Happy Driven: My 2023 year in review

Happy Driven: My 2023 year in review

THIS PASSION PROJECT didn’t start with a detailed, well-thought-out plan for crafting a writing career. Among many things, I just wanted to share my favorite books with people, write stories, and master the craft in a language different than my native one.

Despite having specific ideas about the kinds of stories I wanted to see and how I wanted to shape this online platform, the industry and the technical side of building a platform were largely new to me.

Like many others, I was familiar with the advertisements that pop up on your face when you open a webpage or online newspaper. I also understood that those ads weren’t randomly placed and that someone, somewhere in the world, would profit from my clicks.

This was 2020, and despite the lack of online knowledge, I did have a distinct vision. After starting the bookshelf and watching the small impact it had, I wrote in my journal that I had a vision of creating my own network, using the book hub and the world we’ve created all these years to leverage into this kind of network that will inspire and entertain people.

Much has changed in the meantime. I’ve spent hours and hours researching what goes into creating and maintaining a blog. I’ve connected with people in the field, and have learned about how to promote it and how to create something of value. It goes to show that my knowledge about online business back then wasn’t where it is today, let alone having a clear overview of the many ways I could use the platform.

Building a platform is a long run, a cocktail of hard work, perseverance, and passion. The long hours of sacrificing my free time, and the setbacks along the way, were possible for so long only because I have been driven by something more profound than the amount of people reading my articles — a burning desire to share ideas, reflections, and pieces of literature.

The emotional themes and concerns behind these pieces are very much about who I am, what I think, and how I feel. It’s that passion to motivate, create, and educate that kept me going, even in times I was only planting seeds without seeing the plant come to fruition yet.

My perspective as a writer is the one of the outsider, the observer, a perspective that undoubtedly has a truth to it, but also one that is often unusually myopic. In many ways, I’m submersed in my own seeing, which hopefully results in many fascinating imaginings and insights that need to be expressed and shared with others.

I realize now, 3 years later, that in many ways the project provided me the opportunity to have a place to share certain thoughts that fill my mind, meaningful ideas, and book pieces that we have to remember. Things that normally make it to my notebook only – now available for many readers to read.

Gradually, this blogging journey turned out to be a destination out of curiosity and a practice to master the craft, which allowed the platform to grow. Along the way, I found ways to get to know the industry, and its hidden rules, to further develop a vision, and to use that knowledge to bring the platform to another level.

And so, as often happens once you passionately commit yourself to something — you’ll start to find surprising ways to make it work.


Learning of the year

There are many lessons to take away from last year. The blogging has been an incredible meaningful journey so far, and for this annual year in review, I’ve decided to share one learning that truly resonated with me this year. Here is the central learning drawn from the year 2023 (you can find the previous one over here):


Enjoy the process: Passion and fierce work ethic coexist

From observing the greatest and experiencing life and work myself, I came to conclude that the amount of rejections that you might receive during your working life is very random – and that it should be approached that way.

Recently I wrote a post about some of the greatest of all time their many losses and rejections, and how they seem inevitable on their road to a great accomplishment. Knowing that J.K. Rowling is now the best-selling author of all time in the world, it’s ridiculous to think that Harry Potter was rejected 26 times before she was able to find a publishing house willing to publish it. And even when she did, her agent advised her to only use her initials so that the book would not only appeal to young girls but to boys as well.

So, how do you maintain your drive amidst rejections and practice? The key is to find inspiration in the process itself. Those who view their work as a craft, relishing the routine and committing to it consistently, are the ones who sustain long-term drive.

As you attain more success, the significance of the results diminishes. This is an old principle that stems from economics called the Law of Diminishing Returns — once you get more of something, it becomes less valuable (to you).

When I started publishing my newsletters and articles on my blog, I made the conscious decision to provide people food for thought. Even though my publications are centered around this single question, “How can we live a full, meaningful life?”, I felt it was more honest to provide people information, or another perspective on life, rather than a recipe for the way we should approach our lives. I became excited about the handful of people who initially started to write me after picking up a book recommendation of mine and celebrating great, timeless, and timely pieces of art — books that stood the test of time and are still relevant to us all today.

I’ve learned and became aware this year that if you love the practice of what you do, if you love the daily work which often includes boredom and repetition, then you can be happy before and after you achieve your goals. When you learn to love the process of what you are doing and not focus so much on the goal, you automatically find happiness while staying driven. If you learn to love the practice of writing, then you’ll be happy right now and you’ll see results later. If you learn to love the practice of filmmaking, then you’ll be happy right now and you’ll see results later. Much like planting a seed to grow, and enjoying it to see its progress develop.

Because as far as I’m concerned, everyone is on their journey and we all have different obstacles in front of us that we could identify for ourselves, and then eliminate one by one. Prescriptions, listicles, or steps that guide us to our destination sound appealing, but the truth of the matter is, what has worked for me doesn’t have to work for you, and vice versa.

That’s why it has been more interesting to me to fill the newsletters and articles with pieces of literature, interviews, and perspectives from different voices. They are offered to provide guidance, more than pieces of advice, to inspire and encourage you to act and think differently.

We often fail to grasp that we have everything needed inside of us needed in order to fulfill our dream or our goal. We just have to believe for ourselves and our vision, with everything inside of us. What if Rowling believed them and never published it.

In many ways I think we as writers and creator have to accept that we enter an arena where you will find people who are able to see what you have envisioned in your mind which has not fully come to life yet or to convince them where you are heading towards. On the other end you will find people who are not able or willing to see what you have imagined.

This year has taught me that we should not wait or pay too much attention towards what other people think is valuable and then start doing it. Do it and know why you do it, and then trust yourself while doing it.

as many of you have noted, our comment section is one of the nicest corners of the internet — we learn a ton of each other and there are thousands of us.

Last month we hit 10.000 monthly visitors and those are numbers that I could only dream of.


Some of 2023’s highlights:

  • Writing. After writing inconsistently for years, this was the year when I finally turned it around. I wrote a new article every Thursday in 2023. My first article was published on January 12, 2023. I’m proud to say that since that time I have published another 104 articles on LisanneSwart.com and received 68,000 unique visitors. Best of all, more than 400 people have joined my free monthly newsletter. (Thank You!)
  • Reading. I’ve read around 50 books, which is more than last year. Here, you’ll find my recommended books for 2023.
  • Launched a community-focused membership.
  • Multilingual. Achieved level 10 in my Spanish courses, which makes me fluent.


I hope you have a happy and healthy start to 2024. This is my second year in review. If you want to read more personal insights, sign up for my monthly newsletter or check out the archive of upcoming annual reviews, which will show you how this labour of love continues.




Top 3 recommended books:

  • Our women on the ground, edited by Zahra Hankir, is a collection of essays by Arab and Middle Eastern female journalists, offering firsthand perspectives on the challenges, triumphs, and nuanced experiences of reporting from conflict zones and navigating the complexities of the media industry. Learn more


Further reading: The most thought-provoking questions of 2023 from readers


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