In keeping to a ritual that I had started in 2019, this is the third year I publish 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?
This week, I turn 51. As the second half-century of my life begins (assuming I make it to 100), here’s how my 50th year had turned out. It was an extraordinary year indeed – with massive disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic that will continue to shape how we live and work in years to come.
What went well this year?
- Work. Despite the initial cancellations of leadership development programmes due to travel restrictions, I’m grateful that we adapted to conducting our work virtually pretty rapidly. As remote working and virtual learning became the ‘new norm,’ the frequent travel which I used to enjoy took a complete halt. Thankfully, with technologies such as Zoom, Webex, Adobe Connect, and Microsoft Teams, our work continued to reach leaders as far as Latin Americas. Although I still enjoy in-person facilitation, when done right, virtual facilitation can be equally impactful too. As more organisations experience the positive impact and cost-efficiency of remote learning, the good old globetrotting days are undoubtedly numbered.
- Family. Grateful that wife and boys are doing well. She’s approaching her counselling with greater confidence. Sean finished his first year on the dean’s list. Dylan completed his National Service (NS) safely and is doing what he loves (training young Math Olympians) while waiting for college to commence later in the year. We spent lots of time bonding over meals, board games, and table-tennis matches at home, especially during the Circuit Breaker period. On National Day (9 August 2020), Sean brought home a new member of the family – Milo, who has become my muse that inspired various creative pursuits (as well as our daily wake-up call). Also glad that Dad is in relatively good health despite living alone – thanks to my siblings, nephews, and aunts who take good care of him. And I became grand uncle for the second time – still yet to see baby Carlos in person.
- Travel. Our usual ‘couple-time’ on overseas travel (glad we did lots in 2019) was replaced by exploring Singapore on wheels. The Polygon Urbana foldies turned out to be the best investment in 2020. With over 300 km of park connectors, beautiful waterways, and countless parks that feature a rich variety of wild life, I’m convinced that Singapore’s cycle-way can rival Japan’s Shimanami Kaido we have experienced in 2019.
- Friends. With COVID-19 restrictions, our annual ritual of kicking start a new year at Chong Teik and Denise’s home continued with a much smaller crowd. Had fun creating our iconic ‘Zodiac fruit platter’ too – a handcrafted sculpture (made of turnip) coated with dark chocolate to welcome the Year of the Ox. Grateful to celebrate my 50th birthday with colleagues/friends from BRIDGE (before ‘lockdown’), and to have met some amazing people around the world on the GAIA Journey by Presencing Institute. Appreciate the deep and meaningful conversations we shared fortnightly as the Circle of 8 for almost a year now (and still ongoing).
- Projects. Super proud to finish to a few personal projects – writing Let’s Hack Learning, starting @the_miloist and completing #50DaysOfMiloism.
- Habits. Still keeping up with qi gong (baduanjing) almost daily, reading regularly, and drawing occasionally.
- Learning & Professional Development. Definitely a year of learning – ranging from virtual facilitation to systems thinking, systemic leadership, adaptive leadership, integral psychology, Hayhouse Writers Workshop, Warm Data Lab, and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain with Drawing Right.
- Health. Unlike last year, have enjoyed good health – the reward of frequent exercise and possibly, mask wearing.
What didn’t go so well this year?
- Unfulfilled dreams. Reframing the‘50 before 50’ list to‘50 @ 50’ to give myself another whole year to turn as many of the unfilled dreams into reality clearly didn’t do much difference. Perhaps, it’s better to stick to a vital few and really work on them.
- Work. Feeling sad to lose a few colleagues this year, as they left BRIDGE to pursue their own paths. Plus, missing the perks of travel, further compounded by excessive screen time and highly sedentary lifestyle.
- Weight Management. Shot back up from 82.5 kg to 86.5 kg. Waistline is all time high, and love handles increasingly visible.
What did I learn (and relearn)?
- Human beings are quick to adapt. The COVID-19 pandemic caught the world by surprise. But within a short time, safety measures were rolled out, factories reconfigured to meet the shortage of masks, vaccines were developed, and new ways of working were established. Throughout history, human beings have survived many calamities and pandemics. Perhaps the biggest threat to humanity isn’t a virus or a natural disaster, but the ‘a viral infection of the mind’ that prevents us from loving and caring for another, and working collaboratively to emerge stronger together.
- Great work is done over time. Looking back in the year, and the many aspirations that I’ve failed to realise, I can’t help being reminded of a saying that is often attributed to Bill Gates: “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” Instead of looking a year ahead, I start planning for the decade instead and work towards my dreams at 60.
- Beauty is all around us. I’ve learnt to pause and seek beauty more frequently. There’s beauty in the most ordinary – if only we make time to see it. And there’s no need to travel far to find it. The sun rises every morning and sets every evening. And the birds sing all day long. How many sunrises, sunsets, or ‘bird symphonies’ do you enjoy in a year?
- Ask, and you shall receive. I don’t mean asking for material abundance, but being willing to live into a question whilst keeping an open mind and open heart, and listen to the answers that Life or God or the Universe has for us. I tried to follow my curiosity and tune into street wisdom. Here’s an answer I got when pondering about a future direction: “The future starts here,” “The future is yours to create,” and “Dare to dream.” Give it a try!