My Epic Life Quest

Life’s little moments of success can pass us by so easily. If we don’t track the things we’re proud of, we lose track of how far we’ve come. Steve Kamb’s Epic Quest of Awesome inspired me to build my own. I keep track of achievements, and after five significant ones, I level up. This page is where I track what I’ve done so far, and I’ve also got a list of things I’d like to do next. Join me and let’s see how things go, and I hope I can help inspire you to take your life to the next level, too.

Level 14 Quests: Working On These Next

Obviously, the whole coronavirus thing threw Level 14 a curveball. I haven’t leveled up since November 2019, and frankly, I’m just glad I’m making it through 2020 without losing a loved one. 2020’s been tough, and I feel really blessed to still be making a living and functioning pretty normally. Erika and I have been telecommuting together out of the same apartment for a long time before COVID19 hit, so that part of our life didn’t feel like it changed at all. We were just taking local-ish vacations (Malibu and Cabo) rather than big extravagant ones.

Right now, it looks like I’ll hit level 15 in mid-2021 because I’m working on a few big things to hit at once, most of which involve Iceland:

  • Pay off Jeremiah & Kendra – when the company bought out Jeremiah & Kendra’s shares in 2015, we agreed on a 5-year payment schedule. Completed November 2019.
  • Earn $2M/year revenue with no consulting employees – since we started the company, our vision of success was always to grow the consulting side of the business. In January 2019, I abandoned that plan, and instead decided to focus on just doing consulting & training myself, plus build online services. Pulling this task off means focusing my time on the most high-value work, and scaling passive income. I also want to make sure my community work doesn’t suffer. Missed it by $73K in 2019, but let’s see how 2020 goes.
    • Update 2020/04/01: onsite consulting & training engagements were about 10% of my sales last year, and that simply isn’t going to happen in 2020. However, on the flip side, online training sales are up 25% due to the quarantines, and that’s a bigger portion of my business anyway. I was prepared to call it quits on this goal until I ran those sales numbers.
    • Update 2020/10/03: right now, revenue is almost identical to 2019, so I might just be able to pull this off in 2020!
  • Move to Iceland – our San Diego apartment lease is up around the end of 2020, and we’d planned to spend 3 months in Iceland in early 2021. However, the more we thought about this, the more it made sense to just try to live in Iceland for a while. COVID19 is going to get worse here before it gets better, there’s no vaccine on the horizon, and even when one does finally ship, we’re probably not going to be able to get it for its first year or two. If we’re not going to be traveling for work, why not go live somewhere that we can drive around a lot and see some stunning sights? Aiming for Feb 2021.
  • Drive around Iceland’s Ring Road – a trip around the 828-mile Route 1 wrapping around the country usually makes more sense to do in the summer, but Erika loves the Iceland winters, so we’re doing it in March 2020. I’m comfortable driving in winter storms, and we’ve got a 4×4.
    • Update 2020/03/23: failed. We had to come home early due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We’ll give this another shot in 2021, but next time in the summer instead. We loved the winter, but we wanna try summer next time around only so that we can get to more sights, faster, with less road closures.
    • Update 2020/10/17: we’ll take another shot at this in March 2021.
  • See the Northern Lights – I saw ’em when I did the Chicago-Mac sailboat race and in our 2019 Iceland trip, but neither were really fantastic viewings. (Aiming for March 2020, taking a month off work to tour Iceland.)
    • Update 2020/03/23: failed. Amazingly, we were in Iceland for 3 weeks straight and never saw the Lights. We were foiled by a combination of snowstorms, cloudy skies, and low aurora activity. We’ll give this another shot another year.
    • Update 2020/10/17: we’ll take another shot at this in March 2021.

Level 13: Completed November 2019

When I made the decision to stop having consulting employees, a big part of that was being able to be flat out gone for longer periods of time. In a tiny 4-5 person business, it’s challenging (but by no means impossible) for 2 of the team members (Erika & I) to simply disappear for a month at a time. We could have done it by adapting how the company worked, I know, but that’s a matter for that other blog post – this is about the Epic Life Quest, and here, the company change manifested itself in us being able to disappear for longer periods of time:

  • Buy a Porsche 911 Targa – I’ve long had a love affair with the design of these, both old and new. I remember building Porsche 911 models as a kid, and fantasizing about the day I’d be able to buy one. For several years, I’d wanted to custom-order one with the exact paint color & leather I wanted, but one day Erika said out of nowhere, “Let’s just buy one off the lot. Get the experience right now instead of waiting, and it’ll be the same.” She was right. Completed July 2019. There are some tasks I put in here and go, yeah, this is epic, but THIS one, this one was EPIC, all caps.
  • Weigh 190 pounds or less for 6 months straight – Until mid-2014, I yo-yo’d between 210 and 220. When I made it a life quest to stay under 200 for 6 months straight, I was able to pull it off. Guess that means I’ve gotta set the next goal. Started July 22, 2018, scheduled to finish January 22, 2019. Broke 190 on Jan 2 after 3 weeks of fun & travel.  Completed July 2019.
  • Half-point: fly into Telluride airport – Erika and I were obsessed with this short runway surrounded by cliffs and mountains. Completed August 2019.
  • Half-point: fly in a hot air balloon – filed under “things I never even thought of doing, but the moment presented itself.” Completed August 2019.
  • See Napa while grapes are on the vines – we fell in love with wine country when we did the company retreat there in 2016, but we’d only seen it off-season. We got the chance to pick grapes off the vine and taste ’em. We’ve come to the conclusion that winemaking is like yardwork, squared. Completed August 2019.
  • Take Erika to Hawaii – she wanted to see volcanos, the beaches, and the islands where they shot LOST. Completed November 2019 on a 14-day cruise, and during the course of that, I also revised some of my Epic Life Quest goals. I’d always wanted to take a repositioning cruise, a cruise around the tip of Cape Horn, and a world cruise, gradually amping up my cruise lengths. On this Hawaiian one, we spent 4 days at sea going out, and 5 days coming back. I do love sea time, but the cruise ship motion out in the open ocean is a little over the top. I don’t get seasick, but the motion’s big enough that I don’t really covet this anymore. I think river cruises in Europe might be the next thing we go after, and we’re doing a big Norway cruise in 2020.

  • Be “gone” for 2 months in one year – regular readers will know that vacations are really important to me, and that I’ve worked remotely for a long time. I gradually took it up a level: in 2019, I was “gone” for a total of 2 months. For me, being “gone” means that I’m away from home, and I’m mostly on vacation. I still do work before Erika wakes up each morning – email, write, learn – but when I’m “gone,” I’m not available for client work because I’m often in places with odd schedules or sketchy Internet. In 2019, we did extended vacations in Iceland, Paris, Colorado, Napa, and Isle of Man, and a 2-week Hawaii cruise. (Not included in this task: yet another week in Mexico during the end of year holidays.)

Yeah, this level added up to 6 points, not 5, but since the last couple were really completed in tandem, it doesn’t feel like they should carry over to another level. Time to start fresh on the next level and get to hustlin’.

Level 12 Quests: Completed March 2019

Black Friday 2018 sales

Woohoo, WooCommerce!

Checked off a few long-term tasks:

  • Ride the Isle of Man TT mountain course – it’s a well-regardedscary fast race through one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. On my Sept 2018 visit, I took a morning to ride along on a motorcycle through the route. Completed Sept 2018.
  • Acquire an existing web site – I had never really been in the market for one, but I had the chance to buy a site that lined up well with a few experiments that I wanted to run. Completed Nov 2018, and will blog about it soon.
  • Get our November 2018 Black Friday sale over $500KI aimed for this in 2017, but I couldn’t quite pull it off, ending up at $439K. In 2018, I added a few more things that pushed us over the top. Completed Nov 2018.
  • For 5 years straight, take 2 weeks off per year with Erika – we started this in 2014 with a 2-week trip to Tulum to burn up the holiday weeks where nobody wants to book consultants. It was a fantastic experience. Completed Dec 2018.
  • Helicopter onto a glacier – Erika and I flew in about a week early for SQL Saturday Iceland and this was lovely and totally awe-inspiring. Completed March 2019.

Level 11 Quests: Completed August 2018

Me and the Pig

A few personal fun achievements hit in rapid fire in early 2018:

  • Tour the Porsche factory. Erika was madly in love with a-ha, so we flew to Europe to see them play live. Their 2018 opening show was in Stuttgart, so we checked off a few achievements in one trip, visiting the Porsche Museum and touring the factory. Sadly, no photos allowed in the factory, so I’m including one from the museum. (I’d have done the Mercedes museum too, but a client emergency kept me tied to a desk for a day.) Completed January 2018.
  • Drive fast on the Autobahn. We got off a sleepless redeye flight, got into a Mercedes E-class before dawn, and proceeded to haul ass through the dark rain for two hours. Probably not my wisest decision. Completed January 2018.
  • Eat in a Gordon Ramsay kitchen. No, not in a restaurant, in the kitchen. I know, the guy’s controversial, but almost every time I’ve eaten at one of his restaurants, I’ve been blown away by the service, and the Kitchen Table Experience at Pétrus was no different. Completed February 2018.
  • Launch a paid online service. A couple years ago, we launched PasteThePlan, our first online service. (I don’t really count blogs as a service.) In 2018, we leveraged that same infrastructure (AWS Lambda, Dynamo, SQS, etc) to build SQL ConstantCare®. It went into free private alpha in early 2018, but I called this quest task done once SQL ConstantCare® hit 10 paying customers. Completed March 2018.
  • Move to California. I can be happy pretty much anywhere, but if I get to pick, I wanna be able to be comfortable outside in the sun year round. I wanna be able to have a convertible and actually leave the top down for months at a time. We’ve wanted to move to San Diego for years, but the stars never quite aligned. Completed August 2018.

Level 10 Quests: Completed January 2018

Whew, okay. At this point, it felt like the company was on safe ground, moving along nicely. (Although as a Survivor fan, I cringe when anybody says they think they’re safe.) I started taking advantage of the passive income work that I’d accomplished in Level 9, which let me:

Jeremy Clarkson’s old digs on the Isle of Man

  • Visit Poland. When I saw @AaronBertrand‘s photographs of his Poland trip, I decided I had to go. SQLDay 2017 in Wroclaw was great! Completed May 2017.
  • Half-point: Ride in the upper deck of a 747. I don’t count this as a full experience point, but I’ve always wanted to do it, and I wanted to mark the achievement here so I could remember it when I looked back. I usually fly United, and they don’t use 747s, so I had to take a Lufthansa FRA-MCO flight to do it. Completed May 2017.
  • Visit the Isle of Man. Famous stateside for the bonkers TT motorcycle race which produces terrifying crashes and kills riders every year, this beautiful island was way, way, way more beautiful than I’d expected. I rode most of the race course (in a taxi, not a bike), and I’m totally going back. If, heaven forbid, Erika passes away before I do, I’m moving here. It had that much of an effect on me. Completed September 2017.
  • Set the PASS Summit pre-con attendance record. The Microsoft SQL Server industry holds a big annual conference in Seattle, and I’ve helped teach pre-con classes there before. My Expert Performance Tuning pre-con with Erik Darling broke the sales record more than a month before the event, and PASS couldn’t fit any more seats in. Completed October 2017.
  • Half-point: Get code into a Microsoft product. When Microsoft announced SQL Operations Studio, their new open-source cross-platform SSMS-type tool, the execution plans looked awfully familiar. Turns out one of the open source projects they’re using is HTML-Query-Plan, an open source project that Brent Ozar Unlimited sponsors – because we use it for PasteThePlan! So awesome – because that means we might actually be able to get the PasteThePlan icons in there as a theme, heh heh heh…
  • So close, yet so far

    Sell $500K of training in one month. Our Black Friday sale has done really well over time, and this year I want to see if I can cross that big round number. Update: so close, yet so far: our Black Friday sales hit $439K. That’s more than double our prior record, but not the big round number goal I was aiming for, so no Epic Life Quest points here.

  • Sell out 2 pre-cons at the same conference. When our SQLBits 2018 pre-con sold out, Erik suggested something I’d never heard of before in our industry: why not run the exact same pre-con again a second day? It’s kinda like how musicians will add a second date when that one sells out. The Bits crew agreed, and we sold that one out too! Completed January 2018.
  • [Redacted.] Personal finance achievement. Will come back and blog about this in a year or two, just putting it in here for tracking purposes.

Level 9 Quests: Completed April 2017

When I became the sole fella in charge at Brent Ozar Unlimited® back in fall 2015, running the company dominated my calendar for a while. I struggled with trying to grow the consulting company, then ended up laying off half the staff. Once I stopped trying to grow consulting, I shifted priorities and tackled a few other things:

Room 6E. No pressure. Instagram

Room 6E. No pressure. Instagram

  • Launch a free online service. I’ve done scripts and apps before, but never an online service where code runs and stores your data in a database. PasteThePlan launched in September 2016.
  • Spoke in the biggest room at PASS, first session. After the opening keynote, I had the first session in the biggest room, broadcast live on the web. I wish I would have taken a panoramic photo! Completed October 2016.
  • Launch GroupBy, a free online conference. For years, I’ve been thinking about different spins on how the SQL Server community can get together. launched in November 2016.
  • Scored Google as a client. I’ve had larger clients that I couldn’t talk about, but even if I could, Google would still hold a special place in my heart. I wish I had a picture of my face when they booked a meeting with me out of nowhere and said, “Hey, we’d like to work with you on an Always On project.” Completed October 2016, announced publicly February 2017.
  • Increase my passive income numbers to match my active income. Active income means trading time for money, whereas passive income means making money without directly losing time. My passive income isn’t purely passive – it’s things like selling video training classes, which bring in revenue while I do other stuff, but I still have to record the training classes and keep them up to date. Completed April 2017.

Level 8 Quests: Completed June 2016

I feel a little guilty about three of these because they seem passive at first glance. Passing a subscriber number, having readers on all the continents, and owning a car for 5 years – these seem like you could just sit still and do them. They all required discipline along the way, though, so I’m marking ’em down as goals.

Mine for the last 5 years (and bought it used)

Mine for the last 5 years (and bought it used)

  • Pass 50,000 Monday email subscribers. The Brent Ozar Unlimited mailing list has over 70,000 subscribers, but it feels pretty magical to know that over 50,000 folks want our favorite links in their inbox every Monday morning. Completed February 2016.
  • Tour a winery in Napa, California. The Brent Ozar Unlimited team went to Napa for the 2016 company retreat and had a blast. My favorite by far was the Cliff Lede VineyardsCompleted February 2016.
  • Visit Israel. I’ve always wanted to go, and I don’t exactly know why. For years, I’ve asked the SQLSaturday Israel organizers to let me know whenever they pick dates, and this year my work schedule finally worked out! Teaching a pre-con and spending a few days walking around the city, plus doing Vienna on the same trip. Completed April 2016.
  • Have readers on all 7 continents. I’ve always thought this would be a nifty badge to unlock, but Antarctica never showed up as a continent in our Google Analytics list. I sat down one day to figure out if there’s a SQL Server professional in Antarctica, and it turns out that Google Analytics tracks Antarctica as a country rather than a continent. We had a visitor from Antarctica this year! Completed June 2016.
  • Own the same car for five years. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I’ve never pulled this off before, and I would be kinda proud to pull it off. I have a serious attention span problem when it comes to cars. I bought my current 2008 Infiniti G35x in mid-2011, so I’ve made huge progress. Completed June 2016.

Level 7 Quests: Completed February 2016

Breakfast with Dad & Caryl in Mexico

Breakfast with Dad & Caryl in Mexico

Life comes in bursts, and just a few frantic months after Level 6, I knocked off four more tasks. The last one in the list took a few more months, but I’m particularly proud of that one.

  • Become the sole owner of Brent Ozar Unlimited. Sounds kinda funny to be the only owner of a company with my name on it, but Jeremiah Peschka & Kendra Little were equal owners with me. (The company just happened to have my name on it since we started it from my blog.) Completed December 2015.
  • Grow the company to 5 full time employees. I would have called this an Epic Life Quest achievement, but I kinda cheated my way into it. I had to hire people to make up for Jeremiah & Kendra leaving, so I’m not counting the 5 FTE thing as a separate achievement.
  • Take Dad & Caryl to Mexico for vacation. When Erika and I first arrived at Casa de las Olas in Tulum in 2014, I knew I wanted to bring Dad & Caryl here to celebrate Dad’s retirement. Completed December 2015.
  • $1mm/year in training revenue – This revenue milestone includes the sum of both our self-paced online classes and our live instructor-led classes. (At the same time, the company also hit $2mm/year in revenue, but I’m only counting one of these as an Epic Life Quest task.) Completed September 2015.
  • Blog at every week for 52 weeks straight. Writing energizes me, and writing here helps me keep track of my challenges and accomplishments.Shamelessly stolen from Andrew Notarian’s list of life quest tasks, and completed November 2015.
  • Teach a week-long training class solo. I’ve taught week-long classes with Jeremiah and/or Kendra before, but never solo. Managing an entire week’s worth of training and questions is not easy, but I eased my way into it with a whopping 5-person class. However, I count the for-real achievement unlocked with my 26-person class in San Diego. Completed February 2016.

Level 6 Quests: Completed August 2015

Sas Christian Peephole #1

Sas Christian Peephole #1

  • Acquire small Sas Christian paintings – I started with some of her pencil sketches in 2013, and this year I was able to pick up two of her smaller paintings, Peephole #1 and #3. (And a couple more pencil sketches, much to Erika’s dismay.) I’m being specific about “small” paintings because I’d really love to pick up at least one of her larger ones someday, and that deserves its own achievement. Completed 2015.
  • Hire a salesperson and hand off sales duties – I truly enjoyed doing sales work, but the time has come to hand that work off to a professional and get back to what I’m good at. What was that again? Completed in March 2015.
  • Train DBAs at 2 of the top 10 consulting companies – I’ve had a few pretty big consulting companies bring me in to train their staff, but these two are huuuuge. It’s such an ego boost to know that when it comes time for their staff to learn, they bring me in. Completed in mid-2015, but I can’t name the companies due to NDAs.
  • Do a fully coordinated online product launch – in the past, I’ve done a half-ass job whenever I launch a new training video or script. For my next one, I’m going to use techniques that self-publishers have used for years to really make a splash. Completed in June 2015.
  • Take a cruise in an aft balcony cabin. I’ve always wanted to get one of those balconies that hangs off the back of a cruise ship. Completed August 2015.

Level 5 Quests: Completed March 2015

It took almost a year to claw my way up to this level – well, not really. It’s more like I lost sight of my questing for a while as my work duties expanded, so I didn’t make as much big-picture progress on stuff for a year.

  • Marry Erika – After over a decade together, she finally caved in and let me put a ring on her finger. Completed in October 2014 in a drive-through chapel in Las Vegas.
  • Take Erika back to Tulum, Mexico – we had the time of our lives here, and it was without a doubt our favorite vacation ever. Completed in December 2014.
  • 5 million pageview year at – I certainly can’t claim credit alone, but it’s awesome to see my baby grow up. Completed December 2014.
  • Sell out a conference pre-con – my Performance Tuning When You Can’t Fix the Queries pre-con at SQLBits London sold out with 150 attendees a few weeks before the conference. (I’ve had larger pre-cons in the US, but that’s the first time the event organizers wanted to sell more seats, but couldn’t, and I love that.) Completed Feb 2015.
  • Weigh 200 pounds or less for six months – I have bounced between 195 and 215 for years.  I just gotta be disciplined. Completed March 2015.

Level 4 Quests: Completed April 2014

Presenting in Portugal

Presenting in Portugal

I did a lot of traveling in a six month time span, and was able to knock off a few goals quickly:

  • 5 Years Straight as Microsoft MVP – This wasn’t originally a goal for me, but when I got the 5-Year disk for my MVP trophy, I sat back and thought about it. I’m pleasantly surprised every time I get renewed – I  write honestly about what Microsoft is doing right and wrong, and I actually hold my tongue on a lot of stuff (both extreme negative and extreme positive) to be fair to the people around me. Looking back, I actually have had to work to earn this. Completed 2013.
  • Dined at one of the world’s 50 best restaurants. During our SQLRally Europe speaking tour, Adam Machanic got us reservations at the two-Michelin-star Restaurant Frantzén, ranked #12 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2013. Wow. Amazing. Completed 2013.
  • Hire our second employee at Brent Ozar UnlimitedCompleted 2013 when we hired the hilarious Doug Lane. Our initial goals for the company were to grow by one employee per year for the first few years.
  • Brent Ozar Unlimited hit $1mm/year revenue – We’re very focused on work/life balance, so I’m really proud that we achieved this with only 4 of us doing consulting. Completed 2013.
  • Visit Lisbon, Portugal with Erika and Ernie – Completed April 2014.

Level 3 Quests: Completed October 2013

I sat down to update this page in December and realized I’d already leveled up! I’d forgotten to update this page with some fun personal achievements.

Sas Christian's Eclipse Study

Sas Christian’s Eclipse Study

  • Publish 4 new training courses – I’ve done a lot of in-person and online presentations, but for 2013, our company’s setting up a new way of doing it.  Completed 2013.
  • Acquire Sas Christian original sketches – I’ve adored Sas’s art for years, and while I still can’t afford the original paintings, I got the chance to buy several of her study sketches. I’m in a race to get rich enough to buy her original work, plus her husband Colin’s awesome sculptures, but the prices keep going up before I can earn enough, hahaha. This year I picked up one of the rare prints of Takes a Lickin’, plus a rough sculpture by her husband Colin.  Completed 2013.
  • Rent a house in Cabo, Mexico – At Brent Ozar Unlimited, we all work from home and don’t get the chance to just hang out with each other. We do attend conferences together, but those are more work than play because we all present. To relax and connect, we get together for a week each year, and this year it was Casa Panga in beachfront Cabo. After the company week, my dad & stepmom joined us for a family vacation week too. Completed 2013.
  • Ride in an America’s Cup chase boat – I grew up watching sailboat racing and always dreamed of seeing it in person. This world championship race only happens every few years, and hadn’t been in America for most of my adult life. I leapt at the chance to fly to San Francisco and ride a speedboat on the water to watch Oracle win a race. Completed 2013.
  • Launched an email training course – For years, I’ve wanted to build an email autoresponder but I had to find the right topic. I launched my 6-Month DBA Training Plan email series, and it succeeded wildly – we’ve got thousands of subscribers learning via email each week. Completed 2013.

In this level, I also returned to Amsterdam & Stockholm, two of my favorite European cities, but I don’t count returning visits as achievements.

Level 2 Quests: Completed November 2012

And I use the word running loosely.

Running the Portland Half Marathon

  • Hire our first employee at Brent Ozar Unlimited – Completed 2012 – I’m paranoid. I didn’t want to hire anyone until I could be absolutely, positively sure we wouldn’t have to lay them off for the next several years.  I want our employees to be as comfortable with our company’s success as they are with technology. This took a huge gut check, but we knew it had to happen if we wanted to have a secure financial future.
  • See the red light district and the Anne Frank house in AmsterdamCompleted 2012 – I spoke at Microsoft TechEd Europe in Amsterdam in June and took plenty of time to walk around the city. Yes, there’s more to Amsterdam than Anne Frank and hookers, and I saw much more, but those were two things I’d always wanted see.
  • Rated in the Top 10 at several conferences in a row – Completed 2012 – at the PASS Summit 2011, SQL Connections Spring 2012, Microsoft TechEd 2012 North America, and Microsoft TechEd 2012 Europe, attendees rated my presentations among the best.  I was dumbstruck to make the top 10 at both TechEds because these are huge (5,000-10,000 attendee) conferences with the best presenters Microsoft has to offer.  This made me wonder – what’s my next step for presenting?
  • Run my second half-marathonCompleted 2012 – when I finished the first one, I said out loud, “No way am I ever doing this again.” A few friends of mine talked me into running the Disneyland Half Marathon in 2012, though.
  • Met Erika’s Dad in El SalvadorCompleted 2012 – Erika and I have been together for over a decade, but I hadn’t met her dad, who still lives in El Salvador.  Erika didn’t want to fly down with a gringo because the crime and kidnapping was pretty bad for a while.  We ended up flying into San Salvador and spending a few days in a gated all-inclusive resort.  We took a couple of side trips including seeing the house where she grew up.

Level 1 Quests (Done Before 2012)

And I use the word "race" loosely.

Sailing the Chicago-Mac Race

Here’s some of the things I’m most proud of up til I started keeping track on January 1, 2012.  I giggle when I think of this as Level 1, because I’ve achieved so many tasks that I really cherish, but I gotta start counting somewhere.

Future Quests for Higher Levels