Marc Grabanski, CEO & UI Developer of Frontend Masters

2019: 🤗 Turning 35, Reflecting on the Last 5 Years

December 31, 2019

This summer (2019) our new baby girl arrived. Now my family is full – we now have four kids! 🤩🤗😱

Grabanski Family Fall 2019

This is a follow up to my turning 30 post, where I reflected on previous years, ~2010-2014. This article will reflect on the last 5 years, ~2014-2019.

Finances and Feeling “Safe”

Finances and health are two things that stick out more than I would have expected. They cause all sorts of cascading effects on the rest of your life if you don’t get them right.

If the business isn’t healthy financially, then the team doesn’t feel safe. The same goes for your spouse and kids. Everyone wants to work for a financially healthy business, and it solves so many relationship problems when the family is stable financially as well.

So with that, I do feel like I’ve taken massive steps in getting my finances straight between 30 and 35. See my personal finance checklist to see some of the steps I’ve taken to ensure my family’s financial future.

Back when I wrote that “turning 30” post, I was working multiple jobs and barely able to afford a $1,200/mo apartment in the suburbs with one vehicle. But this year alone, the business has donated like four times my salary from 5 years ago to non-profits teaching people to code and open source projects through Open Collective! 😮 This is a direct result of the business crossing into being debt-free and profitable since 2018.

I cannot believe I’ve been an entrepreneur for nearly 20 years now. Feels like it shouldn’t have taken this long for me to get here. But I’m here now, and honestly, it feels pretty good!

Physical Health

I’ve been struggling with staying healthy and remaining in good shape over the last 5 years. I’m pretty sure people see me as a pretty fit and healthy person from the outside. I lift weights every week and remain active through that. But I don’t always view myself as healthy. I shift between being in great shape by working out and watching what I eat, as low as 14-15% body fat, but then when things get stressful, I eat my way back up to ~20%.

Over the next 5 years, I hope to be a lot more consistent with my physical health.

Mental Health

The highs of entrepreneurship are very high, and the lows are very low. The same with being a father as well. Put them both together, and personally, there are more challenging moments than I would like to admit!

But at the end of the day, the results are amazing. With my kids, there is absolutely nothing like seeing your beautiful children together as friends…

Grabanski Kids Fall 2019

They get to live their whole life together. It’s incredible, and I couldn’t be more proud of them! 🤗

Temporary Happiness vs. Long-term Fulfillment

Along these lines, I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness vs. fulfillment. These last 5 years especially, I’ve put long-term satisfaction over temporary happiness. The mission, “Educate more people, more deeply,” is what I work for and towards every day. It gives purpose to work, so instead of working for personal happiness, I work to serve that broader mission.

Focusing on this mission of education brings me a sense of immense fulfillment, way beyond doing “fun” work at every moment would. I chose to do “fulfilling” work first. And when there happens to be cross-over between “fun” and “fulfilling”… it’s magic! ✨ I hope I can find more of those moments over the next 5 years.

Company Culture: Work-Trips to Costa Rica

Living and working in Minnesota, the winters get very harsh cold. We’ve been working in Costa Rica together in mid-January to offset that for 3 weeks.

It was on the beach in January, where we took probably my favorite family photo ever (my wife was pregnant with our baby):

Grabanski Costa Rica 2019

We also plan to work from somewhere exciting in the Summer as well. These are work trips, not vacations. So we set up a condo as our office to work on special group projects and get out of our day-to-day mindset into a different, more collaborative mindset in an inspiring location.

Building the Team, and Being “Mission-Focused”

The main thing I’ve been focused on since 2017 for the company has been building a fantastic team. From them, all things stem. There is no way you can be part of a bigger mission without a team that works together in a cohesive way towards a shared set of goals.

Currently, we are 9 team members with 2-3 working on contract in a regular capacity.

Reviewing Goals from Over a Decade Ago

Looking at mid and long-term goals from 2007, I did pretty much everything on that list. Wow …that really was 13 years ago!

There are a few main things I wrote that stood out to me:

“Make enough residual income to pursue personal projects.”

My personal project is my business right now. I could sell the business and go after passion projects, but I can’t think of a better company than the one I currently have.

Even if I could make more money as video game streamer, drone flyer, or something cool…would I want to? What is out there that would be worth giving up this business. I can’t think of anything, so I’ll continue to run the company for the foreseeable future! 😀

“Have family and kids a higher priority (time-wise) than work.”

Surprisingly, I can focus a lot of time on my family despite running a growing business. This is the result of having a great team and a solid customer base.

I was able to take nearly two months at a very reduced capacity to focus on my family when we had our fourth kid this year. This was HUGE for my wife and kids to have me around so much this summer.

Fulfilling Dreams from Decades Ago!

I’ve created nearly everything I set out to do from my teens and twenties…yet I’m 35, so I’ve got many years to grow and expand on those dreams. 🚀

The business does a great job mixing social good with capitalism. We’ve trained a ton of people, we’ve released a free bootcamp, we’ve donated money, we pay our teachers well, we offer great benefits to the team, and even on top of all that the business provides me the ability to be there for my family if they need me.

Looking to 2025 and Beyond

Before celebrating too much, though, there’s so much more I need to do in life. The next 5 years are about scaling the capitalism side of the business to provide more resources for the team, while also balancing that with doing good for people through education.

I’m not one to really set specific goals, but I do like to write some general ambitions down to take a snapshot of things rolling around in my mind. These will be pretty vague and high-level, but here are some things I’d like to do over the next 5+ years: (in no particular order)

Some Professional Ambitions

  • Go from the current ~10 person team we have, to building an even more excellent mid or large size company. This should be a blog post in itself since it consists of scaling the culture and structure of the company to support more people, scaling the existing product, scaling working with teachers, creating new products, etc.
  • Create means of getting out my straightforward views on capitalism out through a more personal format like a podcast or YouTube channel.
  • (Potentially) Invest financially or at least advise some engineers who can become leaders of great companies.

Some Personal Ambitions

  • See more of the world. I planned to do way more travel in my life than I have, but I haven’t found much room for trips in such a busy and compact life.
  • Get some hobbies that involve core strength and stretching. These could be something like Yoga, Jiu-Jitsu, Gymnastics, Indoor Skydiving… or something! I lift weights, but I don’t think I can keep it up in my 40s and 50s the way I currently do.
  • On the personal care side, I need to be more vulnerable and develop closer relationships. I want to foster warmer relationships and friendships. I realize this might be nearly impossible to do more of with small children, but as they grow older, I need to develop a circle of fun and supportive people.
  • Give my kids and wife more opportunities to grow and pursue their dreams. I know, this one is super vague, but it’s worth mentioning because just like the team and customers at work, I want to give those closest to me the ability to pursue their dreams, likely that will mean me giving up something on this list at least temporarily.
  • I’ve been rebuilding my relationship with my parents, I’d like to continue that and extend that to restoring relations with extended family as well.
  • Eventually, it’d be great to be financially free to the point that I don’t need to work, can retire any day, and my family will continue to be provided for.

“Don’t Screw It Up!”

Not screwing up the good things I’ve got going is probably the biggest goal, lol. 😂 We’ll see if I can continue to build while also tackling some more of these items over the next 5 years! 😄

Marc Grabanski, CEO & UI Developer of Frontend Masters

Career Journal on Web Dev, Business, & Life

<< 2020: 🥽 Going Remote and Diving into Virtual Reality 💵 Personal Finance Checklist >>