This year was supposed to be a special one. I was reaching a huge milestone in my life. The big Five-Oh. Yep, I am officially getting to the time in life that people have called "too young to die, but too old to start over."

As Deepak Chopra said, "Every great change is preceded by chaos." This year has proven to not disappoint in the chaos department. If I had to sum up the whole year in many words, it would be everything from WTF to WFH. But if there is only one word that can claim the prize, it would be "pandemic." The virus that started in China has mutated and spread around the world. Not one single country got spared from the reach of this virus.

During this difficult and painful times, we all have been tested to our max. Despite our technological superiority and advances in medicine, we all can see clearly our own human fragility as the virus has raged on. Throughout this tragedy, I also think it is safe to say we have all learned that we are stronger than before, and that we are lucky enough to be able to rely on others for help.

In terms of achievements and changes, here are my key highlights of 2020:

  • Relaunched my blog to help me share my work. With the help of a great, talented editor, I was able to write and publish 50 articles over the span of six months. Doubled the traffic to the website in less than three months after I started writing.

  • Designed, developed and completed the largest Shopify project that I have in my career.

  • Able to finally pay off all of my credit cards. In 2008, I was wiped out financially. Some of the debt was due to my own lack of business knowledge, and some of it was due to the housing crisis. With persistence and lots of elbow grease, I am happy to say I am no longer in the deep basement, and have recovered all the way up to the ground floor.

  • Saved enough money to be able to visit my parents in Indonesia in 2021. Considering they are in their 80's, this could be my last time to see them alive in person.

  • Health-wise, I was able to recover from a long-term illness by simply being more mindful, putting myself first, routine exercise and better eating habits.

  • Discovered a community of content creators in Ness Labs, and built a great network of new friends that help me propel my learning skills.

  • This year has been my third year teaching at the University of Oregon. The Roman philosophers were right: The best way to understand a new concept is to explain it to someone else. When we teach, we learn better.

This is my first time conducting an annual review. I credit my daily journaling, which enabled me to record my ups and downs throughout the year. Instead of relying on memory, I can just read back the entries, that has helped me to be able reflect on my experience a little bit easier and calibrate my expectations for the next year.

Hope is an Inside Job

Hope begins with what you think. If you think positively about yourself, others, and the world around you, your words and actions will follow your thoughts. But too many times we lack faith in ourselves. While tomorrow is never certain, we can always be hopeful by simply adjusting our perception and desire. You created the thought, you can certainly adjust it.

Here are some actions that I learned this year regarding creating your own hope:

  • Actions breed clarity. Take actions even when you are not sure. You will learn along the way.

  • Cultivate an antifragile mindset. Create multiple options, be creative, and you will find there is always an alternate route.

  • Learn the Stoic mindset. Pick up a good book to learn how to discipline your mind.

  • Instead of looking for certainty, look good for a good enough solution.

  • Surround yourself with like minded, positive people.

Redefining Our Own Success

To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is short. At the end, we all want to leave the world better than we found it. I wish I can say more about this subject, but Ralph Waldo Emerson said it so much better than me. That is how success should be defined.

Start Today, Don't Wait for Tomorrow.

After struggling building my business for many years, I finally found the secret of when is the best time to start. Can I tell you my biggest secret? The secret is that the best time to start is while you are still young. The next best time to start is today. Since tomorrow is never certain, I learned that we don't need to wait for the perfect time to start. Besides, there will never be a perfect time to begin with.

Don't look to others for permission. We don't need permission, to create, lead, build, start, think differently. Whatever it is you want to start, to make, to build, to share. You don’t need someone to hold your hand. You could start now right if you wanted to.

Shocking, right?

I have been able to share my journey, be uncomfortable, and anxiously publish my mistakes and faults. We will never start from novice and end with becoming an expert in one day. We go through the daily journey from not knowing to knowing a little bit more everyday. And, I am ok with that.