- Do what your heart feels is right!

The 2019 Year in review:

January: Hello Goa!

On 31st December, I was at the Kochi beach with locals. It was just a simple night with the grand view of endless sea and sounds of Arabian sea vastness. There was something special in that simplicity and something I took with me this whole year.

I started the year with a goal of keeping my life simple and peaceful.

One of the major highlights of January was my trip to Goa. I spent some time with an old friend of mine “Gaurav Mishra” who founded few agencies and is now on a lead role in one of the biggest tech companies in the world.

In those few days, we had a long discussion on stuff like artificial intelligence, machine learning and on persona building.

We created a few personas for the ShoutMeLoud audience and also interviewed some of our regular readers. We interviewed users who have made a purchase from ShoutMeLoud or through ShoutMeLoud and every interview lasted for 90 minutes.

Anyways, after a few interviews, it gave me the direction for the next few months.

February 2019: Meditation and USA trip

February was started with my yearly retreat for Vipassana. This is a 10 days silent meditation retreat. I started this tradition almost 3 years back, and since then, every year, I go for one 10 days retreat, and one 3 days retreat.

Being disconnected from the outer world and connecting with my inner self helps me in decluttering my life and focus on what really matters.

I have seen a profound effect of this practice in my life. I also made a video to help others become aware of this free practice which is available for everyone.

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In fact, I believe this is the best free thing that is available on this planet. If you have an oppurtunity, do take out 10 days and plan a Vipassana retreat this year.

Once, I was back from the silent meditation retreat, I went to the USA to meet my buddy Syed in Miami and to attend the Traffic and Conversion Summit in San Diego.

I hung out with Syed Balkhi in his Miami house for one day and we chatted about a lot of things. I was so intrigued by his life story and his journey as an entrepreneur.

I will probably invite him to share his journey with the world. For now, here are a few pictures:

From there, we flew to attend the Traffic & Conversion Summit (San Diego), where I met my buddy David Henzel and it was 3 days of knowledge bomb at the T&C conference.

I did share some of my learnings and takeaways in this podcast:

In LA, I met Tejas who is in the leadership role at SocialPilot and it was the first time I drove a car in the USA. I always wanted to drive outside Asia but was worried about the left side driving, and mate, I did it this time and that too at the Hollywood. It was such an exhilarating experience for a first-timer.

One of my goals for the coming year is to rent a car and drive across cities in the USA or Europe. Let’s see how that turns out to be.

March: Slovenia for InOrbit

In March I traveled to Slovenia to speak at InOrbit. Here I shared my journey to building a million-dollar business from the comfort of home.

Harsh Agrawal Speaking

Slovenia was a place that I have never seen before. With mountainous terrain and mainly continental climate, It was a perfect place for a digital marketing conference.

I met with many of my digital marketing colleagues, friends and made so many new acquaintances. It was great to meet Andrea again, who I have met many times in the past 1 year.

Here are a few pictures from InOrbit:

April – May: My Video Blog

In May, I visited my ancestral house in Rajasthan with my grandfather. In case if you are not aware, my grandfather is the biggest inspiration of my life.

His story of how he moved from a small village to create a thriving family in a big city. How he lived life with his principles that have made him a respected individual and a leader in the community. Something, that takes a lot of insights and persistence to build.

Now, when we stay in two different cities, I try to spend as much time as I get an opportunity. As he is aging, living with him gives me so much perspective about life that I possibly could not put it in words. His attitude towards relationship building and generosity has always inspired me to do the right things.

Every year, we do a road trip from Delhi to Rajasthan and visit many places including our ancestral home and usually, he blesses me with his childhood stories and wisdom.

Soon,, I went to Hyderabad for a photoshoot with my College buddy, Aditya, who is now a passionate photographer. I meant to do a professional photo shoot for a while, and finally, we spent two days in Hyderabad doing the photoshoot.

This is the first time I also made a video blog that you can watch below:

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This video blog was created with the help of just two tools:

And this whole process of creating the video blog did not take much time. However, I don’t fancy putting my day to day life on YouTube unless it adds any form of value for my subscribers.

In 2020, I plan to do a few more video blogs especially when I’m attending a conference. The next one would be Wordcamp Asia.

June – Diving with Sharks

In June, I went to Thailand to swimming with Sharks. In case if you are not aware, I love Scuba diving, and one of my ambition is to become PADI certified so that I could dive at many exotic locations around the world.

Diving with Shark is available at Sealife Ocean World in Bangkok and it was completely different and tougher than diving in the sea. I always wanted to see the sharks up close and the whole experience gave me the goosebumps.

At one point of diving, a Shark was coming straight to me in a narrow path, and I zapped for a few milliseconds, and I noticed my instructor signaling me to move, and within seconds I was away from the path of the Shark. It literally rubbed me from sideways, and it gave a nice thrill to every inch of my body.

Facing fear up close and moving ahead is what made this dive very special.

Here are a few pictures from diving with Shark:

When I was back in India, the rest of the weeks went into diagnosing the traffic drop on ShoutMeLoud. We were hit by one of the recent algorithm updates and traffic was down close to 30%. Nothing significant was changed from the website architect.

However, while diagnosing, I realized the main culprit is the Keyword cannibalization and next few months, I spent time fixing the KW Cannibalization and improving old blog posts. It was a devastating time as some changes were making a big difference in keyword ranking and some of them were hardly moving the needle.

None the less, the overall ranking and traffic drop were not improving but as I have experienced many such cycles in the past, I knew the way forward is to continue working, and reward would follow.

July: SEMRush Summer Jam and Solo trip

In July, I went to Portugal to attend Summerjam. This is a yearly private event hosted by the SEMRush team with industry thought leaders, SEO ninjas, and people that matter.

This was 3rd year in a row that I was attending the event and the team always leveling up the experience. I got to meet many old friends and got acquainted with many thought leaders. One of the agenda of this event is to work with product owners at SEMRush to build the tool for the future.

I think this is one approach of making users the part of the product creation, that differentiates between an ordinary product from a world-class product. Something, a lot of SAAS companies could learn from the SEMRush approach.

We also had a workshop with David Allen, who is popularly known as The GTD (Getting Things Done) guy. He shared his wisdom of how to approach towards getting things done and it was very insightful.

In the later part of 2019, I implemented his technique and could see a remarkable impact on my career. If you have trouble being organized or having projects stuck in between, you should read his bestseller Getting things done book.

Here are a few pictures from SummerJam:

After 3 insightful days with the SEMRush team, I traveled to Lagos and Albufeira for my first solo trip in the past few years. This was first such a trip, where I was not meeting any friend or business colleague, and it was pure solo exploration.

I will be making one such solo trip every year to experience the life of my own. However, next year I will be traveling without my laptop and perhaps carrying just a diary and a pen. If you have never made a solo trip before, do plan and get one done. It would be one of the best things you would be doing for yourself.

Here are a few pictures from my first solo trip:

August: My appearance on Radio and Family trip to Goa

August started with my first ever Radio interview. As an avid listener of Radio (when driving), it was such a nice experience to be on a radio show. We talked about how cell phone addiction is becoming an epidemic and something we (netizens) need to be aware of and action we could take.

I will also be doing a video on this topic soon, as I still feel a lot needs to be done before this addiction could hamper the growth of many of us including our children.

If you are a curious one, do read about “NomoPhobia” to learn more about it.

Harsh Agrawal Radio show

At the same time, I also traveled to Pune to meet my friend Rishabh Parakh and met Sujay Pawar, who runs Brainstormforce.

As we were expecting a new member to join our family, I planned a trip before that and picked Goa for a family retreat.

It was a 3 days trip with family and books.

Moreover, I kept my last few months free from any speaking or public apperances, as my focus was to spend more time with my wife in her journey of delivering a baby.

I turned down many speaking gigs and conferences that I wanted to attend, and being with family turned out to be the wisest decision of 2019.

September- October: Content and SEO

As all these months I was optimizing ShoutMeLoud and rewriting literally hundreds of content to make it future proof. I started seeing many improvements and our traffic was coming back.

Moreover, in the process itself, I learned a lot of new things about content marketing and SEO. This whole process also made me more organized and I started using a checklist and to-do’s to stay on the track.

I had a big pile of unused gadgets that I wanted to get rid of. I followed the GTD philosophy and created a project and plan to get rid of those gadgets. Within the next 45 days, I sold most of those unused gadgets on sites like Olx, FB groups and a few other places.

Selling more than 6 gadgets, It not only brought significant money from the sales but also decluttered my home office. None the less, now those gadgets are being put on good use by others who bought it at a throwaway price. It was a win-win for all.

A lot of credit for this goes to Getting things done book, as it helped me add more structure to my To-do’s.

Note: After using Wunderlist, Nirvana, now I have finally started using ToDoist as my to-do app. It is not particularly designed with the GTD method in mind, however, you can configure it to follow the GTD method.

November- December: Hello Kiddo!

November was a life-changing moment for my family, as we were blessed with a baby boy. When I think of that moment, when I picked him for the first time, a feeling of joy enriches me, even when I’m writing these lines.

If I have to describe the feeling, it is like falling in love at first sight. The feeling of pure love and responsibility is what I had and have since our child has joined us.

Our life since then has changed a lot (all for good), and we are loving every bit of second since he has arrived. I have been told that becoming a parent changes you, and I vouch for it. You would realize some of the changes when you experience such a life event.

In the last week of December, I spent on reflecting on how the whole year was and designing my 2020.

I reflected on some of my philosophies of life such as “Less is the new more“, “Ecstatic yet Simple life” and put an action plan to put certain segments of my life that are sidetracked from my philosophies.

You will see a lot more about this from me in 2020.

A few things that I’m taking away from 2019:

One app rather than many

I enjoy discovering and trying new apps and putting them on use. However, in this process, I end up trying too many apps for the same thing, and at times missed out experiencing the true potential of the app.

So this year, I plan to pick only the best of the apps (Which I usually do) and stick with one, while I learn all the features and implement them.

You can expect more tutorials and guides on specific apps in this year.

Personal finance: Learn & DIY

My journey to personal finance started when I read the book called “Rich dad, poor dad“.

For years, I have had a financial advisor to help me to manage my investments. However, this mid-year for the first time my investment was in the negative, which is ok as its part of the market cycle.

Before this negative return, I never paid attention to investments and was happy that I’m accumulating wealth and reaching towards my goal of financial freedom.

However, when my years of investment was down rather than going up, I thought of spending some time to learn about market and investment.

You know what surprised me the most, I was paying almost 1% of every investment to my advisor as a commission even if the return is negative.

It just did not make sense to me as it was a passive investment. More like a strategy that you crafted and implemented, and now you don’t need to do anything apart from continuing investing. Moreover, of all the investment done, I was paying 1% every year for all old investments.

So in the last few months of 2019, I spent a significant time of my life learning about personal finance and ways I could lower down the cost of fund management.

I did some write up about my learning at ShoutMeTech, and in the future, I may spin-off this as a new blog completely focus on personal finance or just continue doing the same on SMT or

However, here is one important takeaway:

Just like if you have a medical problem such as a headache, you go to a doctor and pay him fees for his consultancy and take his prescribed medicine. Now, even if you are taking his prescribed medicine in the future, would you pay the doctor every time?

Similarly, in personal finance, you are better off paying a financial planner one-time fees to make a financial plan and strategy for you, rather than paying them throughout your journey. The sad part is, finance is a very private topic, and, due to this, people end up paying a hefty sum to distributors without being aware of it.

However, as I am expecting financial technology to penetrate rapidly in emerging markets such as India, Brazil, Philippines, we all will have more awareness and middle-man will be cut down from the process, bringing benefits to end users like you and me.

A lot of such models have emerged lately and you can learn a lot from apps like ZerodhaVersity or do it yourself with the help of apps like Goalwise.

Either way, I urge all of you to pay attention to your personal finance and learn to invest early, to have a worry less financial future.

What’s in store for 2020:

This year, I want to be more aware of my intent and do things with a purpose. I have been following this philosophy for a long time, and I planned to the slowdown so that my work will have a better impact on the lives of others.

Some of the things I would be doing and planning to do in 2020:

  • Add new content on ShoutUniversity
  • Move ShoutUniversity from Thinkific to ShoutMeLoud using any LMS plugin
  • Put the new design of ShoutMeLoud – I have shortlisted a combo of Astra + Elementor theme for the same.
  • Put more SEO + WordPress oriented content.
  • Find a new niche and create a microblog for experimenting
  • Publish a new version of our books on ShoutMeLoud store
  • Complete Scuba certification
  • Foster better relationships with existing and new friends, family, and business colleagues.
  • Take a 90-day challenge to form new habits and leave some bad once
  • Travel to USA, Europe, Tanzania
  • Put the new design for If you wanna see the new design and help me improve it, just send me a DM on Twitter @denharsh
  • Create 4 video series in the year and 2 podcast shows every month.
  • Continue the regular practice of Yoga + Meditation.
  • Being mindful of my diet and learn cooking.

As you may notice, I don’t publish new content regularly on ShoutMeLoud. The reason is, I’m spending a significant amount of time, rewriting existing content.

Moreover, as I mentioned in my few earlier posts, I believe in quality over quantity. Let’s see how this plays out in 2020.

Well, it’s just good to reflect upon your last 52 weeks and then have a direction for the next 52 weeks. A lot of us don’t design our life, but it is one of the essential things every one of us should do to move ahead in the direction that aligns with our life callings.

So, now it’s your turn to let me know how was 2019 for you? What are the things you accomplished and how you are planning to make the most out of 2020?

18 comments on “Revisiting 2019 – Simplicity is The Ultimate Sophistication!

  1. Wow Harsh, what a year! You have accomplished so much and congratulations on your new baby! That will be a life-changer for you I’m sure 🙂
    I had to redo my website in 2019 with the recent algorithm changes and updated many old posts and pages and deleted about 200 of them along the way too.
    No more thin content! I’m still going to work on some older posts and make them more relevant in the coming year.
    I think less is best as well and have cut down even on clients and working on adjusting rates going forward for my services as our time is our most precious commodity.
    I’d love to know more about your finance blog when you launch, that subject has always interested me and it amazes me how different people’s priorities are when it comes to money.
    I like you love to travel and have another cruise coming up in July to explore the Baltic sea 🙂
    Here’s to a fabulous 2020 Harsh!

    1. Congratulations Harsh, you have gone ahead without knowing anything to us. Let it be, be happy in any situations & God is always blessing you.

    2. @Lisa
      Thanks for your kind words.
      Yeah, 2019 was a game changer for many bloggers, especially those who have a blog which is 3+ years old.
      Infact, I started admiring such changes, as it is painful in the beginning but it helps a lot in learning and prepare us for the future.

      Regarding services, you should definitely increase the rate and make sure on the other side your blog income increases (affiliates + other monetization techniques). May be one day, you could stop offering services as your blog starts generating enough revenue.
      I used to offer services in the initial few years and later on completely removed it as I could generate more value and money by working on my website. However, I enjoyed working with clients as it always gave a new case scenario and helped in learning and exploring more.
      Enjoy your 2020! 🙂

  2. Love the way you’ve written each and every word. It feels like finding a peace in the heart. Thank you for the inspiration.

  3. Amazing post, Harsh! Your 2019 was awesome, dang! Congrats for receiving baby Ehan too (pinch him once or twice for me, just so you ensure he doesn’t cry haha). I also didn’t know you were a daredevil- I can’t imagine swimming with sharks, gosh!

    It’s true, rewriting existing content can take a lot of time especially if it’s a topic that had taken days to research. It can also be boring to some extent. But I hope you will oil your hands and get it done much faster this year.

    Anticipating fresh content too like you’ve mentioned!

    Btw, I’m challenging you to add Kenya in the list of places you’re planning to tour now that it’s close to Tanzania. We’d also love to see you over here.

    P.S. It has plenty of under-the-radar treasures that will give you an awesome experience.

    Part of my plans in 2020 is to write several in-depth guides on email, content marketing and WordPress then start my self-improvement blog in late September- God willing.

    Have a nice day!

    Off to share this gem on Twitter.


    1. Thanks @Antony, I’m sure he is gonna hate you if I pinch him. 🙂
      Yeah, sometimes it gets boring, and the rest of the time, I enjoy improving at least those content which requires more research and I get to learn something new. However, the battle is to write new or improve what’s there.

      You know what, I was in Kenya (Nairobi and MasaiMara) last year (2018) and it was fantastic. I loved every bit of it. Hopefully I could make another trip and discover those under-the-radar treasures with you. 🙂

      Best of luck for your goals and hoping to see more quality stuff from you.
      Until next time Antony! ✌🏻

      1. Yeah he is gonna hate me definitely haha. Glad to hear you were in those two beautiful places. Hoping you were not overwhelmed by the traffic in Nairobi. Sure, no problem. It will be an honor taking you around of course.

        Talk soon Harsh.

  4. Wow. Beautifully written. Loved reading each line. Warmest congratulations on the birth of your sweet baby boy Ehan. Good luck for 2020! Hope to meet you soon someday 🙂

  5. Hey Harsh, Gone through the whole article man! It’s thrilling the way you spent your 2019. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. Hey Harsh,
    What an amazing journey you had last year. I found this post very inspirational and increased my resolve to improve over 2020. I have a tendency to overcomplicate things. My mentor often says the “Simplicity is the Ultimate Complexity”. I look forward to reading how your year progresses towards your goals.
    Kind regards

  7. hii Harsh,
    i wish you for your fabulous life journey…
    Harsh please make a post about facts niche and clarify our doubts in facts niche

  8. Harsh sir,
    The way you express the idea’s and your delegation towards work and time is really fascinating . Your story had influenced a lot So now i can see a future progress now.

  9. Hey, That was indeed a fun read. Your article about the previous year reminds me of my eventful year, filled with experiences. 2019 was a huge milestone in my life as I left India to study abroad at the ripe age of 18. I travelled across Europe extensively and took the first steps towards my dream career of becoming a travel blogger. Indeed, it was a good article by you.

  10. Hello Harsh,

    Great and very inspiring Story. I really following your blog since the first day of my blogging and it inspires me a lot. I have learned a lot and by implementing these strategies I am able to become a successful blogger. 2019 is a big up and down for me as well. Fortunately able to start my YouTube channel on Blogging tips and tricks. Let’s see how it goes in 2020? Thanks for sharing this motivational story of yours and Keep inspiring us all. Have a Great Year Ahead 🙂

    Vishwajeet Kumar

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