This day last year, I published an ‘Annual Review’ – a process inspired by James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. James has been publishing an ‘Annual Review’ since 2013 (https://jamesclear.com/annual-review) where he shares publicly his reflections on the following three questions:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go so well this year?
- What did I learn?
I intend to keep to this ritual at the start of each new biological year.
Today, I turn 50. And looking back, here’s how my 49th year on earth had unfolded.
What went well this year?
- Work. BRIDGE continues to provide me opportunities to do meaning work, ranging from helping an asset management company uncover its purpose, launching leadership development programmes for some new clients, developing leaders to do well and do good (e.g. creating a more inclusive and connected community), and bringing government, businesses, and the civil society together to combat the trafficking of women and children (Kalinga Fellowship 2019 @ Delhi). Am also thankful for the support that led to the appointment to BRIDGE’s global board of directors – an opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute in a different manner.
- Family. Grateful to witness the development of our boys. Sean turned 21, settled well into his undergraduate studies at NTU, and is doing fine in his floorball (his team emerged champions in two major inter-varsity games). Dylan completed his first year of National Service (NS) safely, graduated from Officer Cadet School with a Sword of Merit, and is awarded a scholarship to study at Cambridge. Enjoyed a cruise holiday with my in-laws, attending Henry and Abi’s wedding in Kangar, and gathering with family members in Batu Pahat over Chinese New Year.
- Marriage. Relished our daily conversations and companionship, especially during our ‘empty nest’ times on weekdays. With the boys in college and NS, couldn’t find a time for our annual family vacation this year. Instead, we managed to do a few short trips (just the 2 of us) – cycling on Japan’s Shimanami Kaido, viewing the terracotta warriors in Xi’an, hiking The Great Wall, and a ‘disastrous’ holistic detox in Koh Samui.
- Friends. Kicked off another year at our annual gathering at Chong Teik and Denise’s home – a ritual not to be missed. This is indeed a year of reunions – reconnected with friends from college days at National Junior College’s (NJC) 50th and Raffles Hall’s 60th anniversary dinners, ex-colleagues from Accenture, friends from Gone Fishing days, and old friends in Beijing, KL, NYC, and Seoul. Immensely grateful for the many well wishes, care, and love pouring in from friends around the world as I was recuperating from a recent haemorrhoids attack which left me briefly wheelchair-bound.
- Giving Back. Supported the YWCA’s Empowering Mums programme for the second year and the Kalinga Fellowship convened annually by BRIDGE Institute for the third year. Completed my fourth annual 10km charity run @ Run For Hope with Bev – running buddy and ex-colleague. Sadly, will have to give it a miss in 2020 due to knee injury.
- Habits. At last, managed to sustain two new daily habits (at least so far). The first is to begin each day with a ‘boot-up’ routine – a self-concocted cocktail of various disciplines I had learnt over the years but hadn’t put to good use. Core ingredients include qigong, yoga, calisthenics, aikido, earthing, meditation, and journaling – with temporary abstinence from social media and emails. The second is daily application and sharing of a couple of Shunmyo Masuno’s Zen practices through the #50DaysofSimpleLiving daily posts. Am savouring the morning air more frequently, lining my shoes, and cherishing being alive every single day.
- Professional Development. Had the opportunity to put the learning from 2018 Presence Foundation Programme (Theory U & Social Presencing Theatre) into practice through a social transformation project with a group of fantastic like-minded souls. As we set out to unleash the Singapore Soul – learnt a lot from the journey and forged some new friendships too.
- Spirituality. Finally, resumed my daily walk with God (on most days). Feeling blessed.
- Meditation. Meditating more frequently now. Appreciate the greater clarity and peace of mind.
- Travel. Work has taken me to new places such as New York and Xi’an, along with Delhi, Greenwich, Guangzhou, Kuala Lumpur, London, Seoul, and Taipei. Also enjoyed short vacations with wife in Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka, Guangzhou, Xi’an, Beijing, and Koh Samui.
- Weight Management. Dropped from 85kg to 82.5kg. Still a long way to optimal BMI, but at least, heading at the right direction.
What didn’t go so well this year?
- Unfulfilled dreams. Began the year with a lofty aspiration of checking off a ‘50 before 50’ list. The first five that I had unashamedly shared last year were: (1) Publish my Annual Review, (2) Post 50 blog entries, (3)Trek the Inca Trail with wife, (4) Publish my first book, and (5) Do at least 100-hours of pro bono work. How did I do? Admittedly, I sucked at following through. Wrote only two blog posts for the entire year, including the last annual review. Renaming it to ‘50 @ 50’ instead – giving myself another whole year to turn as many of the unfilled dreams into reality.
- Health. This is possibly the worst year. Went to A&E for acute chest pain and got admitted for a night; added a cardiologist, a urologist, and a colorectal surgeon onto the list of specialists I’m seeing; suffered an excruciatingly painful haemorrhoids attack amidst a holistic detox; stopped running due to knee pain; had a cracked tooth extracted, to be replaced by a dental implant after I get my sinus treated. But thank God, there was nothing life-threatening. It reaffirmed my commitment to take good care for the temple of the soul.
What did I learn?
- Learning without practice is pointless. As a keen learner and ferocious reader, I frequently max out the library quota and read about 8 to 12 books at a time. However, most of what I’ve learnt often is forgotten weeks or months later. Sometimes, I would re-read the same book as if I had never read it before. What a waste of time. Now, I’ve learnt to slow down, read more deeply, summarise, and actively seek out opportunities to put the new knowledge into practice soonest possible. I also became a big fan of Kolb’s Learning Cycle – learning through concrete experience, followed by reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation, and active experimentation. And the daily posts on #50DaysofSimpleLiving has been a wonderful experiment on putting Masuno’s Zen practices into action.
- One thing at a time. Focus – this is a recurring lesson for me. So many ideas, each competing for attention. I’m learning to disconnect from everything and just focus on the vital task at hand.
- Done is better than perfect. Sheryl Sandberg said this, and it’s plastered all over the office walls at Facebook. I had been a victim of perfectionism for far too long. According to John Acuff, author of FINISH: Give Yourself the Gift of Done:
Starting is fun, but the future belongs to the finishers. Developing tolerance for imperfection is the key factor to turning chronic starters into consistent finishers.
Yes. I’m done with perfectionism. It’s time to let go of this ‘enemy of good’ and be a consistent finisher.