This happened to me in 2022 – Year in Review

It seemed like yesterday when I completed my year review blog post for 2021, and here we are with the 2022 version.

And the procrastination bug bit me again as I kicked the can down the road til the very end.

As of this sentence, it is 31 Dec 2022 12:35 pm.

So you can pretty much guess what might be one goal I am aiming for in 2023

And as always, doing this review reminds me why annual performance reviews suck.

Recency effects always kick in, and I can barely remember what happened earlier in the year.

Fortunately, there is evidence from my calendar and Google Photos to show what I was up to.

And documenting all these help to put perspective, especially when the progress of daily grinds isn’t apparent.

It is like going to the gym every day. You barely notice any improvements. But if you compared that photo of yourself a year ago, you will see a noticeable difference.

For a consistent pessimist like me, that is a good reminder that things are moving forward, but the perception muscles are too numb to notice.

This is why I have been doing these yearly recaps (2016 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021). For reasons I can’t recall, 2017 is missing.

And I’m going to add some structure to this year’s review and categorise them by:

Personal Highlights

With 2 years of COVID-19 behind, revenge travel also came into us. My wife and I travelled to Bangkok in May with my good friend and his wife.

In September, we resumed our yearly family trip ritual, and the entire gang went to Melbourne. As our itinerary covers Melbourne city, Great Ocean Road and Mount Buller, we had to get a car, and the driving was intense.

From one to another, it would take between 3 hours to 5 hours. I love road trips and seeing the farms, animals, valleys and stuff that flies by your windows.

I also got to catch up with my ex-finance colleague from my first business, and I couldn’t be happier to see her.

With the trip up to Mount Buller, my eldest son and I tried skiing for the first time, and I almost killed myself as my training wasn’t complete due to latecomers.

Thinking back, it still gives me the jitters.

Within a week after we returned, my wife and I went over to Seoul/Jeju. I piggybacked on her work trip, and while she was working, I was roaming around like a clueless local.

I even ran up a hill alongside some ajoomas who walked faster than my run.

Jeju happened after my wife’s work week was completed. Travelling in Jeju is better with a car, and it was another first as I attempted a left-hand drive.

And finally, in late November, my wife and I went to Switzerland and Italy for 14 days.

We went up 3 snow mountains, visited the Colosseum in Rome, rode on a Gondola in Venice and did too much shopping in Milan.

Interestingly, my favourite part of the trips is the lengthy train rides. Maybe it is a respite from too much walking.

We wanted to do Paragliding in Interlaken, but that activity was cancelled due to bad weather.

The trip coincided with my wife’s birthday, and we went to this fancy restaurant. They promoted White Truffle to us, and on a glance at the menu that is part English, part Italian, I thought it was 12 Euros per serving.

I did not suspect anything, even when they brought out a small weighing machine to measure the truffle before and after the shave.

When the bill arrived, it turned out that the white truffle cost 12 Euros per gram! That line entry alone costs 160 Euros.

160 Euros flakes

Within the family, we added a couple of turtles to the household at my eldest son’s request. No prize for guessing who ended up becoming their caregiver.

My youngest kid had her last day at preschool. That will be a huge monthly saving as we transit to her $6.50 per month from Primary 1.

It also feels quite jarring that they are all maturing every day. Obama said you know when a kid becomes teenager when they go into their room, close their door and come out when they turn 18.

I already see that in my eldest. Hopefully, it won’t happen to my 2nd that quickly.

We also suffered a loss in the family as my mum passed away. Her health has deteriorated since she was warded at the hospital for a suspected lung infection.

Before her passing, she was almost bedridden for 9 months. Her declining memory made things worse.

But at age 84, I think she lived it out and completed the entire life game comfortably.

May she rest in peace with companionship from my previous dog Mario who passed away 2 years ago.

Professional Highlights

This is the year of (and my 2nd attempt at) self-employment.

It was like many other things in my life, accidental. I argued with my previous boss and threw in my resignation letter.

When emotions subsided, I was like, “oh shit. What now?”

Eventually, I decided against the two job interviews I was going through and be my boss instead.

One key difference from the past is this is a solopreneur effort, and I don’t intend to hire anyone, i.e. self-employment.

Having been through periods when tomorrow is payday and there is no money in the bank, I don’t wish to go through those stressful periods anymore, so being a one-man show seems a better option.

I put the word on LinkedIn that I’m going independent, and almost overnight, I managed to bring in three assignments. Two of them are still my retainers – providing content work for Rolling Arrays, including hosting their podcast and being the Fractional CMO for SHRI.

I also did ad-hoc whitepapers for CoachHub, Unit4, and Veremark, authority content for Rewardz, spoke/moderated engagements with Deel and AYP and was a marketing partner for People Matters’ TechHR 2022.

I also tried teaching for the first time at ITE and was mentoring mid-career folks in learning digital marketing. Both are off my plate as I realised I don’t enjoy teaching.

In May, I went live with my first online course on increasing your traffic on LinkedIn. And from the middle of the year, I became the co-host of a CNA podcast on work-related matters.

The traffic I was getting on LinkedIn became a calling card as marketing agencies contacted me to do sponsored posting. It was pretty fun getting my wife involved to be my camera person.

Since most of my work is performed at home, it comes with great relief and joy that I finally have a workstation.

No more camping at the dining table and the daily hassle of setting up and tearing down.

Plus, I get to hang out with my oldest daughter as I buy those long tables that can accommodate two people.

Combined with the Xebec screen extension I got earlier in the year, I can’t imagine a more productive workstation.

Lessons Learned

A key lesson I was reminded of is the importance of a support system that comes outside of one’s family.

Which is an epiphany for a recluse like me.

But as the African saying goes: “if you want to run fast, run alone. If you want to run far, run together.”

Holding things together seemed more manageable with the physical and moral support from friends and contacts that dropped by at my mum’s funeral.

It is somewhat like how I managed to survive military service since the hardship happened to many of us simultaneously.

Another key thing would be to discern the bandwidth of others I compare myself with.

I tend to be overly critical of myself and always feel I don’t measure up. Why does that person make more money them me? Why does her LinkedIn post with just a picture have more traffic than my thoughtful piece? Urgh! I’m such a failure!

But I’m not comparing apple to apple. Justin Welsh made a mention of this. He is married and childless. He is also not in any debt. That allows him the time, bandwidth and runway to double down on his solopreneur venture.

Finally, nothing beats learning by doing. I accumulated and signed up for so many writing programs this year, but I wonder if that has moved the needle. If I had spent those time writing instead, could I have become a better writer?

On other lessons, I wrote a separate piece earlier this year during my birthday on 43 lessons at 43 years old.

Favourite Reads of 2022

The number of reads almost dropped by half this year. Made worse by the fact that retention of what I read appears to be more challenging.

Is it an old age thing? I don’t know.

As a solution, I subscribe to Readwise. You key in the books you read, and it will churn out snippets from those books daily, so it becomes a repetitive reminder.

The memoir from Obama is an interesting (and long) read. And that brick is only part 1! It covers his childhood up til the end of term 1.

The book inspired me for a moment to learn more about the art of speechwriting.

The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life by Body Varty is one I never imagined I would enjoy, but it left a deep impression on me. Although it may seem just about his past life as a Lion Tracker, Body infuses life lessons at every turn. Life lessons that we can apply to our daily lives. This is a short read.

Tools of Titan was an overdue read. Choke is full of practical tips and advice to better oneself; it is impossible to take everything wholesale. I try to monitor similarities across what every guest in the book mentioned and find ways to test them in my life instead.

Other books I read this year include:

  1. Unconditional parenting – Alfie Kohn
  2. The Intelligence Trap – David Robson
  3. Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life – Steve Martin
  4. Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most – Greg McKeown
  5. How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – Sonke Ahrens
  6. The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking – Oliver Buckerman
  7. Contagious: Why Things Catch On – Jonah Berger
  8. The Black Swan – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Goals for 2023

If I can only have one goal, I will be kinder to myself. I am my worst critic, and that recorder plays 24/7. I aim to be more mindful and catch myself more often and ask my mind to shut the fuck up because I am already doing fantastic.

I also need to be more disciplined in adhering to my calendar. That means being more realistic in some entries, catering buffers in between and setting lower achievement for each.

Instead of completing a blog post today, it would be writing 500 words for a crappy post. That will take the pressure off right away.

With my new workstation, I also ran out of excuses not to be more regular on my YouTube programming. I aim to repurpose my writings and to achieve weekly content for at least 1H of the year.

Learning will be reduced to make room for doing, which may be a better way to learn.

I like to get back into doing charitable work and identify ways to expose my kids to it.

Lastly, I hope I can extend my self-employment runway for another year. Although it can be lonely to work alone, I think it provides a good balance for me to play my part as a father.

I could quickly bring them out or play with them during mid-day if I want to. And there are fewer crowds during weekdays.

I’m incredibly grateful for the fantastic year 2022 has been for my family and me. I am truly blessed to be able to do what I love every day.

Here’s to an even better 2023!

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