2018 Year in Review

I’m extremely excited to be back in the office, back to designing and writing new articles on Verse this year. I can’t believe we’re in 2019 already. 2019 still sounds like the future to me, and yet here it is. It has become our present moment. Trippy, I know... Speaking of both the future and the present, I also want to delve into the past. Because as Ray Dalio mentions — Pain + Reflections = progress.

And so I want to share my first article with you in 2019 to be about my reflections for 2018. The lessons learnt and where I’m going from here. Like always this may very well fall under the “no one gives a shit” category. But hey I write these year end review posts very much for myself to look back on one day. And hopefully you can get some value out of it, so apologies if it might make you fall asleep at your desk or on your phone.  

Poor dad joke aside.

I’ve actually learnt a great deal from people who have been open, and generous enough to post their own year end reviews. Like Convertkit founder Nathan Barry, who I’ve learnt a great deal from over the years. I know I’ve missed a few years - since starting this blog and newsletter but it’s great time to reflect again. So let’s cue the nostalgic - road trip back in time music here. *

“You want the good news or the bad news first?” Like always let’s start with the good news.

What went well in 2018

Reading habit

I successfully continued my reading habit. And read 21 books this year. What started as a fun challenge in 2017 for growth - has turned into one my favorite hobbies. I find it fun to learn and grow. It’s definitely helped me shift my mindset.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny.”

Mahatma Gandhi

It’s less about how many books you read and more about the value that you get out of them. And there were some real gems this year. You can check out my reading list here.

When I hit a financial wall this year I read - The Million Dollar 1 person business by Elaine Pofeldt, which was a great inspiration and gave me the drive and motivation I needed to progress.

Michael Hyatts’ - Best Year Ever - helped me hone in on my goal setting practices. I had employed 80% of the material prior to the book already, but that extra 20% that I learnt was worth reading the whole book for. Sometimes it’s great to cross-reference what you do with other people that you admire.

The Art of Happiness - by Dalai Lama helped me cultivate happiness and to focus on compassion and joy.

One of my favourite passages - which represents how I hope to live my life was summed up beautifully by Morihei Ueshiba in the Art of Peace.

“Foster and polish the warrior spirit while serving in the world; illuminate the path according to your inner light”

This passage speaks to my soul. And lights my soul with an inner “fuck yes!” I hope to continue this reading journey for years to come. I’ve also been reading some really smart and personal answers from people on Quora as well. It helps me get a different perspective from people who are leading different lives. Like how did an individual get to a net worth of $10-15 million etc. In the age of the internet, there are so many great resources out there that makes this kind of insight and information so accessible. They’re normal people doing relatively extraordinary things.

Reading seems to be a lifelong habit that I hope to keep. It’s fun and I learn a great deal along the way. One thing I will say is the more you know the less you know.

You have learn then for you turn unlearn for you to begin to truly understand. ← Inception-y I know.

Health and fitness

This year my health and fitness was really at the forefront. Especially towards the tail end of the year. I think so many of us take our health for granted. That only when it fails do we realise how important it really is. And that everything pales in comparison to it. Good health makes you more energetic - which can help you with your business and productivity. It can help you with your relationships. It can help you cultivate a sound mind and to be in the moment. But most of all it gives you the vessel to live your best life.

These are the key areas and improvements I’ve made this year:

  • Green Juice everyday - predominantly Spinach 95%, with 1 fruit. Either some pineapple or kiwi, or frozen bananas with some ice + water. I used to think this was a fad so I steered clear and was skeptical.But Blayne an awesome Process student got me on it. And I haven’t looked back since. I’m on a 112 day streak...psst I did miss a few days but I’ll run with those numbers ;) Thanks again Blayne you’re a legend for getting me started.

  • This year I’ve also incorporated a lot more exercise into my routine - Namely jump rope (inspired by boxers Anthony Joshua, Floyd Mayweather, Mike Tyson), yoga, trying to master my crow to handstand (I’m getting there), a couple of free weights here and there, pull ups etc. And I played a lot more tennis this year which was awesome. And the greatest of all was I started to learn how to swim. I’m 32 and didn’t know how to swim before then, when I was a child I had pectus excavatum so I was very shy and insecure about my body and being teased (which no one did anyway). I had a very weak mind as a child and so I would skip the mandatory school swimming lessons in primary school. For fear of being different/bullied. A lot has changed since then. This was a goal I set in 2015 that just never happened, so it’s great to be finally learning and getting it done - since I love the water.  Shout out to my wife Phuong who is teaching me and is so patient with her boneheaded husband. Ie. me!

  • Intermittent Fasting - I’ve been experimenting with this with great success. I tend to workout in the morning with an empty stomach. My split is simple. It’s approximately 16 hours fasting and 8 hour window to eat. I’m pretty go with the flow and happy go lucky with my life - so it’s not always exact - but it keeps within this window mosts days. Just finish dinner earlier and skip breakfast the next day until lunch.

  • Blood pressure - I’ve been in the pre-hypertension range for a few years now - which is due to bad genetics considering my age and frame(not overweight). It didn’t cross the high blood pressure range yet - but for my young age it was a warning sign. Luck of the draw really. I was reading some peer reviewed studies and the new revised zones for what is considered high blood pressure had shifted from 140+/90+ to 130 over 80-90 which was the zone I was in. With these readings - it turns out minute damage was still being done. It’s called the silent killer for a reason. Now I’m in 115-120’s range and averaging around 80 with the above changes in my lifestyle which is good!

Miles & Theodore

The biggest news was the birth of our second son Miles. Named after jazz musician Miles Davis. It’s been amazing to see him grow over the last year. And his brother Theo is just growing into the most hilarious Mr. Chatterbox who likes Mario, RyansToyReview, CKNToys and Pokemon Go. He just does and says the craziest things which I love and adore. Raising kids with my wife Phuong is one of the hardest yet one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s really hard to explain unless you have children yourself. But my children mean the world to me. Sometimes I hug them and think how grateful I am that I get to be their father. And how it would feel like if either of them had cancer - and I cherish their good health and hold them tighter. These are the positives - these 2 little guys also belong in the things that didn’t go well section this year. But more on that later. You can look at my wife and my sleepless eyes as testament haha. In short my wife Phuong is the real MVP.

My Wife Phuong means everything

“Behind Every Great Man Is A Great Woman”- Let’s read into this. First off am I shamelessly saying I am great? In short yes…because I love my life. It’s probably taboo or dickish to say something like that - I don’t mean it in a bravado or arrogant kind of way. But with sincerity that  I am very grateful for the life that I live. It might not be impressive to other people - but it’s the right life for me. And some of the best years of my life have been in part due to my wife Phuong. Who is my best friend and we’ve enjoyed each others company for 14 years now. How time flies.

With her in my life - it’s made everything so far possible. She keeps me grounded - and most of all we love and support each other, in good times and even during turbulent times. ← when you have kids this tends to happen.

But overall we have a great relationship - we go on date every Friday. We’ve grown together in the last 14 years. We’re not the same people anymore as we started- but we’ve grown in the same direction.  And some highlights from this year were.

ghibli.jpg

MSO presents Joe Hisaishi Symphonic Concert

This another one of the highlights for the year. I was on the waitlist for tickets but missed out. (Website crashed) So I had to pay $500 to get the regular tickets on the reseller (we just ripped you off) market but it was worth it. I’m a HUGE fan of Hayao Miyazaki - who’ve made movies like the Wind Rises, Spirited Away, Howls Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro etc. And what makes Ghibli productions so magical. Is the musical score – done by the Maestro himself, Joe Hisaishi. They match each other perfectly. Like bread and butter. Tomato and Basil. You get the idea.

So when I knew that Joe was performing at the Victorian arts centre with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra I jumped at the opportunity.

The whole concert was a masterpiece. Everyone was a master of their instrumen and craft. And collectively they played music in its purest form and proved that art can truly touch the soul. The Porco Rosso piece almost had me in tears. 15 mins into the orchestra and my wife and I looked at each other and knew it was worth the price and all the effort needed to get the tickers. Even if we got kicked out then and there it was worth it, that’s how good it was.

vue-de-monde.jpg

13 Year anniversary at Vue De Monde

This year we continued to dine at nice restaurants which is one of our hobbies. I appreciate the craft, atmosphere, artistry and experience. We finally had a chance to go to Vue De Monde together. Which is something I’d be meaning to do for a while. So in a way I crossed it off my list. 12 years ago I’d probably think I’m an asshole for going to a restaurant like this and spending that much on food. But I don’t really buy anything else ← I’m a bit of minimalist. Also it was to celebrate our 13th year anniversary so it wasn’t overly indulgent.

As a recap the experience was top notch, the food was only above average - not mind blowing or exceptional on the palate. Good but doesn’t challenge you that much. However overall the experience, the ideas, the conversations, it was worth it for me given that I’ve been delaying going here for a while. And in a small way - it was crossing something off a semi bucketlist and  a pat on the back. Phuong was not that impressed with the food to be honest given the price tag. But overall we had a wonderful night regardless. Lui bar predrinks we’re amazing with a stunning view.

We ended the year closer to each other - even though this year was challenging on many fronts. So it was a big win. It really helps when you and your partner communicate, evolve and grow in the same direction - even if we’re quite different people. Here’s to a lifetime of more precious memories together.

Family

In line with relationships - I got to see my parents and close family often this year. Won’t harp on too much here - but who knows how much longer my parents have left - so I try to make the most of it and try to see them often.

Happiness

The biggest blessing I’ve been giving is how my brain is geared. There were some serious ups and downs this year. Probably one of the most challenging years I’ve had over the last decade. But even so I ended it with a smile on my face and full of gratitude to still be here and how things have shaped up and are shaping up. Financially, spiritually, and health wise I’m in a very good place. So I’m extra thankful. This seems like something super mundane - but I think about happiness often and how I and those around me are feeling.

Business/Work

This year marked the 4th year of my indie freelance business. What an incredible journey it’s been. Yearly income for 2018 was another 6 figure year. However it was a bit less than 2017 as I had to take 2 months off when Miles was born and then another break at the end of the year to recharge and avoid burn out. So income was a bit less but overall another good year that I’m extremely grateful for.

  • Income split was 95% products/courses and 5% freelancing/consulting.

  • Launched UX Masterclass and presold Marketing Course (Thank you for everyones patience on this! It’s coming) If you are interested you can join the waitlist here.

  • Did a handful of client work

  • Wrote articles and released a lot of great resources - type playbook, money workshop, and few 1 on 1 video calls

Business stats are close to 700 students total for all my paid courses and products. Many repeat students and loyal customers. I had to chat to many of the students on slack and on video last year. It was awesome to connect with everyone - and seeing everyone make progress this year. I hope to continue that this year.

Email List is at 6050, Dribbble is at 14,500. Beyond the numbers it’s really the connection and how much I can help provide value and inspire others with my work that’s the real impact and currency.

All in all, it was a solid year in business. I hope for it to be a springboard for 2019. There were definitely same major downs which I will explain next in the “bad or semi bad news of things that didn’t go well.” When there’s the Yin there has to be the Yang. When there’s light there’s shade.  

What didn’t go well

Death of uncle and high school friend - fuck Cancer.

My uncle passed at the beginning of the year. And my friend passed in the middle of the year. Both from Cancer. It’s moments like this that you realise that life is short and fleeting. The memories of these 2 people will live on in the hearts and minds of everyone that had the pleasure of knowing them. My friend had his stomach removed and survived for 2 years until it relapsed again this year. He spent those 2 years travelling and doing important things with friends and family. My uncle put up a brave fight but in the end it was too much. In short cancers a bitch.

Relationships aren’t easy

When we had our second son Miles. Everything was different. Running a business and having 1 young child is not too bad. It’s possible. With 2 young children it was a whole other ball game. On top of that my wife and I were really struggling when I had to get back to work. It was a difficult time as Phuong really put the burden on her shoulders to say the least and it was too much.

I was deep in work mode trying to work on the UX Masterclass, for 1-1.5 months I worked 6 days a week. I was deep in it, designing, editing, producing, recording, developing, getting in touch with students etc. The revenue generated was good but not the levels expected, given so much that we’d sacrificed it probably needed to be 10X more. For that month of March -April it was a tough time. We get through it together but it was very hard on her. So this is something that needs to not happen again.

Nearly burnt out

While working on the UX Masterclass - I was extremely proud of the outcome of the work. Seeing students support my work and get value out of it brought great joy. But at the same time there was a cost. On top of looking after 2 young children, and trying to support my wife - working this extremely took its toll. During this time we needed revenue coming in too - and a big bulk of it didn’t come until the second half of the year so that added further unnecessary pressure.

It’s these moments I realised the importance of having a calm mind in the face of chaos around you. I dealt with it pretty well - but there room for improvement. But also I have to think of balance more often. That deep work sprint in hindsight could have been managed better.

By the end of the year the UX Masterclass did very well revenue wise. And the feedback has been great from students. I can’t wait to improve it further this year.

Productivity and focus wasn’t great

My productivity and focus for the year was a bit all over the shop at times. Procrastination hit me - after a relatively good 3.5-4 year run. Lack of sleep and prioritising other areas of my life like relationships, my children and health contributed to this. But doesn’t explain everything. It’s something I need to improve.

  • My newsletter posts were inconsistent. This is something I’ll fix in 2019.

  • I didn’t finish the marketing course as anticipated (Thank you for everyone who pre-ordered and for their patience vote of confidence. The course is in production and will be open for beta in the next few weeks. I needed time to recharge for it to be the best that it can be) If you’re interested in adding marketing to your skillset, earning more, growing your value as a designer, run a small business or side hustle then is the course for you. You can join the waitlist at https://marketingfordesigners.co .

Didn’t see my friends enough

Apart from a few catch ups I didn’t see my buddies and friends nearly enough. Trying to balance this further. We all support love and respect one another regardless. But it’s something I’ll prioritise more this year.

Overall there were some rollercoaster downs. But there were many more blessings that I’m forever grateful for. Namely my wife Phuong and two beautiful children Theodore and Miles. And despite nearly burning out due to so many factors — I still absolutely LOVE designing and the work that I do and the community around it. A million times THANK YOU!

What’s next for 2019?

Personal

  • Conditioning for Half Marathon

  • Do 20 strict pullups (Currently at 12)

  • Start hitting PBs for Squat, bench and deadlift

  • Play more tennis

  • Do crow to handstand

  • Learn to Swim well

  • Have fun, smile, and enjoy the moment

  • Love your wife, children, family, friends, and community

  • More Travel - we’re going to Japan and Korea with the 2 kids this year (Tickets booked!)

Business

  • Consistent weekly posts

  • More useful and high quality content

  • Do more fulfilling and high quality design work

  • Launch the marketing class

  • Improve the UX Masterclass

  • Add new content to the Process Masterclass

  • Hit $300k+ revenue

  • Grow email list to 20k - currently at 6000

  • Grow the community

  • Make sure students get success and that I can readily support them

  • Re-design and relaunch Verse (excited for this one)

  • Build up other social channels - instagram, youtube, medium

And that’s my plan and goals for 2019. I’d love to help you achieve yours along the way.

This is getting lengthy - but that’s my 2018 in a nutshell. Onwards to new adventures and this journey we call life. I can’t wait to see what life has installed for you and I. Here’s to designing our best life!