Reflections on 2020
I wrote my first public reflection last year (found here) and figure I'll make this into an annual post. Last year, I also wrote a post called "Reflections on the Past 2 Decades and Predictions on the Decade Ahead". That post is still relevant and you should check it out.
In investing, be more concentrated. If you have high conviction in something, make sure you put a lot of capital into. You never own enough of the winners (and you always own too much of the losers).
One theme of 2020 is of the 'haves and the have nots'. People who own things (equities, cryptos, homes) did well this year. People who don’t own things (renters making an hourly salary) had it rough. If you’re in the group of the 'haves', think of 1-2 friends from childhood who had a tough year and see if you can help them out. If you are inclined, consider donations to charity as well.
I'm reminded again of the value of writing. In 2019's reflection I wrote:
Writing, both in public (blog, etc.) and in private (internal company docs), is one of the most powerful ways to convey your thinking, 10x your ability, and get in front of a broad audience who might not otherwise see your thoughts
Last year's reflection came mostly from the experience of how writing private docs within my company helped me to better communicate my ideas and make change within my organization. I knew intuitively back in 2019 how valuable writing publicly was but did very little about it. That changed this year with East Meets West (EMW) and some crypto writing I did for other publications.
The secret for me with EMW was picking a broad yet scoped topic (in the case of East Meets West that is the tech industry in Asia) that I was genuinely interested in learning more about. I found it valuable to scope my writing into a specific topic (tech industry in Asia) so that it would kill off some of the indecision that comes with "well... what am I going to write about today?"
East meets west has been a real joy. It’s grown slower than I expected but certainly reaches the inboxes of some very interesting people. Last week for example, East Meets West was shared in a Turkish-language Substack and I gained about twenty Turkish subscribers including some economists from the Turkish central bank.
I’m excited to do more with EMW in 2021 especially since I’ll be living in Asia (more on that later!). Look out for an accompanying podcast and possibly a “bits” newsletter to accompany the main deep dives.
This year I finally worked meditation into becoming a regular habit. In last year's reflection I wrote:
Dedicating time to think is a good use of time. Work-wise, I am guilty of often being very in the weeds and not spending time to sit back and think about things at the “3,000-mile high level”. As a practice, I have found that when I spend dedicated time doing this that I am able to generalize and share my thoughts at a much higher level.
Since making mediation a regular habit beginning in May of this year, meditation has been a 10x'er on stepping back and thinking about bigger picture items. I've had some great insights born directly out of mediation sessions that have led to tangible results at work and in my writing.
I wrote more about meditation in an August post called "Mediation for Skeptics"
This year was a real upset in my health routine and has also forced me to think about fitness in a different way. The last time I lifted a weight was in late February 2020. This is the longest I've gone without weight training since high school.
Since February, I've only done body weight exercises (crunches, leg lifts, pull-ups, so many pushups) and running.
At the same time, in May of this year, I was in one of the best shapes of my life (certainly, the lowest body fat %). This was completely due to me radicalizing my diet during the early months of quarantine in San Francisco.
I've always known that fitness is something like 80% diet, 20% working out, but never truly lived that. While for the past few years, I've been good at sticking to what I call a "generally low carb diet", I love beer too much and indulge way too many cheat meals.
The March - May quarantine in San Francisco was particularly well-suited to an extreme diet because 1) I had no opportunity to go out and eat unhealthy food and it was easy to only stock the house with low carb food 2) it was so easy to cut alcohol out of my life.
On the alcohol side, there were two considerations here. One, I wanted a strong immune system to fight off COVID
Two, without any social events to attend, there was no reason to drink. There is no doubt that I've drank less alcohol in 2020 than I have in years.
Every year, I try to think about the bigger decisions I made or didn't make. I love reflecting on my decision making and this year was full of some impactful ones.
Decisions at work: Early in 2020 (pre-COVID) I was applying to new jobs and turned down two offers I had from new companies. At the time, this didn't feel like a big deal because I was not having a problem getting more interviews. Once COVID hit, that all changed. I was pretty nervous at the start of COVID because I was very unhappy in my job and was no longer getting interviews since most companies stopped hiring. This (in a very roundabout way) turned out to be a blessing in disguise. During COVID my company went through a leadership change, sold off our core product line, and launched a brand new product. It's been exciting and I'm glad I wound up sticking around.
Decisions of where to live: Y'know, I don't think I ever really enjoyed living in San Francisco. I tried. But it was not for me. This tweet below rings too true:
Last year's #1 reflection was:
If I lived outside the US, I would live in Asia. I spent a good portion of 2019 (and late 2018) living in Asia full-time for work in Hong Kong, China, and Korea. For all of the handwaving about China, it’s a very enjoyable place to live. Things are relatively inexpensive, it’s easy to travel around the country, and it has a real fun wild-west vibe to it
And with that, I decided I'm moving back to Asia in 2021. I applied for my Taiwan Gold Card in November and I'm on the final approval step. I'm hoping to fly out and begin my 14-day quarantine sometime in January. I don't necessarily plan to stay in Taiwan long-term. My tentative plan is to stay in Taiwan for a bit and then eventually get over to Singapore and call that home. Taiwan has beat COVID though and I'm excited to have a normal life again.
On Asia: Not only do I like Asia a lot, but I also think that the opportunities in the region (specifically Southeast Asia) are going to be massive over the next decade and I want to be a part of that. I also think living in Asia will help me to grow the East Meets West brand.
I'm reminded even more this year of the importance of friends and family.
One of the reasons that quarantine was so manageable (dare I say enjoyable) at the beginning was thanks to my great roommates in SF at the time. Many great games of Super Smash Bros were played. One of the reasons my next phase of 2020 was enjoyable was because I left SF and stayed with my family in Arizona. By far, this was the most consecutive time I've been able to spend with my parents and sisters since I was a senior in high school and that's something I'm grateful for (insert: Tim Urban's The Tail End). The photo below comes from a 10-day trip I took to New Jersey (where I grew up) in August. All the other people in that photo are some of my best friends from high school (many people including Zach, Bucky, Bovo, Rob, and Meg are missing). It's amazing that no matter how long I go without seeing them we're always able to pick up a conversation like we saw each other the day before. It's truly an amazing thing.
- Favorite Movie: (1) The best movie I watched this year even though it wasn't released in 2020 was The Handmaiden. (2) I only watched 3 movies this year that were released in 2020 and the best of those was The Devil All The Time, (though #Alive was a close runner-up)
- Favorite Book(s) I Read this Year: For fiction, I greatly enjoyed The Gentle Seduction and Red Rising (I read Books 1-3, but enjoyed the first one much more than the other two). I was very happy to have re-read Stranger in a Strange Land (an all-time favorite of mine). In non-fiction, I liked The Courage to be Disliked. That is a book I'll be gifting to others. I also liked The Lords of Strategy, on the history of the strategy consulting industry.
- Favorite New Podcast: Panic with Friends and The Realignment
- Favorite TV Show: N/A
- Favorite Musical Artist I Discovered this Year: O'Flynn whose song, Tru Dancing is my most played song of the year. Runner Up: Bicep whose new song, Apricots is amazing.