2012 was a challenging year in a lot of ways. Not bad certainly, but not business as usual.

Those of us with small and mid-sized companies did battle with the economy and the marketplace, fighting to find firm footing, with lots of flailing around to catch updrafts for growth.

Funding for seed and A rounds was more uncertain than any of us wants to remember. From a marketing perspective, it was momentumless in many respects. The very oxygen that start-ups and small companies breathe was sucked out of the web by the big social nets as they monopolized the world’s log on screens. Traction was a slog.

The rule of thumb for me, all last year, was “Focus on what you can control”. When you strip away grander schemes, clear all the obfuscation that surrounds critical decision making, nothing else matters. And time wasted is opportunity squandered, good market or bad.

This idea that you need to focus down hard never steers me wrong.

Even in boom years, the initiatives that pay back are those that come from focused execution as a strategy, not from trying to chase the market from behind or conjure up end runs around consumer behaviors or competition.

Many of my advisory clients last year, funding aside, smartly focused and dug deep rather than chasing after a market that had no real rudder. They dug into the core values of what they did for customers and partners. Removed excesses and pushed aside nice-to-haves.

The ones that seem the best prepared for this year didn’t buck the tide but kept peeling away the onion till they hit value and engagement. Then honed and strengthened. Had patience if cash flow allowed, and didn’t jump to pivots without real data.

For myself personally, I focused on the near-term needs, not on the long-term dreams that were too big to grasp and impossible to take steps towards. And took some big flying (and tangible) leaps into the unknown along the way.

Aging is a bitch. For all of us, it has a way of creeping up and demanding acknowledgement. Last year I doubled down, made health a mission and adopted (with a lot of guidance) a belief that nutrition and smart exercise, not diet and random activity are the way to greater and longer-lived vitality. A way to work with the body to insure that it supports us, not that it simply doesn’t get in the way. What and how I ate and exercised became a studied obsession.

The results were terrific. A business, the brainchild of  Lianna Sugarman, LuLitonix, grew out of this as a way to take these nutrition ideas to what we hope will be a sizable niche market. Maybe larger. It’s just barely getting started but I’m thrilled at some early signs of acceptance.

It’s no secret that I have a passion for wine as culture, community as a market model and the empowerment of the global local on the social web. I’ve been blogging on these ideas for years. And for as long, have been circling around a way to connect these passions into a new kind of marketplace starting in New York.

Last August, I said ‘go’ to a very early version of this idea, theLocalSip community wine marketplace. A natural mash up of wine shops, New York neighborhoods and an on-foot, connected population. Five months in, it’s been both inspiring and humbling. I’m both trepidatious and excited as v 1.5 rolls out in the coming months. 2012 wrap up wine community post here.

More than you expect comes from focusing on less.

There’s a magic that comes from smart focus on the possible that brightens areas that you just couldn’t fathom prior. Focusing on what you can control to me is not the strategy of last resort, it’s a first resort solution.

The illogical truth almost always holds true. If you focus down hard on what has value, what can be moved or swayed, what can be tangibly touched, stuff happens that is beyond your control. Beyond volition.

Maybe this is the same as making our own luck. Maybe it’s just a reflection on the dynamic nature of life, but by focusing on the tangible, the targetable, the ineffable seems to move along with it. Regardless…it just happens.

On day four of this new year, just doing it with intent and not wasting time on the emotional excesses around events, stripping away what can’t be seen as purposeful, seems to be working fine.

It’s a strategy that I’m going to keep running with this year.

2013…bring it on!