Another year has passed and I’d like to share my annual review with you, including a few personal and per usual lessons learned. I generally do a weekly review of my own goals, so to review an entire year and share it is exciting.
This is not a means for me to brag or make myself seem special or better than anyone.
I believe it’s important to reflect and take note of your wins and losses so you can re-frame your next steps and goals. I hope that by sharing my own wins and losses, I can provide some insight.
Note: This is an abridged reflection of my year, but it’s going to be a long post. You’ve been warned.
This #AnnualReview was inspired by Chris Guillebeau.
Edit: Upon publishing this post, I received many messages of support. I appreciate all the kind words of affirmation. However, I do want to make it clear that I’m doing fine and there’s no need to worry. (:
What went well in 2014
- Digital marketing has been working out. I left my first marketing internship and got a job in Los Angeles doing online marketing for restaurants, allowing me to grow and apply my skills and learn to work with various types of people. While working that job, I also completed a three-month digital marketing internship for Global Brigades. I’m looking to take the next steps in my career soon.
- Moved to Los Angeles. It was difficult getting used to a new city. The only person I knew was my roommate, but I’m slowly getting accustomed to the change of pace. I didn’t have to move, but I felt it would provide the necessary push for my personal and professional growth.
- Traveled. I went to Honduras with Global Engineering Brigades for a week to help develop a water system (and raised enough funds to cover all expenses, thank you to everyone who donated!). My friend, Parth, and I went on a spontaneous road trip along the coast and ended up in the town of Gilroy. We took no photos and have no documentation of the trip. It was great. I experienced my first solo trip in Chicago and learned what it meant to be alone.
- The UP Lab saw tremendous growth. We took on a new team of interns in the Spring then staff writers over the summer. The interns grew into their roles and created a new campus organization at UC Irvine. The staff writers produced content on a weekly basis and kept the blog up and running. We hosted the Milestone Project at UC Irvine. Working on The UP Lab pushed my limits as a leader and pushed me to practice humility and learn how to better manage a team.
- Met an amazing girl. She was extremely hard working and talented. She helped me realize my self-worth and taught me to push myself even further. I was happy with her.
- Became more confident. I’ve struggled with confidence for a long time, but it has gotten better because of the people in my life and the small wins I’ve made. I’ve learned to believe that I’m worth the time of others. This lead me to host my very first birthday party for myself. I normally don’t host things and nor do I usually do anything big for my birthday. This was a big deal for me, mentally.
- Got out of my professional comfort zone. I participated in a Startup Weekend at UC Irvine in January, then a Forge 54 Marketing Weekend in September and a NewCo event in November. At each event I pushed myself to interact with professionals, many of which are very successful individuals.
- Built habits. I’ve consistently meditated every day for two months, worked out three times a week and read every night for at least 30 minutes.
- Ran my first half marathon. It was my first event and I ran the entire 13.1 miles. It wasn’t just the event, but also the process of training for it that was fulfilling.
- Learned to relax. This year, I allowed myself to binge-watch Walking Dead, Royal Pains, Scrubs or Once Upon a Time. Sometimes I’ll read a book for hours. I’ve learned to take a step back from worrying about my career all the time.
- Not just an action person. In the past, I would think of myself as the “action person.” That I’m not the person who comes up with ideas. I need someone else to give me ideas and I would make them happen. Imagine how limited I felt. I’ve since let my mind act more freely when it comes to ideas. I’ve realized that I do have ideas. Most are bad. But a few are pretty good. But I feel much less restricted.
- Read books. Books I finished this year: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Trust Me I’m Lying, Growth Hacker Marketing, The Stranger, 1Q84, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Ham on Rye. Currently reading: The 48 Laws of Power.
- Started a lot of new things. I learned that I’m good at starting–which is usually the most difficult step for many people. This was good until I took on too many things. Many things inevitably fell through, but I learned a lot in the process.
- I cut out the unimportant things. I used Warren Buffet’s two-list strategy to become more focused on my goals. My journal is formatted into weeks. I have a list of things to complete each week and those items are distributed amongst the seven days. I’ve found that my to-do lists contain less busy work and more intentional work–work that matters.
- Intentionally improved myself mentally and emotionally. I’ve had my periods of sadness this year which gave me opportunities to be aware of my thoughts and emotions. I learned to stop trying to avoid or fight negative thoughts or sadness. I’ve learned to feel them completely, but remind myself that they’re temporary. This helped me contextualize my situations and put them into perspective.
Before I go into what didn’t go well this year, again I want to note that this is going to be an extremely personal reflection.
What did not go well in 2014
- I’m always learning how to better handle sadness and stress. Unfortunately, I struggled with alcoholism this past year on multiple occasions and found myself nearly going down the slippery slope. I’ve since learned to better deal with mentally and emotionally troubling situations.
- Uncertainty still scares me because I don’t feel financially stable yet. I’ve been paying my own bills and taking care of my expenses. Some months, I hardly save any money. My parents help me occasionally–without my asking–and I’ve learned to accept it. What makes it more difficult is the uncertainty of entering a new field of work.
- Despite the progress I’ve made this year, I’ve had plenty of moments when I felt unfocused and stagnant, as if I wasn’t making any progress toward a bright future. I need to learn to look at the long-term more rather than the short-term. Things won’t always look good in the present, it’s a matter of looking toward the path I’m taking and making sure I’m going in the right direction.
- I saw the end of a five year relationship that I had depended on for happiness. Like other couples, we had our highs and lows and those lows eventually became too much to handle. I just hope I did as much for her as she did for me. The memories still linger. It’s going to take a while to get used to not being in a relationship. I learned that I have a lot more to learn about relationships.
- As mentioned above, I did meet a girl who made me happy again. That also ended. I have a problem with jumping into relationships too soon, thinking I’m ready. I’ve accepted that I’m not (if you’re reading this, I’m sorry).
- I’m still learning to deal with the feeling of loneliness. The end of a five year relationship meant learning to be alone. Graduating from college meant it’d be more difficult to meet people. Some of my closest friends moved to other states and countries, and the closest ones are about two hours away. As a result, I’ve develop the idea that I don’t have many close friendships. However, it’s something I have control over. It’s just a matter of reaching out to friends.
- Likewise with friendships, I’ve been working to spend more time with my family. I’m not used to it, but I’m trying. We used to go on family trips when my siblings and I were younger. That stopped when my parents owned a business for about seven years. But now they want to go on trips again and it’s a little weird. I want to make sure that, 10 years from now, I won’t be saying, “I wish I spent more time with my family.”
- The UP Lab went on hiatus. This was inevitable. We didn’t have a clear mission statement from the start. We decided that we’d figure it out as we go. We were going. But we never figured it out. With a team of interns and writers, it was the blind leading the blind. We moved forward with no direction. It was necessary to go on hiatus and re-establish the direction of The UP Lab.
- I began a crowdfunding campaign with a friend and got a team of six people behind it. We had a thorough strategy along with a timeline and specific deadlines to make it all happen. In the end, to the disappointment of the team, the campaign didn’t seem promising and I stepped down from the project to pursue my own interests and development.
- My first freelance marketing gig didn’t go too well. I didn’t establish specific goals in the beginning. I didn’t first ask my client what his overall goal was. As a result, I worked toward superficial goals which he said and he wanted and I took at face value. I knew these goals were pointless. I should’ve consulted on that. In the end, I did achieve his goal, but there were a lot of bumps in the road and I realized I wasn’t prepared. Now I know.
- There’s always too much going on. In college I could take four different classes and learn four different things and pass my classes just fine. I can’t do this if I want to learn skills that I actually want to apply. I signed up for a web developer course and got about halfway done with it. At the same time, I began the Monthly $1K course and also got halfway through. With those two going on I signed up for the Growth Hacker Marketing course. Then I asked myself, “If my current goal is to get onto a startup team, will these courses help?” Sure, they would. But the main course of action would be to get in talks with startups ASAP and see if I can get on the team. I eliminated my goals of learning those new skills and decided to focus on my goal of getting on a new team.
- My biggest failure was not getting my priorities straight. I thought they were straight. I was focused on my career. But that focus was at the expense of my relationships. Instead of making sure my significant other was happy and putting in the effort to make her feel special, I would put extra effort into pushing my career forward. This was fatal for my relationships. It’s a mindset I’ve been slowly changing.
- It’s easy to take on a lot of things. Be careful what you say yes to. Make sure you’re at least 90% into whatever it is you decide to say yes to. I said yes to many projects, but I wasn’t excited about many of them. I just wanted to get experience. I had too many wells to fill and, because of that, I couldn’t the time and effort necessary to grow any one thing.
- Cut out the unimportant things. Look at what you’re already doing. Are those things going to get you closer to the life you want? Do you have items on your to-do list that only exist to make you feel busy? Determine what is not important and cut those things out.
- Take life one step at a time. Make a timeline of your goals so you can visualize your progress and see how the baby steps do move you forward. You won’t always believe that those small steps make a difference, but it’s reassuring to see yourself moving along a timeline.
- Learn how to transition. Even when you cut out a lot of things, you may still end up with a few projects in the works. When that happens, it’s important to be able to move from one thing to another without thinking about the previous thing. I used to be really bad at this and it caused a lot of stress and confusion. I would have trouble arranging my thoughts which messed up my focus and discouraged me from wanting to do anything for the rest of the day. Practice focus.
- Sleep is important. In college I could run off three hours of sleep every night. That doesn’t work anymore. I need my 7-8 hours. If I don’t, then it’s going to be a long day. But with that, I’ve found that getting a healthy amount of sleep has improved my cognitive function. I can focus for long periods of time and my problem solving is much better. Some nights I’ll feel the urge to stay up and waste time in front of the computer or TV. At that point, I turn off the electronics and jump in bed.
- Put things into context. It’s normal to get caught up in what you’re doing, get stressed out and feel like the world is coming to an end. That’s how I felt before The UP Lab went on hiatus. I lost sleep thinking about the direction to take it. Then Parth reminded me that even if The UP Lab doesn’t work out, “No one’s going to lose their house. No one’s going to lose any money. No one’s going to die.”
No matter the situation, I often tell myself, “In five years, I’m just going to look back and laugh at this. This sadness, this frustration about relationships, this fear about my career. It sucks now, but things are going to work out, and this is just going to be a moment I can look back on and smile, knowing that I got through it.”
Again, this is a very brief summary of my year, but it’s what came to mind as I reflected on 2014.
There’s a lot for me to learn in regards to relationships, career and self-care. I’m excited to take on 2015.
Now, how about you? How was your 2014? What went well? What didn’t go well?
Get updated when I publish a new essay.