2016 in Review

I set out a number of objectives in 2016:

  1. To eat more healthily
  2. To socialize more
  3. To write something everyday
  4. Read something for personal development
  5. Learn Python
  6. Getting on to the Amazon eCommerce platform
  7. To get more exercise
  8. Listen to a business/investing related podcast daily

In 2016 I began using this app called Momentum to keep track of these few objectives. Momentum is a simple, check-the-box app that allows you to keep track of the habits you want to cultivate. You can set the frequency of the habit you want to track (daily, weekly, etc). If you did something that day to advance that habit, tap on the box and it will show up as a “green”.

A screenshot capture of my Momentum exported to Excel

Why use this approach and why does it work?

  • The first thing is that it is aesthetically simple. You can tell at a glance which are the habits that you have been keeping a good track of, and which are falling behind.
  • Taking baby steps. Since you are free to set any type of habit to track, what counts as “progress” before you put a check in the box is solely up to you. It is not like I need to be improving leaps and bonds by the end of a session. With reading, for example, I would consider that even 5-10 minutes of reading a book a day to have met my personal target for that habit.
  • The beauty about doing this is that it doesn’t necessarily penalise you for not performing a certain action despite having it marked as a to-do. We are all fallible and there is no point trying to beat yourself up over that weekend where you had one drink more than usual and ended up not catching up on your reading. More importantly, it allows you to monitor *over the long run* which activities you have been neglecting. The next step is to just acknowledge it without demoralising yourself and then move on to getting back on track.

What are the side projects I have been involved in this year?

  • Python
  • Formulating a keto bar
  • Options trading
  • Internet marketing
  • Amazon FBA
  • Sketching/drawing

What went well?

  • I maintained a fairly OK ratio of days active (where the green box was checked) to days that were not. Reading and listening to podcasts were notably the best maintained habits.

What went OK?

  • Eating habits have remained quite normal. But I tend to notice that I eat rather poorly during the weekends. Probably because I’m with family and I am not so picky with food when they are around
  • Learn/build/practice: My bucket for pursuits outside the other categories. More fluid and subject to changes. For example, I have been dabbling with chatbots from September to October this year, while activities in this bucket were mainly language related towards the start of the year.

What didn’t go well?

  • While I said I wanted to get started shipping physical products to sell online since June, the reality is that I have been stuck at the idea sourcing stage.
  • Interest in Python has waned over time. After a good 3-4 months start, my learning has basically tailed off to… nothing. 😦
  • Failed my JLPT N1 exams. Not unexpected, but still a disappointment.
  • Lacking in exercise yet again

Some categories are understated in the sense, so I have not included them in the “what didn’t go well” section. For example, I have not included socialising as I have set a target of 2 days a week to meet new people. Since the above is based on Excel formulas I will update the formulas again to reflect that in future.

Some other qualitative questions that I picked up from another website that I thought would be good as a exercise for me:

What am I most grateful for?

  • Friends who care. It may not always appear to others this way, but I do appreciate the concern that friends have for me. Simple things like asking how am I doing occasionally do make me feel like I am not transparent after all.
  • A healthy family. My parents are 67 and 57, and still going strong.
  • Non in-person mentors. Business podcasts I have been listening to have taught me many lessons. Over time, small pieces of advice have been incorporated into my daily life, to the point where I no longer notice the change.

What challenge am I proudest of overcoming?

  • Adopting novel ways with which to reach out to people whom I did not know initially
  • Setting up this website (MAJOR procrastination demon slayed)
  • Rewiring my brain to type better
  • Making a conscious effort to tap on my “right brain”, taking up some sketching/drawing lessons
  • Completed reading seven books and perhaps an eighth by the end of the year

What do I regret most?

  • Stopping Python. While intended to be a multi-year learning process, I have remained static in my learning for a few months now.
  • A lack of focus. Perhaps starting too many side projects that I lost track of easily. Most projects have gone not had much tangible results to show for.

What did I enjoy most?

  • My solo trip to Japan, and my trip to Vietnam. Both were exercises in doing things outside of what I would do normally. In Japan, I struck up conversations with strangers since I was alone, while in Vietnam, I rode a scooter for the first time in my life, covering the scenic Hai Van pass and having some bruises to show for it. 🙂

What are the key lessons I learned about life?

  • Life is never fair. There is no point in bitching about it.
  • In life, you don’t get what you don’t ask for. In other words, push the limits, then take a step back if things don’t work. Sometimes people/things/targets need a nudge. Applying this to an office work environment has been an experiment with what I think are mostly positive results.
  • Never wait for people. Instead, take steps to get to where you want to be as soon as you realise where that place is. Heck, take steps even if you don’t know where you are going.
  • Human relationships are complicated and unpredictable. Rather than adopting a hands-off approach, perhaps it is better to throw yourself into the deep end of it to get as much experience as you can.
  • Always keep experimenting. The more you experiment, the more you understand what you like and what you do not like. Though I listed a lack of focus as one of my regrets, I do not really mean it that way. Perhaps what I mean is that there should have been a better way for me to filter out projects in a more efficient way for me decide which ones are more important.

What are the key lessons I learned about myself?

  • I am personally committed to lifelong learning. Seth Godin recently said that he values his failures more than his successes as they have taught him far more things in life than his successes.
  • I long to create something that I can call my own. It seems like everyone is creating something nowadays. Engineers build bridges, architects make buildings, software developers build apps… what do people in finance create, other than spinning money around?
  • I would love to be able to meet more people and share ideas and opinions. But the traditional work environment doesn’t allow too much of that, so I have to create new ways of doing it
  • Fear of uncertainty has kept me in my comfort zone for the most part of my life. But I will commit to this no longer. Having said that, I frequently second guess and doubt my own abilities.

If this coming year was my last on Earth, what would I want to do the most? Why?

  • Stop focusing on the daily humdrum of life and start opening my eyes more to the simpler things that make us happy. Remind myself that in the end, it is the relationships we have built in this world that will have mattered.

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